Has the Bible been corrupted?
(Witnessing to Muslims and other skeptics)

Question: My Muslim friend does not believe in the deity of Christ or that Scripture is true and inerrant...but adheres strictly to the 'faith' of Islam. How do you convince someone that Jesus Christ is God aside from Scripture and the Lord, lunatic, or liar argument? I continue to send him Scripture because I know that God's Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11 is such an encouragement), and have posed the Lord, lunatic, or liar argument (which was promptly ignored) but beyond that, I do not know what to do. Any suggestions?

Answer: For anyone, Muslim or otherwise, to accept the claims of Jesus Christ (that He is God and the only Savior) rest in one thing - God's Word! If a person does not believe that the Bible is true, a perfect revelation from God, they will never understand who that God is. Likewise if they believe the Bible merely contains some truth, not that it is truth, they will never understand the perfect God who cannot lie and must reveal himself in complete truth. Arguing doctrine and deeper truths of Scriptures without this foundation is mostly a waste of time.

Colossians 4:5-6 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV) [Consider Matthew 7:6 as well].

While it is true that God's word does not return void, this does not mean that it will automatically convert or persuade all who hear. Four possibilities exist for the hearer.

  1. They hear and respond to the truth

  2. They hear and are provided with truth that the Holy Spirit will use to bring about response in the future.

  3. They reject the truth, further hardening their heart, bringing greater judgment upon themselves.

  4. [For those already believers] They will be strengthened and sanctified through hearing and applying God's word.

It does not make God's word any less powerful that it may convert on one hand or bring judgment on the other - regardless it never returns void.

Isaiah 55:10-11 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (NIV)

Posing the trilemma of Lord, lunatic or liar, itself rests in the authority of Scriptures. As it is clear that the Bible teaches that Jesus professed to be Lord, it is clear that one of these statements must be true.

  1. Jesus is Lord as He claimed, as supported by His words and His actions including His multitude of well-attested miracles and subsequent resurrection from the grave.

  2. Jesus merely believed himself to be Lord on the same level as a person who believes they are a tomato. In this instance the person's belief is completely untrue and no amount of believing or claiming such will make it true. By definition this would make a person a lunatic.

  3. Jesus willfully lied about who He was - as such making himself a pathological liar willingly deceiving all those around him.

Not understanding the Bible to be completely true, a person can dismiss all three possibilities in this fashion...

Jesus never claimed to be, or believed himself to be, Lord. This was a corruption or addition made by later followers.

It's not only Muslims who dismiss the Bible in this fashion. Fans of Dan Brown's popular The DaVinci Code blur the lines of fiction and truth believing the fictional claims of this work that the real truth of the Bible has been concealed by the organized church. Regardless of the reasons for this skepticism and unbelief, the focus again has to be God's Word.

Romans 10:9-13 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (NIV)

Muslims have been long taught that the Koran (also spelled Qur'an) is Allah's perfect revelation and that the Bible is corrupted. As a necessary beginning point for witnessing to a Muslim you must first concentrate on the question of which book is most reliable. It is obvious that they cannot both be true since there are so many contradictions between them. Contrary to the post-modern view that there is no absolute truth, the fact remains that two opposing "truths" cannot both be true.

Postmodernism therefore has an obvious distrust toward claims about truth, ethics, or beauty being rooted in anything other than individual perception and group construction. (Wikipedia, Article: Postmodernism, 8/12/05)

If a person is unwilling to consider the merits of an argument, to search out and weigh the evidence, they end up clinging to irrational claims under the guise and title of "faith" while in fact holding to it on the same level as the person who claims themselves to be that tomato (as mentioned above). Appealing to your own perception, or a group perception (regardless of it being recent or ancient), without supporting evidence (and often in opposition to, or in willful ignorance of it) is a tenant of postmodernism. The Bible and Biblical faith is anchored in absolute revealed truth, providing for a rational faith that is not blind but rather is supported by multitudes of evidence provided by God.

Isaiah 1:18a "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. (NIV)

A Muslim needs to respond to some specific questions. For example: There are verses in the Koran that speak favorably of the Bible (and "the people of the Book"). How can the Quran speak favorably of a book that is said to be corrupted? If they then refer to the Bible before it was corrupted, where can it be found? Mohammed wouldn't have had it, since all the manuscripts from his time agree with what we have now. We have a complete Bible that dates back to the third century, approximately 300 years after Christ and 400 years before Islam!

If a Muslim says that it was corrupted before the third century, you can point out that there are thousands of copies of various sections of the Bible that date back far before 300 A.D. For example, the Dead Sea scrolls (actually first found in 1947 by Muslims) verify the continued accuracy of all of the Old Testament (excluding one book, Esther which was not included). These scrolls date back as far as 200 BC, with a complete scroll of Isaiah, dating to 100 BC. Isaiah, of course, is one of the books that prophesied the coming Messiah - Jesus.

Beyond the Old Testament, multitudes of fragments of the New Testament exist from prior to the third century as well. If all the pieces were put together, the result would easily be hundreds of complete Bibles dating before the year 300. In fact, the oldest partial manuscript dates back to about 68 A.D. (others to about 100 A.D). This takes us back to around the dates when the New Testament was written circa 50-100 A.D.! As for contradictions, all these ancient copies read essentially the same -- again showing the reliability of what we have now. While some point to a multitude of modern translations, trying to claim that this makes many versions of the Bible, the majority of all translations serve the purpose of trying to render the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) into understandable form in our modern language. In the case of English, as an ever changing language, updating the usage of words requires ongoing revision. Under the guise of being a translation, the Bible can be twisted and distorted to make it say what was never intended. For example The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT), as published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses), intentionally alters hundreds of passages of Scriptures to make the Bible line up with the false teachings of their cult. How do we know it's false? By comparing it to the multitudes of ancient manuscripts and faithful translations that have passed on to us.

In addition, in regards to ancient witness, most of the New Testament could be reconstructed from the writings of the early church Fathers alone, who quoted the Scriptures profusely - all who lived in the first few centuries of the church.

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (NIV)

Prophecy likewise demonstrates the authenticity of the Bible. There are more than 2,000 specific prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled to the letter! The only prophecy [I know of] in the Koran is Mohammed's self-fulfilling vow that he would return to Mecca.

Revelation 19:10b For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (NIV)

As for the Koran and variations, this history was written by a Muslim (Islam - A Brief History, Dr. Neria Harish Hebbar, MD):

The caliphate of Umar, (the second caliph - literally the deputy of the Prophet), and later caliphate of Uthman (644-656), his successor, collected all the verses and the first authorized version of Koran was established. Though this version is considered as the authentic version today, there are other variant versions that are also accepted and recognized by the Muslims. The original version was in Kufic script and contained no vowels or distinguishing, diacritical points that has led to some interpretive differences in the subsequent versions.

[Consider also: http://answering-islam.org.uk/Green/uthman.htm and http://answering-islam.org.uk/Green/seven.htm ]

Another source had this to say (Wikipedia, Article: Qur'an, 08/10/05)...

Muhammad, according to tradition, could neither read nor write, but would simply recite what was revealed to him for his companions to write down and memorize. Adherents to Islam hold that the wording of the Qur'anic text available today corresponds exactly to that revealed to Muhammad himself: words of God delivered to Muhammad through Jibreel (Gabriel).

According to some Muslim traditions, the companions of Muhammad began recording suras in writing before Muhammad died in 632; written copies of various suras during his lifetime are frequently alluded to in the traditions. For instance, in the story of the conversion of Umar ibn al-Khattab (when Muhammad was still at Mecca), his sister is said to have been reading a text of sura Ta-Ha. At Medina, about sixty-five companions are said to have acted as scribes for him at one time or another; the prophet would regularly call upon them to write down revelations immediately after they came.

One tradition has it that the first complete compilation of the Qur'an was made during the rule of the first caliph, Abu Bakr. Zayd ibn Thabit, who had been one of Muhammad's secretaries, "gathered the Qur'an from various parchments and pieces of bone, and from the chests (i.e. the memories) of men." This compilation was kept by Hafsa bint Umar, one of Muhammad's widows, as well as the daughter of Umar, the second caliph.

During the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, there were disputes about the recitation of the Qur'an. In response, Uthman decided to codify, standardize, and write down the text. Uthman is said to have commissioned a committee (including Zayd and several prominent members of Quraysh) to produce a standard copy of the text.

Some accounts say that this compilation was based on the text kept by Hafsa. Other stories say that Uthman made his compilation independently, Hafsa's text was brought forward, and the two texts were found to coincide perfectly. Still other accounts omit any reference to Hafsa.

Some Muslim scholars say that if the Qur'an had been collected by the order of a caliph, it would never have been relegated to the status of a keepsake for one of the prophet's widows. Possibly the story was invented to move the time of collection closer to Muhammad's death.

When the compilation was finished, sometime between 650 and 656 CE, Uthman sent out copies of it to the various corners of the Islamic empire. He ordered the destruction of all copies that differed from it. Several manuscripts, including the Samarkand manuscript, are claimed to be the original copies sent out by Uthman; however, many scholars, Western and Islamic, doubt that any of the Uthmanic originals remain.

Still another Islamic source states (The Origins of the Koran, Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book, Ed. Ibn Warraq. Prometheus Books):

The Prophet Muhammad died in 632 C.E. The earliest material on his life that we possess was written by Ibn Ishaq in 750 C.E., in other words, a hundred twenty years after Muhammad's death. The question of authenticity becomes even more critical, because the original form of Ibn Ishaq's work is lost and is only available in parts in a later recension by Ibn Hisham who died in 834 C.E., two hundred years after the death of the Prophet.

The Hadith are a collection of sayings and doings attributed to the Prophet and traced back to him through a series of putatively trustworthy witnesses (any particular chain of transmitters is called an isnad). These Hadith include the story of the compilation of the Koran, and the sayings of the companions of the Prophet. There are said to be six correct or authentic collections of traditions accepted by Sunni Muslims, namely, the compilations of Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, and al-Nisai. Again it is worth noting that all these sources are very late indeed. Bukhari died 238 years after the death of the Prophet, while al-Nisai died over 280 years after!

Without the ancient or (admittedly) destroyed manuscripts (by Uthman), who is to say that the Koran is even what Mohammed said? Regardless, if it is what Mohammed said or even if an angel told him to say it, the very fact it contradicts the Bible (which is reliable) makes it wrong.

Galatians 1:8 But even if we [the apostles] or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! [Written circa 52-58 A.D.]

Once a person comes to the understanding that the Bible is completely true, as God's complete revelation, the foundation is laid for teaching further truths of Scriptures. From the Bible it is easy to prove that God is a Triune being (three that are one), that Jesus is God (and Creator) and that salvation is found only through belief in Jesus Christ. Don't forget to pray for your Muslim and other unbelieving friends - it's God who does the work!

Psalms 119:89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (NIV)

(c) 2005 Brent MacDonald/LTM. Duplication is permitted as long as the source is cited.