Lost in Transmission?
Most Muslims have been taught that they have "the original Quran" locked up somewhere, and so they constantly criticize the New Testament and question its authorship. But as they do so, they fail to consider how they themselves received their Quran and their Hadith.
The Quran represents the Islamic scriptures, while the Hadith are the traditions from which Muslims learn about the life and teachings of Muhammad. The Hadiths also teach Muslims how to interpret the Quran, making the two texts completely dependent on one another.
But how were the words of the New Testament handed down to us, as opposed to how the Quran and Hadith were handed down to Muslims?
The Gospels are 1st century Greco-Roman-style biographies which contain both the life and the teachings of the One and Only Son of God, Jesus Christ. All of the data contained in the New Testament Gospels was delivered to us either by eyewitnesses or by direct disciples of eyewitnesses. All four of our Gospel writers were fully able to interact with other eyewitnesses to confirm the facts at hand before setting them down in writing.
But not so with the Quran and the Hadith. As we are about to see, Muhammad himself was never an eyewitness to any conversations between his source and the Muslim god, Allah. Although he claimed that the Quran contains Allah's literal words, he relied completely on what was related to him by a being who he at first thought to be a demon, but later called an angel.
The Hadith, on the other hand, took an even more circuitous route. The Hadith have two parts: the actual text of the hadith and the chain of narrators, called the isnad chain. The isnad chain is comprised of the names of the men who carried the information forward -- from memory -- from its original source, one of Muhammad's Companions.
With that explanation out of the way, let us compare the chain of transmission from the God of the Bible to His disciples...
The number beside the levels below denotes the number of intermediaries that the information came through before we could receive it. We will be using Sahih Bukhari as our example for the Hadith as it is considered the most reliable in Islam, and is second only to the Quran in authenticity:
and written in the Gospel of Mark (2)
and written in the Gospel of Luke (2)
(memorizers of the Quran)(3)
compiled into the Quran by Uthman (4)
written on camel bone
and finally written into the Hadith (6)
the average Hadith first passes through as many as 6-7 levels (the average length of an isnad chain) before it gets to the reader.
to the 4 Gospels (70AD)
New Testament and Greek scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace believes that the Gospel of John, traditionally thought to have been written last, could be dated to as early as 60AD, reducing the above figure to just 30 years from the ascension of Christ.
Note as well that the New Testament texts are more than 500 years older than Muhammad and Islam, and would therefore have been subject to much greater deterioration than any Islamic texts.
(as claimed by Islamic historians)
Islam's oldest existing Quran.
(completed c. 846AD)
It is important because the facts which were related in the Gospels could have been confirmed or denied by the apostles and disciples of Jesus, many of whom were still alive in 70AD. The Apostle John, for example, was said to have lived beyond 100AD. Had there been any corruption of the Bible text, any of these men and women would have spoken out against it.
While the 21 year gap between the death of Muhammad and the collection and compilation of the Quran may seem impressive, these figures are based on the "official" Islamic account, which conflicts with the actual historical record, as you can see in this slide taken from a presentation given by Christian apologist Jay Smith (the video is linked to below):
is found in 717AD
is around 743AD
There are no extant Quranic manuscripts until the 8th century, which clearly shows that Muhammad had nothing to do with the Quran that Muslims have today. The problem this poses for Muslims is the fact that they believe that Muhammad was the Final Prophet. As such, anything that was written after his passing cannot be reliably attributed to him.
Neither was the Quran that is in Muslim hands today ever vetted by him. He never saw what form it took, neither did he get to see what was put into it, or what was left out of it.
Muhammad himself never called for the Quran to be put down in writing, and this means that his followers took a path "Allah" never commanded for them to take when they did so. This may be one of the reasons why there are at least 50 different versions of the Quran, according to Islamic scholars. Note that these are 50 different versions of the Quran, not just translations.
Historians and scholars would have wanted to see "the original" Quranic manuscripts, but Uthman had them all burned after they had been sifted through and parts of them edited. The Islamic sources record that they were burned precisely to avoid any future textual issues.
In sum, Muslims find themselves following a Quran with an extremely tenuous and apparently manufactured history. Even worse, Islamic sources say much of the Quran has been lost, while other parts were simply forgotten.
In contrast, the entire New Testament has been in the hands of Christians (and even many non-Christians) for almost 2,000 years now with not one epistle or Gospel lost. Even today, Bible manuscripts are being discovered that had been previously hidden away for centuries, and yet, amazingly, experts have yet to find a single one that departs from the text we already have in our hands.
This shows us that Christians can depend on a Holy Spirit-inspired text from its writing to its preservation which has remained untainted and uncorrupted from the beginning.
The God of the Bible has kept His Word, both literally and figuratively. As Jesus said:
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away." Matthew 24:35