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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Muslims often assert that Christians corrupted The Bible at The Council Of Nicea in 325 AD

Sometimes Muslims assert that, at this Council, Christians were in hopeless confusion about what Gospels should be included in The Bible, there being dozens or hundreds of conflicting Gospels in their possession at that time. In order to select the true Gospels of Jesus, say these opponents of Christianity, the Niceans resorted to throwing the contending Gospels on or under the main table in the debating hall of The Council, then prayed to God that the true Gospels would  overnight miraculously move to the top of this hopelessly confused mess of hopelessly confused books.

The ultimate source of this story, told in several colourful variants,  is a document known as the Synodicon Vetus, an anonymous document written in about 900 AD. The Synodicon Vetus gives a one chapter summary of every major Council and Synod of the Christian Church up until 887 AD.

The Synodicon Vetus says of The Council Of Nicea

The canonical and apocryphal books it distinguished in the following manner: in the house of God the books were placed down by the holy altar; then the council asked the Lord in prayer that the inspired works be found on top and–as in fact happened–the spurious on the bottom. (Synodicon Vetus, 35)

Unfortunately for Muslims, the Synodicon Vetus is an unreliable document and is not considered trustworthy by historians. In addition, Synodicon Vetus also fails the  tests of reliability required by Islamic Sciences.

The flaws of the Synodicon Vetus are many. They are:

  • It is anonymous
  • It is written many centuries after the early Councils
  • It gives a different account of Councils than witness accounts and records written at much earlier times
  • It references Councils that never took place
  • It includes events considered doubtful and even imaginary
  • It uses documents known to be forged and considers them to be factual.

 

While the Synodicon Vetus does contain some information which is verified by earlier historical accounts and its information about the later Councils is often sound, its major drawbacks mean that it cannot be used as an authoritative source. Its recount of the earlier Councils, including the Council of Nicea are very often unreliable. For this reason the Synodicon Vetus is described variously as pseudo-historical, not to be trusted for Councils prior to the 7th Century unless corroborated by better sources, containing information which is doubtful or imaginary, the product of careless research…containing numerous errors and depending in part on forged documents.

The account in the Synodicon Vetus of the four accepted Gospels floating to the top of a huge pile of forgeries in response to prayer is not mentioned in any document prior to the Synodicon Vetus itself. Since the SV was written about 570 years after the Council Of Nicea and the account of the miraculously appearing Gospels is not mentioned by any other source including the several records from very close to the time of Nicea, then this alone is enough to dismiss the SV’s account of Nicea as a fanciful invention and not at all based in fact.

In fact, the proceedings of The Council Of Nicea are well-known and the decisions and the agenda of the Council are common knowledge. Contrary to myths believed by Muslims and other opponents of Christianity, the canon of scripture (i.e. what Books should or should not be in The Bible) was not decided at Nicea, nor was Nicea called for the purpose of discussing the Canon of Scripture. The list of accepted Gospels and Letters in The Bible was exactly the same after Nicea as before Nicea. The church leaders that disagreed with the decisions of Nicea used the same Bible as those that agreed with Nicea.

The reason Nicea was called was to discuss the meaning of Jesus’s title as Son Of God, not to determine the contents of The Bible.

The Unmentioned Miracle

An astonishing miracle such as the True Gospels selecting, discarding, declaring and elevating themselves would surely be recorded as the major event of the Council, but no such miracle or decision is recorded. Again, this alone is proof that the story of miraculously appearing Gospels as stated by the Synodicon Vetus simply never happened.

You can read many accounts of the proceedings of Nicea from the Histories listed on this site (here’s a short summary), the statement of faith produced at Nicea here and a list of the other decisions of Nicea here. There is simply no mention of any discussion about which books should be in The Bible nor is there any decision taken regarding The Bible. This is because the Biblical Canon (what books and letters should be in The Bible) was well-known by both sides well before Nicea. It was simply not in dispute.

Synodicon Vetus Invalid According To Islamic Sciences

The willingness of Muslims to accept a myth based on the Synodicon Vetus is actually opposed to Islamic Sciences of evaluating reliable traditions and history. First, the SV is anonymous. The first principle of authenticity in Islamic Sciences is that the author of the text be fully identified and be known as a trustworthy witness.

The fact that the SV is anonymous disqualifies it immediately from being considered reliable or authentic by Muslims. Muslims are obliged to reject the SV on this basis alone. As Shabbir Ally explains in relation to The Gospel Of Barnabas (which he rejects) a document or tradition which appears suddenly and anonymously centuries after the event it is supposed to describe and which has no chain of narration back to eyewitnesses of the event is simply invalid and must be rejected by Muslims. This is why Shabbir Ally does not consider The Gospel Of Barnabas valid. He would reject the Synodicon Vetus for the same reason.

In passing, other respected Islamic Scholars also reject the Gospel Of Barnabas. For example: Yusuf Estes says simply ‘There was no Gospel Of Barnabas…If you think there was such a Gospel you are deluded…’ Estes goes on to infer that the Gospel Of Barnabas is somehow the product of drunkenness and leaves no doubt that he does not consider the Gospel Of Barnabas of value to either Muslims or Christians.

Use Of Forged Sources

Returning again to the Synodicon Vetus, the document is severely compromised by its use of sources known to be forged. The forgeries in question are known as the Seven Forged Letters of Peter The Fuller. These letters owe their production to a theological debate of the 5th Century. You can read all about it here. Since SV references forged documents as if they are true then there is no way that SV should be considered reliable.

The Qu’ran Was Recited By 114 Heavenly Eagles

Imagine if I told Muslims that the Qu’ran was put into its current form by 114 Heavenly Eagles which appeared to Mohammed on the night before his death and recited each of the 114 true Surahs in turn in order to verify to Mohammed that his own recitation of the Qu’ran was correct. Imagine if I told Muslims that this was necessary because Mohammed had accumulated over 1000 Surahs and had no idea which ones were valid and which ones were forgeries. Imagine if I told my Muslim friends that the Eagles had appeared in response to a desperate prayer from Mohammed to Allah in order to help him determine which Surahs of the Qu’ran were forged and which were real.

My Muslim friends would laugh at this story and demand proof for my assertion.

Imagine if I told them that this proof was contained in a anonymous Hadith contained in a book of Hadith assembled by an anonymous authour who had also assembled Hadith using sources which were known forgeries and that my anonymous source wrote down his Hadith in the year 1420 AD, 570 years after Imam Bukhari had made his Sahih collection of trusted and authenticated Hadith and that my account was not accepted by or known to any other Islamic Scholar.

I then tell my Muslim friends that they should reject the Hadith of Bukhari and accept my anonymous, forged, and obviously fanciful account of the Recitation Of The Heavenly Eagles, written 800 years after the death of Mohammed  even though it is in complete contradiction to reputable Islamic history.

Their response would be: Why should we accept such rubbish ?

And yet some Muslims ask Christians to accept the myths of the Synodicon Vetus.

Irredeemable

The major flaws in the SV render it irredeemable. It cannot be judged to be authoritative for Christians in any way. The story of the floating Gospels which miraculously appear at the top of the pile of competing Gospels is an obvious fabrication and a myth, one which is rejected by reputable scholarship.

Muslims assert that Christians have deliberately corrupted The Bible, changing the original teaching of Jesus so as to obscure the original Islamic message that He supposedly bought.

In order to prove this allegation, Muslims need to bring the supposed original Islamic Bible, or a copy of it, so that we can compare the supposedly Islamic original Bible with the supposedly corrupted version that exists today.

Unfortunately for Muslims there is no evidence that an original Islamic Bible ever existed. There are approximately 25,000 ancient manuscripts and fragments of The Bible dating back to 125 AD, 500 years before the coming of Islam. All of these ancient manuscripts support the text of the current Bible and not one of them is a copy or fragment of the supposed original Islamic Bible.

Muslims thus have no proof, no evidence at all, that an Islamic Bible ever existed. On the contrary, all proof of the ancient manuscripts, which amounts to more than 2.6 million pages of text, is for the current Bible.

What Was Changed, Exactly ?

But what exactly do Muslim scholars claim was removed from or added to the supposed original Islamic Bible ? The website Islamic Q&A gives a specific answer to this. It says

they erased everything from their Books that foretold the coming of Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) and they concealed what knowledge they had of this matter.

IslamQ&A goes on to say:

Al-Baghawi (an Islamic scholar ) said the rabbis of the Jews were afraid of losing their livelihood and position of leadership, when the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) came to Madeenah. So they tried to prevent the Jews from believing in him. They went to his description in the Torah, where he is described as having a handsome face, with handsome hair, kohl-rimmed eyes and being of average height, and they changed it, writing instead: Tall, blue, with straight hair.

When their foolish ones asked them about the description of the Prophet, they read what they had written and said that he was different from this description, so they disbelieved him and rejected him. So Allah said (interpretation of the meaning): “Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands” [al-Baqarah 2:79].

Thus IslamQ&A provides us with a time and place when the Bible was supposedly changed, giving even a general idea of the place where the text was changed (The Torah) and details of exactly what was changed, this being details of the physical description of Mohammed.

Mohammed arrived in Medinah in 622 AD. This means that according to the scholar Al-Baghawi, who is apparently reliable enough to be quoted as an authority by IslamQ&A, that the original supposed Islamic Bible was in existence prior to 622 AD and said that the prophet to come would have a handsome face, with handsome hair, kohl-rimmed eyes and would be of average height and that the current Bible says that the prophet to come would be Tall, blue (presumably blue-eyed) , with straight hair.

Bibles Ancient And Modern

Unfortunately for IslamQ&A and Al-Baghawi we possess virtually complete Bibles from prior to 622 AD and they all support the text of the current Bible. I speak specifically here of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus written in approximately 330 AD in different parts of the ancient Near East. The small part of the Torah missing from Codex Vaticanus is supplied by numerous other ancient Bible manuscripts and Christian writings of the period. The portions of the Torah missing from Codex Sinaiticus are supplied by Codex Vaticanus.

So the manuscript evidence is contrary to the claim of IslamQ&A and Al-Baghawi that the Bible was changed in 622 AD. Al-Baghawi has quite simply made things up out of his own mind or repeated erroneous teaching that he has received from his own predecessors. IslamQ&A has repeated these errors of Al-Baghawi without bothering to check his scholarship.

Secondly, no manuscript of The Bible either before or after Islam records a prophet to come who has a handsome face, with handsome hair, kohl-rimmed eyes and who would be of average height. So there is no evidence whatsoever for a change in The Bible as decscribed by Al-Baghwai.

Furthermore, no manuscript of The Bible either before or after Islam records a prophet to come who is tall, blue-eyed with fair hair. The current Bible does not say what Al-Baghawi says it does. What is this man talking about ? He is obviously in complete ignorance on his subject. It is amazing that IslamQ&A would choose to relay such arrant nonsense to their readership.

Same Error In Reverse

Even more embarrassing for IslamQ&A is that they then go on to record the opinion of another Islamic scholar, Al-Qurturbi, who says that The Bible was altered in more or less  the exact opposite manner to that described by Al-Baghawi.

Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

Ibn Ishaaq and al-Kalbi said: The description of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) in their Book said that he was of average height and white, but they changed it to say that he was dark with long, straight hair, and they said to their companions and followers: Look at the description of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) who will be sent at the end of time; he does not resemble this one.

Again, to the detriment of Al-Qurtubi, no manuscript of The Bible either before or after Islam says that the prophet to come would be white and of average height and neither does any manuscript of The Bible either before or after Islam says that the prophet to come will be dark with long, straight hair.

As with Al-Baghawi, the current Bible does not say what Al-Qurturbi says it does. These scholars are simply inventing untrue assertions about supposed changes in The Bible or passing on baseless rumour that they themselves have received from their predecessors.

Thus, these scholars, supposedly among the best of Islamic history, simply have no idea what they are talking about in relation to supposed corruption of The Bible. How can the scholars of Islam state that The Bible has been corrupted when they don’t even know what The Bible says ?

How can the scholars of Islam be believed about ‘what The Bible says’ when the things they say are written in The Bible are simply not there ? Who could believe or trust or follow such blind and ignorant guides ?

It is clear that the scholars of Islam have no certain knowledge of their subject and follow nothing but conjecture. They are in the same hopeless position as that described by their own scripture, that of simply repeating baseless rumour.

And because of their saying (in boast), “We killed Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,” – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of ‘Iesa (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)] 4:157 Hilal-Khan Translation

This grasping onto rumour, conjecture and invention of falsehood is demonstrated by Islamic scholars not only in relation to supposed corruption of The Bible but also in Islamic accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus which you can read here.

Muslims Have Changed The Qu’ran

It is not sufficient for Muslims to simply state without evidence that Christians have changed The Bible. Anyone can spout baseless accusation like that. What if I told my Muslim friends that the original Qu’ran had been changed to conceal the divinity of Jesus and that the original Qu’ran contained a description of Jesus to the effect that he would be a tall old man with straight white hair and that the current Qu’ran had been changed in the city of Petra in the year 833 AD to say that Jesus would be short with green eyes and curly red hair ?

Muslims would of course laugh at such ludicrous statements and demand that I bring proof. Yet their own scholars are making, and continue to make, equally ridiculous claims in regard to The Bible.

Change Must Be In Accordance With Prediction

Furthermore, for Muslims to prove their allegations of corruption of The Bible they must demonstrate corruptions corresponding to the way they say it has changed. It is not sufficient to demonstrate any supposed change at all and say that therefore the Bible has been changed in order to eliminate Islamic belief.

For example, if Muslims say that there are multiple different versions of The Bible and that therefore The Bible has been corrupted to conceal the coming of Mohammed, they must demonstrate that these supposed different versions show the elimination of  Islamic belief. That requires production of originals which contain the Islamic beliefs so that comparisons can be made with the supposed different versions. Spelling or copyists errors and other trivial manuscript variants are proof of nothing.

That is why the IslamicQ&A article is so instructive. It contains descriptions by Islamic scholars of the supposed changes to The Bible and gives a specific time and place where these changes were supposed to have been made. But as we have seen, the changes described by Islamic scholars do not exist and neither do any copies of the supposed Islamic originals, despite the existence of many thousands of ancient Bible manuscripts from both before and after the time of Islam.

Quite simply, Muslims have no evidence at all to support their oft-repeated assertion that The Bible has been corrupted.

On the contrary, all evidence, of which there is mountainous quantities, is for the current Bible.

Many Muslims state that the true Injeel (Gospel as taught by Jesus) is found in The Gospel of Barnabas which was later excluded from The Bible by Christian leaders who wished to put fake and corrupt teaching into The Bible. You can read a Muslim making that claim here.

The Gospel Of Barnabas is not the true Injeel. Rather, it is an obvious forgery.

In fact, unfortunately for Muslims who insist that the The Gospel Of Barnabas is the true word of God,  The Gospel was Barnabas contradicts Islam and the Qu’ran. It states that Jesus was not the Messiah when the Qu’ran says that Jesus is The Messiah. The Gospel Of Barnabas says that Maryam suffered pain in childbirth whereas the Qu’ran says Maryam did not suffer pain during childbirth. The Gospel Of Baranbas says that men are limited to one wife whereas the Qu’ran permits Muslims to four wives. Finally the Gospel Of Barnabas says there are nine heavens whereas the Qu’ran says there are seven heavens.

Muslim Scholars Reject The Gospel Of Barnabas 

Muslims may be surprised to learn that prominent Islamic scholars have rejected The Gospel Of Barnabas.

Shabir Ally makes the point that The so-called Gospel Of Barnabas carries no internal authentication and thus is not acceptable as a Holy Text as its source cannot be proven according to the Islamic scholarly methods which are used to authenticate Hadith and other religious traditions.

Specifically Shabbir Ally says:

the chain of authorities for The Gospel Of Barnabas is missing…for centuries The Gospel Of Barnabas was not seen anywhere but then suddenly it turned up in The Middle Ages

What Shabbir Ally is saying is that in the same way that a Hadith without a chain of authorities (Isnad) is instantly rejected as unreliable and has no status as a Holy Text so also The Gospel Of Barnabas lacks any chain of authorities and therefore has no status as a Holy Text and must be rejected by Muslims.

The question then arises ‘Which Christian Gospels DO have a reliable chain of authorities which connect them down through the centuries all the way to Jesus Himself ? And the answer to that is that the Gospels of the current Bible, including the writings of Paul have exactly that chain of authority.

The  current Bible has internal authentication which connects it to Jesus, then authentication in the second and third generation of Christian believers and then in all subsequent Church Councils down to the present day.

If Shabbir Ally or any Muslim wishes to know which are The Gospels of Jesus that are connected by an unbroken chain of authority all the way to Jesus, then those Gospels are the Gospels contained in the current Bible. That chain of authority includes Mohammed and The Qu’ran both of whom gave unqualified support and validation to the truth of the Bible. You can find proof of that here.

Another well-known Muslim scholar who rejects the so-called Gospel Of Barnabas is Yusuf Estes. Estes is quoted on the Islamic web-site Islamic Newsroom dismissing The Gospel Of Barnabas as  a sad joke, a trick, and a fake as follows:

[The Gospel Of Barnabas] is a sad joke on many Muslims. Some have been tricked into believing this has something to do with the New Testament and it is more or less the “Lost Gospel” … But that is all  nonsense, because the so-called “Gospel of Barnabas” is “Bogabas” (fake).

Estes then gives a description of the reasons that The Gospel Of Barnabas is a fake, most of which accords exactly with reliable scholarship. Muslims who accept the Gospel Of Barnabas are violating their own scholarly rules. In any case the obvious errors, contradictions and violations of both Islamic and Christian doctrines prove that the so-called Gospel Of Barnabas is an obvious fraud.

In another video, Yusuf Estes says simply ‘There was no Gospel Of Barnabas…If you think there was such a Gospel you are deluded…’ Estes goes on to infer that the Gospel Of Barnabas is somehow the product of drunkenness and leaves no doubt that he does not consider the Gospel Of Barnabas of value to either Muslims or Christians

The fact that both Shabbir Ally and Yusuf Estes reject The Gospel Of Barnabas is significant. These two are highly prominent as anti-Christian polemecists this being something of their speciality. Their engagement with Christian Scholars on this issue has exposed them to the fraudulent nature of The Gospel Of Barnabas and enabled them to reject it both as irrelevant to Islamic belief and a forgery of the true teachings of Jesus.

You can learn more about The Gospel Of Barnabas here

Muslims believe that Christians falsified and destroyed the real Bible, often asserting that this occurred at The Council Of Nicea in 325 AD.

Some Muslims believe that the supposed original, real Bible, which supports the teaching of The Qu’ran,  was discovered in the year 2000 in Turkey. The basis for this belief is a story published on Feb. 23 2012  by the National Turkish news service. You can read the report, which describes a 1500-2000 year old Bible seized from smugglers by Turkish police here.

This supposed ‘Bible’ is an obvious fake.

Firstly, the document was not written 1500 years ago. The document itself says it was written in the year 1500 A.D. which would make it about 500 years old, not 1500 years old. We know that the document was written in 1500 AD because it says so on the front cover. The text on the front cover has appeared in many photographs and is easily read in the Modern Assyrian language.

But the fact that the document was written in Modern Assyrian proves that the document is actually less than 200 years old. The language Modern Assyrian, was standardized in the 1840s. The first bible in Modern Assyrian was produced in 1848. If this book were written in 1500 A.D. it would have been written in Classical Assyrian, not Modern Assyrian.

More to the point, a document written in 1840 cannot possibly be said to predict the coming of Mohammed in 610 AD.

From this alone, the language that the document was written in, we therefore know that this document is an obvious fake.

Secondly, this document has been rejected as a fake by Islamic scholars. The Islamic website Islamic NewsRoom describes how the document contradicts The Qu’ran as follows (see http://www.islamnewsroom.com/news-we-need/1800-ancient-bible-proves-muhammad

In late 2012 the Turkish culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay quoted from the book saying that in it,  Jesus says, “How shall the Messsiah be called? Muhammad is his Blessed name”.

 Yet, The Qu’ran says that Messiah is the name of Jesus, NOT the name of Mohammed.

The Islamic article goes on to describe other contradictions between the document and The Qu’ran and then closes with a quote from Yusuf Estes, the well-known Islamic scholar, who rejects the document as follows:

I’m sorry for those who believe this book is the authentic written word of Jesus, peace be upon him. The most I can say about this book other than being an ancient manuscript of somebody’s writing – it should not be seriously considered as anything more than another discovery of ancient rubbish.

http://www.islamnewsroom.com/news-we-need/1800-pope-read-ancient-bible-a-quit-why

No wonder the Turkish Theology professor Omer Faruk Harman told said the Turkish Newspaper Today’s Zaman, “Muslims may be disappointed to see that this copy does not include things they would like to see and it might have no relation with the content of the Gospel of Barnabas“.