Is the Quran or Bible the Word of God? Christianity or Islam?

Bible Contradictions, Corruptions and Copyists

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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.

Book cover for Is the Quran the Word of God? Emails from Muslims to a ChristianPrice: $4.95


(available for immediate download in PDF format; 180 pages)
 
 What others have said about the book, Is the Qur’an the Word of God?

“It is not uncommon to read works of Christian apologetics which answer static, textbook objections which have been artificially raised.  Questions are raised and answered, but there is no opportunity to engage in extended dialogue with unbelievers or to hear their reaction to our “answers.”    However, In Is the Qur’an the Word of God, Aaron Goerner engages in actual dialogue with Muslims who interact with key issues which separate Muslims and Christians.  The e-mails from Muslims are open and candid, providing a rare glimpse into the anatomy of unbelief which shrouds the Islamic heart.   This is a must read for those interested in genuine dialogue with Muslims.”
Timothy C. Tennent, PhD
President, Professor of World Christianity at
Asbury Theological Seminary 

Related Posts 

Footnotes

  1. Some English translations, like the NIV, try smoothing the problem out in their translations and make a marginal note of the textual difficulty []

5 Responses to “Bible Contradictions, Corruptions and Copyists”

  1. agoerner says:

    Would you please explain what you mean by “contradiction” and give an example of of something 100% contradictory in the Bible that is not a copyist error? Are you aware of the evidence for manuscript variants in the Quran?

  2. Shahriar Rashid says:

    This is such a ridiculous argument. You reveal yourself in the beginning by attacking ALL Muslims. From the beginning I assumed that this was an emotionally charged argument so I expected one that was ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that if there was no contradictions in the Qu’ran or the Bible then it would absent of criticism. Clearly that is not the case, so taking the position is futile. Lastly, defending yourself by criticizing the people who disagree with you leave no room for the mature discussion you claimed you wanted on your website. You’ll find that intelligent people don’t need to resort to such underhanded tactics to prove that they are right.

  3. LemanPulut says:

    Mr Agoerner,

    Your efforts to make an otherwise foregone conclusion of human taintings and discrepancies in the bible appear palatable is most unconvincing.

    Copyist error, typist error, stylist error. What does it matter? We are talking about a supposedly infallible-piece of document reflecting an infallible deity. If it is truly God’s words, why keep it glaringly erroneous for 20 centuries now? Would you now write a petition to the bible printers existing in this world right now to amend these “typo” errors? And uh … which version is right? The one that uses bigger magnitudes of numbers?

    And remember, your arguments lie in the “probability” area. Probably a copyist error. Probably spelling error. This branch of mathematics is a convenient tool for apologists with bad justifications and non-factual arguments. How about “probably its true what the God of the Qur’an says after all, namely that the Christian priests edit the words of God with their own hands”?

    And did you say you want another example of contradictions? How about cs.umd.edu/%7Emvz/bible/bible-inconsistencies.pdf>700. Ok with you?

    Come to Islam. The purifier of blasphemies.

    • agoerner says:

      Dear Leman,

      Thank you for your comment. Craig Blomberg, a New Testament scholar, writes,

      “the consensus among textual critics is that in the modern critical editions of the Greek New Testament we have, either in the text itself or in the footnotes upwards of 97% of what the original authors wrote reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt, and that no doctrine of the Christian faith depends solely on one or more textually uncertain passages” (The Historical Reliability of the Gospels [revised 2007], 333). The other thing that needs to be remembered is that “even if we had the originals preserved intact without a single variation, all this would demonstrate is that we had flawless knowledge of what the original authors wrote. Nothing about the accuracy or truthfulness of what they wrote would yet have been determined” (ibid, 334).

      As to your comment about apologists and “non-factual” arguments:

      I think one of the best arguments for the Bible’s truthfulness is Jesus. The Bible makes two basic promises:

      1. Obey God’s Word and live (Romans 10:5).
      2. Disobey and die (Deuteronomy 30:6-20; see especially Deuteronomy 30:15 with Genesis 2:17).

      While orthodox Muslims reject the historic event of Jesus’ death on the cross, many agree that Jesus is now alive.

      As for the 700 inconsistencies link you sent:
      I am assuming you have read the Bible; although I probably shouldn’t make this assumption. In fact, did you take the time to read the link you commended? It impugns many Muslim beliefs about God, Jesus, the prophets, and the Quran.

      From your personal studies, I’d be interested in your best example(s) of a contradiction

  4. LemanPulut says:

    Ok so the link doesn’t work. So here’s the direct one;-

    http://www.cs.umd.edu/~mvz/bible/bible-inconsistencies.pdf

What is your opinion?

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