IS THE KORAN MORE REALIABLE THAN THE BIBLE?
It is common to hear Muslims say that the New Testament should not be trusted because it is full of inconsistencies and errors, and are only anonymous documents from the not less than 30 years regarding the letters of Paul, and minimum 60 years for the gospels, extending to the year 100 or more, after the death of JESUS, while the Koran was collected and put in a book form not more than 20 years after the death of Mohammed, by the third Calipha, UTHMAN, in the year 650CE.
NEW TESTAMENT COLLECTION
The New Testament was collected officially in the fifth century in a handwritten book form, but obeyed to the consistent testimony of the living Christian communities who held these 27 books as inspired from the time of the apostles, but in a lose form all over the known world, from Spain to China.
And even though the documents that make the NT have common errors of history and human details, in regards to spiritual doctrine that is considered necessary for salvation. is surprisingly unanimous across all ages, including in the non-canonical documents that are not part of the recognized canon. And all of this, despite the fact that they were put in writing half a century after JESUS by anonymous authors (1).
THE COLLECTION OF THE KORAN
Muhammad, the same as Jesus, never left anything written down. His revelations, which came one by one is a lose manner, came as a form of trance in him, and people used to cover him up, as a sign of respect, so they would not see his convulsions. But these revelations were freely written down by people present, each the best they could, while others learned some of them by memory, specially like Sura 1, which were short and easy to remember in the easter form of songs.
So, after Mohammed died, and the Muslims expanded all over the middle east, the existence of different suras were noted, so much, that in Syrian, the soldiers refused to pray with other Arabs because they recited the suras they knew, in a different manner, with different words. The problem increased so much, that became evident that Islam needed a single certified copy of the Koran, and not just to rely on ‘tradition’.
Around the year 647, Calipha UTHMAN, appointed a commission of three reputable Muslims to collect all suras they could find from among the people, and thus, be able to put them in a book form.
This group, collected lose suras from pieces of papyri, stones, wood, and oral traditions, so that by the year 650, they gave UTHMAN a collection of 114 suras (Chapters), consisting of roughly 6,300 lose verses.
Once this collection was approved by the Caliph and his high officials, UTHMAN ordered the two other current version of the Koran, unofficially collected by different groups of people, to be burned and forbidden to keep, under death penalty.
The reason why UTHMAN ordered a final collection of the suras, it is because various versions of the suras were in existence for nearly 20 years after Mohammed’s death. This means that the ‘memory’ that held this ‘revelations’ given to Mohammed, were not kept unanimous during this time, especially if they were passed on orally.
Once a third collection, made with diligence and care, came to be, UTHMAN decided to proclaim this third one the ‘official’ one, sending the two other versions to be destroyed, so that no antagonism would rise later regarding the unity of the Koran (2).
This proves that the accuracy of the actual suras and verses that conform the Koran today, have no guarantee to be correct.
The memory of Muslims failed to keep the Koran current, and instead, produced at least two other major versions, which we will never know now, how different they were, but they must have been very much so, to penalize all those who held them as scripture, after the final version was produced.
THE SANAA TEXT
Confirming this theory of differences in the Muslim transmission of the Koran, in 1972, workers discovered in the Mosque of Sanaa, in YEMEN, a codex dating from 578CE, before the UTHMAN canon of the Koran was emitted, written in HIJAZI Arabic, containing 17 differences with the canonical version of the Koran, even though it is 90% similar in content.
The manuscript is now closed and under protection of the Yemeni government (3),
No religion present in the world, has their own scriptures free from human errors, since they were transmitted through human voice, and then written, by people who never knew their authors.
The Tripitakas in Buddhism, the Vedas and Ghita in Hinduism, as well as the Christian gospels and the Koran in Islam, all were written by authors who never witnessed any of the stories and teachings face to face. But from all of them, Christianity’s own high number of manuscripts, all consistent across themselves, are living prove of their credibility, that versions whose rivals were eliminated, as in the Koran, who by this same elimination of the two other versions, are proof that the source of information in Islam, was fallible.
We will not condemn the current Koran as false, since we have no original to compare it with. But certainly, Islamic history discredits the current version, as fallible, as its sources have proven to be.
But certainly we will reject strongly, the Islamic suggestion that the Christian scriptures cannot be trusted, since they can be compared 10,000 times through history, from all the copies and fragments in existence, of various origins and languages, that give clear proof of their human source, in their variants, but also of supernatural intervention in the perfect unity of essential doctrinal points, across all these same variant versions of the NT.
Between Islamic and Christian scriptures, I believe that Islamic scriptures fall behind, by eliminating the alternative versions, which prove that they were never infallible, or inerrable, and how far they differed from their ‘truth’, is something nobody will ever know.
(1) Carter Lindberg, A Brief History of Christianity (2006).
Werner Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament (1975).
(2) Fred Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: at the Origins of Islam (2010).
Oliver Leaman, The Qur'an: an Encyclopedia (2006).
Isaiah Goldfield, "The Illiterate Prophet (Nabi Ummi): An inquiry into the development of a dogma in Islamic tradition" (1980).
Al-Tabari, Ihsan Abbas, C. E. Bosworth, Franz Rosenthal, Ehsan Yar-Sharter (eds.). The History of al-Tabari: The Crisis of the Early Caliphate. Stephen Humphreys (1990), p.8,42.
Sean W. Anthony, Catherine L. Bronson "Did Ḥafṣah Edit the Qurʾān? A Response with Notes on the Codices of the Prophet's Wives". Journal of the International Qur'anic Studies Association. 1: 108–112 (2016).
(3) Behnam Sadegui, Mohsen Goudarzi, "Ṣan'ā' 1 and the Origins of the Qur'ān" (2012).