As an instance, let us take Dan. iii. 2, 3, where in the Aramaic text the word
[تِفْتَايَيْ] occurs. It was found in no other book, its precise meaning and derivation were unknown.
Hence several commentators said that the word was
(مُصَحّف) due to an error of the copyists.
But only a few years ago an Aramaic inscription was found in Egypt, in which this word
occurs, and we have also discovered its derivation as well as its meaning. Hence we see
how correctly the text has been preserved, even in case of a word like this.
Were such peculiarities1 found in the Bible as the one that occurs, e.g.
in Surah xx. (Ta Ha), 66,
هَذِاَنٍ, some commentators would have suspected an error of the
هَذَيْنِ. This suspicion might have
led to an attempt to correct it, such as the
attempt to which is probably due the reading
يُفَرِّقُونَ in Surah ii. 285, in place of
some copies had instead of
نُفرِّقُ, as Baizawi's commentary shows.
We are not now concerned with the various readings in the Qur'an, but we refer to them
merely to illustrate what we say regarding those in the Bible. All the Biblical various
readings of importance may be divided into three classes: (1) those caused by the
carelessness or ignorance of a scribe; (2) those due to some defect in the MS. which was
copied; (3) an attempt to correct what the scribe thought was a previous copyist's
blunder, but which was not. No intention of corrupting the Sacred Text can be suspected.
Heretics, it is true, did sometimes, to support their own peculiar doctrines, produce
verses in their own copies of the New Testament which were not found elsewhere, or more
commonly they asserted that certain verses which confuted their errors were not genuine.
Yet in each case they really were themselves deceived, and did not intend to corrupt the
text willingly and knowingly. But in any case Christians detected the error by consulting
their own old MSS. In the same way, had
any body of Jewish or Christian fanatics attempted to corrupt the Old Testament or the
New by altering or omitting passages which seemed to refer to Muhammad, all other Jews and
Christians in the world would have fiercely refused to accept the mutilated copies at the
hands of these men, just as they rejected Marcion's attempt to omit the first two chapters
of St. Luke's Gospel. The very fact that some heretics, long before Muhammad's time, tried
and failed to corrupt the New Testament, shows the impossibility of the task.
Had some King or Emperor or other powerful ruler shortly after Moses' death collected
all copies of the Torah, or of single chapters of it, and published a new edition of it,
relying for some verses on men's memories, copying others from inscriptions on bones and
pieces of wood; and had he then burnt all these and all earlier copies he could find, so
as to compel men to use only the text he had caused to be compiled; we might then have
found very few various readings in the Torah; but very little reliance could be placed on
its correctness. If something similar had been done to all the books of the New Testament
at the end of the first century, there would evidently be no way of proving that the new
edition had not been corrupted by addition or omission. It would not be possible for a
scholar to rely with perfect certainty on a single verse in the whole volume. But this did
not happen to the Bible, thanks be to the Most Merciful God. We Christians have
never had an 'Uthman. The Roman Emperors Galerius and Diocletian, being heathens, did
endeavour to collect and burn all copies of the Sacred Scriptures, but Christians laid
down their lives rather than surrender their books. Later persecutors often made similar
attempts, and failed for the same reason. But had our books been all burnt, the Bible
would not have perished, for Isaiah has said: "The Word of our God shall stand for
ever" (Isa. xl. 8). In all ages very large numbers of Christians have learnt by heart
much of the most important parts of the Old Testament and