Thoughts On Abrogation? Think About It!

Buston and Saifullah believe that

" There are some very strange claims on abrogation of a few verses in the Qur'an made at Answering Islam."

Instead of answering the arguments presented against the concept of abrogation, Saifullah launches a counter attack on the Bible - which, to me, implies that he has no answers to defend the Qur'an. Even IF the Bible contains examples of abrogation, and I will show that it DOES NOT, that would NOT excuse the Qur'an from its' abrogation problems!

Saifullah tells us:

When one studies the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, it becomes clear that omnipotent and omniscient God did make mistakes and repented. This means that the God did not know his own actions and the outcomes of the actions. Now for some fine examples. Let us first start with Old Testament. In the story of Noah(P), it is mention that:

And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground anymore for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. [Genesis 8:21]

God DID NOT repent! He simply said that He would not flood the earth again.

And in the story of Moses(P), we read

And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. [Exodus 32:14]

Let us look at these verses in context,

Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: `I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'"
Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. (The NIV)

ANSWER: God DID NOT change His mind or repent. By relenting (not destroying the Israelites for their sin of idolotry) He fulfilled His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Israel.

Oh no! that is Old Testament, cries the Christian. The New Testament has replaced all that. Yes, in the New Testament, the monotheistic and henotheistic God of Israel, Yahweh, suddenly starts to be interpreted as Trinity. So, the concept of monotheistic and henotheistic God itself got abrogated in the New Testament as the Christians allege! So we have to assume that the monotheistic and henotheistic God of Israel did not know that he was Trinity and made a serious mistake or he simply changed his mind or in the worst case scenario, he cheated the People of Israel.

WRONG AGAIN! I accept the Old AND New Testaments as God's revelation to the human race. The Old Testament also contains evidence for the Triune nature of God.

The problem just does not end here. Let us also see what are the problems of the Christian cry; The New Testament has replaced all that. The following essay is intended to show evidence of the concept of abrogation in the Bible both between the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Greek Scriptures (New Testament) as well as internally in the Greek Scriptures themselves.

The New Testament is the fulfilment of the Old Testament, and is not the Old Testament's replacement! Where do you come up with such absurd ideas? I doubt that you got any of your "information" by talking to Christians!

To begin - what is meant by the term "abrogation"? The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the word Abrogate as:

ab-ro-gate: repeal, annul, abolish (a law or custom).

In the context of the will and law of God (Holy is He above all that is attributed to Him) as expressed in Scripture, it refers to the nullification of an older Law or concept in favour of a newer and more appropriate one.

Alright, I'll buy that as a working definition.

We might ask whether an omniscient God, if He is the one who sent Torah and Injeel, might employ such a concept as abrogation? Surely an all-knowing God would be able to impart His will in entirety without recourse to change? Doesn't the idea of abrogating, or nullifying, a previous law in light of a better one suggest that the Author is not all-knowing?

Yes, it most certainly does.

What these questions don't take into account, is that whilst God is all-knowing, unchanging (e.g., Malachi 3:6, with lots of problems with the concept of Trinity), His audience, humanity, is not. The very concept that Christianity holds so dear, of the difference between the old covenantal relationship of law, as opposed to the new covenantal relationship of grace relies on the understanding that human beings as individuals and in human societies are in fact subjected to change in condition.

So, God changes and modifies His standards to satisfy human weaknesses? Is this the basis for the concept of Qur'an abrogation? If this is your defense of Qur'an abrogation, then I suggest that the Qur'an is of human origin since it changes to accommodate human weaknesses.

According to Matthew, Jesus(P) said:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

I agree.

And surprising, Jesus(P), the omniscient Yahweh incarnate (allegedly!) suddenly had to change the Laws of Divorce, Justice and Oaths apart from changing his own mind!

HE DID ?!?!?

Abrogation Of Divorce

The best examples of Jesus(P) abrogating parts of Old Testament law concern a number of statements recorded in the gospel according to Matthew. The most prominent of them would be the Law concerning Divorce. In the Old Testament we find the following law concerning divorce:

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, (Deuteronomy 24:1-2) Now without going into the minute of this particular law of divorce, one thing becomes immediately clear. Not only is divorce permitted by God, it is legal for her to remarry.

However in the time of Jesus(P), the rules of divorce seem to have taken a U-turn.

"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

Here Jesus(P) abrogated the former permission to divorce according to the husband's displeasure and strictly allowed it under one condition - adultery. He even went so far as to legislate that divorcees were not permitted to remarry, clearly abrogating the former permission. But what is the reason given for this abrogation? Had God changed His mind? Is this evidence of God not being omniscient? Or more importantly, is this evidence that in fact God was never the author of these laws? Well Jesus(P) himself explains:

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:7-9)

Jesus(P) points to the fact that God designs laws that are suitable to the needs and exigencies of the time and audience.

ANSWER: I read both passages as condemning divorce and allowing it only in cases of adultery. Jesus was criticizing the liberal divorce laws of his day where the Jewish leaders (especially Hillel) allowed divorce for the most silliest of reasons including burning her husband's dinner! Look at this passage a bit more carefully. In verse 4, Jesus says, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, or, in other words, "He that made them made them from the beginning a male and a female." Verse 5 tells us, For this cause (to follow out this divine appointment) shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Jesus here sends them back to God's original Divine plan, that a male and a female would become one after their marriage. This was the purpose of God, expressed by the sacred historian, that in all time one man and one woman should by marriage become one flesh and continue as long as both are in the flesh. This being God's will, let not man break it up by causeless divorces. What about the Law of Moses? Verse 7 says They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? Jesus responds in Verse 8. He told them, Moses (as a civil law giver) because of the hardness of your hearts (low moral state, and inability to endure the strictness of the original law of God - that a man and woman should stay together in marriage) suffered you to put away your wives, or tolerated a relaxation of the strictness of the marriage bond--not as approving of it, but to prevent still greater evils. But from the beginning it was not so. This is repeated by Jesus, in order to impress upon His audience the temporary and purely civil character of this Mosaic relaxation as opposed to God's eternal law based on His eternal plan.

Law Of Absolute Justice

In the Hebrew Scriptures it is written:

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21)

Quite a harsh law of absolute justice that was necessary due to the conditions of Moses'(P) age. But Jesus(P) was inspired by God to reveal a softer code for the believers to practice in individual relationships. By abrogating the harshness of absolute justice, Jesus(P) was inspired to encourage the believers to employ forgiveness and mercy. It is recorded he said:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

It is a different story that many Christians do not practice what Jesus(P) has told them to do.

ANSWER: Jesus did not change the law in any way. What he was doing in this passage was preaching a sermon on love and forgiveness. Deuteronomy 19:21 is one of the most misunderstood verses in the entire Bible and many believe that it is a barbaric rule of revenge, and I suspect that many who heard the words of Jesus had a similar misunderstanding of this passage.

Before the law, if a person was killed or injured, his family and/or tribe would attack and kill the offender's entire family or, in many cases, tribe out of a sense of revenge. The eye for an eye rule established the basis of civil law in three ways: (1) only the offender could be punished (not his family, tribe, or village), (2) the punishment could not be more severe than the crime (in other words a man could not be killed if he merely injured someone), and (3) the Hebrew clerics served as judges to adjudicate this system of justice.

People have perverted this law of justice into a law of revenge. Jesus was telling the crowd to forgive those who harmed them. After all, according to the law, if one man in that crowd had harmed another man, the victim could not exact justice then and there, he had to go through the "system"! He could, however, forgive the offender right then and there.

Law Of Oaths

We read:

If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth. (Deuteronomy 23:21-23)

That is, it is permissible to make an oath for various reasons, however, the swearer must fulfil the oath he makes. In Jesus' time it became necessary for him to abrogate this permission so that the swearing of oaths became forbidden. In Matthew it is recorded:

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your `Yes' be `Yes,' and your `No,' `No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)

ANSWER : The passage from Matthew is speaking about the taking of oaths in respect to other humans and not to God. So, on the face of it, there is no contradiction or abrogation. More importantly though, Jesus is saying that no human should swear at all due to the serious nature of swearing (see Matt. 23:16-22). He is not talking about legal oaths, but less serious swearing done in vain, evasively, or where the truth is not taken seriously. What is being condemned in this verse is not oath-taking per se, but flippant, casual oaths. Who makes a serious, solemn oath on heaven, the earth, a city, or their own head? This passage is condemning people who treat oaths with contempt by making them thoughtlessly.

Jesus(P) Abrogating His Own Commandments

Perhaps the clearest example of God inspiring Jesus(P) to practice abrogation can be seen in the commissioning of his disciples. It is written in the New Testament that initially Jesus(P) forbade his disciples from preaching to non-Jews. He restricted their activities and commanded them to avoid Gentiles. However, due to the change in circumstances and the completion of his earthly mission, Jesus(P) abrogated this earlier law and made it not only permissible but obligatory for his disciples to reach out to a broader base.

A nice example of Jesus(P) asking his disciples to preach the lost sheep of Israel is:

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6)

ANSWER : Many Muslims contend that Jesus' ministry was only for the Children of Israel and not for all mankind citing: "These twelve (disciples) Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) and "He (Jesus) answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matthew 15:24)

First, Jesus was born of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and was the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham many centuries earlier because of his obedience and submission to God's will, God's promise to Abraham was two-fold: God promised to bless his lineage, namely Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and the Children (descendants) of Israel; and, God promised that from this lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would rise up a blessing for all nations, meaning all mankind. (Acts 3:25-26 and Galatians 3:8,14). In this promise to Abraham, both the descendants of Israel, and the Gentiles (all non-Israelites) were to be blessed. This was confirmed many centuries later when Jesus was born. When the baby Jesus was taken to the temple for dedication, a devout elderly Jewish man who had been praying there was moved upon by the Spirit of God. He took the child in his arms and proclaimed these words in prayer to God: For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel. Luke 2:30-32

Jesus' ministry to be likewise two fold: first, because he was born of the Children of Israel, his first mission was to reveal himself and God to the Israelites. They were God's chosen people - the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Qur'an also agrees with this! "And commemorate Our servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, possessors of power and vision. Incidentally, the Qur'an tells us : Verily, We did choose them for a special (purpose) -- proclaiming the message of the hereafter. (Sura 38:45-46) and " Children of Israel, call to mind the (special) favour which I bestowed upon you, and that I preferred you to all others (for My message)" (Sura 2:47)

The Children of Israel (Jews) had grown hardened and indifferent to the things of God. As a result, it was necessary for Jesus to minister personally among them with signs and wonders in order to confirm to them that he was the long-awaited Messiah, the Blessed One, the Anointed One whom God had sent to redeem His chosen people. For this reason during his personal ministry, Jesus instructed his disciples to go only to the Children of Israel. They were to hear the message first. This was to be their privilege because they were the people of God's covenant, the promise of blessing: "And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, "Through your offspring (descendants), all people on earth will be blessed." When God raised his servant (Jesus the Messiah), He sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." (Acts 3:25-26)

The second part of Jesus' mission was even more significant. That mission was to give his life as a ransom for the sins of all mankind (1 Timothy 2:4-6). This was the blessing that was for all nations, not only the Jews. Jesus, by suffering and dying on the cross, paid the penalty for the sins of all of mankind, and that whoever accepts this blessing of salvation is assured eternal life with God! "This is what is written: The Christ (Al-Masih) will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46-47)

The Bible is clear that this salvation in Jesus the Messiah is available for all people, both Jews and Gentiles of all nations. Remember, during Jesus' earthly and personal ministry he instructed his disciples to go only to the Israelites. But after the second part of his mission was completed (his atoning death on the cross), notice what he then instructed his disciples: "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) and "go and make disciples of all nations (all people)." (Matthew 28:19) Jesus himself confirmed the universal nature of his mission when he declared these words: "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

This prohibition is reinforced by Jesus'(P) own practice:

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matthew 15:22-24)

Even though because of his mercy Jesus(P) healed the sick daughter, he made it clear that his mission was to the Jews, not to the Gentiles. Later on this was abrogated and Jesus(P) commanded his disciples to reach out to all peoples. It is recorded he said:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

See above.


It is clear that the concept of abrogation: the nullifying of an older commandment or practice in favour of a newer law, is nothing new and it has been practiced by God for aeons.

When we examine the verses that you gave us, this is clearly not true in the case of the Bible!

What we know is that the laws governing the mankind (i.e., Shariah) changes according to the needs of the society. But the concept of monotheism (i.e., Tawheed) remains the same. The Creator knows very well that his creation, the humans, need time and discipline to grow and mature, He reveals commandments and practices that help them develop both as individuals and as members of society. All Praise be to the God, Lord of the Worlds.

Man may change his own laws because man is weak and imperfect and cannot foresee future events and circumstances. God, because He is perfect and eternal, does not change, alter, or abrogate His laws. God, and everything that God does, is perfect and that which is perfect cannot be improved. To accept your idea of abrogation, I must conclude that God's will is not eternal - after all, He changes His mind! Also, why would God change in the face of our "needs" or desires? If God is willing to change in order to accommodate the whims and weaknesses of man, then it appears that man created God to serve man's will - and not the other way around. God, God's Word, and God' Spirit are eternal and, as you said, God knows best.

Andrew Vargo

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