Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? (I)

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Whenever the topic of Islam-approved slavery is brought up by a Christian, a typical tu quoque (“you too”) response of Islam’s apologists is to point to some places in the Bible where slavery is allegedly endorsed – a response that ignores the fact that Christianity predates Islam by 6 centuries.

Slavery-in-the-bible also constitutes one of the garden variety arguments used by Atheists to virulently attack the God of the Bible. The “glue” binding both groups of Bible bashers – Muslims and atheists – is the dollop of emotional blackmail infused into their (mis)perception of slavery.

Whenever biblical slavery is mentioned by such people, it is often deployed to incite an emotional reaction connected with the racist slavery of the American south in the 18th and 19th centuries, or other brutal instances of slavery in the ancient world.

However, to read such concepts into Old Testament Israelite servanthood or the foreign slavery which the Bible permits, would be absolutely inaccurate and deceptive.

In this article, the stark differences between OT servanthood and American chattel slavery will be highlighted and passages often used by Bible haters will be explained. In the next article, we will examine passages pertaining to slavery in the New Testament.

1. It might interest skeptics to know that the terms “slave” and “master” used in the OT are not the best translations of Hebrew words ‘ebed and ‘adon. The word ‘ebed simply means “employee” or “servant” and should not be translated “slave.”

Old Testament scholar, John Goldingay, noted that “there is nothing inherently lowly or undignified about being an ‘ebed.” Instead it was an honourable and dignified term” (John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Intervarsity, 2009, Vol. 3, p. 460).

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the OT notes that ebed can refer to “servant of a household” and cites Exodus 21:2 which will still be examined later in this piece.

Mounce’s Dictionary also defines the word as a “servant.” An ‘adon in Hebrew was a “boss” or “employer” in these contexts and “master” is a bit too strong of a translation.

2. The language used in the OT hardly suggests slavery, but rather a formal contractual agreement to be fulfilled. They were more of debt-servanthood arrangements.

When a family incurred debt or experienced a disaster, such as crop failure, an individual could voluntarily enter into a contractual agreement (that is, “sell” himself) to work in the household of another and pay off his debt. This is stated in Lev. 25:47 “one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself.”

A scholar explains:

“Even when the terms buy, sell or acquire are used for servants/employees, they don’t mean the person in question is ‘just property’ . . .  Rather, these are formal contractual agreements, which is what we find in the Old Testament servanthood/employee arrangements. One example of this contracted employer/employee relationship was Jacob’s working for Laban for seven years so that he might marry his daughter Rachel.” (Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Baker Books, 2011, p. 125).

3. In addition to what was clarified above, indentured servitude existed primarily as a means of debt payment. These employees lived with and worked for a family for economic sustenance (Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:1, 12).

It was like enlisting in the army where you forgo certain freedoms you had as a civilian to enjoy compensatory benefits. The OT affirms God ordained servitude for people as a means of survival when all other means were exhausted.

4. OT slavery was never chattel slavery like the American South was. Indentured servants had certain rights and protections accorded to them by the Mosaic law:

“The ancient Hebrews as a people knew slavery in their Egyptian bondage (Exod. 1:10-14; 5:5-14), from which they eventually were led to be free people under Moses (Exod. 12:37-42). Because of that experience, Mosaic legislation developed certain rules about the keeping of slaves: ‘Remember that once you were salves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; that is why I give you this order today’ (Deut. 15:15; cf. Lev. 25:42-45, 55).

“Even though slavery as a social and economic institution was recognized in ancient Israel, there was a clear attempt to humanize it in a way that set Israel apart from its neighbors. The social and economic structure of ancient Palestine was not, therefore, built on slavery, as it often was in other contemporary cultures and lands.” (Joseph Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon, Doubleday, 2000, p. 29).

This stands in contrast to American slavery. The agrarian economy of the old South was labour-intensive. Slaves were used as an easy source of cheap, mass labour.

5. OT servants were more like live-in butlers or nannies. They did not walk around with chains around their neck, enduring racism, or being worked to death like in the old South. Lifelong slavery was even forbidden.

Deuteronomy 15:16 shows servants often truly loved the leaders of the household and thought of them as family. Leviticus 25:53 says such servants were to be treated as men “hired from year to year” not “rule[d] over ruthlessly.” According to a reference work:

“Slaves were afforded a degree of legal protection in Israel. The Covenant Code stipulated three basic measures: beating a slave to death would necessitate an unspecified punishment (Ex. 21:30); if a master permanently injured a slave, release of the slave was required (21:26f.); and masters were required to provide the sabbath rest for their slaves (23:12) …

“Besides these general regulations, the law afforded Hebrew slaves further protections. They could be held for only six years (Ex. 21:2ff.; Dt. 15:12; but see Lev. 25:39f.). The Deuteronomic Code further stipulated that the master would have to provide the freedman with animals, grain, and wine (Dt. 15:13f.). They were not returnable to foreign owners if they succeeded in running away (23:15f.)…” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Goeffrey Bromiley, Eerdmans, 1988, Vol. 4, p. 541).

All of these facts destroy the emotional reaction atheists wish to evoke in people when telling them that “the bible endorses slavery.” It’s simple mindedness to meld narratives of slavery in history with this biblical servitude.

On Exodus and Slavery

A favourite passage Bible bashers use to play up their card is Exodus 21:20-21

When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

Notice that according to verse 20, the murder of servants is strongly prohibited and was punishable by death. Of course, unbelievers often ignore this truth because it doesn’t go with the grand plan.

In vs. 21, the boss is given the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t intend to murder the servant but was disciplining him for doing some moral wrong he wasn’t supposed to. In that case the boss would not be put to death since it would be ruled accidental.

This didn’t mean bosses should discipline their servants so cruelly that they died after two days or that this was somehow endorsed. That’s not what the text is saying.

It’s simply saying if such an accidental death occurs after a disciplinary punishment, the boss did not deserve death. Life for a life applied only when there was a wilful intent to murder.

God didn’t allow physical abuse of servants. If an employer’s disciplining his servant resulted in immediate death, that employer (“master”) was to be put to death for murder (Exo. 21:20) – unlike other ancient Near Eastern codes (see Christopher Wright, Old Testament Ethics and the People of God, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2006, p. 292).

Infact, Babylon’s Hammurabi’s Code permitted the master to cut off his disobedient slave’s ear.

Some skeptics gripe over the end of vs. 21 which says, “for the slave is his money,” a remark that seems to suggest the servant was his master’s property. Such distortion of the text to fit the narrative of the bible basher is understandable. We call them skeptics for a reason.

The Hebrew doesn’t say “the slave is his money.” What it says is, “that is his money.” Ancient Near East scholar, Harry Hoffner, has shown in his work, Slavery and Ancient Slavery in Haiti and Israel, that based on the context of Exodus 21:18-19 the text should be rendered, “the fee is his money” in the sense that the fee the boss would pay for medical treatment for the soon-to-die injured servant was money.

From its Hebrew context, the text is saying that the death was accidental and the boss tried to save the servant by paying for medical treatment thus, the boss should not be executed since his punishment or “fee” for this tragic accidental death was money he paid in trying to save the servant.

Finally, another “troubling passage” is Exodus 21:7-11 which makes mention of a man selling his daughter as an ‘amah, rendered “slave” or “servant.”

Here is what an Old Testament scholar has to say:

“This paricope pertains to a girl who is sold by her father, not for slavery, but for marriage. Nonetheless, she is designated a ‘servant’ (‘amah, v. 7). Should the terms of marriage not be fulfilled, it is to be considered a breach of contract, and the purchaser must allow the girl to be redeemed; she must not be sold outside that family (v. 8). Always she must be treated as a daughter or a free-born woman, or the forfeiture clause will be invoked” (Walter Kaiser, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1990, Vol. 2, p. 430).

Once the entire historical and linguistical context of the passage is grasped, the shrill assertions of the critic evaporate into thin air.

Sadly, in their seething rage to attack the Bible, unbelievers never pause to consider that the “50 bad bible verses” they cite (usually gleaned from a village atheist) consist of misinterpreted texts, context butchered, idioms or meanings of words vastly misunderstood, rudimentary, elementary exegetical and hermeneutical principles spat upon and scornfully dismissed.

A Cross or Torture Stake: Evaluating the Watchtower’s Claims

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There is perhaps no other Christian symbol that is despised by Jehovah’s Witnesses as the Cross. This is reflective of their contempt for the Christian Church, which they derogatorily term as “apostate Christendom.”

This piece intends to demonstrate that the very belief of Watchtower Society regarding the cross of Christ actually exposes it as an organization that every truth-seeking individual must reject.

An Innovative Idea

At its inception in 1884 and for more than half a century, the Watchtower Society held the cross in high esteem. Many of their publications during these early years contained references – some with vivid illustrations – of Christ’s death upon a cross.

For example, the Society’s early symbol, a cross and crown, was featured on the cover of each edition of The Watchtower magazine.

Their founder, Charles Taze Russell’s pyramid monument at his gravesite in Pittsburgh’s Rosemont United Cemetery, also bears this cross and crown image.

In 1921, the second president of the Watchtower Society, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, wrote:

The cross of Christ is the greatest pivotal truth to the divine arrangement, from which radiate the hopes of men” (The Harp of God, p. 141).

An illustration from a book titled Life, written by Rutherford in 1929 clearly showed Jesus carrying the cross on the way to Golgotha (page 198).

But in 1931 things began to change. First, the cross and crown image was dropped from their magazine. Then in 1936, Rutherford released a book, Riches, where he declared that: 

“Jesus was crucified, not on a cross of wood … Jesus was crucified by nailing his body to a tree” (p. 27).

Since then, the current JW position was affirmed: “We know that Jesus was nailed to a torture stake” (The Watchtower, January 15, 1966, p. 63).

The Watchtower Society illustrates this torture stake as a single standing pole without a horizontal cross beam, with one nail piercing both of Jesus’ hands – which were placed above His head.

All the artistic renditions in Watchtower publications present this, yet we are told:

“In one instance, he invited Thomas to inspect the wounds inflicted in his hands by means of the nails [John 20:19-29]” (The Watchtower, January 15, 1966, p. 63).

Now this is a contradiction. If Jesus died on a torture stake, it would require just a single nail piercing both hands, yet this Watchtower article is telling us about “wounds inflicted in his hands by means of the NAILS.”

Is it one nail or two?

Granted, The Watchtower says “the depictions of Jesus’ death in our publications … are merely reasonable artistic renderings of the scene…” (August 15, 1987, p. 29).

If this is true, then their depiction of Jesus’ death should not contradict the Bible, logic, archaeology and history. But this is not the case as I will show.

Biblical evidence

First, the Bible clearly states that Jesus’ hands were nailed with two nails. It quotes the words of Thomas who was an eyewitness to the crucifixion:

Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails...” (John 20:25).

The nails mentioned here were for His hands, not feet.

Notice that he used the plural form of the word ‘‘nail,’’ while ‘‘print’’ is singular, indicating a separate nail punctured each hand leaving a single mark in each hand.

Second, in Matthew’s account, we read:

‘‘They put up above His head the
charge against Him, which read,
‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’’’
(Matthew 27:37).

Notice the description provided in God’s inspired Word. Matthew reported that the proclamation of Pontius Pilate was ‘‘set up over his head.’’

If Christ had been impaled as the Watchtower describes, the text would have read: ‘‘set up over (or above) his hands.’’

Evidently, Jesus died on a cross. His hands were stretched out and the sign was placed above His head.

Third, the very words of Jesus Himself prophesying the Apostle Peter’s martyrdom refutes the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses:

‘‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God” (John 21:18-19).

Notice again the wording of Scripture as Jesus declared that Peter’s hands would be stretched out, not raised over his head. Peter’s crucifixion is attested to by church history.

Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t have it both ways. They must either accept the inspired Biblical record or cleave to the uninspired Watchtower Society.

Semantic Acrobatics

JWs argue that the Greek words translated as ‘cross,’ stauros, means an upright stake or pole and not a timber joined into a cross.

Indeed, during the BC era, the term stauros strictly meant a pole or stake, but when the Romans adopted Greek language and customs, stauros came to be used to refer to both poles and crosses.

Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. VII, p. 572) gives three meanings for stauros. Only one of them matches the Watchtower’s; the others present other distinct meanings:

‘‘The στανρoς [stauros] is an instrument of torture for serious offenses, … In shape we find three basic forms. The cross was a vertical pointed stake [Skolops] … or it consisted of an upright with a cross beam above it [T, crux commissa] … or it consisted of two intersecting beams of equal length [† crux immissa].”

Another Greek scholar, Joseph Thayer, agrees with the dual meaning of stauros:

‘‘An upright stake, esp. a pointed one, … a cross; a. the well-known instrument of most cruel and ignominious punishment, borrowed by the Greeks and Romans from the Phoenicians…” (Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 586).

The Watchtower Society dogmatically assert that the word xy’lon used in Acts 5:30, Galatians 3:13 and 1 Peter 2:24 means ‘timber,’ not a cross.

Actually, the Greek word is xulon and it carries more definitions than “the Society” tells its readers.

Greek scholar W. E. Vine translates xulon as ‘‘wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood’’ and gives its application as ‘‘of the Cross, the tree being the stau-ros’, the upright pole or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were thus to be executed’’ (The Expanded Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, p. 1165).

Kittel gives one of its renderings as ‘‘Cross. A distinctive NT use of ξùλον [xulon] is in the sense ‘cross’ (Theological Dictionary, Vol. 5 p. 39).

Strong’s Concordance defines xulon as anything made from wood, be it a stake, cross or a tree. It doesn’t have a fixed usage. In Matthew 26:47, the word is used for wooden instruments and in Acts 16:24 for clubs or stocks.

In non-Biblical texts, like Antiquities of the Jews for instance, Josephus used it to refer to “gallows” (Book II), and Polybius used it for “a cudgel” (Histories, Book VI).

An online Greek lexicon work defines xulon (tree) as “a beam from which anyone is suspended, a gibbet, a cross, a log or timber, a cudgel or a staff.”

In English language, the term “tree” has a variety of uses which includes a cross, therefore, its Biblical use is completely justified.

The Watchtower is being deceptive by providing a single definition for a word with different meanings.

Misquoting Sources

In Watchtower publications, quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Critical Lexicon and Concordance or Greek scholars are often presented to convince the reader that stauros rigidly means torture stake.

But these quotes usually lack complete references or page numbers so you can’t double-check them. The reason is: Watchtower writers quote their sources out of context as if the authors agree with their views. (See some documented examples here and here)

Two examples will suffice.

(1) They cite the work of a Roman Catholic scholar, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606), De Cruce Liber Primus.

The illustration in it depicts a man being impaled on an upright stake and based upon the drawing, readers are told: ‘‘This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled.’’

But when one consults this Latin work (which is difficult to find), the dishonesty of the Watchtower Society becomes evident.

The work includes several wood-cut illustrations portraying impalement or crucifixion. Most of these illustrations depict a man on the cross, not torture stake.

And Lipsius never suggested that Jesus was impaled on a cross, but instead argued for a ‘‘cross’’ with such statements as, ‘‘the cross was inserted and the other crosswise bar is joined and inserted with the upright plank, and thus it cuts [divides] itself.” (Justus Lipsius, De Cruce Liber Primus, Ch. IX, pg. 24. Translated from Latin by Marie Tseng, University of Southern California).

(2) They also quote from the Imperial Bible Dictionary (1874, vol. 1, p. 376):

“The Greek word for cross, properly signified a stake, an upright pole … Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time it began to used as an instrument of punishment, a transverse piece of wood was commonly added. .. about the period of the Gospel age, crucifixion was commonly accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood.”

The part appearing in bold was conveniently omitted by Watchtower leaders for obvious reasons: it damages their argument. So, they dishonestly cite it as if the author agreed with their theory. This is a common tactic in JW publications.

Archaeological evidence

False beliefs do not usually survive the light of scientific inquiry. The archaeological evidence favouring a cross as a means of execution at the time of Jesus is much more convincing than the alternative theory.

In his book, Evangelism in the Early Church, Michael Green states:

‘‘Some experts doubt whether the cross became a Christian symbol so early, but the recent discoveries of the cross, the fish, the star and the plough, all well known from the second century, on ossuaries of the Judaeo-Christian community in Judea put the possibility beyond reasonable cavil’’ (pp. 214-215).

In the 1945 discoveries at Talpioth, eleven ossuaries were found and reported to be from Christian grave sites in Bethany. These burial boxes too were engraved with crosses and their burial date was estimated at 42-43 A.D. – slightly more than a decade after our Lord’s death and resurrection (Jack Finegan, The Archeology of the New Testament, pp. 238-240).

Even non-Christians indicate that archaeology favours the cross above a torture stake. In 1971, it was reported that:

“Israeli archaeologists announced that they had identified the remains of the unfortunate young man and found clear evidence of his grisly execution. The Israelis scholars who studied the find for more than two years before making their announcement, were understandably cautious. What they uncovered and authenticated is the first firm physical evidence of an actual crucifixion in the ancient Mediterranean world” (Time Magazine, 1971, p. 64).

Early Church History

From the works of early church writers, one can infer that it was common knowledge that Jesus died on a cross.

In 100 AD, the writer of The Epistle of Barnabas (12:2) says:

“The Spirit saith to the heart of Moses, that he should make a type of the cross and of Him that was to suffer, that unless, saith he, they shall set their hope on Him, war shall be waged against them for ever” (J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, eds. The Apostolic Fathers, p. 278).

Justin Martyr (160 AD) described the cross beam used to crucify Jesus and wrote that, “He will come again in glory after His crucifixion was symbolized by the tree” (Dialogue with Trypho, p. 40).

Ignatius of Antioch, an early church leader, in his Epistle to the Trallians (11:1-2), speaks of the ungodly and says:

‘‘These men are not the Father’s planting; for if they had been, they would have been seen to be branches of the Cross, and their fruit imperishable — the Cross whereby He through His passion inviteth us, being His members.”

Tertullian also said that Christians used the Greek letter tau or T as a sign of the cross after the manner of Jesus’ death (Ad nationes 1:11).

Interestingly, The Watchtower (November 15, 1993, p. 9) quotes Tacitus, a historian saying that the early Christians were “nailed up to crosses” after the manner of Christ.

An ancient drawing (dating back to the third century) called Alexamanos graffito shows a Roman soldier worshipping a man with a donkey head being crucified. The caption on it reads:

“Alexamanos worships [his] God”.

It was probably intended to mock Christians who worshipped a victim of crucifixion.

Early church scholar, Tertullian, made allusion to these mockeries of the Christian faith by unbelievers: “Some among you have dreamed that our god is an ass’s head – an absurdity which Cornelius Tacitus first suggested” (Ad nationes 1.11).

On a final note, true believers do not venerate or pray to a cross as Jehovah’s Witnesses are made to believe. The true Christian focus is not on the cross as a piece of wood, but on what Jesus accomplished on it (Col. 2:14-15)

However, when Biblical, historical, archaeological and logical evidence are integrated, it’s safe to conclude that Jehovah’s Witnesses are in plain error on this one. Their organization has revealed itself as one of the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18).

Examining the Qur’an’s claims of Bible Corruption

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Below is a question I received from a member of this blog’s Facebook page. This question is germane to all Christian-Muslim discussions, therefore, I’ve expanded my response to Thomas for the purpose of this article.

Please is it true that the Quran explicitly says the Bible is corrupt as alleged by the Muslims?

The charge of Bible corruption is one that Muslims of all stripes perennially levy against Christians and Jews (some of them believe Romans were the culprits), but so far, not one Muslim has been able to specifically identify the people who altered the Bible, where it happened, how it happened and provide any evidence to back up their loud assertions.

The fact is, there is no place in the Quran where it explicitly states that the Bible has been textually altered, though it makes references to people (Jews and Christians) hiding, mistranslating and twisting the interpretation of the Bible.

I will proceed to quote ten of these passages and give a summary under each category.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are taken from Mohammed Habib Shakir’s English translation of the Quran.

Sura 2:59 “But those who were unjust changed it for a saying other than that which had been spoken to them, so We sent upon those who were unjust a pestilence from heaven, because they transgressed.”

Sura 2:75 “Do you then hope that they would believe in you, and a party from among them indeed used to hear the Word of Allah, then altered it after they had understood it, and they know (this).

Sura 3:78 “There is among them, a section who distort the Book with their tongues as (they read), you would think it is part of the Book, but it is not part of the Book

Sura 4:46 “Of those who are Jews (there are those who) alter words from their places and say: We have heard and we disobey and: Hear, may you not be made to hear! and: Raina, distorting (the word) with their tongues and taunting about religion; and if they had said (instead): We have heard and we obey, and hearken, and unzurna it would have been better for them and more upright; but Allah has cursed them on account of their unbelief, so they do not believe but a little.”

Sura 5:41 “O Messenger! let not those grieve you who strive together in hastening to unbelief from among those who say with their mouths: We believe, and their hearts do not believe, and from among those who are Jews; they are listeners for the sake of a lie, listeners for another people who have not come to you; they alter the words from their places, saying: If you are given this, take it, and if you are not given this, be cautious...”

You can see from all these passages that the allegation was that the “people of the Book” were twisting the Bible with their tongues, that is, misinterpreting it.

Not one of these passages ever accuses them of altering the text of the Book. The scenarios described were of people listening to the words flowing out of Muhammad’s mouth and reciting divergent accounts.

This shows that even the Quran affirmed the authenticity and inspiration of the Bible, since it indicated that those altering the Bible with their tongues were cursed and deluded people.

Thus, the Bible is given its proper place in the Quran as God’s Word – a stance that damages the Quran itself.

Other passages accuse Jews and Christians of hiding their Scriptures (which is the truth) from Muhammad:

Sura 3:71 “Ye people of the Book! Why do you clothe truth with falsehood and conceal the truth while you have knowledge” (Ali)

Sura 2:140 “Nay! do you say that Ibrahim and Ismail and Yaqoub and the tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Are you better knowing or Allah? And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah? And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.

Sura 3:187 “And when Allah made a covenant with those who were given the Book: You shall certainly make it known to men and you shall not hide it; but they cast it behind their backs and took a small price for it; so evil is that which they buy

Sura 5:13-15 “… We cursed them [the Jews] and made their hearts hard; they altered the words from their places and neglected a portion of what they were reminded of… And with those who say, ‘We are Christians’, we made a covenant but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of … O followers of the Book! indeed Our Messenger has come to you making clear to you much of what you concealed of the Book and passing over much; indeed, there has come to you light and a clear Book from Allah

From all these verses, it’s clear that while the Quran accuses Jews and Christians of hiding, forgetting or neglecting a portion of the Bible, it never accuses them or anyone else of altering its texts.

This allegation was a convenient excuse Muhammad obviously rehashed to satisfy his narcissism, because he realized that the Jews and Christians rejected his fictionalized, redacted and spurious accounts of bible characters, so rather than admit his ignorance and lies, he blamed them for forgetting or hiding the portions of the Bible which he came to reveal.

Indeed, this was an utterly illogical and self-defeating charge. How could Muhammad who was illiterate know exactly which part of the Bible had been expunged, hidden or forgotten?

Again, why would followers of a faith alter their own sacred book? Can Muslims alter their own book? It doesn’t add up.

The only way out for Muhammad’s followers today is to admit that their guru lied: the Bible was not tampered with. And once a Muslim agrees with this, his faith in Islam must wane.

Finally, there is one passage that comes close to the Muslim’s charge, but it still doesn’t support their claims, if read carefully:

Sura 2:78-79 “And there are among them illiterates who know not the Book but only lies, and they do but conjecture. Woe then, to those who write the Book with their hands and then say: ‘This is from Allah’, so that they may take it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn

First, this verse is too vague for any definitive conclusion. It makes a reference to a group of illiterates who don’t know the Bible. This couldn’t be Jews and Christians, since the same Quran says they knew their Scriptures and were literate (e.g. Sura 2:113).

Second, the passage is denouncing those who make a merchandise out of selling the scriptures. The Bible also denounces the same. Even today, there are Muslims who also alter and twist the meanings of Bible passages for pecuniary benefits.

Third, the verse is condemning this group of people, not what they had written. So by any means, the Quran still upholds the integrity and authenticity of the Bible, even while pronouncing woe on those who trade on it or alter it. So, this passage fails to support the Muslim claim.

It’s on this leverage that the Sultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Abdullah Saeed, wrote:

“If the texts (of the Bible) have remained more or less as they were in the 7th century, the reverence the Quran has shown them at that time should be retained even today. Many interpreters of the Quran from Tabari to Razi to Ibn Taymiyya, and even Qutb appear to share this view” (The Charge of Distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures in the Muslim World, Volume 92, 2002, 434).

The idea that Christians or Jews physically altered the Bible wasn’t known in the days of Muhammed until about 400 years after his time. The charge of Bible corruption (tahrif) was made up by Ibn Hazm (Khazm) in the 11th century A.D. in a bid to explain the startling differences between the content of the Bible and their Quran.

It’s still the same deluded mindset from Muhammad at work: the Bible which the Quran desperately appeals to for legitimacy must be “wrong” for their Quran to be “right.”