Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How to Reply to Classical Muslim Apologists; Part IV

The case of Ahmed Deedat

From Part III

Next Deedat compares the Catholic version of the Bible to the Protestant Bible.

Holding the ... Roman Catholic Version of the Bible aloft in my hand, I ask, "Do YOU accept THIS Bible as the Word of God?" ... The Christian questioner is taken aback. "What Bible is that?" he asks. "Why, I thought you said that there was only ONE Bible!" I remind him. "Y-e-s," he murmurs hesitantly, "but what Version is that?" "Why, would that make any difference?" I enquire. Of course it does, and the professional preacher knows that it does. He is only bluffing with his "ONE Bible" claim.
The Roman Catholic Bible ... contains seven extra "books" which they (Protestants) contemptuously refer to as the "apocrypha" i.e. of DOUBTFUL AUTHORITY. ... The Protestants have bravely expunged seven whole books from their Book of God! The outcasts are:
The Book of Judith
The Book of Tobias
The Book of Baruch
The Book of Esther
, etc.
(Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 3, pp. 8-9)

What Deedat says here is true for both the Bible and the Qur'an. As was shown earlier some collections of the Qur'an had 110 surahs while others had 116, and there are also the different readings (qira'at) of the Qur'an, some of which are accepted while others rejected.

Regarding the seven books that Deedat refers to, the
Protestant churches do not include them in the Bible because they were not included in the Palestinian Jewish canon (list of books), commonly called the "Old Testament", and Jesus and his apostles' seem to use the Palestinian canon. But while Protestants do not include these seven books they do not reject them as heretical either.

And the other Books (as Jerome says) the Church does read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet does not apply them to establish any doctrine. (Church of England, The Articles of Religion, Article 6)

The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. (Reformed Church, The Belgic Confession, Article 6)

Roman Catholic church does include these books because they follow the Alexandrian canon and church tradition. (Protestant Christians and Judaism maintain that the evidence for the Alexandrian canon is weak.) But while they do include them they call them
"Deuterocanonical", that is, the "second canon", acknowledging that these books have been contested.

As Deedat points out,
most Christians have no problem using the Protestant canon of the Bible.

The overwhelming majority of Christians - both Catholic and Protestant - use the Authorised (AV) or the King James Version (KJV) as it is alternatively called. (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, chap. 3, p. 9)

And so the
difference between the Catholic and Protestant canons must not be exaggerated into a problem. Recognising authentic prophetic material is the responsibility of both the Christian and Muslim communities. History shows that both the Bible and Qur'an have had conquested sections, but it is wrong to exaggerate this into a problem as Deedat does.

Fifty Thousand Errors?

The Jehovah's Witnesses in their "AWAKE!" Magazine dated 8 September, 1957, carried this startling headline - "50000 ERRORS IN THE BIBLE?" ... We do not have the time and space to go into the tens of thousands of - grave or minor - defects that the authors of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) have attempted to revise. We leave that privilege to the Christian scholars of the Bible. Here I will endeavour to cast just a cursory glance at a "half-a-dozen" or so of those "minor" changes. (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 4, pp. 12-14)

Deedat refers to an article in the
Awake magazine to prove that the Bible is full of errors, and that Christians themselves admit this. In his book Deedat has reproduced the headline of the article. However, the original headline does not have the words, "Christians Admit", Deedat has added this himself.

Is this article really admitting that there are 50, 000 errors in the Bible? The answer is no, for the title of the article is, "50, 000 Errors in the Bible
?", with a question mark. It is not saying that there are 50, 000 errors, but is asking the question, are there 50, 000 errors? And the answer it gives is no.

... the impression that 50, 000 such serious errors occur in the Bible ... is not true. (Awake, September 8, 1957, p. 25)

Therefore, the article is not admitting that the Bible has 50, 000 errors at all. The article deals with the most ancient manuscripts of the Bible and the variants between them and the King James translation (KJV/AV).
It explains how modern translations, like the Revised Standard Version (RSV), take into account these variants. Deedat has completely twisted the meaning of the article.

Next, Deedat puts forward a
series of examples to demonstrate the errors in the Bible. This first is from Isaiah 7:14.

1. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a VIRGIN shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14 - AV (KJV))

The indispensable "VIRGIN" in the above verse has now been replaced in the RSV with the phrase "a young woman," which is the correct translation of the Hebrew word almah. Almah is the word which has occurred all along in the Hebrew text and NOT bethulah which means VIRGIN. (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 4, p. 14)

The first error that Deedat presents is from Isaiah 7:14. He shows that in the King James translation (AV/KJV) of the Bible the Hebrew word,
almah, is translated as, virgin, while in the Revised Standard translation (RSV) the word is translated as, young woman. Deedat says that this is one of the many errors in the Bible.

this is not an error at all. It is just a difference in translation. There are many different translations of the Bible. Each of these translates the original language slightly differently, and each needs to be checked for accuracy. The differences between these translations are not errors in the Bible but just differences in translation. Therefore, the first "error" that Deedat presents is not an error at all.

The next example of an error that Deedat presents is from John 3:16.


"Jesus is the only begotten son of God, begotten not made," is an adjunct of the orthodox catechism, leaning for support on the following:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only BEGOTTEN son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 - AV (KJV))

No priest worth his cloth would fail to quote "the only BEGOTTEN of the Father!" when preaching to a prospective convert. But this fabrication — "BEGOTTEN" — has now been unceremoniously excised by the Bible Revisers (of the RSV), without a word of excuse. (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 4, p. 15)

Deedat is comparing two different translations of the Bible and how they translate the Greek word, monogene. The King James translation translates it as, "only begotten".

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, JKV)

While the Revised Standard translation translates monogene as, "only".

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, RSV)

Again Deedat has failed to see that
this is not an error in the Bible but just a difference in translation. Both of these translations reflect an aspect of the original word, and like all translations need to be checked with the original language. Therefore, like Deedat's first example, this is not an error in the Bible but just a difference in translation.

The third example that Deedat gives is from 1 John 5:7.


"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the FATHER, the WORD, and the HOLY GHOST: and these three are one." (1st Epistle of John 5:7 - AV (JKV))

This verse is the closest approximation to what the Christians call their Holy Trinity in the encyclopaedia called the BIBLE. This key-stone of the Christian faith has also been scrapped from the RSV without even a semblance of explanation. (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 4, p. 16)

Here Deedat points out that part of a particular verse (1 John 5:7) in the King James translation of the Bible is not present in modern translations like the Revised Standard Version. What he says here is true. So why is there this difference? The answer is that
modern Biblical scholarship has not just accepted the integrity of the text of the Bible, but has sought to prove it. To do this scholars have consulted all of the archaeological and historical evidence to see how well the Bible has been preserved. The evidence they consider are the ancient manuscripts of the Bible in the original language, the ancient translations, and quotes of the Bible in the early Christian writers. From this evidence the integrity of the text of the Bible can be determined.

What this evidence shows is that the Bible
has been very well preserved, and that there are only a few occasions where a change like 1 John 5:7 has occurred. In the case of 1 John 5:7, the oldest manuscripts in the original language and the quotes from the early Christian writers do not have this verse. Therefore, in view of this evidence, the modern translations of the Bible do not include it. The King James translation however, was not translated from the oldest manuscripts and so does include it.

Christian scholars are very open about these facts and most of these textual variants are openly recorded in the footnotes of modern editions and translations of the Bible. This is where Christian scholars are very different to Islamic scholars. Christian scholars publish these variants in the footnotes of the common editions of the Bible, while Islamic scholars do not publish the variants of the Qur'an in the footnotes of the common editions of the Qur'an. Instead, at the popular level, Islamic scholars continue to teach that the Qur'an has no variants. But the Qur'an does have many variants. Even after Uthman burned all the different versions of the early Qur'ans there are still many variants that could be listed in the footnotes of modern editions of the Qur'an. Here are the three main sources for these variants.

1. The oldest manuscripts of the Qur'an have differences between them and the modern editions of the Qur'an. One of the most famous old manuscripts is the
Samarqand manuscript. Scholars have compared it to the modern editions of the Qur'an and shown that they are not identical. There are approximately
100 textual differences between the ancient Samarqand manuscript the modern edition of the Qur'an. These differences could easily be listed in the footnotes of the modern editions of the Qur'an but Islamic scholars refuse to do this. The result is that this information is hidden from the general public. Until the modern Qur'an is subjected to the evidence of the ancient manuscripts it has no integrity.

2. Early Islamic literature records many variants in the ancient Qur'ans. This is in books like the Hadith and
The Fihrist of al-Nadim. In the
previous chapter it was show that these books record the following differences in the ancient Qur'ans:

- The
number of surahs varied between 110 and 116.
The order of the surahs was different.
- Some verses had a
different number of words or a different word order or different words.

These variants could easily be listed in the footnotes of the modern editions of the Qur'an but Islamic scholars refuse to do this. The result is that this information is hidden from the general public. Until the modern Qur'an is subjected to the evidence of the variants recorded in the early Islamic literature it has no integrity.

The final source of variants are they many different Readings (qira'at) of the Qur'an. These different Readings come from the fact that the original Arabic script of the Qur'an did not include vowels or diacritical points to distinguish between consonants. The result was that for this script to be read the vowels and diacritical points had to be added to it to complete the words. This was done by memory or to conform to the rules of Arabic grammar or according to tradition, but the result was that there were many different readings of the Qur'an. These differences could easily be listed in the footnotes of the modern editions of the Qur'an but Islamic scholars refuse to do this. The result is that this information is hidden from the general public, and until the modern Qur'an is subjected to the evidence of the various readings it has no integrity.

To conclude, Deedat put forward the textual variant of 1 John 5:7 to proof that the Bible is full of errors.
Christians scholars are very open about these types of textual variants and have consulted the oldest manuscripts to determine the authentic reading. This is not an error, but just part of the process of ensuring the integrity of the Biblical text.

The Qur'an, like the Bible, has textual variants. The difference is that Islamic scholars do not acknowledge them in the modern editions of the Qur'an. The result is that the modern editions of the Qur'an have no integrity because they are not based on the oldest manuscripts or take into account the many textual variants that exist for the Qur'an.

The fourth example that Deedat gives is from Mark 16:9-20.


One of the most serious of those "grave defects" which the authors of the RSV had tried to rectify concerned the Ascension of Christ. There have been only two references in the Canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and of John to the most stupendous event in Christianity — OF JESUS BEING TAKEN UP INTO HEAVEN. These two references were obtained in every Bible in every language, prior to 1952, when the RSV first appeared. These were:

4a. "So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was TAKEN UP INTO HEAVEN, and sat down at the right hand of God."
(Mark 16:19)

4b. "While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was CARRIED UP INTO HEAVEN." (Luke 24:51)

Now please look at the image below, which is a photo copy where the quotation 4a above ought to appear. You will be shocked to note that Mark 16 ends at verse 8, and ... the missing verses appear in "small print" as a footnote at the bottom of the page.

... The above facts are a staggering confession by Christendom that the "inspired" authors of the Canonical Gospels did not record a single word about the ASCENSION of Jesus.
(Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 4, pp. 17-18)

Deedat claims that, "There have been only two references (to the ascension) in the Canonical Gospels". This is false and Deedat has no excuse for such an error. The ascension is where Jesus rises (ascends) to the right hand of God, and there are many references to this event.
 (Jesus said) for David himself says in the book of Psalms, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" (Luke 20:42, NASB; also Matthew 22:43-44, Mark 12:36)
 (Jesus said) But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God. (Luke 22:69, NASB; also Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62)

I (Jesus) will remain in the world no longer ... and I am coming to you. Holy Father ... I am coming to you now. (John 17:11, 13, NIV)

Secondly, Deedat points out that verses 9-16 of Mark 16 appear as a footnote. This issue was dealt with in the previous example of 1 John 5:7. Christians scholars are very open about these types of textual variants and have consulted the oldest manuscripts to determine the authentic reading. This is not an error, but just part of the process of ensuring the integrity of the Biblical text. The Qur'an has textual variants like this too but Islamic scholars do not acknowledge them in the modern editions of the Qur'an. The Qur'an is in no way superior to the Bible in this regard.

The fifth example that Deedat gives is regarding the word "Allah" in the Christian Bible.
He claims that in the original language, Allah, is the word for God in the Bible.


The Rev. C. I. Scofield, D. D. with a team of 8 Consulting Editors, also all D.D.’s in the "Scofield Reference Bible" thought it appropriate to spell the Hebrew word "Elah" (meaning God) alternatively as "Alah" The Christians had thus swallowed the camel — they seemed to have accepted at last that the name of God is Allah — but were still straining at the gnat by spelling Allah with one "L"! (Photographic reproduction of the Bible page showing the word "ALAH" is preserved here for posterity below). (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 4, pp. 21-22)

I am glad that Deedat has provided a photographic reproduction of the Scofield Reference Bible because now you can read it for yourself. Please check that I have typed it out correctly below.

Elohim (sometimes El or Elah), English form "God", the first of the three primary names of Deity, is a uni-plural noun formed from El - strength, or the strong one, and Alah, to swear, to bind oneself by an oath, so implying faithfulness.

You can see that the Scofield Reference Bible does not say that the Biblical word for God is Alah, but that the word, Alah, means "to swear, to bind oneself by an oath". Deedat has completely twisted this reference. This is appalling scholarship and deliberate deceit.

Deedat claimed that there were 50, 000 errors in the Bible, and put forward these five examples to prove this. However, when examined, these examples show that the Bible is not in error but that
Deedat is a man who deliberately twists his references and is not even aware of the history of the Qur'an.

Other Errors in the Bible

God or the Devil?

In the Bible we read the following verses.

Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah." (2 Samuel 24:1, RSV)

Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1, RSV)

Ahmed Deedat makes the following comments about these verses.

You will observe that the authors of the books of "Chronicles" and of "Samuel" are telling the us the same story about David taking a census of the Jews. Where did David get his "inspiration" to do this novel deed? The author of 2 Samuel 24:1 says that it was the "LORD" God who MOVED (RSV: "incited") David, but the author of 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that it was "SATAN" who PROVOKED (RSV: "incited") David ... How could the Almighty God have been the source of these contradictory "INSPIRATIONS?" Is it God or Satan? (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 7, pp. 35-36)

Deedat is correct to say that in 2 Samuel 24:1 it is God who incites David, while in 1 Chronicles 21:1 it is Satan, but this is not a contradiction because God is sovereign over all things, including Satan. Satan can only do what God allows him to do, and sometimes God hands people over to Satan. Thus both verses are true; they show that God takes action against David by handing him over to Satan. The Qur'an also teaches this same idea.
 (Do you not see) that We have set the devils on the disbelievers to confound them with confusion? (Qur'an 19:83, Pickthall).

This Qur'anic verse says it is God who confounds and confuses the unbelievers by sending the devils to confound and confuse them. So it is both God and the devils, each with their own role. God is sovereign over all things including the devil.
This may not be easy to understand or accept but it is part of our understanding of a totally sovereign God. The Bible and the Qur'an are not in error at this point. It is Deedat who is in error because he does not understand the power of God.



To demonstrate the degree of plagiarism practised by the "inspired" Bible writers, I asked my audience during a symposium at the University of Cape Town ... to open chapter 37 in the "Book of Isaiah." When the audience was ready, I asked them to compare my "Isaiah 37" with their "Isaiah 37" while I read, to see whether they were identical. I began, readingly slowly. Verses 1, 2, 4, 10, 15, and so on, until the end of the chapter. I kept on asking after every verse if what I had been reading, was identical with the verses in their Bibles. Again and again they chorused — "Yeh!", "Yeh!". At the end of the chapter with the Bible still open in my hands at the place from which I had been reading, I made the Chairman to reveal to the audience that I was not reading from Isaiah 37 at all but from 2 KINGS 19! There was a terrible consternation in the audience! I had thus established 100% plagiarism in the "Holy Bible." ... In other words, Isaiah 37 and 2 Kings 19 are identical word for word. Yet they have been attributed to two different authors, centuries apart, whom the Christians claim have been inspired by God. (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 6, p. 31)

It is true that Isaiah 37 and 2 Kings 19 are the same and were written at different times but this is not plagiarism. Plagiarism is where you take the work of another and claim that it is yours, and neither of the prophets who wrote Isaiah 37 or 2 Kings 19 have claimed this. One of these prophets has been inspired to faithfully pass on the word of God given to a previous prophet. Prophets often tell the story and pass on the words that God gave to earlier prophets. This is not an error or a problem but rather a reliable testimony.

However, if Deedat is really worried about people copying from others then he should be very worried about Muhammad.

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The Prophet used to copy the people of the Scriptures in matters in which there was no order from Allah. ... (Bukhari: vol. 7, bk. 72, no. 799, Khan, agreed)

How Old Was Jehoiachin - 8 or 18?

Deedat gives a series of examples of what he believes to be contradictions in the Bible.

Between Eight and Eighteen years, there is a gap or difference at a full 10 years. Can we say (God forbid!) that the all-knowing Almighty could not count, and thus did not know the difference between 8 and 18? ...

9. Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.

8. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mothers name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 7, p. 39)

It is correct that
there are two different numbers given for the age of Jehoiachin when he began to rule. We find a similar situation with the Qur'an regarding how to redeem oneself when failing to fast. In the Hafs version of the Arabic Qur'an it says:

a redemption by feeding
a poor man (miskeenin, singular). (Qur'an 2:184, Aberry)

While in the
Warsh version of the Arabic Qur'an it says:

a redemption by feeding
poor men (masakiina, plural). (Qur'an 2:183)

What are we to do when faced with such a situation in the Bible and Qur'an? We should seek to understand them carefully before we rush to make accusations like Deedat does.

Regarding these Bible verses,
it may be that both are true. That is, that Jehoiachin was appointed co-ruler with this father when he was eight and then ruled on his own when he was eighteen after his father died. Or it may be a copying error with the number eighteen. Christian scholars seek to solve this situation by consulting the oldest manuscripts of the Bible. When this is done for 2 Kings 24:8 all of the manuscripts say eighteen. However, for 2 Chronicles 36:9 some say eight and while others eighteen. Thus a copying error may have occurred in 2 Chronicles 36:9 and eighteen seems to be the correct reading. This information is included in the footnotes of modern editions of the Bible and is open for all to consider.

Regarding the difference in the Qur'an, in this case it is the
result of the incomplete nature of the original Arabic script that could be read as either singular or plural. The main difference though is that Islamic scholars do not include these differences in the footnotes of their editions of the Qur'an. They falsely lead people to believe that there are no differences.

The Genealogy of Jesus

Of the four Gospel writers, God "inspired" only two of them to record the genealogy of His "son." (see Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38) ... Between David and Jesus, God "inspired" Matthew to record only 26 ancestors for His "son." But Luke, also "inspired," gathered up 41 forefathers for Jesus. The only name common to these two lists between David and Jesus is JOSEPH and that, too, a "supposed" father according to Luke 3:23 (AV). ... You will also easily observe that the lists are grossly contradictory. Could both the lists have emanated from the same source, i.e. God? (Ahmed Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, ch. 9, pp. 52ff)

Deedat claims that the two genealogies for Jesus in the Bible are contradictory and could not have come from God. However
the genealogies are not contradictory for the following reason.

Jesus was not conceived by an earthly father. Instead, God by his Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the virgin Mary. This means that in one sense Jesus no genealogy. The gospel writers understand this and so at the beginning of the genealogy in Luke it says:

He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph. (Luke 3:23, NIV)

Yet at the same time, Jesus was born into a family and so took on the genealogy of that family. In this way Jesus is very different to us and so his genealogy is not simply the same as ours.

In the gospels the genealogy of Jesus is used as a way to teach us about him. For instance, the
genealogy in Matthew begins with Abraham and goes to Jesus. It is structured into three sections around Abraham, David and the Exile. This shows how the coming of the Christ is the fulfilment of God's promises to these three stages of history. It also includes many women which is unusual. It shows how these often rejected women were in fact integral to God's plan for the world. They illustrate how the coming of Jesus will be for the rejected, and how the rejected will be included as God's people.

genealogy in Luke is quite different. It goes the other direction. It begins with Jesus and follows a different path to Adam. At the end Adam is called the son of God. This may be because he has no earthly father like Jesus, and so the genealogy is showing that Jesus is the second Adam.

Both of these genealogies are true and each one gives us a unique understanding of Jesus. Our role is to carefully study them and to learn the great things that God is saying to us.


When Ahmed Deedat's arguments are checked they are found to be false and exaggerated. He claims to understand the original Biblical language but cannot even get the letters right. When he quotes from an article he completely twists its original meaning. When he reads the Bible he does not do it sincerely but deliberately quotes it out of context. He attacks the Bible for its variant readings yet says nothing about the variant readings of the Qur'an and its multiple versions. He hides Muhammad's morality and use of the sword, and Islam's long history of slave trading. There are significant parts of Islamic theology that he doesn't understand. But worse still, Deedat incites hatred and distrust between Muslims and Christians. He actually stops Muslims and Christians having meaningful dialogue.

Christians and Muslims believe very different things about God. We need to be able to debate and challenge each other about this. But the way we do this should not be like Deedat. Instead
we should understand each other's book, history and religion properly. If we wish to challenge a point we should quote in context, not exaggerate and not twist references. We should listen to each other carefully and be prepared to learn and change. By doing this we will be sincere and engage with each other properly, and it is my prayer that this is how we will behave.

May God's grace and peace be with you. Samuel Green


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