NOTE ON SOURCES: Many websites have recently sprung up to equip Christians to respond intelligently and graciously to Muslim challenges to our faith. This article relied primarily on answering-islam.org and bibleprobe.com. Qur'an verses are from the English translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (www.wright-house.com/religions/islam/Quran.html).
It is a common for Muslims today to argue that the Bible has been corrupted over the ages. While Muslims generally agree that the original Scriptures were the true, inspired word of God, they say that Jews and Christians have since altered our Bible to the point that it is unreliable, false and even heretical.
The issue brings up the supreme irony between Christianity and Islam: Based on Islamic doctrine, its founder, its greatest scholars and the Qur'an itself, if the Bible falls, then the Qur'an falls with it! But if the Bible stands, the Qur'an still falls. Muslims who claim the Bible is corrupt have entered a debate they cannot win.
There will be three parts to this answer: 1) a brief review of the Qur'an's (and therefore Mohammed's) affirmation of the Bible's reliability; 2) the agreement of Muslims with Mohammed that the Bible is not and cannot be corrupted; 3) a few points about the Bible's reliability. All this must ultimately lead an intellectually honest Muslim to answer the only question that matters in this debate, and in this life: Who is Jesus Christ? (Matthew 16:15-16; John 20:31).
I. THE QUR'AN UPHOLDS THE BIBLE AS GOD'S UNCORRUPTED, AUTHORITATIVE REVELATION TO MAN
The Qur'an (and therefore Mohammed), mentions the Bible ("the Book") over 200 times, declaring it to be a true revelation of God and commanding faith in the Bible.
Surah 5:48 explains that the Qur'an confirms the Old Testament's authenticity: "To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety..." This point is repeated in Surah 46:12 where Allah says, "And before this, was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy: And this Book [the Qur'an] confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue..."
The Gospel is also specifically upheld by the Qur'an. Sura 5:46 says: " And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah."
The Qur'an is clear that the word of God cannot be altered (or abrogated) by man, including these passages: "... there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah." (Surah 6:34) "The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfilment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all." (Surah 6:115) "...no change can there be in the words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme felicity." (Surah 10:64)
In Surah 29:46 Muslims are told by Allah not to question the authority of the scriptures of the Christians, saying, "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, but say, 'We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you;...'" So Muslims who argue that the Bible is corrupt are defying Allah!
Here is a summary of the logical argument for Islam's acceptance of today's Bible:
A. The Qur'an (and therefore Mohammed) proclaim the Bible as God's authoritative, binding, incorruptible revelation to man;
B. True Muslims are obliged to believe in all God's revelations (Sura 2:136; 4:136; 29:4);
C. The Qur'an claims that no one can ever change the Word of God (Sura 6:34; 10:34);
D. The Bible and the Qur'an disagree completely on key doctrines; these doctrines are mutually exclusive, so both cannot be correct;
Therefore: Either the Qur'an is in error about itself, and the earlier revelation (the Bible) is true, or both the Bible and the Qur'an are false. There is not a third alternative.
II. ISLAMIC SCHOLARS UPHOLD THE BIBLE AS GOD'S UNCORRUPTED WORD
While Muslims claim to accept Jesus as God's prophet, they reject what He claimed about Himself as recorded in the Bible. For example, they deny He was God's only Son, that He was crucified and raised from the dead, that we are saved through faith in his atoning sacrifice for our sins—pretty much the entire list of core Christian doctrine (John 3:16; Romans 3:22-25; 1 Corinthians 15:14-20). According to many modern Muslims, these and other contradictions of Islamic doctrine were not in the original Scriptures, but were added over the years.
Considering contradictions between the Bible and the Qur'an, Ibn-Khazem made the first recorded charge in 1064 that the Bible had been corrupted. "Since the Qur'an must be true it must be the conflicting Gospel texts that are false. But Muhammad tells us to respect the Gospel. Therefore, the present text must have been falsified by the Christians after the time of Muhammad." His argument was not based on any evidence or historical facts, only on his goal of preserving the integrity of the Qur'an. This led him to teach that "The Christians lost the revealed Gospel except for a few traces which God has left intact as argument against them."
Yet many revered Muslims leaders, before and after Ibn-Khazem, opposed that position, and accepted the unaltered integrity of our present Bible, including:
1. Ali al-Tabari (838-870?), Persian scholar and physician who produced one the world's first encyclopedias of medicine
2. Bukhari (810-870), who gathered some of the earliest tradition of Islam, quoting the Quran itself to support his belief in the text of the Bible (Sura 3:72, 78)
3. Al-Mas'udi (893-956), historian and traveler; known as the "Herodotus of the Arabs," he was the first Arab to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work to produce a world history.
4. Abu Ali Husain Bin Sina (980-1037), also known as Avicenna, a brilliant Persian scholar whose hundreds of written works included what became a standard medical text at European universities well into the 1600s.
5. Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111), considered to be among the greatest Muslim scholars, for whom was named the Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development, "a Learning Centre for Sacred Islamic Knowledge .... committed to the dissemination of the true Traditional Islamic Principles and Knowledge from the Prophetic Traditions, and as understood by the rightly-guided scholars of Islam."
6. Fakhruddin Razi (1149-1209), author of the The Great Commentary, an eight-volume exegesis of the Qur'an. He wrote: "The Jews and early Christians were suspected of altering the text of the Taurat and Injil (Torah and Gospel); but in the opinion of eminent doctors and theologians it was not practicable thus to corrupt the text, because those Scriptures were generally known and widely circulated, having been handed down from generation to generation."
7. Ibn-Khaldun (1332-1406), who, according to one Muslim website, is "the most important figure in the field of History and Sociology in Muslim History." British historian Arnold Toynbee praised some of his writing as "the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place."
8. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), a distinguished scholar, social reformer and political leader of India who founded the Aligarh College, who said of the Bible: "In the opinion of us Mohammedans it is not proved that corruption (tahrif-i-lafzi)...was practiced."
9. Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), Egyptian scholar and mufti (Islamic legal counselor) for Egypt who led the late 19th-century movement in several Muslim countries to revitalize Islamic teaching and institutions for the modern world. He said, "As far as the text of the Bible is concerned, it has not been altered ... No attempt was made to present a diverging text as the authentic one."
III. CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE BIBLE AS GOD'S UNCORRUPTED WORD
The Bible was written not by fallible man, but by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16) through men and women using their own language and idioms, all without error or contradiction (though there are paradoxes, often revealing much deeper spiritual truth). Jesus cited Scripture passages, proving their error-free authority (Mark 12:24), and spoke of the eternal reliability of God's Word (Matthew 24:35; John 10:34-35). The long, failed history of ancient man attempting to physically destroy all Bibles, and modern man trying to intellectually destroy it, serves only to reveal man's impotence against God's miraculous power to uphold and preserve his eternal Word (Psalm 119:89).
Islamic scholars disputing the Bible's reliability have yet to produce a single verifiable instance of the Scripture tampering they claim. The thousands of extant ancient Scripture passages do not add to confusion and mistranslations, like the child's game of "Gossip," but rather serve as a Rosetta Stone for research and confirmation through the science of textual criticism, as well as other scholarly disciplines for cross-checking claims of fact. If the original texts were corrupted, it should be easy enough to come up with many examples of deliberately altered text. Yet not one has been presented by any scholar, Muslim or otherwise.
Reliability of the Scriptures is a problem for Muslims, not Christians. They, like all people, must ultimately have a reliable answer for the one question that matters above all others in this life: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:29)
A final point: The Bible was written by some 40 people — male and female, rich and poor, old and young, king and shepherd, priest and layman — over a period of about 1,500 years, covering the world's most controversial topics, yet without a single disagreement! Can anyone imagine 40 professors — all living today, all experts in the same field, all working at the same college — writing about even one controversial issue without any disagreement? There never was, nor ever will be, any book on earth like the Bible.