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The Bible: What Changes Were Made? Part 1

25 December, 2016
Q The view of Bart Ehrman regarding the changes in Bible has been appreciated by many, but he supports Christianity and also says that the Council of Nicaea was drastically different from what Muslims suppose it to be? What is your justification?


Asalamu Alaikum Salma,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. Please find part one of the answer to your question below. And find the second and final part at the link here.

Rather than concentrating on one particular Biblical scholar to answer your question, it is easier to understand the answer if we widen the answer to talk about “Biblical Scholarship” in general.

Biblical scholars, are those whose job it is to study the text of all the different books of the Bible, going back as much as possible to the earliest copies, so as to give the Christian churches a better understanding of the meaning of the Old and New Testaments.

Biblical scholars such as Professor Ehrman argue that we have thousands of manuscripts of the Gospels and two hundred to four hundred thousand variants or corruptions in the text, but this does not necessarily make the Gospels untrue.

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Let us discuss what this means.

Great advances were made in Biblical scholarship in the last century, so that scholars gained new insights into the written word. Since the time of the Reformation, that period in the sixteenth century when the Protestant Reformers broke away from the established Roman Catholic Church, there was a difference of emphasis in the two traditions.

The great cry of the Reformers was “Scriptura Sola” (scripture alone). In other words, they believed that if some Christian teachings could not be found to have direct supportive evidence in the Bible, then it was to be rejected.

The Protestant churches, therefore, held the Bible in great importance and many of their religious services centered on Bible reading and preaching.

The Roman Catholic position was different. The Catholic Church taught that revelation was not only to be found in the Bible (God’s Word), but also in the living tradition of the Church, whereby the Pope and the Bishops could interpret Christian teachings because of a divine gift they had been given.

In many ways, these two approaches of looking at revelation are still valid ways of understanding the different Christian traditions. The Protestant churches laid great emphasis on translating and studying the Bible.

The Roman Catholic Church did not, or at least ordinary Roman Catholics were not encouraged to read or study the Bible for many centuries. This was reserved to scholars.

Many people fail to understand why the Church condemned Galileo. It was not that he declared the earth to be round that earned him the wrath of the Church’s leaders. It was that he dared to make comments on passages from the Bible, which was something the Church claimed that ordinary lay folk did not have the capacity to do.

A major change came around the year 1900, when the Roman Catholic Church started to catch up in terms of Biblical scholarship. A Pontifical Biblical Commission was established, to study the texts of the Bible.

Throughout the 19th Century, both Protestant and Catholic Biblical scholars discovered the original texts anew, sharing many of their discoveries and researches together.

Simplifying things too much runs the risk of distorting the truth. This answer, though, has to be brief so it has to be simple. Most Christian Biblical scholars would now agree with each other on many things.

They would agree, for example, that although the Bible is God’s revelation to humankind, He used human intermediaries to make his revelation known. In other words, according to such scholarship, the Bible concerns Truth, but it is not necessarily true in every word or sentence.

New Testament scholars, for example, can look at the four Gospels which have been chosen by the Church from among many others as the four accepted Gospels, and see that these Gospels were written for different purposes by different people with wholly different styles of writing.

The fact that they disagree on certain details, such as how many angels were actually in the tomb after Jesus had risen from the dead, does not mean that one is right and one is wrong. But they suppose that the message, as a whole, is one.

This, in a nutshell, is how many, if not most, New Testament scholars would look at the Gospels today.

It isn’t a matter, then, of educated people disagreeing over the way the different Gospels were written. Most would agree that they were written by highly skilled craftsmen, using words as only writers can do, to convey the eternal message of God.

Please continue reading part 2 at the link here.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Is The Bible the Word of God?

How The Quran Differs from The Bible

Did Prophet Muhammad Copy the Bible?

Could the Quran Be a Copy of the Bible?!

The Revelation of the Bible