In his short second chapter Dr. Bucaille focuses upon internal struggle in the young Christian community, with the implication that this could effect the validity of the Gospel message. His presentation can be summarized as follows:
1. This struggle involved one group of Christians who followed the doctrines of Paul and opposed another group called the Judeo-Christians led by the Apostles Peter and John, along with James the brother of Jesus.
2. Many of the Gospel-New Testament books were a result of this struggle.
3. The Judeo-Christian group eventually lost out and their books were called apocryphal and hidden or suppressed by the church.
Dr. Bucaille elaborates on these three points with these words:
1. "From the time Jesus left earth (30 AD) until the second half of the second century (150 AD), there was a struggle between two factions. One was what one might call Pauline Christianity and the other Judeo-Christianity. It was only very slowly that... Pauline Christianity triumphed over Judeo-Christianity."
Next he claims,
"'Until 70 AD, Judeo-Christianity represents the majority of the Church' and 'Paul remains an isolated case'. The head of the community at that time was James, a relation of Jesus. With him were Peter (at the beginning) and John. 'James may be considered to represent the Judeo-Christian camp, which deliberately clung to Judaism as opposed to Pauline Christianity."'
And again on the following page,
"Paul is the most controversial figure in Christianity. He was considered to be a traitor to Jesus' thought by the latter's family and by the apostles who had stayed in Jerusalem in the circle around James. Paul created Christianity at the expense of those whom Jesus had gathered around him to spread his teachings."
Thus Paul is considered a traitor to Jesus' thought, and from this presentation a reader, not well instructed in the Bible and the facts of the situation, is again given the impression that the Christians have changed, altered, suppressed and hidden the true Gospel.
Dr. Bucaille's second point that many of the New Testament books were the result of this struggle, is set forth in the following words,
2. "As far as the Gospels are concerned however, it is almost certain that if this atmosphere of struggle between communities had not existed, we would not have had the writings we possess today. They appeared at a time of fierce struggle between the two communities. These 'combat writings', as Father Kannengiesser calls them, emerged from the multitude of writings on Jesus...
This then leads to his third point that,
3. "These texts constituted the 'Canon' which condemned and excluded as unorthodox any other documents that were not suited to the line adopted by the Church."
It is certainly true that some of the Gospel-New Testament books bear the imprint of struggle, but two questions must be asked.
Is Dr. Bucaille correct in saying that this struggle was between Paul and the other disciples of Jesus?
Does the existence of a struggle prove that the Gospel-New Testament was not written by revelation?
The following passages from the Gospel-New Testament prove that these men were friends and in complete doctrinal agreement.
A. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians 2:1-2,9-10,
"Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas...I went in response to a revelation and set before them the Gospel that I preach among the uncircumcised (pagans)...for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
"James (the brother of Jesus), Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me...All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor..."
B. In Acts 21:17-20, perhaps 5 years before his death, we read of Paul's last voyage to Jerusalem. It says,
"When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James (the brother of Jesus), and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this they praised God..."
C. Finally, in the second of the two letters which Peter himself wrote we read these words,
"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave to him...His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."
II Peter 3:15-16.
These verses show Paul traveling to Jerusalem to check whether his preaching agrees with the preaching of Peter, John and James.
They show him having good relations with James at the end of his life.
They show that Peter calls Paul's letters "Scripture".
Galatians 2:11-16 does report a confrontation where Paul rebukes Peter, but the last quotation above proves that they were later reconciled.
Why does Dr. Bucaille ignore these verses? If I omitted important verses like these when quoting the Qur'an, would it not be changing the context by suppression of evidence? It is as though I were to say that there was great disagreement between Abu Bakr, Omar, and Othman, in spite of evidence in the Hadith to the contrary.
There was a struggle. That is true. But the struggle was between Paul, Peter, John and James on one side and the Jewish Christians on the other.
The Book of Acts and Paul's letters show three levels of struggle.
First of all there was struggle between Paul and the pagan idol-worshipers. According to Acts 19, when people accepted Christ as Saviour because of Paul's preaching, they turned "from dead idols to serve the living God" and stopped buying silver images. This made the silversmiths in Ephesus so angry they went on a riot and forced Paul to leave.
Secondly there was struggle between the Apostles and those Jews who did not accept the Gospel. In Acts 12 it tells of killing James the brother of John and putting Peter in Jail, and in Acts 14:19 we read,
"Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city thinking he was dead."
Thirdly there was struggle between Peter, John and Paul on one side and the Jewish Christians on the other. It is this third type of conflict about which Dr. Bucaille is concerned.
The reader may be asking himself by this time what is meant by the term "Jewish Christian"? Were not Peter, James, John and all of Jesus' disciples Jews who became Christians? What is the difference between them and the other group called "Jewish Christians"?
Contrary to all we might have imagined, we are astonished to find that they believed the doctrinal Gospel.
Dr. Bucaille speaks of Cardinal Danilou's studies of the Judeo-Christian writings several times in his book. On page 19 he writes,
"Christianity, which was initially Judeo-Christianity, has been carefully studied...by modern authors, such as Cardinal Danilou. Before it was transformed under Paul's influence, Christianity accepted the heritage of the Old Testament (Torah) without difficulty."
In another quotation on page 50 Bucaille writes,
"He (Cardinal Danilou) reviews past works, retraces Judeo-Christian history and enables us to place the appearance of the Gospels in quite a different context from the one that emerges on reading accounts intended for mass publication."
These quotations give the impression that Danilou has demonstrated a different Gospel in the Jewish Christian community, but when we turn to Cardinal Danilou's own works we discover that his conclusions are exactly the opposite.
At the end of his epic work, Thologie du Judo-Christianisme, in which the Cardinal deals with every document which had been discovered up to its publication in 1964, he says,
"The task which we set ourselves at the beginning of this volume was to examine the documents which have come down to us from the Jewish Christian period of the Early Church in order to draw...a picture of the theology of Jewish Christianity... p 405.
"Its concern is with cosmic history, from the Beginning of things...to the last infinite Heaven of God. The axis pinning together this immeasurable sphere of things and events is the Incarnation, the tabernacling in human flesh and season of the concealed glory of the Son (Jesus). p 405.
"For them redemption was a cosmic matter; the action of the Word (Jesus) extended through every region of the spiritual universe, from Sheol (hell) to the seventh heaven, and touched every creature. The cross, the instrument of redemption, is...the double axis of the universe, transcending space by stretching out its arms to unite all nations of men and by reaching up its head to join heaven and earth... p 407.
"Here, so early as in some instances even to go behind the New Testament, (He means be earlier than the written Gospel),
we find still the divine preexistent Christ---Name, Son and Word...
We find the divine Person of the Holy Spirit...
we find the virginitas in partu (virgin birth)...
and the elaborate doctrine of the church (the Christian Nation of believers)...
These, and other instances...leave little room to doubt that IN ALL MAJOR FEATURES THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IN ITS MOST ARCHAIC EXPRESSION WAS EVEN THEN WHAT IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN. p 408. (capitals mine)
Not only does Cardinal Danilou show that the Jewish Christians had the same beliefs about God and Jesus as Paul, but there are at least ten places in his book where he quotes from Paul to illustrate the Jewish Christian beliefs.
If this struggle was not because of disagreement concerning belief in Jesus as savior, what could be the cause of so much division? According to the Gospel-New Testament the struggle started when some of the pagan idol-worshipers became Christians.
Then the question was raised as to whether, in addition to accepting Christ as Saviour, they had to be circumcised and keep the religious ceremonies of the Torah? Or stated differently, do you have to also become a Jew and be circumcised in order to be a complete Christian? From this we get the term JEWISH-Christians.
Paul said, "Jesus has paid for every one of our sins as a free gift---by grace. Period!"
The Judeo-Christians said, "It is true that Jesus paid for our sins, but one must also obey the law". Their teaching is described in Acts 15:1 as follows,
"Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the (Christian) brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved (even though you have accepted Jesus, the Messiah, as Saviour)."'
Because of this disagreement, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to discuss the question with the other Apostles.
In the discussion which followed Peter answered the Jewish-Christians with these words,
"Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke (the Torah) that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear (to keep completely)? "No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we (Jews) are saved, just as they (the pagans) are."
We might paraphrase this as Peter saying, "No, we Jews were not saved by being Jews. We were saved by accepting Christ and becoming Christians. Therefore it is unnecessary for pagans who turn to Christ to become Jews." And that was the final decision of the meeting. Christians who believed from pagan religions did not have to be circumcised.
The complete discussion is found in the Gospel-New Testament in Paul's letter to the Galatians and the Book of Acts, Chapters 10-15 and shows that James, the brother of Jesus, and Peter were there and agreed with Paul. The JEWISH-Christians refused to accept this decision and considering Paul responsible for it, they persecuted him as the main leader.
This question of the relation between Islam and the previous revelations does not seem to have come up among the early Muslims, and I am not sure why it didn't. Theoretically one could say, that unless the Qur'an abrogated a command found in the Torah or the Gospel, that command or teaching should still be binding on the Muslims.
For example why don't Muslims circumcise their sons on the 8th day as God commanded Abraham in Genesis 17:9-12 which reads,
"Then God said to Abraham,..'This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money.
The Qur'an emphasizes that it is going back to the true religion of Abraham. Yet Muslims usually circumcise their sons when older, between three and six years of age, which seems to be disobeying God's straight, clear command ordering Abraham to do it on the 8th day.
Anyway, if we imagine two groups of Muslims arguing with each other---one saying, "we must circumcise on the 8th day as God told Abraham"---and the other saying, "No, that is no longer necessary": that is an imperfect example of the struggle in the early church. It is imperfect because the disagreement in the early church was much more basic.
Are we saved by our efforts in keeping the Law found in the Torah (or in the Qur'an)?
Or are we saved uniquely and solely by the grace and mercy of God who paid for all our sins in Christ?
Finally, we must consider Dr. Bucaille's third point concerning the rejected documents which are usually referred to as apocryphal. This word comes from the Greek "apokryphos" which means "hidden". Dr. Bucaille claims that these documents were called "apocrypha" because the church hid them. In a note on page 51 he says,
"One could note here that all these writings were later to be classed as apocrypha, i.e. they had to be concealed by the victorious church..."
Dr. Bucaille is right that the original Greek root meaning of the word "apocryphal" is "hidden", but again he has refused to limit himself to those meanings of a word which can be established by usage.
In the 1st and 2nd century AD, the word "apokryphos" (secret) was used by a group of men called Gnostics for their own works. For example, one of their books is called the Apocryphon of John or the Secret of John. The Gnostics claimed to have "apocryphal" or secret knowledge which others did not have, and salvation was to be found in the form of knowledge coming from the gnostic revealer---usually Jesus---though other revealers were also named.
In contrast to both Christianity and Islam, Gnostic works ridicule the "creator god" as blind and unaware of another higher, purely spiritual deity. In the Apocryphon of John, for example, the creator God is said to be weak and "impious in his madness...for he said, 'I am God and there is no other God beside me' (reference to Isaiah 46:9), for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come".
Later in the fourth century the word was used to refer to books not publicly read in churches. It meant apocryphal in the modern sense (i.e. fictitious) only by implication, as when the church historian Eusebius speaks of some of "the so-called secret (apocryphal) books" as forgeries composed by heretics.
There is not the least bit of evidence for Dr. Bucaille's statement that these books were called "apocryphal" because the church hid them.
At this point it may be helpful to point out that because a book was declared apocryphal by the church does not mean that it agreed with the doctrines of Islam. This is simply not the case.
A Jewish Christian "Gospel of Peter", which claimed clearly that Jesus is the Divine Word of God who died on the cross for our sins, was rejected by the church because, first of all, it was not written by Peter, and secondly it denied Jesus' true humanity saying that when he was on the cross he felt no pain. Danilou says of this false gospel that "its purpose is to throw into bold relief the divine character of the person of Christ." Certainly Islam would not be sympathetic to this!
There was an "Acts of Paul" which agrees completely with the Christian doctrine of Jesus' death for our sins, but it also says that "you shall have no part in the resurrection unless you remain chaste and defile not the flesh", which to them meant no sexual intercourse even for married people. The church rejected it because this is against Christian teaching (as it is also against Quranic teaching), and its author, who admitted that his work was a forgery was removed as a church leader for this lie. This prohibition of sexual relations even in marriage is also found in the Judeo-Christian books---The Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of the Egyptians.
Finally, I will mention the Judeo-Christian Epistle of Barnabas which was written about 120 AD. This work was very highly respected by many second and third century Christians and the teaching which it contains about Christ is orthodox, but it was declared apocryphal. Why? First, there was no proof that it was written by Barnabas, and secondly it attributes the Law of Moses to the wiles of a demon, a statement which contradicts Jesus' words and which contradicts the Qur'an too.
Everyone of these Jewish-Christian works is mentioned by Bucaille and quoted by Danilou. It is clear from these examples that although most of these apocryphal books had considerable orthodox doctrine about Christ, they were excluded from being read in churches because they taught false doctrine and were not written on the authority of the apostles of Jesus.
Have you Muslims not had the same problem with your Hadith? We learned in Chapter II of Section Two that Bukhari started with 600,000 and judged that only 2,762 were "strong", or authentic. When a hadith is declared weak, are you not saying, "We don't really believe that this was said by Muhammad or one of the original companions"? The doctrine in it might be correct but you doubt that it is authentic. This is exactly what we Christians mean when we use the words "apocryphal" or "uncanonical".
Examination of Dr. Bucaille's three points has shown them to be invalid. There is no evidence that the struggles of the 1st century AD limited the ability of God's Holy Spirit to guide his Prophets and Apostles in any way. After all He is God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. What man shall alter His will or His Word?
Furthermore Dr. Bucaille's thesis contradicts the Qur'an. We saw in Section Two, Chapter I that the Qur'an says in the Sura of the Battle Array (Al-Saff) 61:14 from 3 AH that,
"...a portion of the Children of Israel believed (in Jesus), and a portion disbelieved: but We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed."
Moreover, we saw in the Sura of Iron (Al-Hadid) 57:27 from 8 AH that there were true Christian believers present when monasticism started in 300 AD, long after Jewish Christianity had disappeared, Therefore according to the Qur'an the Christianity which prevailed could not have been changed by any type of struggle in the 1st century as Dr. Bucaille has suggested.
If we are to take seriously the idea that struggle and conflict can falsify revelation, what about the Qur'an? When the Qur'an was given, was there not struggle between the Muslims and the Meccans? Was there not struggle between the Muslims and the Jews? Was there not struggle between Muhammad and others who claimed to be Muslims and even prophets? The answer to all three of these questions is "yes"!
Is this struggle with the Meccans not mentioned in the Qur'an? What of the Sura of the Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:123 which refers to the battle fought with the Meccans at Badr?
"God had helped you at Badr, when you were a contemptible little force. Then fear God; thus may you show gratitude."
And in the same Sura 3:140-180, the Prophet rebukes and encourages the believers in relation to what happened at the battle of Uhud. And what of Muhammad's struggle with the Jews? In Chapter I of Section Two we looked at nearly 40 passages given because of the struggle between the Muslims and the Jews. One example from the late Meccan Sura of the Cattle (Al-An`am) 6:124, is enough. There we read about the Jew's request for a sign in these words,
"When there comes to them a sign they say, 'We shall not believe until we receive one like those received by God's apostles.' "
The third type of struggle, between Muhammad and others who also claimed to be Muslims, is even somewhat parallel to the struggle in the early church with the Jewish Christians. As an example we shall consider Musailama who headed an embassy sent by his tribe to see Muhammad in 9 AH and professed Islam. The next year he claimed also to be a prophet of the One True God and began to publish written revelations in imitation of the Qur'an. Abu `l-Faraj has preserved this example,
"Now has God been gracious unto her that was with child, and has brought forth from her the soul which runs between the peritoneum and the bowels."
He even wrote to Muhammad starting the letter with the words, "From Musailama, the Apostle of God, to Muhammad, the Apostle of God". Muhammad answered calling him "Musailama, the Liar".
Even so Musailama continued to increase in importance and was only stopped when he was killed during the defeat of his army by General Khalid in 11 AH, one year after Muhammad's death.
Does that mean that the Qur'an was changed because of this struggle, or that revelation was broken and crooked because of it? No Muslim would admit to that. In fact the Qur'an says just the opposite! It says that there was conflict and struggle every time a prophet was sent to a people, whether it was Moses with Bani Israel or Salih with the Thamud.
Musailama was not the only person to claim prophethood. During the period immediately after Muhammad's death, three false prophets and a prophetess gathered increasing numbers around their standards. In the north, east and south of the Peninsula, tribe after tribe, apostasized from the newly-adopted creed, and Medina itself was attacked. This is the very period during which Abu Bakr ordered Zaid ibn Thabit to make the first collection of the Qur'an.
If Dr. Bucaille's theories are correct concerning the Gospel, then we must assume that all these false prophets, wars, and rebellions must have in some way affected the collection of the Qur'an. Furthermore, we ought to regret the disappearance of the words of Musailama and the other prophets, words which were declared apocryphal by the Muslim Nation, "although (they were) of historical interest".
In the succeeding years there were other struggles. The second Khalifa, Omar, was assassinated by a Persian slave, Firoz, in 23 AH., and less than 25 years after Muhammad's death, in 35 AH, unhappy Muslims entered the headquarters of Othman, the 3rd Khalifa, and mortally wounded him.
Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law, was named successor, but there was much opposition to this action. Aisha, the widow of the prophet, along with 2 men named Talha and Zubair, eventually gathered forces in an attempt to overthrow him. In October 656 AD/35 AH, Ali marched out of Medina leading, for the first time, a Muslim Army to put down a civil insurrection raised by brother Muslims. Some months later he defeated the triumvirate at the "Battle of the Camel". Talha and Zubair were killed and Aisha was sent back to Mecca.
Some of the emotional weight of this struggle can, perhaps, be realized when we understand who these people were in relation to Muhammad.
Ali was a cousin of Muhammad who adopted him as his son. He was one of the first believers and married Fatima, Muhammad's daughter.
Zubair was also a cousin of Muhammad, one of the first to believe, and one of the ten, called al-`Ashara al-Mubashshara, to whom the Prophet promised sure entry into Paradise.
Talha, a grand-nephew of Abu Bakr the first Khalifa, was a distinguished Companion (term for those who saw Muhammad with their own eyes, embraced Islam, and accompanied him). He saved the life of Muhammad at the battle of Uhud and was also included in the list of al-`Ashara al-Mubashshara, who were promised paradise.
Ali, himself, was then murdered in 661 AD/40 AH, by one of the Kharijites a group of Muslims who had revolted against him.
This bit of history demonstrates the struggles and conflicts in the early Islamic political situation. But, Shiite claims aside, is any Muslim willing to say that these struggles caused a change in the Qur'an? Certainly not! Such a conclusion would be considered ridiculous.
On what basis, therefore, shall Dr. Bucaille or anyone else say that the Holy Spirit could not guide Paul, or Peter, or James, even while they were in the midst of struggle and controversy?
We have now made a fairly complete study of the historical development of the Qur'an. We started with the first preaching of Muhammad l3 years before the Hejira and followed through to one of the oldest copies of the Qur'an from about 150 AH. To see this progression in the development of the Qur'an easily, it is summarized in Diagram 3.
Diagram 3 --- THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE QURAN
Having considered all this information, it seems correct to summarize Muslim beliefs about the collection and transmission of the Qur'an in the following statements.
Even though you do not have the original copy of the Qur'an in your hands, you BELIEVE that Zaid and Omar gathered the Qur'an as it was given.
You BELIEVE that if something was missed when Othman burned the original copies, or even if Omar and `Ubai were right about the verse of stoning and the two extra Suras, it doesn't make a difference to any basic Islamic doctrine.
You BELIEVE that those who copied the Qur'an did it carefully; and that when errors were made because the scribes were human, they could be controlled by comparison with other copies.
You BELIEVE that the Hadith gathered by Muslim and Bukhari describing the life of Muhammad and the collection of the Qur'an are essentially true and to be relied upon.
You BELIEVE that those original Muslims would not have given of their money and their time and even been ready to die for something that they knew to be a lie.
In summary, YOU BELIEVE that the evidence in favor of the reliable transmission of the Qur'an is so great you ARE SURE that you can use it with complete confidence?
Continue with Part E. and F.
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