The Muslims who do this, though logically fallacious, do ultimately have a good point. The New Testament and the Quran are the holy scriptures of Christianity and Islam, and as such they merit some degree of comparison. This article compares the basics of textual integrity. I will attempt to be as unbiased in my presentation as possible before concluding. (+ or - denotes years from either Muhammad's death or Jesus' death). NOTE: Detailed discussions concerning canonicity and inspiration are out of the scope of this article.
Inception of scripture:
Quran: -23 years (Recorded during Muhammad's life)
NT: +2 years (Creed from 1 Cor 15:3-8)
Number of Divinely Sanctioned Forms:
Quran: 7 ahruf (Sahih Bukhari 3.601)
NT: 1 form
Earliest Records of Corruption:
Quran: +0 (Some verses eaten by a goat; Ibn Majah, Book of Nikah, p.39)
+12 (Umar records the missing verses; Bukhari 8.82.816 & 817)
NT: Uncertain, but late
State-Controlled Recension (revision) of All Manuscripts:
Quran: +20 (Uthman)
State-Controlled Destruction of All Manuscripts:
Quran: +20 (Uthman)
Importance of Textual Preservation for the Religion's Truth Claims:
Quran: Extreme importance (Muhammad's one sign for his truth)
NT: Peripheral importance (Jesus' main sign was his resurrection)
The New Testament had a period of about 3 centuries when it was not openly proliferating throughout the Roman empire. This was because of edicts issued by Roman authorities which persecuted Christians and/or called for the destruction of the Bible (e.g. the Diocletian Edict). During this time, a core of books was well known throughout Christendom while the rest of the books were better known in various regions.
In addition to this, no one person controlled the manuscripts. They were in the possession of individuals and churches who revered these scriptures and saw to their safe-keeping. Later, when Constantine's Edict of Milan legalized Christianity in 313 AD, people began openly assembling to officially discuss and agree upon the finer points of the Christian faith. Thus the Council of Nicaea in 325, and later the Council of Hippo in 393 (which officially canonized the books of the NT).
Though at first glance this seems to be a mark against New Testament integrity, one thing is certain: there is extremely low possibility for textually undetectable corruption in the New Testament. Here are the reasons:
- If any errors crept into a manuscript being copied in, for example, Asia Minor, a manuscript from Rome would not contain those errors. Comparing the two (along with other manuscripts) would rectify the mistakes.
- Since no one person controlled all the manuscripts, it would be impossible to uniformly corrupt all the manuscripts.
- Since there was no uniform revision of the all the manuscripts, surviving manuscripts can help us piece together the original text, not a revised version of that text.
- There was no universal destruction of all the texts. Though many attempted this, such as Diocletian, surviving manuscripts and historical accounts are proof that these attempts were unsuccessful.
The Quran, on the other hand, suffers severely on all four above counts:
- It was controlled by one person, the khalifa (as evidenced by Uthman's ability to recall all the manuscripts).
- It was uniformly revised by Uthman.
- During this time, if any error crept into the manuscript which would serve as the official text, this error would only be detectable by comparing it to previous manuscripts.
- Unfortunately, all the previous manuscripts were put to the flames.
Thus, we can conclude the following:
- It is virtually impossible for the New Testament to have been uniformly corrupted in a textually undetectable manner.
- It is extremely easy for the Quran to have been uniformly corrupted in a textually undetectable manner.
Of course, this does not necessitate that the Quran was corrupt, it just means that it was extremely prone to textually undetectable corruption.
But when historical data indicates missing verses as early as the death of Muhammad and the reign of Umar, the argument that the Quran has been corrupted becomes extremely plausible.
When we add to this that Muhammad's chosen teachers of the Quran disagreed with Uthman's final product, the argument that the Quran has been corrupted becomes extremely likely.
When topped off by quotations from early Muslims which say that "much of the Quran has been lost", the argument that the Quran has been corrupted becomes incontrovertible.
The coup de grace occurs when we realize that the Quran's textual integrity is central to the truth of Islam. Muhammad offered the Quran as his most miraculous sign to vindicate his truth. If the Quran is false about its protection from Allah (15:9), then Islam is false. This is in contrast to the NT, which does not rely on its textual integrity as a sign for us.
The history of the New Testament allows its text to be investigated and verified. The Quran cannot allow us to come any closer to the original text than the Uthmanic Revised Standard Version 20 years removed from Muhammad. Any errors which found their way into the URSV would be permanent and uncorrectable. And, unfortunately, historical accounts from early Islam tell us such errors exist.
When pitting the New Testament against the Quran, at least in terms of textual integrity, there is no possible way to vindicate the Quran.