The Qur’an Versus the Bible: Which is the True Word of God Today?





Muslims believe that Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them both, were given Scripture by God Almighty:

Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto… [Chapter 5, verse 44]

And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. [Chapter 5, verse 46]

The focus of this article however is not the virtues of the original revelations of God. Since the Qur’an and Bible of today don’t agree theologically on all issues it’s not possible that they both still represent the original words of God, one of them has to have been changed by man. This article is going to answer the question of which of the Qur’an and Bible we have today is the word of God.


The primary method of preservation of the Qur’an has, and always will be, through memorisation:

“And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?” [Chapter 54, verse 17]

Today the Qur’an resides in the minds of millions of Muslims who have memorised it in its entirety. We have an oral tradition of mass memorisation spanning nearly 1,500 years that has seen the Qur’an being passed down from teacher to student in an unbroken chain going all the way back to Prophet Muhammad himself, peace be upon him. This literally makes it impossible for the Qur’an to become corrupted. You can read more about the perfect preservation of the Qur’an here.

By contrast the Bible has no such tradition of mass memorisation. The fact is that the Bible is not a practical Scripture for memorisation, for it lacks the rhythm and poetic style of the Qur’an as a whole and is much longer by comparison, thus making the task of its memorisation difficult. If God wanted us to memorise the Bible, wouldn’t He have made it easy for us to do so?

The evidence that the Bible was never memorised en masse is the fact that at various points in history the Torah has been lost. With mass memorisation this would be impossible, but when preservation is reliant on the written word this is a very real possibility. In the Old Testament we are told that Hilkiah the high priest discovers the lost Torah:

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. [2 Kings 22:8]

King Josiah tears his clothes when he learns of this:

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. [2 Kings 22:11]

Now this is the key point. After reading the Torah, they proceed to remove all aspects of idolatry and the occult:

Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfil the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord. [2 Kings 23:24]

Now, if the Torah had never been lost, then they would have all known about the prohibition on idolatry in Deuteronomy 12:2. Clearly, they did not have the Torah memorised because they had to rely on the discovery of a written copy, and clearly, they had not seen the Torah in a very long time.


You may be wondering, if the Bible never had a tradition of mass memorisation, how has it been transmitted through history? Transmission of the Bible has been purely by manual copying of manuscripts.

So, what do the manuscripts tell us about the preservation of the Bible? In this section we are going to focus on the New Testament. There are almost 6,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, with no two pages being identical. This is according to The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible:

“There is not one sentence in the New Testament in which the manuscript tradition is wholly uniform.” [1]

The famous Alexandrian scholar Origen was aware of the scale of the variants of the New Testament even as early as the 3rd century:

“…the differences among the manuscripts [of the Gospels] have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they lengthen or shorten, as they please.” [2]

The Codex Vaticanus, one of the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Greek Bible, has a fascinating scribal comment in the margin which provides great insight into these variants from the point of view of a copyist (please click on picture to enlarge):


Some verses of the New Testament present a bewildering number of variant readings across the manuscripts, for example Colossians 2:2 has fifteen variations [3]. So this raises the obvious question, which version of the Bible is the word of God when there are so many variants in existence? Faced with a massive number of variant readings, how do Christian scholars go about determining what may be the word of God? By way of example let’s take a look at the textual problem presented by Luke 10:1:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. [New International Version]

After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. [Revised Standard Version]

As you can see, the editors for these two different versions of the Bible chose different readings (seventy v.s. seventy-two). But what did the original words of God say, seventy or seventy-two? Bruce Metzger, a Christian expert on Greek biblical manuscripts and widely recognised as one of the most influential New Testament scholars of the 20th century, had this to say about his evaluation of the textual problem presented by Luke 10:1:

“The external evidence is almost evenly divided [meaning the manuscript evidence for both is strong]…

The factors bearing upon the evaluation of internal evidence, whether involving transcriptional or intrinsic probabilities, are singularly elusive…

It is likely that in most of the early manuscripts the numeral was written with letters of the alphabet…

It was easy, therefore, for either number to be accidentally altered to the other…

Those who transmitted the account prior to its inclusion in Luke 10 may have wished to convey a symbolic meaning in the number of the disciples, and it is easy to find parallels in Jewish antiquity for either 70 or 72…

It is however exceedingly difficult to ascertain what symbolism is intended in Luke’s account…

So evenly balanced are these two possibilities [i.e. both readings, seventy and seventy-two] that it is hazardous to dogmatize as to which is more probable…

A total appraisal of both the external and internal evidence bearing on these variant readings must remain indecisive. Though the reading “seventy-two” is supported by a combination of early witnesses and normally carries a high degree of conviction of originality, yet the witnesses that read “seventy” are so weighty and the internal considerations so evenly balanced that the textual critic must simply acknowledge an inability to decide with assurance between the two.” [4]

As you can see, the criteria that have been developed by the textual scholars depend largely upon probabilities. Often the textual critics must weigh one set of probabilities against another. The range and complexity of textual data are so great that no mechanically derived set of rules can be applied with mathematical precision. Each and every variant reading needs to be considered in itself and not judged according to a rule of thumb. Bruce Metzger concludes by saying the following about the evaluation of variant readings during the Bible editorial process:

“By way of conclusion, let it be emphasized again that there is no single manuscript and no one group of manuscripts that the textual critic may follow mechanically. All known witnesses of the New Testament are to a greater or lesser extent mixed texts, and even several of the earliest manuscripts are not free egregious errors. Although in very many cases the textual critic is able to ascertain without residual doubt which reading must have stood in the original, there are not a few other cases where only a tentative decision can be reached, based on an equivocal balancing of probabilities. Occasionally, none of the variant readings will commend itself as original, and one will be compelled either to choose the reading that is judged to be the least unsatisfactory or to indulge in conjectural emendation. In textual criticism, as in other areas of historical research, one must seek not only to learn what can be known but also to become aware of what, because of conflicting witnesses, cannot be known.” [5]

So, before answering question of whether the Bible is the word of God, we have the difficult task of identifying which version may be the word of God. As we have seen, ultimately it’s fallible editors that decide what goes into the New Testament – not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!


There are also issues with the manuscripts of the New Testament that go beyond variants. Some Christian readers may be shocked to discover that numerous fabrications have crept into the text over the centuries. Let’s take a look at one example, the Johannine Comma:

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the father, the word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” [1 John 5:7]

This verse contains the only clear reference to the Trinity in the New Testament. This verse used to be in all Bibles; however the editors of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and New International Version (NIV) have removed the verse. (please click on picture to enlarge):


Notice how verse 7 in the RSV is different to verse 7 in the KJV. The RSV does not contain the mention of the Trinity. Also notice that verse 7 in the NIV is different to not only the KJV but also the RSV. The NIV also does not contain the mention of the Trinity. The RSV and NIV have had to split other verses into two parts in order to make up for the deletion of the Johannine Comma, this is so that the verse numbers across all three versions of the Bible line up the same.

The King James Version (KJV) has grave defects, and so these newer versions of the Bible (which are based on older and hence more reliable manuscripts) were produced. Here is the NIV footnote regarding this verse:

Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. {8} And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century)

In other words, it is a fabricated verse that was inserted into the New Testament over 1,500 years after Jesus. The sad fact is that this fabrication slipped into the New Testament text and remained undetected for hundreds of years. Before the discovery of the early manuscripts which led to scholars purging this verse from the RSV and NIV, millions of Christians read those words in the KJV and believed them to be the inspired words of God. If God wanted us to have the words of the Bible, as they were revealed to Moses and Jesus, then why didn’t He perfectly preserve the Scriptures like with the Qur’an?


So far we have focussed on God’s revelation as it has been recorded in written form, such as manuscripts. But is God’s revelation restricted to written Scripture, or were the Prophets also inspired to explain the Scripture? It must be emphasised that the Prophets of God were not just mere delivery men for Scripture, they were also teachers and as such performed the invaluable function of explaining the words of God to mankind. Without this explanation given to them by God we would have no certainty that we have the correct understanding and interpretation of Scripture.

In Islam the hadith represent narrations as recorded by the companions of Prophet Muhammad which relate to his statements and actions. Thanks to the hadith we know more about Prophet Muhammad than any other religious figure in history, even down to the smallest of details such as how many white hairs he had in his beard. This treasure trove of information provides us detailed explanations of the Qur’an. Hadith are important because they give us a context for the correct understanding and interpretation of the Qur’an. Of critical importance is the fact that there is a chain of narrators associated with each hadith. This allows the scholars of Islam to distinguish authenticate hadith from weak and fabricated ones by analysing the narrators within the chains (please click on picture to enlarge):


Similar to the Qur’an, the Torah alone is insufficient for daily Jewish life. For example, let’s look at the Biblical commandment to keep the Sabbath holy:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” [Exodus 20:8]

When one searches the Torah for specific laws regulating how to observe the Sabbath, one finds only basic information. So the Torah alone is insufficient for daily Jewish life. What is needed is a legal commentary to accompany the written Torah. Jews claim that this can be found in the Talmud, an oral tradition they say originates from Moses and which they claim has been passed down over the centuries by their scholars. However, unlike the hadith, there are no chains of narration which accompany the oral traditions, so there is absolutely no way of distinguishing genuine teachings of Moses from fabrications.

The same problem plagues the New Testament. Let’s look at the Gospel of Luke as an example. Luke states the following about his Gospel:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. [Luke 1:1-2]

Unfortunately, Luke has provided no chain of narration for his sources, they are anonymous. There is absolutely no way for us to verify that his sources are reliable, readers have to accept this purely on blind faith.

In summary, unlike the Qur’an, there is simply no way for Jews and Christians today to ascertain whether they have the correct understanding and interpretation of the Bible with any degree of certainty.


So far we have discussed Scripture from the point of view of its physical content, i.e. the words and verses that make it up. In this section we will pay attention to phonetics, how words are pronounced/articulated.

When God revealed the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad, it was recited to him in a specific manner. The Qur’an itself commands Muslims to recite it in this same specific way:

    “…and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation.” [Chapter 73, verse 4]

Therefore Muslims have placed great importance not only in memorising the content of the Qur’an but also reciting it in the exact same manner that Prophet Muhammad did. This has been the case since the beginning of Islam, there is a famous hadith about ibn Mas’ood, a companion of Prophet Muhammad, and the recitation of the Qur’an:

Sa’eed bin Mansoor relates in his Sunan that a man was reciting the Qur’an to Abdullah bin Mas’ood and he recited “Innamas sadaqaatu lil fuqara-i wal masaakeen”, so Ibn mas’ood said: “This was not how the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) recited it to me!” So the man asked, “How did he read it to you oh Aba Abdir-Rahman?” So he said “…lil Fuqaraaaa-i wal masaakeen”

You can see that the correct way of recitation was to elongate the word ‘Fuqaraaaa’. This detailed knowledge of the different lengths of elongation forms part of the rules of the recitation of the Qur’an. When Muslims learn the Qur’an not only are the words memorised, but also their pronunciation/articulation. This has led to the creation of a science known as Tajweed. The word Tajweed linguistically means ‘proficiency’ or ‘doing something well’. This science meticulously elucidates how each letter is to be pronounced, as well as the word as a whole, both in context of other letters and words.

The proof of the effectiveness of this science in preserving the aural integrity of the text is the fact that today, we can find people of all different languages able to recite the Qur’an as if they are Arabs themselves living during the time of Prophet Muhammad. This is in spite of the fact that there exists no internationally centralised religious organisation to administer such preservation.

By contrast the Bible has no such systematic means for ensuring the aural integrity of its text. We simply have no idea about the reading/recital styles of Moses and Jesus.


As has been discussed so far, the Qur’an has been preserved in both content and recitation style. To this we can add that the Qur’an has also been preserved in meaning. Why is this important? You can’t separate language from Scripture. As God Almighty states below, the Qur’an is tied to the Arabic language:

“Indeed, We have made it an Arabic Qur’an…” [Chapter 43, verse 3]

So if we were to lose the Arabic language, then we would also lose the Qur’an. What use is having the perfect preservation of the content of a Scripture if you have lost the meanings of the words it is written in? The oldest Arabic language dictionary in existence was published within two hundred years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. For the sake of comparison, the earliest English dictionary is from the sixteenth century [6], nearly 1,000 years after Prophet Muhammad. The early compilation of Arabic dictionaries has ensured that none of the meanings of the words of the Qur’an have ever been lost.

Let’s examine the Judaic tradition for the sake of comparison. Even though the Torah was originally revealed to Moses over three thousand years ago, the first Hebrew lexicon wasn’t created until the tenth century [7] – some three hundred years after the Qur’anic revelation. They don’t have any dictionaries older than that. Hebrew was a dead language from the second century CE until the foundation of Israel [8].

As a consequence of this, Bible scholars had to turn to the vocabulary found in Arabic dictionaries to assist in understanding the many obscure and problematic Hebrew words in the Bible. The Arabic language has been used since the middle ages to elucidate difficult words and expression in Biblical Hebrew. This is because the Arabic language has a richer and more extensive corpus upon which to draw than any other Semitic language. Arabic has preserved many ancient Semitic features such as the case system and verbal conjugations has also made it a valuable resource for Biblical scholars. Even to the present day, commentaries and articles written by Bible scholars regularly cite evidence from Arabic in support of a particular meaning for a Hebrew word or passage [9].

It is truly a great irony that in order to fully understand Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, Bible scholars have to rely on classical Arabic, the language of the Qur’an.


Finally, let’s examine a purely internal factor of Scripture, the narrative mode. The Qur’an was dictated by God to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the angel Gabriel. Throughout the Qur’an, its speaker – God Almighty – addresses the reader in the first person:

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Chapter 51, verse 56]

“And We have enjoined upon man goodness to parents. But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. To Me is your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.” [Chapter 29, verse 8]

This style is exactly what one would expect to find were the Qur’an the literal speech of God. Contrast this style with the Bible which is a collection of writings by many different authors. Numerous verses of the Bible make it crystal clear that it is not the literal speech of God. For example there is a consistent use of the third person narrative throughout the Book of Exodus:

Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. [Exodus 3:6]

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” [Exodus 3:14]

Clearly, from the verses above, we can see that a third person such as a scribe or chronicler wrote these accounts, and not Moses himself. Another issue is that of anachronisms. These are details that do not fit in with the supposed time of writing and make it impossible for Moses to have been the writer. For example, Moses is claimed to be the author of the book of Deuteronomy, one of the five books of the Torah, yet the death of Moses happens before the book of Deuteronomy ends:

Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. [Deuteronomy 34:7]

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. [Deuteronomy 34:10]

So unlike with the Qur’an, at best Jews and Christians may make a claim that they have an interpretation or paraphrasing of the words of God in the Bible we possess today, but not the literal, verbatim words.


History has not dealt kindly with the Bible. As we have seen, virtually every facet of its preservation has been compromised. Man was entrusted by God to be its caretaker and ultimately failed in this duty. Was this poor judgement on the part of God? Absolutely not, as the revelations given to Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both) were only ever meant to be time bound Scriptures which served as a temporary placeholder until the coming of the Qur’an. With the advent of the final messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him), and the revelation of the final message, God Almighty took it upon Himself to protect the Qur’an:

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” [Chapter 15, verse 9]

As we have seen, in every conceivable way, the Qur’an has been protected. Whether it’s the preservation of its content, the meaning of its words, its understanding and the language in which it is written, God Almighty has ensured that the Qur’an is the Scripture mankind can be certain of:

This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah” [Chapter 2, verse 2]


1 – G. A. Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Volume 4, 1962.

2 – Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed. (2005), p. 200.

3 –  Ibid., p. 334.

4 – Ibid., p. 341.

5 – Ibid., p. 343.

6 – Latin-English dictionary published by Sir Thomas Elyot in 1538.

7 – Sa’adyah Gaon (892 – 942) a religious leader in present-day Iraq, author of the first grammar and dictionary of the Hebrew language.

8 – Chaim Rabin, A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Jewish Agency and Alpha Press, Jerusalem, 1973.

9 –  John Kaltner, The Use of Arabic in Biblical Hebrew Lexicography, p78-79, 1996.


About Akhi Soufyan

If you see goodness from me, then that goodness is from The Creator. You should be thankful to The Creator for all of that. Cause I'm not the architect of that. I'm only the...the recipient. If you see weakness or shortcoming in me it's from my own weakness or shortcoming. And I ask The Creator and the people to forgive me for that. _______________________________ Website eigenaar voor een betere wereld en doel, niet gericht op verdiensten van geld maar goede daden. In de naam van Allah, de Barmhartige. Als je goedheid van mij ziet, dan is dat de goedheid van de Schepper (God). Wees De Schepper dankbaar voor dat. Want ik ben daar niet de architect van, ik ben alleen de ontvanger.

Posted on September 12, 2014, in ARTICLES and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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