by Dr Gary J Baxter. Printed January 2014
Bible references are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
All references to the Koran are taken from The Koran, translated by N J Dawood, Penguin classics, 2004.
Christians believe that the Bible is the true word of God which was conveyed to its writers through the inspiration (God breathed) of the Holy Spirit as the Bible itself states.
Muslims believe that the Koran (Arabic spelling; Qur’an, meaning to read or recite) is without error and was given to the prophet Mohammad by the angel Gabriel and are the true words of Allah (Allah is Arabic for God). It was given to correct errors in both the Jewish and Christian books which predated it by many hundreds of years.
The God of the Bible is not the same Supernatural Being as the God of the Koran. The God of the Bible is the triune God (three in one); Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whereas Allah is a simple unity.
Moses, who the Bible states, wrote its first five books, was repeatedly instructed by God to write what God had told him. At the very start of Genesis there is a reference to it being written. There are repeated references throughout the Bible to the fact that it was a written record.
It was important for the Hebrews to record their history meticulously and accurately for several reasons:
God had promised to send a Messiah to reverse the judgement he placed on mankind and they wanted to track from where this man would come.
The Children of Israel were descendants of the sons of Jacob (God had changed his name to Israel) to which tribe they belonged was important to them.
God gave Moses instructions on how they should live; the Ten Commandments, the Civil laws and the Ceremonial laws. These needed to be recorded for future generations.
Moses would have received either direct inspiration from God as to the events which happened before his life and/or this information would have been handed down from his ancestors, e.g. Adam was alive during the life of Noah’s father Lamech.
Since Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s household and was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, he would have written as instructed and most likely on clay tablets which were commonly used at the time. Later, these and subsequent writings were written on scrolls and kept in the Temple. Most importantly, the scriptures were written.
Ancient clay tablet
During the sixth century BC, the Jewish state was scattered with most people going into exile in Babylon, some remained in Judea and others went to Egypt. As a result, up to five textual “families” began to develop and these varied slightly from each other. The differences increased over the centuries as the Hebrew language evolved with respect to spelling, grammar and sentence construction although there was no change in content or doctrine. By the first century AD, Jewish scholars became concerned about the state of their scriptures with numerous text types circulating, so they decided to use them to form one basic standard text. These scholars and their text was the forerunner to the Masoretes of AD 500-1440.
The Bible is divided into two parts; the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT). The word testament simply means “agreement.” The OT was the old agreement God had with his people, which was; if you worship only me and keep my laws, I will bless you. The people failed to do this and as well, worshipped a variety of idols. So God in an act of mercy introduced a new agreement; the NT. Since the people’s sin created a chasm between God and mankind which cannot be crossed, God sent his Son, the Second Person of the trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for the sins of people by dying in their place. So the new agreement is then that sinful people can be re-joined to God by confessing their sins and committing their lives to Jesus.
The two parts of the Bible are inextricably linked; the OT points to the Messiah who will come to restore the people’s intimate relationship with God which was broken by Adam and Eve’s original sin. Whereas the NT is all about this Messiah who is revealed as being Jesus of Nazareth; over 60 OT prophesies were fulfilled by him. As well, the two testaments are linked by 268 references to the OT in the NT.
Evidence of Reliability
For a long time, the oldest text of the complete Hebrew Old Testament was the Masoretic text, mentioned above, of AD 1,000. However, this fact changed dramatically with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. These scrolls formed part of a library of a Jewish sect who lived on the shore of the Dead Sea and they contained complete, or parts of, every book of the Old Testament except that of Esther. They date from 200 BC to mid-first century. Amazingly, when they were compared with the Masoretic texts, the agreement was extremely good and demonstrated the great care copyists took with their work. The Christian Bible’s Old Testament is based on the Jewish Masoretic text.
Both Testaments document actual history and it is recorded in the order the events occurred. Many of its people, places and events have been confirmed by archaeology. For example, the city of Ur from where God called Abraham and the very large cities of Nineveh and Babylon, which were not recorded any other document, were unearthed in the nineteenth century. Both the water spout that David’s men used to enter Jerusalem and capture it and the 533 metre long tunnel constructed by King Hezekiah to bring water into Jerusalem in the event of a siege, can be seen today. An ostracon (pottery) unearthed by G J Reisner in 1910 contained an inscription written in ancient Hebrew identified the clan and district name of seven of the offspring of Joseph’s son Manasseh (Jacob’s grandson). The Merneptah Stele, the Taylor Prism, the Nabonidus Chronicle, a Babylonian Chronicle, the Cyrus Cylinder, the Cyrus Inscription, the Pilate Inscription and the High Priest Caiaphas’ Ossuary all confirm the Bible is a historical record. The bodily resurrection of Christ is additional evidence; it would have been so easy for the Jews to produce his body in the first few weeks and months after his crucifixion if He had not risen.
Statements in the Bible are consistent with modern science. For example, it states that the earth is roundand is suspended on nothing and the Bible implies that it is rotating. Babies can suffer hemorrhaging during the first seven days of life, God told Abraham to circumcise on the eighth day. Ocean currents were discovered by Mathew Maury after he read Psalm 8:8 and the hydrologic cycle is described in five books. God formed Eve from one of Adam’s ribs after putting him into a deep sleep. The rib is the only bone in the body that will re-grow after it has been removed providing its outer sheath is left intact.
Muslims believe the Koran to be the book of divine guidance revealed by Allah to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years and view the Koran as God’s final revelation to humanity. They also believe that the Koran has solutions to all the problems of life irrespective of how complex they may be and in what age they occur.
Most of the Koran is written in third person with Allah narrating. In other parts, Allah refers to himself as “I” or “we”. When Muhammad speaks, his words are introduced by “Say,” to clarify that he is being commanded by Allah to speak.
The vocabulary of the Koran is overwhelmingly Arabic, but some terms are borrowed from Hebrew and Syriac cultures with which Muhammad was familiar.
Muhammad was born in Mecca about the year AD 570. In the early part of his life he came under the influence of Jewish and Christian teaching. According to Muslim tradition, while he was in a cave, the 40-year-old Muhammad heard the voice of the archangel Gabriel who told him that he had been chosen as a messenger of God to restore the world to the truth because the Jews had corrupted the scriptures and the Christians had worshipped Jesus as the Son of God.
Over the next 22 years until his death in AD 632, it is claimed that he received frequent revelations of this type. After each encounter he would commit the message to memory, as he was thought to have been illiterate. His followers memorised his revelations, as well, different sections were written on bits of stone, leather, palm leaves and scraps of paper.
Some years after Muhammad’s death, the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, decided to combine the fragments into one book so that they could be preserved. Zayd ibn Thabit was one of Muhammad’s scribes who wrote some of what Muhammad had received from Gabriel and was used for this purpose. The resulting manuscript according to Zayd, remained with Abu Bakr until he died and then with Hafsabint Umar, one of Muhammad’s widows.
Part of the Koran inscribed on the shoulder blade of a Camel
In about 650, as Islam expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula into Persia, the Levantand North Africa the third Caliph Uthman ibn Affannoticed slight differences in various copies of the Koran. In order to preserve the sanctity of the text, he ordered a group headed by Zayd to use Abu Bakr’s copy and prepare a standard copy of the Koran. That text became the model from which copies were made and promulgated throughout the Muslim world. The other versions are believed to have been destroyed. The present form of the Koran text is accepted by Muslim scholars to be the original version compiled by Abu Bakr.
As a consequence of it being a compilation, the Koran is not a systematic book of history, doctrine or advice, but rather a collection of sayings, speeches and law. It is not in chronological order and it has no beginning, middle or end.
The Koran consists of 114 suras, which can be regarded as being comparable to chapters, each of which is subdivided into ayat (signs) which are similar to verses in the Bible. The suras vary in the number of ayat they contain; from three or four to the longest sura 2, which has 286 ayat.
Each sura has a heading, which usually incorporates the following elements:
A title (e.g. “The Bee,” “The Cow”) taken from a prominent word in the sura. ,
The basmalah, a formula prayer e.g. “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
Some Korans contain an indication as to whether it was derived from Mecca or Medina and the number of ayat (verses) in the sura.
Twenty nine suras, commence with letters of the alphabet called fawatih, or “detached letters.” Their significance is unclear.
The suras, with the exception of the opening sura, are generally arranged from longest to shortest. The ayat also vary in length, with the shortest usually found in the earlier suras. In these ayat, the form closely resembles the rhymed prose of the seers (kahins) of Muhammad’s time. The later ayat are more detailed and less poetic.
Jihad or struggle for the cause of Allah is one of the main themes of the Koran; it is contained in 164 ayat. However, the Koran seems to contain conflicting passages in the way followers are to treat those who do not believe. For example, sura 2:256 states: There shall be no compulsion of religion and sura 109:1, 2, 6 states: Say: ‘Unbelievers, I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship. I shall never worship what you worship nor will you ever worship what I worship. You have your own religion and I have mine.’These appears to conflict with Sura 9:5: When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters (unbelievers) wherever you find them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them.And sura 9:29:Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe in neither God nor the Last Day.
The key to solving this conflict is to understand how the Koran came about and to do this it is necessary to examine Muhammad’s life and the doctrine of abrogation (naskh, rescind, suras 2:106 and 13:39) which means the new replaces the old. The revelations and visions the Prophet received which constitute the Koran, commenced when he lived in Mecca (610-622) and 90 of the 114 suras came from this period. During this time he only had a small group of followers and was not able to convince the people of Mecca of his new religion so due to mounting hostility he fled to Medina with some of his followers where the last ten years of his life were characterised by military conquests. The early suras that are from the Meccan period speak of peace. However, the doctrine of abrogation means that the later suras, those of Medina origin, abrogate (overturn, annul) the earlier ones. So the later suras which command the violent overthrow of infidels (non-Muslims) replace the more peaceful and tolerant suras which are from the Meccan period. Altogether there are 100 passages that encourage the use of the sword (Medinan passages) compared with some 120 peaceful passages (Meccan).
Richard P Bailey has placed the suras of the Koran in chronological order and brought out the progression of thought with regard to Jihad. He sees four periods as shown below:
No retaliation (in Mecca)—20 suras.
Defensive fighting permitted (in Medina)—2 suras
Defensive fighting commanded (in Medina)—30 suras
Command to kill the pagans and humble the Christians and Jews (in Medina)—15 suras.
The Koran and the Old Testament
The Koran frequently refers to the people, places and events described in the Old Testament, but rarely, if ever, are they presented without changes which are mostly additions, sometimes to the extent that the original account is barely discernible. For example, Genesis 12 describes how God told Abraham to leave his home and go to another land; there is no mention of the idolatry of his people. However, suraowever, sura 21:51-70 HH
21:51-70 tells of Abraham breaking his father’s idols and challenging his idolatrous kinsmen to converse with their idols. The people responded by attempting to burn Abraham, but Allah thwarts their plans by making the fire a protection for him. These events are not recorded in the Genesis account. Sura 12 commences by giving the story of Joseph in Egypt in accordance with the Genesis version, but then deviates significantly. When Potiphar’s wife accused him of attempting to molest her; he is vindicated by a servant and elects to go to jail rather than being under her control. Similar deviations pertain to the report of the cupbearer regarding Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.
A major difference and one that has profoundly affected each religion is who did God tell Abraham to sacrifice; Ishmael or Isaac? The Bible makes it perfectly clear that God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and this is foundational to Christianity because from Isaac’s line came King David and through him came the Messiah; Jesus. The Koran does not mention Ishmael as the one to be sacrificed; though Muslim scholars take the account given in the Koran as being Ishmael.
There are literally hundreds of differences between the two books.
The Koran and the New Testament
The differences will be examined with respect to three major people of the gospels.
John the Baptist. The Bible states that the angel Gabriel announced his forthcoming birth to his father Zechariah who did not believe and was struck dumb as a penalty. However, in sura 19, Zacharias (Zechariah) requests a sign to validate the prophecy concerning his aged wife giving birth; the sign was that he will be unable to speak for three days and nights whereas the Bible states that he was dumb for the whole confinement period. There is no mention of his unbelief. When John was born, the Koran states that he was given wisdom and that he was devout and obedient to his parents. No mention is made of his ministry as the one to announce the coming of Christ.
Sura 19 contains the narrative of Mary giving birth to Jesus. However, there is no mention of Joseph or their travel to Bethlehem. It adds to the biblical description in that she gave birth as she lay by a date palm with a brook running by her feet, which provided her with food and water. Also, the Koran adds the condemnation of the people to her after Jesus was born and the infant Jesus defending her with an articulate response to those who accused her of promiscuity. The idea that the young Jesus could behave in a very un-childlike way is consistent with the Gnostic writings of the Gospel of Barnabas, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
Jesus. The Koran states that Allah created Jesus from dust as he did Adam and it does not give an account of Jesus’ life comparable to that in the gospels; it specifically denies his divinity. But it does give an account of him making clay birds which then fly which again, is in keeping with the Gnostic writings of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. It treats the trinity as being polytheism and as a denial of monotheism. Further, the Koran teaches, contrary to the gospel accounts, that Jesus did not die on the cross which is central to Christianity, but one who looked like him died.
Differences with respect to instructions for living
The Bible. Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24.
The Koran. If you fear that you cannot treat orphans with fairness, then you may marry other women who seem good to you: two, three, or four of them. But if you fear that you cannot maintain equality among them, marry only one or any slave-girls you may own.Sura 4:3.
The Bible.Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.Ephesians 5:33.
The Koran. As for those whom you fear disobedience (wives) admonish them, forsake them in the bedrooms apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.Sura 4:34.
The Bible. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Matthew 5:44.
The Koran.….slay idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them…Sura 9:5.
The Koran. Believers make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. Know that God is with the righteous.Sura 9:123.
The Bible. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
Muhammad was unsure of his own salvation: The Koran Says: ‘I am no prodigy among the apostles; nor do I know what will be done with me or you. I follow only what is revealed to me, and my only duty is to give plain warning.”Sura 46:9.
Believers in both books claim that their book is the word of God, but this cannot be true of both as they are so completely different. The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by about 40 writers. It is one story and a historical account. The Koran is a compilation of separate and diverse revelations to one man over a 22 year period. It was accumulated after his death. It has no order and the doctrine of abrogation means that the God of the Koran does not know everything because he had changed his mind. The two books are in conflict with each other—the Bible states that Jesus is God and was born of a virgin and the Koran states that he was not God but was created by God from dust. The Gods of each book are different; The God of the Bible is a triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—three in one, whereas Allah of the Koran is one entity. Consequently only one book can be true.
The Bible is supported by archaeology and science and promises eternal life to all who believe, the Koran is not supported by archaeology as it comprises a collection of statements and it is in conflict with modern science. It does not guarantee eternal life with the possible exception of martyrs.
The choice is yours dear reader, in which book will you place your eternal destiny?
Dr Gary Baxter can be contacted through his website: adefenceofthebible.com.