[Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3], [Part 4], [Part 5], [Part 6], [Part 7], [Appendix]
3. Holy Ghost speaks bad Greek? (The literary "miracle" of the NT?):-
If the Holy Ghost is indeed God, then one should expect him to at least speak proper
Greek. However that is not the case at all, thus we read the orientalist admission
comparing the feeble style of the Bible with that magnificence of the Quran:-
If the Holy Ghost is indeed God, then one should expect him to at least speak proper Greek. However that is not the case at all, thus we read the orientalist admission comparing the feeble style of the Bible with that magnificence of the Quran:-
Bravo confuses several issues here. He first confuses the primary cause of Scripture with its instrumental cause. Unlike Muslims, Christians believe that the Holy Bible is both divine and human in origin. It is divine because it is God-breathed revelation. It is human because God used humans as his instruments to record His perfect Word. The fact that the instrumental causes of Scripture wrote "bad" Greek does not reflect negatively upon the perfection of the Holy Spirit, as we shall shortly demonstrate.
"In contrast to the stylistic perfection of the Kur'an with the stylistic imperfections of the older Scriptures the Muslim theologian found himself unknowingly and on purely postulative grounds in agreement with long line of Christian thinkers whose outlook on the Biblical text is best summed up in Nietzsche's brash dictum that the Holy Ghost wrote bad Greek."[B Lewis, V L Menage, Ch. Pellat & J Schacht (Editors), Encyclopedia Of Islam (New Edition): 1971, Volume III, E J Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), pp. 1020 (Under I'djaz).]
We also read:
So the Holy Ghost speaks bad Greek! Is there anything worth boasting about the Bible? I don't think so.
Before responding to this charge we must first explain what God inspiring the Holy Bible does and does not mean. First, by inspiration Christians do not mean that God dictated the scriptures, much like Muslims believe Allah did with the Quran.
Second, even though God did not override the individual author's personal style of writing, God sovereignly chose these very men and equipped them with the spiritual gifts and unique personalities necessary in accomplishing His purpose. After both choosing and equipping these men, God then employed their unique personalities to give us the different literary styles of writing found in the Holy Bible.
The Holy Bible itself testifies that God both chooses and equips all men for his sovereign purposes:
"The word of the LORD came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Ah, Sovereign LORD, I said, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child. But the LORD said to me, Do not say, "I am only a child." You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." Jeremiah 1:4-10
"To this John replied, A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." John 3:27
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
"Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead... But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus." Galatians 1:1, 15-17
"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher." 2 Timothy 1:8-11
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17
Third, the reason why God chose men to write "bad" Greek is to demonstrate His sovereign power in taking men considered worthless and foolish by worldly standards to silence and confound those who presume to be scholars and wise men:
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." 1 Corinthians 1:18-29
"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirits power, so that your faith might not rest on mens wisdom, but on Gods power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of Gods secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began." 1 Corinthians 2:1-7
"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in Gods sight. As it is written: He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." 1 Corinthians 3:18-20
This is precisely what the Apostles did, namely, astonish the world with their preaching which was not based on human wisdom or learning but on the power of God:
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, THEY WERE ASTONISHED and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13
This doesnt mean that God didnt use men who were educated in the Greek language to record His Word, but that it was Gods specific purpose to use unlearned men as well to highlight His supreme power and ability to use even the base elements of this world for his glory.
ALLAH SPEAKS BAD ARABIC
Let us now use Bravos own criticism of the Holy Bible against the Quran and see what the outcome would be. According to both Arabic grammarians and Islamic scholars the Quran contains many grammatical errors. Iranian Scholar Ali Dashti in his book, Twenty-Three Years: A study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, Allen and Unwin, London, 1985 wrote:
"Among the Moslem scholars of the early period, before bigotry and hyperbole prevailed, were some such as Ebrahim on-Nazzam who openly acknowledged that the arrangement and syntax of the Qor'an are not miraculous and that work of equal or greater value could be produced by other God-fearing persons." (p. 48)
"The Qor'an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qor'ans eloquence. The problem also occupied the minds of devout Moslems. It forced the commentators to search for explanations and was probably one of the causes of disagreement over readings." (pp. 48-49)
"To sum up, more than one hundred Qoranic aberrations from the normal rules and structure of Arabic have been noted. Needless to say, the commentators strove to find explanations and justifications of these irregularities. Among them was the great commentator and philologist Mahmud oz-Zamakhshari (467/1075-538/1144), of whom a Moorish author wrote: This grammar-obsessed pedant has committed a shocking error. Our task is not to make the readings conform to Arabic grammar, but to take the whole of the Qoran as it is and make Arabic grammar conform to the Qoran." (p. 50)
"Neither the Qorans eloquence nor its moral and legal precepts are miraculous. The Qoran is miraculous because it enabled Mohammad, single-handedly and despite poverty and illiteracy, to overcome his people's resistance and found a lasting religion because it moved wild men to obedience and imposed its bringer's will on them." (p. 57) [bold emphasis ours]
Thomas Carlyle, whose comments on Muhammad in Heroes and Hero Worship (1841) are often quoted with approval by Muslims, states in reference to the Quran:
"A wearisome confused jumble, crude, incondite, endless iterations, longwindedness, entanglement; most crude incondite-insupportable STUPIDITY, in short! Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran." (Carlyle, Sartor Resartus: On Heroes and Hero Worship [London, 1973], p. 299; bold and capital emphasis ours)
"His Koran has become A STUPID PIECE of prolix absurdity; we do not believe, like him, that God wrote that!" (Ibid, p. 344; bold and capital emphasis ours)
The great scholar Noldeke claims:
"On the whole, while many parts of the Koran undoubtedly have considerable rhetorical power, even over an unbelieving reader, the book aesthetically considered, is by no means a first rate performance Let us look at some of the more extended narratives. It has already been noticed how vehement and abrupt they are where they ought to be characterised by epic repose. Indispensable links, both in expression and in the sequence of events, are often omitted, so that to understand these histories is sometimes far easier for us than for those who heard them first, because we know most of them from better sources. Along with this, there is a good deal of superfluous verbiage; and nowhere do we find a steady advance in the narration. Contrast in these respects the history of Joseph (xii) and its glaring improprieties with the admirably conceived and admirably executed story in Genesis. Similar faults are found in the non narrative portions of the Koran. The connexion of ideas is extremely loose, and even the syntax betrays great awkwardness. Anacolutha [want of syntactical sequence; when the latter part of the sentence does not grammatically fit the earlier] are of frequent occurrence, and cannot be explained as conscious literary devices. Many sentences begin with a when or on the day when which seems to hover in the air, so that commentators are driven to supply a think of this or some such ellipsis. Again, there is no great literary skill evinced in the frequent and needless harping on the same words and phrases; in xviii, for example till that occurs no fewer than eight times. Mahomet, in short, is not in any sense a master of style." (Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim [Prometheus Books; Amherst NY, 1995], pp. 110-111; bold emphasis ours)
Richard Bell and W. M. Watt believe that the uneasiness of the Quranic structure is actual proof that the text has been altered:
"There are indeed many roughnesses of this kind, and these, it is here claimed, are fundamental evidence for revision. Besides the points already noticedhidden rhymes, and rhyme-phrases not woven into the texture of the passagethere are the following: abrupt changes of rhyme; repetition of the same rhyme word or rhyme phrase in adjoining verses; the intrusion of an extraneous subject into a passage otherwise homogeneous; a differing treatment of the same subject in neighboring verses, often with repetition of words and phrases; breaks in grammatical construction which raise difficulties in exegesis; abrupt changes in the length of verses; sudden changes of the dramatic situation, with changes of pronoun from singular to plural, from second to third person, and so on; the juxtaposition of apparently contradictory statements; the juxtaposition of passages of different date, with the intrusion of late phrases into early verses.
"In many cases a passage has alternative continuations which follow one another in the present text. The second of the alternatives is marked by a break in sense and by a break in grammatical construction, since the connection is not with what immediately precedes, but with what stands some distance back." (Bell & Watt, Introduction to the Quran [Edinburgh, 1977], p. 93; Ibn Warraq, pp. 112-113; bold emphasis ours)
Muslims claim that Muhammad had nothing to do with the revelation of the Quran, but simply conveyed its message to others and caused it to be written. They claim that the Quran is divine dictation, being a perfect replica of that which is contained in the Preserved Tablets in heaven. (Cf. 13:39; 43:1-4; 56:76-80; 80:11-16; 85:21-22)
This means that Allah is to be blamed for all these grammatical mistakes, further implying that Allah is unable to speak Arabic correctly!
Add to this the fact that Muslim authorities acknowledge the poor state of Arabic writing during Muhammad's time, the problem becomes more complex and problematic for Muslims like Bravo:
The Early Arabic Script
Almost everyone in Islam acknowledges the extreme incompleteness of the written Arabic language at the time of Muhammad. As Ahmad Von Denffer states it:
"The script used in the seventh century, i.e. during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, consisted of very basic symbols, which expressed only the consonantal structure of a word, and even that with much ambiguity. While today letters such as ba, ta, tha, ya, are easily distinguished by points, this was not so in the early days..." (Ulum, p.57)
M. Hamidullah also states:
"When the Meccans, probably the first in Arabic, introduced a script for their language, importing it from Hira, as the tradition goes, on the eve of Islam, this script was crude and extremely defective. So much so that 22 out of 28 letters of the alphabet were always uncertain. To wit, if b, t, th, n, y, (i m q ã í) were written exactly alike - since there were no dots on them which now distinguish them -- so were j, h, and kh (u y ?), d and dh (sic) (Arabic letters), r and z (Arabic letters), s and sh (Arabic letters), peculiarly Arabic s and z (sic.) (Arabic letters), t and z (Arabic letters), `a and gh (Arabic letters) and f and q (Arabic letters). Further, Arabic script has got the longer vowels (aa, ee, oo), but not the shorter vowels (a, i, u) in the alphabet. The result is that a trilateral word could be pronounced in as many as 69 different ways; for instance, they wrote BDR (Arabic), and pronounced badr, bidr, budr, badar, bidar, budar, badran, badrin, badrun, etc. What is terrible in all this is that in the last three possibilities, badran meant "to a full moon", badrin "with a full moon", and badrun "a full moon has..." How can, for instance, "God has said," "one said to God" and "one asked the help of God" be alike, yet in the Arabic script, when the final vowel is not marked (allahu, allaha, allahi), it is impossible to say whether the word "Allah" is in nominative case or accusative or else. The constitution of the Arabic words and the inflexions add to the difficulty: mundireen () means "those who warn, i.e., the prophets", and mundhareen (), which is written alike, and in the absence of the marking of the vocalization sign it is impossible to distinguish, means "those who have been warned, i.e., the infidels".
(Source: A Perfect Qur'an?, p. 21)
This concludes Part 2. Continue with Part 3.
Responses to Islamic Awareness
Responses to Answering Christianity
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page