Responses to Islamic Awareness

Is The Bible In Our Hands The Same As During The Time Of Muhammad(P)?

M S M Saifullah

Assalamu-alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

As an arm-chair metallurgist I firmly believe that one should strike the iron when it is hot. Very recently, Jochen Katz has been into some strange claims on soc.religion.islam newsgroup about today's Bible being same as in Muhammad's(P) time. This document is intended to see if those claims stand the scrutiny.


It seems that Saifullah confuses two issues when addressing the claims of Jochen Katz that the Holy Bible of Muhammad’s day is the same as our present day Bible. Saifullah confuses the content of Scripture with the canon of Scripture. The point is not the canon per se, but whether the content of our present day Bible is the same as in the days of Muhammad.

This is essential since if the Holy Bible we have in our possession accurately reflects the Bible in the hands of the Christians of the past, then the myth of Bible corruption is debunked. Whether the canon is the same is unrelated to the question as to whether if the Bible has been tampered with.


On 8 Oct 1998, Jochen Katz wrote (on a different thread):

> >} Thirdly, the OT and NT lack the chain of narration. 'Abdullah b. al-Mubarak
> >} (d. 181 AH), one of the illustrious teachers of Imam al-Bukhari, said,
> >} "The isnad is part of the religion: whatever he liked." The NT is composed
> >} of matn (text) but no isnad (chain of narration). Without isnad, as
> >} 'Abdullah b. al-Mubarak said, anyone can claim anything saying that it is
> >} coming from the authority. And this is another reason why Muslim exegetes
> >} have rejected the use of the previous scriptures.
> > That is a bogus argument from an Islamic point of view. The scriptures
> > are demonstrably the same today as in Muhammad's time. Muhammad/Qur'an
> > approved of them as genuine. That is certainly more than you can say
> > about any Hadith.

The 'bogus' argument is already dealt with at another place.

Now let us examine Katz's statement

The scriptures are demonstrably the same today as in Muhammad's time.

Probably, Katz meant his Bible, i.e., the Protestant Bible. As far as I have read, there is no Greek manuscript before 800 CE which has 27 books in the New Testament. Further information can be obtained in the essay authored by Steve Carr in The Skeptic Review. The Codex Sinaiticus (about 350 CE) comes closest, but it also contains the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas which are absent in modern Bibles. So, to start with, Katz's claim has fallen flat on its face.


Again, the question that Saifullah does not answer is whether our present day Bibles accurately reflect the Bibles in circulation before, during and after the time of Muhammad. The reason why this is important is that the Quran affirms the authority and preservation of the revelation that came before it. The Quran claims that the Book in the hands of the Judeo-Christian communities at the time of Muhammad was the uncorrupt, pure word of God. Hence, since it can be shown that our present day Bible is virtually identical in content to what the Jews and Christians had in their possession during Muhammad's time this affirms that the Holy Bible has never been corrupted.

Seemingly aware of this point, Saifullah must shift the argument to the canon of scripture. Yet, Saifullah fails to realize that this method of criticism serves to discredit his belief in the Quran as we shall shortly demonstrate.

The fact of the matter is that no matter what canon one accepts, one will still get the historic Christian position as opposed to Islam.


During the Reformation, the Canon of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was even called into question. Generally, the Protestants disputed the Catholic claim to interpret scripture, either by Papal decree or by the action of Church councils. No one had defined the limits of the Bible until the (Catholic) Council of Trent, 1546. From this time, the Roman Catholic Church declared that the Old and New Testaments, plus the Apocrypha, were scripture. Generally, Protestants have accepted the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, but have rejected the Apocrypha. So, even 900 years after the advent of Islam, the Christians were bickering about which books should go into the canon.


First, Saifullah apparently fails to read his own sources. In one of his articles on the evolution of the canon of the Holy Bible, Saifullah makes mention of Bruce M. Metzger's comments:

12. The Canon Approved By The Third Synod Of Carthage (A.D. 397)

The first council that accepted the present canon of the books of the New Testament was the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (A.D. 393); the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Synod of Carthage, A D. 397.

Can. 24. Besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of divine Scriptures. Moreover, the canonical Scriptures are these: [then follows a list of Old Testament books]. The [books of the] New Testament: the Gospels, four books; the Acts of the Apostles, one book; the Epistles of Paul, thirteen; of the same to the Hebrews, one Epistle; of Peter, two; of John, apostle, three; of James, one; of Jude, one; the Revelation of John. Concerning the confirmation of this canon, the transmarine Church shall be consulted. On the anniversaries of martyrs, their acts shall also be read.

According to Zahn, in 419 another Synod held at Carthage gave the concluding words in thc following form:

. . . the Revelation of John, one book. Let this be sent to our brother and fellow-bishop, Boniface [of Rome], and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these are the things that we have received from our fathers to be read in church.

According to Metzger, the Church universally came to accept the 27 books of the NT in the fourth century, nearly three centuries before the advent of Islam. He states:

"The slowness of determining the final limits of the canon is testimony to the care and vigilance of early Christians in receiving books purporting to be apostolic. But, while the collection of the New Testament into one volume was slow, the belief in a written rule of faith was primitive and apostolic ... In the most basic sense neither individuals nor councils created the canon; instead they came to perceive and acknowledge the self-authenticating quality of these writings, which imposed themselves as canonical upon the church." (Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content [New York: Abingdon Press, 1965], p. 276)

Furthermore, the Jews had already decided upon the 39 books of the OT even before the birth of the Church. The reason why both the Jews and the Protestants accept only 39 OT books as opposed to the Catholic canon is due to the following reasons:

1. The majority of the Jews never recognized them as being part of the canon of scripture since inspired men of God did not write them. The Talmud states:

Our Rabbis taught: Since the death of the last prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit [of prophetic inspiration] departed from Israel. (Sanhedrin 11a)

In fact, the apocrypha itself testifies that the classification of the 39 OT books was both known and well attested:

"So during the forty days ninety-four books were written. And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, ‘Make public THE TWENTY-FOUR BOOKS that you wrote first and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the river of knowledge.' And I did so." 2 Esdras (4 Ezra) 14:44-48

The twenty-four books refer to the classification of the 39 OT books that had been subsumed into a collection of 24 writings. This clearly demonstrates that the Jews viewed all the literature written after Malachi as uninspired.

This also indirectly affirms that the New Testament picks up where the Old leaves off, since the authors claimed inspiration for their writings. (Cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Tim. 5:18- Luke 10:7; 2 Pet. 1:20-21, 3:15-16; Rev. 1:1-3)

In fact, certain books of the Apocrypha flat out deny inspiration and precision in reporting:

"Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them." 1 Maccabees 9:27

The fact that prophets had ceased from appearing in Israel before the Maccabean period affirms that these apocryphal writings were not written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

"... all this, which has been set forth by Jason of Cyrene in five volumes, we shall attempt to condense into a single book. For considering the flood of numbers involved and the difficulty there is for those who wish to enter upon the narratives of history because of the mass of material, we have aimed to please those who wish to read, to make it easy for those who are inclined to memorize, and to profit all readers. For us who have undertaken the toil of abbreviating, it is no light matter but calls for sweat and loss of sleep, just as it is not easy for one who prepares a banquet and seeks the benefit of others. However, to secure the gratitude of many we will gladly endure the uncomfortable toil, leaving the responsibility for exact details to the compiler, while devoting our effort to arriving at the outlines of the condensation. For as the master builder of a new house must be concerned with the whole construction, while the one who undertakes its painting and decoration has to consider only what is suitable for its adornment, such in my judgment is the case with us. It is the duty of the original historian to occupy the ground and to discuss matters from every side and to take trouble with details, but the one who recasts the narrative should be allowed to strive for brevity of expression and to forego exhaustive treatment. At this point therefore let us begin our narrative, adding only so much to what has already been said; for it is foolish to lengthen the preface while cutting short the history itself." 2 Maccabees 2:23-32

This fact alone is enough to convince someone of the uninspired status of these writings.

2. At the Council of Jamnia, A.D. 90, Rabbis headed by Yohannan ben Zakkai acknowledged the 39 books which comprise the present Hebrew and Protestant OT canon as the official Word of God. Everything else was discarded. It should be pointed that this Council did not make the books canonical, but arrived at the conclusion that only these particular books were received throughout the generations as being that which God had inspired.

3. The Lord Jesus personally affirms the Protestant OT canon. During the time of Christ, the Old Testament was classified into three sections: "The Law," containing the five books of Moses. "The Prophets" which included two subdivisions. The first called "the Former Prophets" and included the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel and Kings. The second is called "the Latter Prophets" which included the books beginning with Isaiah to Ezekiel with the exception of Lamentations; and from Hosea to Malachi. These books were also subsumed into smaller lists such as combining the books from Hosea to Malachi together into one scroll called "the minor Prophets."

The third is "the Writings" or "Psalms." This section consisted first of Psalms, Proverbs and Job; then the "Scrolls" of Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther and finally Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. This gives us a total of 39 OT books, the precise canon of books alluded to by Christ:

"And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." Luke 24:44 KJV

Jesus affirms the OT division of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms/Writings as being those books that prophesied his coming. Another place where Jesus affirms the present 39 OT books as those that make up the infallible rule of faith for the Jews includes:

"Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all." Luke 11:50-51

The mentioning of the prophets from Abel to Zechariah affirms that Jesus viewed the 39 OT books as the only canon inspired by God. This is due to the fact that the canon of the Jewish scriptures began with Genesis (i.e. "the blood of Abel"- Genesis 4:3-11) and ended with Chronicles (i.e. "the blood of Zechariah- 2 Chronicles 24:20-21) for a total of 39 books all together. Hence, the Lord Jesus doesn't mention the Apocrypha at all, nor does he even hint that God had inspired some of these apocryphal writings to form part of the Hebrew Scriptures.

4. The 7 apocryphal books, as well as the additional endings of some of the OT books which the Catholic Church accepts, were not officially declared to be part of the Catholic OT canon until the Council of Trent, AD 1546, a fact that Saifullah recognizes. This was primarily in response to the Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther and their attacks on doctrines such as indulgences. In one of these books, 2 Maccabees 12:43-45, praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins is commended:

"He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."

Hence, it is not hard to imagine why Catholics would want to include such a book since it supports their doctrine of praying for souls caught in purgatory, something rejected by the Reformers.

Yet, amazingly, a book which was not included as part of the canon, despite the fact that it also formed part of the Apocrypha literature, is 2 Esdras (4 Esdra by Roman Catholics). This book rejects prayers for the dead. (Cf. 2 Esdra 7:105) The acceptance of 2 Maccabees and the rejection of 2 Esdras affirms the total arbitrariness of the decision behind the choosing of books which supported Catholic doctrine, while rejecting those that did not.

5. The Quran affirms the Holy Bible that existed at the time of Muhammad as the uncorrupt word of God. Seeing that the canon had already been established prior to the advent of Islam, this affirms the canon of 66 books as the infallible rule of faith since these were the books that the Judeo-Christian communities had already come to canonize.

6. Finally, we believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. This is essential since we believe that God has infinite power and sovereignly guides the universe and the affairs of men to fulfill all that he desires, and we believe that the will of man does not override the will of God. We also believe that the Holy Spirit, being in nature God according to the inspired record, dwells within the Church of Jesus Christ and sovereignly guides it. This being the case, we believe that the Holy Spirit sovereignly guided the people of God to discover and canonize God's word. The Church did not create the canon. Rather, God sovereignly guided his Church to discover what that canon entailed. We cannot "prove" this, but we take it by faith since we take it for granted that God exists and sovereignly guides, controls and sustains the universe to accomplish all that he desires.

All these preceding factors establish the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as those that God sovereignly chose to form his infallible rule of faith.


It is worthwhile mentioning that the Qur'an does not mentioned the word 'Bible' and neither does the Bible self-references it as the Bible.


Actually, the term from which the word "Bible" is derived is found in scripture. The term Bible stems from the Greek term biblia (books). The earliest extra-biblical usage of the term is found in 2 Clement 14:2 (A.D. 150):

"... the books (ta biblia) and the apostles declare that the church ... has existed from the beginning."

Biblia is the plural form of the Greek biblion, which is itself a diminutive of biblos. These terms are used in Scripture as designations for inspired writings:

"And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book (en to biblio touto)." John 20:30 NKJV

"For it is written in the Book (biblo) of Psalms..." Acts 1:20 NKJV

"Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets (en biblo ton propheton)..." Acts 7:42 NKJV

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under curse; for it is written, `Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law (en to biblio tou nomou), to do them" Galatians 3:10 NKJV

"When you come, bring the cloak I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books (kai ta biblia), especially the parchments (malista tas membranas)." 2 Timothy 4:13

Paul identifies the inspired writings as the biblia, the books, which at that time included both the Old Testament scrolls as well as the Gospel of Luke. (Cf. 1 Tim. 5:18-Luke 10:7)

"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, "What you see, write in a book (graphon heis biblion) and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia..." Revelation 1:10-11

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book (tes propheteias tou bibliou): If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book (en tou biblio); and if anyone takes away words of the book of this prophecy (tou bibliou tes propheteias), God shall take away his part from the Tree of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (en to biblio touto)." Rev. 22:18-19

These verses indicate that the terms from which the word "Bible" is derived is found within sacred scripture itself. Hence, the word used for the Judeo-Christian Scripture is not something that was arbitrarily decided upon, but something derived from the inspired record.

Furthermore, it is true that one does not find the word "Bible" in the Quran seeing that the Quran is written in Arabic, while "Bible" is a Greek word. Hence, instead of looking for the phrase "Bible," one would instead look for its Arabic equivalent, namely "Kitab", i.e. "Book." This is precisely what we find the Quran calling the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, namely the Book. This point is highlighted in the article The Quranic Witness to Biblical Authority.

Interestingly, Muslim translator Muhammad Asad understood the phrase "Kitab" to be the Arabic equivalent of "Bible" and translated the Arabic to mean as such:

"... And so We have cast enmity and hatred among the followers of the Bible..." S. 5:64 (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andaulus, Gibraltar, rpt. 1994], p. 157)

"If the followers of the Bible would but attain to [true] faith and God-consciousness, we should indeed efface their [previous] bad deeds, and indeed bring them into gardens of bliss;" S. 5:65 (Ibid.)


Katz's statement that "The scriptures are demonstrably the same today as in Muhammad's time" combines ignorance and arrogance. We have already seen in an another post how the Bibles (Old Testament and New Testament included) differ depending upon the Church. Hence if we follow the great Church tradition, we have the Bibles of:

Protestant Church
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Church
Greek Orthodox Church
Coptic Church
Ethiopic Church
Syriac Church

They contain different number of books. So, the statement

The scriptures are demonstrably the same today as in Muhammad's time.

has once again fallen on its face when historical evidence is brought in.


We have already demonstrated why Saifullah's point on the canon is simply a red herring and evades the real issue of whether the Quran affirms the authority and preservation of the biblical text. We have seen that it does and hence Saifullah's point "combines ignorance and arrogance," failing to deal with the real issue.

Furthermore, we will also demonstrate that the canon of Quran was something that was also not agreed upon seeing that the Muslims from early on disputed over how many Suras truly formed the Quranic text.


"Now the next issue would be what kind of Bibles did the Christians in Arabia possessed during the advent of Islam? Our history in this regard only suggests the presence of Syriac Church (and its various off-shoots such as Jacobite, Nestorian Churches etc.) in these areas and the Church service used to be in Syriac.[1,2] Indeed it has been confirmed that the earliest Bible manuscripts in Arabic came into existence only after the advent of Islam and during the Christian-Muslim polemics.[3] They were translated from Syriac. More information about the Bible manuscripts can be obtained at here."


Seeing that Saifullah presumes the authenticity and reliability of the Islamic traditions (at least those that have been authenticated by the so-called chain of transmission [isnad] and its text [matn]), we find it amazing that he would uncritically subscribe to the belief that there was no Arabic translation of the Holy Bible during the advent of Islam. This is interesting since the Islamic sources affirm that certain portions of the Bible had been translated into Arabic during the time of Muhammad:

Narrated 'Aisha:

The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian convert and used to read the Gospels in Arabic. Waraqa asked (the Prophet), "What do you see?" When he told him, Waraqa said, "That is the same angel whom Allah sent to the Prophet) Moses. Should I live till you receive the Divine Message, I will support you strongly." (Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 605)

"... Waraqa had been converted to Christianity in the Pre-lslamic Period and used to write Arabic and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight..." (Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 478)

"... Ka'b read the Torah and said: The Apostle of Allah has spoken the truth. Abu Hurayrah said: I met Abdullah ibn Salam and told him of my meeting with Ka'b." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 3, Number 1041: Narrated Abu Hurayrah)

"... (Muhammad's father) passed by a woman of the Kath'am (tribe) whose name was Fatimah Bint Murr and who was the prettiest of all women, in the full bloom of her youth and the most pious and had studied the scriptures;..." (Ibn Sa'd's Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, p.104)

According to Mishkat al-Masabih, Book XXVI, ch. XXXIX, pp. 1371, 1372:

Khaithama b. Abu Sabra said: I came to Medina and asked God to grant me a good companion to sit with and He granted me Abu Huraira. I sat with him and told him I had asked God to grant me a good companion to sit with and that he suited me. He asked where I came from and I replied that I belonged to al-Kufa and had come desiring and seeking good. He then said, "Do you not have among you Sa'd b. Malik whose prayers are answered, Ibn Mas'ud who looked after God's messenger's water for ablution and his sandals, Hudhaifa who was God's messenger's confident, ‘Ammar to whom God gave protection from the devil at the tongue of His Prophet, and Salman who was a believer in the two Books? meaning THE INJIL and the Qur'an. Tirmidhi translated it.

All these traditions presume the existence of Arabic translations of certain portions of the Holy Bible, if not all of it.

Interestingly, the hadith reports that Waraqa even knew how to read Hebrew:

"Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Nawfal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza, who, during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write..." (Bukhari, Volume 1, Number 3)

Furthermore, according to early Christian records there was actual Arabic translations of the New Testament that had been translated during the time of Muhammad:

"The Gospels were translated into Arabic from the original Greek as well as Coptic and Syrian versions. Barhebreus writes of an Arabic translation made by a monophysite named Johannes, by the order of an Arab prince in A.D. 640. Oldest extant fragments of Arabic translations from the Greek date from the early ninth century. The oldest extant translation in the Syriac also dates back to the same time. It is likely, however, that portions of the Gospels were rendered into Arabic at a much earlier date that that mentioned above. George, a bishop of the Arabs of Mesopotamia, wrote a Scholia on the Scripture around the sixth century. But it appears that Christian teaching and preaching in the sixth century (A.D.) Arabia was done mainly by quoting from the Syriac or Ethiopic scripture and then giving a free rendering of it in Arabic..." (Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim [Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis MN, 1980], p. 29)

"A Coptic version of the New Testament was current toward the end of the third century... The Gospels were translated into Arabic from the Greek, Syriac, and Coptic versions. Barhebraeus speaks of such a translation made between A.D. 631-640. George, bishop of Arab tribes of Mesopotamia, a friend of James of Edessa (d. A.D. 578) wrote a Scholia on the Scriptures. According to Al-Baidhawi and other Muslim commentators, their prophet received instruction from learned Christians like Warqa b. Naufal, Jubra and Yasara (Baidhawi on Sura 16:105). Also, traditions relate how the prophet used to stop and listen to these two men as they read aloud the Books of Moses (Torah) and the Gospels (Injil). Apparently there was a translation of portions of the New Testament that was extant in Mecca during the rise of Islam. Such a translation must have existed along with the full versions of the New Testament in Syriac and Syriac Lectionaries." (Ibid. p. 56)

It should also be pointed out that there were Arabic apocryphal Gospels available during Muhammad's time as well:

"In addition to translations of the canonical Gospels, there were numerous Arabic translations of the New Testament apocrypha. Some of the better known of these like Protoevangelion of James, Gospel of the Infancy, Apocalypse of Paul, and the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles were available in Arabic translation before the Koran..."(Ibid. p. 29)

Finally, the fact that the earliest Arabic MSS of the Holy Bible in our possession date after the advent of Islam does not conclusively prove that no such translations existed prior. All this proves is that until now scholars have not discovered any Arabic MSS that stem from the time of Muhammad. Only the Lord knows what future discoveries will bring.


The earliest New Testament canon of Syriac Churches consisted of the 'Gospel', the Epistle of Paul and the book of Acts. That is, instead of the four separate gospels, the Diatesseron was used, and the Catholic Epistles and the book of Revelation were lacking.[4] The Diatesseron was a product of 'harmonization' of discrepancies and to correct the omissions in the gospels by Tatian.

Employing the four canonical Gospels and, perhaps, one or more extracanonical sources, Tatian wove a single, continuous narrative. He omitted doublets, harmonized discrepancies, and "corrected" omissions found in his source gospels.[5]

It appears that Tatian as early as 170 CE was able to recognize the discrepancies in the Gospel narratives and surprisingly present day Christian missionaries find it pretty hard to see even one!


To say that Tatian attempted a harmonization of the Gospels presumes that there were discrepancies is fallacious. All this simply means is that Tatian desired to have one Gospel that combined the four Gospels into one continuous story line. Furthermore, the fact that we find alleged "discrepancies" affirms that these were independent reports as opposed to documents that were forged and made to agree with each other over every minute detail. Thirdly, the fact that they can be harmonized also affirms their amazing unity, despite that they were written independently from each other. (see following link for a harmonization of the Gospels and other alleged Bible "discrepancies")

Finally, before Saifullah tries to criticize the Holy Bible, he should try to focus his efforts on harmonizing the Quran since it also contains parallel accounts that conflict both in wording and detail.

More details on the Syriac NT and Tatian to follow shortly.


Further we are informed that:

The number and identity of the sources employed by Tatian remain unclear. Numerous readings attributed by Church Fathers to "the Gospel of the Hebrews" or "the Jewish Gospel" appear in the Diatessaron. An example is the "light" which shines in the Jordan at Jesus' baptism. Epiph. (haer. 30.13.7) says this stood in the "Hebrew Gospel"; the reading is also in Justin (Dial. 88.3) and at Matt 3:16 in two Old Latin mss{mss manuscripts} (a and g1, 4th and 9th century, respectively). Whether a "fifth source," such as Epiphanius' "Hebrew Gospel," is Tatian's source for this reading, or whether it came from a variant ms of the gospel of Matthew, as represented by the two Old Latin mss, cannot be determined until we have a clearer picture of the Gospels in the mid 2d{2d second} century. Nevertheless, a strong prima facie case can be made that Tatian employed sources other than the canonical Gospels, for there are numerous examples of such extracanonical readings in the Diatessaron (Phillips 1931).

Textually speaking, the Diatessaron is a gold mine of early readings, some of which may, arguably, antedate the reading offered by the canonical Gospels (Petersen 1983; 1985: 165-67).[6]

It appears that there were other gospel traditions along with the present day four-fold gospels which Tatian used in the last part of the second century CE.


Saifullah thinks that by pointing out that Tatian used different traditions in the formation of his gospel this would then discredit the four Gospels. What Saifullah forgot to mention is that at the time of the compilation of the Diatessaron, Tatian was completely orthodox in his belief. This is especially true of his view of Jesus Christ and the Godhead:

"God was in the beginning... For the Lord of the universe, who is Himself the necessary ground of all being, was alone. For no creature was in existence yet." (David W. Bercot ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs [Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MS, 1998], p. 126)

Tatian goes on to assert:

"Nevertheless, inasmuch as the Father was all power, Himself the necessary ground of all things visible and invisible, with Him were all things. The Logos Himself was in Him and subsisted with Him as Logos-Power. And by His simple will, the Logos springs forth. So the Logos, not coming forth in vain becomes the first-begotten work of the Father. We know the Logos to be the beginning of the world. But he came into being by participation, not by abscission. For what is cut off is separated from the original substance. However, that which comes by participation, making its choice of function, does not render him deficient from whom he is taken. From one torch many fires are lighted, but the light of the first torch is not lessened by the kindling of many torches. It is the same with the Logos. His coming forth from the Logos-Power of the Father has not divested Him who begat Him of the Logos-Power." (Ibid.)

According to Tatian, God was alone and yet had within himself the Logos who was brought forth. Therefore, Tatian clearly believed that Jesus as the Logos eternally existed within the being of God and was begotten or brought forth to be the agent of creation while at the same time never separating from the Father. Church historian J.N.D. Kelly comments on Tatian's Christology:

"Tatian was a disciple of Justin's, and like his master spoke of the Logos as existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated. Like Justin, too, he emphasized the Word's essential unity with the Father, using the same image of light kindled from light. ‘The birth of the Logos involves a distribution (merismon), but no severance (apokopen). Whatever is severed is cut off from its original, but that which is distributed undergoes division in the economy without impoverishing the source from which it is derived. For just as a single torch serves to light several fires and the light of the first torch is not lessened because others are kindled from it, so the Word issues out from the Father's power without depriving His begetter of His Word. For example, I talk and you listen to me; but I, who converse with you, am not, by the conveyance of my word to you, made empty of my word.' At the same time Tatian threw into sharper relief than Justin the contrast between the two successive states of the Logos. Before creation God was alone, the Logos being immanent in Him as His potentiality for creating all things; but at the moment of creation He leaped forth from the Father as His ‘primordial work' (ergon prototokon). Once born, being ‘spirit derived from spirit, rationality from rational power,' He served as the Father's instrument in creating and governing the universe, in particular making men in the divine image." (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised edition [Harper San Francisco, 1978], pp. 98-99)


"... Tatian, it is true, speaks of Him as ‘God in the form of a man'..." (Ibid. p. 145)

In fact, even after Tatian became a heretic and joined the Encratites his position on Christology never changed since the cult's view of Jesus was orthodox:

"Others, however, call themselves Encratites. They acknowledge some things concerning God and Christ in the same manner as the church. However, as to their manner of life, they spend their days puffed up with pride. They imagine that they make themselves better by foods. So they abstain from animal foods and drink only water. They forbid their people to marry. For the rest of their lives, they devote themselves to ascetic practices. But persons of this description should be considered Cynics rather than Christians. For they do not pay attention to the words spoken against them through the apostle Paul. For he foretold the novelties that would later be introduced by certain ones, saying, ‘The Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times certain ones will depart from sound doctrine, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils... forbidding to marry, abstaining from meats that God has created to be partaken of with thanksgiving.' Hippolytus (c. 225, W), 5.124" (Bercott, p. 230)


"The Encratites have sprung from Saturninus and Marcion. They preach against marriage. They have thereby set aside the original creation of God. So they indirectly blame Him, for He made the male and female for the propagation of the human race. Some of their leaders have also instituted abstinence from animal food. They thereby show themselves to be ungrateful to God, who made all things. Furthermore, they deny the salvation of the first created man [Adam]. However, it is only recently that this last opinion has been introduced among them. A certain man named Tatian first introduced this blasphemy. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.353." (Ibid. pp. 229-230)

This suggests that the source material Tatian used would have been orthodox in content. Hence, we again find Saifullah tossing out red herrings. The reason is that no matter what period of the Church we look at and no matter what Gospel tradition used at the time by the Church we look to, one still finds the historic Christian position as opposed to Islam.


The reconstruction of the Diatesseron is proving to be difficult because of various factors, the primary one being the lack of good manuscripts. Many rearranged translations, commentaries and quotations of Diatesseron have survived. The problems in reconstructing the Diatessaron's text are twofold. First, all of the witnesses have been "Vulgatized" to some degree; that is, the nonstandard Diatessaronic reading (exactly what the text critic prizes) has often been replaced with the standard ("Vulgate," regardless of the language) reading of the language. Second, since each witness has its own textual history, variants in them cannot automatically be regarded as Diatessaronic.[7]

The Diatesseron, the four-in-one Gospel, introduced by Tatian was read in the Church for quite some time.

The Diatessaron proved itself one of the most popular editions of the Gospels ever produced. It was used by Catholic Christians, such as Ephrem Syrus, by Judaic Christians (Epiph., haer. 46.1.8-9), Manicheans, and missionaries, who took it to the furthest reaches of Christendom. Its greatest impact, however, was in Syria, where as late as the 5th century it was the standard gospel text.[8]


The fact that orthodox believers used it affirms that it was orthodox in content. Furthermore, the fact that the Diatessaron used the four Gospels as its primary source affirms the early and universal acceptance of the canonical Gospels by friend and foe alike.


And as the story goes, Tatian was declared heretic and the copies of his Diatesseron were burnt.[9,10] This event resulted in the introduction of four-fold gospel in the Syriac Church and this was called Peshitta. Peshitta has again a different number of Books in the New Testament.


And as the story goes, Saifullah continues to introduce irrelevant issues in order to avoid the real point, namely that the Quran affirms the preservation and authority of the biblical text.


This represents for the New Testament an accomodation of the canon of the Syrians with that of the Greeks. Third Corinthians was rejected, and, in addition to the fourteen Pauline Epistles including Hebrews, following Philemon), three longer Catholic Epistles (James, 1 Peter, and 1 John) were included. The four shorter Catholic Epistles (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude) and the Apocalypse are absent from the Peshitta Syriac version, and thus the Syriac canon of the New Testament contained but twenty-two writings. For a large part of the Syrian Church this constituted the closing of the canon, for after the Council of Ephesus (AD 431) the East Syrians separated themselves as Nestorians from the Great Church.[11]

Peshitta is still followed by the Christians in the sourthern state of Kerala in India.

Still today the official lectionary followed by the Syrian Orthodox Church, with headquarters at Kottayam (Kerala), and the Chaldean Syriac Church, also known as the Church of the East (Nestorian), with headquarters at Trichur (Kerala), presents lessons from only the twenty-two books of Peshitta, the version to which appeal is made for the settlement of doctrinal questions.[12]

Giving these facts in hand, the New Testament in the time of Prophet(P) can only be either of these, i.e., Diatesseron and the Catholic Epistles or Peshitta. Since the Qur'an talks about a Gospel, it would suggest Diatesseron more than Peshitta. It is worthwhile adding that our information concerning the off-shoots of Syriac Church and the number of books which they followed is very little. Hence, it is not possible to know for sure whether the branches of Syriac Church followed "apocryphal" literature.


We have already shown that the canon had been decided on prior to the advent of Islam. The fact that a fringe group that disassociated itself from the church universal and that held to a smaller canon is irrelevant. As Saifullah noted, the East Syriac Christians identified itself with the heretical teaching known as Nestorianism and the Jacobites were monophysites, another heretical view.

For Saifullah to then appeal to such groups that do not represent orthodoxy in order to establish his case is equivalent to a Christian appealing to heretical Muslims for the proof that Sura 9:128-29 do not belong in the Quran. It is also equivalent to a Christian appealing to Shiites to prove that an extra Sura exists, which Sunnis have rejected.

Furthermore, Saifullah again misses the point. Whether one accepts the 22 books of the Syriac Church or the 27 of the Protestant and Catholic canon, one still would get orthodoxy.

For instance, examining the contents of either canon would leave one with the following teachings:

  1. The Deity of Jesus Christ.
  2. The Incarnation.
  3. The Triunity of God.
  4. The Divine Personality of the Holy Spirit.
  5. The Virgin Birth.
  6. Christ's Vicarious Atonement.
  7. Christ's Physical, Bodily Resurrection.
  8. Christ's Ascension to Heaven.
  9. Christ's Visible Return to Judge the Living and the Dead.
  10. Justification by Faith.
  11. Salvation through Grace.

The list can go on and on. Hence, no matter what canon one holds the teaching is the same.

Finally, the point again is not the canon. The point that Saifullah needs to address is whether our presnt day Bible accurately reflects the originals and whether if the Quran agrees that the Holy Bible has remained uncorrupt. Saifullah fails to address these issues since to do so would leave him in a very awkward position as a Muslim.


Other possibility, albeit weaker, that can be taken into consideration is the presence of Ethiopic Church. But this Church has the largest number of books among all the Churches and highly divergent from Syriac Church or even the modern day Protestant or Catholic Church.


Indeed, as Saifullah indicates, this is a weak argument. See above.


Finally, the conclusion of this issue is pretty clear. Katz's statement

The scriptures are demonstrably the same today as in Muhammad's time.

can be considered less demonstrable, more problematic and laced with ignorance about his own glorious Church tradition. It is also worthwhile pointing out the fact that the Christian missionaries use the Qur'an to demonstrate the 'integrity' of their Bible. This is because if they would quote their own Church and manuscript traditions, the 'integrity' of the Bible would be smashed to itsy-bitsy pieces. How pathetic one can get!


Actually, the Holy Bible is vastly superior to the Quran. Textual criticism, MSS evidence, historical documents, archaeological discoveries, Church tradition as well as the Quran and early Muslim tradition affirm the amazing reliability, accuracy and preservation of the biblical text. Yet, textual criticism, Islamic traditions and MSS evidence have debunked the traditional Islamic view on the preservation of the Quranic text.


It is not at all surprising to see the state of the Bible in the beginning years of Islam when Hudhayfa Ibn al-Yamaan urged Uthmaan: Quick! Help the Muslims before they differ about the text of the Qur'aan as the Christians and Jews differed about their scriptures. Is it any different now? That is anybody's guess!


Let us actually quote Hudhaifa in context and see how this debunks Saifullah's view on the Quranic text.

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue." They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23) (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510)

Hudhaifah therefore said to Othman: "Oh Commander of the Faithful, be careful of the people." He answered, "What is the problem?" Hudhaifah said, "I took part in the expedition against Armenia where there were Iraqis as well as Syrians. But the Syrians follow the reading of the Qur'an according to Ubai ibn Ka`b, and they say some things which the Iraqis have not heard, so the latter accuse them of unbelief. In the same way the Iraqis, who follow the reading of Ibn Mas`ud, read some things which the Syrians have not heard. and the Syrians accuse them of unbelief. Restrain this people before they differ in the book, as do the Jews and the Christians."

Accordingly Othman sent to Hafsa, saying, "Send us the sheets that we may copy them into the volumes. Then we shall return them to you." Hafsa therefore sent them to Othman. Then he commanded Zaid ibn Thabit and Abdullah ibn al Zubair and Said ibn al As and Abdullah ibn Harith ibn Hisham, and they copied them into the volumes. And Othman said to the company of the three Quraishites, "When you differ, you and Zaid ibn Thabit, in any portion of the Qur'an write it in the dialect of the Quraish, for verily it came down in their dialect." And they did so until, when they had copied the sheets into the volumes, Othman restored the sheets to Hafsa. And he sent to every region a volume from what they had copied, and commanded regarding everything of the Qur'an besides it, in every sheet and volume, that it should be burned. (Miskat al-Masabih, trans. James Robson [Ashraf Lahore, 1963], p. 185 Bukhari transmitted from Anas bin Malik)

These traditions clearly affirm that the Syrians had readings not known to the Iraqis and vice-versa. These readings had nothing to do with dialectal variations since variations in dialect would not result in the parties not having heard verses contained in the other codices. We wonder why Saifullah failed to quote the relevant context? Could it be that he was afraid what his readers might have discovered?

The following is taken from my article in response to Ghoniem. We reproduce certain portions from it here that are relevant in rebutting Saifullah's points:

Other traditions that affirm that the Quran has suffered a loss in its contents include:

Narrated Alqama:

I went to Sham with a group of the companions of 'Abdullah (bin Mas'ud). Abu Ad-Darda' heard of our arrival so he came to us and said, "Is there anybody among you who can recite (Qur'an)" We replied in the affirmative. Then he asked, "Who is the best reciter?" They pointed at me. Then he told me to recite, so I recited the verse:--

'By the night as it envelops 'By the day as it appears in brightness; By (Him Who created) male and the female.' (92.1-3) Abu Ad-Darda' then said to me, "Did you hear it (like this) from the mouth of your friend ('Abdullah bin Mas'ud)?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I too, heard it (like this) from the mouth of the Prophet, but these people do not consider this recitation as the correct one." (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 467)

Narrated Ibrahim:

The companions of 'Abdullah (bin Mas'ud) came to Abu Darda', (and before they arrived at his home), he looked for them and found them. Then he asked them,: 'Who among you can recite (Qur'an) as 'Abdullah recites it?" They replied, "All of us." He asked, "Who among you knows it by heart?" They pointed at 'Alqama. Then he asked Alqama. "How did you hear 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud reciting Surat Al-Lail (The Night)?" Alqama recited:

'By the male and the female.' Abu Ad-Darda said, "I testify that I heard me Prophet reciting it likewise, but these people want me to recite it:--

'And by Him Who created male and female.' but by Allah, I will not follow them." (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 468)

Many (of the passages) of the Qur'an that were sent down were known by those who died on the day of Yamama ... but they were not known (by those who) survived them, nor were they written down, nor had Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman (by that time) collected the Qur'an, nor were they found with even one (person) after them. (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p. 23).

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: 'Umar said, Ubai was the best of us in the recitation (of the Qur'an) yet we leave some of what he recites.' Ubai says, 'I have taken it from the mouth of Allah's Apostle and will not leave for anything whatever.' But Allah said: None of Our revelations do we abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or similar (2.106)" (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 527)

This is why Ibn Umar would say:

It is reported from Ismail ibn Ibrahim from Ayyub from Naafi from Ibn Umar who said: "Let none of you say 'I have acquired the whole of the Qur'an'. How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur'an has disappeared? Rather let him say 'I have acquired what has survived.'" (as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.524).

According to the traditions, Abdullah ibn Masud and Ubayy b. Kabb were considered to be two of the four top reciters of the Quran:

Narrated Masriq:

'Abdullah bin 'Amr mentioned 'Abdullah bin Masud and said, "I shall ever love that man, for I heard the Prophet saying, 'Take (learn) the Qur'an from four: 'Abdullah bin Masud, Salim, Mu'adh and Ubai bin Ka'b.'" (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 521)

Ibn Masud had boasted that there was not a single verse in the Quran in which he did not know when or why it was revealed:

Narrated 'Abdullah (bin Mas'ud): By Allah other than Whom none has the right to be worshipped! There is no Sura revealed in Allah's Book but I know at what place it was revealed; and there is no Verse revealed in Allah's Book but I know about whom it was revealed." (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 524)

Yet, despite this fact Masud still felt he was not the best Quranic reciter

Narrated Shaqiq bin Salama:

Once 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud delivered a sermon before us and said, "By Allah, I learnt over seventy Suras direct from Allah's Apostle. By Allah, the companions of the Prophet came to know that I am one of those who know Allah's Book best of all of them, yet I am not the best of them." Shaqiq added: I sat in his religious gathering and I did not hear anybody opposing him (in his speech). (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 522)

The honor of being the best Quranic reciter went to Ubayy:

Affan ibn Muslim informed us ... on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, he on the authority of the Prophet, may Allah bless him; he said: The best reader (of the Qur'an) among my people is Ubayyi ibn Ka'b. (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 2, p. 441).

Astonishingly, these men differed over the actual number of Suras that formed the canon of the Quran:

Imam Fakhruddin said that the reports in some of the ancient books that Ibn Mas'ud denied that Suratul-Fatiha and the Mu'awwithatayni are part of the Qur'an are embarrassing in their implications... But the Qadi Abu Bakr said "It is not soundly reported from him that they are not part of the Qur'an and there is no record of such a statement from him. He omitted them from his manuscript as he did not approve of their being written. This does not mean he denied they were part of the Qur'an. In his view the Sunnah was that nothing should be inscribed in the text (mushaf) unless so commanded by the Prophet (saw) ... and he had not heard that it had been so commanded". (as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.186).

"... Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani however, in his commentary on the Sahih of al-Bukhari (his famous Fath al-Baari), accepted these reports as sound, quoting authorities who stated that Ibn Mas'ud would not include the two "charm" surahs in his manuscript as Muhammad had, to his knowledge, only commanded that they be used as incantations against evil forces. He regarded the isnad (the chain of transmitters) for this record as totally sound and attempted to harmonise the conflicting records instead, suggesting that Ibn Mas'ud accepted the Fatiha and "charm" surahs as genuinely revealed but was reluctant to inscribe them in his written text." (John Gilchrist, Jam' Al-Qur'an: The Codification of the Qur'an Text, p. 68)

Hence, Masud excluded three Suras from his codex, implying that Masud's Quran only included 111 Suras. Bukhari records:

Narrated Zirr bin Hubaish:

I asked Ubai bin Ka'b, "O Abu AlMundhir! Your brother, Ibn Mas'ud said so-and-so (i.e., the two Mu'awwidh-at do not belong to the Quran)." Ubai said, "I asked Allah's Apostle about them, and he said, 'They have been revealed to me, and I have recited them (as a part of the Quran)," So Ubai added, "So we say as Allah's Apostle has said." (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 501)

Ubayy's comments are noteworthy in light of the fact that he was considered to be the best reciter of the Quran and yet disagreed with Masud over the canon of the Quran. In fact, not only did Ubayy include the two charm Suras, but included two additional Suras as well:

"Written in the text of Ubayy ibn Ka'b were the Fatihal-kitab (the Opening Surah) and the Mu'awwi-thatayni (the Charm Surahs) and Allahumma innaa nasta'iinka (the opening words of Suratul-Khal' meaning 'O Allah, we seek your help') and Allahumma ayyaaka na'budu (the opening words of Suratul-Hafd meaning 'O Allah, we worship you')". (as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.153).

Here are the Suras in their entirety:

Surat al-Hafd:

You (alone) we worship, and to You (alone) we pray and lie prostrate, and to You (alone) we proceed and have descendants. We fear Your torture and hope for Your mercy. Truly Your torture will overtake the infidels.

Surat al-Khal':

O Allah, You (alone) we ask for help and forgiveness. We speak appreciatingly of Your goodness. Never do we disbelieve You. We repudiate and disbelieve anyone who follows immorality.

Al-Suyuti records that these two surahs were also included in both the codices of Ibn Abbass and Abu Musa. (Al-Itqan, p.154)

So we now ask Saifullah the following question. Which canon of the Quran do you believe to be the word of God?

Ibn Masud - 111 Suras
Ubay b. Kabb - 116 Suras
Caliph Uthman - 114 Suras

If Saifullah believes it is the 114 Suras of Uthman can he please produce one single verse from the Quran indicating that only 114 Suras are those that form the canon of the Quran? If he cannot, then what right does he have to even question the integrity of the canon of the Holy Bible?

(The preceding points have been adapted from my article found here.)

In conclusion, we end with Saifullah's own words:

It is not at all surprising to see the state of the Quran in the beginning years of Islam when Hudhayfa Ibn al-Yamaan urged Uthmaan: Quick! Help the Muslims before they differ about the text of the Qur'aan as the Christians and Jews differed about their scriptures. Is it any different now? That is anybody's guess!

In the service of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ forever.

Sam Shamoun

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