TRANSMISSION OF SCRIPTURE
Bible; The Koran; The Book of Mormon
"Every word of
God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him.
thou not unto His words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a
liar." (The Bible: Proverbs 30:5-6)
107, 2006 March)
whether modern Bible translations accurately reflect the ancient
original documents appeared in Investigator 96 to 101.
reliable the copying and transmission of the original has been is
The Bible implies that its text will be available forever and this
claim needs to be tested. For example, Jesus said, "…not one letter, not
of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished."
Investigations into the accuracy of what the Bible says need to base
their conclusions on whether the original statements, not later
additions, are accurate.
Muslims and Bahais explain disagreements between the Bible and their
own holy books by claiming, "The Bible has been corrupted, today's
Bibles differ from the original."
know, therefore, when comparing Bible statements with modern science or
with other "holy books" whether or not the text of the Bible (or of the
other holy books) was "corrupted".
Mormon of the Mormon religion teaches that a group of ancient
Israelites sailed to America in 589 BC. (1 Nephi 18) They grew into two
nations and Jesus went to America after his death and resurrection to
preach to them.
contrast teaches that Jesus "appeared once" and then stays out of sight
until his "return" when "every eye will see him."
such disagreements by claiming modern Bibles are translated from
inaccurate manuscripts. They quote their founder Joseph Smith
(1805-1844) who declared, "the bible to be the word of God as far as
it is translated correctly." The Book of Mormon (BOM) claims that the
Bible has, "plain and precious things taken away". (I Nephi 13:28)
Islam. The Glorious Koran has numerous allusions to the Bible
and mentions many Bible characters such as Adam, Noah, Abraham,
Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Solomon, Jonah, Mary, Jesus, etc.
says that it came or originated from Allah (God) and that the
"Scriptures", i.e. the Old and New Testaments, are from Allah also. And
Allah is "all knowing" and truthful. Yet there are many discrepancies
between the Bible and The Koran. Muslims explain this by
claiming the original Scriptures were correct but re-copying led to
religion is a 19th century offshoot from Islam. It claims its founder,
Baha'ullah, is the return of Christ. The Bahais claim the holy
Scriptures of all major religions were inspired by one God. This
position is particularly difficult because it requires not only for the
Bible and The Koran to agree – when they don't – but other holy books
argument is the same as the Muslims and Mormons – the Bible Scriptures
were tampered with.
debate on the accuracy of transmission revealed that 5,400 ancient
Bible manuscripts are known and have about 200,000 differences. The
variations are mainly word spellings but include hundreds of variations
in words, some entire verses, and large parts of several chapters.
In the Investigator
debate I summarized the work of "textual critics" who compare all
variations in the ancient manuscripts to work out what the original was.
- Over 99%
of the original wording of the Bible can now be established;
of ancient manuscripts have not ceased; and
the trend of getting every closer to the original will continue.
criticism" is a scientific discipline and has established the original
Greek and Hebrew text with high certainty.
Bible text is corrupt whenever it differs to other holy books are
dogma, whereas the work of textual critics is science that can be
checked, redone, and falsified where false.
Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament (9th edition
1903) includes a "Concordance of Various Readings". New Testament words
and verses in which ancient manuscripts vary are listed and the
conclusions by eight textual critics indicated.
therefore, can check for themselves the evidence on whether any
particular New Testament verse is "corrupt" or not.
whether the Old Testament was accurately transmitted is less
precise. However, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls (now available in
English), the Septuagint Version (the ancient translation of the Hebrew
into Greek), the books of Josephus (a 1st century Jewish historian) and
various other ancient versions and parchments – and all these can be
disagreements between the Bible and other holy books are explained with
"The Bible was transmitted inaccurately", we can often test this claim
by consulting appropriate references.
Bible verses accused of being altered are in fact faithfully
transmitted this would not prove that the verses are correct in what
they state – because accuracy in transmission does not imply
accuracy of content. Words may be accurately transmitted but be
wrong in what they say.
suppose I send a message far and wide which says "Hitler is alive and
lives on Venus". One day the message returns to me in Chinese and
translated it says, "Hitler is alive and lives on Venus." The
transmission was accurate but the content i.e. the statement or
message is false.
the truth or accuracy of the content is different to investigating the
accuracy of the transmission. The content is tested by
comparing its testable statements with scientific discoveries in
archaeology, astronomy, geology, biology, etc. If, for example, a holy
book says the stars are too numerous to count, we'd consult astronomy.
Mormon narrates that an Israelite family fled Jerusalem in 589 BC
and sailed to America. The father had a number of sons including Nephi
started two nations – Nephites and Lamanites.
were miraculously made black and were more primitive. The Nephites were
"white … and delightsome":
it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth
from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch
that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea
south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east. (Helaman 3:8)
about 40 cities built by Nephites!
Lamamites exterminated the Nephites and became the Indians. Mormon (a
Nephite) wrote the BOM on gold plates in "reformed Egyptian". (Mormon
9:32) His son Moroni completed the Book. In 1823-1827 Moroni – now an
angel – visited Joseph Smith and gave him the plates. Smith translated
them, producing the English BOM in 1830.
therefore believe that the Lamanites, and further back the Israelites,
are the main ancestors of the American Indians.
teaches that Jesus Christ went to America in 34 AD after his
resurrection to preach to the Jewish descendants and then ascended to
however, teaches that Jesus came, appeared and died "once for all":
as it is, he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the age to
remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:26)
having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second
time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting
for him. (Hebrews 9:28)
"Various Readings" section in the Englishman's Greek Concordance
as explained above, confirms that these Bible verses were in the
original writings and are not "corrupt".
is correct? Did Jesus preach in America in 34 AD?
researchers conclude that the BOM began as a novel by Solomon Spalding
(1761-1816) a minister of the Congregational Church. Sydney Rigdon
(1793-1876) an excommunicated Baptist minister obtained the manuscript,
remodelled the story, and passed it to Smith who revised it further.
(Cowdrey et al 1977)
which has been called a "ground plan" for the BOM – is View of the
Hebrews (1825 Ethan Smith). View of the Hebrews was
published in the town where Joseph Smith's cousin, who helped him
produce the BOM, lived!
for the BOM's authenticity Mormons hoped the new science of DNA
research would link the Indians to ancient Israelites and prove that
the BOM is a translation of an ancient document.
opposite happened. DNA research confirmed what anthropologists
concluded long ago – Native Americans originated in East Asia over
10,000 years ago, not in Israel 2,600 years ago.
DVD titled DNA Evidence and The Book of Mormon was produced in
2003 by Living Hope Ministries of Utah. Eight scientists including
Mormon anthropologist Thomas W Murphy were interviewed. The conclusions
research shows American Indians resemble Mongolians and Siberians more
closely than other people.
data shows similarities between American Indians and East Asians.
skeletal remains show that people in North, Central and South America
are of East Asian descent.
has shown similarities between East Asian and American cultures in the
artifacts they used.
concludes, "It is genetically, archaeologically, historically and
linguistically impossible for American Indians as a whole to be
descendants of Lamanites who came from Israel."
biologist with the CSIRO Simon G Southerton authored Losing a Lost
Tribe (2005). Therein he presents the genetic data that
reconstructs human migrations to America and Oceania.
Today quotes Southerton saying, "The DNA evidence backs up decades
of archaeological, linguistic, cultural, and anthropological research
that indicates there is no Israelite influence in the Americas before
remains of the about 40 American cities named in the BOM have been
found. The Old Testament, in contrast, names about 900 geographical
locations of which over 300 have been found and another 200 tentatively
identified. (Investigator 50)
ancient American people named in the BOM not one has archaeological
verification. However, at least 60 Old Testament people have
archaeological verification. (Investigator 61)
BOM has archaeological support. No object mentioned in it has been
found – no coins, armour, Egyptian writing, swords, gold plates,
chariots, steel or copper, nor remains of domestic animals such as
cows, oxen, asses or horses. (1 Nephi 18:25)
have at least two versions of the BOM. Mormons actually use a revised
version with almost 4,000 alterations! The "Reorganized Church" which
split off after Joseph Smith died still uses Smith's first version of
furthermore includes about 25,000 words from the 1611 King James Bible
(KJB) – which, like other Bibles, can be checked by textual criticism.
11:27, 36, for example, paraphrases 1 John 5:7 of the KJB. In this case
textual criticism has shown that 1 John 5:7 was added to an ancient
manuscript and wrongly entered the KJB. Because textual criticism has
identified the interpolation modern Bible translations omit it.
Nephi 12:27 quotes Matthew 5:27 including the phrase "by them of old"
which does not appear in modern Bibles because textual criticism has
exposed it as an interpolation.
ancient it would have avoided such errors. It didn't because it's a
fabrication of the 1820s.
Koran consists of about 2,600 verses in 114 Surahs (chapters).
Muslims believe it was revealed from heaven via angels to Muhammad
(570-632). (Surah 16:1-2, 101-102; 26:192-200)
"revelations" were written on parchment, palm leaves, bone, bark and
stone and others memorized by followers.
disagreements with Jews and Christians, Muhammad did not offer proof.
He merely declared Jews and Christians wrong and asserted that his
revelations were from Allah. (Surah 2:109-121)
years of Muhammad's death there were many versions of The Koran
that differed in words, verses and number of chapters. The major ones
ibn Mas'ud in Kufa, Iraq;
ibn Ka'b in Damascus, Syria;
Ashari in Basra.
caliph or political leader of Islam from 644 to 656 – set up a
committee to prepare an official version and ordered others destroyed.
Mas'ud had known Muhammad personally and refused to comply. The
official version gained ascendancy although after Uthman's death
corrections were made.
cousin Ali became the 4th caliph. Shiites are one of the two main
divisions of Muslims and believe Ali's descendants were the legitimate
successors to the caliphate. However, the Umayyad succession took over
in 661 and are believed legitimate by the Sunni (the other main
division of Islam).
believe that The Koran is the replica of God's words on tablets
in heaven – it's the exact copy of a prototype in heaven. Many Shiite
Muslims, however, think The Koran originally had verses
supporting Ali's succession and that these were removed.
purging under Caliph Uthman we cannot check whether The Koran
today is what Muhammad "received". Textual critics of The Koran
who compare ancient manuscripts to establish the original content, as
occurs with the Bible, are lacking. The claims that The Koran
is unchanged and identical to words in heaven are faith and assertion –
Robinson (2004) says, "There is no copy of the Quran in existence from
the period of the first one and a half centuries of the existence of
the Muslim communities." (p. 154)
often contradicts the Bible. A few examples are that it:
Abraham lived in Mecca whereas the Bible says he originated in Ur (in
Mesopotamia) and moved to Canaan;
Haman served Pharoah whereas the Bible says he served the King of
Persia (about 900 years later);
Jesus the description "Son of God". (Surah 4:171; 9:30)
that Jesus was killed. (Surah 4:157)
Koran teaches that it as well as the Scriptures of the Jews and
Christians were "revealed"/"confirmed"/"inspired" by Allah:
for that which We inspire in thee of the Scripture, it is the Truth
confirming that which was (revealed) before it. (Surah 35:31. Also
3:81; 9:33; 46:12)
inspire thee as we inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as we
inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and
Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as we imparted unto
David the Psalms…and Allah spake directly unto Moses. (Surah 4:163-164)
Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which
was (revealed) before him, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is
guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in
the Torah… (Surah 5:46. Also 5:44; 2:136)
Bible and The Koran are from Allah and "confirmed". How then do Muslims
discrepancies between the two books?
Mormons they claim the Bible was corrupted – the text we have today
differs from the original. We see the beginning of this argument in The
Koran itself, which says "they hide much" and "change words from
their context" and "they forgot a part". (Surah 6:92; 5:12-14)
already explained, we can test this accusation by comparing the modern
Bible text with ancient manuscripts – the Dead Sea Scrolls, surviving
ancient fragments of the Septuagint, and ancient copies of the New
Testament. Some still-existing items are 700 years older than
discrepancies with The Koran listed above the ancient
manuscripts agree with modern Bibles – the text is not "corrupt". The
description of Jesus as "Son of God", for example, occurs in twenty New
Testament books including still-existing manuscripts written centuries
before The Koran.
persuade people by repeated reference to the Bible, but also declare
the Bible wrong, is inconsistent. Joseph Smith in his BOM and Muhammad
in The Glorious Koran both did this.
Muslims get around this problem by alleging the Bible text was altered
– implying that Muhammed and Smith only quoted uncorrupted bits.
However, most alleged "corruptions" can nowadays be checked by
reference to 5,400 ancient manuscripts (or remains thereof). Textual
critics have done this, and the results are available.
the Bible of "corruption" despite this accusation having been answered,
Muslims and Mormons forget that the same accusation thrown at their own
holy book is unrefuted!
their BOM is "pure" and "true" (1 Nephi 14:26, 30) but 4,000
alterations, archaeology, DNA evidence, and no "golden plates" prove it
impure and false.
says Jesus predicted a future messenger – "the Praised One". (Surah
61:6) And the name Muhammad means "the praised"! Similarly Joseph
Smith's BOM foretells and even gives the name of a "choice seer" – and
the name is Joseph! (2 Nephi 3)
things are not in the Bible, nor in any ancient manuscript. To prove
something was predicted requires a copy of the prediction published
before the alleged fulfilment!
predictions we DO HAVE ancient manuscripts written before the
fulfilment. For example the prophecies that:
- A world
ruler would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5);
"anointed prince" would come in 69 weeks – interpreted as 69x7 years
will outnumber the Jews (Galatians 4:27), etc.
Testament book of Jude may be the last New Testament document written.
Jude 16 & 18 quote 2 Peter 2:18 & 3:3 which was written about
65 AD. And Jude 17 speaks of the Apostles in the past as if all
find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the
faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3)
criticism has shown no reason to consider this verse "corrupt" – it's a
genuine part of the Scriptures. And The Koran calls the
Scriptures "confirmed" and "revealed" and Joseph Smith called them the
"Word of God". Now note the underlined. The underlined implies there
would be no more God-inspired messengers or books!
is not proved accurate in transmission or content merely by its
devotees proclaiming that it's accurate.
accuracy of transmission is tested by comparing its present-day text
with ancient copies. To do that we actually need ancient copies but for
the BOM we have none. As for The Koran, Muslims themselves
destroyed the oldest versions.
accuracy of content is a different question. Content is tested by
checking the book's testable statements against science, including
archaeology, biology, astronomy, etc.
Cowdrey, W L,
Davis, H A & Scales D R 1977 Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?
Vision House, USA
Concordance of the New Testament 9th edition 1903, Samuel Bagster
& Sons, London
1954 Islam, Penguin Books, Great Britain
Magazine No. 13 pp 66-68; No. 46 pp 10-17; No. 50 pp 14-21; No. 53
pp 19-24; No. 61 pp 44-52; Nos. 96-101
Pickthall, M M The
meaning of the Glorious Koran, Mentor, USA
2004 Mosques & Miracles, City Harvest, Australia
Southerton, S G
2005 Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon
Church, Signature Books
Vogel, D &
Metcalfe B L (Editors) 2002 American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book
of Mormon, Signature Books