Muslims assume there are contradictions in the Bible
Many Muslims assume there are contradictions in the Bible, and yet have never read or studied the Bible for themselves. I think this says more about Muslims than it does about the Bible. How can you charge something with corruption without first carefully considering the evidence?
Some Muslim websites assert that there are hundreds of contradictions in the Bible and give lists of dozens or even 101 contradictions in the Bible. Even if I took the time to answer all these alleged contradictions, would this change the minds of any Muslims? Perhaps, but only if they were sincerely and honestly interested in answers.
Sincerity of intention is one of the most important principles of Islamic life, and yet I’ve found that many Muslims who allege contradictions in the Bible are not sincere students of the subject. They’re often doing nothing more than cutting and pasting what other Muslims say on other websites.
The first and greatest commandment involves us as individuals to love the One True God with all our mind (Matthew 22:36-37). It’s fine to use and study the arguments of others, but you should not do it blindly and without careful thought.
Muslims assume there are contradictions in the Bible
One of the frequent “contradictions” Muslims point to in the Bible is the age of Jehoiachin when he became king. I have been sent the question,
How old was Jehoiachin when he became king of Jerusalem?
-Eighteen (2 Kings Chapter 24 Verse 8)
-Eight (2 Chronicles Chapter 36 Verse 9) 1
This alleged contradiction along with others Muslims often cite are probably copyist errors. Christians do not possess the original manuscripts of any book of the Bible. We only have copies. It is the original writings that were without error, not the copies. Answers to these kinds of questions can be found in resources like that by Norm Geisler and Thomas Howe,
How old was Jehoiachin when he became king?
PROBLEM: The record in 2 Kings 24:8 states that Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he became king. However, in 2 Chronicles 36:9 we find the claim that Jehoiachin was age 8 when he became king. Which is correct?
SOLUTION: This is probably a copyist error. Most likely, Jehoiachin was 18 when he became king. The observation that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done” (2 Kings 24:9), is a description of an older man rather than a young boy. Additionally, the fact that the Chaldeans condemned him to prison in 597 b.c., indicates that they considered him to be a responsible adult.
Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, Big Book of Bible Difficulties, The: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation
Another excellent resource is by Gleason Archer who offers the following explanation,
What was the correct age for Jehoiachin when he came to the throne, eight or eighteen?
2 Kings 24:8 tells us that Jehoiachin “was eighteen years old when he became king.” But the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 36:9 states that he was “eight” years old when be began to reign. Obviously there has been a textual error committed by the copyist either in 2 Kings or in 2 Chronicles. This type of error occurs now and then because of blurring or surface damage in the earlier manuscript from which the copy is made. A numerical system generally in use during the fifth century (when Chronicles was probably composed—very likely under Ezra’s supervision) features a horizontal stroke ending in a hook at its right end as the sign for “ten”; two of them would make the number “twenty.” (See article on 2 Kings 8:26.) The digits under ten would be indicated by rows of little vertical strokes, generally in groups of three. Thus what was originally written as a horizontal hooked stroke over one or more of these groups of short vertical strokes (in this case, eight strokes) would appear as a mere “eight” instead of “eighteen.”
The probabilities are that 2 Chronicles 36:9 is incorrect, both because the age eight is unusually young to assume governmental leadership—though Joash ben Ahaziah was only seven when be began to reign (2 Kings 11:21) and Josiah was was only eight (2 Kings 22:1)—and because the Chaldeans treated him as a responsible adult and condemned him to permanent imprisonment in Babylon after he surrendered to them in 597 B.C. Moreover, it is far less likely that the copyist would have mistakenly seen an extra ten stroke that was not present in his original than that he would have failed to observe one that had been smudged out.
While it is true that Jehoiachin’s father, Jehoiakim, must have been unusually young to have begotten him (sixteen or seventeen), nevertheless some of the Judean royalty seem to have married at an early age (in other words, if Jehoiakim was twenty-five at his accession in 608 [2 Kings 23:36], and if Jehoiachin was eighteen in 598 when his father died [2 Kings 24:8], then there must have been only a difference of seventeen or eighteen years between them). Note that Ahaz appears to have fathered Hezekiah at the age of thirteen or fourteen, judging from the fact that Ahaz was twenty on his vice-regency in 743 and that Hezekiah was twenty-five at his father’s death in 725 (hardly at his first appointment as vice-regent in 728!) (cf. 2 Kings 16:2 [2 Chron. 28:1] and 2 Kings 18:2 [2 Chron. 29:1]).New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.
Most Muslims do not know there are any copyist errors in Qur’an manuscripts
Many of the arguments Muslims make against the Bible pertain to the Bible’s manuscript tradition. Or another way we could put it: Do differences in the Bible’s manuscript tradition automatically undermine the authoritative revelation of the Bible?
The answer is, “No.” In fact, one of the things I learned from my study of the ahadith is that there are different textual variants when it comes to the traditions of Muhammad. Muhammad’s life, as recounted by his followers, is a source of “revelation” for Muslims. It is subordinate to the Qur’an, but it is still considered authoratative and revelatory. But there are differences in the traditions, many of which were compiled and written down hundreds of years after Muhammad’s death.
Even though the ahadith are not as authoritative as the Qur’an, they are authoritative and requisite for the wisdom and guidance of the majority of Muslims. As a Christian, I think many Muslims use a double standard when they criticize the Bible’s textual tradition without remembering the textual tradition of the ahadith.
What are your thoughts or suggested resources? Please share them in the comment box at the bottom of the page.
- Some English translations, like the NIV, try smoothing the problem out in their translations and make a marginal note of the textual difficulty [↩]