The Bible's Corrupted--How do I respond?
Christians are often thrown off guard by Muslim objections; they are
so different from what we are used to hearing. Muslims claim, e.g., to
"believe in all the prophets and all the Scriptures," but when you challenge
them to read the Bible, or you appeal to its authority, they put you off,
saying "Jews and Christians have changed the Bible." As a new missionary,
I would appeal to the manuscript evidence for the Bible's authenticity.
But that did not seem to faze them in the least.
The first step in dealing with this objection is to understand why Muslims
make such a claim. Bear in mind that it is not that they have studied
the textual history of the Bible and found it wanting. Indeed, to a Muslim
the very idea of textual criticism of a "revealed book" is totally unthinkable,
and therefore misunderstood. No Muslim would dare attempt to study the
text of the Qur'an in that way! They claim that the Bible has been corrupted
because they have been told this by their Ulema (scholars). And when they
read the Bible, comparing its teachings with those of the Qur'an, which
they believe came direct from heaven, it is obvious that, despite some
similarities, the two books are fundamentally at odds. Add to that several
Qur'anic passages that seem to speak of the perversion (tahrif) of the
previous Scriptures (e.g. 3:37; 4:46), and the writings of some Western
biblical critics which seem to confirm it, and Muslims feel they have
a strong case for believing that the Bible is corrupted.
Incidentally, the Qur'anic passages that speak of "corruption" never say
that the biblical text itself has been changed; what they do say is that
some people have corrupted the Scriptures by misquoting them--i.e. "with
their tongues." The clear implication is that the text has not been changed.
In fact, numerous passages speak highly of the Scriptures and even claim
that the Qur'an confirms them (e.g. 3:3). This claim, however, presents
Muslims with a dilemma: they must believe that our present Bible has been
corrupted, or else they must acknowledge the truth that the Qur'an does
NOT confirm the Scriptures. It is either the one or the other.
So then, how do you handle this objection? First of all, relax! Do not
let such groundless charges throw you for a loop. It is important, first
of all, to affirm as forcefully as you know how, and as often as needed,
your certainty that the text of our present Bible is unchanged from the
original manuscripts. Let Muslims know that their claim is entirely without
foundation; there is no other text that they can point to as the real
text. It is here that you can bring in the manuscript evidence to show
that our present Bible is the same as the Scriptures which existed in
Muhammad's time. But do not be under any illusions: your Muslim friends
are not going to drop this belief easily. They must hold that the Bible
is corrupted if they are to continue to believe in the Qur'an as the Word
of God. For further help with this objection I recommend the excellent
book, The Qur'an and the Bible in the Light of History and Science, written
by my colleague, Dr. William Campbell, and distributed by this office.
Arab World Ministries
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