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18. Bible and Qur'an Series
BOOKLET 3 - The Textual History of The Qur'an and the Bible
(A reply to Amad Deedat's Booklet: Is the Bible God's Word?)
A Study of the Qur'an and the Bible

7. Parallel Passages of the Bible

We need not deal extensively with Deedat's chapter entitled “Damning Confessions”, as these are nothing but honest admissions that the Bible has suffered textual errors such as those we have considered already. As we have also seen that the Qur'an has also been beset with the same problems, we do not believe that there is any further obligation on us to treat this red-herring seriously.

We do marvel, however, at a grossly inaccurate statement by Deedat to the effect that “out of over four thousand differing manuscripts the Christians boast about, the church fathers just selected four which tallied with their prejudices and called them Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” (Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, page 24). Once again Deedat has exposed his appalling ignorance of his subject for these four thousand scripts are copies of the 27 books which constitute the New Testament. Hundreds of these are copies of the four Gospels referred to. Statements like these force us to conclude that the booklet written by Deedat cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be regarded as a scholarly critique of the Bible but rather a vociferous tirade against it by a man whose ignorance is matched only by his extreme prejudice against it.

Such prejudice is openly exposed on the next page where he claims that the five books of Moses cannot be regarded as being the Word of God or of Moses because statements like these, “The Lord said unto Moses...”, in the third person, appear quite frequently. Because Deedat cannot consider even for a moment that Moses might well have chosen to describe himself in the third person, he claims that these words come from “a third person writing from hearsay” (Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, page 25).

If so, then the Qur'an too must fall away as being neither the Word of God nor that of a prophet but of a “third person writing from hearsay” for similar statements are found in its pages, e.g.:

When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee. (Surah al-Ma'ida 5:110)

We cannot see any difference between the sayings where the Lord spoke to Moses in the Bible and where Allah spoke to Jesus in the Qur'an. Surely any criticism of the Biblical expression must rebound against the Qur'an as well.

Finally Moses obviously did not write his own obituary as Deedat implies. The 34th chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy was written by his successor, Joshua the prophet, who also wrote the book of the same name which immediately follows it.

Deedat's sixth chapter deals with the authenticity of the four Gospels. He begins by suggesting that “internal evidence proves that Matthew was not the author of the first Gospel” (Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, page 26) purely because Matthew describes himself in his Gospel in the third person. We have already seen how feeble this line of reasoning is. God is alleged to be the author of the Qur'an yet he is described in it on numerous occasions in the third person. Once again we cannot see how a Muslim can seriously question the authorship of any book of the Bible purely because the author describes himself in the third person.

Furthermore a brief analysis of the reproduction of the introduction to the Gospel of Matthew by J.B. Phillips in Deedat's booklet proves very enlightening. Phillips says:

Early tradition ascribed this Gospel to the apostle Matthew, but scholars nowadays almost all reject this view. The author, whom we can still conveniently call Matthew, has plainly drawn on the mysterious “Q”, which may have been a collection of oral traditions. (Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, page 28)

Anyone who knows the meaning of the expression sweet reason will give thoughtful consideration to the following facts:

1. Early Christian tradition unanimously ascribed this Gospel to Matthew. The subjective beliefs of some “modern scholars” cannot seriously be weighed against the objective testimony of those who lived at the time when this Gospel was first copied and distributed. In any event we question very seriously the charge that “almost all” scholars reject the authorship of Matthew for this Gospel. It is only a particular school of scholars who do this - those who do not believe in the story of creation, who write off the story of Noah and the flood as a myth, and who scoff at the idea that Jonah ever spent three days in the stomach of a fish. We are sure our Muslim readers will know what to make of such “scholars”. On the contrary those scholars who accept that these stories are historically true practically without exception also accept that Matthew was the author of this Gospel.

2. Phillips says that the author can still conveniently be called Matthew purely because there is no reasonable alternative to his authorship of this Gospel, nor has the history of the early Church ever suggested another author.

3. The mysterious “Q” is only mysterious because it is the figment of the imagination of modern “scholars”. It is not a mystery - it is a myth. There is no evidence of an historical nature whatsoever that such a collection of oral traditions ever existed.

Finally we find it hard to give serious consideration to Deedat's complaints about the fact that Matthew copied from Mark and that a chapter in Isaiah 37 is repeated in 2 Kings 19. The reasoning behind his suggestion that such “wholesale cribbing” (Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, page 29) rules out the possibility that the Bible is the Word of God is extremely hard to follow.

One only needs to know the background of the Gospel of Mark to see through the folly of Deedat's line of argument. The Church Father Papias has recorded for us the fact that the Apostle Peter was the source of information for Mark's Gospel.

Peter had far more first-hand information about the life of Jesus than Matthew. The former's conversion is described in chapter 4 of Matthew's Gospel whereas the conversion of the latter appears only in chapter 9 - long after many events witnessed by the Apostle Peter had already taken place.

Furthermore Peter was often with Jesus when Matthew was not: The former witnessed the transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and was present in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33) while Matthew was absent on both occasions.

Matthew could hardly have found a more reliable source for his Gospel and, as he copied from a Biblical, scriptural text, we cannot see how his Gospel can lose the stamp of authority or genuineness.

If Deedat could show that Biblical narratives such as those he produces had parallels in extra-Biblical works predating the Gospels, where such works were known to be collections of fables and fairy-stories, we would treat his points more seriously. On the contrary, while such parallels are obviously lacking in Biblical cases, there are many stories in the Qur'an, set forth as true to history, which have awkward parallels in pre-Islamic Jewish books of fables and fairy-tales. We shall consider just one example.

The Qur'an records the murder of Abel by his brother Cain (Surah al-Ma'ida 5:27-32) which is also found in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. At one point, however, we find an unusual statement which has no parallel in the Bible:

Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother's naked corpse. (Surah al-Ma'ida 5:31)

In a Jewish book of fables and folklore, however, we read that Adam wept for Abel and did not know what to do with his body until he saw a raven scratch in the ground and bury its dead companion. At this Adam decided to do as the raven had done. (See: Pirke Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 21)

In the Qur'an it is Cain who sees the raven and in the Jewish book it is Adam but, apart from this minor difference, the similarity between the stories is unmistakable. As the Jewish book predates the Qur'an it appears that Muhammad plagiarized the story and, with convenient adjustments, wrote it down in the Qur'an as part of the divine revelation! If this conclusion is to be resisted, we would like to be given sound reasons why it should be - especially when we consider the very next verse in the Qur'an which reads:

For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. (Surah al-Ma'ida 5:32)

At first sight this verse appears to have no connection with the preceding narrative. Why the life or death of one should be as the salvation or destruction of all mankind is not at all clear. When we turn to another Jewish tradition, however, we find the link between the story and what follows. We turn to The Mishnah as translated by H. Danby and there we read these words:

We find it said in the case of Cain who murdered his brother, The voice of thy brother's bloods crieth (Genesis 4:10). It is not said here blood in the singular, but bloods in the plural, that is, his own blood and the blood of his seed. Man was created single in order to show that to him who kills a single individual it shall be reckoned that he has slain the whole race, but to him who preserves the life of a single individual it is counted that he hath preserved the whole race. (Mishnah Sanhedrin, 4:5)

According to the Jewish rabbi who wrote these words the use of the plural bloods in the Bible implies not only the blood of one man but that of his whole progeny. We consider his interpretation to be highly speculative but, be that as it may, we are constrained to ask how it is that the alleged revelation of Allah in the Qur'an is a patent repetition of the rabbi's beliefs! We can only conclude that Muhammad plagiarized the dictum about the whole nation from a Jewish source without showing (or even knowing!) where the link originates.

By this comparison it is made clear what led Muhammad to this general digression: he had evidently received this rule from his informants when they related to him this particular event. (Geiger, Judaism and Islam, page 81)

The extraordinary sequel between the story of the raven in both the Qur'an and Jewish folklore and the subsequent philosophy about the implications of the murder of one man together with his seed clearly suggests that Muhammad was depending on certain informants for his information and that these verses could not possibly have come from God. This conclusion can hardly be resisted:

The story of the world's first murderer affords a most informing example of the influence of a Jew behind the scenes. (Guillaume, “The Influence of Judaism on Islam”, in: The legacy of Israel, page 139)

Instead of trying to make capital out of the passages in the Bible which have parallels elsewhere in the Bible, Deedat should rather give us an alternative explanation as to why Qur'anic passages are embarrassingly similar to and patently reliant on Jewish books of fables and folklore.

He closes his chapter by describing those who believe that “every word, comma and full stop of the Bible is God's Word” as “Bible-thumpers” (Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, page 33). Certainly we have no sympathy with fanatics who make such extreme claims for the Bible but, in the light of the evidence we have studied thus far, we can only retort that those equally fanatical Muslims who in the same manner vainly make similar extremist claims for the Qur'an against all the evidence to the contrary must be viewed with the same disdain and deserve to be ridiculed as Qur'an-thumpers!

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