Understanding that the Bible is uncorrupted and unchanged (meaning will become obvious) is a position that not only every Christian, but every Muslim should take. I realise that there will be many skeptics who hold to neither, and for you the question of the authenticity and reliability of the Bible is a fair question. I will address your concerns later, but for now I want to address my Muslim audience.
I know that Muslims generally dismiss the Bible we hold in our hands as no longer the Word of God. They look to the Quran as that which was needed because of the corruption of the Torah, Psalms and Gospel. However, I want to challenge my Muslim friend that this position is contrary to a straight-forward reading of the Quran itself and leaves you with a less than great god, which is no God at all.
‘He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.’ Surah 3:3
‘And the word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and in justice. None can alter His words, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing.’ Surah 6:115
Some Islamic commentators (1) try to narrow the meaning of 6:115 to the fulfilment of divine promise or judgement in the world, in contrast to the literal words written in the book. They try to say that while the words in a book, in this case the Bible, have been changed, the truth of God’s revelation in dealing with men has not changed. Let’s consider this interpretation.
- Firstly, I agree that there is a difference between what we might call “the Word of God” and the literal words that are written on the page. Of utmost importance is the underlying message and meaning of divine revelation, and while the words on the page have changed over time, with translations into different languages from the original, and subsequent retranslations into modern English, it can be shown that the truth of God’s Word has remained constant and unchanged throughout.
- However, I fundamentally disagree with the idea that we can separate out divine revelation into promises, commands or judgements etc, and then state that only one or two aspects of God’s Word to us are unalterable. Either God is perfectly true in every revelation, or He is not God. Either His Word is sure and steadfast eternally, or it is no better than the word of man. This argument cuts to the very essence of God Himself, and on that basis I am confident that their interpretation is flawed.
Notwithstanding the Bible itself declares, through the pen of the Psalmist David:
‘Forever, O LORD, thy Word is settled in heaven‘. Psalm 119:89
The verse above is from the King James Version. To emphasise my first point above, let me quote a few other reliable versions (2) and as you read them it will be clear that while the wording changes, the truth remains unaltered, uncorrupted and unchanged.
‘Lord, your Word is forever. It is firmly fixed in heaven’. HCSB
‘Forever, O LORD, your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens’. ESV
‘Forever, O Jehovah, thy Word is settled in the heavens’. Darby
Therefore, in concluding this first part, it is clear that based on the very character and nature of God Himself, we can be confident that His Word (as revealed in the Torah, the Psalms, through the Prophets and then in the New Testament), by which we mean the message of divine revelation, rather than individual words inscribed upon stone or parchment, is uncorrupted and unchanged.
In the next article we will look at the consistency of the internal message itself as evidence that the Bible is uncorrupted and unchanged.
Until then, God bless you through His Word.
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God’. John 1:1
‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth’. John 1:14
1 : al-Tabari & al-Qurtubi as quoted by Zawadi.
2 : It is clear that there are some unreliable versions, that should not be called the Bible. Firstly, there are those that we know evidentially have been tampered with, such as the so-called Jehovah Witness’ New World Translation. Secondly, and to a lesser extent, I would include paraphrase versions that have been so focused on the overall message they have lost the detail, depth and precision of the divine revelation. An example is The Message.