Monday, October 13, 2008

The Integrity of the Bible and the Quran

The link to the video of the Ahmad Deedat, Jimmy Swaggart debate I posted yesterday was entitled "Is the Bible God's Word?" Eventually, I might cover more topics but here are my comments on just one.

First, I want to address the textual authenticity of the Bible. The part where Mr. Deedat mentions the parts of Mark contained in the King James version that were left out of and later replaced in the original printing of the Revised Standard Version are an obvious problem and show direct evidence of human tampering. I don't deny that there are certain factions of Christianity who are willing to turn their head and deny obvious truths such as those additions. However, most modern Bibles that include those verses have a note that those verses are not found in the oldest known manuscripts.

As said, there are many translations of the Bible, just as there are of the Quran. The versions of the Bible continue to improve as Bible scholars conduct more research and as additional evidence, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered. However, as was mentioned by Reverend Swaggart in the debate and in Chawkat Moucarry's book, The Prophet and the Messiah, the Bible has actually remained very error-free considering the generations and generations of hand copying. Rev. Swaggart says that there are 24,000 manuscripts of the oldest Biblical documents, which is a testament to its coherency. Mr. Deedat then argues that of those 24,000 manuscripts, no two are identical. Looking at the problem from a strictly information theoretical point of view, even if each of those manuscripts contains twenty errors, the amount of redundant information contained in that huge number of manuscripts can easily be used to reconstruct the original, untampered documents (for a computer example of redundant information, look at how RAID storage maintains data integrity even through loss of a disk. Now imagine the amount of data loss/tampering that 24,000 disks could tolerate).

Although, I'm not going to go into too much detail about the integrity of the Quran, I did want to mention it briefly. Rev. Swaggart mentioned how during the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, an official version of the Quran was compiled and distributed to the extants of the Islamic empire and all prior copies of the Quran were ordered destroyed. This event was also detailed in Moucarry's book. Additionally, if God is capable of preserving the Quran, why isn't he capable of preserving the Bible? The Quranic verses describing the corruption of the Bible have been interpreted by Islamic scholars in various ways including simply the intentional misinterpretation (or flat-out ignoring the correctly interpreted) of God's uncorrupted Word. Had I not already returned the book, I could tell you which well-known Islamic scholars argued this (it might have been Razi).

In any case, I'm not at any point to make any conclusions. The Bible definitely does contain some contradictions but all historical and literary evidence shows that the Bible was textually very-well preserved.

That's enough for tonight so peace.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Debates about Islam and Christianity

A friend of mine suggested I look up the debates of Ahmad Deedat. This one was a debate between him and Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. I don't have time to comment on it tonight but in addition to the one I linked, there are other search results as well. I plan to watch some others and then I'll return with my comments.

Additionally, I figure it'll be a good idea to summarize my thoughts on both Christianity and Islam. It'll help me to put my thoughts together and see where I am.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My easily swayed opinion

I've come to the conclusion that my opinion is very easily swayed. After reading The Prophet & the Messiah : An Arab Christian's Perspective on Islam & Christianity, I've reverted from my previous Muslim-leaning to a Christian-leaning. Of course, that may also be because I really prefer to remain Christian so when I hear a convincing argument, I'm very willing to accept it.

The book actually was very good; it was nice to hear the perspective of a Christian Arab. Since Arabic is his native language, he grew up in a primarily Muslim country, and he studied Islam, he is able to offer a different perspective from the other Christian authors of American or European origin who only have academic experience with Islam. There were many instances where he offered translations of Quranic verses that were contrary to mainstream Muslim belief but he still manages to argue his stance quite well. I really wish I had taken note of them before returning the book to the library. One that I remember was his proposal that Mohammad's description of unlettered, which typically is interpreted to mean illiterate, could just as easily be interpreted as uneducated when it comes to Christianity and Judaism. He argues that the same Arabic word is used numerous times throughout the Quran but only in reference to him is it interpreted by mainstream Islam as meaning illiterate.

However, his arguments were not all simply semantic. He also did much historical analysis. In addition to his attempts to disprove Islam, he also had many arguments to attempt to prove the validity of Christianity. Overall, it was a very insightful book and, again, I really wish I had taken better note of his arguments (I tend to have a horrible memory).

Meanwhile, I continue to read my Bible at night. I've also started downloading and listening to two podcasts, one of Muslim khutbahs and one of generic Christian discussion. I haven't yet made a judgement of the Christian one but I think the Muslim one is good just to hear the Muslim perspective on things.

The man giving the khutbah of the most recent one I listened to made a very good point. The khutbah was about women in Islam. He argued that rather than constantly attempting to argue that the Muslim viewpoint is valid for whatever reasons and applies to modern society, one should simply say that God decreed it that way so that's how it is. Rather than waste your time arguing about trivial things like dress code, argue the big things like basic theology and the fundamentals of Islam. Anyway, I just wanted to add that.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Infallibility of the prophets in Islam???

This post is more of a question than commentary. In various khutbahs (the Islamic version of a sermon delivered at Friday prayer), I've heard some comments about the various prophets that almost make me think that the prophets are infallible and don't make mistakes or sin. Although they are indeed guided and inspired by God, their humanity still dictates their imperfection. The Quran mentions Adam's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden and also mentions Moses' (Moosa, in Arabic) murder of an Egyptian slave driver, although those are the only mentions I recall of prophets' mistakes. These are proof to me that Islam doesn't propose their infallibility. However, as I've said, I've heard comments that make me think otherwise so I figured I'd pose my question here.

Christianity definitely accepts that the prophets were imperfect men and sinned. In the Bible, there are stories of Adam's fall, Noah's drunkenness, David's adultery, Moses' murdering, and I'm sure more. The prophets were guided and inspired by God but at the same time, they were flawed human beings. The only man claimed to be free from sin was Jesus because of his being simultaneously God and man. His human side was tempted but he resisted and remained sin free.

However, I've heard Muslims get offended at the prospect of David's adultery or Noah's drunkenness. Does Islam preach the perfection of prophets? I don't see how that could be considering the Quran's inclusion of Adam's fall and Moses' murdering. Does Islam claim that Muhammad was sinless? I don't think accepting his sin would have any affect on the religion. He could easily be divinely guided when delivering the Quran without error yet still be an imperfect, flawed man. Just because he as a man is flawed doesn't mean the Quran would have to be flawed.

As I said, I don't know what Islam's stance is on this subject. If anyone knows, please inform me. If not, I guess I'll just have to do more research on my own.