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Ravi Zacharius fake credentials?

This will be sadly interesting to watch unravel. Hopefully the truth comes to surface. Hard to know these days.

http://www.raviwatch.com

Professor Richard Bauckham and John’s Christology

I’ve been reading some of Dr Richard Bauckham’s unpublished lectures and found his lecture titled. ‘The Johannine Jesus and the Synoptic Jesus’ helpful in regards to the I AM statements in John’s gospel as well as John’s overall Christology.

“Most distinctive of the Christology expressed by the Johannine Jesus are the two sets of seven ‘I am’ sayings. These are the ‘I am’ sayings with predicates (‘I am the bread of life’ etc.), and the absolute ‘I am’ sayings, which either by double entendre or less ambiguous reference echo the divine self-declaration (‘I am he’) in Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 40-55. The absolute ‘I am’ sayings declare who Jesus is in his divine identity, while the ‘I am’ sayings with predicates declare what he is in his salvific work as the one who gives eternal life. The absolute ‘I am’ sayings correspond to and give a Johannine interpretation of the ‘I am’ of Mark 6:50 (= Matt 14:27), a saying which appears in John (6:20) as one of John’s seven. The ‘I am’ sayings with predicates are all christological interpretations of parabolic actions (6:48; 11:25) or parabolic sayings of Jesus (8:12; 10:7, 11; 14:6; 15:1), most of which occur in the Synoptics (for the parabolic sayings, see Mark 4:21; Matt 18:12-13 = Luke 15:3-6; Matt 7:13-14 = Luke 13:23-24). At this point those who are used to studying the Synoptics without reference to John may well question the legitimacy of John’s christological reading of these aspects of the Jesus traditions. It is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the christological concentration common to the whole Fourth Gospel (which can be observed even in category (a) above). But for a canonical reading of the four Gospels, John can be read as making explicit – or bringing to light and to full expression – the Christology implicit in the Synoptics. That the salvation Jesus gives is inseparable from Jesus himself and his divine identity is implied in the whole of each Synoptic portrayal of Jesus.”

Dr Bauckham acknowledges that an absolute ‘I am’ statement is found in both Mark 6:50 as well as Matthew 14:27, and that this Christological title used in John is a fuller expression of that found in the Synoptics. That seems a very reasonable and helpful analysis of the data.

How was the Quran compiled?

I’ve been reading about the early Quranic compilation under the first Caliph Abu Bakr until the third Caliph Uthman. Below is an early sketch of some of the things I am learning and some of the questions these sources have raised (forewarned: it is messy and not easily accessible). Quite often Muslims tell me that the Quran was perfectly revealed as well as perfectly preserved in its oral and written formats. As I read the Islamic sources, I find this claim somewhat problematic. This is by no means the final word and it would be great if some Muslims reading this could help me understand the contradictory narrations of Islamic and Quranic history.

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Quran compilation

Under Abu Bakr and Umar

  1. Zaid bin Thabit was commissioned by Caliph Abu Bakr to compile the Quran into a single collection due to the deaths of many companions in battle (al-Bukhari 4986)
  2. Zaid limited his collection “to the verses transcribed under the prophet’s supervision.” [al-Azami pg 82]. Zaid used “first hand material only, with two witnesses to back this claim and assure equal status” [ibid]. This written source was “verified not only against each other but also against the memories of Companions who had learned directly from the Prophet.” [ibid]
  3. “Once complete, the compiled Quran was placed in the ‘state archives’ under the custodianship of Abu Bakr. His contribution, we can summarise, was to collect all first hand Quranic fragments, then scattered about Medinah, and arrange for their transcription into a master volume. This compilation was termed Suhuf.” [al-Azami, pg 84; see also at-Tirmidhi, Sunan, hadith no. 3102.]
  4. On his deathbed, Abu Bakr entrusted the Suhuf to Umar [see Abu ‘Ubaid, Fada’il, p.281.]
  5. Towards the end of 23 A.H, Umar entrusted the Suhuf to Hafsa, the Prophet’s widow.

Under Uthman

  1. Around 25 A.H, “I see that we bring the people on a single Mushaf so that there is neither division nor discord.” And we said, “An excellent proposal” [Ibn Abi Dawud, al Masahif, p.22]
  2. “There are two narrations on how Uthman proceeded with this task” [al-Azami, p. 88]
    1. Uthman prepares a Mushaf directly from the Suhuf, “so Uthman sent Hafsa a message stating, “Send us the Suhuf so that we may make perfect copies and then return the Suhuf back to you…they did so, and when they had prepared several copies Uthman returned the Suhuf to Hafsa…” [Ibn Abi Dawud, al Masahif, p. 19-20].
    2. Uthman makes an independent copy of the Mushaf, “When Uthman decided to collect the Quran, he assembled a committee of twelve from both the Quraish and the Ansar. Among them were Ubayy bin Ka’b and Zaid bin Thabit.” [Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, iii/2:62]
      1. “Uthman commissioned these twelve to manage this task by collecting and tabulating all the Quranic parchments written in the prophet’s presence.” [al-Azami, p. 89]
      2. Uthman  (somewhere between 644-656) is also recorded as having said “that whoever holds any verses dictated by the prophet himself must bring them to me”. So the people brought their verses, written on parchment and bones and leaves…all the collected material was individually labelled and then handed to Zaid bin Thabit. [Ibn Asakir, Hisotry of Damascus
      3. Uthman compares his mushaf to the Suhuf from Hafsa. However, Uthman’s mushaf differs with the Suhuf, “the independently prepared Mushaf was then checked against these parchments, and after the correction of all errors he ordered that all other copies of the Quran be destroyed.” [Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madina, pp. 990-991]
      4. Uthman gets the suhuf from Aisha, “Ibn Ushta reports in al-Masahif that Uthman, resolving an autonomous copy using primary sources, sent to Aisha’s house for the Suhuf.” [al-Azami, p. 91]
      5. Uthman gets the suhuf from Hafsa, “Uthman then sent to Hafsa and asked to borrow the Suhuf which had been entrusted to her.” [Ibn Shabba, Tarikh al-Madina, pp. 1001-2]
      6. The Suhuf from Hafsa agrees with Uthman’s mushaf, “In comparing these two, I found no discrepancy.” [ibid]

Problems

  1. If Zaid bin Thabit compliled the Quran from all the first hand parchments, bones, leaves, etc under Abu Bakr, why is Zaid (and the other eleven) doing the same under Uthman?
  2. In the earlier ‘compilation’ (somewhere between 632-634) “Umar stood at the gates of the Mosque and announced that anyone possessing written verses dictated from the prophet must bring them.” [al-Azami, p. 82]. However, Uthman  (somewhere between 644-656) is also recorded as having said “that whoever holds any verses dictated by the prophet himself must bring them to me”. So the people brought their verses, written on parchment and bones and leaves…all the collected material was individually labelled and then handed to Zaid bin Thabit. [Ibn Asakir, Hisotry of Damascus). Was the material collected under Abu Bakr (and given to Zaid) or under Uthman (and given to Zaid)? Or both? If both, this then means that under Abu Bakr, Zaid bin Thabit did not collect all of the relevant material before compiling the Suhuf.
  3. Did Uthman simply use the Suhuf and replocate it, or did he compile a new Mushaf and then compare it to the Suhuf? There are two contradictory narrations.
  4. If Uthman did compile a new Mushaf, and if he did use “verses dictated by the prophet himself”, and if Zaid did lead this compilation, then why did his Mushaf differ from the Suhuf of Abu Bakr also compiled by Zaid, also said to have collected “verses transcribed under the prophet’s supervision”? How can the same scribe (Zaid) use the same sources (verses dictated by the prophet; verses transcribed under the prophet’s supervision) and yet the Uthmanic Mushaf needed to be “corrected of errors” from the Suhuf?
  5. Did Uthman borrow the Suhuf from Aisha or from Hafsa? There are several contradicting narrations.
  6. If Uthman did compile a new mushaf, did it need to be corrected against the Suhuf [“the independently prepared Mushaf was then checked against these parchments, and after the correction of all errors he ordered that all other copies of the Quran be destroyed.”] or were there no errors against the Suhuf [“In comparing these two, I found no discrepancy.”]? There are two contradicting narrations.

Joy-less obedience amongst Unreached People

“Command what you will, and give what you command”- St Augustine

A controversial sentiment no doubt, but the impact of St Augustine’s words have pounded into my heart of late. “Repent” says Jesus, “and believe in the gospel”, yet no one can repent without the gift of repentance. So why does God command things of us, yet does not always provide that which he commands?

Right now I am feeling joy-less. But we are commanded to be joyful. To find our joy in Christ. This is what the Bible constantly teaches. To serve and obey joyfully. But can we obey without being joyful? It seems to me that we can. That this happens is not novel. It occurs within me all the time.

Right now I have no joy in the unreached people group that I live amongst. Their culture frustrates me. Their religion frustrates me. No. Actually, their religion I detest. I hate seeing them get dressed in clothes that are counter-cultural to attend sholat. To see men where stupid little hats on their heads. I see foreign sarongs. Women in full length coverings that are never worn outside of the mosque. I hate their religiosity. I hate almost everything about these people right now. I hate hearing the ahzan bellow from the loud speakers into the community. Frankly, it feels Satanic to me, and if you know me, feelings are not something that comes naturally to me. These people suck my joy. This place sucks my joy. That is what I am experiencing. Joy-less, fruitless obedience.

I look at this place and I am disgusted- in almost every way. And God seems completely absent. “Repent” I tell the people, but I know they will not without the gift of repentance. “Have faith in the death and resurrection of Isa” I plead, but I know that faith is a portion that must be given. These people are doomed. I know that deep down. God commands them to action, yet right now, He is not giving what he has commanded. I know what this means. It means these people are dead. Hopeless. Lost. They will not, they cannot, save themselves.

Yet here I am. Joy-less. Not all that different it appears. God has commanded me to be joy-ful. Christian Hedonism as Piper would say. Too easily pleased as Lewis rebuked. I know this stuff. I believe it with all my head. Yet here I am. Joy-less. God is not giving me what he commands. I am dead. Hopeless. Joy-less.

Unless he intervenes. Only he can grant me the joy he commands. I know that. But you know what. It sucks. It sucks when your theology and missiology don’t interact. When what you know is not what you feel or experience. When your obedience is joy-less. When you know what God commands, yet you know he is with-holding that very thing from you, and from the people you are meant to serve.

So I persevere. In a joy-less obedience. Where life is hard. Where my wife is sick and struggling. My kids lonely in a place of few friends or familiar faces- in this damn “third culture” people talk about. In a place that continues to suck and steal all that which I knew. What is God’s plan in all this? Some sort of refining? A breaking down of spirit? A smashing of idolatrous joy in things outside of Christ? I suspect all three.

But right now it sucks. And what else do I have but to plead with my forebear St Augustine, “command what you will, Oh God, but do not with-hold that which you command.” I want joy. I desperately want it. But it is absent right now. “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him” is Piper’s mantra. I agree with that. But why is the joy not given? Why, if God is most glorified through my joy in Him, would he with-hold that which brings him most glory? Divine purpose I guess. The secret will of God. The things too grand to behold. This is where I stand. This is where I wait. Waiting for God to grant those very things he commands I have or do. Waiting for God to grant repentance and faith to these very people he commands repent and believe. But how long do we wait?

Applying Historical Criticism to one Islamic Story.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I’ve been reading Gary Habermas’ and Mike Licona’s 2004 volume, “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus”. As I’ve been working through the book, I thought I would apply the historical methodology they use in that volume to a common Islamic story- Gabriel’s revelations to Muhammad. I do this to demonstrate what happens to Islamic orthodoxy once the sciences of historical criticism are applied.

Here is how Habermas and Licona define their historical method:

  1. Multiple independent sources
  2. Attestation by enemy (negative) sources
  3. Embarrasing admissions
  4. Eyewitness testimony
  5. Early testimony is usually more reliable

For the historian, “a position is demonstrated, when the reasons for accepting it ‘signifcantly’ outweigh the reasons for not accepting it” (Historian Graham Twelftree). For example, the death of Jesus is attested so well in each of the above criterion, that the highly critical scholar John Dominic Crossan, writes, “that he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.” This man is not sympathetic to traditional Christian teaching- he is part of the Jesus Seminar band of scholars.

Let’s now take a look at the Islamic story of Gabriel’s revelatory visits to Muhammad highlighted systematically under the methodological points outlined above.

1. Multiple independent sources– ‘When an event or saying is attested by more than one independent source, there is strong indication of historicity.’ I quote them in chronological order regards dates.

Ibn Ishaq, p. 106 (200 A.H)—[Muhammad said,] “So I read it, and he departed from me. And I awoke from my sleep, and it was as though these words were written on my heart.

Sahih Bukhari Volume 001, Book 002, Hadith Number 047. (d. 256 A.H., 870 C.E.)

Narated By Abu Huraira : One day while the Prophet was sitting in the company of some people, (The angel) Gabriel came and asked, “What is faith?” Allah’s Apostle replied…” (See also 1:10:5; 4:56:827;

Al-Tabari, Volume VI, p. 68 (923 A.D)—He (Muhammad) said: I had been thinking of hurling myself down from a mountain crag, but he appeared to me, as I was thinking about this, and said, “Muhammad, I am Gabriel and you are the Messenger of God.” Then he said, “Recite!” I said, “What shall I recite?” He took me and pressed me three times tightly until I was nearly stifled and was utterly exhausted; then he said: “Recited in the name of your Lord who created,” and I recited it. Then I went to Khadijah and said, “I have been in fear for my life.”

Quran 53:4-9 “It is a revelation which has been revealed to him (4) and taught to him by the great mighty one (5) One strong, then he stood straight (6) and he appeared on the uppermost horizon (7) He then came nearer and nearer (8) until he was as close to him as the distance of two bows, or even less. (9)”

As noted, the story is discussed in several different Islamic sources. However, more research needs to be developed as to whether these sources would be considered “independent” as the historian uses the term. Also, Quran 53:4-9 is exegeted sometimes by Muslim scholars as evidence that Gabriel appeared to Muhammad. But the verse doesn’t specify who the ‘great mighty one’ actually is. I’ve included it for fairness’ sake. Noteworthy is that all the sources are Islamic. This does not discount them from providing accurate historical data, but it does cast doubt over inter-dependency on the narrative in question, and hence their independence.

2. Attestation by enemy (negative) sources– ‘if testimony affirming an event or saying is given by a source who does not sympathize with the person, message, or cause that profits from the account, we have an indication of authenticity.’

There are no non-Muslim sources for the claim that Muhammad received revelations from Allah though Gabriel that I know of.

3. Embarrasing admissions– ‘An indicator that an event or saying is authentic occurs when the source would not be expected to create the story, because it embarrasses his cause.’

Several sources indicate that Muhammad attempted suicide after his interaction with Gabriel (Bukhari 9.111; Life of Muhammad, p.106). This is an embarrassing testimony for Muhammad so leans toward authenticity. However, it does not give historical credibility that Muhammad actually received revelations from Allah through Gabriel. Only that he had some sort of experience that led him to believe he needed to kill himself.

4. Eyewitness testimony­– ‘eyewitness testimony is usually stronger than a secondhand account.’

There is no eyewitness testimony.

5. Early testimony is usually more reliable– the closer the time between the event and testimony about it, the more reliable the witness, since there is less time for exaggeration, and even legend, to creep into the account.

                Earliest source (Sira by Ibn Ishaq) is 200 years after the fact

To summarise, the historicity of Muhammad receiving revelations from Gabriel is attested by multiple Islamic sources only. There is no hostile testimony. There is no eyewitness testimony. The principle of embarrassment could be argued for to demonstrate Muhammad experienced something, but it cannot be used to demonstrate the claim he received divine revelation. Finally, all of the source material is late historically speaking, coming no earlier than 200 years after the event.

What lies before us is not a strong historical case for Muhammad, the Quran or Islam. If one were to purely rely on historical criticism, one would be forced out of pure historical methodology to accept the death and resurrection of Jesus as much more likely historical than any claim that an Arabian man named Muhammad received divine revelations from Allah.

Response to: Paul Williams on 1 Thessalonians 4:15

The Islamic Apologist and former Christian, Paul (Bilal) Williams has written a blog post suggesting that Paul the apostle got it wrong on his eschatology. Paul the apostle, Williams argues, truly believed he would be alive at the end times, and since that clearly did not happen, Paul the apostle’s testimony ought to be considered skeptically. This is not necessarily a new argument. It has been suggested by C.H Dodd along with many others in recent decades. But Williams uses some strong language in his post. Consider just a few snippets:

“He does not say, ‘those who are alive (which could refer to some far future and as yet unknown group), but ‘we who are alive’, thus showing his expectation that the Lord will come before Paul’s death.”

“So one can demonstrate empirically that Paul was mistaken”

Clearly, then, Paul Williams believes that the issue is solved- Paul the apostle got it flat out wrong. Like many Islamic spokespeople, Paul Williams has overstated his case and jumped to the most radical of conclusions, seemingly ignoring other possible solutions. Consider his first point, that the grammar of 1 Thessalonians 5:15 can only mean that Paul the apostle included himself within the band of followers who would still be alive at the end times- “He does not say, ‘those who are alive…but ‘we who are alive’”.

Paul Williams is correct in one sense, the grammar does use the first person plural (we). But is William’s conclusion regarding that grammatical point necessarily true- “thus showing his expectation that the Lord will come before Paul’s death.”

I don’t think it is. While Paul William’s conclusion is one possible explanation of the grammar, it is not the only one. Consider a few other texts: 1 Corinthians 6:15 and 10:22. What do they all have in common? The fact that the apostle Paul uses the first person grammar without suggesting that he included himself within the statement. Here is 1 Cor 6:15:

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? ”

Notice carefully how Paul freely switches between the second person pronouns “you” and then in the same breath switches to using the first person “I”, clearly without insinuating that he considered himself included within his rebuke. It is simply a rhetorical tool. The same is true of 1 Cor 10:21-22:

“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? ”

Again we see the apostle using the first person plural (we) without including himself within the argument. So it is entirely possible (grammatically speaking) that the apostle had the same in mind with 1 Thessalonians 4:15. So it is not a matter of grammar as Williams argues, but a matter of context and meaning.

Paul Williams would need to demonstrate why 1 Thessalonians 4:15 excludes what I have offered above, before concluding that the apostle spoke wrongly. My suggestion here is not novel. Consider what Dr Paul Woodbridge, Academic Dean at Oak Hill Theological College, London, and lecturer in New Testament has to say in his published 2003 Themelios article:

“it appears quite possible to interpret these verses in a way other than that these passages indicate that Paul expected to be alive at the parousia. When the apostle used the first person plural to refer to believers, this does not necessarily mean he included himself. 1 Corinthians 6:14, 15 and 10:22 are examples of Paul classing himself with those he is describing without necessarily implying he is one of them. It also seems reasonable to say that in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17, where Paul is talking about two classes of believers (those asleep and those alive), as he was in the latter class when he wrote, it was natural for him to use the first person plural of himself and his fellow believers.”

To support my argument is the very context of the verse in question. Only verses later would the apostle Paul tell the Thessalonians that he did not know the time and date of the end times event:

“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. ”

Not only that, but he even commented in 5:10 that he may be “awake or asleep” at the time of the parousia. How then, I must ask, can Paul Williams argument be sustained? Given that we know that Paul elsewhere uses the first person singular and plural, while at the same time excluding himself, and given that the very context of the verse indicates that Paul did not know the time nor whether he would be alive at the end time, surely indicates that Paul was not wrong in his eschatology. It is nonsense to say that Paul thought he would be alive in 4:15, to then have him contradict himself in saying that he did not know the time (5:1-2) or whether he would still be alive (5:10).

Paul (Bilal) Williams has simply isolated the verse in question, ignored the apostles grammatical shifts in other places, and interpreted this verse in such a way as to discredit the apostles authority as a witness to Christ. While a simple reading of the grammar may suggest what Mr. Williams suggests, it does not establish it. And I think I have offered a fairly strong counter interpretation which takes into account the wider context and grammar of the apostle Paul. My conclusions are further supported by other scholars such as the late New Testament expert Leon Morris. Hear what he has to say:

“but it must be borne in mind that Paul consistently refused to commit himself to dates; indeed, in this very context he writes as though he did not know when it would be (5:1–2); further, he holds that both waking and sleeping are possibilities for him and his converts (5:10)… If the words used here be held to prove that Paul expected to be alive at the parousia, then equally other words of his ‘prove’ that he expected to be dead (1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14; the possibility of his death appears in 2 Cor. 5:9; Phil. 1:21–22, etc.).”

Notice the point. A consistent reading of the text in question would necessitate or ‘prove’ that Paul expected to be dead also. This suggests a rather incomprehensible problem for Paul Williams and others who interpret this text in such a way to suggest the Apostle expected to be alive.

I think we can be fairly certain that although the apostle expected that Christ could return at any time, he did not suggest in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 that he would still be alive. The grammar, immediate context, as well as the broader Pauline corpus clearly demonstrates such.

Can we use apologetics in non-Western nations?

I currently live in a majority Muslim country. Formally, I was based in the West and could interact and use apologetical and polemical arguments freely. The reasons are simple, a) because I could do so without fear of deportation, violence or even death, and, b) because most Muslims I encountered had some form of western education and could reason and think critically.

But my current home is a very different scenario. It is a place where good education is very expensive, resulting in very few highly educated individuals. It is also a place where students must sit, listen and memorise what they are taught, regardless of whether that information is correct. To think critically about your respected teacher and his/her material is almost unheard of and considered deeply inappropriate. There is also the deep superstition and ancestral religious belief that permeate below the facade of pious religious observance. A normal Muslim will attend his daily prayers on a Monday, and then proceed to visit a witchdoctor to cure his sickness or curse an enemy on the Tuesday, without noticing the extreme disconnect between the two.

But despite all this, I still encounter the general Islamic arguments against Christianity and for Islam- the Bible is corrupt; the Quran is perfectly preserved; Jesus was a Muslim; Christians (read ‘the West’) are drunkards and perverts, etc.

So I am working on a way to be able to answer such allegations without necessarily relying on historical research or deductive arguments. Further, I need to work out how I can move these people who are simply repeating ad-neaseum what they have heard in their Masjid and Imam, to the truth of Jesus and the Gospel.

As part of this challenge, I am currently reading through an unpublished doctoral dissertation which discusses the Hadith literature and its application for Christian outreach and evangelism. But I am still not sure what actual authority the hadith literature holds over the daily practices of the Muslim here, let alone whether this same Muslim has any real idea what the Hadith literature actually teaches. After all, almost none of the them can speak or read Arabic fluently, let alone put in the effort and time to soak in the traditions of Muhammad. They are simply trying to live, feed their families and be good and holy people. Most have little time to invest into the deep things of religion, and even if they wanted to, they can’t speak the divine language of Allah’s revelation. They may adhere to some traditions of Muhammad, but it is probably not because they have read the Hadith. More likely is that they have simply been told these things since childhood and, therefore, may not question their elders.

These issues also demand that we Christians invest deeply into understanding the culture of the people we work amongst. This is true even of those who minister to Muslims in western contexts- don’t neglect understanding the worldview of your Muslim friends. It is deeply important not only to share the Gospel effectively, but even to simply care more deeply about them as friends and fellow creatures made in the image of their creator.

I often here that apologetics are of no use in this context, and I am beginning to understand the logic behind this statement. But I think at the same time there are opportunities and appropriate times to say some hard and difficult things to my Muslim friends. It probably just will not look the same as a Western context. The style, logic and goals may simply need to be modified to fit within the worldview of this context.

Unfortunately, not a whole lot has been produced on this topic by Christian Apologists. Hopefully, as the world becomes more globalised, more deeper thinking can begin to happen, as well as better communication, so that the majority Muslim world is exposed to the reality of their religious tradition. At the moment we still are fighting the censorship battles that seem to plague the Muslim world, even though many are still finding Christ through the ministry of Christian Apologists and Evangelists. God has promised that he will draw His people to Himself, and we see this happening all over the ‘Muslim World’.

It is my hope, that in my context, God will allow me to combine my interest in  Muslim apologetics with our desire to see a Church Planting Movement take place amongst our Unreached People Group. I’m not totally sure what they looks like at this stage, but it is slowly developing.

Please feel free to offer any suggestions you may have toward reaching this goal.

Response to: Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians #2

Ijaz has taken the time to respond again to my two articles. See here and here.

1.Ijaz begins his second rebuttal by again claiming that the Bible is corrupted. He argues (again) that “corruptions” have permeated the extant MSS to such a degree that they cannot be considered reliable.

In response to this I simply present (again) to you the views of Dr Daniel Wallace, the leading scholar in Biblical Criticism and Director of the Centre for the study of New Testament Manuscripts. Says Wallace,

“The abundance of variants is the result of the very large number of remaining New Testament manuscripts, which itself gives a stronger, not weaker, foundation for knowing what the original manuscript said.”

Such a witness could be multiplied many times over by scholars in this field, from the late Dr Bruce Metzger to the current liberal critic Bart Erhman. The reality is that Ijaz Ahmad has simply overstepped the evidence, postulating his theological assumption rather than solid textual criticism. In fact, and I may be wrong- I am happy for Ijaz to correct me- but I doubt Ijaz has had the chance to actually read the works of these scholars on this topic. If he has, he is simply choosing to ignore the facts and evidence to accommodate his Islamic prejudice. If he hasn’t, then he is speaking out of ignorance and I encourage him to look deeper into this issue from respected textual scholars

Further, in the interest of intellectual honesty, I would really appreciate if Ijaz Ahmad and other Islamic apologists would in the future define what they mean by ‘corruption’. But I shall address this more shortly.

2. Ijaz’s second criticism was that I was promoting an illogical contradiction by stating that I did not believe the Quran was ‘corrupt’ while also holding to an imperfect textual transmission. I appreciate him pushing me here and I think I can clarify this point which will hopefully bring illumination.

While the textual transmission of the Quran is demonstrably normal in that it contains a whole host of textual variants, I do not think these variants suggest that Muslims cannot know what the original Uthmanic recension contained (don’t confuse the Uthmanic recension with that which Muhammad apparently received). That is, the “corruption” of the Quran, understood properly, is simply stating that the Quran has a fallible textual history. Let me quote Dr James White:

“In scholarly parlance, corruption simply means that, over time, errors have been made in the handwritten copying process.”

But please note that this assertion does not preclude one from knowing what the actual original text said. Through careful and thorough textual criticism, I truly believe that both Muslims and Christians can know what the original texts teach  in their respective traditions. So all I am asking is that Ijaz (and others) quit pretending that the Bible, and New Testament in particular, is completely corrupt in the sense that Christians cannot know and trust what the original text taught. Both Dr Wallace, as well as Dr Metzger readily admit that their enquiries into the textual history of the Bible actually strengthened their faith in the Bible’s reliability. This is remarkable given the claims of Ijaz who suggests in his first rebuttal that:

“the corruption and horrid state of the Old and New Testaments is common knowledge and quite detrimental to the life of any Christian believer.”

Please compare this rhetoric to the words of Drs Wallace and Metzger, both recognized experts worldwide:

“Confidence can therefore be placed in the providence of God in preserving the Scriptures.” (Wallace)

“Oh…it has increased the basis of my personal faith to see the firmness with which these materials have come down to us, with a multiplicity of copies, some of which are very, very ancient…I’ve asked questions all my life, I’ve dug into the text, I’ve studied this thoroughly, and today I know with confidence that my trust in Jesus has been well placed…Very well placed.” (Metzger)

Who would you trust? A university student apologist for Islam or two of the most respected men in recent history on biblical criticism who both have earned several academic awards for their studies on these issues?

In the latter part of Ijaz’s second rebuttal, he offered some additional points against my “closing comments”. In my first post, I highlighted the hypocrisy of Muslim apologists who scream and cry that the Bible is corrupt based on the presence of (minor) grammatical errors in the MSS, while ignoring or dismissing the very same issue for the Quran. Here is Ijaz’s response:

“This is the crux of the matter and is not difficult to grasp. We can identify was is ahad, gharib, aziz, but you can’t because it’s part and parcel of your very text today, we Muslims can clearly say this is not part of our canon, you on the other hand have known errors still present in your text and regard them as scripture”

As you can see, Ijaz did not actually bother to engage (again) with my argument. If the majority of Biblical variations are due to grammatical mistakes (which is absolutely accurate), and if the same is true with the Quran (which Ijaz conceeds), then it is completely illogical to continue to argue that the Bible is corrupt but the Quran is pure. I sense from Ijaz’s comments that he is simply unwilling to publically agree that this is the case. Instead, his whole argument (linked with isnaad hadith classifications of ahad, gharib and aziz for some reason- unless I am missing something?) relies on the less than 1% of manuscript variants that are both viable and meaningful (or as he puts it, are “still present in your text”), all the while attempting to cover the entire corpus with the same rhetorical brush. Ijaz, let’s just agree on this, so that we can then proceed to discuss the 1% of variants that seem to plague your imagination of corruption. Unless you are willing to agree on common areas, how do you expect to progress in dialogue? There are actually very few variants in our current Bibles which have any effect on the meaning of the passage or pericope in context, and non which trouble any cardinal doctrine of the faith. Whether Mark 16:9-20 is part of the autographic gospel of Mark is most definitely an important question, but even if it is not, it does not jeopardize the witness or reliability of the rest of the New Testament.

Unfortunately Muslim defenders like Ijaz like to point to such variants as if to say, “See, if you are unsure about those 12 verses, how can you trust anything in the New Testament?” But such an argument does nothing more than demonstrate one’s ignorance in the science of biblical textual criticism. Again, simply read any actual scholar on this issue and see that such radical conclusions are simply pure imagination, not objective reality. The very cardinal doctrines of my faith (supported by historical research mind you) are not jeopardized if I dismiss the last 8 verse of Mark as unauthentic. Yet Ijaz would like us all to believe that the Bible is unreliably corrupt, which I would suggest, is based on his own theological apriori commitment to Islam. Since the two faith are inreconcilable historically and theologically, and since Islam claims to come in the line of Christianity, the only way Islam can stand is to suggest that ‘current’ Christianity is based on falsehood. Unfortunately for Ijaz and his ilk, such criticism just simply won’t stand up to scholarly and historical research. That is the downfall of Islam- it has been introduced to the modern world of academic critical research, and is crumbling under the pressure. Perhaps Ijaz can name just one respected scholar in the field of textual criticism who would agree with his conclusions using the same premises applied consistently to both faiths? Just one?

To my second closing point, namely- that Ijaz’s defence of Quranic variants due to transcription is merely half of the Islamic picture- Ijaz has offered this by way of response:

“You’ve again missed the mark on the transcription issue. The spelling of words comes down to a scribes invention of how to convert audible sounds to textual representations…This is easy to grasp, which is why I find you useless to speak to.”

Actually, Ijaz Ahmad, I understand your point completely. You simply failed to address my criticism- that your defense here is not representative of all Islamic theology and history. I’m not disputing that many Muslims understand these variants as issues of transcription. On the contrary, I gave you a list of ancient and modern Islamic scholars who would thoroughly disagree with your argument, understanding the Quranic textual variants as ‘unexplainable divine mysteries’. Why do they do this? Because they recognize that the ‘rasm Uthman’ (Uthamic script) was completely fixed and therefore part of the divine revelation of Allah. For a scribe to change the script of Uthman, whether through accident or deliberate choice, would suggest to these Isalmic scholars and theologians that Allah had failed to protect his book. As Dr Tayyar Altıkulaç explains:

“If these examples were explained by factors such as the insufficient writing experience of the Companions, this would diminish the confidence felt in them and lead to an assertion that the Holy Quran contained some distortions, shortcomings, superfluous aspects, etc.”

So Ijaz, not only did you ignore my argument (again), but you simply repeated your same polemic that all Quranic variants ought to be understood as issues of transcriptions. Your minor transcribed examples may convince some of your audience, but I have told you several times now that this is not what all Islamic scholars have believed. Here is my list again, and please note some of the significant names therein:

-Imam Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795)

-Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855)

-Bayhaqi (d.458/1066)

-Zamakhshari (d.538/1144)

-Ibn al-Djazari (d.833/1429)

-Muhammad Adil Abd al-Salam who in fact demanded that belief in Rasm Uthman was mandatory

-Muhammad Tahir al-Kurdi

-Council of Fatwa of al-Djami al-Azhar in Egypt who issued a fatwa on this issue.

How do you explain this? And why do you not allow your own readers to understand the fuller history as regards this important issue? Are you aware of this? I can only assume you are, but yet I haven’t heard you mention rasm Uthman and how this doctrine has influenced Islamic thought re: variations in your mushafs.

As to your closing points:

  1. I think I have demonstrated that I understand. Feel free to actually show how I haven’t understood rather than simply throwing the accusation.
  2. I would love to explore with you the issue of textual variants outside of unintentional scribal mistakes in both traditions. I have tried to limit this discussion to these precise variants for brevity, whereas you have proceeded to base your argument on the small fraction of viable and meaningful biblical MSS variants, all the while trying to display them as the ‘normal’ variation we find in the manuscripts.
  3. 3.      Yes I do have a copy of the 2007 work by Dr Altıkulaç as well as Azami’s, The History of the Qur’aan from Revelation to Compilation. With the latter, it is well recognised by some Christians as an orthodox presentation of the Islamic picture on this topic. Says Dr White in his recent 2013 volume:

“Al-Azami’s [book] seems the best modern work available to give the “other side” for comparison and contrast.”

Response to: Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians

Ijaz Ahmed has taken the time to reply to my article, Variations in the Quran and Bible, and I wish to thank him very much for doing so. What follows is some initial thoughts of mine after having read his rebuttal. I won’t cut and paste his every word and respond directly to them, but look at some areas of agreement and disagreement from a wider framework. I encourage anyone to read my original piece as well as Ijaz’s reply before continuing. Please feel free to add to this discussion. I too am a student of Islam. I don’t claim to be an authority on any given topic, and am happy to be corrected where I may be wrong.

Points of agreement.

I want to begin by noting some positive developments in Christian/Muslim relations. I appreciate that Ijaz has openly and publically admitted that textual variants exist in the extant mushafs of the Quran. Although he still limits them to issues of lahn (spelling and grammar) due to his view on transcription, it is none the less a welcome development in these discussions. I can only hope such information continues to trickle down to the average Muslim as they seek what they believe to be the One True God. He did not dispute that over 2200 variants exist between the Topkapi and Faud Mushafs so I can only assume that point is assumed.

Second, Ijaz said nothing regarding the fact that approximately 75%, or roughly 300,000 of the Bible’s variants are due to unintentional spelling errors. Again, I can only assume he agrees that this is true. This is important, since it means that this discussion really only boils down to (at most) 25% of the New Testament text. Ijaz’s variant example of Mark 16 is duly noted and respected. But it must be noted that this variant is only one of a few that fall into the viable and meaningful category of textual issues. Again, according to Dan Wallace, the leading expert in this field recognizes that such variants compose less than 1% of the entire textual variant corpus. So really, all Ijaz Ahmed has proven by his rebuttal is that his issue with the textual integrity of the New Testament involves less than 1% of all textual variants. Given these facts, I can only assume he chose to use his skills as a rhetorician in suggesting that, “the corruption and horrid state of the Old and New Testaments is common knowledge and quite detrimental to the life of any Christian believer.”

Points of Disagreement.

1. If you have read his rebuttal, you would notice that it is plagued with many ad-hominem attacks. Consider just a few; “For me, this taught me all I needed to know about this pretender”; “he seemed mentally unable to evolve or expand on what message he was trying to convey.”; “This is why I assume Paulus is no more than a 10 year old child”; “Please grow up, or read a book or two”

Generally, if an argument is poor, it should be easily refuted. Indications of a strong argument are when your opponent starts to attack your character. I’m not sure why Ijaz chose to use illogical arguments. I ‘m happy to learn more in these areas from those more educated, but don’t expect me to take you and your conclusions seriously when you need to resort to character assassinations.

2. Ijaz made a number of significant blunders, which I assume, was due to a rushed response. Here are a few with my clarifications:

“He pulls a few 20th century quotes and presents them with a big smile on his face, as if they hadn’t been debunked and dismissed already” My response: as far as I am aware, I did not use one single author or academic work from the 20th century. Every single one of my quotes, both Christian and Muslim, come from 21st published works, or at least newer editions re-published in the 21st century. Second, I’m not sure what quotes have been debunked? Ijaz didn’t say or prove his assertion. Given that most of my quotes are from orthodox Islamic scholars, I am interested in why he would want his own scholars views debunked. Perhaps he is referring to Wallace, in which case, he is simply mistaken. Almost all Textual Scholars recognize Dan Wallace as one of, if not the most, respected scholar in this field. Nevertheless, a strong assertion from Ijaz is not an argument. He needs to inform us who and how these scholars are debunked.

“why is he trying so hard to say that consonant differences equates to corruption of the Qur’an and not the Bible?” or again, “Yet any reader of Arabic would laugh at Paulus for insinuating this is ‘corruption’” My response: this was not my point at all actually, and Ijaz should know this. I have told him before that I believe the Quran has a very good textual history. I also do not believe the Quran is “corrupt”. I simply believe that the Quran’s transmission has not been perfectly preserved, and this is demonstrably true. This is what I believe about the Bible also. I guess the difference is, Allah told Muslims in the Quran that he would protect its preservation and transmission, whereas the same claim is not made by the God of the Bible. Why should we not expect fallible scribes of both traditions to make errors? Transmission errors do not make the original text corrupted, however, as textual criticism studies has proven. This is where Islam (and Ijaz) oversteps the evidence, and due to its inbuilt theological assumption, suggests to me that the Quran is not a book from Allah.

“the book he’s referencing to make these statements is, “Al-Mushaf al-Sharif Attributed to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan“, published in 2007”. Ijaz prefaced this claim by stating “He then goes on to quote a passage from Shaykh Mustapha Muhammad al Azami”. This surprised me considering the character claims he made against me throughout his rebuttal. To correct Ijaz, the book entitled “Al-Mushaf al-Sharif Attributed to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan“ is not written by al-Azami. I suspect Ijaz knows this and simply made a typo in his haste to respond, since further in his rebuttal he notes the actual book written by al-Azami that I referenced.

Closing thoughts.

1.I don’t think Ijaz touched on my actual argument. Her e it is in a single sentence. If transmitted scribal spelling errors result in a corrupted New Testament, why is the same standard not applied to the Quran? Given that Ijaz affirms that such variants exist in the Quranic mushafs, I can only assume he must agree with my argument. It would be illogical to reject the Bible on such grounds while still affirming the Quran.

I can only assume, therefore, that Ijaz’s continuance in claiming the Bible is corrupted is based on the very few viable and meaningful variants, contributing to less than 1% of all known variants. If this assessment is true, and I hope it is, I truly believe that this will open up some further substantial and helpful discussion. Unless Islamic double standards are removed, the illogical arguments and rhetoric are rather empty. Ijaz, are you willing to come to common terms on this, and recognize that your criticism of the Bible rests on a fraction of meaningful variants in the Biblical MSS?

2. Finally, I think I need to address the central thesis of Ijaz’s argument- that any and all scribal errors are due to transcription. What readers need to know, and what he doesn’t inform you, is that this larger argument is related to Rasm Uthman, or whether or not the Uthmanic Mushafs had a fixed Arabic writing. For those scholars who did not believe the script was fixed (there are many), it was easy to dismiss the variants as simply transcription issues (I would guess Ijaz falls into this category). Other Islamic scholars disagreed. Many, in fact, believed the Uthmanic text was fixed and that any “apparent errors” in the Mushafs was due to divine mystery. They held that the spelling and grammar of the Uthmanic text was itself part of the divine revelation. Therefore, any errors were somehow divinely appointed as ‘mysterious’. Please consider some names of such men.

Imam Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795); Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855); Bayhaqi (d.458/1066); Zamakhshari (d.538/1144); Ibn al-Djazari (d.833/1429); Muhammad Adil Abd al-Salam who in fact demanded that belief in Rasm Uthman was mandatory; Muhammad Tahir al-Kurdi; as well as the Council of Fatwa of al-Djami al-Azhar in Egypt who issued a fatwa on this issue.
What do they all have in common? The belief that the actual grammar and spelling of the Uthmanic Mushafs were fixed, divine and unchangable. What this means is that it was unthinkable for them that grammatical errors could exist in Allah’s Holy Book. In other words, they would thoroughly disagree with Ijaz Ahmad’s assessment and bold claim that the Quranic variants are easily explained by transcription.

Now I need to ask Ijaz whether I have read enough books yet? Certainly, if I am wrong, I am happy to learn, but please stop pretending like your own position on this issue is the only Islamic one. Let me finish with the position of Muhammad Tahir al-Kurdi who believed that “it is only the companions who could explain the contradictory aspects of this spelling”  and that the non grammatical difficulties are best understood as “wisdom and mystery that we do not know”. You can trivialize all this to simple transcription, but your own Islamic history demonstrates that Muslim scholars have wrestled with these (concealed from the average Muslim, I would argue) elements of the Islamic faith.

Postscript: It appears that Ijaz has blocked me from commenting on his facebook page, which given my attempts to be respectful, make me rather surprised. Surely Ijaz, if my argumetns are so poor and weak it would be better to expose them to your readership than censor them? Nonetheless, I have taken and kept many screenshots to demonstrate how it is that these ‘Islamic spokespeople’ seem totally unwilling to actually discuss important topics.

Variants in the Quran and Bible

To my knowledge, no critical edition of the Quran exists. That is, there is no Quran that openly details variants and differences in the extant Quranic Mushafs (manuscripts). This is especially intriguing since one of the largest Islamic polemics Christians will encounter, is that the Bible is corrupt. This argument is especially bolstered by the addition of Christian and Western textual scholars openly and publically printing and discussing critical editions of the original Greek New Testament.

But let’s start with some facts. Dan Wallace, probably the world’s leading scholar on textual issues relating to the New Testament informs us that “[m]ore than 5700 Greek New Testament manuscripts are still in existence.” He also acknowledges that “there are between twenty thousand and twenty-five thousand handwritten copies of the New Testament in various languages.” Given that there are 138,000 words in the New Testament, Wallace calculates that “for every word in the Greek New Testament there are almost three variants.” At first, such figures sound daunting, especially to an untrained ear. But given the vast amount of documentary evidence, the fact that there is only 3 variants per word is actually insignificant. Take for example, Wallace’s logic regarding the sentence, “Jesus loves John”:

“In Greek, that sentence can be expressed in at least sixteen different ways without affecting the basic sense. Factoring in spelling variations and other nontranslatable differences, “Jesus loves John” could, in fact, be a translation of hundreds of different Greek constructions. In this light, the fact that there are only three variants for every word in the New Testament, when the potential is seemingly infinitely greater, seems almost trivial.”

So we know that there are approximately 400,000 textual variants spread across roughly 24,000 ancient hand-written manuscripts. But let us not forget this important point, and one of the main points of my post- approximately 75% of the variants are due to spelling errors. Says Wallace, “Spelling and nonsense readings are the vast majority, accounting for at least 75% of all variants.” This means out of 400,000 variants, 300,000 of them are due to unintentional minor copyist errors. In fact, less that 1% of all variants have any viable and meaningful affect on the New Testament. That equals approximately only 4000 variants, none of which affect any cardinal doctrine of Christianity. Only 4000!! In short, Christians can be confident that the Bible we possess today is the true word of God. Any claims to the contrary are mere speculation and not representative of the facts.

So how does this relate to the Quran? Well, rather simply actually. Almost all Muslims will tell you that the Quran is perfectly preserved and the Bible corrupt. Consider one claim; “The astonishing fact about this book of ALLAH is that it has remained unchanged, even to a dot, over the last fourteen hundred years. … No variation of text can be found in it.” Muslims have to do this- they have to believe it lest their religious foundation be shaken.

Yet, Muslim scholars readliy admit that variants do exist in the Quranic Mushafs- albeit only usually regarding spelling (lahn). Consider two examples. Firstly, Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami, Professor Emeritus at King Saud University:

“When comparing them [manuscripts] it is always possible to find copying mistakes here and there; this is an example of human fallibility, and has been recognized as such by authors who have written extensively on the subject of “unintentional errors.” 

Even more telling, is the words of  Dr. Tayyar Altıkulaç (Leading scholar in Qur’anic studies, Ex-president of Turkish religious affairs, deputy in the Turkish parliament). He had the opportunity to critically study the Topkapi Mushaf, which is considered by almost all Muslims, as an Uthmanic Mushaf. That is, it is one of the 4-8 authorized copies commissioned under his caliphate. Dr Altıkulaç compared this Mushaf against the current Saudi sanctioned Fahd Mushaf still in print. He concludes that:

There are deviations from grammatical rules (Laḥn) and spelling mistakes in the Muṣḥafs attributed to Caliph ‘Uthmān”as well as 2,270 instances where there is a difference from the [consonantal skeleton] of the Fahd Muṣḥaf”

This is amazing! A small comparison between only two Quranic manuscripts brings forth more than 2000 textual variants. I wonder what the figure would be if all Quranic manuscripts are critically examined? Unfortunately, Muslims are unwilling (actually disallowed) from doing exactly that. Consider just one example

Ibn al-Khatib Muhammad Muhammad Abd al-Latif believed that the first Mushafs that the companions copied were full of spelling mistakes and gross errors. He reasoned it was because of infallible scribes, yet, Ibn Khatib was severly ciritcised because his views and to disprove his views, a three member delegation formed by the Shaykh of al-Azhar prepared a 41 page refutation on July 1948. Due to al-Azhar’s reaction, Ibn al-Khatib’s book was banned.

Sadly, many dissenting Muslim voices on this topic are silenced. I wonder why? And lest you think this is only a small Muslim opinion, consider Ibn Qutayba, Ali Abd al-Wahid Wafi and even Ibn Kathir, who all agreed with Ibn Khatib that the Quranic Mushafs contained grammatical errors and variants. Why? Because they all believed that the Uthmanic text was not fixed. A non-fixed text naturally requires an evolution of text, which is precisely what we see with early Arabic writings. So, in short, the Quran has a (normal) textual history complete with variations, emendations and interpolations.

But let’s focus on the Islamic double standards here. Let me explain.

According to Muslims, the Bible is corrupt since it contains many variants. Yet as demonstrated above, the vast majority of these are minor spelling errors. Not surprisingly, the same issue plagues the Quran, since both are works of antiquity, written by fallible scribes. Yet, according to (some) Muslims, these variants actually have no bearing on the authenticity of the Quran. Here is another two examples:

“Such occurrences cannot be used to prove any corruption within the Quran” (Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami)

“they are neither emendations nor interpolations, they are a variant form of transcription…they used differing forms of words and points – this is like saying sonne is not son or colour is not color” also “I believe the New Testament is demonstrably and undeniably corrupted and unreliable” (Ijaz Ahmed)

So it surely begs the question, why are spelling mistakes in Quranic Mushafs not evidence of corruption for those within Islam, but yet spelling mistakes for the Bible are considered as such for the Christian tradition? And perhaps most disappointing of all, is the fact that this discussion, when attempted to take place on Islamic sites is often moderated or deleted altogether. Not really surprising given comments such as these below by Islamic scholars in this field:

“There will never be a discovery of a Quran, fragmented or whole, which differs from the consensus text circluating throughout the world. If it does differ then it cannot be regarded as Quran, because one of the foremost considitons for accepting anything as such is that it conform to the text used in Uthman’s Mushaf.” (Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami)

Great! A philosophically irrational argument which begs the question, coupled with the assumed premise that the Uthmanic text still exists, which ironically, does not. Clearly, Muslims have a theologically disposition to exclude any evidence to the contrary, based on a premise that is completely false- the Uthmanic Mushafs do not exist to be the arbitrary guide for comparison.

“One of the most important questions of Qur’anic history is the whereabouts of the Mushafs attributed to Caliph ‘Uthman and whether any of them reached the present day. Unfortunately, we do not have a positive answer to this question” (“Al-Mushaf al-Sharif Attributed to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan”İhsanoğlu, 2007:35)

This, in the words of another Islamic scholar, is one of the greatest weaknesses of the Islamic world throughout history.” (Altıkulaç,‘Al-Mushaf al-Sharif’ 2007:35)

Think I am making this up, consider a final example:

Some differences in the spelling of the texts copied by the Companions could not be explained on the basis of the rules of writing.”

Notice this point above, since it clearly refutes the Islamic argument that insists that all variants in the Quranic Mushafs are merely in relation to lahn (spelling). Clearly that is not the case! Interestingly, if one looks into the more classical Islamic authors, all this is readily admitted. But look at how the same (modern) scholar attempts to explain the problem:

“Such differences were explained by concepts such as taeqif, mysteriousness and wisdom or by forced explanations. The main reason for this fact is the following: If these examples were explained by factors such as the insufficient writing experience of the Companions, this would diminish the confidence felt in them and lead to an assertion that the Holy Quran contained some distortions, shortcomings, superfluous aspects, etc. This is inconceivable because it would oppose the expression “…it is We who shall truly guard it (from all corruption).”

So again we see these Islamic ‘experts’ simply begging the question. They have a theological disposition to exclude anything that challenges their long held arguments. In laymen’s terms, this is blind faith- since they must reject all evidence to uphold there pre-assumed assumption regarding the preservation and protection of the Quran.

Perhaps there is a Muslim out there willing to engage in this discussion and offer some reasonable and historical answers?