Muslims and Christians alike carry strong convictions regarding their holy books. Muslims believe the Qur’an was revealed to them by God without error, and that it has not been changed over time by humans. It has been protected by God for the preserving and spreading of the Muslim faith throughout the future. Christians hold these same convictions to be true of their message of God, the Bible.
The Bible was written over a period of 1600 years. The first five books of the Bible are referred to as the Torah, and were written by Moses around 1500 B.C. These books provide the record of God’s creation and an outline of the history of man in relation to God. Moses includes in the Torah a record of man’s great achievements, as well as his failures — including his sinful nature and his obedience to God’s laws of worship and conduct. After the books of the Torah, the Bible continues on to discuss man’s contributions throughout the ages following the descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and David. David composed the majority of the Psalms (Zabur). Many of the books speak of future events — some which were fulfilled during the lives of the writers, others which were fulfilled during the life of Jesus, and still others which have yet to be fulfilled.
The section given to the Jews (or Hebrew people) which they refer to as the Scriptures is also the section Christians refer to as the Old Testament. This section was completed 400 years before Jesus was born, and was carefully copied with extreme caution to avoid the entry of any mistakes. Any copies containing errors were carefully destroyed. Because the papyrus copies tended to deteriorate, the Old Testament continued to be recopied to avoid misunderstanding.
The second section of the Bible, called the New Testament, was written immediately following the time of Jesus. He died around A.D. 33, and the writing began between A.D. 45 and A.D. 55 and continued until around A.D. 90. All writing of the New Testament was done by eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus. The New Testament is composed of 27 books, which are similar to chapters or Surahs.
The first four books are about the life of Jesus, beginning with his birth in Bethlehem, and include his genealogies for both Mary, his mother, and Joseph (or Bushara), Mary’s husband. This part of the Bible is referred to by Christians as the Gospels or good news (Injil). They were written in Greek, the written language of the Roman Empire in that day.
References within the Bible give these New Testament writings the same status as Scripture, making them equal with the Old Testament and also part of God’s Holy inspired Word. Although the Bible was written through many different Old Testament prophets and New Testament writers over a period of 1600 years, it is entirely consistent in its teachings.
The New Testament circulated throughout the Middle East and southern Europe as individual books and as a collection of books. Again, great care was taken for errorless copying. Before A.D. 300, the Old Testament and the New Testament were assembled into one book, two copies of which are preserved in the two complete manuscripts that we have today, known as the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. These manuscripts are written in Greek and compare identically with the thousands of portions available of even older manuscripts. The translations that we have today (in English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Chinese, Swahili, Russian or any of more than 2,000 languages) must come directly from these ancient Greek manuscripts — not from translations of translations — in order to be considered accurate. Just as with a Xerox copy, the quality of the duplicate decreases when you make a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. The clearest copies come from the original or a near original. The same is true when making translations of important statements.
Muhammed lived at the beginning of the 7th century. The Christian Bible as a unit was in wide circulation at this time (though it wasn’t translated into Arabic until around A.D. 900).
Mohammed’s first revelation of a portion of the Qur’an was in A.D. 610. He continued to receive additional revelations over the next 20 years. Some portions were written down on bleached camel bones, stones, palm leaves, as well as other available materials. It was not until after Mohammed’s death that all the various parts were gathered together into one volume. This would be in about A.D. 634.
These documents were collected by Zayd, Mohammed’s secretary, as a commission by the successor to Muhammed, Caliph (ruler) Abu Bakr. He brought together the written portions into one volume with the consent of close friends of Muhammed, who had memorized all or portions of his writings. This gave human approval to the document. This copy assembled by Zayd was recorded without dots and vowels, which made some words vague as to their meaning. All other previous documents were burned. Later, there was some controversy over this text, and so the Caliph Uthman ordered Zayd and Haphzah and four others who knew the Qur’an by memory to make an official text in A.D. 653. This official text was circulated widely, and all other copies, even Zayd’s original, were burned. This official text is known as the Uthmanic Qur’an.
What does the Qur’an reveal as Muhammed’s belief about the Bible? Throughout the Qur’an, the prophet Muhammed insists that not only the Qur’an but also the Injil (Gospels), the Torah (Law of Moses), and the Zabur (Psalms of David) are the authentic Word of God, given by God Almighty Himself. The following references are a few of the many clear affirmations in the Qur’an that the prophet Muhammed accepted the inspiration and authenticity of the Bible as it existed during his day:
“He (Allah) hath revealed unto thee (Muhammed) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel” (Surah 3, Al-i-‘Imran, The Family of Imran: 3)
“Say (o Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord” (Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, The Cow: 136).
“Lo! We did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and a light…And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him, and We bestowed on him the gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it is in the Torah” (Surah 5, Al-Ma’idah, The Table Spread: 44, 46).
“Lo! We inspire thee as we inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as we imparted unto David the Psalms” (Surah 4, Al-Nisa, Women: 163).
Therefore, since the prophet Muhammed speaks with such reverence about the authority of the Torah, Zabur, and Injil, as the Word of God given from heaven, what do you think he believed (and wants his followers to believe) about the Bible? Not once does the Qur’an refer to the changing of these inspired books. This makes it clear that the prophet Muhammed considered the Bible to be pure and undefiled. The Qur’an also speaks highly of the “People of the Scripture” or “People of the Book” (both Jews and Christians) “who recite the revelations of Allah” (Surah 3, Al-i-‘Imran, The Family of Imran: 113). It also commands them, “And believe in that which I reveal, confirming that which ye possess already [of the Scripture]” (Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, The Crow: 41).
This proves it is clear, that from the very beginning of Islam, the prophet Muhammed accepted the Bible as the unchanged, true Word of God. Because of his repeated instructions throughout the Qur’an to honor the “People of the Book” and their Scriptures, no Muslims after the time of Muhammed would have allowed any changes in the Bible, as the holy word of God. The existence of the manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus indicates that the Word of God has not been changed, for it is the same today as it was 300 years before the Qur’an was written.
Furthermore, the Qur’an says repeatedly that God Almighty protects His Word from change: “There is no changing the Words of Allah” (Surah 10, Jonah: 64). “And recite that which hath been revealed unto thee of the Scripture of thy Lord. There is none who can change His words . . .” (Surah 18, Al-Kahf, The Cave: 27).
The New Testament also reveals the Bible’s claim to be the inspired Word of God. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit declares through the book of Hebrews, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Because the entire Bible has been alive and active throughout the centuries, and continues to be today, no one has dared to change it. The fact that the Bible continues to change thousands of lives around the world in positive, tangible ways displays another clear proof of its inspiration by the Holy Spirit. God’s inspired Word is the same today as it was in the time of the Old Testament prophets and in the time of the New Testament apostles. The Bible is therefore our final authority, and we accept its teachings, commands, and promises as they relate to all of life.