3. The Bible: Why We Can Trust It (part 1)
You may remember from Sura 29:46 that a Muslim must accept the authority of the Scriptures God has revealed to the Jews and the Christians:
“And dispute not with the People of the Book except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, ‘We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).’ ”
This command is further elaborated in Sura 2:136:
“Say ye: We believe in Allah, and in the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail, Jacob, and the Tribes. and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
But now you may very well be asking: How do I know that today's Bible is that revelation given by God referred to in the Qur'an? Is it not possible that the Scriptures were corrupted by the Jews or the Christians since that time? How can I know whether a revelation really came from God? Let us explain to you why we can be sure that the Bible is the word of God.
The Acid Test of True Revelation
Over the centuries thousands of people have claimed to be prophets of God. Many had a following, some became founders of world religions and others were even worshipped. This brings us to a very relevant question: How can we differentiate between a true prophet of the living, almighty God and a deceiver? The Bible helps us:
Look up Deuteronomy 18:21-22 and fill in the missing words:
“You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message Has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the Name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has ____________. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”
It is quite clear that prophethood takes more than preaching and teaching, more than acceptance by people or dignified behaviour. If it really is God who sent a messenger, he can be expected to supply proof that his message is indeed a divine message. Most religions have never botheredto supply any real proof, although one would expect it to be an intrinsic part of true religion. Faith is often based on emotional grounds, and not on facts. Powerful people tend to rule the minds of men, and few of their followers seem to be critical. In the above quotation from Deuteronomy, God provides the distinguishing test against deception. Seven hundred years later, the prophet Isaiah confirmed this test when he challenged the worshipers of idols:
“.... declare to us the things to come, tell what the future holds” (Isaiah 41:23).
This means nothing more, and also nothing less, than that a true prophet must prophesy. To prophesy means to reveal God's will about the past, present and/or future. Fulfilled prophecy about the future is the credential from God. A prophet is a prophet, because he prophesies! This prophecy about the future must obviously be beyond human foresight, and detailed enough not to fit other occurrences as well. Generalities are not good enough. God, over the centuries, not only inspired His prophets with messages to the people, but also added prophecies to verify them as truly coming from Him.
Prophecy about the Future is a Better Test than Miracles
God also enabled certain men of God to perform miracles, for example healing (2 Kings 5); raising if the dead (1 Kings 17; Luke 7:11; 8:41; Acts 9:36); water produced from a rock (Exodus 16); fire falling from heaven (1 Kings 18:30-39; 2 Chronicles 7); making an axehead float (2 Kings 6:5) and many others. It has been rightly said, however, (by Al-Haj Maulana Fazlul Karim, in an explanatory note in the Mishkatul-Masabih, Chapter XLIV: 2468) that prophecy is superior to miracles, because
“Prophecy ..... can be historically proved, but a miracle cannot. Prophecy manifests God's foreknowledge, while a miracle God's power. As knowledge is greater than power, prophecy is greater than a miracle.” Even though some miracles could be imitated by sorcerers using occult powers, a miracle coupled with the integrity of the prophet and the consistency of his message with former revelations, was accepted as proof of his divine inspiration. This principle was mentioned when they questioned the prophethood of Muhammad (Sura 17:90-99). They evidently demanded a sign such as that of Moses (a spring from the earth), Solomon (a house of gold), or Jacob (a ladder to heaven). Muhammad's answers are recorded in Suras 17:93, 59; 13:7; 6:37 and 2:118-119. When these did not satisfy his critics, antagonism and enmity arose. In the Bible we find mainly three topics of prophecy:
Some Examples of Fulfilled Prophecy
For the sake of brevity, we only quote some prophecies in the Old Testament about the life of the Messiah. In the Gospel of Matthew alone you will read at least 21 references to fulfilled prophecies!
Read John 5:39.
Let us now read some of these prophecies and their fulfillment (BC = Years Before Christ).
700 BC: The Messiah's birthplace and pre-existence: Micah 5:2;
700 BC: His virgin birth: Isaiah 7:14;
700 BC: His divinity : Isaiah 9:6 ;
500 BC: The time of His coming: Daniel 9:24;
700 BC: He would come to save and to heal: Isaiah 53:3-6 ;
700 BC: Name of the Messiah :Isaiah 49:1-8 ;
480 BC: His humble entry into Jerusalem on a donkey Zechariah 9:9;
480 BC: The betrayal of Jesus: Psalm 41:9;
His suffering and death by crucifixion Isaiah 53; Psalm 22:1-1
His burial Isaiah 53:9
His resurrection Psalm 16:8-11
His ascension Psalm 110:1
No critic in the world can explain away the evidence of these fulfilled prophecies. It is unique in all history and to all religious books. It is God's seal that is interwoven with His message to mankind, so that any earnest and honest seeker can be totally reassured that the Bible is God's word. It is not a book by some religious men trying to impose their views on others. No man dare claim, after the evidence given above, that the Bible has been corrupted! However, the question may be raised: Was the Old Testament, perhaps, at least partly, written after the New Testament in order to supply such “prophecy”? This is unthinkable, for several reasons. The Jews guarded the Scriptures with the utmost care. They themselves were, in fact, not interested in having these prophecies in their Holy Book, since they contradict their own faith and practice. The Old Testament was already very widely circulated and even translated long before the time of Jesus. The Greek translation was done in the second century BC. To “revise” a text that is so widely distributed is quite impossible. Besides, pre-Christian copies of Old Testament books have been discovered, containing these very prophecies!
Test Yourself No 3
Answer the following questions for yourself. Compare your answers with the correct answers.
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