A refutation of Shabir's response to Sam Shamoun's charges
Shabir Ally had posted a reply to my first article on Shabir's (ab)use of Metzger's writings in which I documented Metzger's position regarding the authenticity and preservation of the NT text. (Shabir Ally's reply was on this page but the complete site has disappeared in the meantime. However, since it might appear again at any time, our response is now available.) My aim in highlighting Metzger's views on the NT text was to demonstrate Ally's misuse of scholarly sources. Shabir uses these scholars to arrive at conclusions and to make inferences that are far removed from the position held by the scholars in question.
For instance, Ally used Metzger in his debate with Jay Smith to highlight the fact that the New Testament manuscripts (short: NT MSS) show variant readings. Ally used much of his debate time quoting Metzger's section on deliberate scribal corruptions as well as scribal changes made in the interest of correcting alleged geographical, historical and/or theological mistakes.
The problem with Shabir's methodology is that it ignores the fact that Metzger's book is aimed at providing the methodology employed by textual critics in identifying variant readings and the possible reasons why these variant readings arose. Metzger's book also provides the textual method used to assess which variant reading actually preserves the original reading of the text. As such, Metzger's book does not seek to answer whether today's NT text is a faithful replica of the original MSS and for Shabir to use it as a basis to attack the authenticity of the NT is misplaced.
Shabir also fails to apply his method of determining textual reliability to the Quran since to do so would clearly demonstrate that today's Quranic text is not a faithful replica of the original text. Shabir also fails to take things in their proper perspective since to do so would actually affirm that the NT text tradition is vastly superior to any book dating from that same time period. In fact, when the NT text tradition is compared with the textual tradition of the Quran it becomes quite clear that the Quran pales in comparison.
In this rebuttal I will seek to demonstrate that Shabir's response fails to refute any of my original charges and claims made against Shabir's credibility in accurately using and citing primary sources. I will also seek to demonstrate that the NT text is vastly superior to any other book stemming from the same time period as well as being vastly superior to the Quran in terms of preservation and number of variant readings. One final thing I will seek to demonstrate is that the results of textual criticism has actually led the consensus of textual scholars to the very opposite conclusion arrived at by Shabir. The consensus of textual scholarship clearly affirm that today's NT is a faithful replica of the originals and that the NT has come down to us substantially in the same manner in which it was written.
With that just said we now proceed to our rebuttal.
Sam Shamoun, a Christian evangelist and a member of the answering-islam rebuttal team, has published an article entitled: "A Critical Analysis of Shabir Ally's Misuse of Bruce M. Metzger's Writings." In that article he accuses me of misusing the writings of Bruce M. Metzger in my debate with Joseph Smith in Leicester (1998) and in some of my other debates. He did not say which other debates he had in mind.
As I will shortly demonstrate my accusations still stick. In fact, Shabir had to twist my own statements out of their intended context in order to avoid facing up to the charges made against his shoddy scholarship.
His charge is as follows:
Shamoun also writes:
Are these charges true? These charges have been repeated so many times by the people at the answering-islam website that I myself thought there may be something to it. So I decided to go back to Metzger's book, which they claim I misused, to see what the scholar had actually said. I found that despite all the hype the charges are baseless.
The fact that Shabir claims that he had to double check Metzger's book speaks volumes. Had Shabir done his homework and cited carefully there would have been no need for Shabir to have questioned whether in fact the accusations leveled against him were sound. This affirms that Shabir did not carefully read or accurately understand Metzger and therefore arrived at faulty conclusions because of it. As I will demonstrate, despite his claims to the contrary, Shabir did in fact misuse Metzger.
Notice that the charges themselves are mutually contradictory and hence cannot stand. Shamoun wrote above:
Now I ask: How could I give the misleading impression that Metzger was claiming that the NT had been deliberately tampered with if I had just finished citing examples Metzger gave on deliberate corruption made by the scribes to the NT text? How can the impression I gave be misleading if I was using the very examples Metzger gave? What was Shamoun thinking when he wrote this?
Notice here that Shabir needs to split my statements apart in order to arrive at the charge that I made a mutually contradictory statement. Let us read my statements in context to see the actual point I was in fact making, this time with added emphasis:
After quoting Metzger's view that the NT has been accurately transmitted and preserved I then state:
In one debate with Jay Smith, Shabir also misused Metzger's book The Text of the New Testament Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Oxford University Press, second edition 1968). After citing examples METZGER GAVE ON DELIBERATE CORRUPTION MADE BY SCRIBES TO THE NT TEXT, Shabir again gave the misleading impression that Metzger was claiming that the NT had been deliberately tampered with. BY GIVING THIS IMPRESSION, SHABIR LED THE AUDIENCE INTO THINKING THAT METZGER FELT THAT THE SCRIBES WERE NOT CAREFUL NOR INTERESTED IN ACCURATELY TRANSMITTING THE NT TEXT.
Here is how Metzger concluded the particular section Shabir alluded to throughout his debate with Jay Smith:
"Even in incidental details one observes the faithfulness of scribes. For example, the scribe of codex Vaticanus copied quite mechanically the section numbers which run in one series throughout the corpus of the Pauline Epistles, even though this series had been drawn up when the Epistle to the Hebrews stood between Galatians and Ephesians and is therefore not suitable for the present sequence of the Epistles in Vaticanus. These examples of dogged fidelity on the part of the scribes could be multiplied, and serve to counterbalance, to some extent, the impression which this chapter may otherwise make upon the beginner in New Testament textual criticism." (Metzger, p. 206)
It is clear from the context that I never denied that Metzger in his book claims that the NT MSS tradition exhibits cases of scribal corruption. I was highlighting Shabir's misuse of Metzger's references to variant readings to support Ally's claim that the NT in our possession cannot be considered a faithful and accurate replica of the originals and that the scribes were not interested in preserving the NT text.
In point of fact Shabir spent a large portion of his debate time emphasizing Metzger's section on deliberate scribal corruptions. This served to give the false impression that Metzger seemingly believed that most of the variants were due to deliberate textual tampering on the part of the scribes. Shabir only briefly made mention of Metzger's comments on the fidelity of the scribes in trying to faithfully preserve and accurately transmit the NT text. This is simply a dishonest method of handling primary source material.
That my original statement was not denying that Metzger acknowledges that there were instances of deliberate scribal changes can be seen from what is actually stated within the intended context as well as from what follows later. After citing the early Church Father's awareness of scribal corruptions to the NT MSS and their ability in distinguishing between accurate copies from the inaccurate ones I stated:
It is obvious from the above that I never claimed that Metzger denied deliberate scribal changes. After all, I then continued to personally affirm this very point!
In light of all this, my accusation against Shabir still stands. Metzger does not believe that these variant readings cast doubt on today's NT text as being an accurate replica of the original autographs or being faithfully preserving the original readings of the inspired text. This is the very thing Shabir tried to deny in his debate with Jay Smith. Shabir had to wrench my own statements out of their intended context in order to avoid this charge.
Shamoun claims that Metzger's conclusion to the section I quoted from gave a different impression from what I gave. But in my debate at Leicester I quoted the very conclusion. I even called it a note of caution. What did I hide? I made it plain that Metzger is not saying that the Bible is wholly corrupt. Despite the numerous examples we had seen of deliberate changes in the text, there were "instances of difficult readings which have been transmitted with scrupulous fidelity." Scribes often resisted the temptation to change the text. And that is the gist of the conclusion to that section of Metzger's book. Since I added that note of caution, Shamoun is left without a basis for his following claim:
Notice that even Metzger's conclusion is not that the examples of dogged fidelity to the text completely counterbalances the tendency of some scribes to make alterations. In the words from Metzger's book, which Shamoun himself quoted, Metzger's caution is meant to counterbalance "to some extent" the impression left by his chapter on the deliberate alterations made in the text (p. 206). "To some extent" does not mean "completely".
Shabir is simply being evasive here. Shabir fails to mention that the great portion of his debate time was spent on deliberate scribal corruptions. Shabir only briefly and in passing referred to Metzger's comments on examples showing the faithfulness of scribes in accurately transmitting the NT text. This was obviously done to stack the deck in his favor by implying that even conservative Christian scholars agree with Ally's claim that today's NT text is not a faithful replica of the originals.
Shabir also gives evidence for misapplying Metzger. Metzger's statement "to some extent" was referring to Metzger's attempt of balancing out his own section on deliberate corruptions. Even though Metzger states this, Shabir still uses this citation in a manner contrary to Metzger. Notice Shabir's remark, this time with added emphasis:
Shabir gives proof here for my charge that Shabir misapplies and misuses scholarly references. Metzger was trying to avoid leaving the mistaken impression upon the reader that Metzger was implying that the scribes had no intention of faithfully preserving the NT. Here is Metzger again, also with added emphasis:
"Even in incidental details one observes the faithfulness of scribes. For example, the scribe of codex Vaticanus copied quite mechanically the section numbers which run in one series throughout the corpus of the Pauline Epistles, even though this series had been drawn up when the Epistle to the Hebrews stood between Galatians and Ephesians and is therefore not suitable for the present sequence of the Epistles in Vaticanus. These examples of dogged fidelity on the part of the scribes COULD BE MULTIPLIED, AND SERVE TO COUNTERBALANCE, TO SOME EXTENT, THE IMPRESSION WHICH THIS CHAPTER MAY OTHERWISE MAKE UPON THE BEGINNER IN NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM." (Metzger, p. 206)
We therefore see that Metzger's use "to some extent" refers to the impression made by this chapter. Yet even after acknowledging that Metzger's statement referred to the chapter of his book, Shabir still proceeds to word his paragraph in such a way as to leave the mistaken impression that Metzger's examples do not completely counterbalance the deliberate changes made by certain scribes to the NT text.
Therefore, if Shabir is claiming that Metzger does not give sufficient examples to offset the impression made by this chapter then Shabir didn't read carefully. Metzger clearly states that he could have given multiple examples but chose to present only a few.
Yet if Shabir is trying to use Metzger to cast doubt on the authenticity of the NT text then this is simply dishonest.
This in itself sufficiently demonstrates that Shabir is reading into scholarly sources his own preconceived notions of the NT and ends up drawing wrong inferences from them. Hence, Shabir's claim that the examples of the faithfulness of the scribes in copying the NT counterbalances the examples of corruptions only "to some extent" is misplaced since Metzger actually ends up with a different conclusion from that of Ally.
Maybe it is helpful to say something about the structure of Metzger's book here. The title of the chapter that Shabir Ally draws upon is "Causes of Error in the Transmission of the Text", and it is chapter 7 in the book. Since not everyone has easy access to the book, the subsections of the chapter are as follows:
1. UNINTENTIONAL CHANGES 1.1 errors arising from faulty eyesight 1.2 errors arising from faulty hearing 1.3 errors of the mind 2. INTENTIONAL CHANGES 2.1 changes involving spelling and grammar 2.2 harmonistic corruptions 2.3 addition of natural complements and similar adjuncts 2.4 clearing up of historical and geographical difficulties 2.5 conflation of readings 2.6 alterations made because of doctrinal considerations 2.7 addition of miscellaneous details
The topic of this chapter was a listing and thorough discussion of both unintentional and deliberate changes that have occured in some manuscripts, and the possible reasons for them. The topic of this chapter was not a discussion and evaluation of the faithfulness of today's NT text as such. Shabir Ally seems to be of the impression, that this section is the main or even only part of the book. Certainly it is the only chapter of interest to him. However, the title of the book is: The Text of the New Testament Its Transmission, Corruption, AND RESTORATION. The very title of the book should indicate to Shabir Ally that Bruce Metzger believes that the text of the NT -- though having been corrupted in some manuscripts in some places -- has been restored.. Listening to Shabir, one would get the impression that the title of the book actually was The Corruption of the Text of the New Testament, period. But chapter 7 was neither the first nor the last chapter of the book.
The next chapter (8) is entitled "The Practice of New Testament Textual Criticism" in which Metzger lays out the science of textual criticismbasically, the "RESTORATION" aspect of the title. Elsewhere (chapter 6, "Modern Methods of Textual Criticism", p.185) Metzger, at the end of discussing the few places where scholars have to conjecture as to what an original reading was writes:
Neither Shabir's favorite chapter 7, nor the rest of the book were ever written towards an audience of non-Christian skeptics to give a final evaluation as to the faithfulness of today's text, taking into account all the evidence. Metzger's views as to the overall accuracy of the NT text have been quoted elsewhere. The book is really aimed at those who want a seriously heavyweight introduction to how and why textual criticism is done. It is a textbook that should train students how to do textual criticism. However, if one reads the book as a whole, it makes the point that today's text has indeed been restored, and shows how this has been done.
It is academically outrageous for Shabir to descend, vulture like, upon one chapter of Meztger's book and twist it in the way he has. The book is a scholarly introduction to the science of textual criticism, not a mine for polemics; for him to quote (a) out of context and (b) to lift the middle section from Metzger's thesis and ignore what goes before or after shows a total lack of academic integrity.
When Metzger stated at the end of chapter 7, "These examples of dogged fidelity on the part of the scribes could be multiplied, and serve to counterbalance, to some extent, the impression which this chapter may otherwise make upon THE BEGINNER in New Testament textual criticism," he had in mind a student whothough maybe still inexperiencedwas seeking to be objective and to properly learn the science of NT textual criticism. For such people the given examplestogether with the expectation that they would carefully study the rest of the bookwere quite enough. Metzger never imagined that Muslim polemicists without any knowledge of textual criticism but with an obvious agenda like Shabir Ally has it would come to his book and abuse his statements in such a way.
On the other hand, I did not catch Shamoun making reference to one of the examples from Metzger that I had used. Otherwise Shamoun would have referred to Metzger's examples to show that the scribes made changes to correct real or imagined errors relating to grammar, history, geography, and more importantly doctrine. I find it an interesting point relating to psychology to notice that whereas Shamoun quoted more than half of page 206 which mentions the caution, he completely ignored the preceding eleven pages from 195 to 205. Those were the pages from which I practically read out Metzger's own words to show the kinds of intentional changes the scribes have been making to the text of the New Testament over the centuries. Shamoun has to deal with these examples, but instead he concentrates on attacking me.
From Metzger's examples that I cited, the gist of my argument in that debate were three points:
Scribes made significant changes to correct real or imagined errors in grammar, history,
geography and doctrine..
Some of the corrections have been detected and the earlier text restored. Hence the restored Bible text now read by Christians contain the very errors which the scribes attempted to fix. Since some of these were real errors of grammar, history, geography, or doctrine, we are left with a Bible containing errors.
The full extent of all such changes which were made to reflect the doctrines of the scribes cannot be now detected. Therefore the earlier text cannot be fully restored. Hence we are left with a Bible that was changed to reflect the doctrines of man, and as such we cannot claim that the book is 100% from God.
In the debate I quoted Metzger's words from p. 201 where he says: "The number of deliberate alterations made in the interests of doctrine is difficult to assess."
It would be obvious why I would not mention the specific pages Shabir refers to. My aim was to show that Shabir did not quote the particular section in context and therefore set out to "counterbalance" Shabir's misapplication of Metzger. Metzger is highlighting the different types of scribal changes and the reasons behind these changes. Seeing that my aim wasn't a discussion of NT variants nor the nature and extent of these variants, Shabir introduces red herrings in order to avoid his mishandling of Metzger.
But since Shabir wants a quotation from Metzger's book, here it is. In chapter six of the same book, titled "Modern Methods of Textual Criticism", Metzger writes:
This basically affirms our position, serving to expose Shabir's manhandling of the data. As we shall see below, in contrast to the MSS evidence of the NT the Quran pails in comparison.
Shabir also commits the fallacy of ad misercordiam by claiming that I am attacking him. Shabir seemingly feels the need to appeal to pity in order to shift the focus from his misuse of Metzger to other unrelated issues. Amazingly when Shabir set forth to "attack" Dr. Robert Morey in writing and in his debate Shabir saw nothing wrong with this. Shabir felt that it was his duty to expose Morey's alleged shoddy scholarship and out of context citations. Yet when this is done to Shabir he feels that this is an attack upon him. We only need to remind Shabir that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
Furthermore, Shabir's claim that due to these scribal changes the NT text cannot be fully restored and therefore cannot be considered 100% the word of God is astonishing to say the least. The problem with Shabir's approach to textual criticism is that he fails to put things in their proper perspective. The false impression made by Shabir is that the NT MSS are seemingly unique in the amount and the nature of variant readings it contains. By so doing, Shabir misleads both his audience and his readers into thinking that due to the nature and number of NT variant readings the NT text is in serious doubt.
What Shabir fails to mention is that every ancient book has come down to us with hundreds, if not thousands, of variant readings. There is not a single book from antiquity that does not contain variant readings amongst the extant MSS. The Quran itself has suffered by way of transmission since the extant Quranic MSS contain thousands of variants as well.
When examining the NT text in light of this perspective one discovers that the NT is unsurpassed in terms of the number of extant MSS as well as the geographical attestation and distribution of NT MSS. In fact, when the NT variants are compared with the variant readings of the books dating from the same period one discovers that the NT has a fewer number of variants in comparison.
Finally, the consensus of both conservative and liberal textual scholarship does not agree with Shabir regarding the purity of the NT text. They disagree with Shabir primarily because the evidence does not support Shabir's assertions.
One such scholar that disagrees with Shabir is Cornelius Hagerty. In relation to the textual variants that exist amongst the thousands of MSS, Hagerty explains:
Christian Apologist Norman Geisler states:
"Most other ancient books are not so well authenticated. New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism is copied with only about 90 percent accuracy and Homer's Illiad with about 95 percent. By comparison, HE ESTIMATED THE NEW TESTAMENT IS ABOUT 99.5 PERCENT…" (Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, pp. 532-533; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Geisler continues to elaborate on Metzger's comments regarding the existing variants between the different writings of antiquity and the New Testament:
2. The national epic of India, the Mahabharata, has suffered even more corruption. It is about eight times the size of the Illiad and the Odyssey together, roughly 250,000 lines. Of these, some 26,000 lines have textual corruption (10 percent).41 The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in purer form than any other great book."
(Geisler & William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible-Revised and Expanded [Moody Press: Chicago Ill, 1986], pp. 474-475; bold emphasis ours)
B. F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort, the editors of The New Testament in Original Greek, also commented:
Sir Frederick Kenyon states:
F. F. Bruce comments:
Stephen Neil and Tom Wright concur:
The fact is that the Holy Bible is also vastly superior to the Quran in terms of the number of MSS and in the amount of variant readings:
Muslim translator Muhammad Hamidullah states in the introduction to his French translation of the Quran:
Noted Eurpoean archaeologist Arthur Jeffery wrote a book, Material for the History of the Text of the Qur'an, documenting the variant readings between the competing codices in circulation prior to the Quran's standardization under Uthman. Jeffery claims that,
Jeffery then states,
The well-known scholar W. Montgomery Watt, commenting on the variant readings between the codices of Abdullah Ibn Masud and Ubay Ibn Kab, writes:
British Scholar Sir Norman Anderson states:
Islamicist Alfred Guillaume notes that:
L. Bevan Jones sums it up:
Interestingly, Islamic tradition itself affirms that not only does the Quran contain variant readings but that there are parts of the Quran that are actually missing:
According to this source, portions of the Quran that had been memorized by those slain in the battle vanished, never to be found again.
'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)" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 527)
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
Umar said, Our best Qur'an reciter is Ubai and our best judge is 'Ali; and in spite of this, we leave some of the statements of Ubai because Ubai says, 'I do not leave anything that I have heard from Allah's Apostle while Allah: "Whatever verse (Revelations) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We bring a better one or similar to it." (2.106) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 8)
These missing verses cannot be referring to abrogated parts of the Quran that were no longer essential since even abrogated verses are included within the text today.
Other scholars that affirm corruption to the Quran due to mistakes made by scribes, whether intentional or not, include Ibn Khaldun:
One may compare what happened to the orthography of the Qur'an on account of this situation. The men around Muhammad wrote the Qur'an in their own script which was not of a firmly established, good quality. MOST OF THE LETTERS WERE IN CONTRADICTION TO THE ORTHOGRAPHY REQUIRED BY PERSONS VERSED IN THE CRAFT OF WRITING… Consequently, (the Qur'anic orthography of the men around Muhammad was followed and became established, and the scholars acquainted with it have called attention to passages where (this is noticeable).
No attention should be paid in this connection with those incompetent (scholars) that (the men around Muhammad) knew well the art of writing and that the alleged discrepancies between their writing and the principles of orthography are not discrepancies, as has been alleged, but have a reason. For instance, they explain the addition of the alif in la 'adhbahannahU 'I shall indeed slaughter him' as indication that the slaughtering did not take place ( lA 'adhbahannahU ). The addition of the ya in bi-ayydin 'with hands (power),' they explain as an indication that the divine power is perfect. There are similar things based on nothing but purely arbitrary assumptions. The only reason that caused them to (assume such things) is their belief that (their explanations) would free the men around Muhammad from the suspicion of deficiency, in the sense that they were not able to write well. They think that good writing is perfection. Thus, they do not admit the fact that the men around Muhammad were deficient in writing." (The Muqaddima, Ibn Khaldun, vol. 2, p. 382, as quoted in A Perfect Qur'an; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Muhammad Hamidullah gives some examples of variant readings:
Ibn Khallikan states:
This is why Ibn Umar would go on to say:
Therefore, when we put things in their perspective Shabir's arguments crumble from beneath his feet. The textual tradition of the Holy Bible is not only vastly superior to the books written during the biblical period, but is also superior to the Quran. The fact is that even the Quran wouldn't pass Shabir's very own criteria in determining textual reliability. This is perhaps why Shabir spends less time defending the purity of the Quranic text and dealing with the extant Quranic variant readings, and spends more time instead attacking the NT text. He seemingly thinks that Islam wins by default.
As far as Metzger's claim that the number of deliberate alterations made in the interests of doctrine being something difficult to assess, Metzger is actually quite right. No one can know for certain how many of the variant readings arose primarily because of doctrinal issues. These variants could have arisen unintentionally or due to scribes changing passages to ones that contained similar wording or expressed similar ideas. One example will help demonstrate my point.
A scribe looking at John 1:18 and seeing monogenes theos, the "one and only" or unique God, could easily confuse this with the more common rendering found throughout the Johannine corpus, monogenes huios, "one and only" or unique Son. Being familiar with the more common expression the scribe could have accidentally replaced theos with huios. Or the scribe could have thought that the rendering monogenes theos was a scribal mistake and therefore sought to correct it to the more common Johannine usage. Yet either rendering is completely orthodox in nature and demonstrates that the scribes were not necessarily being capricious in transmitting the NT text in such a manner as to preserve doctrine.
Yet the only way that anyone can know for certain that a variant reading arose from doctrinal considerations is to have been there to see the changes taking place and/or to ask the scribe personally. Since this is not possible, no textual critic can infallibly or dogmatically know or claim for certain how many of the variant readings were made in light of doctrinal biases.
In light of this, we really do not see how Metzger's statement lends support to Shabir's case especially when the same point can be made about the Quran.
Instead of satisfying himself with Metzger's note of caution which I had also mentioned in the debate, Shamoun should concern himself with Metzger's final comments which I also mentioned in the debate. These appear on page 246, the last page of the edition I used (1964). I mention Metzger's conclusion here in full:
Those are Metzger's concluding words to the entire study of how the text of the New Testament was corrupted over the history of its transmission and how efforts are still ongoing to restore it. Shamoun should have read what came before and after the page 206 from which he quoted words which are favourable to his enterprise.
We have already addressed the nature of the variant readings and its effect upon the accuracy of the NT text above. One thing I would like to point out here is Shabir's double standard. He states,
It is sad that Shabir doesn't follow his own advice. Shabir spent most of his time highlighting deliberate corruptions, corruptions made in light of geographical and doctrinal considerations and only in passing mentioned Metzger's point regarding the fidelity of the scribes. Had Shabir spent most of his time explaining Metzger's comments in light of the fact that all ancient books, especially the Quran itself, have suffered textual corruption and that many of these corruptions were deliberate whereas many were not a completely different picture would have emerged.
Had Shabir also cared to mention that in light of all the other books of antiquity, including the Quran itself, the NT is unsurpassed in terms of the number of extant MSS and in geographical distribution along with the fact that the consensus of NT critics unanimously hold to the authenticity and accuracy of the NT text the audience would have gotten a completely different picture from the one given by Shabir in his debate. They would have seen for themselves that Shabir's case against the Holy Bible is without any solid foundation and that the Quran also fails Ally's own test of authenticity.
To disprove the three points I have stated above as the gist of my arguments in the relevant portion of the debate, Shamoun has to refer to Metzger's words as written in the very book I referred to. This he has not done. On the other hand, I have demonstrated that his charges are unsubstantiated, self-conflicting, and also reflexive. While he was busy falsely accusing me of misrepresenting Metzger, he himself gave the wrong impression of what Metzger wrote. As it turns out, my three points are well supported by Metzger's words above.
The main issue in Shamoun's paper was his charge that I misused Metzger's writings in my debates with Smith in Leicester and some other debates on which he offered no details. To substantiate his claim he turned to Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ wherein Strobel reports on his interview with Metzger. There Metzger turns out to be a committed Christian whose faith has been strengthened by his study of the New Testament manuscripts. Metzger there believes that the more significant variations in the text are few; and that these variations do no overthrow any doctrine of the church. But all this is besides the point.
It is precisely the point. Shabir is simply being evasive here. Shabir used Metzger in such a way as to leave the mistaken notion within the audience's minds that even Metzger doubted the purity and preservation of the biblical text. Evidently, Shabir's whole purpose in using Metzger was to leave the impression that even this NT textual scholar doubted the reliability of the NT text tradition. This is simply dishonest.
My appeal to Strobel was to counterbalance the false and misleading impression left by Shabir in his debate. The citations from Strobel's book clearly demonstrated that Metzger's research led him to the exact opposite conclusion arrived at by Shabir in his debate.
In my debate I was not trying to describe the personal beliefs of Bruce Metzger; I was dealing with the implication of his findings as reported in his writings. Shamoun's article is "A Critical Analysis of Shabir Ally's Misuse of Bruce M. Metzger's Writings." As far as my citations are concerned, they are well based on Metzger's own writings.
The problem with Shabir's claim is that Metzger's findings do not lead to Shabir's desired conclusion. In fact, Metzger's findings led the scholar to the exact opposite conclusion, namely that today's NT text is a faithful replica of the original autographs. Therefore, it is Shabir's a priori assumptions that lead him to interpret the data in a manner inconsistent with the conclusions arrived at by both Metzger and the consensus of NT textual critics. So we see that it is Shabir's personal beliefs that prevent him from honestly assessing the evidence supporting the accurate transmission and preservation of the NT text.
I expect that if I were to ask Metzger a different set of questions from those which Strobel thought to ask I would get a different set of answers corresponding closely to what I have already found in Metzger's own book. And perhaps if Strobel was more familiar with Metzger's book he too would have asked my set of questions. But a quick review of Strobel's relevant chapter shows that whereas his interview with Metzger is often interrupted by quotations from the writings of other conservative Christians, not one quote in his entire book is referenced to Metzger's writings. If Shamoun wants to contradict me on what Metzger wrote Strobel's book will not quite do it.
Shabir again is simply being evasive. It doesn't matter what questions Shabir would ask. What matters is asking the right set of questions. Strobel asked the right set of questions regarding the preservation of the NT text and got the answers. The problem is that the answers given by Metzger refute Shabir's attempt of trying to debunk the authority and authenticity of the NT text. This serves to discredit Shabir's ability to accurately and honestly cite and use scholarly sources. And contrary to what Shabir wants to believe, Strobel's book does in fact refute and contradict Ally's claims.
The missionaries are in a bind when it comes to Metzger. On the one hand they have been dumping every scholar who says anything that runs contrary to their faith that the Bible is 100% the inerrant word of God. On the other hand they cannot dump Metzger because he is such a singularly recognised scholar in the field of New Testament textual studies. Shamoun rightly calls him "a world renowned authority on the manuscripts and transmission of the Greek New Testament (NT) text." Missionaries depend on Metzger's edited version of the Greek Bible. So they have to keep him. This probably explains in part the extreme discomfort they experience when I establish my points using Metzger's work. Their immediate response is often denial: Metzger couldn't have said that. This explains Shamoun's self-contradiction which we noted above. Although Metzger was giving examples to show that the New Testament text was deliberately tampered with, Shamoun could say that Metzger was not claiming that the New Testament text was deliberately tampered with.
Ally attacks a straw man and introduces irrelevant arguments, as well as committing the fallacy of ad populum. It is irrelevant to discuss what (some, many?) "missionaries" have done or continue to do. What is relevant is that Metzger supports the authority and preservation of the NT text. Who better than Metzger to comment on whether today's NT text accurately preserves and reflects the autographs? Seeing that this world-renowned authority agrees with the "missionaries" this becomes all the more reason why Shabir's arguments are without any merit and are not to be taken seriously.
It must be a grave discomfort to Shabir that my use of Metzger clearly demonstrates that Ally misused, misapplied and misrepresented this NT textual scholar, exposing Ally's shoddy scholarship.
And sorry to burst Ally's bubble but he has failed to show that I contradicted myself. In fact, he only demonstrated once again that he does not read his material carefully and often makes hasty generalizations.
This also explains why Shamoun does not maintain focus on Metzger's writings. He turns to Strobel's book and then to the writings of others to establish that the New Testament documents were faithfully transmitted. My computer print of Shamoun's article occupies five pages of which all material dealing directly with Metzger's own writings would fit on one page. And his quote from Metzger, as I have shown, was wrenched from its surrounding material to give a different impression from what Metzger has shown in his book.
It should have been clear why I did not turn to Metzger's own book to derive Metzger's view of the NT text. Metzger's book is dealing with the science of textual criticism. As such the book is not written with the purpose of telling readers what Metzger's position regarding the NT text is, whether it has been accurately transmitted or not. For that I had to turn to Strobel's book.
The fact that Shabir has proven incapable of interacting with Metzger's comments from Strobel's book, choosing instead to evade the issue speaks volumes. It demonstrates clearly Ally's inability to refute the overwhelming evidence that clearly refutes his faulty position and arguments against the Holy Bible.
Finally, Shamoun claims that it is my "consistent habit to either misquote sources or give a false or misleading impression" of what the sources say. I have already shown that the impression upon which I built my case was none other than the one formed by the very words of Bruce M. Metzger. As for his claim that I "misquote" my sources, notice that he did not furnish a single example. How can I answer to such an unspecified charge?
I have clearly demonstrated that whereas Shabir has tried to refute the charges against him, he has failed from actually doing so. In fact I even gave another example where Shabir misuses Metzger to arrive at a faulty conclusion in the very same article Ally wrote to defend himself against my accusation that he actually misquotes and misapplies his sources!
Although he did not furnish an example of where I misquoted something, he continues:
Well, what was the first example if this is "another"? Moreover, I am about to prepare a reply to my detractor on the subject of the Paracletos. There I will show again, insha Allah, that my detractor's charge is not only baseless but also rebounds on the claimant.
Actually I have shown and also showed here that Shabir does misquote, misuse and misapplies primary sources, specifically Metzger. So Shabir commits the fallacy of hasty generalization since he is quick to assume that no example of such misquotation and misapplication have been given, whereas plenty have been cited already. And if Shabir's response regarding the Paracletos is anything like his response to me, then Shabir will only demonstrate his ability to misquote, misapply and misuse scholars over and over again.
Shamoun is not done yet. He has to distract us with yet another issue. Let me quote his words exactly:
Sadly, Shabir is guilty of the very thing he accuses others of.
Shamoun is vague here. Is he saying that I did not support my claims? On the other hand I presented one example after another to compare the words Dr. Morey cited against the actual text he was quoting from. There is no reason now to remain vague or non-committal about this.
Yes I am saying that Shabir did not support his claims as this article clearly reaffirms. Seeing that I have clearly shown Shabir another example of misapplied statement there is no reason for Shabir to deny this any further.
More importantly, notice the claim that Shamoun is making here in the concluding words of his paper. He is claiming that I misquoted and mis-cited; that I used selective quotations and out of context citations to deceive my readers. But where is his proof? I searched his article in vain for any words cited from me to show anything I quoted. Since he did not show what I quoted, it follows that he did not show what he claimed I quoted wrongly. I can only ask him to advance the evidence for his claim.
The fact that Shabir couldn't find any examples of misquotations and misapplied citations affirms the point I made earlier. Shabir does not read carefully which leads him to faulty conclusions as well as to a habit of misapplying and misusing his sources. Hopefully Shabir will now be able to see where he in fact misused Metzger and will acknowledge his mistakes.
Lastly, Shamoun wants to remind me of a Bible verse of which I reminded Dr. Morey:
In this response I have shown that Shamoun needs to pay attention to this Bible citation himself. Whereas he attempted to show that I had misrepresented Metzger's writings he ended up doing the same thing of which he falsely accuses me. Moreover he tried to distract attention from Metzger's writings by introducing the writings of Lee Strobel and others that had nothing to do with his topic: "A Critical Analysis of Shabir Ally's Misuse of Bruce M. Metzger's Writings." On the other hand, I demonstrated with actual quotes from Metzger's book that his writings fully support my relevant claims in my debate with Joseph Smith in Leicester, 1998.
Seeing that Shabir has actually failed in rebutting my initial accusations, the passage from Matthew 7:1-5 hits home. Here it is again:
Forever we will be in the service of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Come Lord Jesus. We love you.
Responses to Shabir Ally and his "Islamic Information"
Further articles by Sam Shamoun
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