Friday, February 26, 2016

How Can We Trust the Bible If It Was Written By Humans?

In our discussions with Muslims, it is important to note that we as Christians do not share the same view of inspiration as Islam does. The process by which the Bible came to us, the time period, the languages, its authors, and its diverse geographical provenance, is sharply different than the Qur'an.
The Bible was written during a 1600 year period, by over 40 different authors, many of whom did not know each other. It was written in 3 languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The literary genres of the Bible are also very different as the Bible contains texts dealing with history, prophecy, poetry, apocalyptic, epistles, and narratives. The biblical authors wrote in different parts of the world such as Babylon, Persia, Israel, Greece, Asia Minor (modern day Turkey),  and Italy. The Bible is not just one book, it is a divine encyclopedia made up of 66 volumes. The Qur'an on the other hand is only one book, which according to Islamic tradition was written during a 23 year period, in one location, Saudi Arabia, and in one language, Arabic. The genre of the Qur'an is very different than the Bible, as the Qur'an is mostly a text of commands, sermons, or didactic instruction on what Muslims should believe and how they should act. If there is any history or narrative in the Qur'an, it tends to be very vague and unclear because of a lack of background context. Islamic tradition further holds that Muhammad was illiterate (although this is disputed), and that unknown scribes wrote down his revelations on any available items that were immediately accessible to them such as palm leaves, animal bones, pieces of wood. Because Muhammad's revelations were spontaneous, his followers never knew when he would receive them. This explains the disarray the various texts of the Qur'an were in. When the Qur'an was later compiled it posed a great challenge to collate all the textual materials. Islam also holds the 'dictation theory' of inspiration, that Muhammad simply spoke as a conduit of Allah's words. The biblical writers on the other hand were not mere automatons or human keyboards, they used their writing style and persona when they wrote, although they were used by God to communicate exactly what He wanted them to write, and He preserved them from committing error. When Muslims assume that Christians share the same view of inspiration they commit the fallacy of equivocation, assuming that we mean the same thing when we speak of inspiration. In this video I respond to the question and critique often leveled at the Bible that it is a human book, written by humans, and thus it can't be trusted. This charge is quite weak and illogical on the face of it. It is important that we know the difference between the Bible and the Qur'an. The Qur'an claims to be a text in succession to the previous Scriptures, and which also claims to confirm the previous Scriptures. The fact of the matter is, the Qur'an is a very different book from the Bible. Its contents show no real engagement with the Bible or even an accurate understanding of what the Bible teaches in terms of theology. The means of revelation for both books is also very different. This imbalance between the Bible and the Qur'an is a significant indicator that the One who inspired the Bible could not, and did not inspire the Qur'an.


Unknown said...

A friend insists that because the disciples of Christ were not prophets that the devil could deceive them and that is why what they wrote is not to be trusted.

Tony Costa said...

Andrew, if you friend is a Muslim show him that the Qur'an also teaches that the disciples of Jesus were also Muslims and helpers in Allah's cause (Q 3:52). By your friend's own logic, since the people who wrote down the revelations of Muhammad were not prophets, they could be deceived by the devil and therefore we can't trust what they wrote.

Richard C. Silk said...

I find *any* argument that says "my book is Holier than thine" is preposterous. It is far more helpful to seek to understand what is the purpose of any "divine inspiration." The New Testament / story of Jesus helps teach people to be good shepherds. The story of Mohammad teaches people how to be good butchers. Between the two of them, one can possibly learn how to become a better listener, as well as a better teacher.