"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, "Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?" He said unto them, "An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?" But he said, "Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
While you are packing your swim trunks and stocking up on sun screen, see if you can name these famous bodies of water. Oh, and you can use these as diving boards (spring boards, get it? It’s a joke) for witnessing situations while waiting in line for smoothies, or the high-dive, or while floating in the lazy river:
1) Jesus told a blind man to wash in this pool and receive sight.
2) Naaman “dipped” in this river and was healed of leprosy.
3) Daniel saw a vision of a ram in this river.
4) Ezekiel saw visions of God here.
5) Elijah slew the prophets of Baal near this brook.
6) Moses led the Israelite through dry land to this sea.
7) Another name for the Sea of Galilee.
8) A river that flows out of Eden.
9) The water here was bitter.
10) Seraiah was commanded to read a book and cast it into this river.
11) Jesus taught in a ship in this body of water.
Almost two weeks ago I posted "Bows and Arrows". Were you able to identify the following people from the Bible? Who . . .
1) . . . was the first archer mentioned? Ishmael (Gen 16:15, 21:20)
2) . . . was wounded by archers, then asked his armor-bearer to kill him with a sword? Saul (1 Sam 31:3-4)
3) . . . shot an arrow as a warning signal for his friend to flee? Jonathan (1 Sam 20:33-42)
4) . . . was hit by an arrow at random, then died? Ahab (1 Kings 22:34)
5) . . . was hit by archers and died in Jerusalem? Josiah (2 Chron 35:23-24)
6) . . . said that his condition was like being surrounded by archers? Job (Job 16:13)
7) . . . was angry when the king struck the ground three times with an arrow? Elisha (2 Kings 13:17-19)
8) . . . prophesied that the king of Assyria would not shoot an arrow in Jerusalem? Isaiah (Isaiah 37:33)
9) . . . lamented over Saul and Jonathan and taught the children of Judah to use the bow? David (1 Samuel 1:17-18)
10) . . . sent his son with his bow to get venison? Isaac (Genesis 27:1-3)
11) . . . reminded the people assembled at Shechem that hornets, not bows, had defeated their enemies? Joshua (Joshua 24:2-12)
I told you all the answers were in the OT.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The is the fourth post in response to Dr. Miller’s article “The Difference between the Bible and the Qur’an” where I intend to address his mention of mistakes in the Bible.
Preparing for this response caused me to remember how the rationale behind such argumentation from any critic of the Bible intends to suggest that the Bible demands belief, whereas other tolerant approaches only invite belief. In other words, the Bible (subsequently, biblical Christianity) is less preferred because it is too demanding. I could not help but remember that Martin Luther is quoted to say, “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing, and he must do his own dying.” God’s Word demands belief and expects obedience for upon his death man must give account for what He has done in context of God’s standard, which is found in scripture.
Dr. Miller’s entire contention is less about what the Muslim perspective is on scripture and more about his personal response to scripture. I am convinced the more I read, the more he is voicing his personal objection to scripture than represent the Muslim view. What Dr. Miller intends to do is separate himself from the authority of scripture by attacking the doctrine of inspiration and in this case, inerrancy. Since the Bible clearly carries the authority of God, it is therefore binding upon man in his conscience, will and heart. No person is free from that which God hath spoken. Does not the Qur’an warn, “O believers! Believe in Allah, His Rasool [a prophet who has been given the Book of Revelations and Shari’ah (Islamic Law) and is selected by Allah to pass on His message and be a model for a particular nation like Ibraheem (Abraham), Lut (Lot), Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus) or for the whole mankind like Muhammad (pbuh)], the Book which He has revealed to His Rasool, and every Book which He previously revealed. He who denies Allah, his angels, His Books, His Rasools and the Last Day has gone far astray.” (Surah 4:136)?
Before addressing some specific areas introduced by Dr. Miller, there is one question I wish Dr. Miller could answer: what does he mean precisely by “mistakes in the Bible?” Usually one is eager to expose so-called contradictions as there is greater difficulty to find, much less expose, outright errors. In his paper, “What the Gospels mean to Muslims,” Dr. Miller makes this curious statement:
“When people single out errors to say, "Look, there is a mistake in the Bible," they are claiming that no where else in that book is there a verse which would clear up this apparent error. It would be pretty hard work to demonstrate that is the case. It would have to say, okay, here is chapter 1 verse 1, this verse does not clear up that mistake. Now this verse, that does not put a new light on that verse and go through all these thousands of verses to show that there is no verse to clear up what apparently is an error. That would be pretty hard work.”
If I read Dr. Miller correctly, he is hoping that his declaration of mistakes demonstrates he has read enough scripture to verify there is indeed a mistake; also, he intends to show that disproving his declaration would be a daunting, if not impossible task. Consider this explanation concerning so-called mistakes in the Bible and the nature of scripture:
“The Bible has many seeming contradictions within its pages. A contradiction is an inconsistency or discrepancy, which may give the appearance of an error . . . an elementary rule of scripture is that God has deliberately included seeming contradictions in His Word to “snare” the proud. He has “hidden” things from the “wise and prudent” and “revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21), purposely choosing foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).”[i]
The first so-called mistake Dr. Miller hopes we do not tackle comes from 2 Samuel 10:18 (“David killed 700 charioteers of the Arameans and 40,000 horsemen and struck down Shobach the commander of their army”) and 1 Chronicles 19:18 (“David killed of the Arameans 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death Shophach the commander of the army”). Dr. Miller would like to know, “How many of whom?” But is this even the right question, much less a “good” one? The wrong question only leads to the wrong answer.
One way to resolve this apparent discrepancy is to ask, “Where does the text say this event took place in one day, in one battle? Why could David not have killed 700 charioteers of the Arameans on one day and more on the next until 7000 total were killed when the entire battle was over? Could he have killed 40,000 horsemen and 40,000 foot soldiers?” This kind of thinking is more in line with the Hebrew mind. The only other explanation is the possibility of copyist error (which begs the question as to why we don’t correct the copy since we have older manuscripts that do not contain the error).
Also consider the entire context to discover the point of the record--the victory of David, his leadership and reliance on advisors and the importance of counting the cost. He is carrying out what the conquest under Moses started, and the Judges did not complete: the conquest of the land and the establishment of Israel as a kingdom. Dr. Miller intends to exalt the superiority of the Qur’an and discredit the God of the Bible and His Word because of a reading error that one must really hunt for in order to find. These two passages are obviously not well known except to those who actually have read, and read deeply (as he is hoping we will not). Furthermore, the accounting of those lost contains no doctrine or doctrinal reference or difference. Dr. Miller’s contention proves only that if a person wants to search long and hard enough for a mistake, he will find one.[ii]
Two other passages from which Dr. Miller attempts to make his case are Matthew 27:5, where Judas “went away and hanged himself” against Acts 1:18 describing how Judas “acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.” Dr. Miller wants to know which record is correct: Matthew or Luke’s. Did Judas hang himself, or jump off a cliff headfirst? Interestingly, no text exists that says, “Judas jumped off a cliff headfirst” though there is one that says he did hang. The other text merely says that Judas fell. Could there be a remote possibility that the tree branch on which Judas hung himself broke, which dropped his body so it burst? Does the combination of both records supply the reader with a problem, or a fuller picture? The apparent discrepancy only proves there was no corroboration between writers.
“If an ungodly man refuses to humble himself and obey the gospel, and instead desires to build a case against the Bible, God gives him enough material to build his own gallows . . . . God has turned the tables on proud, arrogant, self-righteous man. When he proudly stands outside of the kingdom of God, seeking to justify his sinfulness through evidence that he thinks discredits the Bible, he doesn’t realize that God has simply lowered the door of life, so that only those who are prepared to exercise faith and bow in humility may enter . . . . Since every word of the Lord is pure, any seeming “mistakes” are there because God has put them there, and they are therefore not mistakes. In time, we will find that the “mistakes” are actually ours.”[iii]
Dr. Miller next says, “Well in the Bible as Titus 1:12 the writer is Paul and he is talking about the Cretans. He says that one of their own men—a prophet—said ‘Cretans always lie’ and he says that what this man says is true. It is a small mistake, but the point is that it is a human mistake, you don’t find that if you carefully examine the true content of that statement. It can not be a true statement.” He builds his case on what he calls the “Effeminites paradox,” to mean that if the Cretan who spoke lied, then he is always lying. “If he is not lying then he is telling the truth then the Cretans don’t always lie! You see it cannot be true and it can not be false, the statement turns back on itself.” If scripture is without error can it be true (as Paul says) if this is really a false statement?
I must agree with Dr. Miller. There is a small mistake, but it does not lie with the passage. To make his case, Dr. Miller has failed to quote the entire passage (a human mistake, I am sure) to an audience that is unlikely to check the source (a Satanic deception, to be precise), subsequently inferring that Paul was a racist—and that alone would cause problems for the churches being planted there! The quote actually reads, “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true.” (Titus 1:12-13).
Dr. Miller’s error begins by referring to a paradox that does not exist, “Effeminites paradox.” What he means is, “Epimenides paradox.” We don’t know if Dr. Miller misspoke, or if what was recorded to be said was in fact a scribal error; nevertheless, an error is established in the beginning. Epimenides was a 6th century Greek poet, a native of Crete, who “had characterized his own people as the dregs of Greek culture. . . . This quote is directed at the false teachers’ character.”[iv] The apostle Paul is not evaluating the statement, “Cretans always lie” and declaring that statement true. He is actually describing those Cretans “who are rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” These, of all Cretans, are liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons. That is what is true.
“Presumably most members of these churches, and especially the elders in those churches, whom Paul expects to be blameless, self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined (Tit 1:8), would not qualify as “liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” Even among the general Cretan population there were surely many who led good and upright lives. Thus the definition of Cretans as “always liars” is hardly justified.”[v]
The Bible still remains inerrant in all it affirms, whether historical, scientific, moral or doctrinal. “Inerrancy extends to all of scripture and is not limited to certain teachings of scripture.”
[i] Cameron, Kirk and Comfort, Ray. “Contradictions in the Bible,” The School of Biblical Evangelism.
[ii] First Chronicles 18:4–5 is the fullest and best statement of what took place at this encounter. If this is true, the Chronicles figure of seven thousand charioteers, or horsemen, is no doubt the correct figure and the one that lies behind the transcriptional error of seven hundred in 2 Samuel 10:18. Note that some Septuagintal texts of 2 Samuel 10:18 agree with Chronicles. Furthermore, the forty thousand “foot soldiers” of Chronicles is the correct reading, not “horsemen” as in Samuel, for the figure matches closely, as a rounded number, the twenty thousand plus twenty-two thousand foot soldiers given in 1 Chronicles 18:4–5. This seems to be the best solution to the problem. The present Hebrew manuscripts for the books of 1 and 2 Samuel have more transcriptional errors in them than any other book or combination of books in the Old Testament. From the preliminary checks seen in the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts of Samuel, the Greek translation of the Septuagint appears to reflect a much better Hebrew manuscript. Another attempt to resolve this problem suggests that when Samuel talked about the “[men of] chariots” or “[men of the] chariot divisions” (to which the seven hundred presumably belonged), he was speaking of a separate group of personnel from the (seven thousand) “charioteers,” but no evidence exists to support this distinction. (Kaiser, Walter C. Hard Sayings of the Bible, Page 511. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity, 1997, c1996.)
[iii] Cameron, Comfort, Ibid. Also, “Matthew is more interested in the purchase of the field, which he sees as a fulfillment of Scripture. He combines Zechariah 11:12–13 (the thirty pieces of silver and the potter) and Jeremiah 32:6–12 (buying a field), perhaps with overtones of Jeremiah 18:1–4 (going to the potter’s house), and links them all under Jeremiah’s name (see comment on Mt 27:9–10). Luke has another concern, which is that Judas got what he deserved, a horrible death. (A similar situation is reported in Acts 12:21–24, where the author narrates the story of Herod Agrippa I’s death.) The focus is not on the purchase of the field (which would have appeared a reward, especially to Jews for whom landowning in Palestine was important), but on his death in the field (which was ghastly). Both authors want to point out that the field was called “The Field of Blood,” thus memorializing the deed.” Kaiser, Ibid.
[iv] MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., Tit 1:12. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
[v] Kaiser, ibid.
Monday, May 28, 2007
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” (Lamentations 3:21)
Memory is frequently the bond slave of despondency. Dispairing minds call to remembrance every dark foreboding in the past, and dilate upon every gloomy feature in the present; thus memory, clothed in sackcloth, presents to the mind a cup of mingled gall and wormwood. There is, however, no necessity for this.
Wisdom can readily transform memory into an angel of comfort. That same recollection which in its left hand brings so many gloomy omens, may be trained to bear in its right a wealth of hopeful signs. She need not wear a crown of iron, she may encircle her brow with a fillet of gold, all spangled with stars.
Thus it was in Jeremiah’s experience: in the previous verse memory had brought him to deep humiliation of soul: “My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me;” and now this same memory restored him to life and comfort. “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” Like a two-edged sword, his memory first killed his pride with one edge, and then slew his despair with the other. As a general principle, if we would exercise our memories more wisely, we might, in our very darkest distress, strike a match which would instantaneously kindle the lamp of comfort.
There is no need for God to create a new thing upon the earth in order to restore believers to joy; if they would prayerfully rake the ashes of the past, they would find light for the present; and if they would turn to the book of truth and the throne of grace, their candle would soon shine as aforetime. Be it ours to remember the lovingkindness of the Lord, and to rehearse his deeds of grace. Let us open the volume of recollection which is so richly illuminated with memorials of mercy, and we shall soon be happy.
Thus memory may be, as Coleridge calls it, “the bosom-spring of joy,” and when the Divine Comforter bends it to his service, it may be chief among earthly comforters.
Spurgeon, C. H. (1995). Morning and evening : Daily readings (May 28 PM). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
1MacArthur, John, F. How to Get the Most from God's Word. Electronic ed. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
Head-dibber, since 2004. http://headdibs.blogspot.com/
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"I cannot agree with those who say that they have 'new truth' to teach. The two words seem to me to contradict each other; that which is new is not true. It is the old that is true, for truth is as old as God himself" -- Charles Spurgeon
Friday, May 25, 2007
This is the second in a series of posts responding to the he article “The Difference Between the Bible and the Qur’an,” based on a lecture by Dr. Gary Miller, a former minister who apostatized to Islam and is considered to be an apologist for the Muslim community to the west.
Dr. Miller attempts to draw a distinction between the Bible and the Qur’an by calling into question the genre and voice of the biblical text. He says plainly, “The Qur’an is a dictation. The speaker in the Qur’an—in the first person—is God talking directly to man. In the Bible you have many men writing about God and you have in some places the word of God speaking to men and still in other places you have some men simply writing about history.”
The Bible did not fall out of heaven as a black tome with “KJV” stamped on the cover; that is, the Bible was written over a 1,500 year span (over 40 generations), by more than 40 authors who lived in different places, at different times, in different moods, on three continents, in three languages. We would be hard-pressed to find 10 people, one from any walk of life just within one generation, and put them together in one place (regardless of their mood) and have them write harmoniously on any one subject in just one language! The Bible is more than an anthology, but a unity.[i]
Let us first consider what Dr. Miller fails to address: text that God Himself wrote. Surat 2 Al-Baqarah and Surat 3 Al-Imran (among others) both contain significant passages (if the dictation stands in English [see previous post]) explaining the source of the Qur’an, the Torah and the Injeel (Gospels) as being one and the same:
Surat 2.53, “And (remember) when We gave Musa [Moses] the scripture and the criterion so that you may be guided aright.”
Surat 2:87, “And indeed, We gave Musa [Moses] the Book and followed him up with a succession of Messengers, and We gave Isa [Jesus], the son of Maryam [Mary] clear signs and supported him with Rul-ul-qudus [Gabriel]. Is it that whenever there came to you a Messenger with what you yourselves desired not, you grew arrogant? Some you disbelieved and some you killed.”
Surat 2.89, “And when there came to them [the Jews], a book (this Qur’an) from Allah confirming what is with them [The Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), although aforetime they had invoked Allah (for coming of Muhammad (pbuh)) in order to gain victory over those who disbelieved, then when there came to them that which that had recognized, they disbelieved in it. So let the Curse of Allah be on the disbelievers.”
Surat 3.3, “It is He Who has sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (Muhammad (pbuh)) with truth, confirming what came before it. And he sent down the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel).”
While it is possible to explore the question of Allah being the God of the Bible here, we will reserve this for another discussion. Focusing on the textual source, if the Qur’an agrees that the Torah came from God, it must agree with the Torah itself, specifically, the first five books of what we call “The Old Testament.” Torah can also mean, “Law.”
Exodus 24:12, “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me in the mountain, and be there. And I will give you tablets of stone, and the Law, and commandments which I have written, so that you may teach them’.”
After Moses receives the Torah, and the Qur’an agrees, the people took calf for worship (Exodus 32; Surat 2.51). When Moses broke the tablets, God replaced them, but notice how He did this:
Moses asked God to show him His glory, to which God replies that His glory will be declared in His perfection in the context of mankind (His goodness, graciousness, compassion). God tells Moses that to see His glory, God will cover him in the cleft of the rock as He passes by declaring His glory; however, ”the LORD said to Moses, ‘Cut out two tablets of stone like the first. And I will write upon the tablets the words that were in the first tablets which you broke’.” (Exodus 34:2)
What did God write? The Torah, the Law, the Book of the Covenant. God’s glory is connected to what He wrote; that is, the Ten Commandments. We understand that, “if the ministry of death, having been engraved in letters in stone was with glory (so that the sons of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses because of the glory of his face), which was being done away, shall not the ministry of the Spirit be with more glory?”[ii] But I get ahead of myself. The point is that if we can be concerned about what God says directly to man, we must be concerned about what He wrote with His own hand. After all, if (as Dr. Miller says) the Qur’an is a dictation and the Qur’an must be accepted as the word of God on that basis, then we should also accept what God Himself has written, specifically those things written and delivered to Moses, as the Qur’an agrees.
Does not the Qur’an teach that one must do righteous good deeds to be a dweller of paradise? Since Qur’an emphasizes that what God gave Moses was criterion for right living (Surat 2.52), now is the time to ask, “how you are doing at what God wrote with His own hand?”
Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of the value or reason? Consider how in the eyes of the law of our land, if a policeman sees someone take something without paying for it (“stealing”) the law will immediately and always mark that person as a thief. The law demands justice and if justice takes its course, punishment must be delivered. Interestingly, if the eyes of the law do not see the act of theft, the one who steals is still a thief.
Have you ever told a lie, regardless of the reason? If I tell a lie one would not hesitate to call me a “liar,” so consider what you are called when you tell a lie. What righteousness is there in telling untruth?
What about this: have you always held honor and respect for your parents? Have you always obeyed them in every circumstance, without any rebellion?
With these three things in mind, our conscience tells us that, no matter who we are or what we believe, something is very wrong with us. Not only that, but that we are incapable of doing any good works whatsoever. Sure, we may be able to do some every now and then, but we are more inclined to do unrighteous works than good, righteous ones. Will my good deeds outweigh my bad ones? Consider this: will a drop of poison go away if I add more tea to the glass?
April 8, 2007 it was announced that Juan Luna will be tried for the 1993 murder of seven people in Palatine, Illinois. For nine years, the police could not find the murderer (click here for a timeline)! What was he doing for nine years? Regardless of what he was doing, whether he was caught and sat in a prison cell from the outset or greeted shoppers at Wal-mart, Juan Luna was a murderer in 1993 and will be tried and convicted for murder in 2007.
Think of what this means on an eternal scale: once a liar, always a liar; once a thief, always a thief. Once an adulterer, always an adulterer. No amount of good works can change that. We’re in big trouble on judgment day.
In his lecture on “What the Gospels mean to Muslims,” Dr. Miller anticipates this conversation with this creative response. Imagine the Christian saying, “Look, your book says my book is true. So read my book and then you’ll be in trouble because you’ll find out that my book is different than your book.” Here is his objection, “Even if the Quran says respect the books of other people, it must be that some people have put some lies in there, because I don’t go along with that thing you’re reading.”
Two matters to conclude: first, if Allah is the one God of the Bible who never changes, and if (according to the Qur’an) Allah cannot be equated with anything created, then Allah cannot lie. If Allah cannot lie, then the words he gave Moses would be true, so one cannot so easily dismiss “that thing” I read.
Second, one cannot dismiss his or her conscience. One can ignore it, but not shut it off. What God has written on stone has also been written on the conscience and this is evidenced by the fact that every person knows, regardless of location, language or culture, there is a difference between what is right and what is wrong. We know that lying and stealing, even disrespect for parents is wrong. We know that love for God above all else is right. Conscience tells what is right and what is wrong and the heart is deceitful above all else.
Can you be secure that one will inherit paradise if conscience agrees that one can never do or intend enough righteous acts?
More on textual criticism later.
[i] McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992
[ii] 2 Corinthians 3:7-8
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I was recently given an article “The Difference Between the Bible and the Qur’an” which is based on a lecture by Dr. Gary Miller, a former minister who apostatized to Islam and is considered to be an apologist for the Muslim community to the west.
The article wastes no time beginning with an description of the Bible (described as a book written by multiple authors containing writing about God as well as recording words spoken by God to men, while in other places, a simple record of history) against the Qur’an (a dictation, God talking directly to man). The contrast attempts to call into question the authority of the biblical books based on authorship, genre and voice leading to this premise: The Qur’an must be the word of God because it claims to have one author and is a speech directly from God; furthermore, the Bible cannot be the Word of God because it has more than one author and only contains words about God. Is this true?
While there is an apparent difference between the authorship of the Qur’an and the Bible, the point Miller makes from the outset is a red-herring. What exactly is the point to be made concerning the number of people who wrote, the genre of what was written and the voice of the text? The best way to answer this and subsequent questions is to seek a definition: “Which Qur’an is being brought into comparison with the Bible?” I am not convinced a contrast (or comparison for that matter) can be made between the Bible and the Qur’an because it has not been made clear which Qur’an is being considered.
I have three editions of the Qur’an. The Preface of my 1934 edition of “The Meanings of the Illustrious Quran (without Arabic Text) by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (published in New Dehli), explains, “It is the duty of every Muslim, man, woman or child, to read the Qur’an and understand it according to his own capacity . . .” The dedication of “Al-Quran. The Guidance for Mankind,” (copyright 1997, published in Houston, Texas) by Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik, elaborates what is to be read and understood: “The Holy Qur’an is revealed in Arabic, so the Qur’an is only the Arabic text, not its translation any other language.”
The difficulty in determining exactly what constitutes the Qur’an is clearly defined by the Muslim community. The Qur’an is an Arabic text. Anything else is not the Qur’an. Is it possible for one to read and understand the Qur’an if he or she does not read Arabic? Clearly, the answer is, “no.” The forward of the 1997 Al-Qur’an contains this paragraph, “The reader should know that given the depth and sublimity of the Qur’anic text, a literal translation into any other language is virtually impossible. The reader would agree that any translation of the Qur’an can never be equal to or be the replacement of the original, therefore, no translations including this, however accurate they may be, can be designated as the Qur’an.” (p. 15)
On one hand, our conversation about the differences between the Bible and the Qur’an must end here if one or both parties in the debate do not read Arabic and must rely on English (or some other culturally applicable) translation. The Muslim community has defined the terms. On the other hand, consider how the Bible, which makes no claims of linguistic exclusivity but appeals to a global awareness of its contents, virtually begs to be translated. We will return to this.
“The Noble Qur’an (In the English Language)” by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan (published in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1996) contains both Arabic and English text with this notation in the preface: “The Arabic text of the Noble Qur’an has been taken from Mushaf Al-Madinah Al Nabawiyyah, which has been printed by the Mujamma of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for the printing of Al-Mushaf Ash-Sharif . . . according to the instructions of the Chancellor of the Islamic University, instead of the old Arabic text of the previous print of this book [emphasis mine] which was printed in the United States and Turkey by the Turkish Calligrapher Sheikh Hamid Al-Amadi.”
Please help me understand which Arabic is one to read? Also, what do these two curious statements in the preface imply toward the Qur’an?
“There are some additions and subtractions of Chapters and Ahadith from Hahih Al-Bukhari and other Ahadith collections;” and, “As regards the old edition of this book, nobody is allowed to reprint or to reproduce it after this new editon has been published.;”
Is there a Qur’an remaining to discuss or contrast? Nevertheless, contrast we shall, examining the problem touching on the number of authors. Dr. Miller implies a difficulty in the number of authors of the biblical text against the Qur’an. His implication is an attempt to uncover apparent inconsistencies with content—there must be a problem because of so many authors.
First, we must discover who wrote the Qur’an before we can address the authorship of the Bible. Does any anyone actually “know” the author of the Qur’an, or just know “of” him, who he was? The answer to this may also be the same answer when posed against the writers of the biblical books.
Did Muhammed write the Qur’an? Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik explains why a literal translation will not serve the purpose of understanding the Divine Message. “The text of the Qur’an is a speech and an address, and was not given to the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in the form of a book.” He explains further: “Muhammad (pbuh) did not receive any education and could not read or write even his own name. Thus he was not exposed to any Jewish or Christian literature or books. He was 40 years old when chosen by Allah Almighty for delivering His message.” After describing the prophet’s public life, Malik continues, “then came the revelation of the Qur’an, a masterpiece of the Arabic language, which challenged the Arabs (who use to call the non-Arabs as ‘Ajamess, which means those who do not know how to speak) to produce ‘even one verse’ like the verse of the Qur’an.” Malik then describes the superiority of the Arabic language in the entire world.
When and where do the words of the illiterate man make it to paper and how does this make him the author? Malik explains that the prophet instructed his words to be recorded in writing; that is, Muhammad called scribes, who both wrote and recited the words of the prophet. “The prophet (pbuh) would than [sic] ask the scribe to read the portion to ensure that was what written down was verbatim word of Allah” and they would thus arrange the quotes to ensure that what was read was indeed the word of Allah (page 783). Hence, we have Al-Qur’an (literally, “the reading”) which came about by a man who did not know how to read; however, that which constitutes Al-Quran are Al-Hadith (or, “the prophet’s own words”).
Let us now contrast with the Bible, which is not one book, but a collection of 66 books. The Bible, literally, is a library of books, the book of books. Allow me to highlight that the Bible as a whole is a “collection.” Each book constituting the Bible was written by one person: the first five “books” of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number and Deuteronomy) were written by one person, Moses (who incidentally, is venerated as a prophet). The next book, Joshua, was written by one person who witnessed and subsequently penned the contents. The books Judges and Ruth, were written by one person, Samuel, a key prophet of his day.
Does knowing a person’s name make the contents reliable, or do the contents when consistent, speak for themselves? Does any anyone actually “know” the author of the Qur’an, or just know “of” him, who he was? The books of Samuel are not named for their author, but like the books of Kings and Chronicles are compiled from other sources. We don’t know who the author is, but that does not minimize the consistency or the authority of their contents. The same is true of the book of Esther, Job and many Psalms.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were written by Ezra.
Psalms are another compilation as they were written by David, the sons of Korah, Asaph, Solomon, Moses, Heman and Ethan, plus some anonymous authors already mentioned above.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and “Song of Songs” were compiled or written by one person-- Solomon, which brings up another question: would you quote someone you did not know? If not, why do we (Muslims and infidels alike) use proverbial statements with complete disregard as to their origin and if this is not a problem, why dismiss the Bible book of Proverbs?
The book of Isaiah gets its title from its single author, as does Jeremiah (who also wrote Lamentations), Ezekiel, Daniel, and the rest of the prophets.
Though we’ve not addressed the books of the New Testament, how can the critic disagree with the use of scribes, as Paul used to pen a few of the epistles? Can it be said of Muhammad, “The greeting of Paul by my own hand which is the sign in every letter, so I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17)?
This has addressed the problem of the number of authors. Each book was written or at least compiled by one person, and knowing or not knowing a persons name does not equate a personal knowledge of the person or makes any contribution to the trustworthiness of the contents, per se. The significant feature the critic fails to consider is that each of the writers was moved by God to write as he did. If the contention is that Muhammad was moved, or “inspired” by Allah, why is it a problem for the authors of biblical books?
A few weeks ago my family and I were shopping in another part of town and (as usual) I armed myself with a pocket full of tracks, but left my tract bag in the car. Stepping inside the store we waited while a tall woman wearing a hijab selected her shopping basket. I flinched when I realized I had a couple of tracts (here is one) reserved for witnessing to Muslims in my bag, which I left in the car. Since the whole family was with me, I wrestled with taking a moment to rush back to the car and get the tracts, or shepherd my family through the store—I chose to wait and help my wife.
As we made our way through the store, we kept crossing paths with the Muslim woman. Making our way to the check-out, I noticed she was hurriedly closing her sale while we were just getting started and I started kicking myself for not going after those tracts. Note to self: carry one.
My mother closed her sale and was helping her to the car while my wife and kids closed our sale inside. To my surprise, I noticed the Muslim woman was parked in the space next to us, so I made haste to return so I could at least fetch the tracts and drop them off. The Muslim woman finished putting her groceries in the car, then with audible frustration, locked up and made her way back into the store, passing us on our way out—apparently she forgot something.
“Praise the LORD!” I exulted. I helped mom into the car and found the tracts and waited patiently. A few minutes later, the Muslim woman exited and approached her car. I came around the other side and, holding out the tracts asked, “Did you get one of these? It would be a great delight if you looked at this—it means so much to me.” The woman looked at me, rolled her eyes, made some noise of disgust and swiped them from my hand. That was it! Done! I thanked her, wished her a good day and returned to my car praying she would read them and maybe call me (I put a sticker on the back of the tracts I distribute with my name and phone number in case anyone wants to talk about what they read).
Last Saturday afternoon my cell phone rang. The caller ID said, “restricted number.” My brain spun as I prepared to launch into the “Good Person” test I sometimes use when I get wrong number phone calls. The woman on the other end said, “Is this James? This is the woman you gave some papers to at the grocery store a couple of weeks back.” I smiled and with great delight expressed my thanks for calling, asked for her name and inquired how I could help her. She said tersely, “I’ve got a couple of things I would like to send you, but don’t see your mailing address on this . . . stuff you gave me.” I gave her my address and asked her name again. She repeated the address back and said to be expecting something, then hung up.
“Great,” I said to myself and my imagination went into overtime as to what a Muslim woman would be sending me now that she had my home address.
Monday, May 21, my wife shows up at my office with a large package (no name on the sender, just a return address). Inside was a large hard-back Qur’an, a stack of CD’s with great titles (most by a former Christian-turned-Muslim, Gary Miller):
“What the Gospels mean to Muslims”
“Basics of Muslim Belief”
“Modern History of Christianity”
“The Amazing Qur'an”
“A Concise Reply to Christianity”
There were also some books:
“Understanding Islam and the Muslims”
“Muhammed (pbuh), The Natural Successor to Christ (pbuh)”
“Gifts from Muhammed” [looks sort of like a “Promise Books” version of the Qur’an]
“An Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam.”
And this book that really looks interesting: “Beyond Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis and the Betrayal of Christianity” by Brandon Toropov.
There was also an article called, “The Difference Between the Bible and the Qur’an.”
Needless to say, I still feel overwhelmed. When I started looking at the material, I felt totally firehosed!
I don’t know if I will ever see the woman again. I may send a thank-you card to the addresses printed in the books (same Post Office box as was on the package label), but don’t know who to address them to. Regardless, I’ve never really had such a good look into this ancient deception, but plan on making a series of posts here that would respond to issues as they present themselves as I read and talk with my contemporaries here at the University who teach in the subject.
I am excited to see how our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in this, as I prepare for future ministry opportunities.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
"Fling him into his office. Tear the “Office” sign from the door and nail on the sign, “Study.” Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.
Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing.
Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.
Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.
Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!
Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day—“Sir, we would see Jesus.”
When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day’s superficial problems, and manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can.
Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word.
And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left—God’s Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.
And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God."
Comments from an unknown parishoner, as quoted by John MacArthur in his book, "Rediscovering Expository Preaching."
Saturday, May 19, 2007
See if you can identify the following people from the Bible. Who . . .
1) . . . was the first archer mentioned?
2) . . . was wounded by archers, then asked his armor-bearer to kill him with a sword?
3) . . . shot an arrow as a warning signal for his friend to flee?
4) . . . was hit by an arrow at random, then died?
5) . . . was hit by archers and died in Jerusalem?
6) . . . said that his condition was like being surrounded by archers?
7) . . . was angry when the king struck the ground three times with an arrow?
8) . . . prophesied that the king of Assyria would not shoot an arrow in Jerusalem?
9) . . . lamented over Saul and Jonathan and taught the children of Judah to use the bow?
10) . . . sent his son with his bow to get venison?
11) . . . reminded the people assembled at Shechem that hornets, not bows, had defeated their enemies?
Need a hint? Scroll down.
All the answers are in the Old Testament. ;-) I will post the answers later in the week.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
"There is a time and place for everything under the sun, including discussions about religion. Whether you are religious or not, if someone is trying to draw you into a conversation, or perhaps an argument, regarding religion or morality but the timing and situation is awkward and uncomfortable, this article will help you find a way to avoid a heated debate as politely as possible."
Read the rest here.
Just so you know it's out there.
“It is no marvel that the devil does not love field preaching! Neither do I; I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit. But where is my zeal if I do not trample all these underfoot in order to save one more soul?”
"[Th]e law must be preached to self-righteous sinners. We must take care of healing before we see sinners wounded, lest we should say, Peace, peace, where there is no peace. Secure sinners must hear the thunderings of mount Sinai, before we bring them to mount Zion. They who never preach up the law, it is to be feared, are unskillful in delivering the glad tidings of the gospel. Every minister should be a Boanerges, a son of thunder, as well as a Barnabus, a son of consolation. There was an earthquake and a whirlwind, before the small still voice came to Elijah: We must first show people they are condemned, and then show them how they must be saved. But how and when to preach the law, and when to apply the promises of the gospel, wisdom is profitable to direct."
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
“I never was more opposed and never met with so great success. I hope I shall learn more and more every day, that no place is amiss for preaching the Gospel. God forbid that the Word of God should be bound because some deny the use of their churches! The more I am bid to hold my peace, the more earnestly will I lift up my voice like a trumpet, and tell the people what must be done in them before they can be finally saved by Jesus Christ.”
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The story is told of a boy who lay dying of his wounds in a Civil War hospital. Realizing he was near the end, a Christian nurse asked, “Are you ready to meet your God, my dear boy?”
His eyes opened and a smile grew on the young soldier’s face as he answered, “I am ready, dear lady, for this has been His kingdom.” As he spoke, he placed his hand upon his heart.
“Do you mean,” asked the nurse, “that God rules and reigns in your heart?”
“Yes,” he whispered, then died—his hand still lay over his heart after it ceased to beat.
Friday, May 11, 2007
The time was 1884.
The place: Montgomery, Michigan.
A spiritualist was stricken with a disease and his life was ebbing away. He had such a hatred for Christ that open his death, he requested that his body not be carried to a church for funeral services nor should any pastor be called upon to officiate.
As he lay in his bed dying, he turned his face to the wall and began to talk to himself about his future. His wife, sitting by his bedside, saw that he was greatly troubled and tied to comfort and console him by telling him not to be afraid. She told him that his spirit would return to her and they would still be with each other then as now. But he would not find comfort in her words. With a look of despair, he said, “I see a great high wall rising around me and am finding out at last—when it is too late—that it is easier to get into Hell than it will be to get out.”
A few minutes later he died to receive his reward of unrightousness.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Dr. Wernher Von Braun, one of the most important rocket developers and champions of space exploration during the period between the 1930s and the 1970s, said: “I believe in an immortal soul. Science has proved that nothing disintegrates into nothingness. Life and soul, therefore, cannot disintegrate into nothingness, and so are immortal.”
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
A great Puritan evangelist, John Rogers, warned his congregation against neglecting Scripture by telling them what God might say: “I have trusted you so long with my Bible … it lies in [some] houses all covered with dust and cobwebs, you care not to listen to it. Do you use my Bible so? Well, you shall have my Bible no longer.”
Rogers then picked up his Bible and started walking away from the pulpit. Then he stopped, fell on his knees, and took on the voice of the people, who pleaded, “Lord, whatever Thou dost to us, take not Thy Bible from us; kill our children, burn our houses, destroy our goods; only spare us Thy Bible, take not away Thy Bible.”
“Say you so?” the minister replied, impersonating God. “Well, I will try you a while longer; and here is my Bible for you. I will see how you use it, whether you will search it more, love it more, observe it more, and live more according to it.”
Thomas Goodwin was so moved by Rogers’s dramatic presentation that when he left church he wept upon his horse’s neck for fifteen minutes before he felt strong enough to mount it.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile. His last reported words were, “I die before my time, and my body will be given back to the earth to become food for worms. Such is the fate of him who has been called the great Napoleon. What an abyss lies between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ!”
Monday, May 07, 2007
"There is one thing that mars all the pleasures of my life. I'm afraid the Bible is true. If I could only know for a certainty that death is an eternal sleep, I should be happy. But here is what pierces my soul--if the Bible is true, I am lost forever!"
""How is it that I, wanting light, have not found it yet? Why am I left to grope like a blind man for the wall, and stumble at noon as if it were the night? Why has the Lord not revealed himself to me?" You may have been seeking the light in the wrong place . . . .
It is possible that you may have been the victim of the false doctrine that peace with God can be found in the use of ceremonies. . . .
It is possible, too, that you have been looking for salvation in the mere belief of a certain creed. . . .
It is possible that you may have sought it in the wrong spirit. . . .
If none of these arguments have touched your case, let me further suggest that perhaps you have not found light because you have sought it in a half-hearted manner. None enter heaven who are only half-inclined to go there.
Read more here:
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Let’s assume that the average person dies at 70 years old.
If you are 20 years old, you have just 2,500 weekends left to live.
If you have turned 30, you have 2,000 weekends left until the day you die.
If you are 40 years old, you have only 1,500 weekends left.
If you are 50, then you have just 1,000 weekends.
If you are 60, you have a mere 500 weekends left until the day death comes to you.
If there was one chance in a million that Jesus Christ ‘has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,’ you owe it to your good sense just to look into it.
(from The Evidence Bible, "The Will to Live" by Ray Comfort)
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