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Bible Correspondence Course

4. The Accuracy of the Bible (1)

Imagine what it would be like if there had been tape and video recorders, television and computers in the time of the Prophets. Today we would be able to see the originals of their work or hear them personally sharing their messages. Of course, we do not have such helpful resources but what we do have is their messages recorded in the Bible. The Bible, like many other important documents of its day, was copied countless of times. It is because of this that some people ask, “Can we be sure the Bible is preserved accurately?”

1. The Original Manuscripts

Some people say that they do believe in the Bible but not in the Bible we have today. One of the most frequent objections is the fact that we do not have the very first manuscripts, because Bible scholars agree that all the original manuscripts have perished.

Whilst it is true that all the original manuscripts of the Bible may have perished, we should also realise that when the books of the Bible were originally written, there was no printing press available to reproduce the copies. Each copy had to be written by hand and so few copies could be made. In the political conditions of the times it was inevitable that many ancient manuscripts would be lost.

The Jews have always revered the sacred scriptures deeply, as many do the Bible and the Qur’an. For this reason they would not allow any part of them to become dirty or ripped and thrown away like a piece of rubbish. They were committed to memory, accurately copied many times, and then the original was buried, or disposed of in some other means, with great ceremony and dignity.

We have many other ancient books that have no original manuscripts available. Consider the Qur’an for example. There is no known first manuscript available to us. As there were a number of differing copies with slightly variant readings, Caliph Usman, (or Uthman) the third successor of the Prophet of Islam, appointed a committee to collect and compile an official Qur’an. When the task was completed, he ordered that the source copy and all previous copies be burnt.[1]

2. Not mere History

The account of Usman’s burning does not, of course, make the Qur’an invalid. Nonetheless, many have imposed this argument onto the Bible by rejecting it due to our lack of original manuscripts. It does seem inconsistent to accept the Qur’an but reject the Bible when neither of them have their original manuscripts.

Before we decide to reject such important works, we must first dedicate time to reading them. Important to both Christians and Muslims are the stories of Sayyidna Isa bin-Maryam (his peace be upon us). To serve as an example, let us look briefly at the healing of a blind man; it is in three of the four books on the life of Sayyidna (these accounts are called Gospels). The story is in Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 19:46-52, Luke 18:35-43. The blind man was begging; an activity common today in all parts of the world where people are unable to earn their own living due to disease or disability. Sayyidna Isa, on the other hand, cared deeply for the man and healed him. Read the story yourself and see how the man’s faith in Sayyidna Isa al-Masih made a difference to his life and filled him with joy.

3. Accuracy of the Text

Some of our Muslim friends argue that the existence of four narratives of the gospel (Injil) in the New Testament is, in itself, evidence of corruption and unreliability. Christians, however, regard the Gospel of Sayyidna Isa to be one, but that ‘One’ is presented in four ways, or perspectives, under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Therefore, there is unity in the Injil; the message is still one and the same.

Similarly, the Qur’an for example, has at least two narratives of Sayyidna Isa’s birth and several narratives of the same stories of Hazrat Ibrahim, Hazrat Adam and Hazrat Nuh. Yet Muslims still treat it as reliable Scripture. Accordingly, it should not be a problem to find four narratives of what Sayyidna Isa Kalimatu'llah did and said.

The history corner

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found we gained either partial or complete copies of every book of the Old Testament. The date of these scrolls is the mid-second century BC; it is remarkable how few and minor are the variations when the scrolls are compared with the Masoretic text. This proves the copying process produced only minor changes in a thousand years.

As for the New Testament, the evidence is even greater. We have about 4,500 manuscripts in whole and part. The earliest and most complete texts are known as Vaticanus, Sinaiticius and Alexandrinus. They date back to AD 300 – 450.

References:

  1. [1] Sahih Bukhari, Vol 6, p.479.

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