This is part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.A good portion of the Koran is written to set forth the retelling of many of the well know stories from the Jewish and Christian scriptures. In the Koran we see all the familiar faces, such as, Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and others. However, many of the stories which we have learned from childhood have been changed and/or altered in the Koran. Not only do they contain omissions, which are to be expected, but they also contain embellishments, new details, and even contradictory narrations from the old stories we have all known and loved. The questions is, which re-telling should we trust? The record from antiquity or the modern versions as told by Muhammad? It is possible that new and corrected revelation was given to Muhammad except for two issues which will give us pause to believe the record of antiquity over the retelling of Mohammad.
First is that the recorded history we have in the Jewish and Christian scriptures were written by those who lived when the events actually occurred. While not everyone of them was a true eye-witness, they lived in the time where they could have received reliable information and a correct narrative of the events as they occurred. Even some of the most ancient writings in the Jewish scriptures were recorded in written form for the accurate preservation of the contained historical facts. In fact, there is ample evidence that the book of Genesis was merely compiled by Moses and was written by the people who are named within the book, such as, Adam, Noah, his sons, Abraham and his son, etc. Even today we have over a thousand complete documents dating well before the Birth of Moses which are still legible and readable today. Writing, in that part of the world, is very ancient and there is reason to believe that, even the most ancient books we have received, were written by the contemporaries of the events contains in the books. For this reason, when it comes to the accuracy of the historical record, preference must be given to antiquity over fresh and new narratives that are modern in comparison.
Secondly, never before, in any of the Jewish or Christian scriptures, has God revealed to one generation the history of another generation. The fact that God would come to Muhammad and recount ancient history to him, a history that is contrary to ancient record, is new and novel and had never been done before. One could say that there is a first time for everything, but these new retelling of history are quite convenient in their interpretation as they almost always serve to justify Muhammad's position and to lend credence to him as being a prophet. As a prophet, it is one thing to predict the future for such a prophesy can easily be judged by its coming, or failing to come, to pass. However, predicting the past is nothing but self-serving as one can never prove what one cannot go back and experience. Seeing that, prior to Muhammad, God has never operated this way before leads me to require the confirmation of antiquity before I'll believe his new and diverging histories of Muhammad.
So why does history matter so much? Why should we care if the Koran gets some of its histories wrong? It is because of what the Koran claims about itself, that it is thee word-for-word translation of the Arabic Mother Book in heaven; that it is the inerrant, word-for-word, directly prophesied written record of the voice and message of God.
"By the Clear Book, behold, We have made it an Arabic Koran; haply you will [that ye may] understand and behold, it is in the Essence of the Book [a transcript of the archetypical Book], with [kept by] Us; sublime [lofty] indeed, wise [filled with wisdom]" (Koran 43:2-3)Furthermore, the Koran claims to be fully compatible and in full agreement with all that came before it, including the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Koran claims for itself that it came to confirm everything that came before it, not to introduce innovation.
"Yet before it [this Koran] was the Book of Moses for a model [rule] and a mercy; and this is a Book confirming [it], in Arabic tongue, to warn the evildoers, and good tidings to the good-doers." (Koran 46:11)
"In their stories [history] is surely a lesson [example] to men possessed of minds [of understanding]; it is not a tale forged [new tale of fiction], but a confirmation of what is before it [previous scriptures], and a distinguishing of every thing [explanation of all things], and a guidance, and a mercy to a people who believe." (Koran 12:111)Herein lies the truth of the matter and the reason why historical analysis of the Koran is so important. If, in even the smallest amount or in the slightest detail, the Koran can be shown to be wrong in its historical accounts, then it is most certainly not the directly prophesied word of God and Muhammad is not a true prophet of the true God. The Koran must stand on its historical accuracy. Either it is one hundred percent accurate, or it is not the inerrant word of God as it claims to be.
As we look to judge the Koran by the histories it contains, some may find it tedious and some may find it amusing, but I hope everyone will find it interesting.
More to come...