‘Do Western scholars think the Qur’an teaches the textual corruption of the previous scriptures? – Part 1’

In this article I look at the scholars appealed to by Blogging Theology (videos here and here), in favour of the idea that the Qur’an teaches that the previous scriptures have been textually corrupted. I discuss what we actually mean by the idea of textual corruption, and how this could plausibly differ between how Muslims use the term and how western academics might use it (a similarity could be seen between how Christian scholars and sceptics mean different things when talking about ‘textual corruption’).

I spend a lot of time diving in to these scholars and exactly what they mean. Many of them clearly do have in view a strong charge of textual corruption. With a couple of them (Camilla Adang and Gordon Newby), I am not so sure what they are actually intending to say. This is understandable given that these are encyclopaedia entries trying to briefly introduce a reader to many of the facets of a topic, rather than arguing for their own view in greater detail (as per Sidney Griffith).

In my next post, I intend to see whether those who do believe the former scriptures are textually corrupted (according to the Qur’an) are indeed the ‘consensus’ view.

Categories: Islam

6 replies

  1. Alhumdulilah, Richard, May Allah the Most Compassionate, All Wise, guide you to Islam, Ameen😊

  2. “The Bible through a Qur’ānic Filter: Scripture Falsification (Taḥrīf) in 8th- and 9th-Century Muslim Disputational Literature – Ryan Schaffner


    Enjoy 🙂

  3. This dissertation considers the manner in which Muslims viewed the Bible in disputational literature of the 8th and 9th centuries CE. Muslim views on the Bible have been dichotomized in recent scholarship into the following categories: taḥrīf al-maʿnā (misinterpretation), which is characterized as the “early” view; and taḥrīf al-naṣṣ (textual corruption), which is characterized as the “later” view. This dissertation challenges this characterization of “early” Muslim views on the Bible through an examination of the following: (1) al-Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm’s (d. 860 CE) al-Radd ʿalā al-naṣārā (The Refutation of the Naṣārā), which is the earliest dialectical Muslim refutation of Christian doctrine and considered the prime exemplar of “early” Muslim views on the Bible; (2) Muslim disputational literature of the 8th and 9th centuries CE, including the works of Ibn al-Layth (d. ca. 819), ʿAlī al-Ṭabarī (d. ca. 860), al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 868f), and Ibn Qutayba (d. 889); and (3) Christians perceptions of Muslim views on the Bible, as demonstrated in the works ascribed, whether legitimately or not, to the Byzantine emperor Leo III (d. 741), Theodore Abū Qurrah (d. after 816), Timothy I (d. 823), Ḥabīb ibn Khidma Abū Rāʾiṭah (d. ca. 835), ʿAmmār al-Baṣrī (d. mid-9th cent.), ʿAbd al-Masīḥ b. Isḥāq al-Kindī (likely d. 9th cent.), and Abraham of Tiberias (ca. late 9th cent.). Through an examination of the aforementioned sources, this study demonstrates, in contrast to the majority of recent scholarship, that Muslims were advancing charges of the Bible’s textual corruption by the 9th, and likely as early as the 8th, century. As a result, ii the dichotomy used between a supposed early charge of taḥrīf al-maʿnā (misinterpretation) and a supposed later charge of taḥrīf al-naṣṣ (textual corruption), is demonstrated to be erroneous. In its place, this dissertation offers a potential framework for assessing Muslim views on the Bible based on the Qur’ān’s primacy as the arbiter of scriptural truth.

    • Thanks Purple Rain 🙂

      I do agree that early on Muslims were alleging textual corruption, and Ryan makes clear that he thinks this goes back to the 8th century – I have no reason to disagree.

      However, does Schaffner state that the Qur’an itself says this? This is my immediate concern. I would not be at all surprised that towards the end of Muhammad’s ministry and/or immediately after his death, with the rapid Islamic conquests, it quickly became obvious to Muslims that there was a disjunction between their scriptures and the previous scriptures, and the charge of textual corruption would have arisen.

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