In the preceding section we followed the development of the Qur'an through to the completion of the first official copy when Abu Bakr was still Khalifa. There were, however, other men who made their own collections of Suras, either as they heard them from Muhammad, or by copying them from those who had.
One of the most well known is that of Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud who was the personal servant of Muhammad and was present at both Badr and Uhud. He claimed to have learned some seventy Suras directly from the mouth of Muhammad, and tradition says that he was one of the first to teach Qur'an reading. It is also well-known that his collection differed in its order of the Suras, and that it did not include Suras 1, 113, and 114.
Another of Muhammad's companions who made his own collection of Suras was Ubai b. Ka`b. One of the Ansar, he served as Muhammad's secretary after Muhammad came to Medina. Ubai's codex was known to contain two Suras not found in the Othmanic text---Surat al-Khal` and Surat al-afd, as well as a verse on men's greed following Sura 10:24. Before the appearance of Othman's text, Ubai's text was much used in Syria; and Ubai may have even helped Zaid prepare the official text for Othman.
In addition to these two men, Islamic history and Hadiths mention primary collections made by Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet's son-in-law, whose codex was arranged in chronological order starting with Sura 96; by Ibn Abbas, whose codex is mentioned by al-Suyuti (Itqan, 154) as including the two extra Suras of Ubai; and by Abu Musa, whose codex was used by the people of Basra. It also contained the two extra Suras of Ubai (Itqan 154) as well as the verse on the greed of men (Muslim, Sahih, 1, 285, 286).
As we shall see in the following Hadith, differences between collections were so great that Muslim soldiers from Iraq who followed Ibn Mas`ud's collection and the soldiers of Syria who followed Ubai's collection, accused each other of lying. The problem became so severe that while Othman was engaged in the conquest of Armenia and Azerbaijan (in the year 25 or 30 AH), he was warned of what might happen by Hudhaifah ibn al Yaman as is explained in the following Hadith,
Hudhaifah therefore said to Othman: "Oh Commander of the Faithful, be careful of the people."
He answered, "What is the problem?"
Hudhaifah said, "I took part in the expedition against Armenia where there were Iraqis as well as Syrians. But the Syrians follow the reading of the Qur'an according to Ubai ibn Ka`b, and they say some things which the Iraqis have not heard, so the latter accuse them of unbelief. In the same way the Iraqis, who follow the reading of Ibn Mas`ud, read some things which the Syrians have not heard. and the Syrians accuse them of unbelief. Restrain this people before they differ in the book, as do the Jews and the Christians."
Accordingly Othman sent to Hafsa, saying, "Send us the sheets that we may copy them into the volumes. Then we shall return them to you." Hafsa therefore sent them to Othman. Then he commanded Zaid ibn Thabit and Abdullah ibn al Zubair and Said ibn al As and Abdullah ibn Harith ibn Hisham, and they copied them into the volumes. And Othman said to the company of the three Quraishites, "When you differ, you and Zaid ibn Thabit, in any portion of the Qur'an write it in the dialect of the Quraish, for verily it came down in their dialect." And they did so until, when they had copied the sheets into the volumes, Othman restored the sheets to Hafsa. And he sent to every region a volume from what they had copied, and commanded regarding everything of the Qur'an besides it, in every sheet and volume, that it should be burned.
Further evidence demonstrating the great effort made by Zaid and his committee in compiling their collection is found in the following Hadith,
Ibn Shahab said that Kharijah ibn Zaid ibn Thabit told me that he heard Zaid ibn Thabit say, "when we copied the volume, there was missing from Sura al Ahzab a verse (33:23) which I used to hear the Apostle of God recite. Therefore we sought for it. And we found it with Khuzaimah ibn Thabit the Ansari from among the believers...Therefore we inserted it in its Sura in the volume."
Now that we have seen how Zaid Ibn Thabit went about his task of collecting and assembling the Suras of the Qur'an, let us consider what is known about the composition of the Gospel accounts with special emphasis on Luke because we have the most information about his methods.
During the first 25 years after the ascension of Jesus all preaching of the Gospel was based on (a) the prophecies about Jesus found in the Torah of Moses, the Zabr or Psalms of David, and the other Old Testament prophets; plus (b) the eye-witness accounts of the Apostles that the prophecies had been fulfilled.
As time went on the Holy Spirit led the four evangelists to write down the life of Christ and his teachings. However, like the Suras in the Qur'an, there is no date of composition in the text, so we don't know exactly when they were written. Papias, already mentioned above as a collector of Christian traditions, says that Matthew wrote the "oracles" (or sayings) of Jesus first; that Mark wrote what the Apostle Peter told him; that Luke was the companion of the Apostle Paul; and that John wrote the forth Gospel in his old age at Ephesus.
Nevertheless, extra-Biblical history helps in approximating a date. Thus Tacitus, a Roman historian, mentions the Christians in his account of the burning of Rome in 64 AD while Nero was Emperor. He writes,
"But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also." (boldfacing mine)
It is clear from the words in boldfaced type that Tacitus and the Romans believed that Jesus had been crucified under Pontius Pilate just as the Gospel accounts say. In addition, Tacitus confirms Nero's severe persecution of the Christians.
According to tradition, both Peter and Paul died in this persecution. Since Luke does not mentioned either the persecution or their death at the end of the book of Acts, evangelical Christian scholars think that Acts must have been written before this persecution, during the two years that Luke was with Paul in Rome. If this is true, then Acts would have been written in 62-63 AD, and Luke would have written his Gospel around 60 AD while waiting for Paul to be tried in Palestine.
In Colossians 4:14 the Apostle Paul says of him that, "Luke, the physician...sends greetings". This, plus the quality of his Greek writing, shows him to have been an educated person.
He accompanied Paul personally on at least two occasions, once for a short time from Troas in Turkey to Philippi in Greece (Acts 16:10 to 16:40), and again for several years when he traveled with Paul from Philippi to Jerusalem, waited with Paul through more than two years of imprisonment in Palestine, and then waited with him another two years during Paul's imprisonment in Rome (Acts 20:6 to Acts 28:31).
While in Jerusalem and Palestine, Luke had the opportunity to talk with many people who knew Jesus, including James the half-brother of Jesus. Luke describes his meeting with James in these words,
"The next day Paul and the rest of US went to see James, and all the elders."
Acts 21:18 (capitals mine)
James, as a full son of Mary and Joseph would have known about Jesus' miraculous birth and how he worked with Joseph in the carpenter shop. Luke is the only writer to tell of Jesus' conversation with the teachers in the Temple at the age of 12 (Luke 2:41-50), a fact which he could have easily learned from James.
It is recorded in I Corinthians 15:7 that after Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to James. Obviously when Luke saw James, he would have asked James about this appearance and what Jesus said to him.
In addition to asking James, if Mary was still alive Luke would have been able to ask her personally about the miraculous birth of the Messiah. For Luke is the only writer who tells how the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary and said,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and the child to be born will be called, `holy, the son of God.'"
During the more than two years that Paul was in prison in Palestine, Luke would have been able to contact literally hundreds of people who had seen Jesus' miracles and heard his words; and he would have been able to interview many of the "more than five hundred" who saw Jesus at one time after he rose from the dead. (I Corinthians 15:6).
Lastly we know that Luke knew Mark because they were with Paul at the same time. At the end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes,
"My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas...Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings."
According to a Hadith of Papias, Mark wrote his record of Jesus' life and sayings from the mouth of Peter. Comparison of the two Gospel accounts suggest that Luke almost certainly knew about Mark's work and used it as one of his sources. He may have even gotten his copy of Mark's Gospel directly from the author right there in Paul's prison. All this information indicates clearly that Luke had excellent opportunities to verify the facts of the Gospel, just as Zaid Ibn Thabit and his committee verified the collection of the Qur'an.
As with the Qur'an, so with the Gospel, various men made collections of Jesus' words and acts. Luke mentions this in the preface of his Gospel where he describes his own collecting activities in these words,
"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. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."
Luke first tells us that many people made collections of Jesus' sayings, including descriptions of his miracles, which they heard from those who were "eyewitnesses and servants of the word". "Word" here means Jesus, who is called the "Word of God" (Kalimatu Allah) first in the Gospel and then in the Qur'an. Then Luke says, "I, myself, have carefully investigated everything" (e.g. he searched for at least two witnesses), and finally he wrote it up in an orderly account for a man named Theophilus.
Neither Luke, nor any traditions, say "two witnesses". I assume this from Deuteronomy 19:15 which says,
"One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."
If two witnesses are necessary to verify human crimes and offenses, how much greater the necessity for two witnesses in matters of God's Holy word.
Now let us look quickly at what is known about the other Gospels.
Mark was originally from Jerusalem and could have known Peter and the other apostles in his youth. We know that later in his life he was with Peter in Rome because in his second general letter to the Christians Peter writes,
"She (the church) who is in Babylon (Rome), chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son, Mark."
I Peter 5:13.
Therefore, the statement of Papias that Mark wrote down what Peter told him is quite possible. Whether Peter told the Gospel in Aramaic and Mark was translator as well as scribe, we do not know, but those who are familiar with both Aramaic and Greek say,
"There is no lack of evidence in (Mark's) Gospel that much of the material originally existed in Aramaic; his Greek in places preserves the Aramaic idiom quite unmistakably."
According to tradition, Peter was executed during the persecution of the Christians by Nero which began in 64 AD. Mark could have written things down from memory after Peter's death as Dr. Bucaille suggests when he gives a date of 70 AD, but since Luke, who probably wrote his Gospel account in 60 AD, knew of Mark's gospel and used it as one of his sources, most conservative scholars, along with early church fathers like Origen, Jerome and Clement of Alexandria, place it in the 50's.
As we shall see later, Dr. Bucaille's choice of the year 70 AD has nothing to do with either internal or external evidence. It follows from the "basic assumption" underlying "form criticism", the assumption that miracles of prophecy are impossible.
Concerning Matthew's account, again the date is not known. As we shall see later, Matthew is quoted in the earliest Christian letters and writings which we have, and Papias says that Matthew was the first to write down the "sayings" of Jesus.
From the Gospel accounts we know that Matthew was a tax-collector before he responded to Jesus' call to follow him. As a tax-collector he would have needed to know Latin and Aramaic to keep records of the debts people owed the Romans, and he would probably have known Greek, the trade language of the epoch. Thus there is good reason to believe that he possessed the skills necessary to record Jesus' words, and Papias says in another Hadith that Matthew wrote the "logia" or sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew dialect (Aramaic).
As Matthew followed Jesus around from village to village and listened to his preaching, he wrote down the lessons which Jesus taught. These notes were probably not dated, just as the Suras of the Qur'an are not dated, and it obviously makes no difference on what day or in which village Jesus said, "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect". (Matthew 5:48)
Later another person, who like Luke made his own collection of Jesus' acts and sayings, took the material Mark had gotten from Peter, translated Matthew's collection of Jesus' sayings into Greek, and added them to Mark in the form of five teaching lessons---the most famous of which is the "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7).
In this sermon Jesus speaks of prayer, fasting, divorce, adultery in the heart and other attitudes of the inner spiritual life, including one of the most difficult commands ever given by God. Jesus said,
"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
Jesus kept this commandment and fulfilled it when he prayed for those who were crucifying him saying, "Father (God) forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Also it is very clear from this commandment that "sons of your Father in heaven" speaks of a spiritual relationship. There is absolutely NOTHING physical about it.
Other materials found only in the Gospel of Matthew include the account of the wise men who came from the east to bow down to Jesus as the newborn king of the Jewish nation. Whether this account came from Matthew's collection or not we just don't know, for no copy of Matthew's collection of "sayings" has come down to us, just as there is no longer any copy of Ibn Mas`ud's collection of the Qur'an.
Finally, in the same way that the Suras of the Qur'an received names from some word found in them, so this collection was named "according to Matthew" because of the material which came from him.
The date of John's Gospel has usually been given as 90-95 AD in the Apostle's old age, but there are no statements in the Gospel which will allow us to date it. In recent years, scholars have begun to propose an earlier date.
William Foxwell Albright, who was one of the world's foremost Biblical archaeologists, said: "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the new Testament after about 80 AD."
Dr. Bucaille quotes several New Testament scholars in the field, and settles on the following dates for the composition of the four Gospel accounts: Matthew in 80 AD, Mark 70 AD, Luke 70-90 AD, and John in the 90's. Notice that all of these dates are after 70 AD!! Why? Because Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus' prophecy that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. Mark records the prophecy with these words,
As he (Jesus) was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"
"Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
The men whom Dr. Bucaille has chosen to quote are those who accept the "documentary hypothesis" and "form criticism" which we discussed in Chapters II and III of this section. You will remember that the men who first proposed these theories had as one of their BASIC ASSUMPTIONS that miracles, including prophecy, are impossible.
Therefore, because of this "basic assumption", they HAVE to place the date of writing of these words after the destruction of Jerusalem---i.e. after the event which was prophesied took place.
As was stated above, there is not one fact in any of the four Gospel accounts which indicates the date when they were written. They could have been written in the first decade immediately after Jesus' death. A recent author, John A. T. Robinson, in his book entitled Redating the New Testament published in 1976 concludes that the whole New Testament was written before the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Dr. Bucaille included a diagram of the collection of the
Gospel accounts in his book on page 76 and presented it as
proof that the Bible has been manhandled, altered, and changed.
Diagram 1 demonstrates the collection of the Gospel material
as it has been described in these pages.
THE COLLECTION OF THE GOSPEL
I stress these dates of 52 to 70 AD because they represent a time period of 26 to 44 years after Jesus first started preaching. When we remember that Othman's official copies of the Qur'an were sent out, at the earliest, around 26 AH or 40 years after Muhammad started preaching, we see that the time frames for the distribution of the written Gospel and the distribution of the written Qur'an are very similar.
And again you may ask the question, "BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW?"
We will answer: WE BELIEVE the disciples were upright men who wanted to know and obey God's truth, and the Qur'an agrees with this statement when it says that they were "inspired" and wanted to be God's helpers.
WE BELIEVE that there were many other eye-witnesses to Jesus' life and miracles who could control the truth.
WE BELIEVE that the accounts were written early and of even more importance.
WE BELIEVE that the Holy Spirit guided in the writing. But we don't have absolute proof in the sense of having the original copy of the book of Acts, or of Luke's Gospel.
At the beginning of this section several Hadiths were quoted telling about the final collection of the Qur'an by the committee of Zaid ibn Thabit. I am repeating here the last few lines of one of these Hadiths because we must now talk about the last sentence. It reads as follows,
...When they (the committee) had copied the sheets into the volumes, Othman restored the sheets to Hafsa. And he sent to every region a volume from what they had copied, and commanded, regarding everything of the Qur'an besides it, in every sheet and volume, that it should be burned.
We must note carefully that last sentence.
...AND HE (OTHMAN)...COMMANDED, REGARDING EVERYTHING OF THE QURAN BESIDES IT, IN EVERY SHEET AND VOLUME, THAT IT SHOULD BE BURNED.
Othman decided to make sure that there were no variations in the Qur'an. To do this he burned all the copies, except the one made by ibn Thabit's committee.
He burned the copy of Ali, the prophet's son-in-law.
He burned the copy of Ubai b. Ka`b. Ibn Abi Dawud records that when some Iraqis asked the son of Ubai to see his father's collection of Suras, the son answered that Othman "had seized it" (qabadahu).
He ordered Ibn Mas`ud far away in Iraq to destroy his private copy. Ibn Mas`ud refused while alive, but it also was eventually destroyed.
If Othman had not ordered all the other copies of the Qur'an to be burned, there would be four (or more) separate testimonies to its validity. He burned Qur'ans which were the primary collections, made by eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses of what Muhammad said.
We saw above that the Torah says that there must be at least two witnesses, but Othman destroyed the plurality of witnesses and turned them into one. At least one Hadith says, "He found the Qur'ans many and left one; he tore up the Book".
In all seriousness I now ask my Muslim readers. On what basis can you prove to yourselves, let alone to non-Muslims, that there was no "changing of the text" (al-tahrif al-lafzi).
And what does Dr. Bucaille say about this action of Othman?!? He has a tiny paragraph with one carefully constructed sentence!! He writes,
We know that after the death of Muhammad, Islam spread with great rapidity, and far from its region of origin, among people, of whom a large number did not know Arabic. They took SOME SPECIAL AND UNIQUE PRECAUTIONS (des precautions toutes particulires) so that the Quranic text did not suffer from this expansion. <sic>, (capitals and translation mine)
Let us repeat that last sentence.
They took SOME SPECIAL AND UNIQUE PRECAUTIONS so that the Quranic text did not suffer from this expansion. <sic> <sic> <sic> !!!
Imagine what Dr. Maurice Bucaille would have said if Christians wrote one tiny line like this? We would have been accused of dialectical acrobatics, hiding the truth, deceiving the faithful, etc. We will now have a new sign in our book. Our new sign is made like this (-@-@-@). It represents three somersaults of dialectical acrobatics.
Dr. Bucaille condemns the Christians in strong language, saying that "Perhaps a hundred gospels were suppressed" (though he gives no reference for this information), and that certain texts were "brutally thrust aside". This may have been true in some local area, but since church leaders had no political power until a number of years after Constantine I became Emperor in 324 AD, it was impossible for them to have taken such an action.
That books were burned in those early years, is true, but it was done on the orders of a non-Christian. In 303 AD, the pagan Emperor Diocletian ordered the destruction of all of the sacred books of the Christians---both Canonical and apocryphal. This, no doubt, resulted in the destruction of many books, but it was not done by the church.
Not until 393 AD at the Synod of Hippo in North Africa did any church council make a list of the books officially accepted as having been written under the direction of the Apostles. But when we realize that the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus were both written 40-50 years before this Synod met, and both contain all 27 books of the present Gospel-New Testament, it is clear that those 27 books were accepted by the believers during three centuries of open discussion, during a time when the church had no political power to enforce its rules.
That Dr. Bucaille should bring this up at all when he has said nothing about Othman's actions is incredible. Moreover, he dares to go on with these words,
"One may join Father Boismard in regretting the disappearance of a vast quantity of literature declared apocryphal by the Church although it was of historical interest." <sic>
Dr. Maurice Bucaille "regrets" with Father Boismard "the disappearance of a vast quantity of literature declared apocryphal, etc", yet he has so little regret over Othman's action of burning the original copies of the Qur'an that he doesn't even consider it worth mentioning. He slides right over it with the polite little phrase "SPECIAL AND UNIQUE PRECAUTIONS" (-@-@-@).
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye"
Thrusting some texts aside, even if done "brutally" to use Dr. Bucaille's word, is surely a "speck of sawdust" compared to the "plank" of burning original collections of the Qur'an---collections made by some of the most trusted companions of Muhammad.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the rejected gospels and letters which Dr. Bucaille does mention by name, some of which we shall consider in Part D of this chapter, all contain the Doctrinal Gospel with one exception.
Finally we must mention the destruction of the unique first copy of the Qur'an collected at the order of Abu Bakr, which because of his oath, Othman had returned to Hafsa. After Othman's death, Marwan the Governor of Medina sent to Hafsa and demanded it. She refused to give it up so it stayed with her until she died. But Marwan was so concerned to have it that as soon as he returned from her funeral, he immediately sent to get it. The story is recorded by Ibn Abi Dawud (died 316 AH) in his Kitab Al-Masahif. He gives the Isnad down to Salem ben Abdullah who said,
"When Hafsa died and we returned from her funeral, Marwan sent with firm intention to Abdullah ben Omar (Hafsa's brother) that he must send him those pages, and Abdullah ben Omar sent them to him, and Marwan ordered it and they were torn up. And he said, I did this because whatever was in it was surely written and preserved in the (official) volume and I was afraid that after a time people will be suspicious of this copy or they will say there is something in it that wasn't written." (translation mine)
With that destruction and the eventual destruction of Ibn Mas`ud's copy in Kufa, the primary sources were all destroyed with no copies having been made of them. However, for the first two or three centuries of the Hejira, called the period of original thinking (ijtihd), Quranic teachers would speak of preferring the reading of one or another of the companions of the prophet. But finally this became so intolerable for orthodoxy, that even such an eminent Quranic authority as the great Baghdad scholar Ibn Shanabudh (245-328 AH) was forced to make public recantation of his use of readings from the old Codices.
Dr. Bucaille has repeated many times in his book that Christians altered, changed and manhandled the Gospel. If that is true what is to be said about Othman and his committee, and Marwan? Did they not manhandle, alter and do as they pleased with the Qur'an?
A few pages back, the origin of the four Gospels was presented
in the form of a diagram. The same thing can be done for the
Qur'an. Diagram 2 portrays the origin and transmission of the
Qur'an as it was recounted for us in the above Hadiths.
THE COLLECTION OF THE QURAN
The diagram could be made much more complicated by adding other codices such as that of Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari which was used at Basra, but the essential information is clear and shows the many parallels in the recording of the Gospel and the Qur'an.
We shall now ask the question again. HOW DO YOU KNOW that the Qur'an which you have WITH YOU is exactly the same as that given by Muhammad?
If, in spite of this "manhandling" and suppression of evidence by Othman, Muslims BELIEVE that there has been no change of any importance in the essential doctrines of the Qur'an, on what basis shall anyone say that the Gospel does not contain the essential doctrines of Jesus?
If the Qur'an which came 600 years later does not agree with the Gospel-New Testament, Muslims will have to find some other explanation than `'Tahrif". To charge lightly and easily that "the Christians changed the Gospel" is a basic assumption for which no proof has been provided.
Christians agree wholeheartedly with the idea expressed in the late Meccan Sura of Jonah (Yunus) 10:64 when it declares, "There is no change in the Words of God".
Continue with Part C
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