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BIK01 - Biblical Investigations of the Koran
A Ministry Course on Biblical Content in the Koran
UNIT 02 - INNER LIMITS: Comparing the Bible and the Koran as BOOKS

041 - DIFFERENCE 2: The Original Language(s) of Bible and Koran

Our Christian Bible comprises two main parts. The first part, which we call the Old Testament, was completed around the year 400 BC. It was written almost exclusively in the Hebrew language. Only a small section of it was written in the Aramaic language (also called the Chaldean Aramaic language, not to be confused with the Chaldean Neo-Aramaic language used by Christians in Iraq today). The Aramaic passages in the Old Testament are the following: Ezra 4:8 to 6:18, 7:12-26, Jeremiah 10:11 and Daniel 2:4 to 7:21. Both Hebrew and Aramaic are members of the Semitic family of languages, to which also Arabic belongs.

The second part of the Bible, which we call the New Testament, was completed before 100 AD and was written in the Greek language (more specifically the New Testament version of Koine Greek, the prevalent language of the Hellenistic age and of the Roman Empire). This language is a member of the Indo-European language family, to which also English or Hindi belongs.

(We do not consider here traces of Hebrew and Aramaic, which can be found in the New Testament Greek as transliterations of single words or short phrases. Examples are the NT words: Manna and Sabbath, which are Hebrew words, or Maranatha, which is an Aramaic phrase.)

The Koran, however, which was completed in 653 AD, was written in a language different from both Hebrew and Greek, namely in the Arabic language (more specifically in what today is called "Classical Arabic" as opposed to "Modern Standard Arabic", which is used in official communications in the Arab world today). This language is a member of the Semitic languages.

(We also here do not consider the many Arabic transliterations of foreign words in the Koran, which draw upon more than a dozen languages. Examples are: Sakina, which comes from Hebrew, Firdaus, which comes from Farsi, and Dirham, which comes from Greek).

Since Arabic is a member of the Semitic family of languages, it is closer to Hebrew and Aramaic than it is to Greek. Nevertheless, it is virtually impossible to directly compare the Bible and the Koran in their original languages, because Hebrew, Greek and Arabic are so vastly different from each other. To work in a comparative manner on the Bible and the Koran, we therefore have to use a single language, into which some or all of the original texts of the Bible and the Koran have been translated. Here we have a problem: Muslims did not translate their Koran into the languages of the Bible. So, we do not have e.g. a Koine Greek translation of the Koran, translated by Muslims in their earliest history, to compare it with the Greek original of the New Testament and the Koine Greek translation of the Old Testament, translated by Jewish Rabbis (called the Septuagint, completed in 132 BC). If we use English translations of the Hebrew, Greek and Arabic originals, we lose many details in meaning, especially from the Hebrew Old Testament and the Arabic Koran. Therefore, for the purposes of our own comparative studies we have resorted to a compromise: we used a Modern Standard Arabic translation of the Bible (the Van Dyke-Bustani translation completed in 1865 AD in Lebanon) to compare it with the original Classical Arabic of the Koran. So at least one book (the Koran) is left in its original language and we use it to compare it with a Christian translation of the Bible into Arabic. Of course, the results of our comparative studies in Arabic must be translated into English in the present ministry course on Biblical Investigations of the Koran, so that people, who do not understand Arabic, can read and understand the results of our findings. But it is important to keep these different language barriers in mind, when trying to follow our findings.

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