Response to Ahmed Deedat's "Is the Bible God's Word?" Chapter 3

Dead Sea ScrollsAhmed Deedat was a Muslim "Scholar". In his booklet entitled: "Is the Bible God's Word?" Deedat catalogues certain allegations upon the Bible, most of which in fact being hurled at it since several centuries passed, were satisfactorily answered by several apologists of old. But Deedat shows his poor scholarship throughout the booklet, resorting to those archaic and slanderous arguments, to substantiate his position against the Bible. G Bibu, a lawyer, looks at the charges made by Deedat and refutes them convincingly. Chapter 3: The Wheat and the Chaff


Chapter 3 :  THE WHEAT AND THE CHAFF(A Death Knell To The ‘Multiple Bible Versions’ Controversy)

"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewned them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water"(Jeremiah 2:13).


I n the pages devoted to the "Multiple Bible Versions", and "50000 Errors In The Bible", Deedat once again wastes his time and ink to show how the Christians have with them different versions of the Bible, as if the fact of the existence of the multiple differing versions of the Bible was of itself a proof of the corruption in the Holy Writ.
 

 

Deedat seeks at-least to confuse the gullible, if not convince them of his lie, by a neat documentation of untrue information as to the reality of the existing divergent Bible versions. The subject herein dealt is of great significance -the study of the textual authenticity of the Bible.  Deedat having realized this fact, cleverly adds flavor to the venom, by his persuasive language in articulating falsehood, ensuring that his victim would drink of it, sufficient never to recover.

 

But God be magnified who not only in his grace has preserved enough information in this area to immunize the believers against the  lie, but has also in his mercy seasoned it with the antidote against this poison, so that those already befouled by it may be delivered. We have endeavored in this section to show that God wrote only one Bible, And that He miraculously preserved the same from all errors until this day, and that the multiple versions of the Bible with their varying details have an explanation, quite contrary to what Deedat has labored to show. 

 

While the textual history of the Bible herein dealt proves its absolute authenticity with unmistakable certainty, the textual history of the Qur'an, the gist of which also is presented here, proves its doubtless unreliability. While Deedat bluffs his readers of his ability to "Separate the wheat from the chaff" (The true Scriptures from the fake), (IBGW-P.7), in which he failed as well as in such other claims he makes, we can at the close of this chapter boast boldly of the Divine Grace, which enabled us to perform that task with much propriety. GLORY TO GOD.     

 

Consider what Deedat says: "The question before us is: ”Do you accept that the Bible is God's Word?” The question is really in the form of a challenge. The questioner is not simply seeking enlightenment. The question is posed in the spirit of a debate. We have every right to demand in a similar vein —"Which Bible are you talking about?", we may ask. "Why, there is only ONE Bible" he mutters. Holding the "Douay," Roman Catholic Version of the Bible aloft in my hand, I ask, "Do YOU accept THIS Bible as the Word of God?" For reasons best known to themselves, the Catholic Truth Society have published their Version of the Bible in a very short, stumpy form. This Version is a very odd proportion of the numerous Versions in the market today. The Christian questioner is taken aback. ,What Bible is that?" he asks. "Why, I thought you said that there was only ONE Bible!" I remind him. "Yes," he murmurs hesitantly, "but what Version is that?" "Why, would that make any difference?" I enquire. Of course it does, and the professional preacher knows that it does. He is only bluffing with his "ONE Bible" claim". (IBGW-P.8).  

 

What a nice way of making a bluffer out of any one you dislike. You just have to portray him a puppet, yourself mumbling on his behalf. How easy! Be that as it may, let us be cautious not to evade the facts.  It is a fact that a sincere Christian affirms, Bible is the Word of God, and invariably means that the original Hebrew and Greek autographs were inerrant and infallible while at the same time not claiming absolute inerrancy for all the translations and existing manuscripts. We will deal with more in this chapter as inquiry into the historical background of the B

iblical text is important which very few Bible teachers are aware of. 

 

Let us put things in perspective at the outset itself. First and foremost, original autographs were absolutely inerrant and infallible in every word. As manuscripts are copies/translations of autographs/manuscripts there can be scribal errors or variations. These variations do not affect a single doctrine of the Christian faith. In other words, in the context of Christian Muslim debates, these variations have no relevance since it does not change any doctrine of Biblical Christian faith. Nevertheless, as Christians we are addressing this only educate ourselves and see which set of manuscripts are more reliable and therefore closer to autographs in inerrancy.

 

Also, to expose the dishonesty of critics who use these arguments and pretend that Christian faith itself is a corruption. As we have seen even if we leave the portions which have variations, Christian faith will still remain same and therefore variations does not result in a variant faith. Now let us come back to Deedat’s book. 

 

Let us start with what Deedat had in his mind clear about the different Bible Versions:  "All the Biblical "Versions" prior to the Revised Version of 1881 were dependent upon the ANCIENT COPIES — those dating only five or six hundred  years after Jesus. The Revisers of the RSV 1952, were the first Bible scholars who were able to tap the "MOST Ancient Copies" fully, dating three and four centuries after Christ. We agree that  the closer to the source the more authentic is the document. Naturally “MOST" Ancient deserves credence more than mere "ANCIENT." (IBGW- P.19).  

 

This extract brings us to the heart of the issue and we solicit the utmost attention of our readers in what they read hereon. 

 

1. From the preceding extract, it is plain that Deedat was fully aware, that the different Bible Versions mentioned, owe their existence to different manuscripts of different ages which he categorizes as "Mere ancient" and "Most ancient". He was also aware, that the Revised Version (1881), and the subsequent English versions were based on the sets of manuscripts, as are different from the copies which sourced the previous Versions.  We will deal with the ‘differences’ in them and whether it affects any single doctrine later. But let us first expose the falsehood of Deedat. In-spite of this knowledge recorded above; consider how Deedat confusingly misrepresents the Revised Version (1881) and the subsequent Versions to be the revisions of the Authorized Version (1611). Commenting on the Authorized Version he says:  "First published, as Sir Winston says, in 1611, and then revised in 1881 (RV), and now re-revised and brought up to date as the Revised Standard Version (RSV) 1952, and now again re-re-revised in 1971 (still RSV for short)." (IBGW-P.8, 9).  How does that confuse? Well, here is how. If the Authorized Version or the K.J.V had a distinct set of manuscripts from that of the "Revised" Versions, then the latter cannot be the "Revisions" of the former, but renderings from different manuscripts of a different age. In other words, there were no intervention or revision of the text of the Bible by the translators but they used a different set of manuscript. 

 

2. Having stated thus, it behooves us now to establish which manuscripts have the absolute inerrancy and which manuscripts cannot claim complete inerrancy. This will settle the controversy once for all. We have already seen how Deedat informs his readers that the modern versions of the Bible emanate from a source, different and more authentic than those of the previous versions, and though it is undeniable that the said versions were sourced by different sets of manuscripts, the one which he preferred to consider somewhat credible than the other, was just another blinder which he probably learnt from the "Professional Propagandists" often quoted by him, who are no more dependable than himself. The following is a summary of the information on this subject, furnished by Mr. Malcolm Watts, in his article entitled: "The Lord Gave The Word", published by the Trinitarian Bible Society, coupled with that of a few other sources. May this please be scrutinized with utmost attention by the reader.

 

A. The different manuscripts available are classified in to different groups or families based on the type of text they are composed of. This categorization helps in ascertaining the time and the place of origin of these manuscripts, and such other details as are essential in judging the reliability of the documents. The most fundamental criteria in tracing their antiquity is to ascertain which text type and not which existing manuscript is the oldest. None of the existing manuscripts are the autographs of the originals, and the fact that they are not originals itself argues that they

have their ancestral copies. The only way the antiquity of their ancestral copies may be traced is by relying upon their text type in which they were transmitted from generation to generation. The copy composed of the text type which can be traced back to the apostolic times should be the one which originated with the apostles. Indeed, "The closer to the source the more authentic is the document", and the closest the most authentic.

 

 B. The two important families of manuscripts thus classified are those of the Byzantine Text Type, and the Alexandrian Text Type. Though there be some more besides those mentioned, those are not required within the scope of this discussion as those are of a later date. 

 

C. The Byzantine Text got its name from the fact that it became the standard Text in the Christian Church during the Byzantine period 312-1453 A.D. prior to which it was carefully preserved in Antioch with which place these manuscripts are associated and there is clear evidence of the Christian teachers such as Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), etc, having used it in the churches there. It is known by other names such as the "Traditional", the "Majority", or the "Antiochian" Text. On the other hand, the Alexandrian text has its origin in Alexandria in Egypt which is confirmed by the peculiarity of its spellings. It came to be known after the name of its birthplace. Some have also called it the "Neutral Text". 

 

D. Those aware of the church history will have no debate over the fact that the disciples got their name as "Christians" in Antioch and there is evidence of the apostles having carried out their mission from this place. Therefore, the manuscripts associated with this place must be the original documents, if only they can be established to be as old as the Apostolic Era. On the other hand, Alexandria has no historical privilege of any apostle ever having visited her. Therefore instead of limiting ourselves to older texts we may also have to take into consideration of proximity to credible Christian communities. Let us look at the argument for and against these  texts while remembering that the even ‘variations’ between them are not significant to deny any doctrines, but our intention is to have the absolute accuracy of the original text. 

 


E.
The sole objection raised by those rejecting the Byzantine Text is that no Church Fathers prior to Chrysostom (347-407 A.D), make mention of them, much less quote from them, which questions their existence during the Early Church Age. Therefore, they conclude in haste that the Alexandrian Text to which there is evidence of being quoted by Alexandrian Fathers, most notably from Origen (A.D. 185-254) and Cyril (376-444), must be the most ancient of all the manuscripts now available. However, there is enough evidence to the fact that Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D), Irenaeus (130-200 A.D), Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D), Tertullian (160-220 A.D), Etc, quoted from the Byzantine Text. Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D) is not even a Century away from the writing of the last book of the New Testament, and the last book dating no earlier than 96 A.D, such nearness to the days of the Apostles should at once remove all doubts as to the authenticity of this Antiochian (Byzantine) Text. Not only has the church inherited the Byzantine Text of the New testament Scriptures from the apostles, but also the Hebrew Massoretic Text of the Old Testament Scriptures, from which they taught and thus most agreeable that the Massoretic Text of the Old Testament was the very Word of God to which the New Testament attests. 

 

F. Edward Miller, having found 570 testimonies in favor of the Byzantine text as against 170 in favor of its opponents, while examining the writings of the early church fathers who died before 400 A.D., concludes: "The original predominance of the Traditional Text is shown in the list of the earliest Fathers…. The tradition is also carried on through the majority of the Fathers who succeeded them. There is no break or interval: the witness is continuous". 

 

G. While no evidence of any sought can be adduced to the Byzantine text having been tampered with, and on account of its wide currency, there being no reasonable presumption thereunto, the manuscripts composed of the Alexandrian Text cannot claim equal reliability are evident not only in their transcriptional errors, but also for differences in among the principle manuscripts of this type as a result of a result of different way for a transcription Hebrew names. It must however be pointed out that despite the differences in text the doctrines remained unaffected. These doctrines could be established even without the variant texts, some of the examples of which could be seen in next chapter. Therefore, Alexandrian text is not as reliable as Byzantine Text.

 

 H. Until the advent of Roman Catholicism, the Byzantine Text was generally recognized as the authoritative text throughout the Christendom, and rightly so. On the other hand, the fact that very few copies were made out of the Alexandrian Manuscripts, (of-c

ourse prior to the advent of the Roman Catholic Church), which would not have been the case, had they been universally accepted, proves that the church since the beginning had considered greater reliability to the Byzantine Text.  

 

I. The Authorized Version (1611) or the King James' Version was prepared from the Byzantine Text which was then represented in the form of the Greek Textus-Receptus of the New Testament [Although this word which implies “Received Text” was not coined to refer to these manuscripts until 1633], and the Hebrew Massoretic Text, of the Old Testament.. But the Revised Version (1881), for the first time introduced in to the protestant circle, the English rendering of the Alexandrian text which virtually became the basis for all the subsequent Modern English Versions including the Revised Standard Version, (R.S.V) and the most widely preferred New International Version (N.I.V). 

 

 J. To sum up in the words of Dr. David Otis Fuller of Princeton, "Anyone who is interested enough to read the vast volume of literature on this subject, will agree that down through the centuries there were only two streams of manuscripts. The first stream which carried the Received Text in Hebrew and Greek, began with the apostolic churches, and reappearing at intervals down the Christian Era among enlightened believers, was protected by the wisdom and scholarship of the pure church in her different phases: precious manuscripts were preserved by such as the church at Pella in Palestine where Christians fled, when in 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; by the Syrian Church of Antioch which produced eminent scholarship; by the Italic Church in northern Italy; and also at the same time by the Gallic Church in southern France and by the Celtic Church in Great Britain; by the pre-Waldensian, the Waldensian, and the churches of the Reformation. These manuscripts have in agreement with them, by far the vast majority of copies of the original text. So vast is this majority that even the enemies of the Received Text admit that nineteen-twentieths of all Greek manuscripts are of this class." We hope that this would give an overview to both Christian and Muslims readers why there are different versions of the Holy Bible. Those are not tampering of the text by any of the translators. They are renderings of different manuscripts which themselves were copies of autographs. We also cited why we consider the Byzantine Text to be in greater in accuracy and authenticity than the Alexandrian text. 

 

3. For an unbiased soul, we have established beyond all reasonable doubts of the authenticity of The Holy Bible, as available today. While these variations are taken into consideration, there is no book on the face of the earth that can be considered close in accuracy to its autograph than the Holy Bible including Quran. If Muslims reject the Holy Bible because of these variations, then they must reject Quran before it.  While it remains then that these books are no different than the once which constitute the Holy Bible, it will now be our task to zealously undo the mixture of the Most Holy with that which is profane and most obnoxious to God Almighty. Among the several factors which stand as evidence against the Divine authorship of the Qur'an, a striking aspect is the inability of Him who gave it, to preserve it against irreparable human tampering, and thus failing to make good his undertaking to safeguard his word. This will be made obvious as we consider the different stages in the textual history of the Qur'an. Observe what follows. 

 

A. Muhammed received his revelations for over a period of twenty years. It is estimated, that there were as many as forty-eight scribes who assisted Muhammed in recording the revelations he received at regular intervals. It was written down in what ever was available including pieces of papyrus, flat stones, palm branches, shoulder-blades and ribs of animals, bits of leather, wooden tablets etc, but a more superior form of preserving it was by the talent and labour of men to memorize these "Revelations". Among those who wrote were Osman, Muawiyya, Ubayy ibn Kab, Zaid Ibn Thabit, Abd Allah Ibn Abi  Sara, etc. 

 

B. These written fragments were never collated together during the life time of Muhammad in to a volume as available today. Though many Muslims make claims that it was under Mohammed's supervision that the Surahs were put in orderly compilation as available today, the evidence contained in the Hadits (Traditions) prove just the opposite. Tradition speaks of a time after the death of Muhammed, when several men who have memorized the Qur'an, even such as they which were conferred with the title "Hafiz" had died in the battle of Yamama, and except for a remnant among them, there ensued a danger of the Qur'an being completely lost. Umar Ibn al Khatab, one of the four Caliphs is reported to have expressed this fear to Abu Bakr, another among the four, with a persuasive advise to compile the Qur'an in to a single volume, to avert such a danger. It appears then that the written fragments were not even well organized to be put together by any one, except by the services of Hafiz for its compilation, and there is also an implication in it, that much of the Qur'an was in the memories of men than upon the written fragments. Abu Bakr was embarrassed to undertake a task which according to him the prophet himself did nothing about (Bukhari, Vol.6,p. 476). Certainly a strong evidence that Muhammad had no hand in compiling the book.

 

 

C. Being persuaded at last, Abu Bakr commissioned the task of this compilation work to Zaid Ibn Thabit, who first lingered to undertake the job which the prophet himself did not find needful to be done, and also for want of any such commandment from the prophet. None the less, at the bidding of Abu Bakr the Caliph, he began his compilation from written as well as oral sources, endeavoring to put them together in the best possible form. 

 

D. The compilation thus arranged for by Abu Bakr was not the first official recension  of the Qur'anic text, but a private collection made for the Caliph. This is evident  from the fact that Abu Bakr's collection was not universally accepted, but there  came about compilations of the prophets proclamations made by others, which drastically varied from this first recension. 

E. Among others who made there compilation of the Qur'an, the most notable are Ubayy ibn Kaab (died in 638 A.D.), Abdullah ibn Masud (died 662 A.D.) and Miqdas ibn Amr (died 653 A.D.). They contained embarrassing variant readings which occasioned disputes among those that preferred one of the collections to the rejection of what some one else considered authoritative. It was perhaps to overcome this situation that Osman who became Caliph after Omar, found the necessity to standardize one text which must universally prevail in the Islamic community through out the world.  As noble may have been the intentions of Osman in standardizing a universal text in the interest of his community, the means whereby he executed this task proved to be most detrimental to the Qur'anic text.  He took the collection made by Zaid to be the standard for his re-editing work, the copy of which he obtained from Hafsah, the daughter of Omar and widow of the Prophet. He procured copies of such other versions as were in circulation as mentioned above, and arranged for a "Revised Version" so to speak, in which he retained or suppressed a certain fact or reading as per his discretion. When the work was done, it differed from all the then existing Versions including that of Hafsah's copy which he took to be the standard for his Revision. 

 

F. Osman subsequently ordered for the destruction of all other copies of the Qur'an which varied from that of his. Not withstanding the stern resistence against such a drastic move, Osman's position as Caliph perhaps played the most in bringing him the desired effect. All other Qur'anic compilations including that of Hafsah were ultimately destroyed and the Osmanic Text became the official recension of the Islamic "Scriptures". 

 

G. While no evidence exists to corroborate the authenticity of the Osmanic text, there is enough in the traditions to show that certain among the copies that were destroyed for differing from the Osmanic text had a far greater ground to have been considered authentic. John Gilchrist discusses various reasons why Ibn Mas'ud's copy which also was destined for the fire could actually be the very text Muhammed himself would have approved of. Traditions relate instances where Muhammad is reported to have credited Ibn Mas'ud to be the first authority on the Qur'an. Masruq reported: “They made mention of Ibn Mas'ud before Abdullah b. Amr whereupon he said: He is a person whose love is always fresh in my heart after I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Learn the recitation of the Qur'an from four persons: from Ibn Mas'ud, Salim, the ally of Abu Hudhaifa, Ubayy b. Ka'b, and Mu'adh b. Jabal" (Sahih Muslim, Vol.4, p. 1313). Note that Osman or Zaid are no where to be traced in that shortlist, and to destroy the text of one of the four listed in preference to a text which varied from them must suffice to prove Gilchrist's observation that "If we assess the textual history of the Qur'an just at this point, we find that the Qur'an standardized as the correct one is that which a man (and not God), according to his own discretion (and not by revelation), decreed to be the true one" (John Gilchrist, The Textual History Of The Quran And The Bible). 

 

H. Another most important stage in the development of the Qur'anic text was the introduction of vowels marks and diacritics, to facilitate convenient reading, and to indicate when and where to pause while reading. The work began during the reign of caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705 A.D. and was finalized during the end of the ninth century by Al Hajaj bin Yusuf the tyrannical governor general and self styled calif of Iraq. While the intentions of the former were to help his community in better using the Qur'an, the latter was accused of making changes to the Qur'anic text under the pretext of introducing vowel points, inspite of which, the Muslim community use the text finalized by this self-styled Caliph unto this day. We have discovered then, that there is no truth in what Deedat has concluded, either in the case of the Quranic Text, or that of the Bible. We have sufficiently disproved Deedat's claim that the Qur'an as available today "Is the infallible Word of God, revealed to our Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad Mustapha (Peace be upon him) word for word, through the agency of the Archangel Jibraeel, (known as Gabriel in English) and perfectly preserved and protected from human tampering for the past fourteen hundred years! Even hostile critics of Islam have grudgingly vouched for th

e purity of the Holy Qur'an: "THERE IS PROBABLY IN THE WORLD NO OTHER BOOK WHICH HAS REMAINED TWELVE CENTURIES (now fourteen) WITH SO PURE A TEXT". (IBGW-P.7). 

 

Comparison between Christian Translators and Islamic Translators 

 

While we showed that the different translations of the Bible may follow different manuscripts (ancient copies/translations of autographs), and stated our conclusion regarding the best of these manuscripts, we are glad to note that the Biblical translators the Biblical translators who follow the Alexandrian texts faithfully follow the Alexandrian text without mixing or introducing anything of their own.  However the same cannot be said about Islamic translators. They mix and introduce words into the Quran from different sources into one source and as well as their own words.  We are extensively citing from the Answering Islam to cite the evidences. Note what the famous English translator Abdul Yusuf Ali does. 

 

Mixing of Sources in the Quranic translation: 

 

The following text for this subtopic is taken from http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Text/15thqiraat.htmlMy observation is based on one of the most famous versions of the Qur'an distributed in the English speaking world, the translation and commentary of the Qur'an by the late Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

 

In the 1946 edition of Yusuf Ali's translation, published in Pakistan, we find the following text for Sura 23:112: He will say:2948   "What number of years did ye stay on earth?"And the accompanying footnote states:2948.   The usual Indian reading is "Qala", "He will say". This follows the Kufa Qiraat. The Basra Qiraat reads "Qul", "Say" (in the imperative). The point is only one of grammatical construction. See n. 2666 to xxi. 4.For Sura 21:4 we read this:Say:2666   "My Lord knoweth (every) word (spoken) in the heavens and on earth : He is the One that heareth and knoweth (all things)."And the accompanying footnote states:2666.   Notice that in the usual Arabic texts printed in India the word qala is here and in xxi. 112 below, as well as in xxiii. 112, spelt differently from the usual spelling of the word in other places (e.g. in xx. 125-126). Qul is the reading of the Basra Qiraat, meaning, "Say thou" in the imperative. If we construe "he says", the pronoun refers to "this (one)" in the preceding verse, viz.: the Prophet.

 

But more than one Commentator understands the meaning in the imperative, and I agree with them. The point is merely one of verbal construction. The meaning is the same in either case. See n. 2948 to xxiii. 112.To summarize the facts, in both places, Sura 21:4 and Sura 23:112, the verses begin with Qala (He said / He will say[2]) according to the Indian reading (the usual Arabic texts printed in India) which Yusuf Ali identifies as the Kufa qira'at. The same verses both begin with Qul (Say) according to the Basra qira'at. Taking the two verses and footnotes together, the noteworthy fact is that Abdullah Yusuf Ali follows the Kufa qira'at (more precisely: the Hafs reading) in Sura 23:112, but chooses the Basra qira'at in Sura 21:4 and 21:112.

 

In effect, he mixes two different qira'at and by doing so creates a new unauthorized reading as the basis for his translation. In other words, he does not consider either of these standard qira'at to be fully authoritative. Both of them are somewhat deficient, since one reading makes more sense in one passage, and the other reading makes more sense in other passages. Although this may appear to be a minor point to many, is this not a question of principle? Do Muslims have the freedom to tamper with "small aspects of the Quranic text" and create a new personal reading or version?

 

Moreover, Yusuf Ali claims that whether using qul or qala "The point is only one of grammatical construction" or "The point is merely one of verbal construction. The meaning is the same in either case." Is that really true? If it does not matter, and the meaning is the same, why then is Yusuf Ali discussing this issue at all? Why does he not simply stick with the commonly used Hafs version of the Arabic text but instead bases his translation on a different reading? Isn't he doing so because he thinks that – for whatever reason – this reading is to be preferred? In my opinion, he prefers this other reading because the meaning of it fits the context better than the usual one. In other words, the meaning is not the same, or Yusuf Ali would not have gone through the trouble of choosing another reading and then having to explain why he did so.

 

This point will be discussed further in the next section. In fact, Yusuf Ali himself admits th

is in his commentary note 2767, added to S. 21:112, where he explicitly says, "The better reading is 'Say' in the imperative, rather than 'He (the Prophet) said (or says)' in the indicative mood" (emphasis mine).

 

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