From our beliefs about God, to our worship rituals and even our morality – scripture shapes virtually every facet of a believer’s life. The preservation of scripture is critical because it is the foundation upon which everything else rests.
Have you ever stopped to wonder whether the stories you read about Jesus in the New Testament are based on true events? Many assume that the New Testament we have today is the pure word of God and therefore provides reliable accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus.
The reality is that many of the stories that it contains are not true at all. For example, the story about the stoning of the adulteress in the Gospel of John, verses 7:53-8:11. This is the well-known story of a woman who is about to be stoned because of the charge of adultery. When questioned about her punishment, Jesus utters the famous words:
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
When Christian scholars study the manuscript tradition, that is, the ancient documents from which the modern New Testament is derived, they conclude that the entire story was inserted hundreds of years after Jesus. This is due to the fact that it does not exist in any manuscripts before the 5th century, and the vast majority of those prior to the 8th century lack it 1. Here is a footnote regarding this story from the New International Version of the Bible:
The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.
There are many such stories about Jesus which are taken as Gospel truth by Christians but in actual fact are later additions. It’s important to mention that these issues with the Biblical narrative have been raised not to upset or offend the reader. While such stories may contain beautiful lessons and morals, we have to evaluate them on the basis of whether they are true teachings of Jesus. This is the only way we are going to ensure that we follow God’s guidance and not the conjecture of man. What about the Qur’an? Has its preservation also been compromised? The Qur’an makes a bold claim:
We have sent down the Qur’an Ourself, and We Ourself will guard it [Chapter 15, Verse 9]
God blessed His final revelation, the Qur’an, with something that was not bestowed on any of the other scriptures: He promised to protect and preserve it from any corruption. You might be wondering how such a bold claim can be true in light of what we know about the consistent corruption of previous religious scriptures throughout history. This is due to the unique transmission method of the Qur’an.
In both Christianity and Islam, there is the message that God wants to make Himself known to us, He wants a relationship, that’s why He has sent messengers and revelation to mankind throughout history. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “are we willing to take the time and effort to seek out God’s truth?” This is the key to fulfilling the purpose of our creation which will give us inner peace in this life and success in the eternal Hereafter. This is because following a reliable Scripture is the difference between accessing God’s true guidance, as revealed to His messengers such as Jesus, and man-made conjecture.
How exactly has the Qur’an been preserved through the ages? Why is its preservation in fact proof of not only its divine origin but also the Prophethood of Muhammad peace be upon him? Why are its stories about Jesus reliable? These are just some of the important questions that are answered in our book Jesus: Man, Messenger, Messiah.