Why can’t Jews/Christians prove that the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc. are the amalgamation of exact words of the prophets? Jonah is surely not written by Jonah as it is a historical narrative. Your response?
It is the nature of ancient documents that no one can ever “prove” the provenance of any of these documents. This applies to both the Old and the New Testaments, as well as the Qur’an and the religious texts of Hinduism and Buddhism. It also applies to the writings of Aristotle and Julius Caesar. All we can really do is ask what is the likelihood that the most commonly claimed author is in fact the actual author of the work. With the book Jeremiah, because we know from books like Daniel, that it was believed to have been written by the actual person Jeremiah at a very early date, we can be fairly certain that it was actually written by the historical person Jeremiah. However, even in this book, there are shorter sections, such as Jeremiah 37-39 which are historical interludes, certainly not written by Jeremiah. With Isaiah, even the hardened skeptics generally acknowledge that the person we know of as Isaiah wrote the first forty chapters, but there is some debate about whether another author wrote the final 27 chapters. This is an open debate, with no certain answer. With Amos, because he is a more obscure person, one can argue that it is significantly less certain that the historical person Amos wrote it.
As for Jonah, this account of the life of Jonah is primarily an historical one. It contains only a few prophetic words of Jonah, but even these words (other than chapter 2) were written by someone other than Jonah.
My question to the critic posing this challenge (who, by the way, is almost certainly a Muslilm, although I cannot prove it 🙂), is why does this matter? What matters is whether these writings are inspired by God. Given the absolutely incredible and incontrovertible prophecies contained in Isaiah and Jeremiah, that strongly imply these are inspired words is clearly established by the evidence. If we read Jonah, with all of its striking prefigures of the Messiah, and its message that salvation is for the Gentiles too, the inspiration of this book is dramatically confirmed by its content. Where is the implied requirement of this critic that all books which are named after prophets can only contain prophetic words, and not historical accounts? This is an arbitrary ad hoc requirement, created only for the purpose of attacking the reliability and inspiration of the Bible. It is a useless criticism, as it is based on an arbitrary criterion.
And then there is the fact that the very person who makes this criticism is part of a religion whose Scripture also cannot be proven to have been written by its supposed prophet, Muhammad. Surely Muhammad is a real person, and surely he did make many statements. It is also quite likely that many of the words in the Qur’an are actually those spoken by Muhammad. But, none of them were written down until at least twenty years after his death, so how can we be certain that these are the exact words he spoke? The simple and undeniable answer is that we cannot. What we need from any authoritative Scripture is clear evidence of inspiration. I have read the Qur’an, and I do not find historical reliability, clearly fulfilled prophecy, scientific wisdom, or any of the other marks of inspiration in the Old Testament. I would say that, on balance, the evidence for the reliability and inspiration of the Old Testament books such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos and Jonah is vastly stronger than the Qur’an, so I suggest the critic take a hard look at their own supposedly inspired Scripture and stop attacking the Old Testament, which Muhammad himself said was inspired by God/Allah.
Bear in mind that we rarely if ever see these sorts of attacks on Islam and the Qur’an coming from Christian groups. Why? Because we are not in a defensive position of having unverified inspired writings. Our Scripture speaks for itself, so we do not need to undermine the Scripture of others. And, besides, we are told by our leader to love, not to hate or kill our enemies. Please bear in mind that I write these things only as a response to an outside criticism, and this discussion was not initiated by myself. As a Christian, I prefer to project, explain and defend the name of Christ rather than agressively go after others.
That is my response.