(This is part of a dialogue between a Non-Muslim from Portugal, John (J), an expatriate working with a multinational company in Malaysia, with Dr. Danial bin Zainal Abidin (DD), a Malaysian).
JOHN: Dr Danial (DD), thanks for your answers before this… Now I would like to ask you concerning the Bible, the sacred book of the Christians. What is your opinion about the Bible? Why don’t Muslims treat the sacred Bible just like the Quran?
DD: This is a good question, John. Actually, it is obligatory for Muslims to believe in all the Books of Allah. This standpoint is mentioned in the Quran, in chapter The Cow verse 136, “Say ye: We believe in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another and we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
Thus it is obligatory for the Muslims to believe in the Original Book that was given to Jesus. This was called the Injil. If the contents of the Bible today is the same as the original Injil, then, Muslims are obliged to believe that all the words found in the Bible are Words of God. But I am sorry John, the Bible of today had been tampered with and it is not the same as the original Injil. Many things found in the Bible today are very controversial…….
JOHN: No. that is not true. Why did you say that?
DD: Again I am sorry, John. But I am saying this after referring to books of authority written by the scholars of Christianity. For example, in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (George Arthur Buttrick, Vol. 4, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1962), it was mentioned that the original copies of the New Testament have long disappeared. The reason for this disappearance was that, they were written on papyrus, a very fragile and perishable material.
Since the Bible had no original manuscripts, it had to be reconstructed. This was done by using imperfect, often widely divergent later copies, which were not original copies. This statement was made by David Noel Freedman in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (CD-ROM under Textual Criticism, NT).
Indeed, one Christian scholar, Bruce M. Metzger, admitted that certain errors in the Bible had been done intentionally, for example, to alter certain verses in the Bible because of doctrinal considerations. When you are free, John, please read The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration written by Bruce M. Metzger. It was published by Oxford University Press in 1992. By the way John, do you believe that all the contents of the Bible are revealed by God?
JOHN: Err, yes of course (nodding his head).
DD: Well John, your christian scholars may not agree with you. For example, Dr. M. J. Sawyer, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Theology at Western Seminary, San Jose Campus, in his article, Inspiration and Inerrancy, said, “We legitimately refer to the Bible as a special revelation, although we recognize that not all the contents of the Bible are directly revealed by God. In so saying we recognize that portions of the Scriptures are historical in nature, and that the human authors at times involved themselves in historical research before they undertook to write their books.” So John, when we talk about the Bible we have to talk about the human authors who authored the Bible. And John, have you read the U.S. News and World Report, dated July 1st 1991?
DD: On page 57, the U.S. News and World Report quoted a team of Christian scholars who said that over 80 percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels may be apocryphal. Do you know the meaning of ‘apocryphal’?
JOHN: Not authentic?
DD: Right. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, apocrypha means, “not likely to be genuine; untrue or invented.” Thus this team of Christian scholars said that 80 percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels may not likely be genuine or authentic. That includes Jesus’ Eucharistic speech at the Last Supper, and every word he is said to have uttered from the cross. And the Gospel is part of the Bible. This is one of the controversies of the Bible.
Another controversy is concerning the writers or scribes of the Bible. I hope you don’t mind if I ask you who is St Paul, John?
JOHN: Yeah, he was the most prolific writer of the Bible.
DD: Right, John. And who is this St. Paul actually? Again, John, as usual, I am not giving my own opinion. Instead I am quoting from the US News, dated 5th April 1999. Under the headline Reassessing An Apostle, Jeffery L. Sheler wrote, “(St.Paul) never walked with Jesus of Nazareth, yet he traversed the Roman Empire proclaiming him the divine Christ. He never heard Jesus teach, yet he became Christianity’s most influential expositor of doctrine. He spoke little about Jesus’ life, yet he attached cosmic significance to his death and Resurrection. The Apostle Paul, some scholars now believe, was more instrumental in the founding of Christianity than anyone else — even Jesus himself.”
St. Paul is more important than Jesus in determining the foundation of Christianity? Forgive me John, but I find this very scary. Have you read the book titled The Messianic Legacy by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln?
DD: In The Messianic Legacy (Dell Pub. Co, 1989), the authors, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, ask, how many Christians today are aware of the enormous differences between Jesus and St. Paul. They see St. Paul as the first heretic who turned Jesus into an object of religious veneration, which Jesus and other Nazarenes in Jerusalem would have regarded as blasphemous. And yet, as you mentioned, St Paul was the most prolific writer of the Bible!
JOHN: Dr Danial, you really study about the Bible…..
DD: Yes, and I study to understand and I used books written by your scholars to understand. My opinions are based on their writing and conclusions…. So allow me to conclude our discussion by quoting the christian scholars from the Bible Shelf Online. In The Bible Shelf under ‘History of the Bible FAQ’, it was stated, “The doctrine that the Bible is free of any error (at least in the original languages), is always an issue of dispute among Christians. I believe that it is not necessary to hold blindly to the fundamentalist doctrine of inerrancy, twisting and turning the possible interpretation of a verse to try and make it agree with another. Plenty of minor errors exist in the Bible, from the age of Saul when he became king of Israel (missing from the original Hebrew in 1 Samuel 13:1) to the order of Jesus’ deeds (jumbled in the four gospels). Many so-called ‘contradictions’ asserted by those who are unfamiliar with the Bible are simply taken out of context, but errors are there. There is no reason to toil day and night in attempts to reconcile every contradiction in the 66 books of the Bible. It was written, edited and copied (and eventually translated) by fallible men and women.”
So now you understand John, why Muslims believe completely in the Injil revealed to Jesus by God but the same belief is not accorded to the Bible which was written and edited by fallible human beings…. And I am sorry if my explanation hurt you, John.
JOHN: No, no, Dr Danial. You are not attacking but explaining. I thank you for that. I really have to study your answers………
Dr. Danial bin Zainal Abidin (M.B.Ch.B. University of Alexandria) is the Managing Director of Danial Zainal Consultancy based in Penang Island, Malaysia. He is also a Medical Practitioner. Until now, he has written altogether ten books on Islam)