The Torah and Gospels According to Islam

In Islam, as well as many religions around the world, comment is made regarding the Bible, Jews, and Christians. Islam, through the agency of the Quran, claims to be a restoration of the true faith of Abraham of the Old Testament, thus, the restoration of the true faith prescribed by God. In doing this, the Quran makes claims regarding the major writings of Judaism and Christianity. Those claims actually stand in contrast with current Muslim belief. This is a major problem for Islam, and a serious source of contention with Christians and Jews. Current Islamic belief follows this line of reasoning:

God gave Moses and Jesus the Torah and Gospel respectively. The Jews and Christians corrupted their religions. The Jews and Christians corrupted their Scriptures, thus, the true Torah and Gospel have been lost forever. However, the documents we now think of as the Torah and Gospel may contain some parts of the Word of God. The rule for finding these sections of truth is the Quran. If a saying from the Torah or a Gospel disagrees with the Quran, then it is corrupted and not the Word of God.

There is a fundamental problem with this belief that Muslims have a difficult time explaining with any satisfaction: The Quran disagrees.

The Torah and Gospels According to the Quran

Mohammad, whom it is claimed, knew nothing of the early Jewish and Christian writings from the first six centuries, revealed stories about Jesus Christ, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, Job, and other biblical personalities. It is said that God revealed these things to him since he was an "unlettered" prophet; that is, one who could not read. However, Mohammad may have already been familiar with Gospel stories as well as early Christian writings (Apocrypha), and myths (Pseudepigrapha). For the many years prior to his marriage and subsequent religious work, Mohammad often traveled trade routes from Arabia to Syria, which was predominantly Christian in his day. No doubt as a successful trader, Mohammad had many opportunities for intercourse with the local Christians in Syria, as well as those along the trade routes he must have come into contact with.

Regardless, the Quran makes specific claims about the Torah and Gospels which should be noted. When speaking with Muslims who bring up the issue of the original Torah and Gospels being lost, the following analysis may prove helpful.

In the Quran, Mohammad claimed to confirm, and stand as guardian over the Torah and Gospels previously revealed. Note the following quotes from varying Quranic Sura:

"It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step) in truth the Book confirming what went before it; and He sent down Law (Of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this as a guide to mankind and He sent down the Criterion (of judgment between right and wrong)." (3:3 Yusuf Ali translation)

"Those who believe (in the Quran) those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures) and the Sabians and the Christians any who believe in Allah and the Last Day and work righteousness on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve." (5:69 Ali translation)

"And remember Jesus the son of Mary said: "O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (sent) to you confirming the Law (which came) before me and giving glad Tidings of an Apostle to come after me whose name shall be Ahmad." But when he came to them with Clear Signs they said "This is evident sorcery!" (61:6 Ali translation)

There are many such passages as those listed above. Today's Muslims make the assertion that the writings referred to above no longer exist, having been lost centuries before. In this author's experience in talking with Muslims, I always ask the question, did the Torah and Injeel (Gospels) exist in Mohammad's day? Usually a variety of answers abound. Some will say no, some will say yes, many will say they don't know.

Yet, according to the Quran, the Torah and Gospels existed during all the time of Mohammad. Note when reading all Quranic Sura regarding the Torah and Injeel that in every instance, without fail, these Jewish and Christian writings are always referred to in the present tense. So much so in fact, that Mohammad goes further in his language to say that Jews and Christians have the Torah and Gospel with them, ready to be referred to if necessary. Note the following verses from the Quran:

"Let the people of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by what Allah hath revealed; such are evil-livers. (5:47 Pickthall translation)

"How come they come unto thee for judgment when they have the Torah, wherein Allah hath delivered judgment for them?" (5:43)

"Say: "O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord." (5:68 Ali translation)

"If you doubt what We have revealed to you, ask those who have read the Scriptures before you. The truth has come to you from your Lord; therefore, do not doubt it." (10:94 Dawood translation)

Note that in each instance (in fact, in all instances) the previous Scriptures are referred to as if they exist and are available at the time of the prophet's speaking. The point then is begged, was Mohammad referring to the Torah and Gospels as we have now, or was he referring to something else?

Injeel as What?

There are three possibilities here for examination:

1. Mohammad was referring to the Torah and Gospels as we have them,

2. Mohammad was referring to a lost document,

3. Mohammad was referring to the Torah and Gospels, but since his time they have been corrupted beyond reconstruction.

4. Mohammad was referring to other documents, neither the Torah or Gospels, though similar.

Of the four possibilities listed, the first and the last are most reasonable, based upon the available evidence. Briefly, Mohammad is not referring to a lost document. He speaks of the Gospels and Torah as being in existence, and does not refer to any kind of textual corruption. There are over 5,000 manuscripts of the New Testament documents dated from antiquity. It is these same documents that the majority of the church recognized as inspired 300 years before Mohammad. (Right: Injeel fragment dated from the 1st century.) Documentary comparison of these codexes, even with those of Mohammad's day reveals remarkable accuracy in transference of text and message. The error rate in copies is less than 1%. For hand copied documents over a period of centuries, that rate is nothing less than remarkable. Similar works of antiquity suffer greatly from high error transmission. It is the same basic documents (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) that the early church used, including during Mohammad's time. Specifically, the Syrians, with whom Mohammad have regular contact, regarded these books as inspired. All of this is said to point out that not a single copy, or portion of a "lost" manuscript has ever been recovered in 2000 years. If the "Gospel" as Muslims refer to it today were a "lost" document that existed up until Mohammad's day; and one that Christians referred to, then for 600 years such a "Gospel" would have been a great prize, equal to, if not surpassing the value and weight of the Gospels we do have. The church fathers would have referred to it often. In reality, they do not refer to any such "Gospel." It is also hard to believe that if such a document existed that it would have virtually disappeared within 100 years from the entire face of the Earth whereas other documents of such importance continue to exist in the thousands from antiquity, and current copies number in the millions. Evidence shows such a conclusion is not reasonable.

The third possibility, that the Torah and Gospel are corrupted beyond reconstruction is also unreasonable. If the Muslim takes the Quran at face value then these documents had to be corrupted sometime after Mohammad's death in 632 CE. This because throughout the Quran the Torah and Gospels are not said to be corrupt, only the meaning disregarded by Jews and Christians. Thus, corruption would have to have taken place afterwards. Such corruption would be easily discernable and disregarded for the simple fact that literally thousands of manuscripts and quotes remain in existence from the 600 years prior to Mohammad. Notwithstanding, practically every major Bible translation that has been written since the 1950's is based upon these ancient manuscripts.

It can be said with certainty that Mohammad was referring to two sets of documents: the Gospels as we have them now, and the class of writings known as the Pseudepigrapha. The Pseudepigrapha is dealt with elsewhere in detail. There are several lengthy Quranic passages that are remarkably similar in both content and language to that of early Jewish and Christian writings of this class, specifically, Gospels written under assumed names, forgeries, and fictitious works. Some of these documents were still in circulation during Mohammad's day, though most churches not longer used them by 200 CE.

As regards the Gospels, Mohammad is clearly making reference to them. Several factors point to this:

1. Christians of Mohammad's day used Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as inspired writings,

2. The Christians Mohammad was familiar with in Syria and Arabia did not regard the other writings as inspired, rather, they only regarded the Four Gospels as such.

3. Mohammad read one or more of the Gospels (contrary to popular belief that Mohammad was illiterate). Note 10:94, people who "read the book before thee;" and allusion to Mohammad's ability to read. Several Hadith also portray with some authority as Mohammad having the ability to read and write.

It is most likely that Mohammad believed that some measure of inspired truth existed in the Pseudepigrapha and for whatever reason, willingly or "under inspiration" appropriated the stories for Quranic revelations.

In the last analysis the questions the Muslim must be confronted with in each scenario are as follows:

1. If Mohammad was referring to Torah and Gospels as we have them (thus making them God's word), why does the Quran disagree with those documents?

2. If Mohammad was referring to lost documents, why does he refer to them in the present tense as if they are not lost?

3. If Mohammad was referring to corrupted documents, why doesn't he say they were corrupted instead of referring Jews and Christians to them as if they were God's word? Why did he check his own authority by them? (10:94)

4. Why do most of Mohammad's stories about Jesus read like they come straight from the Christian fiction and folklore of the day?

An honest examination reveals:

1. Mohammad referred to the Torah and Injeel but the Quran cannot be God's word. It cannot claim to both confirm and correct those documents at the same time.

2. Mohammad was not referring to lost documents. He referred to them as if they existed.

3. Mohammad was not referring to corrupted documents, he would have said so.

4. Mohammad was either confused about what documents were inspired, or believed that some of the Pseudepigrapha stories were true, and appropriated them.