Has The New Testament Been Substantially Edited Since It Was First Penned?

by Jonathan Mclatchie

This is one of the most frequently-asked questions I encounter when attempting to explain to people the massive evidence which stands in support and corroboration of the Christian worldview. I probably actually get this question more frequently from the Muslim/Islamic community than I do from atheists, agnostics and other non-believers. The reason for this is not hard to see. The Qur’an not only claims that the gospels and the Torah are revealed Scripture, but claims that the Qur’an and the Bible are consistent with one another (e.g. Surah 2:75; Surah 5:49; Surah 32:23; Surah 17:55). But any cursory reading of these books quickly reveals that this is not the case. And it is not merely on minor details that the Qur’an and Bible differ, but on close-to-all of their assertions. For example, the Qur’an (Surah 4:157) explicitly denies that Jesus was even crucified, though this is the core doctrine of the Christian faith. The Qur’an also explicitly denies the Triune character of God (Surah 4:171), though there is no evidence that Muhammad understood what this doctrine was, and it is substantially misrepresented in the pages of the Qur’an (e.g. Surah 2:116, 5:72-76, 5:119, 6:101, 19:35). The Qur’an also teaches that Muhammad is predicted in the Christian and Jewish Scriptures (Surah 61:6), though Muhammad is no where to be found in any of the Christian Scriptures.

Modern Muslims attempt to evade this dilemma by arguing that the Christian Scriptures were consistent with the Qur’an, in their original form, but that they have been substantially edited and re-written in the centuries thereafter. But this argument fails for at least two reasons. First, the Qur’an refers the Christians and the Jews back to their own Scriptures for confirmation of the message revealed by Islam. There is absolutely no suggestion in the Qur’an or Hadith literature, at least to my knowledge, that the Bible was regarded as having been edited in such a radical fashion. Certainly this process of editing cannot have taken place after the Qur’an was written (we have entire copies of the New Testament which predate the Qur’an by hundreds of years, such as the Codex Sinaiticus). But what about before?

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