Friday, April 24, 2009

A Critique of Why Follow Muhammad? (DiscoverIslamAustralia)

A Critique of Why Follow Muhammad?

A short booklet titled Why Follow Muhammad? appears on the page. It makes a number of outstanding and dishonest claims, specifically towards Christianity.

The authors state:
None of these [New Testament] writings is dated prior to the year 70CE.
The claim that none of the writings of the New Testament are dated to prior 70CE is simply false. Scholars, including the liberal John A.T. Robinson, have dated the composition of the entire New Testament corpus prior to 70AD (see John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament p.352 for an overview). Some of the dates by Robinson's hypothesis include the Epistle of James in 45-46 AD; the Gospel of Mark in c. 45-60; the Gospel of John c. -40-65+.

More mainstream dates among sceptical scholars still generally place the Pauline corpus of texts to before 70 AD with texts such as Galatians from around 45-55 AD.

In short, such a statement has no genuine scholarly support and for that reason it remains unreferenced.

Thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament were collected, but none of them is older than the fourth century CE;...Some scattered papyrus fragments found in Egypt can lay claim to no greater antiquity than the third century.
Here we find a claim more alarming than that of above. The author claims that from the thousands of Greek manuscripts we possess, "none of them is older than the fourth century CE" and that we have "some" fragments that are no earlier than the third century.

There is no truth to the claim that we have no Greek manuscripts of the New Testament until the 3rd-4th century and those strained to be dated to the 3rd are fragmentary.

First thing to note, we do contain a substantial amount of the New Testament from before the 4th century AD. One of our oldest manuscripts (generally held to be the oldest by many) is a fragment of the gospel of John known as Papyrus 52. This text has been dated to as early as the first quarter of the 2nd century. In fact, from the second century alone there are 10-13 manuscripts.[1] According to the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung ten of these manuscripts from within the second century alone include:
P52 (100-150), P90, 104 (2nd century), P66 (c. AD 175-225), P46, 64+67 (c. AD 200), P77, P103, 0189 (2nd or 3rd century), P98 (2nd century?). [2]
From these manuscripts (which according to our Muslim friend do not exist) we find that, "over 43% of all the verses in the NT are already found in MSS within 100 years of the completion of the NT"[3]

Once again we find the claim to be unfounded conjecture.

The author then goes on to make some false claims with regard to the Bible and translations. For example, he asserts that the Greek was a 3rd century translation from Syriac. However, as is demonstrated above we have Greek manuscripts from the beginning of the 2nd century.

It is curious that some seventy different versions of the Gospel were prepared, four of which were approved by the leaders of the Christian religion

First, it is evident to note that the claim is unreferenced and the citation only links to their own false assertions.

With regard to the crux (that appeared within the text and not footnoted), the claim is made that Christian leaders chose four of seventy different versions of the Gospels. This is simply not true. The only case that is remotely similar to this is the following event: "About the year 332 the Emperor Constantine, wishing to promote and organize Christian worship in the growing number of churches in the capital city, directed Eusebius to have fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures made by practised scribes and written legibly on parchment."[4] First thing to note is this event, which took place 7 years after the Council of Nicaea, was with regard to distributing copies of the Scriptures. They were not many different versions. It is also important to note that the Council of Nicaea, which the author links to the council where the alleged events occured, did not deal with the issue of canon.

For the development of the canon in clear English see my previous post, Canon, Textual Criticism and More with Bruce Metzger.

These were the main objections made against the New Testament. As is evident, they have all been false. However, let us look at how they approach the Qur'an.

Although the author took the time to criticise the New Testament manuscript record, this is avoided in their evaluation of the critique. However, it is to be noted that the Qur'an has issues in this regard, unlike the New Testament, which puts it to the authors advantage to ignore:

"There is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran in any form before the last decade of the seventh century, and the tradition which places this rather opaque revelation in its historical context is not attested before the middle of the eighth. The historicity of the Islamic tradition is thus to some degree problematic: while there are no cogent internal grounds for rejecting it, there are equally no cogent external grounds for accepting it…the only way out of this dilemma is thus to step outside the Islamic tradition altogether and start again.”

P. Crone, M. Cook (1977) Hagarism: the Making of the Islamic World, p. 3

That is a convenient point to avoid after making such false claims about the manuscript witness of the New Testament.

The Quran is the pure Word of God not one word in it is not divine. Not a single word has been deleted from its text. The Book has been handed down to our age in its complete and original form since the time of Muhammad.
First of all, we know that the Qur'an is not perfectly preserved. Earlier this year I posted a blog with regard to my careful exmination of a few lines of texts as found in one of our oldest Quran manuscripts and compared it to those in use by Muslims tooday. Not only were there many variants in so few lines, the meaning of the text was actually contradictory depending on which text was used. This post can be found here.

This is another false claim propagated by the Muslim apologist. Unlike the New Testament, the Qur'an suffers from primitive corruption. That is, the entire Qur'an suffered so much editing and the remnants of such were lost that it is impossible to reconstruct the text prior to this. The great debates over the variant and evolving contents of the Quran can be found in this exert of the scholarly article, Early Debates on the Integrity of the Qur'ān: A Brief Survey.

If we turn to the Islamic traditions, which the author defends as reliable, we find that there were in fact differences amongst the Quran verses delivered by Muhammad. As this narrative demosntrates, the differences were so great that the followers would physically fight:

"Umar bin Khattab [the second Caliph] said, 'I heard Hisham bin Hakim bin Hizam reciting Surat Al-Furqan ["Al-Furqan," the title of the 25th surah, has no meaning in any language.] during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle. I listened to his recitation and noticed that he recited it in several ways which Allah's Apostle had not taught me. So I was on the point of attacking him in the prayer, but I waited till he finished, and then I seized him by the collar. "Who taught you this Surah which I have heard you reciting?" He replied, "Allah's Apostle taught it to me." I said, "You are lying. Allah's Apostle taught me in a different way this very Surah which I have heard you reciting." So I led him to Muhammad. "O Allah's Apostle! I heard this person reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way that you did not teach me." The Prophet said, "Hisham, recite!" So he recited in the same way as I heard him recite it before. On that Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed to be recited in this way." Then the Prophet said, "Recite, Umar!" So I recited it as he had taught me. Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed to be recited in this way, too." He added, "The Qur'an has been revealed to be recited in several different ways, so recite of it that which is easier for you." (Bukhari:V6B61N561)

The deception of this text is clear. The author maliciously lies with regard to the textual integrity of the New Testament to slander the texts reliability whilst on the other hand they lie about the perfect preservation of the Qur'an to increase the claims of its reliability.

1. Daniel B. Wallace, Second Century Papyri: "This means that there are at least ten and as many as thirteen NT MSS"
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Development, and Significance p.206

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