How Were the Qur’an and the Bible Compiled?

The Holy Quran copies for display

The Bible is a collection of writings done in different periods of history, by different writers. The various denominations of Christianity are not in agreement on the canon (the list of books accepted by the Church as authoritative or divinely inspired) of the Christian Bible.

While most of these books are agreed upon by almost all Christians, there are some books that are not universally accepted. The Protestants call them Apocrypha and reject them; while the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church call them Deuterocanonical Books (second canon) and accept them as divinely inspired.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say on the topic:

“The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council.”

About the earliest existing texts of the Bible, too, there is a lot of confusion. The oldest extant manuscript of the Bible is believed to be the Codex Vaticanus (preserved in the Vatican Library), which is slightly older than the Codex Sinaiticus (preserved in the British Library), both of which were transcribed in the fourth century.

As for the story of Jesus, there were at least 50 gospels written in the first and second century CE. Four of them—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were included in the official canon during the fourth century CE and are found today in every Bible. All of the original copies of the gospels were lost. What we have now are hand-written copies which are an unknown number of replications removed from the originals.

After Jesus’s time, there came to be two sects of Christians: those who followed St. Paul (who is the real founder of modern Christianity) and those who followed the Apostles of Jesus. In course of time, the Pauline sect overshadowed the Apostles’ sect. So Paul’s own writings, as well as the Gospels written under his influence, came to be accepted by the later Christian Church as Scripture.

Rudolf Bultmann, a prominent 20th-century professor of New Testament studies, writes:

“We can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus, since the early Christian sources show no interest in either, are moreover fragmentary and often legendary; and other sources about Jesus do not exist” (Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus and the Word, p. 8).

The earliest of the four gospels is Mark’s and this was written sometime from 57 to 75 CE, according to scholars. The other gospels were composed much later than this, and the last of the four gospels, John’s, was probably written between 85 and 100 CE. All these gospels were originally in Greek and their authorship is a subject of dispute.

The Bible does not contain self-reference; that is, the word Bible is not in the Bible. In fact, it is an extreme position held only by some Christian groups that the Bible—in its entirety—is the revealed word of God. But the presence of so many contradictions and patently questionable ideas makes this claim untenable.

In comparison, the saying of the Qur’an as the record of the Word of God dictated to His Prophet is borne out by the following facts: The speaker in the Qur’an is God talking directly to Man. (The sayings of the Prophet, called hadiths, are in other books.) The Qur’an repeatedly says that it is the Word of God. It has self-reference; that is to say, it names itself 70 times as the Qur’an.

The verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) in the course of 23 years of his life, as and when the events in the unfolding development of the religion of God called for divine guidance. As soon as the Prophet received these verses, he dictated them to his disciples, who not only wrote them down, but also learned them by heart. There were so many people who had memorized the Qur’an, that we can say that from the first day of its revelation as it were, the Qur’an was in the hands and hearts of the people.

Before the death of the Prophet, the whole of the Qur’an was written down, examined, and verified by the Prophet himself. From that time onwards, it has remained safe from corruption, as several copies of it were in the possession of the Muslims. So it was not possible to make any changes to its verses, even if someone wanted to do so.

Moreover, God has promised in the Qur’an to preserve it, saying what means:

*{Certainly, it was We Who revealed the Reminder [the Qur’an] and certainly We shall preserve it.}* (Al-Hijr 15:9)

At the time of the Prophet’s death, a number of the Prophet’s Companions already had assembled the portions of the Qur’an with them into a volume. It was during the time of the first caliph Abu Bakr that a leading scholar and scribe of the Prophet, Zayd ibn Thabit, was appointed to compile an official version. After meticulous work, he prepared the official collection known as the mushaf.

One of the foremost reasons for the continued incorruptibility of the Qur’an is that it has been preserved in its original language, unlike the Bible. No one in the Muslim world has ever thought to supersede it with a translation. Thus, the Qur’an we have today is the same Qur’an that the Prophet received from God. Its authenticity and genuineness, therefore, are unimpeachable.

One of the miracles of the Qur’an, which was revealed 14 centuries ago, is the fact that it can be read and understood by the Arabic-speaking people living today.

Every language undergoes changes as time passes, and a hundred or two hundred years is long enough for a language to undergo substantial changes. Thus anyone who knows the rudiments of the history of languages knows that logically it should be impossible for the Arabic-speaking peoples of today to read and understand a book 14 centuries old. And yet, everyday, every hour, every minute, in fact every second of the 24 hours of the 365 days of every year of the past centuries has been alive with the reading and study of the Qur’anic verses. And it goes on into the future. The volume and scope of it multiplies in every imaginable way with the coming of the multimedia. This started at the time of the Prophet and it has continued unceasingly till the present day, making this the ever-present miracle of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), rivaling all other miracles so far.

Allah says in the Qur’an what means:

*{This is the Book; in it is sure guidance, no doubt, for those who are God-conscious}* (Al-Baqarah 2:2)

*{And say: “The truth has arrived, and falsehood perished; for falsehood is bound to perish.”}* (Al-Israa’ 17:81)

All articles published not necessarily the official points of view held by islamonline