Does Q 2:79 claim that the previous scriptures have been textually corrupted?


In this article I look at both the Qur’an itself as well as Muslim commentary (tafsīr). I try to highlight the complexity regarding this question – what do we mean when we talk about textual corruption? But in the way it’s generally understood today by the Muslims I have spoken with, I argue ‘no’, the Qur’an does not claim that the previous scriptures have been textually corrupted.

Do share your thoughts either here or on the original page 🙂

https://steelmanapologetics.com/does-q-279-claim-that…/



Categories: Islam

31 replies

  1. Peace be with you Richard.

    With regards to earlier textual corruption of the Torah what would you say about
    Jeremiah 8:8.

    While not a Quranic source it does seem to suggest some early disputes on what was scripture.

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    • Peace be with you too 🙂 thank you for your question.

      I may reply to this if I have time, but as this is off-topic, please excuse me if I don’t reply immediately

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    • So I’m not an expert on this but is Jeremiah 8:8 talking about corrupting the text of scripture itself, or writing false commentary about it? I don’t know. But if they have corrupted the scripture, is this saying all copies everywhere have been corrupted, or just those in Jerusalem (the context of Jeremiah 8)? Were there copies outside of Jerusalem? These are things that would be relevant, but I don’t have the answer to.

      Other passages of scripture tell us that even after this time the People had the Torah. Jeremiah 26:4-5 tells the people to follow the Law, which they could only do if they still had the law. Nehemiah 8 says that Ezra read out the law to the people. Malachi 4:4 tells the Israelites to follow the law. These later passages of scripture all imply that people still have the law, otherwise they couldn’t follow it. And there is no suggestion that it is partially corrupted in these passages.

      Finally, there is no suggestion in the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew Mark Luke and John, that the Torah has been corrupted – indeed, Jesus speaks of the scriptures only with the utmost respect (e.g. (Matt. 12:3,5; 19:4; 21:16; 21:42; 22:31; Mk. 2:25; 12:10; 12:26; Lk. 6:3). Particularly striking amongst these is Matthew 22:31 where Jesus says ‘Have you not read what God said TO YOU’, and then quotes Exodus 3:6, from the Torah. Jesus quotes the Torah, and then says this is as if God is speaking directly to Jesus’ own people in his day.

      Jesus also in the Qur’an is ‘confirming the Law that had come before him’ (li-ma bayna yadayhi) (Q 5:48, 61:6). Bayna yadayhi can mean chronologically prior, but also ‘in front of’ him in the present time. I did a survey of this before (I would be happy to send you an Excel spreadsheet privately) and determined that where I could tell, ‘in front of’ was more common than chronologically before (though many cases are unclear, which I didn’t count on either side). If you would like this document please email contact@steelmanapologetics.com

      I hope this answer helps!

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      • Thank you for your thoughtful and well written response.
        I appreciate your insights.
        Also thank you for the prompt response. It would have been no issue if you responded several days later as I am sure you are busy.

        With specific reference to Jeremiah 26:4 and taking into consideration Jeremiah 8:8 is it not possible here that when the people are being told to “follow my law, which I have set before you” it is in the present tense. By that I mean here the law is being presented or rather presented again to the people?

        I know nothing of the Hebrew language and my interpretation might easily dismissed with knowledge of the language though.

        Either way though like you mentioned there is relevant context needed for Jeremiah 8:8, that I do not have, for my idea to make any sense at all.

        The rest of your points do seem to make sense.

        As for the spreadsheet it would be interesting to look at so I will be sure to send you an email.

        Thank you for your time, you have certainly given me a lot of things to look into more.

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      • Thank you for your kind words – I do actually have a lot of time on my hands, but I try to balance replying to comments and writing new articles. But thank you for your graciousness 🙂

        So Jeremiah 26:4 is talking about the present (and it is chronologically after Jeremiah 8:8) – God instructs Jeremiah to speak to the People, ‘Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me [lo tishmu – tishmu is in the imperfect rather than the perfect tense], to walk in my law…’ I don’t know if you know any Arabic Uzair but you may recognise the Hebrew here – lo means ‘not’ like Arabic la, and the root of tishmu is shm’, like the Arabic sm’. But anyway, the verb tense of tishmu, and the command to Jeremiah to command the people, mean that it is in the present tense.

        Well Jeremiah is reminding the People to follow the law. I suppose theoretically it could be the law given again after it was corrupted (Jeremiah 8:8) through the Prophet Jeremiah, or it could be the same law that was never textually corrupted (other than people writing false interpretations of it, or corrupting some but not all copies). Given that the Book of Jeremiah doesn’t talk about God re-revealing the Torah through Jeremiah, I find it unlikely that it envisages a full-scale corruption of the Torah – if that’s what was meant in Jeremiah 8:8 it would be surprising that more attention to the topic isn’t given.

        Yes please do email contact@steelmanapologetics.com and I would be very happy to send you the spreadsheet 🙂

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      • Thank you again for the response and clarification.

        As for the law being presented to the people in Jeremiah 26:4 I did not mean a re-revealing of the Torah but rather an endorsement of a different copy of the scripture being presented to the people. That is part of what I meant by asking if “which I have set before you” from Jeremiah 26:4 was in the present tense.

        If this sentence used “had” instead of “have” it would be referring to what the people already had with them and confirming that it was the exact same Torah that had been revealed originally.

        Most English translations use “have” but some do use “had”.
        And like I mentioned before I know nothing of Hebrew so it is possible I am reading something into the words that only exist in the English translation and not in the Hebrew.

        Using “have” might leave open the interpretation that what they are being commanded to follow is the Torah being presented before them. A Torah in the possession of Jeremiah. This one which is different from what they possess and consider scripture. The extent of the differences I of course cannot say.

        Here what Jeremiah is doing is calling the people to follow what he has brought them as opposed to what they already have.

        That is just my possible interpretation of these events though.

        Also as for my Arabic it is rather bare bones. Languages are not my strong suit.

        Thank you again for your time.

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  2. Yes, the Quran does speak of textual corruption of earlier scriptures, and the majority of Western scholars agree with this statement. Walid Saleh writes in his review of Gordon Nickel’s book:

    …Nickel states his objectives in a roundabout way. He is thus too dismissive of the position of the majority of scholars who have worked on the verses in the Qurān that discuss tampering. The majority view is that these verses do imply an accusation of textual tampering, and not merely corruption of meaning or other lesser forms of tampering. He is unwilling to provide these scholars views the same airing as contrary views held by others. Thus, after giving full citations of those who oppose the view that these verses refer to textual tampering, he summarily dismisses the opposing view as if it were blatantly wrong (p.11)…Contrary to what Nickel suggests, the scholarly consensus is that the Qurān does indeed make the charge that Jewish and Christian scriptures have been textually corrupted. One only needs to look at footnote 40 on page 13 of the book, which provides a list of the names of major scholars who hold this view. Referencing them in a footnote unfortunately relegates them to insignificance, although it seems that every major scholar who has dealt with tahrif has held such a position.

    Likewise, Gabriel Said Reynolds notes, ‘ According to most Western scholarship, the Qur’an is referring to textual alteration with the verb yuharrifüna (the noun tahrlf itself does not appear in the Qur’an).’

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    • Yeeeh but in dhat paper Gabriel Said Reynolds write that this is wrong understanding of yuharrifüna.

      In other words, there is no compelling reason to associate Qur’anic tahrîf vi\û\ an alteration of letters. Instead, the phrase yuharrifuna l-kalima ‘an mawädi’ihi seems to involve turning or shifting words out of their places or contexts. In other words, the Qur’an intends scriptural falsification that involves
      reading or explaining scripture out of context, not erasing words and rewriting them. Thus
      we might agree with the point Ignazio di Matteo made in response to Ignaz Goldziher some
      time ago, that there is no compelling reason to think the Qur’anic idea of tahrîf involves
      textual alteration.

      Walid Saleh has moved his view, made a different point in avide Paul made not long ago that the Quran is ambiguus about the tahrif of the text. It would go against Muhammid’s point of making himself the final prophet if the Tawrat and Injiil was corrubt because he tells people they can recignise him and the truth he comes with by looking in the holy books. That is strange claim if the holy books are not right. Therefore he stop short of this accusation but only accuses peoble of the book of changing interpretation.

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    • Bashar: Yeeeh but in dhat paper Gabriel Said Reynolds write that this is wrong understanding of yuharrifüna.

      I know, but as with Nickel, Reynolds is in the minority. That’s the point. The vast majority of academics agree that the Quran speaks of the textual corruption of earlier scriptures. The tiny minority that don’t agree just so happen to be Christians with missionary objectives.

      Bashar: Walid Saleh has moved his view, made a different point in avide Paul made not long ago that the Quran is ambiguus about the tahrif of the text.

      There is no evidence Walid Saleh changed his view. You are just making sh!t up.

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      • Just to say these are great sources you’re quoting and well worth paying attention to – my next article will be on precisely this question (‘Do Western scholars believe the Qur’an teaches the textual corruption of the previous scriptures’) – so do stay tuned!

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      • I didn’t make up. Paul in one of his videos cited Walid Saleh saying the Quran’s ambiguus about tahrif from a new published book from Oxford. For every scholar you can cite I can cite one too. Try me! Besides nobody has refuted yet Gabriel Said Reynold and Nickel analyse that verb tahrif in Quran don’t means the holy book text is corrubted.

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      • Bashar: For every scholar you can cite I can cite one too. Try me!

        Okay, cite (1) Walid Saleh saying that he changed his mind on tahrif, and (2) one classical hadith scholar who says the report about Uthman standardizing the Quran has a questionable isnad.

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      • (1) Walid Saleh said Quran said tahrif is abiguus. Paul made a video he quotes him. Try another one.
        (2) Why change subject to standardizing? You can just respond to the points made about the Isnad etc.

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  3. (1) Walid Saleh said Quran said tahrif is abiguus. Paul made a video he quotes him. Try another one.
    (2) Why change subject to standardizing? You can just respond to the points made about the Isnad etc.

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  4. What citation?

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  5. Richard, does Quranic theology, laws and teachings, & hadith about God and Jesus contradict the theology, laws and teachings about God and Jesus in the scriptures of the canonical OT & NT?

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    • Bashar, does Quranic theology, laws and teachings, & hadith about God and Jesus contradict the theology, laws and teachings about God and Jesus in the scriptures of the canonical OT & NT?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for tour question purple rain. Please make your point.
        From stranding point of Quran it’s not against the holy books. Only against interpretation of people of the book. But there is some amibiguuity. If you look to Walid Saleh’s article Paul made a video about Saleh says the Quran is ambiguus abot status of holy books. But never is there an accusation of changing text of the existent holy books.

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      • Bashar, I ask you again – does Quranic theology, laws and teachings, & hadith about God and Jesus contradict the theology, laws and teachings about God and Jesus in the scriptures of the canonical OT & NT?

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    • I know what you’re getting at Purple Rain – I have written about this before (but not publicly), but will be writing an article on it soon! 🙂 I look forward to discussing it there

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      • I look forward to discussing it here likewise 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m doing another article first, but maybe this one after. Do chase me up in a couple weeks if I haven’t done it yet

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      • All good Richard, at your earliest convenience. Compiling articles takes thorough research and time to complete.

        I’ll aim to reply to some of your points made in the ‘muhaymin’ thread in due course 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Purple Rain. I ask you to please make your point.

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    • lol answer the simple question Bashar 🙂 which will then follow with my point 🙂

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      • I answered one time alewady. If you see to Walid Saleh’s article theres ambiguuity of status of holy books but no open accusation of text itself was changed im existent holy books.
        Make your point or not, its up to you

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  7. I answered one time alewady. If you see to Walid Saleh’s article theres ambiguuity of status of holy books but no open accusation of text itself was changed im existent holy books.
    Make your point or not, its up to you.

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    • I have no care factor for Walid Saleh’s article at all – its irrelevant to my question to you

      your answer “From stranding point of Quran it’s not against the holy books” is not responding to my question

      Once again Bashar – does Quranic theology, laws and teachings, & hadith about God and Jesus contradict the theology, laws and teachings about God and Jesus in the scriptures of the canonical OT & NT? 🙂

      Like

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