Has the Bible ever been edited throughout history, and if it has, would that matter?
I think if you look at the Bible, there are multiple areas that you would find editing and redacting. This is evidenced by the multiple manuscripts that are used for translation. Granted, most of the changes are minor and may well be scribal errors and translation variants, but there are several well known instances of major variations. Things that come to mind are the woman caught in adultery, and ending of Mark.
In the OT, part of the question is the date of authorship. Genesis is thought by some to be put on papyrus around the time of the Exile, but if written earlier as some others hold, it was definately redacted and modified about that time.
Does it matter? Not really. We have faith that God preserved what he wants us to learn in the scripture, and maybe added some to what was previously written to make it speak to us more clearly.
Yes, clearly. The Greek translations of the Old Testament are often quite different from the standard Hebrew text. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, these Hebrew scrolls sometimes matched the Greek text closer than other Hebrew texts, showing that differences in the Greek can’t be generally explained as free or bad translations. The Greek witnesses to other Hebrew texts that were different.
But beyond differences between different texts, there is plenty of evidence of editing and changing within one Bible. 1–2 Chronicles is an edited version of earlier parts of the Bible. Matthew and Luke are, at least in part, edited versions of Mark. Part of Jude also appears in 2 Peter. I think a portion of Isaiah also appears in one of the psalms. Several endings to Mark exist. None of this is controversial or hidden.
I think it matters because it shows how the Bible’s origin is organic and human. It shows how divine inspiration, to mean something, needs to extend to many other hands beyond the “original authors.” Ideas about the perfection of the autographs need to be tweaked to deal with a plurality of originals.
But in the end, I don’t think it should be any more troubling than different canons by different parts of the church. Yes, we have diversity, but through it all God still speaks. Our faith’s foundation isn’t that the book of God is one, but that God is one.
So part of the reason I asked this was I saw Muslims use this as ammunition against the Bible. So would the Bible being edited, and the Quran not, mean that the Quran is more “true” than the Bible?
After the Reformation, Protestants no longer considered the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books to be inspired scripture.
Hardly. The angel Gabriel is said to have dictated the Qur’an, but Gabriel apparently had his sources. It’s similar to the Bible and some later writings that didn’t make it into the Bible, such as the story of the child Jesus making clay pigeons fly. But scholarship on sources of the Qur’an is not welcome in the lands of Islam, and any early “paper trail” would not be kept. Scholarship can even be dangerous.
The LDS have a similar story about their Book of Mormon: Joseph Smith dug up the original Book of Mormon in New York State. With the help of a peep stone he translated it from the original “reformed Egyptian” into English. Then the original was taken up into heaven. Smith said it was “the most correct book on earth.” But Smith had his sources also.
So there you have it: Two supposedly better Bibles.
Only in a meaningless sense. What is the core, prime, paramount claim of the Bible? Which Islam denies. How do you assess claim and counter claim?
And to the OP, you know it has. It’s been translated for a start. Just like the Noble Quran.
“the Quran not”?
I wonder if Yasir Qadhi has changed his mind about the problem with having a perfect copy of the Quran today.
The Bible Project likes to say, “We believe the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.” Some people are right on board with that – until they hear how they teach the Bible (especially the Old Testament) was unified:
In its current form, the Hebrew Bible is a highly polished, interconnected work of literature. Yes, Moses or Isaiah or another author may have written the story, but we are not reading a first draft directly from them. Instead, a community of skilled scribes and prophets compiled and edited the collection at the very end of the process (approximately 200-300 B.C.).
These editors worked like the authors, participating with the Holy Spirit to communicate what God wanted to say. The authors and the editors were the Spirit-filled community who wrote and shaped the Hebrew Bible. (source)
That’s not how many want it to work. They see something miraculous in how the Bible, compiled over hundreds of years by quite different people, still tells the same story. To say there was editing and shaping smacks of collusion. It takes away the Bible’s magic.
The reason the Bible Project states the human component in the Bible’s unification even though it strikes many as controversial is that it’s inescapable once you get into reading the Bible. As long as the covers stay closed, the miraculously unified Bible is great. But they’re targetting people who are going to crack the covers. They have to deal with what such people will find.
The shaping isn’t hidden. In fact, it’s partly because the uniting of different voices hasn’t gone to the extreme of forcing them to sing in unison that so many of the fingerprints remain visible. And thank God that’s the kind of Scripture we have, rather than something so heavy handed that only a single monotonous voice is heard.
All of the edits that I am familiar with make very little difference to theology. Examples include updates to place or people group names (does it really matter if it’s called Laish or Dan?); one very obvious set of edits is “and it is there to this day”.
Not only is conclusion bogus, but the premise as well. Studies of ancient manuscripts demonstrate that significant textual variants in the Quran “exist between the time of Muhammad to the time of Uthman.”
Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami, Professor Emeritus at King Saud University, wrote: We must nevertheless take into consideration that there are over 250,000 manuscripts of the Qur’an scattered all over the globe. When comparing them it is always possible to find copying mistakes here and there; (same source)
I don’t think it’s just a matter of jots and tittles as Muslim apologists claim.
There may be differences in how many variants and copy errors there were. BUT are the difference greater than what you would expect for something written 5 to 20 centuries later in history? I don’t think so.
Last time I checked, there’s a crisis unfolding due to the number of variations and some do affect the meaning of passages.
For Muslims this is a big deal, because the Quran is the one miracle they have, and the Quran claims the text has been perfectly preserved.
When this question comes up there are a few things that I think of.
The Bible is a collection of scripture. There has always been various collections of scriptures. Among the Jews we found collections such as the Dead Sea Scrolls which was different from collections of the Egyptian Jews that had the Apocrypha. But we also see modern differences of scriptural collections as well. In Christianity right now we have the Catholic Bible, Coptic Christian bibles, Protestant bibles and so on.
Even within the same movements and bibles we see differences. Ever looked at the short and long ending of Mark? There is a lot of scholarship work that showcases that we are missing a few epistles of Paul.
Within the Bible we see references to books we don’t have. We see the book of Jasher mentioned throughout the Tanakh and New Testament. We see in Jude a possibly reference to something similar to the book of Enoch and the assumption of Moses.
So those are some of the few things that are easier to reconcile with. That can help set the groundwork to deconstruct and reconstruct other issues such as splices within the Bible, seeing edits associated with different traditions ( genesis 2 creation accounts ) or see how laws about kings are presented before there is even a king or things that may be about priests vs kings editing the story and so on.
That’s good to know… I appreciate that they approach it that way. It’s too easy for the idea of a “magical” first-edition Bible to be another one of those “litmus tests for orthodoxy” – and then probing or asking questions can lead to shattered faith. If people aren’t taught to view it in a magical way to begin with, it might save them a lot of grief later.
The Quran is also a compiled document, put together by Muhammed’s scribes over 600 years after the Bible in one place at one time. The Bible is different in that it’s a compilation of texts, some of which were originally oral tradition or based on other documents, that was put together over a span of 1500 years, on three different continents in three different languages. Of course there are differences between the Quran and the Bible.
Editing is only a problem if you see all redaction as a corruption. Christians believe the entire process of composing, compiling, and shaping the texts of the Bible (and then much later deciding the canon) was guided by God’s spirit, not just some “original” authorship event. Muslims believe that the Quran was recited to Muhammed by Gabriel and is therefore basically dictation from God. It’s a completely different idea of what the words represent. They also believe the Quran cannot be translated. Translation is fundamental to Judaism and Christianity and has been going on since oral stories where translated to Hebrew (Abraham didn’t speak Hebrew) and the Hebrew text was translated to Greek and Aramaic. Pentecost was one big Holy Spirit translation fest. So there are some very different beliefs at play between Christians and Muslims about how the word of God works.
And maybe more attention could be called to this comparison. Do Christians really want to become “more like Muslims” in how it is they regard their sacred writ?
On the other hand though, any strategy that plays on division and superiority for its main fuels is probably too close to attitudes that are probably better denied their oxygen.
There’s plenty of white space on and above and beyond that dichotomy.
Rule #1. The last people on earth that have any “ammunition against the Bible” are Muslims. They don’t have any “ammunition”: zip, zero, zilch, nada. Their principle goal is to convert any and every non-Muslim into a Muslim. Any person who says they are a Muslim and does not have a negative opinion about the Bible is not a “true, devout Muslim”. So, never ever believe what a true, devout Muslim tells you about the Bible.
A true, devout Muslim believes:
- that there is only one god, that that god’s name is Allah, and that Muhammad is that god’s last and best prophet;
- that their Qur’an is the perfect gift (i.e. revelation) from Allah to Muhammad and has no errors and has never been changed, corrected, added to, or subtracted from;
- that the only good Qur’an is one that is written in Arabic;
- that before Jesus was conceived in his mother’s womb, more than one angel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she would have a son and that his name would be: “Messiah Jesus, son of Mary”;
- that, when Jesus was a young boy, he made some clay birds and breathed on them, and the birds became real birds and flew away;
- that the Bible of Christians and the Bible of Jews are corrupted (i.e. changed) revelations to Jews and Christians, and therefore are not Allah’s original, perfect revelations to Jews and to Christians;
- that Jesus never died on a cross;
- that Jesus was not resurrected in his tomb; and
- that Allah does not have “sons” (i.e. children).
Any person who calls himself or herself a Muslim and does not believe all of those things is not a true, devout Muslim period.
And anybody who tries to tell you differently is 100% full of malarkey.
P.S. @Rohan @Trippy_Elixir
I call your attention to what I say in this message, whether or not you’re interested, just to make sure that you get these facts straight–which I can prove beyond a shadow of doubt.