HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE QUR'AN AND THE GOSPEL COMPARED
In Section Two we examined what the Qur'an and the Hadith say about this question of "tahrif", of purposely changing the Gospel, and we found that neither of them support the charge. They both confirm the fact that there was a valid Torah and Gospel present WITH Muhammad in Mecca and Medina during the 1st century of the Hejira.
In the six parts of this chapter we want to approach the problem from another angle. We are going to compare the textual development of the Qur'an with the textual development of the Bible in order to see whether it is really possible that such lying changes could have been made; and if so, when and where this changing might have been done.
We shall start this discussion by "putting the shoe on the other foot" as we say in English. I shall pretend to claim that since the Qur'an doesn't say what I think a Qur'an ought to say; it must be that you - my Muslim readers - or your ancestors, changed the Qur'an. You purposely altered the Qur'an to make it say what pleases you.
What would you say? How would you try to answer this accusation?
First you would say that the Qur'an was given by God. Then when I asked how you know this you would have to start telling me how it came historically?
According to those with whom I have discussed this question, the first verses of the Qur'an came to Muhammad thirteen or fourteen years before the Hejira, or sometime in the year 609 AD. During the next 13 years until the Hejira, almost exactly two thirds of the Qur'an was given. It was written down on the shoulder-blades of cattle, on leather, on white stones, on anything at hand, and it was memorized.
When I have asked how many believers fled with Muhammad from Mecca to Medina at the time of the Hejira, some have answered 75, others l50. The Qur'an does not give any definite number, but in the Sura of the Spoils of War (Al-Anfal) 8:26 from 2 AH, it describes these believers using the following words,
"Call to mind when you were a small (band), despised through the land and afraid that men might despoil and kidnap you."
J. M. Rodwell in his English translation of the Qur'an agrees saying, "The numbers who emigrated with Muhammad at first, were about 150 persons." In addition, of course, there were already some believers at Medina who had invited Muhammad to join them, and probably others - especially slaves - who couldn't leave Mecca with Muhammad. However, for our discussion let us use this figure of l50 strong believers who were willing to leave their homes because of their faith.
With this information in our minds we must now ask the following question. How do you know that the Qur'an was accurately transmitted when there were only l50 strong believers? Maybe some pieces of leather parchment were lost? Maybe a shoulder blade with two Suras written on it fell off a camel? Do not think that I am laughing or making a joke? This is serious. HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THERE WEREN'T ANY CHANGES?
You will no doubt say to me, "But they memorized the Qur'an; and some of those 150 believers were present when Muhammad first repeated the Suras; and anyway Muhammad was still with them to correct them."
I do not say "No" to this, but I want you to realize something. You can't prove this. You don't have even one original Sura written on a shoulder blade. You BELIEVE it. This is A BASIC ASSUMPTION.
In the second or third year of the Hejira when the Muslims were victorious at the Battle of Badr, there were about 300 soldiers who defeated a much larger force from Mecca. Yusuf Ali in his translation of the Qur'an says, "The Muslim force consisted of only about 313 men, mostly unarmed...The Meccan army, well-armed and well-equipped, numbered over a thousand." If we assume that each of these fighters had a wife and a couple of children at home, it would seem logical to suppose that there were l500 Muslims at that time. It may have been more, but that is not important for our discussion.
In the year 6 A.H. Muhammad started toward Mecca to perform the pilgrimage. He was met by the Quraish at Hudaibiya and a truce was made. On that trip there were 1400 men with him, and so again we might suppose that altogether there were 6000 to 8000 Muslims.
After taking Mecca in 8 A.H., and continuing to increase in numbers over the next two years, there were tens of thousands of believers when Muhammad died in 10 A.H. Hamidullah says that at the last pilgrimage, Muhammad spoke to 140,000 Muslims.
In those first ten years of the Hejira the last third of the Qur'an was given. So now again we must ask our question. How do you know that it was kept accurate in those ten years? Maybe they never got to Mecca? Maybe there was no Battle of Badr? Maybe some of it got lost? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT IT WASN'T CHANGED?
Again you will answer, "But they memorized the Qur'an and Muhammad was still alive. And even after he died many of those who fought at Badr - maybe as many as 200 or 250 - were still alive. They were witnesses of that battle and of the words of Muhammad." And again I won't say "No", but I will point out the same truth to you.
You don't have a copy of the Qur'an from the year 10 A.H. YOU BELIEVE that the Qur'an which is now in your hand is the same as the Suras which the Muslims were memorizing in those first years. YOU BELIEVE the Hadiths which tell about the origin of the Qur'an, and the Battle of Badr, and the treaty of Hudaibiya.
We must now consider the manner in which the scattered Suras and verses of the Qur'an were brought together into one book. Al Bukhari informs us that about a year after Muhammad's death, the Qur'an was first put together into one collection by Zaid ibn Thabit at the command of the Khalifa Abu Bakr. Zaid's own account, quoted by Al Bukhari is this:
At the time of the slaughter of the people of Al Yamamah, Abu Bakr sent for me, and lo! Omar ibn al Khattab was with him. Abu Bakr said: "Verily Omar has come to me and has said, ‘Truly the slaughter on the day of Al Yamamah was severe among the Reciters of the Qur'an and indeed I fear that there has been severe slaughter in the battlefields among the Reciters, therefore much of the Book is going away (being lost), and I consider that you should give orders for the collecting of the Qur'an.’
(Abu Bakr continued) "I said to Omar, ‘How will you do a thing which the Apostle of God did not do?’
"Then Omar said, ‘By God this is good’, and Omar did not stop from repeatedly urging me, until God expanded my breast to the idea and I have formed the same opinion as Omar has."
(Then) Abu Bakr said (to me), "Verily you are an intelligent young man. We do not distrust you, and you used to write out the revelation for the Apostle of God. Therefore search out the [various chapters and verses of] the Qur'an and gather it together."
And by God, if he had enjoined upon me the removal of one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier upon me than what he commanded me regarding the collecting of the Qur'an. I said, "How will you do a thing which the Apostle of God did not do?"
He said, "By God, it is good." Accordingly Abu Bakr did not desist from repeatedly urging me, until God expanded my breast to that which Abu Bakr's breast and that of Omar had explained to him.
Accordingly I sought out the Qur'an. I gathered it together from leafless palm branches, and thin white stones, and men's breasts, until I found the end of Surat Al-Tauba (9:128-129) with Abu Khuzaimah the Ansari. I didn't find it with anyone except him, "There came unto you an Apostle from among yourselves" to the conclusion of Bara'ah. And the sheets were with Abu Bakr until God caused him to die, then with Omar during his life, then with Hafsa, Omar's daughter.
Hamidullah, in the introduction to his translation of the Qur'an gives other interesting information from the Hadiths about this collecting process, including a statement by Zaid that if the end of Surat Al-Tauba would have been three verses instead of two, he would have made it a separate Sura. Hamidullah also says that the sources are unanimous in saying that Abu Bakr ordered Zaid, to not rely only on memory, but to find for each verse at least two written copies with two different people.
As far as is known, this was the only copy of the Qur'an which might be termed an official copy, until Othman became khalifa. There were men such as Ubai b. Ka`b in Medina and Ibn Mas`ud in Kufa in Iraq who had made their own fairly complete copies, but most men and women were depending on what was memorized. We may say then that for 40 years, from 13 years before the Hejira when the first revelation was given until about 27 AH when Othman made his official recension, the transmission of the Qur'an was almost completely oral.
So now the question must again be asked: How do you know that the Qur'an was kept unchanged during those years when the transmission was almost entirely oral? Maybe someone forgot something? Maybe a few verses were eaten by an animal? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT IT WASN'T CHANGED?
There are Hadiths which speak of these problems. On the authority of Omar himself, Muslim, the great collector of Hadith, quotes him as saying,
"Verily God sent Muhammad with the truth, and He sent down upon him the Book. Accordingly the Verse of Stoning was part of what God Most High sent down. The Apostle of God stoned, and we stoned after him, and in the Book of God stoning is the Adulterer's due". Mishkat, Kitab al Hudud, p. 301.
Elsewhere Ibn Majah informs us that Aisha said:
"The verse of stoning and of sucking (See Section Four, Chapter II, 8a, Genetics and Milk-mothers.) came down...and its sheet was under my bed: when therefore the Apostle of God died, and we were occupied about his death, a tame animal came in and ate it."
And Hamidullah quotes Omar as saying,
"If I hadn't feared the accusation of adding just anything to the Qur'an, I would have written the verse on the stoning of the adulterers."
Again you will answer me and say, "I don't know about the validity of these Hadiths, especially the one about Aisha; but even if they are true, no important change could possibly be made as late as 27 years after the Hejira. If one Muslim forgot something the others would remember it. Besides many of the Ansar and Companions were still alive to correct any errors."
Moreover you would tell me that during these 27 years after the Hejira, Islam spread into many other countries. In 13 AH, Damascus and Syria were taken. The next year Muslim armies had reached Persia. In 19 AH or 641 AD Egypt was occupied, and by 25 AH the "futuhat" or wars of conquest had reached Armenia in northern Turkey.
Many of the soldiers and administrators who went into these countries had memorized parts of the Qur'an and knew the historical events concerning its origin. Some would have memorized all the Suras of which they had knowledge.
Then you would conclude your answer and say to me, "It is impossible that as late as 27 AH anyone could have changed any important part of the Qur'an, the knowledge of which extended from Egypt to Persia and from Turkey to Arabia.
And again I won't say "No". But I will point out to you that YOU BELIEVE IT. You do not have this copy of the Qur'an gathered by Zaid Ibn Thabit from 12 AH "between your hands".
There is nothing wrong or illogical about believing these things, but when we turn now and examine the development of the Gospel, we are going to find that the reasoning and beliefs are almost exactly the same.
In this second part we shall see what Christians know and believe about how the Gospel came. But before we look at that, it is necessary to state clearly what is meant by the word "gospel". This English word is used to translate the Greek word EUANGELION which means GOOD NEWS. And though it is not commonly known, the Arabic word "Injil" is a loan word derived from this same Greek word. The Greek EUANGELION entered into the popular languages used by the Christians in the Near East and Arabia during the first centuries of the Christian era, and finally came to be pronounced "Injil" in the colloquial Arabic of the Quraish, the language in which the Qur'an was given.
What is this news that God named GOOD NEWS? It is the good news that Jesus the Messiah died on the cross to bring forgiveness of sin; forgiveness to every one who believes him to be the suffering Saviour. We use such terms as "He shed his blood for us." "He was our sacrifice." "He redeemed or ransomed us." "He was the Lamb who took away the sins of the world."
Jesus, himself, taught this while celebrating the Jewish Passover with his disciples. Matthew tells us that "He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.’" (Matthew 26:27-28) We shall call this "Doctrine A".
We also believe that he could only do this because the ONE CREATOR GOD - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit willed with one will that the Son - The Eternal Word or Kalima Jesus the Messiah, should come and do this task of redeeming men. We believe this because Jesus taught it. When he was brought to trial just before his death "the High Priest asked him,
‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am’, said Jesus" (Mark 14:61-62).
Thus, in his own words he claimed to be the Son of God, and we shall call this second belief "Doctrine B".
It is necessary to state clearly here that we do not believe that God had relations with a wife, a "sahiba" or with Mary. We agree completely with the Qur'an when it says in the late Meccan Sura of the Cattle (Al-Ana`m) 6:101,
"How can He (God) have a son when He has no consort (sahiba)? He created all things, and He has full knowledge of all things."
Such a thought would be blasphemy. We understand and believe that the "Word" or "kalima" was in a spiritual unity with God the Father from eternity. The only new thing which was formed at his earthly appearance was a body in the womb of Mary.
Together "Doctrine A" and "Doctrine B" make up what I shall call the Doctrinal Gospel. As we consider the historical development of the Gospel, we shall be following the oral transmission of this Doctrinal meaning as well as the development of the written text.
A second meaning of the word "gospel" has grown out of the first one. It has come to be used for the written accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. From these written accounts, it is clear that Jesus knew how to read and write. In Luke 4:16 it says
"...on the Sabbath day he (Jesus) went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read..,"
But Jesus did not write down the Gospel, himself.
Four different men were guided by the Holy Spirit of God as they told of Jesus' life here on earth. Originally people spoke of these accounts as "the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew" or "the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Luke". However as time went on, Christians began to speak of them as the four Gospels. This may sound as though each man brought his own Gospel, but this is not what is meant. We believe that Jesus the Messiah brought one true "good news" of salvation from sin - the one true Gospel.
Lastly, there is another name which must be mentioned - the New Testament. This term refers to the book which contains the four Gospel accounts of Jesus' life and teaching, plus the letters of counsel and doctrine written by Jesus' disciples to different groups of Christians.
The Quranic word "Injil" clearly speaks of something written, but whether it includes these writings of Jesus' disciples and stands for the whole New Testament, or whether it refers only to the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life and work is not clear.
Now back to the question of how the written Gospel came. We too, would say that it was given by God - that serious "men of God were led by the Holy Spirit" as they wrote. When asked how we know this, we too, would have to start telling about the historical development.
Christians understand that Jesus began to preach the Gospel when he was thirty years old. We know this from the third Chapter of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Luke where we read,
"Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry."
The problem with these early dates is rather similar to the problem which Muslims have with dating events in Muhammad's life before the Hejira. Christians were a disliked, and often persecuted group for the first three hundred years after Christ ascended, so obviously the Roman authorities were not keeping records about them. However, there are two facts in the Gospels which help us to approximate the date of Jesus' birth.
The first one is that Herod the great was king when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1), and the second is that Pilate was already Governor when Jesus started to preach (Luke 3:1,23).
According to secular history, Herod died in 4 BC, and Pilate became governor in 26 AD. If Jesus was born in 4 BC just before Herod died, and he started preaching at the age of 30 in 26 AD just after Pilate came to Jerusalem, then all the facts would fit, so we shall use this date of 26 AD for the beginning of Jesus' ministry.
As Jesus went around Palestine preaching the Gospel, many people heard him. He challenged these hearers to follow him and some did. After some months he chose 12 for special training. These men are called the twelve disciples, or 12 apostles (sent ones), because after Jesus ascended into heaven, they were "sent" by Jesus to preach the "good news". The Qur'an refers to them as "al-hawiryun" and, as we saw in Chapter I B of Section Two, it speaks highly of them, saying that they were "inspired" to believe in God and Jesus, and that they wanted to be God's helpers.
These men left everything to follow Jesus. Some gave up their fishing. Matthew left his job as a tax collector. For about three and a half years these men went everywhere that Jesus went. They heard his preaching. They saw his miracles. They were witnesses of all that he said and did.
According to Papias (a man who collected Christian Hadiths and wrote them down sometime between 120 and 130 AD), "Matthew compiled the sayings(of Jesus) in the Hebrew language". I believe that Matthew started collecting these "logia" or sayings during Jesus' lifetime, although he, or someone else, could have rearranged them and compiled them in a final form later, just as Zaid did with the Qur'an.
These men were also present when Jesus ascended into heaven. In Acts 1:9 we read,
"After he (Jesus) said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight."
Then the brothers of Jesus, his mother and others who had been witnesses of Jesus' teaching and miracles also gathered with the apostles. The account continues:
"Then they returned to Jerusalem...Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the brothers, a group numbering about a hundred and twenty being present, and said..."
From this information we can conclude that when Jesus ascended after three and a half years of preaching, there were at least 120 strong believers who had left their homes for their faith.
In addition to the twelve disciples there were hundreds of others who had heard Jesus' commands and had seen his miracles. Once, after preaching all day to a crowd of 5000 people and healing the ill and demon possessed among them, he fed them all by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish, and there were twelve baskets left over.
At least three times Jesus raised people from the dead. The first time he raised the only son of a poor widow. The second time it was the daughter of an important Jewish leader. The third time it was Lazarus, an important man of Bethany.
The Qur'an also testifies to this healing power in the Sura of the Table (Al-Ma'ida) 5:113 from 10 AH where it reads:
"And you (Jesus) heal those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave, and behold! you bring forth the dead by My leave."
Based on the information in the written Gospel, Jesus did at least 900 to 1000 miracles which were seen by as many as 15,000 people. In addition another 86,000 friends and family would have known the sick people and could testify that they had been ill or dead and were now healed. This represented one out of every 20 people in the country at that time.
It is important to know about this vast number of people who were witnesses of Jesus' power in order to understand what happened next. Ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, Jesus' disciples began to preach this Doctrinal Gospel and the result was that 3000 people believed in one day. In the book of Acts we read,
When the day of Pentecost came, they (the apostles) were all together in one place....Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did AMONG YOU through him, AS YOU YOURSELVES KNOW. This man was handed over to YOU by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and YOU with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
"But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."
It is clear from this quotation and the whole chapter that Peter was sure that his audience knew about Jesus' life and miracles, and that the listeners did not deny it. For when he ended his speech there was a tremendous response and they asked what they should do. Peter answered,
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
...Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 2:38 and 41.
This is the first public preaching of the Doctrinal Gospel. It took place ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven in about 30 AD and about 3000 people accepted Christ as their savior in one day.
Why am I discussing all this? Because it may be that this is the period of time when Muslims believe that we changed the Gospel. Therefore we will pose the questions concerning the Gospel in the very same words which we used concerning the Qur'an. How do we Christians know that the Gospel was accurately transmitted when there were only 120 strong believers? Maybe some pieces of papyrus paper were lost from Matthew's collection as they were traveling around Palestine with Jesus? Or, perhaps an animal ate a page while they stayed over night in some home? HOW DO WE CHRISTIANS KNOW THAT THERE WEREN'T ANY CHANGES?
We also will answer that Jesus' followers memorized his words. While it is true that he did not give a direct command to memorize the Gospel, we have two reasons for saying this. First of all the Jews had a strong tradition (and still do) of memorizing their Scriptures. It was customary in the Jewish religion for a student to memorize a rabbi's teaching. The Mishna says, "A good pupil is like a plastered cistern that loses not a drop." (Aboth ii,8)
Secondly it is certainly implied in the following words of Jesus:
"Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts then into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
"But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
If you were a disciple and heard these words you would obviously try to memorize Jesus' sayings so that you could put them into practice and avoid "destruction".
And finally we too would answer that his disciples were present when Jesus gave his teachings; and anyway Jesus was with them and could correct them through this whole four years until he ascended just 10 days before Peter spoke. But we can't prove this. That is, we do not have the original manuscript of Matthew's "oracles", or a tape recording of Peter's first preaching. We BELIEVE it. It is A BASIC ASSUMPTION.
Over the next months the number of believers continued to increase. Following a miracle done in Jesus' name by Peter and John, Luke writes that "many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand." (Acts 4:4)
The apostles were arrested and threatened by the Jewish leaders, but "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 5:42) The result was that "the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith". (Acts 6:7)
When Peter preached the Doctrinal Gospel on that first Pentecost, there were Jews present from many nations. Luke described them as follows,
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven...Parthians, Medes, and Elamites (all in present day Iran); residents of Mesopotamia (Iraq), Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia (all in present day Turkey), Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome - both Jews and converts to Judaism; men from Crete and Arabs...
Many of these believed when they heard Peter's preaching and the testimony of the other disciples. They returned home to Iran, Iraq, Rome, and Arabia, and gave the Gospel message in their own lands to their own people.
Then persecution arose in Palestine against the Christians. Some were killed. Others scattered into Judea and North into Samaria, and "those who were scattered preached the word wherever they went". Philip preached to an Ethiopian who took the Gospel back to Ethiopia. (Acts 8)
When Saul, who later became Paul the Apostle, was persecuting the Christians he traveled to Damascus in Syria because there were already believers there. (Acts 9) Others, scattered by the persecutions mentioned above, "traveled as far as Phoenicia (Tyre and Sidon) and Cyprus, and men from Cyprus and Cyrene (Libya), went to Antioch in Northern Syria (now Southern Turkey) (Acts 11:19-20).
In this same 11th Chapter of Acts it mentions a famine that took place while Claudius was Emperor. He took office in 41 AD, so we can assume that the Gospel had spread to all these countries during the first 12 to 15 year of preaching.
In the next few years, this Doctrinal Good News was preached through Turkey and Greece, and by the year 49 AD, we have extra Biblical testimony that there were already Christians in Rome. In that year Claudius the Emperor began a persecution of the Jews and Christians which is mentioned by the Roman historian Suetonius. Writing in 120 AD, he recorded that,
"As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, (another spelling of Christ), he (Claudius) expelled them from Rome."
Luke gives the same information in Acts 18:1-2 where we read,
"After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome."
It is clear from these two witnesses that many Jews in Rome had become Christians, and that their witness had angered the unbelieving Jews so that they caused disturbances.
Thus, by 49 AD, or 23 years after Christ started preaching, Christians were to be found all over the Eastern Mediterranean and toward the West - at least as far as Rome. By now there were tens of thousands of believers, and probably hundreds of thousands.
A second event in this same chapter of Acts can be dated with great accuracy. The text says,
"So Paul stayed for a year and a half (in Corinth), teaching them the word of God. While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court."
At the beginning of this century, many scholars attacked Luke's truthfulness as a historian, because of this statement. They said, that there was no mention of Gallio having ever been in Corinth; and in addition they claimed that the Roman title "proconsul" had been used only in Gaul.
Since the writing of those attacks, a mutilated stone fragment has been found at Delphi, Greece which states in part: "As Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend, and the Proconsul of Achaia..." The date of this inscription is 52 AD. From other sources we now know that he took office on July 1st and that his proconsulship lasted only one year. Thus it is clear that there was such a person as Gallio, that the title of proconsul was used outside of Gaul, that Paul's stay in Corinth included 52 AD, and that Luke's history is absolutely correct.
Sometime about the year 55 AD while in Ephesus, Paul wrote a letter back to the church at Corinth - a letter which Christians refer to as I Corinthians. All Biblical scholars agree on the date of this letter, and we shall examine two passages in some detail. They are as follows:
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God...to the church of God in Corinth...Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful".
I Corinthians 1:1,2a,3,9.
"Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved...
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter,
and then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."
I Corinthians 15:1-8
You will notice that some phrases are in boldfaced type. When we look at these phrases, we find that:
Paul believes Doctrine A that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead the third day.
He believes Doctrine B that Jesus is the Son of God.
He preached this Doctrinal Gospel to them orally when he was with them in 52 AD so that they might be saved. Now he is repeating the same thing to the Corinthians in his letter written in 55 AD.
Though Matthew probably wrote his "oracles" while Jesus was on earth, and Luke says that, "Many (undertook) to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us," this letter to the Corinthians is the first portion of the New Testament which can be precisely dated. Therefore, although some other portions may have been earlier, we can say with assurance that when Paul wrote the above two passages, the Doctrinal Gospel, which for 25 years until 55 AD had been transmitted largely by oral proclamation, now became the Written Gospel, which has been transmitted unchanged from that point in history until the present.
In photograph No 1 you can see part of I Corinthians 14 and 15 from the papyrus manuscript p46, preserved at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. The text of this copy, which dates from around 200 AD, is used as the basis of our modern translations.
So now the questions must again be asked. How do we know that the
Gospel was kept unchanged during these years when the transmission was almost
entirely oral? Maybe someone forgot something? Maybe Jesus didn't raise
Lazarus from the dead and claim, "I am the resurrection and the life"? Maybe
Jesus never ascended into heaven? HOW DO WE KNOW THAT IT WASN'T CHANGED?
Papyrus p46 from 200 A.D. (145 years after the original)
Two sides of the same page showing I Corinthians 14:34b-15:15a which lists five appearances of Jesus to one or more of his disciples.
By Permission of the Chester Beatty Library.
And we too will answer, "No important change could possibly have been made during this 25 years since Jesus ascended. They memorized Jesus' words. If one Christian forgot something the others would remember it. Moreover, John, Peter, James, Paul and others of the twelve special disciples, were still alive to verify the things which Jesus said, and thousands were still alive who had seen Jesus' miracles. It is impossible that anyone could have changed any important part of the Gospel, the knowledge of which extended in 55 AD from Rome eastward to Syria and Iraq, and from Turkey south to Libya."
WE BELIEVE Paul's letter to the Corinthians to be valid even though we don't have the original copy "between our hands". WE BELIEVE the history recorded by Luke in the book of Acts to be reliable history because he was guided by the Holy Spirit of God while writing. In addition his word is supported by Roman historians, and by documents and archaeological inscriptions which we, ourselves, can see today.
Copyright 1986 by Arab World Ministries
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