Dr Oakes, how do you respond to Muslims’ argument such as this: “Even if your Bible is 99,5% accurate, the Quran is more. It is 100% accurate. Unlike your Bible that have forgery verses added and changed many times, the Quran didn’t have anything like this and perfectly preserved from the start. All our verses are intact without any additions or changes. We (Muslims) can enjoy reading it (Quran) without having to be afraid that any verses written there is authentic or not, unlike the Bible and Christians!” I think this is the core argument of what Muslims usually say against Bible reliability and us Christians.
First of all, whether a document is 100% perfectly transmitted is not the main point. The main point is whether the original document is inspired by God!!!! Do not forget this, as the Muslim wants you to forget it. What the Quran lacks is clear evidence for inspiration, whereas there is a MOUNTAIN of evidence for inspiration in the Bible, such as fulfilled prophecies, historical reliability, scientific reliability, confirmed miracles, especially in the New Testament and much, much more. For dozens of examples, see my book Reasons for Belief (www.ipibooks.com). We have a perfectly reliable copy of the US constitution, but this does not mean that it is the Word of God. We have a perfectly preserved copy of Shakespeare’s plays, but this does not make them supernaturally inspired Scripture. Therefore, the entire premise of this person’s statement–that perfection of preservation is the standard by which to know that a document is supernaturally inspired–is completely false. Completely false, as we have millions of 100% accurately transmitted documents, and none of them are inspired. Neither is the Quran inspired, unless we can be shown evidence of such inspiration. This is a red herring argument.
Second, the statement is that the current version of the Quran is 100% the exact version of what Muhammad said. The fact is that this is simply not true, as has been proved from the data. In fact, it is a lie. Only about a generation after the death of Muhamad, in about AD 650, the caliph Uthman had all old copies of the Quran destroyed because there were so many differences and this was causing confusion for Muslims. He produced a supposedly “perfect” manuscript. This is something Christians never did. They never attempted to cover up the small differences between manuscripts to create the false impression that the New Testament documents were “perfect.” Never mind the sincerity of Uthman or lack of sincerity of this caliph, the problem for the claims of 100% perfection is that it is proved wrong. It is proved wrong, both by the fact that Uthman felt the need to destroy the other versions of the Quran and by the relatively small number of manuscripts which escaped the attempts to destroy them.
There are a couple of such existent Quranic manuscripts. These prove that the claim of 100% perfection to be not true. For example, there is the Sanaa manuscript, which was found in the city of Sanaa in present-day Yemen. This manuscript is really quite similar to that of Uthman, but there are a couple of entire suras different, as well as hundreds of variants from the Uthmanic text. Also, there is the Ibn Masud Codex, found in Kufa, which has 150 variants from the Uthmanic text, and the Topkapi Manuscript, found in Turkey, which has 44 variants from the Uthman text. Overall, the evidence for the accuracy of the Quran is roughly (quite roughly, because the history of the texts is so different) similar to that of the New Testament. Claims of perfection for the Quran are based on ignorance of the facts. People who say this are either ignorant of the facts or they are being dishonest. But we should not be surprised about such ignorance. There is one HUGE difference between Muslims and their relationship with the Quran and Christians and their relationship with the New Testament. Muslims refuse to even discuss textual variants–to the point that they literally deny their existence. Muslims who are willing to look at such evidence literally must fear for their lives. No wonder Muslims are ignorant of the facts in this area, whereas Christians write literally hundreds of PhDs about the New Testament text. This massive amount of research is why we have such a precise New Testament. If only Muslims would do the same. Good luck with that! If they are right, what do they have to fear with research into the textual variants of the Qur’an? Honestly, I believe that they will discover that the Uthmanic text is perhaps as much as 99% accurate. But they will never do this research.
Also, there is the Quranic doctrine of Abrogation, recorded in Sura 2:106 “None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?” In other words, if God changes his mind, then the prior, incorrect sura is replaced by the later, more correct sura. One of these abrogations allowed Muhammad to take more than three wives. There are other examples, recorded in the Qur’an, of “abrogation,” in which Muhammad admits that he was correcting an earlier error. Imagine the Bible having a doctrine of abrogation! God never changes his mind and he never corrects earlier biblical mistakes.
This is my response.