Someone recently posted the following comment to one of my YouTube videos:
“I don’t even think that their is an original copy of the Torah left, and we say it is corrupt because the Jews back then changed the Torah so that it would work for them and so they wouldn’t have to do anything they didn’t want to. May Allah guide you inshallah.“
My YouTube Comment Reply:
“So that they wouldn’t have to do anything they didn’t want to do” is the most ignorant claim I’ve heard thus far. The obligations of the Torah are far more demanding than the obligations upon Muslims as set in the Quran and Hadith. No one familiar with Jewish law would despute this. If anything, the guy suggesting this claim should ask himself whether it is more believable that this is the case with Islam.
MUSLIMS CLAIM TORAH UNRELIABLE:
Where’s the proof? Don’t shoot yourself in the foot!
Islam agrees with and the Quran testifies to the divine origin and authority of the Torah and to the righteousness of those who uphold what the Almighty commanded therein. What then is the conflict between the historical devotion to the Creator in accordance with the Torah He gave and Islam? The vast majority of times a Muslim will respond that the differences and conflict is due to the Torah being corrupted. What basis is there for such a perspective, other than that the Torah appears to contradict the Quran on various historical accounts? Is the opinion that the Torah is no longer reliable a claim that is consistent with physical evidence?
The liberal moral-relativist textual critics whose suppositions some Muslims trust and use for discrediting the accurate preservation of the Torah, are individuals who have no higher a view of the Quran than they have for the Torah! The moral-relativist “higher critics” seek to “liberate” their conscience of moral accountability more so than they seek to objectively investigate the reliability of the preservation of any holy book!
There are only around 14 LETTER variations among the different textual traditions of the Torah-scrolls preserved among Jewish communities throughout the world. These are different spellings of the same words – NOT variations of different words or additions or subtractions of words from the text. Compare the 14 variations among Jewish Torah-textual tradition to the amount of variant readings found in the recital traditions of the Quran. The variant readings among the recital traditions (qira’at) of the Quran far OUTNUMBER of variant readings in the Torah! (I’ve examined over 40 such readings; They often include changes in prefixes which in Arabic, as in Hebrew, change a verb from “we know” to “he knows,” for example. I noticed that a common variant is the interchanging of a “we” nun-prefix with a “he” ya prefix. These aren’t simply variations of pronuncation.) And this is despite that the Quran’s preservation should have been greater due to more recent and more politically ensured preservation. Yet, although the Torah is thousands of years older than the Quran and lacked the political assurance of preservation, yet the variant readings of the Torah are far LESS than in the Quran. There is, therefore, greater indication of Divine-Providence in the preservation of the Torah, without the aid of political support, than is indicated in the transmission of the Quran; The Quran was well preserved with the help of much political aid, and yet the Torah still surpasses it in uniformity.
Now if you’re thinking about the additions and subtractions of words in the ancient Greek translation the Old Testament (the “Septuagint”), or in the Samaritan version of the Torah, or in the Dead Sea Scrolls, keep in mind that these versions of the Torah originate from non-Jewish and sectarian groups which had clear agendas against the Jewish people as a whole. Just as Muslims are only concerned with the Quran as preserved among Muslims without regard to textual changes in the Quran as preserved among what orthodox Muslims consider heretics or the unlearned, so likewise Jews are unconcerned with the few textual changes that are found among versions of the Old Testament present among groups which broke off from the Jewish people. However, despite our disregard for the versions of splinter groups, the texts of the Old Testament as popularized among these dissenters of the Jewish people testify to a preservation of the Torah which is in stark contrast to what many Muslims commonly claim. None of the versions of the Old Testament confirm major corruptions of entire verses or paragraphs added to or removed from the text of the Old Testament. And in the case of translated versions, some of the differences are simply due to difficulties in translations. This is nothing foreign to translations of the Quran!
SEPTUAGINT (originating around 400 BCE)
The Greek translation of the Old Testament remained in Christian domain for nearly 2,000 years. In all likelihood, around the 1st century, the Greek Old Testament also passed through the hands of various pseudo-Jewish Gnostic groups as well. Muslims acknowledge the corruption of the New Testament, which contains not just variant spellings, but also whole sentences and whole paragraphs which appear in some manuscripts but not in others – and yet while Muslims acknowledge this unreliability of Christians’ preservation of their own Christian scriptures, Muslims are then going to trust the Christian ‘preservation’ of the Old Testament in Greek!? As though the Christian preservation of the Old Testament should be more reliable than the Old Testament’s preservation among the Jews who preserved the Old Testament in its original language? The Christian’s own New Testament contains thousands more variations than the Old Testament, and yet it’s reasonable to think that the Christian ‘preservation’ of the Old Testament should be used to shed doubt on the Jewish preservation of the Old Testament? Jewish tradition only testifies to the validity of the Jewish origin of the Greek translation of the Torah, the first 5 books of the Old Testament; but we don’t know who translated the rest of the Old Testament into Greek! And yet, even taking into account the variant words in the Christian’s Greek version of the Old Testament, we still find NO whole sentences or whole paragraphs in the Greek Old Testament which are lacking in the Jewish Hebrew Old Testament or added to the Jewish Hebrew Old Testament. So despite the ancient origin of the Greek Old Testament and despite that the Greek Old Testament was preserved in the hands of the enemies of the Jews, yet the Greek Old Testament removes suspicion of corruption in those places were both the Greek Old Testament and the Jewish Hebrew Old Testament agree – and the two are in total agreement in the VAST bulk of the text Biblical text. The burden of proof for any variant words is on the Greek Old Testament, not on the Hebrew Old Testament – this, for the reasons already mentioned (and there are many more reasons which I have not listed for sake of brevity). Within the bulk of the text of the Hebrew Old Testament which is confirmed by the Greek Old Testament, we already find more than sufficient basis for the Jewish reasons for being unconvinced of Islam. Namely: the immutability of the commandments G-d gave though Moses, that these commandments are binding and applicable for all generations forever, and the immutability / eternity of G-d’s covenant with the people of Israel. BOTH of these kinds of verses, which appear numerous times in the Jewish Hebrew Old Testament, are equally attested to in the Greek Old Testament as preserved by Christians, even though these teachings only weaken Christian theology! Therefore, there is no physical evidence to suggest that the teaching that G-d’s covenant with Israel is eternal and the Torah’s commandments are eternally binding are a result of textual corruption. Any such claims are pure speculation, with no basis in provable reality.
SAMARITAN TORAH (Samaritans originated as a group distinct from other Israelites around 721 BCE)
Like the Greek Old Testament of the Christians, the Samaritan version of the Torah has ancient origins. And like the Greek Old Testament, the Samaritan version of the Torah proves that there is no basis in physical evidence that major changes in the text of the Torah have occurred during the duration of thousands of years – and this, despite that different versions of the Torah were kept in the hands of the opponents of the Jews. The Samaritan version of the Torah is different from the Jewish Torah only in that the Samaritan Torah has mainly minor variations of spelling in contrast to what appears in the Jewish Torah (ie: like variant spellings in English such as therefor / thereforeor honor / honour), as well as a hand full of places where there is a word or a short phrase which doesn’t appear in the Jewish Torah, and which have no influence on religious practice. The only significant difference between the Samaritan Torah and the Jewish Torah which touches upon religious practice and which certainly reflects deviant intentional corruption, either on the part of ancient Jewish scribes or on the part of ancient Samaritan scribes, regards the significance of Mt. Gerizim.
The Torah preserved among the Jews makes many references to “the place that the LORD your G-d will choose,” without even once specifying where that place would be. We know from the prophets of ancient Israel, as recorded throughout the Old Testament, that the place the LORD choose is Mt. Moriyah in Jerusalem. Needless to say, the Samaritans reject the Old Testament prophets forthright, and yet you are going to trust the Samaritan Torah more than the Torah preserved among Jews? Jewish tradition is FAR more similar to Islam than Samaritanism is. The only reason that there might be Arab preference for Samaritans is for political reasons – Samaritans consider Jerusalem insignificant, contrary to the prophets of ancient Israel and contrary to Jesus and Jesus followers.
Every place the Torah preserved by the Jews refers to “the place that the LORD your G-d will choose,” the Samaritan Torah states, “the place the LORD your G-d has chosen.” The Samaritan Torah states “has chosen” in accord with the Samaritan Torah’s reference to Mt. Gerizim as the place G-d choose for making sacrifices in Deuteronomy 5’s record of the 10 Commandments.
Not only does the Greek Old Testament of the Christians agree with the Jewish Torah in testimony against the Samaritan Torah’s addition of Mt. Gerizim to the Ten Commandments, but so do all other ancient translations, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Hebrew text of the passage (known as 4Q41(981). The Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain any reference to Mount Gerizim in Deuteronomy 5:1-25, but instead matches the Torah as transmitted among the Jews into modern times. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest known fragmented texts of the Old Testament.
If it were the Jewish text of the Torah that was corrupted so as not to include Mt. Gerizim, it only makes sense that the Jews would have replaced Mt. Gerizim, the center of worship for Samaritans, with Mt. Moriyah or Jerusalem, the central place of worship according to the Jews. However, the Jewish text of the Torah is neutral in regards to “the place that the LORD your G-d will choose” mentioned throughout the Torah. If it is the Torah of the Jews that is guilty of corruption, it makes no sense why the corruption would be un-bias without a hint of agenda, while the Samaritan text explicitly sanctifies Mt. Gerizim, in accord with the opinion of the Samaritans. And yet this is exactly the case: the Torah of the Jews is un-bias in the places, in contrast to the Samaritan Torah. I think this speaks for itself with regard to the credibility of the Samaritan Torah in so far as it diverts from the Torah preserved among the Jews. Yet let’s not forget:
“...the most striking thing about the differences [between the Jewish Torah and the Samaritan Torah] is how few there are. A cantillation here, a vowel there, occasionally an actual consonantal difference, which is almost always just a matter of full vs. defective spelling, but for the most part the various sources for the Hebrew Scriptures are in agreement.”http://web.meson.org/religion/torahcompare.php
The web page just provided is well worth a contemplative read, as it gives a good general explanation of the differences between the Samaritan textual tradition and the Jewish textual tradition in our hands today. The only non-objective statement in the article which I feel compelled to comment on is the following:
“When Moses warns Pharoah, we read beforehand that God had told him to give that very warning. When the Israelites say to Moses in Exodus 14:12, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’?” in the Samaritan version they did, indeed, say those exact words while still in Egypt, in Exodus chapter 6. The Masoretic version has them saying other things in a similar vein in Egypt, but never exactly that. And presumably if the Bible is considered infallible, how could it say that they said it if they didn’t?”
The rhetorical question at the end is illogical to my understanding. No one claims, nor does the Torah claim, that the Torah records every single statement that Moses or the people of Israel made in history. The fact that the Masoretic version has the Israelites saying something along the same vein as “leave us alone” in Exodus 6 is good enough, just as in every-day life when referring to what another person said, we may summarize what was said — likewise Exodus 6 is not necessarily intended as an exact quote, but merely as a reference to previous statements. And even IF this were to indicate a contradiction, logic does not demand that the contradiction be in the authenticity of the text itself; it could be said that the text is recording a contradiction between the words of the Israelite’s later statement (supposedly) in conflict with their earlier statement. If we want to say that the Samaritan version is more reliable because it fixes the “contradiction,” we should ask ourselves — does lack of “correction” in the Mesoretic tradition imply intentional editing of the Mesoretic text? There is no motive that I can think of. Could the Samaritans have a motive in “fixing” the text? Much in every way. Afterwards they could claim that their text is more accurate, just as is possible in the case of its many other “corrections.” As the researcher on the above web page attests, “The Samaritan version is often grammatically neater (and stylistically somewhat later in the development of the language) than the Masoretic version.”
Putting the minor variants of spelling aside and only a hand full of word additions in the Samaritan Torah, the overall bulk of the text of the Jewish Torah and the Samaritan Torah is the same. Just as with the Greek translation, so likewise the Samaritan Torah confirms that there are no missing sections of the Torah. And within the bulk of the text which the Jewish and Samaritan versions of the Torah have in common, again we find more than sufficient basis for the Jewish reasons for being unconvinced of Islam. Namely: the immutability of the commandments G-d gave though Moses, that these commandments are binding and applicable for all generations forever, and the immutability / eternality of G-d’s covenant with the people of Israel. BOTH of these kinds of verses, which appear numerous times in the Jewish Torah, are equally attested to in the Samaritan Torah! Therefore, there is no physical evidence to suggest that the teaching that G-d’s covenant with Israel is eternal and the Torah’s commandments are eternally binding are a result of textual corruption. Any such claims are pure speculation, with no basis in provable reality.
DEAD SEA SCROLLS (circa 150 BCE)
As regards the Old Testament, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls helped to uphold its integrity. These scrolls were “. . . the remnants of the library of a religious community which had its headquarters at Khirbet Qumran between 145 BC and 68 AD . . .” (Bruce, p. 297).
In 68 AD, during the Jewish-Roman wars, this community carefully sealed its scrolls in jars, hid them, and fled the area. These jars remained undisturbed till their discovery in 1947 (McDowell, p. 57).
Among these scrolls, at least parts of all of the books of the Old Testament were found except for Esther. These manuscripts date to the second to third centuries BC. They thus predated by 1000 years the oldest copies we had previously (Bruce, p. 298). Upon comparison, there was found to be no substantial differences between these two sets of manuscripts (McDowell, pp. 57-58).
For example, “Even though two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave I near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D.980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations of spelling” (Archer, p.25).
Furthermore, since these scrolls were unknown and undisturbed for 1900 years, there is no way any particular doctrines could have been “lost” or removed from them or added to them.
The relatively small amount of occurrences where the Dead Sea Scrolls have a word which is difference from the Old Testament as preserved among the Jews may be the result of what was originally intended simply as commentary on the authentic text, sort of a paraphrase written in the original language of the original text. This is plausible especially in light of the fact that together with many commentaries to the Bible found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, a number of the differences between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Testament or Torah as preserved among the Jews into modern times have no parallel in either the Greek Old Testament or the Samaritan Torah. Indeed, there are also places where the Dead Sea Scrolls do agree with the Septuagint or the Samaritan Torah in contrast to the Torah preserved among the Jews, and there are also places where the Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the Torah preserved among the Jews in opposition to the Septuagint and the Samaritan Torah. But just as with the Septuagint and the Samaritan Torah, the differences between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Old Testament are minute. They are far from indicative of extreme corruption as often claimed by Muslims. To the contrary. They are no more indicative of such corruption than what Muslims believe to be innocent errors on the part of early unlearned Muslims that crept into certain Qurans which ultimately lead to the neccessity of Kaliph ‘Uthman‘s systematic destruction of such Qurans. The only difference is, there is no known record of systematic destruction of Biblical texts on the part of Jews of the likes of what Kaliph ‘Uthman is perported as having done.
One doubting the Old Testament as preserved among Jews should at least, if he desires to at least attempt to be scientific about his doubts, regard those words of the Torah which the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm – as reliable, and Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the vast majority of the texts it presents. If one wants to be as strict as theoretically possible with all the physical evidence, and only trust those words of the Torah which are substantiated and found in all of these texts: the Samaritan Torah, the Greek translation of the Torah, and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as in the Torah of the Jews – one will find that the bulk of the words of the Torah are confirmed over and over again by ancient manuscripts, and that the content of these words teach the same principles of G-d’s eternal covenant with Israel and the eternal applicability of the commandments of the Torah. Considering all these things, there is no REASONABLE justification, no rational basis in the physical evidence, for the common claims among Muslims that the Torah in its present form is unreliable. And even if one stubbornly continues to doubt the reliability of the Torah, surely one can still see in those words of the Torah that are substantiated by all the ancient manuscripts, that the Muslim claim that G-d has abandoned His covenant with Israel and added to or removed from the commands that He commanded in the Torah are claims that contradict the most substantiated words of Torah that can be found confirmed in all manuscripts: that G-d’s commandments in the Torah were commanded as everlasting commandments. If a person is denier of G-d and prophecy from the outset, then that’s one thing, but if one recognizes G-d’s intervention in the world, then he can not help but give serious consideration to the implications of the textual testimony of the ancient manuscripts.
Indeed, there are different translations of the Torah to the English language as well as to other languages. The variations in these translations are a result of the various translators’ aims and style, whether he wants a very literal translation or an easily comprehensible translation and for what audience or age group he is translating. The variations in the Torah as found in these translations are essentially the result of the translators, and do not represent corruptions of the underlying Hebrew text. Yet G-d gave only one Torah, and He has insured its preservation among His chosen servants the faithful of Israel.
May G-d guide us all and inspire our hearts to humility.