The Gospel and the Torah

  Ask the Christians

  No Change



  Strange Bed-Fellows

  The Gospel of Barnabas

  Scripture Wresting

  Islamic History


Ask the Christians

  • “And if thou art in doubt as to what we have sent down to thee, inquire at those who have read the Scriptures before thee. Now hath the truth come unto thee from thy Lord: be not therefore of those who doubt.”
  • (Koran Sura 10:94).

Early in his preaching career, Mohammed ibn Abdallah actually advised his hearers to consult their elder brothers in the monotheistic faith, the Jews and the Christians, to see whether the things he was saying were so (or God suggested Mohammed do this, if you like). Before his departure from Mecca, he had not yet said anything novel, nor much that the Christians at least would find disturbing. Readers who had read only the existing portion of the Koran would have been as impressed as was the Negus of Abyssinia. Muslims are afraid to trace out the zigs and zags their prophet's career, for fear this will undermine the myth of an unchanging Koran modelled after a heavenly exemplar.

A similar verse occurs in Sura 21: "And we sent none, previous to thee, but men to whom we had revealed ourselves. Ask ye the people who are warned by Scriptures, if ye know it not." (Koran Sura 21:7). Mohammed ibn Abdallah's thought at this time was that his new message confirmed prior revelation: "And this Book which we have sent down is blessed, confirming that which was before it; and in order that thou mightest warn the mother-city and those who dwell round about it." (Koran Sura 6:92). This is a claim whose accuracy can be investigated and verified, if true.

Reviving the early practice at this late date, of polling Christians and Jews to ascertain the truth of the Koran, would clear up much confusion. This clear and simple advice, alas, could not continue to be practiced. Instead of confirming the calling of the unlettered Arabian prophet, the people of the book pointed out how much he did not know! In fact these encounters were experienced as "hurtful" to the Muslims: "And many hurtful things shall ye assuredly hear from those to whom the Scriptures were given before you, and from those who join other gods with God." (Koran, Sura 3:183). This has been a recurring sore point down through history, as Muslim al-Jahiz complained in the ninth century, accusing Christian apologists of causing dissension: "'. . .and they will often address themselves to the learned and powerful among us, causing dissension among the mighty and confusing the weak.'" (quoted p. 112, John Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity). So in practice the Koranic instruction on this point has long been rescinded. 'Ask the Christians' has been reversed, for obvious reasons:

"Narrated 'Ubaidullah bin 'Abdullah:

"'Abdullah bin 'Abbas said, "O the group of Muslims! How can you ask the people of the Scriptures about anything while your Book which Allah has revealed to your Prophet contains the most recent news from Allah and is pure and not distorted? Allah has told you that the people of the Scriptures have changed some of Allah's Books and distorted it and wrote something with their own hands and said, 'This is from Allah, so as to have a minor gain for it. Won't the knowledge that has come to you stop you from asking them? No, by Allah, we have never seen a man from them asking you about that (the Book Al-Qur'an ) which has been revealed to you." (Sahih al Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 614).

Yet another contradiction! For the same reason that Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged not to study the Bible independently, the Muslims were urged to abandon the prophet's protocol. He said, ask, the later authorities said, 'don't ask.' Do they think this man was a prophet, or do they think he was an embarrassment, needing to be covered up?

No Change

The Koran insists no change can be made to God's inspired Scriptures:

  • “And the words of thy Lord are perfect in truth and in justice: none can change his words: He is the Hearing, Knowing.”
  • (Koran Sura 6:115).

  • “Before thee have apostles already been charged with falsehood: but they bore the charge and the wrong with constancy, till our help came to them; — for none can change the words of God. But this history of His Sent Ones hath already reached thee.”
  • (Koran Sura 6:34).

  • “For them are good tidings in this life, and in the next! There is no change in the words of God! This, the great felicity!”
  • (Koran Sura 10:65).

  • “Verily, We have sent down the warning, and verily, We will be its guardian;
    And already have We sent Apostles, before thee, among the sects of the ancients;
    But never came Apostles to them whom they did not deride.”
  • (Koran Sura 15:9-11).

  • “And publish what hath been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord — none may change his words, — and thou shalt find no refuge beside Him.”
  • (Koran Sura 18:26).

From whose unholy hands is God's word protected from defilement? Man's, obviously. Yet Muslims today disbelieve these verses of the Koran, which are not limited to one particular revelation; they think that man has changed God's holy word, with the result that the Bible is corrupt. They believe that most of the time, this divine promise does not hold fast:

"According to Islamic tradition, of all the 124,000 prophets sent into the world, only eight received 'books' or 'pamphlets' to share with their people. These books are 124 in number, with ten having been entrusted to Adam, fifty to Seth, thirty to Enoch (known as Idris in the Koran), ten to Abraham, one to Moses (the Tawrat [Torah]), one to Jesus (the Injil [the Gospel = the New Testament]), and one to Muhammad (the Koran). Unfortunately, the first one hundred have been lost to humankind, and the two other than the Koran that remain have been tainted by falsehood, so that all that can be trusted now is the Koran." (Mateen Elass, Understanding the Koran, Kindle location 1329).

This is not a good batting average. In fact, realizing that many of these reported documents are imaginary and others do not live up to expectations, God's batting average, on the promise the Koran acknowledges He does make, is 100%.


The chapters of the Koran delivered to Mohammed in Mecca uniformly insist that this new revelation confirms, it does not up-end or contest, the earlier revelation given to the Christians:

  • "And when a Book had come to them from God, confirming that which they had received already — although they had before prayed for victory over those who believed not — yet when that Koran come to them, of which they had knowledge, they did not recognize it. The curse of God on the infidels!...And when it is said to them, 'Believe in what God hath sent down,' they say, 'In that which hath been sent down to us we believe:' but what hath since been sent down they disbelieve, although it be the truth confirmatory of their own Scriptures. Say: Why then have ye of old slain God's prophets, if ye are indeed believers?"
  • (Koran Sura 2:83-85).

  • "In truth hath He sent down to thee ‘the Book,’ which confirmeth those which precede it: For He had sent down the Law, and the Evangel aforetime, as man’s Guidance; and now hath He sent down the ‘Illumination.’"
  • (Koran Sura 3:2).

  • "O ye to whom the Scriptures have been given! believe in what we have sent down confirmatory of the Scripture which is in your hands, ere we efface your features, and twist your head round backward, or curse you as we cursed the sabbath-breakers: and the command of God was carried into effect."
  • (Koran Sura 4:50).

  • “And to thee we have sent down the Book of the Koran with truth, confirmatory of previous Scriptures, and their safeguard. Judge therefore between them by what God hath sent down, and follow not their desires by deserting the truth which hath come unto thee. To every one of you have we given a rule and a beaten track.”
  • (Koran Sura 5:52).

  • “Moreover this Koran could not have been devised by any but God: but it confirmeth what was revealed before it, and is a clearing up of the Scriptures — there is no doubt thereof — from the Lord of all creatures.”
  • (Koran Sura 10:38).

Once later generations of Muslims came into contact with Christians and discovered that their holy book does not confirm, but rather conflicts with, the Bible, they began a furious process of back-pedalling. Contemporary Muslims accuse the Bible of every sort of corruption, drawing on the work of atheistic secular Bible scholars like Bart Ehrman. Mohammed however portrayed his new revelation as firmly in line with what had previously been revealed:

"Say ye: ‘We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes: and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the prophets from their Lord. No difference do we make between any of them: and to God are we resigned (Muslims).’" (Koran Sura 2:130).

Modern Muslims of course cannot repeat these instructions after Mohammed, because they do make a difference between these things and cannot well do otherwise. Nor can they say, with the early believers, "We believe in what hath been sent down to us and hath been sent down to you." (Koran Sura 29:45).


  • “We gave of old to Moses and Aaron the illumination [furqan], and a light and a warning for the God-fearing.”
  • (Koran Sura 21:49).

  • "And when we gave Moses the Book and the Illumination in order to your guidance. . ."
  • (Koran Sura 2:50).

The Bible is said to be a criterion [furqan], as is also said of the Koran. As should be apparent, when a new revelation presents itself, the correct procedure is to compare the new material with the old, evaluating and measuring the new by the old yard-stick, as is explained by Paul:

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9).

It would be strange indeed to greet the new revelation by tossing out the old, which is conceded to be of God, yet this is how some people want to proceed. The Koran assures Christians and Jews that they will find the unlettered prophet described in the Law and the Gospel they have "with them:"

"Said He, 'My chastisement—I smite with it whom I will; and My mercy embraces all things, and I shall prescribe it for those who are godfearing and pay the alms, and those who indeed believe in Our signs, those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, bidding them to honor, and forbidding them dishonor, making lawful for them the good things and making unlawful for them the corrupt things, and relieving them of their loads, and the fetters that were upon them.'" (Sura 7:156-157, Arberry).

If the Jews and the Christians do not even have the Torah and the Gospel, as you will hear today, then how are they to find anything therein "written down"? How could they find "clear proofs" that have come to them, "in what is in the Books of old" (Koran Sura 20:133), if the "Books of old" have been corrupted beyond recognition? Muslims today, confronted with contradictions between the Koran and prior revelation, claim these sources have been corrupted beyond recognition: "Muslims believe in the Torah, but they contend that Jews corrupted the Torah of the biblical Old Testament. They claim that the Qur'an contains the unaltered Torah, Psalms, and Gospel." (Hussein Hajji Wario, Cracks in the Crescent, p. 165). Mohammed seems never to have heard of any such thing. It would appear that Mohammed ibn Abdallah had no idea at this time that the Law and the Gospel were anything other than the written texts the Jews and Christians possessed in their hands and could consult at will.

Muslim biographer Ibn Ishaq confirms that the Jews possessed the Torah: 'They have incurred anger upon anger and for the unbelievers there is a shameful punishment.' (321). The double anger is His anger at what they have disregarded of the Torah which they had and His anger at their disbelieving in the prophet whom God had sent to them." (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 254). How could they disregard what had been lost? This theory came along much later. Mohammed tells the Jews that they are under no obligation to believe in his mission if they cannot find it their scriptures:

"The apostle wrote to the Jews of Khaybar. . .'I adjure you by God, and by what He has sent down to you, by the manna and quails He gave as food to your tribes before you, and by His drying up the sea for your fathers when He delivered them from Pharaoh and  his works, that you tell me, Do you find in what He has sent down to you that you should believe in Muhammad? If you do not find that in your scripture then there is no compulsion upon you. 'The right path has become plainly distinguished from error' so I call you to God and His prophet.'" (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 256).

There is no suggestion here that their scriptures are maimed or incomplete. The unbelievers find them available, "The unbelievers say, 'We will not believe in this Koran, nor in the Books which preceded it.'" (Koran Sura 34:30). The testimony of "unbelievers" might seem of little value, except that what they say is scripted for them, and it plainly had never occurred to the author of these words that "the Books which preceded" the Koran were lost.


Bart Ehrman

Strange Bed-Fellows

In their quest for allies to join in their dismissal of the Bible, contemporary Muslims find themselves in some strange company. Oddly enough, the Muslims themselves believe more of the Bible than do some of the 'Christians' with whom they make common cause against the Bible:

Is Bishop Spong an Atheist?

Are the Muslims happy to find themselves in such company? Contemporary Muslims assure us that these writers' scholarship is impeccable. Their results cannot be disputed or questioned. Yet this ungodly school of secular scholarship seeks to destroy all Bible truth, even those truths with which the Muslims agree. They weave a tortuous course, veering towards these nihilistic scholars when they must, then diving back into the broad stream of theistic truth alongside the Christians and Jews when they can.

It is only natural for scribes to make errors, but these need not accumulate where there is a wealth of manuscripts, as is the case with the Bible. There would be similar variation in copies of the Koran, and indeed serious doctrinal differences between the way this not-yet-collected text was remembered by various of Mohammed's companions, but for the fact that the Caliph Uthman collected the dissenting copies and had them burnt. If the community is governed by a dictator, such things can be done. A dictator can force a text to speak with one voice, just as he can force the people to speak with one voice; he has the means at his disposal to bring about this result. But it is better not to do such things.

Jewish authors emphasize how disinclined the Jews were to make any modifications to their holy writings: "Therefore, whether he [Moses] spoke, being influenced by his own reason, or because he was inspired by the Deity, they referred every word of his to God. And though many years have passed, I cannot tell the exact number, but more than two thousand, still they have never altered one word of what was written by him [Moses], but would rather endure to die ten thousand times than to do any thing in opposition to his laws and to the customs which he established." (Philo Judaeus, Fragments, p. 214, Volume IV, Works of Philo Judaeus, translated by C. D. Yonge). The only reason Muslims claim the Bible has been corrupted is because they must; their Koran conflicts with the earlier revelation, although they can neither produce an unaltered copy of the Bible nor explain when and by whom it was corrupted.

Given the unsatisfactory state of the Koran's conflicting claims, Muslims sometimes quote Jeremiah 8:8 in support of their thesis that the Bible was corrupted:

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:8-9).

What is lacking in this passage is the suggestion that the wicked apostates who substituted their own 'falsehoods' for the law succeeded in suppressing the actual text of the Mosaic law. Were the 'scribes' here even copying the Mosaic law rather than offering interpretations and rendering legal decisions applicable to individual cases?

Timothy I, in his eighth century debate with the Caliph, asked why Christians would ever have corrupted their own sacred text, as they are accused by the Muslims of doing: "And our highly intelligent Sovereign said: "If you had not corrupted the Torah and the Gospel, you would have found in them Muhammad also with the other prophets."—And to set his mind at rest on this subject I replied to him: "To the mind of your Majesty, O my illustrious Sovereign—you to whom God has granted that intelligence and broad-mindedness which are so useful for the administration of public and private affairs of the people, and you who speak and act is a way that is congruous with the dignity of your Majesty—it is due to inquire why and for what purpose we might have corrupted the Books." (Timothy I, Apology for Christianity). This is a good question to ask, when any accusation of criminality has been made. Did the accused have motive, means and opportunity to commit the crime? There are times when the scriptures have passed through the eye of the needle: when, after a lengthy period of apostasy, the exemplar of the law was found in the temple, or when, after the return from exile, Ezra compiled and reconstituted the text. Since few accurate copies of the scriptures were then in circulation, it might have been possible for someone to make changes. But who then was thinking about an unlettered Arabian prophet who would come along centuries later, whose followers would claim to be the rider on the camel? At no time when there was any opportunity to introduce corruptions into the text, was there any motive. And the copies of the Old Testament found with the Dead Sea scrolls verify that no such changes have been made.

When we fast forward to the seventh and eighth century A.D., then we begin to find motive. It goes with the territory of being a warlord that you make enemies, and Mohammed ibn Abdallah was a warlord. It is entirely conceivable that someone whose relatives Mohammed had killed, or, in the eighth century, Christians alarmed at seeing their churches destroyed and their co-religionists martyred, might have wished to delete favorable references to Mohammed, had there been any, from the Bible. But at the time, the entire West was Christian, as was much of the East until the Muslim rulers began persecuting the church. There was a Bible chained to the altar of every church in Christendom. How could it have been possible to delete information from all of those copies? When people like Bart Ehrman cast doubt on the authenticity of the New Testament, they do not focus on the text of the eighth century A.D., about which there is little controversy. Rather, these people say, the text as it originally existed, in the very early years during the first century when Christianity was a small persecuted sect, cannot be known with any certainty. Of course, if God has the power to preserve His work it can, but these people do not believe in God. They cannot produce any 'authentic' text of their own, rather they content themselves with denying that we have it.

Now, in the first century A.D., who could possibly have foreseen, 'Hey, we'd better delete all these favorable references to Mohammed, who will pop up five centuries from now in a barbarous corner of the empire, but who will turn out to be false prophet in the end.' How can they possibly have known, not only that Mohammed ibn Abdallah was in view, but that he would turn out to be an imposter? They might naturally have expected, if there is to be a prophet in seventh century Arabia, he will, of course, confirm existing revelation, agreed on all hands to be authentic. This claim the Koran does make, though of course it does not deliver. But no one who had any possible opportunity to corrupt scripture had any reason to corrupt it in just this way, and no one in the seventh and eighth century A.D. had any opportunity to corrupt it at all. We have plenty of copies, we know what the text said at that date, and it has not been changed. Muslims may recall from their own tradition, that when Uthman wished to stabilize the text of the Koran, he was obliged to recall all the copies then extant, to have them burnt. Who, in the eighth-century Christian world, could have recalled all the Bibles? It can't have happened, so it didn't happen. Muslims need a new excuse.


Need a Koran?

The Gospel of Barnabas

The embarrassing fact that the Koran speaks very objectively about the law and the gospel, commanding the Jews to consult the one and the Christians the other, led to an effort to produce a gospel that would in fact exist, so that the Christians might consult it as commanded in the Koran, but which would not contradict the Koran as does the real gospel. The product of this effort is called the 'Gospel of Barnabas.' The prologue of this work explains its purpose:

  • “Barnabas, apostle of Jesus the Nazarene, called Christ, to all them that dwell upon the earth desireth peace and consolation.

    “Dearly beloved, the great and wonderful God hath during these past days visited us by his prophet Jesus Christ in great mercy of teaching and miracles, by reason whereof many, being deceived of Satan, under pretence of piety, are preaching most impious doctrine, calling Jesus son of God, repudiating the circumcision ordained of God for ever, and permitting every unclean meat: among whom also Paul hath been deceived, whereof I speak not without grief; for which cause I am writing that truth which I have seen and heard, in the intercourse that I have had with Jesus, in order that ye may be saved, and not be deceived of Satan and perish in the judgement of God. Therefore beware of every one that preacheth unto you new doctrine contrary to that which I write, that ye may be saved eternally.”
  • (Gospel of Barnabas, Prologue).

This document is, you might almost say, made to order. What do you know, Jesus in the 'Gospel of Barnabas' prophesies a coming prophet: "'But after me shall come the Splendour of all the prophets and holy ones, and shall shed light upon the darkness of all that the prophets have said, because he is the messenger of God.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 17). 'Jesus' even names the name: "Adam, having sprung up upon his feet, saw in the air a writing that shone like the sun, which said: 'There is only one God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 39). 'Jesus' says that he has done reverence before Mohammed:

"O blessed time, when he shall come to the world! Believe me that I have seen him and have done him reverence, even as every prophet hath seen him: seeing that of his spirit God giveth to them prophecy. And when I saw him my soul was filled with consolation, saying: 'O Mohammed, God be with thee, and may he make me worthy to untie thy shoe-latchet, for obtaining this I shall be a great prophet and holy one of God.' And having said this, Jesus rendered his thanks to God." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 44).

The 'Jesus' of the Gospel of Barnabas explains it is important to wash before prayer: "And furthermore I say unto you, that no one will make prayer pleasing to God if he be not washed, but will burden his soul with sin like to idolatry." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 38). Of course, no pork: "Thereupon, said one of the scribes: 'If I shall eat pork, or other unclean meats, will they not defile my conscience?' Jesus answered: 'Disobedience will not enter into the man, but will come out of the man, from his heart; and therefore will he be defiled when he shall eat forbidden food.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 32). The 'Jesus' of the Gospel of Barnabas insists only upon those Jewish customs continued by the Muslims.

This work explains that it was Ishmael who was to be sacrificed, not Isaac: "'Then spake God, saying to Abraham: "Take thy son, thy firstborn Ishmael, and come up the mountain to sacrifice him." How is Isaac firstborn, if when Isaac was born Ishmael was seven years old?'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 44). To answer 'Barnabas's' question, not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New, Isaac is called, not only Abraham's first-born, but his only son: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten [monogenes] son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. . .” (Hebrews 11:17-19). No explanation is offered because none is needed. Philo Judaeus also calls Isaac Abraham's only son: "A legitimate son is borne to the wise man by his wedded wife, a beloved and only son, very beautiful in his person, and very excellent in his disposition." (Philo Judaeus, On Abraham, XXXII). This should not be so surprising when the reader recalls the Greek cities whose citizen 'sons' are those born of a citizen by his lawful freeborn wife. These authors are not unaware of Ishmael, but realize that by their legal standards, he is illegitimate; i.e., he doesn't count as a 'son:' "And he learnt all these things from Abraham his grandfather, who was the author of his own education, who gave to the all-wise Isaac all that he had, leaving none of his substance to bastards, or to the spurious reasonings of concubines, but he gives them small gifts, as being inconsiderable persons. For the possessions of which he is possessed, namely, the perfect virtues, belong only to the perfect and legitimate son. . ." (Philo Judaeus, The Sacrifices of Abel and Cain, X). 'Sons' and 'bastards' are two non-overlapping categories : "But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons." (Hebrews 12:8). That is to say, you are either bastards or sons, you cannot be both. This seems harsh to us, and evidently to 'Barnabas,' because Ishmael cannot help the circumstances of his birth; but the fact remains, he does not count as 'first-born,' neither in the New Testament nor in the Old: "Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Genesis 22:2).

The author is resolute in transferring the promise from Isaac's line to Ishmael's:

"Whereupon said the scribe: 'I have seen an old book written by the hand of Moses and Joshua (he who made the sun stand still as thou hast done), servants and prophets of God, which book is the true book of Moses. Therein is written that Ishmael is the father of Messiah, and Isaac the father of the messenger of the Messiah. And thus saith the book, that Moses said: "Lord God of Israel, mighty and merciful, manifest to thy servant the splendour of thy glory. Whereupon God showed him his messenger in the arms of Ishmael, and Ishmael in the arms of Abraham. Nigh to Ishmael stood Isaac, in whose arms was a child, who with finger pointed to the messenger of God, saying: "This is he for whom God hath created all things." Whereupon Moses cried out with joy: "O Ishmael, thou hast in thine arms all the world, and paradise! Be mindful of me, God's servant, that I may find grace in God's sight by means of thy son, for whom God hath made all.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 191).

"Jesus answered: 'The zeal of thine honour, O God, enflameth me, and I cannot hold my peace. Verily I say, the son of Abraham was Ishmael, from whom must be descended the Messiah promised to Abraham, that in him should all the tribes of the earth be blessed.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 208.)

The function of the angel Gabriel as revealer of truth in the 'Gospel of Barnabas' is more reminiscent of the Koran than of the Bible, as for instance, "Then came the angel Gabriel to Jesus, and spake to him in such wise that we also heard his voice, which said: 'Arise, and go unto Jerusalem!'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 45). This prominence of the angel Gabriel is unique to the Koran. The unlettered prophet had heard, second-hand, the nativity narrative, and over-generalized from that one case, making Gabriel into the normal channel for divine/human communication.

There is the familiar emphasis on Abraham's arguments with his father, an idol-maker:

"'Abraham answered: "How many gods are there, father?"

"'The old man replied: "They are infinite in number, my son." . . .

"'Then said Abraham: "O father, what be the gods like?"

"'The old man answered: "Fool, every day I make a god, which I sell to others to buy bread, and thou knowest not what the gods are like!" And then at that moment he was making an idol. "This," said he, "is of palm wood, that one is of olive, that little one is of ivory: see how fine it is! Does it not seem as though it were alive? Assuredly, it lacks but breath!"

"'Abraham answered: "And so, father, the gods are without breath? Then how do they give breath? And being without life, how give they life? It is certain, father, that these are not God.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 26).

Although modern Muslims adopt the perspective of the 'Jesus Seminar,' that no one during Jesus' earthly ministry called him God, the Gospel of Barnabas freely admits that Jesus' contemporaries lauded Him as God, but makes Him scold them for so doing:

"And when he [Jesus] had said this, the crowd drew nigh, and when they knew him they began to cry out: 'Welcome to thee, O our God!' and they began to do him reverence, as unto God. Whereupon Jesus gave a great groan and said: 'Get ye from before me, O madmen, for I fear lest the earth should open and devour me with you for your abominable words!'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 92).

There is no evidence of this work having existed prior to medieval times. Its special concerns are not found in the literature of the early church, but only arise later, like the pre-occupation with tracing out the topography of hell: "Know ye, therefore, that hell is one, yet hath seven centres one below another. Hence, even as sin is of seven kinds, for as seven gates of hell hath Satan generated it: so are there seven punishments therein." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 135). Some say you should talk about hell only with tears in your eyes, but Mohammed dwells on this topic with apparent relish in the Koran, lovingly lingering over the various torments the damned will receive. This same concern was growing in importance in Christian literature also, reaching its apogee with Dante's great work of imaginative fiction, the Inferno. But we are not breathing the clear air of the first century when we encounter maps or guided tours of hell.

'Barnabas's' elevation of Mohammed is alarming. After God alone is alive for forty years, Mohammed comes to life:

"'When these signs be passed, there shall be darkness over the world forty years, God alone being alive, to whom be honor and glory for ever. When the forty years be passed, God shall give life to his messenger, who shall rise again like the sun, but resplendent as a thousand suns. . .Next shall God give life to all his prophets, who, following Adam, shall go every one to kiss the hand of the messenger of God, committing themselves to his protection. Next shall God give life to all the elect, who shall cry out: 'O Mohammed, be mindful of us!' At whose cries pity shall awake in the messenger of God, and he shall consider what he ought to do, fearing for their salvation." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 54).

What a vain hope, to trust in such a savior! If ever there was a man undeserving of this idolatrous adulation, it is Mohammed ibn Abdallah. The Gospel of Barnabas goes on to explain that God created all things for love of Mohammed: "Then God, seeing this, shall remind his messenger how he created all things for love of him, and so his fear shall leave him, and he shall go nigh unto the throne with love and reverence, while the angels sing: 'Blessed be thy holy name, O God, our God.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 55.) The title of 'Messiah,' given in the Koran to Jesus, is here transferred to Mohammed:

"Jesus answered: 'The name of the Messiah is admirable, for God himself gave him the name when he had created his soul, and placed it in a celestial splendour. God said: "Wait Mohammed; for thy sake I will to create paradise, the world, and a great multitude of creatures, whereof I make thee a present, insomuch that whoso shall bless thee shall be blessed, and whoso shall curse thee shall be accursed. When I shall send thee into the world I shall send thee as my messenger of salvation, and thy word shall be true, insomuch that heaven and earth shall fail, but thy faith shall never fail." Mohammed is his blessed name.'

"Then the crowd lifted up their voices, saying: 'O God, send us thy messenger: O Mohammed, come quickly for the salvation of the world!'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 97).

Although the unlettered Arabian prophet fearlessly called Jesus the Messiah, probably without knowing what the term meant, more than a few of his adherents are embarrassed by the claim:

Despite the author's idolatrous adulation of Mohammed, the Gospel of Barnabas is not afraid to contradict the Koran. This work evidently comes out of an Islamic milieu, but is ground-breaking and original in several ways. Mohammed ibn Abdallah left his successors a repair job because the Koran just does not 'work' in so many ways: conceding that Jesus is the Messiah is a very dangerous admission, given all that the Bible says about the Messiah. So 'Barnabas' takes it back. As seen above, 'Barnabas' transfers the title of 'Messiah' from Jesus to Mohammed, even though the Koran explicitly gives that title to Jesus:

"Remember when the angel said, 'O Mary! Verily God announceth to thee the Word from Him: His name shall be, Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, illustrious in this world, and in the next. . ." (Koran, Sura 3:40).

"The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and his Word which he conveyed into Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from himself." (The Koran, Sura 4:169).

'Barnabas' deliberately denies this Koranic doctrine, making 'Jesus' say, "For punishment was fitting for me, for that men have called me God; but since I have confessed, not only that I am not God, as is the truth, but have confessed also that I am not the Messiah, therefore God hath taken away the punishment from me, and will cause a wicked one to suffer it in my name, so that the shame alone shall be mine." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 198). In keeping with the theme of denying Biblical titles, 'Jesus' also asks not to be called 'Lord,' though in the Bible He says, "You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am." (John 13:13): "Then the scribe gave thanks to Jesus, and said to him, 'Lord, let us go to the house of thy servant, for thy servant will give meat to thee and to thy disciples.' Jesus answered: 'I will come thither when thou wilt promise to call me "Brother," and not "Lord," and shalt say thou art my brother, and not my servant.' The man promised, and Jesus went to his house." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 182).

Moreover, though the Koran explicitly teaches that God's word cannot be changed, the Gospel of Barnabas teaches instead that Jesus' teachings have been corrupted:

"Then answered Andrew: 'Now how shall the truth be known?'

"Jesus answered: 'Everything that conformeth to the book of Moses, that receive ye for true; seeing that God is one, the truth is one; whence it followeth that the doctrine is one and the meaning of the doctrine is one; and therefore the faith is one. Verily I say unto you that if the truth had not been erased from the book of Moses, God would not have given to David our father the second. And if the book of David had not been contaminated, God would not have committed the Gospel to me; seeing that the Lord our God is unchangeable, and hath spoken but one message to all men. Wherefore, when the messenger of God shall come, he shall come to cleanse away all wherewith the ungodly have contaminated my book.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 124.)

"As God liveth, in whose presence my soul standeth, if the book of Moses with the book of our father David had not been corrupted by the human traditions of false Pharisees and doctors, God would not have given his word to me. And why speak I of the book of Moses and the book of David? Every prophecy have they corrupted, in so much that do-day a thing is not sought because God hath commanded it, but men look whether the doctors say it, and the Pharisees observe it, as though God were in error, and men could not err." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 189).

''Cannot be changed' and 'has been corrupted' cannot co-exist. That one supplanted the other is the counsel of despair, as it had long since become apparent that the Christians were of no mind to 'confirm' the Koran, but rather to point out its discrepancies with the Bible.

While the author is certainly not Barnabas Paul's companion, nor anyone else from the early church age, his writings reflect wide learning. His definition of 'sin' seems to be informed by study of authors like Augustine, who said, "And I inquired what iniquity was, and ascertained it not to be a substance, but a perversion of the will, bent aside from Thee, O God, the Supreme Substance, towards these lower things. . ." (Augustine, Confessions, Book 7, Chapter 16, 22). 'Barnabas's' take on that, is "Ye are not able to understand this because ye know not what a thing is sin. Wherefore hearken unto my words, Verily, verily, I say unto you, sin cannot arise in man save as a contradiction of God, seeing that that only is sin which God willeth not: insomuch that all that God willeth is most alien from sin." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 159.) The author's discussion of predestination vs. free will, though departing from Mohammed ibn Abdallah's thoughts on this point, reflects long contemplation and deep concern. His ideas on infinity are not those of antiquity.

One point upon which 'Jesus' insists in this Islamic work is that he never said he is the Son of God: "And having said this, Jesus smote his face with both his hands, and then smote the ground with is head. And having raised his head, he said: 'Cursed be every one who shall insert into my sayings that I am the son of God.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 53.)

"Then lifting up his hands to the Lord, he [Jesus] prayed, saying: 'Lord our God, God of Abraham, God of Ishmael and Isaac. God of our fathers have mercy upon them that thou hast given me, and save them from the world. I say not, take them from the world, because it is necessary that they shall bear witness against them that shall corrupt my gospel. But I pray thee to keep them from evil, that on the day of thy judgment they may come with me to bear witness against the world and against the house of Israel that hath corrupted thy testament, Lord God, mighty and jealous, that takest vengeance upon idolatry against the sons of idolatrous fathers even unto the fourth generation, do thou curse eternally every one that shall corrupt my gospel that thou gavest me, when they write that I am thy son." (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 212).

There is no other heresy that takes this viewpoint. Usually those who deny the deity of Christ, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, insist all the more strongly that Jesus is the "son of God." But Mohammed ibn Abdallah, and the Gospel of Barnabas, deny that He is. Is this Biblical?:

Hagia Sophia, Constantinople

The date to which 'The Gospel of Barnabas' itself testifies is post-Koranic. 'Jesus' commands 'Barnabas' to write down his gospel: "And Jesus turned himself to him who writeth, and said: 'See, Barnabas, that by all means thou write my gospel concerning all that hath happened through my dwelling in the world. And write in like manner that which hath befallen Judas, in order that the faithful may be undeceived, and every one may believe the truth.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 221). But 'Jesus' also plainly prophesies that people will believe he was crucified until Mohammed arises in the seventh century to set the record straight: "And though I have been innocent in the world, since men have called me 'God,' and 'Son of God,' God, in order that I be not mocked of the demons on the day of judgment, hath willed that I be mocked of men in this world by the death of Judas, making all men to believe that I died upon the cross. And this mocking shall continue until the advent of Mohammed, the messenger of God, who, when he shall come, shall reveal this deception to those who believe in God's law.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 220). So we have a self-described 'hidden' gospel, which will be 'uncovered' in the era post-Mohammed. It is not a testament of the early church age.

This 'substitution' theory, that Judas was substituted for Jesus upon the cross, was popular at one time but seems to have been overtaken by the 'swoon' theory, so far as one can judge from band-width consumed on the internet. Many Muslims continue to believe in the theory it was Judas: "They saw Judah astonished after seeing Jesus (PBUH) ascending to heaven. Allah (S.W.) made him look like Jesus (PBUH). However, who would expect that that was Judah, and who would know him then?" (Monqith Ben Mahmoud Assaqar, PhD., Was Jesus Crucified for Our Atonement? p. 83). The Koran teaches that Jesus was not crucified:

"And for their saying, 'Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of God.' Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness. And they who differed about him were in doubt concerning him: No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really slay him, but God took him up to Himself.  And God is Mighty, Wise!"
(Koran Sura 4:156).

Mohammed ibn Abdallah heard this information from one of his informants, a surviving remnant of the old teaching of docetism, that Jesus did not really die upon the cross, because He did not really live, nor was He ever really born, either: His flesh was an illusion. However, Mohammed has no interest in the substance of any such theory, he takes the matter-of-fact view that Jesus was a mere man, a prophet but no more; certainly no illusion! So the material ends up stranded in the Koran; Mohammed is not a docetist, and the Muslims are left to make of it what they will.

As opposed to the earlier but still potent 'substitution' theory, the idea gaining in popularity seems to be the 'swoon' theory. This idea was promoted during the German enlightenment by those who disbelieved in the possibility of miracles, and sought naturalistic explanations for all apparent miracles, including the founding miracle of Christianity, the resurrection:

"The argument I shared with Kirsten, often called 'the swoon theory,' is shared by Ahmadi Muslims and non-Ahmadi Muslims alike. It is a favorite among Muslim debaters, like Ahmad Deedat and Shabir Ally. It originated at the end of the eighteenth century when the age of enlightenment began generating naturalistic theories to account for Jesus' apparent resurrection. Muslims like Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had added a theistic twist to it, making it more plausible that Jesus could survive crucifixion. The argument goes: 'If God can do the large miracle of raising Jesus from the dead, why can He not do the much smaller miracle of keeping him alive on the cross?'" (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi, pp. 84-85)

Macabre cases like that do happen, where some unfortunate zippered up in a body bag starts yelling and thrashing on the coroner's table. It is a mistaken diagnosis of death, basically. In this instance however, it has the unfortunate side effect of making Jesus into a false prophet, because He foretold His own death. He even instructed His followers to take up their cross and follow Him, "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). If in fact He had no cross nor ever took one up, this 'following' a bit notional, because His followers will then be following Him where He never went.

Another telling little bit of circumstantial evidence in dating this apocryphal work is 'Barnabas' retiming of the Jubilee:

"Jesus answered: 'I am indeed sent to the house of Israel as a prophet of salvation; but after me shall come the Messiah, sent of God to all the world; for whom God hath made the world. And then through all the world will God be worshipped, and mercy received, insomuch that the year of jubilee, which now cometh every hundred years, shall by the Messiah be reduced to every year in every place.'" (Gospel of Barnabas, Chapter 82).

But Biblically, the Jubilee is every fiftieth year: "And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you. . ." (Leviticus 25:10). 'Barnabas' is not alone in his revision of the Jubilee year; Pope Boniface VIII made a similar change, confirming a date for composition of the Gospel of Barnabas in the fourteenth century: "It is beyond all dispute that on 22 February, 1300, Boniface published the Bull 'Antiquorum fida relatio', in which, appealing vaguely the precedent of past ages, he declares that he grants afresh and renews certain 'great remissions and indulgences for sins'. . ." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Jubilee). Someone familiar with Catholic practice in that period might have written as 'Barnabas' does. Subsequent Popes conformed the Catholic practice to the Levitical.

Scripture Wresting

Later in his prophetic career, Mohammed stopped asking his followers to consult the Christians and the Jews for confirmation of his revelations. The Jews, of Saudi Arabia, he nearly extirpated. Nor did his early good relations with the Christians continue, and we encounter passages like this one:

  • “But for their breaking their covenant we have cursed them, and have hardened their hearts. They shift the words of Scripture from their places, and have forgotten part of what they were taught. Thou wilt not cease to discover deceit on their part, except in a few of them. But forgive them, and pass it over: verily, God loveth those who act generously!
  • “And of those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ have we accepted the covenant. But they too have forgotten a part of what they were taught; wherefore we have stirred up enmity and hatred among them that shall last till the day of the Resurrection; and in the end will God tell them of their doings.
  • “O people of the Scriptures! now is our Apostle come to you to clear up to you much that ye concealed of those Scriptures, and to pass over many things. Now hath a light and a clear Book come to you from God, by which God will guide him who shall follow after his good pleasure, to paths of peace, and will bring them out of the darkness to the light, by his will: and to the straight path will he guide them.”
  • (Koran Sura 5:16-18).

  • "And some truly are there among them who torture the Scriptures with their tongues, in order that ye may suppose it to be from the Scripture, yet it is not from the Scripture. And they say, ‘This is from God;’ yet it is not from God: and they utter a lie against God, and they know they do so."
  • (Koran Sura 3:72).

Plainly now the honeymoon is over. Having been rejected as a prophet by the Jews and the Christians, Mohammed now in his turn rejects them. Of what are they accused? Of 'concealing' parts of Scripture? From whom? From themselves, or from him? Mohammed accused the Jews of Medina of concealing the Scripture, not from themselves, but from him:

  • “O Apostle! let not those who vie with one another in speeding to infidelity vex thee;— of those who say with their mouths, ‘We believe,’ but whose hearts believe not;— or of the Jews — listeners to a lie — listeners to others — but who come not to thee. They shift the words of the law from their places, and say, ‘If this be brought to you, receive it; but if this be not brought to you, then beware of it.’”
  • (Koran Sura 5:45).

As is plain in this very passage, the Jews still retain the Scriptures, though they allegedly misled Mohammed as to their content:

"But how shall they make thee their judge, since they possess already the Law, in which are the behests of God, and have not obeyed it? After this, they will turn their backs; but such are not believers. Verily, we have sent down the law (Towrat) wherein are guidance and light. By it did the prophets who professed Islam judge the Jews; and the doctors and the teachers judged by that portion of the Book of God, of which they were the keepers and the witnesses. Therefore, O Jews! fear not men but fear Me; and barter not away my signs for a mean price! And whoso will not judge by what God hath sent down — such are the Infidels." (Koran Sura 5:47-48).

There is something more than a little unfair in this accusation. The question of which Mosaic laws the rabbis consider to remain in force since the destruction of the temple is a complex one.

"Imarta the daughter of Tali, a priest, committed adultery. Thereupon R. Hama b. Tobiah had her surrounded by faggots and burnt. R. Joseph said: He [R. Hama] was ignorant of two laws. He was ignorant of R. Mathna's dictum and of the following Baraitha: And thou shalt come unto the priests, the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days: This teaches that when the priesthood is functioning [in the Temple], the judge functions [in respect of capital punishment]; but when the priesthood is not functioning, the judge may not function." (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 52b).

His Jewish preceptors were likely only trying to keep things simple for their eager but ill-informed and ungrateful student, who in return accused them of hypocrisy and deceit. Mohammed taught not only that the Jews possess the law, but also that the Christians possess the gospel:

  • “And that the people of the Evangel may judge according to what God hath sent down therein. And whoso will not judge by what God hath sent down — such are the perverse.”
  • (Koran Sura 5:51).

  • "And whatever is in the Heavens and in the Earth is God’s! We have already enjoined those to whom the Scriptures were given before you, and yourselves, to fear God. But if ye become unbelievers, yet know that whatever is in the Heavens and in the Earth is God’s: and God is Rich, Praiseworthy....O ye who believe! believe in God and his Apostle, and the Book which he hath sent down to his Apostle, and the Book which he hath sent down aforetime. Whoever believeth not on God and his Angels and his Books and his Apostles, and in the last day, he verily hath erred with far gone error."
  • (Koran Sura 4:130-135).

Notice that the Christians, like the Jews, are commanded to judge by what has been sent down to them. And how are they to do that, if it is lost, as contemporary Muslims strangely claim? And how can the faithful "believe" in what no longer exists? They are to believe that such a thing once existed, but no longer? Incidentally, even this seemingly tolerant promise, that the Christians will be judged by the gospel standard, is withdrawn in the Hadith, where we discover that, when Jesus returns, He will judge according to the Koran!: "Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said "How will you be when the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Quran and not by the law of Gospel (Sahih al -Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 658; Fateh-ul Bari page 304 and 305 Vol. 7). Truly, the 'Jesus' of the Koran and the Hadith is nothing but a sock puppet who speaks as Mohammed directs.

Mohammed accuses the Jews and Christians, who rejected his prophetic ministry, of knowingly,— "wittingly,"—hiding the truth: "Why wittingly hide the truth?" (Sura 3:64). Surely they must know the truth, to be able to recognize it! According to Mohammed ibn Abdallah, God's intent in revealing the Koran was to give to Mohammed's people "the like" of what had been imparted to the Christians: "that to others may be imparted the like of what has been imparted to you." (Sura 3:66).

How does one read what was lost centuries ago?: "Moreover, the Jews say, ‘The Christians lean on nought:’ ‘On nought lean the Jews,’ say the Christians: Yet both are readers of the Book." (Sura 2:107). Indeed at the outset of his prophetic venture Mohammed intended to pursue a rediscovered universal religion: "The apostle believeth in that which hath been sent down from his Lord, as do the faithful also. Each one believeth in God, and His Angels, and His Books, and His Apostles: we make no distinction between any of His Apostles." (Sura 2:285). It became apparent even in his life-time that this would be impossible, and the many early verses written in commendation of the readers of prior inspired scripture became an embarrassment, leaving a conundrum for later generations.

Mohammed's accusation against the Jews and the Christians revolves around what they do with their tongues, not what they read with their eyes nor do with their pens: "Among the Jews are those who displace the words of their scriptures, and say, ‘We have heard, and we have not obeyed. Hear thou, but as one that heareth not; and LOOK AT US;’ perplexing with their tongues, and wounding the Faith by their revilings." (Sura 4:48). He is here accusing them of twisting the scriptures "with their tongues," i.e., of misrepresenting the Law in verbal disputation, not of changing the written text. He is incidentally being more than a little unfair to the Arabian Jews in accusing them of not following their own scriptures. After the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., the conundrum confronted Jewish legal authorities of how much of the Law could or should be observed in exile. When there is no Sanhedrin, no appellate court for capital cases, can the death penalty lawfully be executed? Where Jews are living under civil governments who claim a monopoly on lethal force, is it right or prudent for a sub-population to enforce an alien law? Inasmuch as some of Moses' laws are prefaced with, "when ye shall come into the land," are these laws even applicable outside the land of promise? These are difficult questions, of which Mohammed seems to have had very little conception.

How can a people stand upon vacant space?: "SAY: O people of the Book! ye have no ground to stand on, until ye observe the Law and the Evangel, and that which hath been sent down to you from your Lord." (Sura 5:72). The people of the Book are commanded to observe the gospel:

"But if the people of the Book believe and have the fear of God, we will surely put away their sins from them, and will bring them into gardens of delight: and if that they observe the law and the Evangel, and what hath been sent down to them from their Lord, they shall surely have their fill of good things from above them and from beneath their feet. Some there are among them who act aright; but many of them — how evil are their doings!" (Koran, Sura 5:70).

If they do not in fact possess the "Evangel," how can they reasonably be expected to "observe" it? To the unlettered prophet, it was self-evident that the 'People of the Book' possessed the book, but his modern descendants are obliged to argue that the 'People of the Book' have no book: oops, they dropped it, the dog ate it, they lost it, whatever. Mohammed ibn Abdallah had no such conception:

"Say ye: ‘We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes: and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the prophets from their Lord. No difference do we make between any of them: and to God are we resigned (Muslims).’" (Sura 3:78).

Modern Muslims do very much make a difference between them, and indeed there is no alternative to so doing, inasmuch as these varied 'revelations' contradict one another and thus cannot simultaneously be true. Which to discard? The non-conforming, most recent one which falsely claims conformity, not the ancient one whose authenticity is conceded by all.

Islamic History

The unlettered prophet began his career as an earnest seeker after God. But after listening intently to the voice of God in Mecca, and acquiring fewer than forty followers, he and his band departed to Medina. There he reconfigured his operation, transforming it into a police state. Initially he had hopes of winning over those who had received scripture beforehand: "They to whom we have given the Book rejoice in what hath been sent down to thee; yet some are banded together who deny a part of it." (Sura 13:36). A similar sentiment, wishful thinking, is expressed in Sura 26:196-197, "And truly it [the Koran] is foretold in the Scriptures of them of yore. Was it not a sign to them that the learned among the children of Israel recognized it?" But he discovered that you can't please both the Christians and the Jews. Having tossed the Christians aside to please the Jews of Medina, and having discovered this latter group had even less patience for his prophecy than had the Christians, he ended by condemning both. The sad result in human history, of a religious revelation which claims to confirm Christianity and Judaism but cannot be accepted by either, has been a never-ending war, the most incessant argumentum ad baculum ever undertaken:

Washington Irving
Mohammed and His

He accuses the Jews, who said that they believed in his prophetic mission, of bad faith:

"Desire ye then that for your sakes the Jews should believe? Yet a part of them heard the word of God, and then, after they had understood it, perverted it, and knew that they did so. And when they fall in with the faithful, they say, ‘We believe;’ but when they are apart one with another, they say, ‘Will ye acquaint them with what God hath revealed to you, that they may dispute with you about it in the presence of your Lord?’ Understand ye their aim? Know they not that God knoweth what they hide, as well as what they bring to light? But there are illiterates among them who are unacquainted with the Book, but with lies only, and have but vague fancies. Woe to those who with their own hands transcribe the Book corruptly, and then say, ‘This is from God,’ that they may sell it for some mean price! Woe then to them for that which their hands have written! and, Woe to them for the gains which they have made!" (Sura 2:75-79).

Here he is accusing his enemies both of misrepresenting his purported revelation, and also of misrepresenting their own revelation to him and to the Muslims. These treacherous enemies are those who say, ‘We believe;’ i.e., we are Muslims, but are not truly. They want to hide from Mohammed God's true revelation, the Law, not share it. Undoubtedly they thought that if Mohammed were a true prophet, he would not need them to instruct him, but would spontaneously agree with what had previously been sent down; that he did not disproves his claim to inspiration. Perhaps they tried the experiment of testing Mohammed with made-up, preposterous 'laws,' and the experiment did not go so well for him. The bad faith of which he accuses them is exercised against the Muslims, not against the Jews' own community and religious tradition. The Arabian Jews had little prospect of changing a book that already lay hidden for centuries, in unchanged form, in the caves of Qumran, nor were they trying to conceal its meaning from themselves. Very likely it was the success of their stratagems that bit, not their failure; the Jews with their 'trick questions' succeeded in making Mohammed look foolish, and he could not forgive them for it. But had he been a true prophet, he would not have been such an easy mark.

Even centuries later, a bitter after-taste remains from his complaint that they sold him things for a "mean price." What did they sell him, and why was he not a satisfied customer? It is evident to the reader of the Koran that Mohammed obtained content from elsewhere; the unlettered prophet did not have direct, personal access to the holy books. When he re-tells familiar Old Testament stories, they often sport features unfamiliar to Christian Bible-readers, but in many cases those features were invented by rabbinic re-tellers of long ago; Mohammed first heard the stories with these additions. Is it possible the Koran is the only holy book in existence whose contents were partially purchased? Perhaps he had already heard complaints that content he had assumed to be Biblical had actually come from sources like the Protevangelium or rabbinic legends, and felt he'd been 'had.'

In the early years of Islam, the complaints heard today about the Christian scriptures were not yet thought of. Here is Ibn Ishaq's tale of the conversion of certain Abyssinian Christians to Islam:

"While the apostle was in Mecca some twenty Christians came to him from Abyssinia when they heard news of him. . .When they heard the Quran their eyes flowed with tears, and they accepted God's call, believed in him, and declared his truth. They recognized in him the things which had been said of him in their scriptures." ('The Life of Muhammad,' a translation of Ibn Ishaq, by A. Guillaume, Part II, p. 179).

There is no suggestion here that they didn't have the scriptures. That would come later, when it was discovered most Christians hear the Koran dry-eyed. And what scriptures did they have? Those we have today, which include Paul's letters, versus whatever imagined New Testament might not include this otherwise universal component:

"We should understand the meaning of the passages that mention Jesus the savior according to their meanings in the holy books, not according to Paul and the Churches’ councils. The Holy Bible mentions many saviors, but it mentions nothing of what Paul and others preached." (Monqith Ben Mahmoud Assaqar, PhD., Was Jesus Crucified for Our Atonement? p. 152).

The Holy Bible as Mohammed received it includes Paul's preaching, as well as much else that is distasteful to Muslims.


Some scripture stories are, not so much favorites, as so disfavored in Muslim lands that the proposal has been made to ban the Bible:

  • "WASHINGTON (BP)--Adam and Eve sans fig leaves, Lot getting drunk, Jesus stopping a stoning — this is all too much for Muslims represented in Pakistan's parliament by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party.

  • "In their view, Bible stories such as these amount to 'pornographic' slurs against the biblical figures whom they claim as their holy prophets. They are now demanding that the country ban the Bible because of such 'blasphemy' and exact a 'punishment.'

  • "The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party's leader, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi, at a press conference on May 30 in Lahore, informally petitioned the Supreme Court, complaining that the Bible includes stories about some of the biblical prophets that include 'a variety of moral crimes, which undermine the sanctity of the holy figures.'"

  • ('Ban the Bible, Pakistani Politician Says,' June 6, 2011, by Nina Shea, Baptist Press).

This effort can be seen as the reductio ad absurdum of the Muslim enterprise. People nowadays would not even know about David the King of Israel outside of the Bible history. Mohammed ibn Abdallah's informants would not have had any information to pass along without the Bible; embellishments must entwine around some framework, and without the Bible there is no Davidic frame. Yet this Pakistani Muslim Party cannot abide the unvarnished truth contained in the Bible account:

"And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. . . And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die."
(2 Samuel 11:2-15).

David, a prophet of God, was an adulterer and a murderer. This is unthinkable to Muslims, so the truth must be scrubbed clean and the record erased. David was a prophet; this is conceded by all. Prophets must be morally exemplary in all respects; so say the Muslims, because what surety of safety have they otherwise in imitating the deeds of Mohammed ibn Abdallah, whom they count a prophet? This is the same Mohammed ibn Abdallah who married an underage girl, owned slaves and committed highway robbery. Hmmm. . .maybe it is not such a good idea to blindly ape a mere man, if even a real prophet like David did not always set a good example.

The story of David's adultery is glancingly touched on in the Koran, in Sura 38: "Now this my brother had ninety and nine ewes, and I had but a single ewe; and he said, make me her keeper. And he over-persuaded me in the dispute.' He said, 'Certainly he hath wronged thee in asking for thine ewe to add her to his own ewes'. . .And David perceived that we had tried him; so he asked pardon of his Lord, and fell down and bowed himself and repented." (Koran Sura 38:22-23). Evidently some modern readers have no idea what this passage is talking about, or what was the topic of David's repentance.

Muslims of the present day join with atheists and agnostics like Bart Ehrman in expressing dismay at the state of the New Testament text. As noted above, the author and first generation readers of the Koran cannot have joined them. Mohammed thought that the Jews and Christians, schooled in their own scriptures, would quite naturally recognize his prophetic vocation: "And now have we caused our word to come unto them, that they may be warned: They to whom we gave the Scriptures before it, do in it believe." (Sura 28:51-52). They do? It was only when it was realized that this wasn't happening that Plan B went into effect. The people of the book were supposed to verify his ministry: "What! shall I seek other judge than God, when it is He who hath sent down to you the distinguishing Book? They to whom we have given the Book know that it is sent down from thy Lord with truth." (Koran, Sura 6:114). A few accepted him, most did not, as is the pattern to this day. This is the problem for which 'corruption of the scriptures' is the solution.

Truly, there are some literary works which have come down to us from antiquity in such a state of ruin and disrepair as to make us lament what has been lost, like Cassius Dio's Roman History or Cicero's On the Commonwealth, and many writings have disappeared altogether. They are mistaken to think that the New Testament as we hold it in our hands today is in any way a ragged or damaged text. But, anomalously, their own unlettered prophet quite happily quoted the Arabic Infancy Gospel, a text which has not so much been corrupted, as it was not reliable or credible even before the ink had dried on the first manuscript. Christians who pick up the Koran find many stories that are familiar, at least in their broad outlines. The embellishments the Koran lays on the familiar Bible stories are, generally speaking, not original to Mohammed; they predate him. In the case of the Old Testament, Mohammed tells the stories as they had already been elaborated by the Rabbis. In the case of the New Testament, it is rare indeed to find a 'quote' from the New Testament: Sura 48:29 is an isolated case, "This is their picture in the Law, and their picture in the Evangel: they are as the seed which putteth forth its stalk; then strengtheneth it, and it groweth stout, and riseth upon its stem, rejoicing the husbandman — that the infidels may be wrathful at that." This is reminiscent of Mark 4:28. It is not a citation of an imaginary book 'Allah' gave to Jesus; rather, the 'Evangel' to Mohammed is simply the gospel as recorded in the New Testament.

Not that the "unlettered prophet" had the New Testament text open in front of him, nor would it have done him any good if he had; he was, as ever, dependent upon his informants and what they remembered of what they had read. What are the sources of the Koran?:

Fiery Furnace In the Cradle
They are All Dead Abraham's Apologetic
Hatchet Job Falling Rocks
Seven Portals of Hell Moses in the Bulrushes
Satan's Fall Solomon's Throne
Air Mail Quoth the Raven
Seven Sleepers In the Sanctuary
Life-Giving Rain God Prays
Seven Heavens

Return to Answering Islam...