For the uninitiated, I will provide an example of the general form of this argument: Muslim X provides the number of verses of some chapter, divides or multiplies it by another number, and compares the result to some third number (which is ascribed significance by some means or another).
Here is an example posted by Muslim apologist Osama Abdallah in response to a recent blog:
The sum of the Noble Chapters (Surahs) in the Holy Quran is 6555 (1+2+3+....+114= 6555). The total number of Noble Verses in the Holy Quran is 6236. When we added each Chapter's number with its Noble Verses' total, we found out that the SUM of the ODD results = 6555. And When we added each Chapter's number with its Noble Verses' total, we found out that the SUM of the EVEN results = 6236Now, I don't know what these numbers mean. But I do know that such amazing accuracy is ABNORMAL, and could not have been done by a human, especially 1,400 years ago.
This is not the only "numerical miracle" that Muslims provide. It is one of many similar examples, which you can find here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Now that we have seen what the "numerical miracles" are, let's examine the flaws of these assertions.
Problems with The "Numerical Miracles" Argument
1 - Non-Sequitur Logic
The gist of the logic can be seen in the last two sentences of Osama's post. It's basically: "These numbers work together so well that there must be a miracle here!" But this is simply false; interesting numerical patterns in no way whatsoever necessitate a miracle! It may be true that extreme improbabilities require an explanation other than chance, but even this form of soft evidence does not vindicate this Muslim argument, as we shall see in the next point.
2 - The Widespread Existence of "Miraculous" Patterns in Texts
Interesting numerical patterns exist in many instances of media, and searching for patterns will often yield results similar to the Quran's "miracles". Searching for numerical patterns in books such as Moby Dick have been demonstrated to actually provide accurate prophecies of the future! In fact, the article which mentions this was written specifically to show that one can often find word patterns if he simply looks for them. Read that article here.
3 - The Existence of Similar "Numerical Miracles" in the Bible
Finally, countless "numerical miracles" have also been proposed from within the Bible. If the argument used by Muslims were applied to the Bible, they would have to accept it as equally divine in origin as the Qur'an!
In an effort to explain this problem to Osama Abdallah, I provided a link to this site and summarized their "numerical miracle" as follows:
The number 153 is a special number, since it is the only number associated with a miracle after Jesus' resurrection.
It just so happens that if you sum up all the numbers from 1 to 17, you get 153! And 17 is important, because it's the date of Jesus' resurrection (not to mention Noah's ark!)
On top of that, the Greek word that's used for "fish" in that verse is used exactly 17 times in the Bible!
Not only that, but if you apply the trinity to these verses, then we see the numbers are even more miraculous! 3 x 3 x 17 = 153!!
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! The trinity is present again if you raise each of the THREE digits in "153" to the THIRD power, including the number THREE!!! Look, there are three three's, so much emphasis on trinity!
1x1x1 + 5x5x5 + 3x3x3 = 153!
Trinity in the digits, trinity in the math, trinity in the miracle itself!!! So much trinity!
Clearly, the Muslim standard of "Numerical Miracle" is met here in this exploitation of John 21:11. Must they not then conclude that the Bible is equally inspired? They must, unless they are being inconsistent in their methodology. Which leads me to the last problem.
4 - Inconsistency in the Application of the "Numerical Miracle" Argument
Any Muslim who espouses this argument must necessarily be inconsistent in his application, because the same argument would prove the Bible to be divinely inspired.
In summary, the first argument for the miraculous nature of the Qur'an is about as abysmal as any argument can be. It's non-sequitur, it ignores similar phenomena in countless other books, and it would even necessitate a divine origin for the Bible! To top it off, the last problem means that Muslims who espouse this "miracle" must be inconsistent if they are providing this argument against the Bible.
Hopefully there will be good dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in the comment section of this post. Upon conclusion of the discussion, keep your eyes open for the next blog in this series: examining the alleged "Literary Miracle" of the Qur'an.