Islam and the New Testament

              One of the perennial arguments that I find Muslims making is that the gospels have been altered and changed since they were originally written. Usually this is argued from discussions of textual criticism, and it has one major advantage for the Muslim apologist: textual criticism is a highly technical area of New Testament studies, and most people don’t really understand the subject well enough to refute their arguments, of course, this also goes for those making the argument being raised that the gospels and New Testament letters did not originally teach the deity of Christ.  


              There are usually two ploys made to make an argument against the Bible, the first is to discussion a few serious textual issues, and the second is to discuss the number of textual issues. The latter is largely unimportant, since most textual problems are so minor, they don’t even impact the way the text is translated. For example, in Greek the adjective can be placed after the noun or before, and it’s not uncommon for a scribe to make the mistake of reversing the order. Similarly, some forms are interchangeable and it is very easy for a scribe to confuse one for the other. This is particularly common in the New Testament because the books of the New Testament are so well documented from the standpoint of Textual Criticism. The New Testament has more evidence for its transmission than any other body of literary work from the ancient world, and it is closer in time to the authorship than anything comparable in the ancient world. Because there are so many extant copies, there are simply more minor scribal errors that are the result.

The second line of argumentation is to take four to six passages where there are textual issues involving the deity of Christ, and somehow equating this with the teaching of the whole. The problem with this last part is that it has a big emotional weight, but to someone who studies the Bible in the long term, it becomes apparent that these issues are really not that significant for Christian theology, because there are so many passages that corroborate the same doctrines. For example, I once had a Muslim argue that without 1 John 5:7, there was no proof of the Trinity, I find this rather interesting, however, since the passage was not cited by the trinitarians at the council of Nicea – if it is such an important point, why did they not quote it? Nor are these passages proof of a conspiracy (and if they were, there is no proof of what type of conspiracy we have, some Christians argue there was a conspiracy to remove the deity of Christ from the Bible, there is no good evidence for either position).


              The thing that the Islamic apologist is missing is that the doctrine of the Deity of Christ is written throughout the New Testament, they are arguing, essentially, that four to six textual critical problems is sufficient reason to believe that hundreds of texts have been forged and altered despite a complete lack of evidence of such a forgery; this becomes a conspiracy theory of epic proportions.  This is simply not credible, particularly given how many copies of the New Testament in existence, to argue that such a change occurred and of there is no evidence in the thousands of copies of the text is simply not a credible argument. For the argument to work, they would need to be able to demonstrate that most of the passages discussed in the deity of Christmas are later additions, not merely enough that they can be counted easily on one”s fingers.