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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 (Source)


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