DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A VERY LONG POST.
I don’t really know if people who read this blog actually click on the links that I have uploaded. In case you don’t, you might want to know that the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand is over in Mark 6:44. If all I wanted to talk about was Jesus feeding a ton of people, it would be over. But it is far from over. If you go back to The Leftovers – Part 2, you can recall Jesus making the disciples get into a boat.
When you open a Bible in the Book of Mark 6:30-44, that section is called Jesus feeds the Five Thousand. But the account of what happens to them in that boat continues in the next section called Jesus walks on water (Mark 6:45-56). I am expanding here because if you are not familiar with Bible reading, you might think that these two sections are completely separated, and that one has nothing to do with the other.
These division of Chapters, Verses and Sections DO NOT exist in the oldest Hebrew Bible and New Testament Greek manuscripts. Actually, the examination of these texts reveals only upper-case letters, no spaces between words while writing, and no punctuation. Sometimes an occasional blank line was inserted to mark the end of a major section, but this was not always done. This constitutes the scripto continua fashion that is typical of non-Biblical manuscripts as well.
Why ancient Greek is written like this, I have no idea, but we have to consider that papyrus was greatly used back then. It was not very expensive so it was a top choice. However, papyrus was also very scarce outside Egypt due to climate destruction, so it makes sense that these manuscripts were written scripto continua to save on papyrus. You would like to squeeze as much text as you could. Manuscripts were copied, by hand, tens of thousands of times, long after the original manuscript had been destroyed. Imagine trying to do that when the words are written in all upper-case letters, with no spaces between words, and no punctuation. If that’s not enough, you’re writing on poor-quality paper with a scratchy reed pen, and using ink you made yourself.
As you can already realize, New Testament scribes DID NOT copy Bible verses, since there was no Bible to start with. What scribes copied were HUMONGOUS amounts of information. They copied strings of letters, one after another, one after another. After a few centuries of that, it’s easy to imagine that the text of the New Testament would no longer bear any relationship to the original. But the fact that copies were being made constantly, by intent scribes under the supervision of careful proofreaders, meant that the text remained fairly fixed. Welcome to the Science of Textual Criticism.
I applaud the division of the Bible into sections, chapters and verses, as it is very helpful for Bible Study and memorization of Scripture. It is definitely easier to ask someone to read John 3:16, than to ask him to open his Bible and find For God so agape-loved the world that…
This New Testament division was developed around A.D. 1227 by Archbishop Stephen Langton, followed later by Jewish Rabbi Nathan in A.D. 1448 for the Hebrew Bible. Beginning with the Geneva Bible in 1555, the chapter and verse divisions have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions. It is helpful, but it can be devastating, because sometimes you can focus on one single Bible verse without taking into account the whole context of the teaching.
The placement of the chapters and verses were done in a complete ARBITRARY manner. The divisions DO NOT follow any logical or consistent method, DO NOT represent literary units, and DO NOT define the author’s unit of thought. In a word, focusing ONLY in Bible verses rather than whole units within a context can mess up our understanding of the text. A single Bible verse can be manipulated into agreeing with what people want to believe.
Context is everything.
One cannot single out one verse and discard the other.
Either take it all, or discard it all.
Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors. And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
“Oh, no! You are taking it out of context”, say the Muslims. Of course. Because context is everything, you see.
Dr. Maher Hathout explains that these verses were applicable to a particular situation. After the migration to Medina and the establishment of the Islamic state, Muslims were concerned with how to defend themselves against aggression from their enemies. The verses mentioned were revealed by Allah to enable them to protect the newly formed state by fighting in self-defense against those who fought them. And that’s it. That verse ONLY applied to that historical context, but unfortunately it is misused by the media when talking about jihad.
Why am I going to great lengths to study these divisions and contexts? Because it relates to the concept of Bible Corruption that Muslims love to bring about. I will focus on five Bible verses for now, but then I will expand from there. Let us take, for example, John 14, verses 13 and 14.
And I [Jesus] will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
– John 14:13-14
These verses, according to Muslim interpretation, are a good example of the corruption the real gospel of Jesus – the Injil – underwent. When was it corrupted? They don’t know. Who corrupted it? They don’t know. The Christians did it – in general. The logic behind the subject of corruption is that these verses contradict the Quran. Why are they in contradiction with the Quran? It you read carefully, it is clear that Jesus is telling His disciples that they can pray TO Him, and that He himself will answer those prayers.
In the original language of the manuscripts, Jesus is saying something like this:
– Jesus (John 14:13-14)
Jewish Jesus is elevating himself to God-like status. His disciples can actually pray TO Him and He will answer those prayers. But Muslim Jesus would never do such a thing. Muslims will never dare to pray TO anybody other than Allah. They definitely do not pray to Prophet Muhammad. Praying TO Jesus, TO Mary, TO an ancestor or TO an idol is considered shirk, the unforgivable sin in Islam. You are associating partners with Allah. Once we grasp this, it makes sense now why Muslims consider Christians to be polytheists. The Theology of The Trinity presents a challenge to the Theology of Tawhid (where God is ONLY One). The Theology of the Trinity basically explains how God is God, how Jesus is God, and how the Holy Spirit is God. But Muslims interpret that as 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 gods.
I personally worship One and Only One God. One day I will get to the Trinity – God willing. You might be surprised to know, though, that there are Muslims who are all about Jesus is God. That affirmation does not freak them out as much as saying God is Jesus. Believe me, it is not the same. But as far as verses 13 and 14, they cannot be accepted by a Muslim as authentic. Let’s explore the verses that follow after that.
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
– John 14:15-17
I had already mentioned before that this Advocate, according to Muslims, is Prophet Mohammad. The world definitely saw and knew Prophet Muhammad. Muslims say he lives with them through Quran, Sunnah and hadith. I wonder if they will say Prophet Muhammad lives in them. Actually, the preposition for in, is ἐν, and it can be translated as on, in or among. So I guess I have to be fair to Prophet Muhammad as He could be that Messenger. But then, I also have to be fair to Jesus, as He can also live IN through the Holy Spirit. Mostly, as of right now, I have to be fair to my God-given intelligence.
The Bible was not intended to be read in bits and pieces. You cannot pick and choose the verses you like. At least not if you want to be consistent. These five verses (John 14:13-17) are contained within the Upper Room Speech (John 14-John 17) – a series of instructions and comforting words Jesus spoke to His disciples before He gets arrested.
I have heard Zakir Naik agreeing with Jesus being the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). All within the same context of the Upper Room. And Zakir loves context. But then, he twists that context into saying that Moses was also the way, the truth, and the life in Moses’ time. Muslims not only agree, but also believe that Prophet Muhammad is the way, the truth and the life for this generation. Muslims believe that following Prophet Muhammad will grant them paradise.
What happened then to the scale of good deeds versus bad deeds? Why is it unfair of me to think that Jesus can give me salvation? Is it not unfair of them to think that Prophet Muhammad can give them salvation as well?
It is beyond question that the Christian Western societies thrive on sex. The Jews and Christians in the West have caused so much mischief and misled so many innocent and pure Believers into grave sins. Their life styles and core beliefs are far more dangerous than all of the porn sites combined out there. The bikinis that their women wear in the summer on the beaches, the virginity that they lose at early teenage years, the open sex between “boy friends and girl friends” without marriage, the inappropriate cloths that both their men and women wear, the ridiculous daily songs and the foul words that they contain, the liquor and getting drunk that they thrive on, all combined build nothing but an evil satan-worshiping society.
It is sad this is what the average Muslim on the web might think of me. But you see, I cannot pick and choose what Quran or Bible verses I like, or what hadiths I like, and discard the rest. If I become a Muslim, I take all that Quran says, and all that Prophet Muhammad said, or else, I’d better not become a Muslim.
In John 15:12–13, Jesus said, “My command is this: [Agape] Love each other as I have [agape] loved you. Greater [agape] love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. And how did Jesus love? He gave His life. But once again, this is corrupted. When it comes again to the Advocate in John 15:26, it is not corrupted. Prophet Muhammad actually has all the verses in John 16:7-15 talking about Him as the Advocate again. But John 16:23–24, where Jesus tells the disciples AGAIN that they can pray in His name, is corrupted.
But you see, all these verses and divisions are ALL within the SAME CONTEXT: The Upper Room Speech.
I have to take either the whole speech as TRUE or the whole speech as FALSE – I cannot twist the speech to my satisfaction. If the whole speech is false, then I cannot pray TO Jesus, and Prophet Muhammad is NOT the messenger. If the whole speech is true, then I can pray TO Jesus, and the Spirit of Truth is Prophet Muhammad. But those are conflicting arguments. Either Jesus is encouraging me to commit shirk by praying to Him OR Prophet Muhammad is a false prophet/teacher like the ones Jesus warned about.
If I were a Muslim scholar, I would take the whole speech unit as false rather than coming up with conspiracy theories on scribes foreshadowing exactly what strings of letters they had to corrupt in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Are Muslim scholars asking me to logically consider the possibility that all the scribes knew exactly what to corrupt? Are they seriously implying that after those scribes were dead, or replaced, the scribes who kept on producing more copies of the same manuscripts also knew exactly what to corrupt? They were the same manuscripts, but still, more people copying might mean more corruption. And what about the manuscripts in Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and other languages? Did the scribes get in touch with each other to organize the corruption of the same string of letters at the same time? What about the scribes in different cities? Did they travel for miles on foot in order to plot all this?
Almost all Biblical scholars agree that the New Testament documents were all written before the close of the First Century. If Jesus was crucified in A.D. 30. (let’s say He didn’t die, and Allah placed Judas on the cross as Muslims say) that means the entire New Testament was completed within 70 years. This is important because it means there were plenty of people around when the New Testament documents were written – people who could have objected the corruption. In other words, those who wrote the documents knew that if they were inaccurate, there were plenty of good Muslims who would have pointed out that these copies were in contradiction with the original Injil that God gave Jesus. They would have started a revolution because scribes were altering the actual message of Islam Jesus preached.
If I were a Muslim, how could I ever trust any Bible prophecy about Prophet Muhammad if I cannot even trust the whole paragraph? If I cannot trust a whole division, and the divisions that constitute whole teachings of Jesus, why would I trust a single Bible verse?
I am not buying the corruption conspiracy. As Zakir said, context is everything. One cannot single one verse out and discard the other. Either take it all, or discard it all. If Muslims want to read the New Testament, I would encourage them to do it. Start with the Book of Mark – the least corrupted, according to Shabir Ally. After all, I did open a Quran (which I am still reading) because I love my Muslims.
If you, as a Muslim, are really submitting to Allah’s will, then you have definitely nothing to lose and absolutely nothing to fear. But please, be consistent in your thinking. Allah will guide us all, In shaa Allah.
And Allah knows best.