Sam Shamoun

Recently (on May 7, 2006 to be exact), Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries and Shabir Ally had a debate at Biola University on the subject, "Is the New Testament We Possess Today Inspired?"

I must say that Dr. White truly did a masterful job of refuting Ally’s criticisms of the NT and I do highly encourage the readers to order the debate to hear it for themselves (here)

One of the highlights of the debate is when Dr. White cornered Ally regarding his assertion that Matthew improved upon Mark in order to make Jesus look more Divine. In some of his dialogues, Ally has made the claim that in Mark 13:35 Jesus is called master whereas when this same story is repeated in Matthew 24:42 Jesus is now called Lord. According to Ally, this somehow proves that Matthew has changed Mark in order to improve Jesus’ image.

Dr. White responded by informing Ally that both Mark and Matthew used the same Greek word, namely kurios, thereby demonstrating that no change took place. Ally graciously conceded the point and moved on from there.

Apparently, Shabir was very troubled by what happened since he has written a response trying to justify his position. He writes:

We may begin with a brief summary of the matter I had raised elsewhere, and with which James came prepared to confront me during our encounter. I had argued elsewhere that a comparison of Mark’s Gospel (13:35) with Matthew’s Gospel (24:42) shows that Matthew had modified the information as it was once found in Mark’s Gospel so as to now present Jesus as being greater than he appeared in Mark.

After citing the two texts, Shabir then claims:

Thus I had argued that Matthew’s Gospel substitutes ‘your Lord’ in place of Mark’s less theological term ‘master of the house’. This I had given as one example among many showing a usual tendency in Matthew’s Gospel. In the debate itself I had not used this example, but I made the same general statement about Matthew’s Gospel and supported it with other such examples.

Even though Shabir concedes that he was incorrect regarding Matthew having used a different word from Mark since the Greek of both texts have the same word kyrios:

Now it is true that the term ‘kyrios’ meaning ‘Lord’ appears in both Matthew and Mark in the comparable verses. Hence the NASB is correct where it affixes a note indicating that what it here translates as ‘master’ is literally ‘Lord’. Likewise, James was right about the fact that the word ‘kyrios’ occurs in both gospels here.

He wasn’t satisfied with this concession to leave it alone since he still wants to insist that Matthew has changed the meaning of Mark, obviously in attempt to save face after having been exposed by Dr. White:

However, on closer inspection, it turns out that this is not the full picture. The other fact, which became obscured in our discussion is that the common word is used differently in the two gospels at this juncture. Whereas in Matthew Jesus is referred to as ‘your Lord’, the comparable term in Mark is literally ‘the lord of the house’. Because in English we no longer speak of the owner of a house as ‘the lord of the house’, both the RSV on which I depended, and the NASB which James gave me, translate this as ‘the master of the house’. Along the same lines, the New International Version Bible renders it as ‘the owner of the house’. Even though my ignorance of the Greek language is granted, the same cannot be said for the translators of the RSV, the NIV, and the NASB Bibles.

The difference is significant. In Mark the word ‘kyrios’ is used in construct with ‘house’, thus giving a different meaning to the word. There is a great deal of difference between ‘your Lord’ and ‘the owner of the house.’ On this basis, I do not feel that my ignorance of the Greek language has led to an error in this comparison. It is clear that while Matthew retains from Mark the use of the word ‘Lord’, he has removed it from its original construct phrase ‘lord of the house’ and presented it in a new construct: ‘your Lord’. In applying the latter designation to Jesus, Matthew has heightened the image of Jesus in this passage as he does elsewhere in his Gospel.

Hence it is clear that the original point I had made elsewhere was correct. Although I had depended on the RSV as contained in Gospel Parallels by Burton Throckmorton, I should have arrived at the same conclusion if I had been looking at the Greek, and if I had been schooled in the language. I find it puzzling that James does not see the difference in the way Matthew has reconstituted the term [sic]. The translations of the relevant passages in the NASB Bible and the NIV Bible bear out the same difference between the two gospels. Matthew’s new take on the term is evident in the English translations despite his retention from Mark of the Greek word kyrios.

He will also say in his conclusion:

Nevertheless, I think I have established here that the example which I had presented elsewhere, and on which James challenged me during our debate holds good under careful scrutiny. In response to James’ questioning I surrendered the example only to realize later that in fact it remains valid despite James’s criticism. The concession, I would now maintain, was granted on the assurance that the underlying Greek text of the relevant passages did not bear out the difference I once saw between Matthew and Mark. But a wider reading now confirms that the difference is real. The common use of kyrios in the two gospels in the parallel passages should not conceal the fact that Matthew has used it differently. Hence, whereas Mark represents Jesus in the relevant passage as ‘the lord of the house’, Matthew has modified this to ‘your Lord’.

The purpose of this article is to see whether there is any validity to Shabir’s claim that Matthew has used kurios in a way which goes beyond Mark’s depiction of Christ. Here is the context of Mark 13:

"Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts HIS servants (tois doulois autou) in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house (ho kurios tes oikias) will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning -- lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch." Mark 13:33-37

Note that Jesus likens himself to an owner or lord of a household who left his servants in charge of his estate. Now let us contrast this with Matthew’s account:

"Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord (ho kurios humon) is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant (duolos), whom his master has set over his household (ho kurios epi tes oiketeeias autou), to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master (ho kurios autou) when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master (mou ho kurios) is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, the master of that servant (ho kurios tou doulou ekeinou) will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." Matthew 24:42-51

Please pay careful attention to the fact that Matthew, like Mark, identifies Jesus as the master of the household who appointed servants to watch his house. Now if both Matthew and Mark agree that Jesus has servants then it stands to reason that both believed that Christ is their Master/Lord!

And what is the household that Jesus is referring to? The Church, of course, which is made up of the redeemed of God:

"if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." 1 Timothy 3:15

"and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5

Jesus was basically claiming that he is the very Lord of the Church, the household of God! As the inspired author of Hebrews puts it:

"Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God's house. Yet Jesus has been counted worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house has more honor than the house. (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful OVER God's house AS A SON. And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope." Hebrews 3:1-6

There is more from Mark 13 which helps expose just how weak and shallow Shabir’s position truly is:

"And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then HE WILL SEND OUT THE ANGELS, and gather HIS ELECT from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but MY WORDS will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Mark 13:26-32

Mark asserts that Jesus is the Son of Man who rides the clouds and who even commands angels to gather his elect together. Christ even says that his words abide forever, that they are eternal in nature, language that is reminiscent of what the OT says regarding the words of Yahweh:

"For ever, O LORD, thy word is firmly fixed in the heavens." Psalm 119:89

"The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever." Isaiah 40:8

Mark also identifies Jesus as the Son and God as the Father. This isn’t the only place where Mark presents Jesus as God’s Son in a unique sense:

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Eli'jah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah.’ For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’ And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only." Mark 9:2-8

"He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard." Mark 12:6-8

Not only is Jesus God’s beloved Son but he is also his very Heir, the One to whom all things belong!

Nor is this the only time where Mark identified Jesus as the Son of Man:

"For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of HIS Father with the holy angels." Mark 8:38

"And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?’ But he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ And the high priest tore his garments, and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?’ And they all condemned him as deserving death." Mark 14:60-64

Christ’s statement that he will be seen sitting at God’s right hand is a direct reference to Psalm 110:1 which says:

"The LORD says to my lord (adoni): ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’"

Earlier in the week Christ had already made claim to the fact that this is a Messianic Psalm, a prophecy regarding the enthronement of the Messiah:

"And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, "The Lord said to my Lord (to kurio mou), Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet." David himself calls him Lord (kurion); so how is he his son?’ And the great throng heard him gladly." Mark 12:35-37

Hence, Jesus believed that he is the Lord or kurios of David whom God enthrones as King!

Jesus was also identifying himself with the figure seen by the prophet Daniel centuries prior:

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14

Daniel speaks of a human figure that is given an eternal kingdom in which all his subjects worship or serve him. Jesus was basically affirming that he is this very Son of Man whom all must serve and who rules forever as king!

Mark sounds quite similar to the Gospel of John at this point:

"The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, EVEN AS they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him… and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. John 5:22-23, 27

Jesus, John says, stated that the reason the Father entrusted all judgement to him is because he is the Son of Man whom all must honor in the same exact way that they do God. There is no doubt (except for those who, like Shabir, refuse to allow the evidence or the data to speak for itself) that the Fourth Gospel is alluding to the language of Daniel 7:13-14, much like Mark’s Gospel. Thus, both Gospel writers identify Christ as the Divine Son of Man who holds universal sovereignty and who receives the worship of all the nations! As one source says regarding Mark 14:62:

Another powerful affirmation of Jesus’ own belief in his divinity took place at his trial before the Jewish council on the eve of his execution (Mark 14:53-64)… Jesus claimed to be more than the King of the Jews when he identified himself as the "Son of Man" (Mark 14:62). It’s often wrongly assumed that the title "Son of Man" refers simply to Jesus’ humanity. However, Jesus’ interrogators, who were saturated in the Hebrew Scriptures, wouldn’t have had Jesus’ earthly qualities in mind. They would have been thinking of the heavenly vision of Daniel 7:13-14… Obviously, human frailty was far from the mind of Daniel, who portrayed the Son of Man as an exalted, humanlike figure possessing all judgment authority and ruling over an everlasting kingdom. Daniel’s vision also revealed the Son of Man to be more than human. In other Old Testament writings, the image of riding on clouds was used exclusively for divine figures (Exod. 14:20; 34:5; Number 10:34; Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1). Daniel employed this image, and Jesus embraced it as his own.

Jesus made an even more staggering claim when he said that he– a divine-human figure with all judgment authority– would be seen "sitting at the right hand of the Power" (Mark 14:62). This imagery was not unfamiliar to the Jewish council, which was intimately familiar with the Psalms… That Jesus would apply this text to himself was astonishing. Only a few significant figures in Judaism ever entered God’s presence. Even fewer sat in it. But up to this point, no one in Jewish literature was ever afforded the privilege of sitting at God’s right side. Yet Jesus personally insisted on his right to do so.

The priest of the Jewish council, before whom Jesus made this radical claim, could not, as a rule, even go into the inner sanctum of the temple. The Holy of Holies – God’s earthly dwelling place– could only be entered on a specific day in a specific way by a specific person. On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of a bull for personal purification and the blood of a goat for the people’s atonement. This was preceded by a change of garments and ritual washing (Lev. 16). In other words, God’s presence in the temple was entered cautiously. Failure to proceed with caution resulted in death.

With such restrictions for entry into the earthly Holy of Holies, we can imagine what went through the priests’ minds when Jesus claimed the right to enter God’s heavenly presence. And we can only begin to imagine what they thought when Jesus said he would enter into the heavenly Holy of Holies and sit down. He might as well have claimed that he owned the place.

Jesus’ response was too much for the religious leaders to swallow. He had claimed to exercise the authority of God, implying that he sat in judgment over the Jewish council– not the other way around. He also had committed blasphemy by threatening the uniqueness of God’s presence. Jesus spoke brashly about going directly into the heavenly Hoy of Holies and staying there, thus occupying a place far above even angels, for "the place on the throne of God at the right of the Father is the highest place in heaven." Jesus’ words staggered the Jewish council; their reaction strongly suggests that they understood him to be claiming divinity. No doubt, this is how Mark understands Jesus. And this is how Jesus understood himself. We are thus safe in concluding with Richard Bauckham that "the earliest Christology was already the highest Christology." (J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer & Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: What the Da Vinci Code and other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You [Kregel Publications, 2006], pp. 176-179; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Mark is not finished with us just yet. Recall that Mark in 13:27 quoted Jesus as saying that he would send out the angels to gather his elect together. What makes this rather interesting is that, earlier in the chapter, Jesus spoke of the elect as belonging to the Lord!

"For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord (kurios) had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days." Mark 13:19-20

When we add all this together it becomes rather evident that Jesus was claiming to be the Lord of the elect. Logically, this is a valid conclusion as the following syllogism shows:

To further strengthen this identification remember that, in Mark 13:35, Jesus is supposed to be the Master or Lord of the household, a point with which Shabir himself accepts.

Finally, Mark expressly proclaims Jesus’ death on the cross as a ransom for sinners and his resurrection from the dead:

"And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him." Mark 8:31-32

"And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead." Matthew 9:9

"They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.’" Mark 9:30-31

"And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.’" Mark 10:32-34

"For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

"And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’" Mark 14:23-25

"And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’ And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid." Mark 16:5-8

The foregoing examination conclusively shows that Mark’s Jesus is not Lord in a lesser or different sense from that of Matthew’s Jesus. Both Gospel writers had the same Jesus in view and both of them presented his Lordship in the very same sense. This should therefore demonstrate that there is no validity to Shabir’s argument that Matthew has embellished Mark’s account in order to present a more divine Jesus.

In light of the foregoing, it is truly amazing that Shabir could dare say:

… By comparison, the Christology of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of our four Gospels, is closer to the Muslim conception of Jesus …

To show how why such an assertion is absolutely without any merit, note that:

The fact is that the Markan Jesus is not the Isa of the Quran, who is nothing more than a satanic counterfeit created to deceive people from the truth:

"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough… For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds." 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, 13-15

Rather the Markan Christ is the true Jesus of history, the very One believed in by orthodox Christians throughout the centuries. This Jesus is the unique Divine Son of God and Sovereign Lord of all creation.

All scriptural quotations taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.

Modifications Within the Quranic Accounts

Dr. White stated in his debate that inconsistency is a clear sign of a failed argument. By that he meant that if a person fails to use his/her own criteria consistently, specifically in relation to his or her own religious texts, then that is a clear indication that such an individual is not honestly handling his/her sources. Dr. White basically demonstrated (and quite successfully I might add) how Shabir fails to apply his own sources and presuppositions against the Quran, that he does not apply the same kind of criticism against his religious scriptures as he does against the Holy Bible. Not surprisingly, Shabir has taken exception to this issue (*).

Instead of addressing the article in order to show that Shabir is indeed inconsistent, and is simply trying to excuse himself for being such without adequately addressing Dr. White’s point, we will simply apply Shabir’s own criteria of Gospel evolution to the Quran itself.

We will see how the Quran repeats the same narrative with conflicting and contradictory wording, and follow that up with some comments to show why this is more damaging to the Quran than it is to the Gospels. For the sake of brevity we will limit ourselves to three examples.

First Example

Since Shabir believes that Allah revealed the Quran note how the following examples show that his god is unable to recall the exact words he used in the past:

And remember We said: "ENTER this town, and eat OF THE PLENTY therein as ye wish; and enter the gate prostrating (with humility), and say: ‘Forgive (us)’; We shall forgive you your faults and increase (the portion of) those who do good." But the transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them; so We sent on the transgressors a plague from heaven, for that they INFRINGED (Our command) repeatedly. S. 2:58-59

And remember it was said to them: "DWELL in this town and eat therein as ye wish, but say the word of humility and enter the gate in a posture of humility: We shall forgive you your faults; We shall increase (the portion of) those who do good." But the transgressors among them changed the word from that which had been given them so we sent on them a plague from heaven. For that they repeatedly TRANSGRESSED. S. 7:161-162

Why can’t Allah recall whether he told the Israelites to enter or dwell in the town, whether he said to enter the gate prostrating and say "forgive us" or told them to say the word of humility and enter the gate in a posture of humility? Did he tell them to eat OF THE PLENTY therein as they wished, or did he simply say to eat therein as they wished? Can’t Allah get his facts straight?

Moreover, here is how one Muslim tried to harmonize these discrepancies:

These verses, 58-59, may be compared to vii. 161-162. There are two verbal differences. Here (ii. 58) we have "enter the town" and in vii. 161 we have "dwell in the town." Again in ii. 59 here we have "infringed (Our command)," and in vii. 162, we have "transgressed." The verbal differences make no difference to the sense. (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran - Translation and Commentary, p. 31, f. 72; bold emphasis ours)

Ali sure sounds a lot like how a Bible believing Christian sounds when trying to harmonize verbal variations within the NT!

Second Example

Here, we will cite a few references from the story of Moses’ encounter with God and the magicians.

When he saw a fire, and said to his family, 'Tarry you here; I observe a fire. Perhaps I shall bring you a brand from it, or I shall find at the fire guidance.' When he came to it, a voice cried, 'Moses, I am thy Lord; put off thy shoes; thou art in the holy valley, Towa. I Myself have chosen thee; therefore give thou ear to this revelation. Verily I am God; there is no god but I; therefore serve Me, and perform the prayer of My remembrance. The Hour is coming; I would conceal it that every soul may be recompensed for its labours… They said, 'Moses, either thou wilt cast, or we shall be the first to cast.' 'No,' said Moses. 'Do you cast!' And lo, it seemed to him, by their sorcery, their ropes and their staffs were sliding; and Moses conceived a fear within him. We said unto him, 'Fear not; surely thou art the uppermost. Cast down what is in thy right hand, and it shall swallow what they have fashioned; for they have fashioned only the guile of a sorcerer, and the sorcerer prospers not; wherever he goes.' And the sorcerers cast themselves down prostrating. 'We believe,' they said, 'in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.' S. 20:10-15, 65-70 Arberry

Now compare this with the following versions:

So when Moses had accomplished the term and departed with his household, he observed on the side of the Mount a fire. He said to his household, 'Tarry you here; I observe a fire. Perhaps I shall bring you news of it, or a faggot from the fire, that haply you shall warm yourselves.' When he came to it, a voice cried from the right of the watercourse, in the sacred hollow, coming from the tree: 'Moses, I am God, the Lord of all Being.' 'Cast down thy staff.' And when he saw it quivering like a serpent, he turned about retreating, and turned not back. 'Moses, come forward, and fear not; for surely thou art in security.' S. 28:29-31 Arberry

Then, when the sorcerers came, they said to Pharaoh, 'Shall we indeed have a wage, if we should be the victors?' He said, 'Yes indeed; and you shall then be among the near-stationed.' Moses said to them, 'Cast you down what you will cast.' So they cast their ropes and their staffs, and said, 'By the might of Pharaoh we shall be the victors.' Then Moses cast his staff and lo, it forthwith swallowed up their lying invention; so the sorcerers were cast down, bowing themselves. They said, 'We believe in the Lord of all Being, the Lord of Moses and Aaron.' Said Pharaoh, 'You have believed him before I gave you leave. Why, he is the chief of you, the same that taught you sorcery; now you shall know! I shall assuredly cut off alternately your hands and feet, then I shall crucify you all together.' They said, 'There is no harm; surely unto our Lord we are turning. We are eager that our Lord should forgive us our offences, for that we are the first of the believers.' S. 26:41-51 Arberry

Now what did Allah, Moses and the magicians actually say, what were their exact words?

Did Allah tell Moses that he is his Lord, that verily he is god and that there is no god but he, and that Moses should serve him and perform prayer? Or did he say that he is the Lord of all being?

Did Moses say that he would bring a brand from the fire or find guidance from it? Or did he say he will bring news of it or a faggot from the fire?

Did the sorcerers say that they believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses? Or did they really say that they believed in the Lord of all Being, the Lord of Moses and Aaron? There are more discrepancies between these conflicting versions, but these will have to suffice for now.

Third Example

The story of Satan’s alleged fall is recorded several times throughout the Quran, and yet whenever it is repeated the details are never the same. Note the glaring contradictions:

And certainly We created you, then We fashioned you, then We said to the angels: Make obeisance to Adam. So they did obeisance except Iblis; he was not of those who did obeisance. He said: What hindered you so that you did not make obeisance when I commanded you? He said: I am better than he: Thou hast created me of fire, while him Thou didst create of dust. He said: Then get forth from this (state), for it does not befit you to behave proudly therein. Go forth, therefore, surely you are of the abject ones. He said: Respite me until the day when they are raised up. He said: Surely you are of the respited ones. He said: As Thou hast caused me to remain disappointed I will certainly lie in wait for them in Thy straight path. Then I will certainly come to them from before them and from behind them, and from their right-hand side and from their left-hand side; and Thou shalt not find most of them thankful. He said: Get out of this (state), despised, driven away; whoever of them will follow you, I will certainly fill hell with you all. S. 7:11-18 Shakir

Satan in his anger supposedly says that he will ambush those who are on the straight path, which to the Quran means Muslim believers (cf. Suras 4:175; 6:39, 161). Yet in other versions of the same story Satan promises to do the exact opposite:

He said: O Iblis! what excuse have you that you are not with those who make obeisance? He said: I am not such that I should make obeisance to a mortal whom Thou hast created of the essence of black mud fashioned in shape. He said: Then get out of it, for surely you are driven away: And surely on you is curse until the day of judgment. He said: My Lord! then respite me till the time when they are raised. He said: So surely you are of the respited ones Till the period of the time made known. He said: My Lord! because Thou hast made life evil to me, I will certainly make (evil) fair-seeming to them on earth, and I will certainly cause them all to deviate EXCEPT THY SERVANTS FROM AMONG THEM, THE DEVOTED ONES. He said: This is a right way with Me: Surely, as regards My servants, you have no authority over them except those who follow you of the deviators. And surely Hell is the promised place of them all: It has seven gates; for every gate there shall be a separate party of them. S. 15:32-44 Shakir

Satan here says that he will cause everyone to deviate except Allah’s servants. Similarly:

He said: O Iblis! what prevented you that you should do obeisance to him whom I created with My two hands? Are you proud or are you of the exalted ones? He said: I am better than he; Thou hast created me of fire, and him Thou didst create of dust. He said: Then get out of it, for surely you are driven away: And surely My curse is on you to the day of judgment. He said: My Lord! then respite me to the day that they are raised. He said: Surely you are of the respited ones, Till the period of the time made known. He said: Then by Thy Might I will surely make them live an evil life, all, EXCEPT THY SERVANTS FROM AMONG THEM, THE PURIFIED ONES. He said: The truth then is and the truth do I speak: That I will most certainly fill hell with you and with those among them who follow you, all. S. 38:75-85

In this account Satan says he will not cause Allah’s servants to live an evil life, which means that he will not seek to tempt them from living contrary to Allah’s will. As if this weren’t bad enough:

Behold! We said to the angels: "Bow down unto Adam": They bowed down except Iblis: He said, "Shall I bow down to one whom Thou didst create from clay?" He said: "Seest Thou? this is the one whom Thou hast honoured above me! If Thou wilt but respite me to the Day of Judgment, I will surely bring his descendants under my sway - all but a few!" (God) said: "Go thy way; if any of them follow thee, verily Hell will be the recompense of you (all)- an ample recompense. Lead to destruction those whom thou canst among them, with thy (seductive) voice; make assaults on them with thy cavalry and thy infantry; mutually share with them wealth and children; and make promises to them." But Satan promises them nothing but deceit. "As for My servants, no authority shalt thou have over them:" Enough is thy Lord for a Disposer of affairs. S. 17:61-65 Y. Ali

Note how this account contradicts the previous three since there Satan informs Allah of his plans only after he has been rebuked and granted respite. Yet here he has already revealed his dastardly plan even before Allah has a chance of punishing him for refusing to worship Adam! Talk about confusion!

To summarize the problems thus far, even apart from the major variations in their speeches (i.e. they don’t even use the same Arabic words in their conversations even though these Suras are narrating the same exact event), note that:

Some Final Remarks

The foregoing examples provide evidence that the author of the Quran was incapable of retelling the same story exactly the same way. The Quran reports the same event with major verbal variations as well as contradictions. The problem with having such phenomena occurring in the Quran is that Muslims like Shabir emphatically deny that the Quran is the product of multiple authors, but erroneously hold to the position that God authored the Quran by dictating every word of it to Muhammad via Gabriel. But if God were in fact dictating the Quran to Muhammad we would not expect to find major verbal variations and contradictions within these parallel accounts since we assume that God would be able to narrate the same event in exactly the same way every time.

That the Quran repeats a certain narration in a contradictory and conflicting manner disproves that an all-knowing Deity dictated it. Rather, what this proves is that either a very ignorant author composed it, one that was unable to exactly recall how s/he narrated the story the first time around, or that the Quran is made up of independent documents which were written by multiple authors. In fact, this latter conclusion wasn’t lost on the early Christians since we have at least one instance where a Christian saw in these contradictory parallel accounts evidence of multiple hands which corrupted the text. Abd al-Masih al-Kindi, writing at roughly 830 AD, noted that:

"And the result of all this is patent to thee who hast read the Scriptures, and seest how in thy book histories are all jumbled together and intermingled; an evidence that many different hands have been at work therein, and caused discrepancies, adding to the text, or cutting out therefrom whatever they liked or disliked. Are such, now, the conditions of a Revelation sent down from heaven?" (The Apology of Al-Kindi: In Defence of Christianity, edited and commented by Sir William Muir, pp. 77-78; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Since Shabir has discounted the Gospels on the grounds that Matthew and Luke have taken Mark and modified it, then this means that Shabir will have no problems discrediting the Quran on similar grounds. If Shabir questions the integrity of the Gospels because of their differences and modifications then he can no longer hold to his view that the Quran is God’s word since it repeats the same story with conflicting verbal variations and contradictions all throughout. This means that Shabir needs to reject Islam and turn either agnostic or atheist, otherwise if he still clings to his beliefs as a Muslim then this will only serve to expose his real agenda. If Shabir were really concerned about the accuracy of the Gospels then he would be equally concerned about the accuracy of the text of the Quran. That he never bothers applying his own criteria against the Quran shows that he will do just about anything to discredit the Gospels, even use a double standard.

At this point we conclude by modifying Dr. White’s statements which he made to Shabir in their debate:

Shabir’s inconsistency is truly a sign of his failure as an apologist and debater.

Recommended Reading


Responses to Shabir Ally
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page