Al-Azami’s criticism of the New Testament
Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami is one of the world’s leading scholars of Hadith. He is Professor Emeritus at King Saud University. Azami has written a book defending the preservation of the Quran, and at the same time criticizing the Christian Scriptures, The History of the Quranic Text from Revelation to Compilation.
In his chapter on “The New Testament: Its Anonymous Authorship and Corruption,”Azami relies heavily on a controversial theory to discredit the reliability of the Christian Scriptures:
Before the advent of the four gospels we know today, the earliest followers of Jesus composed their own book. In this there were no dramatics about the life of Jesus, no narratives concerning spiritual sacrifice and redemption. The focus was strictly on his teachings, on the ideas and etiquette and behaviour which he expounded, and on the social reforms he called for. This work is now designated as the Gospel of Jesus, Q. But Q was no a stable text, just as the earliest Christians did not live in stable times, and so over the course of the first century people living under desperate circumstances appended different layers of text to Q. The original layer is most striking: it is full of simple, eager words, with no calls for a new religion and no hint of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
The second layer brings a shift in tone, portentously promising doom to those who reject the movement. But to my mind the most startling shift takes place in the third and final layer of Q, added by Christians during the trying period of the First Jewish revolt (66-70 C.E.), under the shadow of the Second Temple’s destruction by Romans troops. Here Jesus is upgraded from a wise prophet to the Son of God, heir to the Father’s Kingdom, who successfully battles the temptations in the wilderness.1The History of The Qur’anic Text: From Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments [Leicester: UK Islamic Academy, 2003], 279-280
Azami relies heavily on Burton L. Mack’s The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins and other post-enlightenment liberal scholars going back to Hermann Reimarus. These men did not believe the Jesus of the Christian “faith” was the Jesus of history.
Azami tells his readers in a footnote that he is quoting scholars who are strictly Judeo-Christian so as to reveal Christianity (p.279). This is simply not true. To my knowledge, Burton Mack and many of the other liberal scholars Azami references probably believe less about Jesus than Muslims (e.g. Jesus’ Virgin Birth; Jesus’ miracles; Jesus’ ascension into heaven).
Furthermore, what Azami does not seem to realize–or fails to tell his readers–is that Burton Mack is is writing about a theory; it is conjectural; it is a hypothesis; not historical fact. Furthermore, Mack’s is not accepted by mainstream Christian scholarship, and to my knowledge it has not been accepted by mainstream non-Christian scholarship.
What would Muhammad Al-Azami or other Muslims think if I were to argue against the reliability of the Quran by appealing to speculative conjecture by non-Muslims? What would you think if I presented these conjectures as if they were historical facts accepted by Muslim scholars?
It would be misleading and dishonest.
The New Testament isn’t the problem. Rather, it is the Qur’anic Injil.
The Qur’an asserts that Jesus was given a book from heaven and He gave this revelation to His disciples (cf. Qur’an 5:46; 57:27). This could not have been any book of the New Testament because they were all written after Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).
This is the main problem.
Muhammad Al-Azami needs to give a history of the Qur’anic Injil, but he cannot because no such book exists or has ever existed. The fact is that Jesus was never given a book from heaven. The Qur’anic Injil is an imaginary fiction and attempt to corrupt Scripture.
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|↥1||The History of The Qur’anic Text: From Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments [Leicester: UK Islamic Academy, 2003], 279-280|