Editor’s note: This article appeared first as a Q & A at the website, but I am including it as an article. I have gotten a lot of comments and questions lately from Muslims in which they attempt to undermine the authority of the Bible by comparison to the Qur’an, so I decided to post this article. I hope it helps. I am including a second Q & A below.
What writings should be called God’s word? The words which are literally said by God himself? Muslims claim that the Koran contain God’s words, not the words of Muhammad. His words are separately recorded in Hadith. Christians claim that every word in the Bible is inspired but the fact is: there’s difference between revelation and inspiration. Revelation is absolute, inspiration is suppositional. This is because revelation comes via an angel. There is no possibility of making a mistake for the angel. However, as the heart has relation to the mind and to the evil commanding the soul, it is affected by them. Therefore, mistakes may occur in inspiration. What do Christians say?
Christians say what the inspired Bible says with regard to its revelation and inspiration. 2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and in profitable for teaching, reproof, and training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be fully equipped for every good work.” In other words, the entire accepted canon of Scripture, including the Old and the New Testament are fully inspired by God, and are therefore authoritative for belief and practice to the Christian. Also, there is 2 Peter 1:19-21 which tells us that, because of the myriad of fulfilled prophecies in the life of Jesus, and because of his miracles, we now “have the word of the prophets [the Old Testament] made more certain.” In other words, the detailed prophecy fulfillments of Jesus are solid evidence supporting the belief in the inspiration of the Bible. Peter goes on to declare that the Bible writers (he is talking about the Old Testament, but this obviously applies equally well to the New Testament) “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” So, like Paul in 2 Timothy, Peter is making the verifiable claim that the entire Christian Scripture is inspired by God. There is no issue of mistake here. Then there is Psalm 119:160. “All your words are true, all your righteous laws are eternal.” Here, the writer is referring to the Old Testament. Also, there is Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, where Paul says “And we thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as human word, but as it actually is: the word of God.” Again, we see the clear statement that what Paul said, including 1 Thessalonians, Romans, Galatians, etc., is the inspired word of God. It is the revelation of God directly to Paul, not through the intermediary of an angel.
Of course, the passages I just quoted are not EVIDENCE for inspiration. They are merely CLAIMS of inspiration, but the claim is clear. The Bible claims for itself full authority as revelation and inspiration. Of course, the Qur’an acknowledges this claim of Old and New Testament authority when it refers to these Testaments as ” injil.” For example in sura 5:46, the words about Isa (Jesus) are called gospel or injil. Muhammad considered these writings in the New Testament as authoritative, even if some Muslims today do not. This happens twelve times in the Qur’an. But, not only does the Bible claim that the Old and New Testaments are fully inspired–that they are the very words of God–but they also provide abundant EVIDENCE for this inspiration in such fulfilled prophecies as Micah 5:2, Isaiah 53:1-14, Zechariah 9:9, Daniel 9:24-25, Psalm 22:16-19 and so many more fulfilled prophecies. (see EvidenceforJesus
)These show (as God claims in Isaiah 42:9 in which God claims that in Isaiah and other prophecies he declares things to be true before they happen) that the Bible is due to divine inspiration. There is voluminous evidence for the revelation and inspiration of the Bible. I give much of this evidence in my book, Reasons for Belief
By contrast, although the Qur’an does claim for itself authority and inspiration, the evidence to support this claim is sorely lacking. There is no prophecy in the Qur’an fulfilled hundreds of years later. None. There are no public miracles by Muhammad which parallel Jesus walking on water, feeding and healing thousands and raising people from the dead. The claim for inspiration is found in the Qur’an, as it is in the Bible, but the evidence to support such a claim simply is not there. This is a big problem for Muslims, as they are well aware. This is why Muslims tend to attack the inspiration of the Bible–not because the evidence is not there, but because their own scripture lacks internal evidence for inspiration. This leads to insecurity on the part of Muslims, understandably. But, rather that provide such evidence from miracles and prophecy fulfillment, because it does not exist, they are left with only one option, which is to try, unsuccessfully, to undermine such evidence when found in the Bible. Their attempts only work when they are speaking to one another in a Muslim echo-chamber, but not in an open debate with Christians. They lose such genuine debates regularly. We put on such a debate several years ago “Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Which is the True Legacy of Abraham” which is available at www.ipibooks.com
In this debate Shabir Ally really struggles to provide any evidence whatsoever for the inspiration of the Qur’an. Why? Because he has none, other than questionable claims regarding numerology.
You claim that “inspiration is suppositional.” This is a claim, but on what do you base this statement? Who says that inspiration is suppositional? What I can say about this is that when the word “inspiration” is used by Bible writers, it is nothing suppositional at all. This is mere rhetoric on your part. Whether inspiration is suppositional or not is a matter of definition, I suppose, but what is clear is that the Bible claims that its inspired writings are the fully authoritative and the revelation from God. There are plenty of passages which prove this. You say that “revelation comes via an angel.” Who says? What authority do you have to simply declare that God’s revelation always and only comes by an angel? Muslims claim that the words of Muhammad come from an angel. Fair enough, but what is the evidence to support this? Do we have any such evidence? Were there people present in the room who saw this angel? The answer, of course, is no. Claims are one thing, but evidence is another. On this we have the word of Muhamad, but this is not evidence. And, like I said, who says that God can only reveal himself through angels? Did God speak to David (a prophet in Islam) through angels? What about Elijah? God spoke directly to Moses in the burning bush, as Muslims know. This seems like a rather weak argument to me. Let me repeat. 1. The statement that revelation comes only by angels is just that: a statement without evidence. 2. There is no evidence, other than his own claim, that Muhammad was spoken to by an angel.
You say that mistakes may occur in inspiration. Again, this depends on your definition of inspiration. Clearly, the Bible claims that it does not contain such mistakes (Psalm 119:160). The Bible is fully inspired in the sense that it is the very words of God, “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This is my answer to your important question.
Jer. 30:8-9 and Ezek. 34:23-27 clearly speaks about a king who will rescue the Jews from the hands of those who enslaved them. Obviously, Jesus did not fulfill these prophecies. Are these prophecies are made-up?
You say that Jesus “obviously” did not fulfill these prophecies. Forgive me, but this is not obvious at all. Let us look at these prophecies. “No longer will foreigners enslave them. Instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.”
In this case, the prophecy is a rather “obvious” reference to Jesus who was descended from David, who was born in the City of David, Bethlehem. Jesus fulfilled 2 Samuel 7:14 in which God promised to David that he would never fail to have a descendant on his throne. Jesus us the ultimate king of kings. He is God-in-the-flesh. He did indeed save God’s people from slavery. Like Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him in John 8:31f, all who sin are slaves to sin. Those who believe in Jesus and put his words into practice are saved from slavery to sin. Slavery to sin is the worst kind of slavery. Jesus freed me from my slavery to all kinds of sins. I no longer serve foreign or domestic masters! I serve God! Moses saved Israel from physical slavery, but Jesus, the son of David, saves all (not just Israel) from spiritual slavery. If Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed. Galatians 5:1 tells us that “It is for freedom that you were set free.” Again, this is about slavery to sin and slavery to law-keeping, which is the worst kind of task-master.
The same can be said for Ezekiel 34:23-27. I have taught on this passage many times. It is a very clear prophecy about Jesus. “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David.” Jesus is king who serves on David’s throne. He is the “son of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) He is the “root of David” He is the one through whom God gave the Jews a new covenant (Ezekiel 34:25, Ezekiel 36:24-27, Jeremiah 31:31-34) as all of us know.
All of these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Not only did he rescue the Jews. He also rescued the Gentiles, as was prophesied many, many times in the Old Testament. Jesus also fulfilled Isaiah 49:8-9. He is the one who said to the captives, “Come out.”. And this king will also be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). Again, it is not “obvious” at all that Jesus did not fulfill these prophecies. I fact, dare I say, it is quite obvious that he did! He did so in fantastic and wonderful ways. Just because some Jews and Muslims do not understand what God is saying to his people, does not mean that it is not clear that these passages refer to the saving work of Jesus of Nazareth.