No Distortion in the Torah and the Gospel
(Balance of Truth, part 1)
C.G. Pfander, DD
In proof that the Old Testament and the New Testament are the Word of God, and that they have been neither corrupted nor abrogated.
Testimony of the Qur'an to the Bible
The learned have divided Evidence into two kinds, Intellectual and Authoritative. Under the former we include both External and Internal Evidence.
Were we writing this book for the benefit of Unbelievers, Deists or Idolaters, it would be necessary in the first place to show what External Evidence we have in support of our belief that the books of the Old and of the New Testament are ancient, uncorrupted and generally reliable, and that they contain a Revelation from God Most High. We should also have to relate the history of each of these books, so far as we know it, to tell how the Canon of Holy Scripture was formed, and what external evidence we have to justify us in assigning the various books to the writers whose names they bear. We should then carefully examine the Internal Evidence afforded by the books themselves. Then we should state the result of our inquiry.
All this has already been done by Christians again and again. One reason for this is, that from very early times unbelievers have assailed our Sacred Books, and for our own satisfaction we have had to examine all the evidence for and against them. Moreover, we Christians believe that we are bound to hold such an examination because of the precept, "Prove all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Our Reason tells us that obedience to this precept is acceptable to God, who has given us intellect that we might use it aright to His glory. truth is one of the Divine Attributes, and as such it can never perish, but must be eternal. Therefore the man whose heart's desire is to find the Truth and live according to god's most Holy Will has nothing to fear from an earnest and most thorough examination of the grounds of his faith. When he has made it, he is able not only to stand firm on the rock of truth himself, but also to help others tossing on the sea of doubt and uncertainty. His faith is now worthy of the name, and is no longer mere imitation or bigotry or ignorance.
The libraries of Christian Scholars are full of books of Christian Evidences. But this is not the place to dwell upon this point, for we are writing not for unbelievers, but for our Muslim brethren, who accept the Qur'an as god's latest revelation to man, and believe all that is contained therein to be God's Word. For Muslims it is most important to know what the Qur'an says about the Bible, and the more so because among the ignorant there is prevalent an entire misconception on this point. it is not too much to say that the teaching of the Qur'an on this most important subject is quite contrary to what their own Sacred Book really does teach. every true Muslim is therefore likely to profit by joining us in the inquiry, "What testimony does the Qur'an bear to the Bible, and what may we learn about the latter from the former?"
It is evident to all that the Qur'an itself bears witness to the fact that in Muhammad's time there existed in Arabia both Christians and Jews, who differed from one another in religion. These are both called in the Qur'an "The People of the Book". The Qur'an testifies to the fact that the Book from which these two religious communities received their title still existed among them. As parts of this Book the Qur'an expressly mentions the Taurat, the Zabur, and the Injil. Moreover, the Qur'an states that these books were sent down by God Most High, and that the Qur'an itself was given afterwards to confirm them. It also teaches that those who reject these books will be punished in the next world, and states that the books of the Old and those of the New Testament agree with each other in their general teaching. since the Qur'an says all this about the Bible, it is not necessary for us to adduce here the same degree of proof in attestation of the Bible which it would be necessary to adduce were we writing to convince an unbeliever.
It may, however, be said: "(1) You Christians cannot logically appeal to the Qur'an, for you do not accept it as from God. (") Besides this, the Books now circulated among Christians as the Old and New Testaments are not in their present state, for they have become corrupted, or at any rate they are annulled."
In answer to this we grant that the first of these objections would be quite conclusive against any attempt made by Christians to rely upon the Qur'an for proof of the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures. But we do not in any way whatever rely upon the Qur'an to prove our Scriptures for us. What we are doing is quite a different thing. We are endeavouring to show Muslims that they, as believers in the Qur'an, are bound to accept what it says about the Jewish and the Christian Books. This argument is a fair one, unless the second of the above objections can be proved to be well-founded. this second objection, however, though it seems distinctly opposed to the Qur'anic statement that God's words cannot be changed, will be examined, with God's help, in the other chapters of this Part of our present volume. But before undertaking this inquiry we venture to adduce, with all courtesy and respect for our Muslim brethren, a few of the leading passages of the Qur'an in which testimony is borne in the Bible. We shall also appeal to leading Muslim commentators, in order to show that we rightly understand the meaning of the verses which we quote.
It is clear from the Qur'an itself that "the Book", that is to say, the Bible, existed among "the People of the Book" in Muhammad's time, and was not "a name devoid of the thing named". This is evident from many passages, of which we content ourselves with quoting only a few.
For instance, in Surah 5 (al-Ma'ida), verse 72, Muhammad receives a command to speak thus: "Say thou: 'O People of the Book, ye are [founded] upon nothing, until ye observe [or establish] the Taurat and the Injil and that which hath been sent down unto you by your Lord.' " Regarding the occasion on which this verse was revealed, the historian, Ibn Ishaq is stated by Ibn Hisham, in the Siratu'r Rasul, to have spoken thus: "Rafi` Ibn Harithah and Salam Ibn Mushkim and Malik Ibn Az Zaif and Rafi` Ibn Harmalah cam to the Apostle of God. They said, `O Muhammad, dost thou not assert that thou art [standing] on the creed of Abraham and his religion, and believest in that which is with us of the Taurat and testifiest that it is from God, truth?' He said, `Yes; but ye have innovated, and ye deny what is therein of that covenant which was made with you, and ye have concealed of it that which ye were commanded to explain to men. Wherefore I am clear from your innovations.' They said, `Verily then we hold by what is in our hands, and truly we are [based] upon the truth and the Evidence, and we believe not in thee, and follow thee not.' Accordingly God (may He be honoured and glorified) sent down concerning them" this verse. Here we see that Muhammad declared his acceptation of the Scriptures then current among the Jews, though he repudiated the "innovations" which he rightly declared they had introduced into the outward practice of their religion. In this respect Muhammad agreed with what Christ said to the Jews in His own time (Matthew 23:16-24). Both this verse of the Qur'an, however, and Ibn Ishaq's narrative show that the Jews then had the Taurat and that the Christians had the Injil; for there would be no meaning in commanding them to observe the precepts contained in those books, if the books had perished or been previously corrupted. In the former case it would be impossible to obey the command: in the latter case obedience would entail their going astray.
In Surah 2 (al-Baqara), verse 107, we read: "And the Jews say, 'The Christians are [founded] upon nothing,' and the Christians say, 'The Jews are [founded] upon nothing': and they are reading the Book." The tense of the latter verb shows that the Scriptures were then in the hands of both Jews and Christians, otherwise the Preterite might be used but not the Present, for it could not be truly said that they were then able to read them and actually were in the habit of doing so.
In Surah 10 (Yunus), verse 94, it is stated that God said: "And if thou art in doubt regarding what We have sent down unto thee, then ask those who are reading the Book previous to thee." Ar Razi mentions some difference of opinion as to whether Muhammad is here addressed or not: but he tells us that even those who thought he was not, explained the verse thus,—that God was here speaking to everyone who doubted Muhammad's words, and saying, "O man, if thou art in doubt regarding what We have sent down to thee of guidance by Muhammad's tongue, then ask the People of the Book, that they may prove to thee the truth of his position as a Prophet." This brings Ar Razi to the question, How could God refer people to the Scriptures of the Jews and the Christians if these books were really corrupted or altered? His reply is not a very satisfactory one, for all he can say is that, of any passages still remained to bear testimony to Muhammad, their evidence would be all the clearer. Ar Razi's personal opinion is that the verse was a command addressed to Muhammad himself, providing for the possibility of doubt as to his prophetic office arising in his own mind. But in any case the verse proves that the Jews and Christians were then in the habit of reading their Scriptures, and had been doing so before Muhammad's time. This was evidently Baizawi's opinion, for he thus paraphrases the latter part of the verse: "For verily it is firmly believed among them, established in their books, according as We have imparted it to thee." And he adds: "The significance is the confirmation thereof" (i.e. of the revelation made to Muhammad) and an appeal for evidence to what is in the Holy Scriptures, and that the Qur'an confirms what is in them. The two Jalals paraphrase the verse thus: "And if thou art in doubt, O Muhammad, as to what We have sent down to thee,—of stories, for instance,—then ask those who are reading the Taurat previous to thee, for verily it is established among them: they will inform thee of its truth."
In Surah 7 (al-A`raf), verse 168, it is said regarding the Jews: "They have inherited the Book.... Was there not taken upon them the covenant of the Book, that they should not say concerning God anything but the truth? And they have studied what is in it." On this passage Baizawi's comment is: "They have inherited the Book, i.e. the Taurat, from their predecessors: they read it, and they are aware of what is in it."
In Surah 3 (Al Imran), verse 22, it is written: "Hast thou not looked at those who are brought a portion of the Book? They are invited to the Book of God, that it may judge between them. Then a section of them turn back, and they prevent." Baizawi explains "a portion of the Book" as "The Taurat, or the Heavenly Books in general", and says "The inviter was Muhammad, and the Book of God the Qur'an or the Taurat. For it is related that he entered their school: then said to him Na`im Ibn `Amr and Al Harith Ibn Zaid, 'To what religion dost thou belong?' Then he said, 'To the Religion of Abraham.' Accordingly they both said to him, 'Verily Abraham was a Jew.' Then said he, 'Come ye to the Taurat: verily it is between us and you.' Then they both declined. Accordingly the verse was sent down." Here again we perceive that the Jews in Muhammad's time possessed the Taurat, and that Muhammad appealed to it with confidence to decide whatever matter was that day in dispute between himself and them, regarding which subject of dispute there is a difference of opinion among commentators.
In Surah 3 (Al Imran), verse 87, it is said: "All food was lawful to the children of Israel, except what Israel forbade unto himself, before that the Taurat was sent down. Say thou: 'Then bring ye the Taurat: then read it aloud, if ye are truthful.' " Baizawi's comment on the final clause is: "A command for them to defend their cause with their Book, and a reproach to them from what was in it, through the fact that what had not been [originally] forbidden had been forbidden to them because of their wrong-doing. It is related that when Muhammad said this to them, they were astonished, and did not venture to bring forth the Taurat." This remark of the commentator is an admission that they then possessed it, as indeed is clear from the whole verse.
In Surah 5 (al-Ma'ida), verse 47, we read: "And how shall they make thee their judge, since with them is the Taurat? in it is God's judgement." Baizawi's not on this is: "An expression of surprise at their making one in whom they do not believe their judge, since the judgement is announced in the Book which is with them."
We content ourselves with quoting these few passages from the Qur'an to prove what men of learning know for a certainty to be true; that is to say, that the Bible was in existence in Muhammad's time in the hands of the "People of the Book". This proof would of itself suffice; but we have others, one of which we now proceed to adduce.
The Qur'an itself contains certain passages which it actually quotes from the Old and the New Testament. That is to say, certain verses are taken from the Bible into the Qur'an, and the Qur'an states that these verses are to be found in the Bible.
For instance, in Surah 5 (al-Ma'ida), verse 49 it is said, "And We wrote concerning them in it" (that is, in the Taurat, as verses 47 and 48 state), that "Life for life, and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth." This is a quotation from Exodus 21:23-25.
Again in Surah 21 (al-Anbiya), verse 105, we read: "and We have written in the Psalms after the Reminder that 'As for the earth, My servants the righteous shall inherit it.' " This is a quotation from Psalm 37:29. Baizawi explains "the Psalms" as "the book of David".
In Surah 7 (al-A`raf), verse 38, it is written: "Verily those that have declared Our signs to be lies, and have been too proud for them, unto them the gates of heaven shall not be opened, nor shall they enter Paradise, until the camel shall pass in at the eye of the needle." Here there is a quotation from the Gospel, for the mention of the difficulty of a camel passing through the eye of a needle is found in Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25.
These three passages, one from the Taurat, the second from the Zabur, and the third from the Injil, clearly show that the Sacred Scriptures then in the hands of the Jews and Christians were those which we now possess and call by the very same names. All men of understanding will clearly perceive this. For, just as every learned man who in years to come recognises the pieces of poetry which we have quoted in the Introduction to the Treatise as taken from such books as the Mathnavi of Jalalu´ddin Rumi, the diwan of `Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the poems of Sa`di, or some other well-known writer, will at once conclude that these works as a whole were in existence in the present century, so every attentive reader of the Qur'an would recognise that the passages above quoted from the Bible proved the existence of the Bible in Muhammad's time. The proof is still further strengthened by the fact that the Qur'an in two of the cases actually mentions the name of the book from which it is quoting.
Besides this, many of the narratives in the Qur'an, for example that of Joseph in Surah 12 (Yusuf), are clearly those in the Bible, though sometimes told somewhat more in accord with the later traditions of the Jews than with the text of the bible, as has been shown in the book styled The Original Sources of the Qur'an. So also the Qur'an contains many other references to the Bible, of which it is unnecessary to mention any except that referred to in Surah 3 (Al Imran), verse 87, above, where it is impossible to understand what is said in the verse unless we turn to Genesis 32:22-32, where we are told how Jacob got then name Israel given him by God, and how after that the children of Jacob held it unlawful to eat "the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh" (verse 32).
Besides all this, in the traditions there are a few passages in which Muhammad is said to have used language which is really a quotation from the Bible. Of this we give only one specimen, but it is the most remarkable of all. In the Mishkat, p. 487, of the edition of A.H. 1298, in the first chapter of the Book on "The Description of Paradise and Its People", we find the following Tradition from Abu Hurairah: "The Apostle of God said: 'God Most high hath said, I have prepared for My servants the righteous what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it occurred to the heart of humanity.' " There can be no doubt that this is a distinct quotation from 1 Corinthians 2:9. It is important to notice this, because Muhammad here states that this verse is a direct utterance of God Most High Himself, whereas many Muslim writers, learned men (and not ignorant people), deny that Paul was an apostle and that his Epistles are inspired.
The Bible is generally divided into two volumes: the Old Testament, which contains the sacred books of the Jewish Canon, composed in Hebrew, with the exception of a few chapters which are in Aramaic; and the New Testament, composed in Greek. The Jews refuse to accept the New Testament, but we Christians accept both. Hence Baizawi in his commentary on Surah 29 (al-`Ankabut), verse 46, speaks of us as "the people of the two books". But in the Qur'an the Bible is generally referred to as "The Book" though three of its principal parts are also mentioned by name. These are the Taurat, the Zabur, and the Injil. The Jews divide the Old Testament itself into three parts, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, as we see in Luke 24:44. This division can be traced back to about BC 130. At the present time the Jews term the third part "the Books". But as it begins with the Psalms, it is so styled in the Gospel and in the Qur'an alike. The Qur'an calls the first part the Taurat, which is only the Arabic form of its Hebrew name Torah. Sometimes the whole of the Old testament is named by Muslims the Taurat, because this part begins the whole volume. The Qur'an often refers also to the Prophets of the Old testament, as, for example, in Surah 2 (al-Baqara), verse 130: "Say ye, 'We have believed in God, and in what hath been sent down unto us, and what hath been sent down unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes, and what Moses was given and Jesus, and what the Prophets were given from their Lord.'" The same words were repeated in Sura 3 (Al Imran), verse 78. Hence it is clear that the Qur'an agrees with the New Testament in naming as inspired each and all of the three great divisions of the Old Testament.
Christians often apply the title of "the Gospel" to the whole of the New testament, as apparently the Qur'an does. One reason for this is that the New Testament begins with the four Gospels. But a still better reason is that the word "Gospel" or "good news" expresses the main purport of the whole book. This is clear from Mark 13:10 and very many other passages.
As it is admitted that the whole of the New Testament was in Muhammad's time circulated very widely among Christians, and since not only does the Qur'an quote a passage found in three Gospels (Surah al-A`raf 7:38: compare Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25), but Muhammad himself, as we have seen quotes a verse from another part of the New Testament, therefore it is evident to all who are men of understanding and free from prejudice that the Qur'an refers to the Bible as it then existed among the Jews and Christians as containing a Divine Revelation. But besides this the Qur'an always speaks of the Bible with great reverence, and gives it the very highest titles, styling it "the Word of God" (Surah al-Baqara 2:70), the Furqan (Surahs al-Baqara 2:50; Hud 11:49), "a light and a Reminder", "the Book of God" (Surah al-Baqara 2:95: thus Baizawi and the two Jalals explain the verse: compare Surah Al Imran §:22, and Surah al-Ma'ida 5:48), and other high titles.
Moreover, the Qur'an states that the inspiration bestowed on Muhammad was the same as that given to the former prophets, as we learn from such passages as the following:—(1) Surah 3 (Al Imran), verse 66: "Say thou: 'Verily the guidance is God's guidance; that anyone should be given like to what ye have been given.'" (2) Surah 4(al-Nisa´), verse 161: "Verily We have inspired thee as We inspired Noah and the Prophets after him," etc. (3) Surah 42 (al-Shura), verse 1: "Thus doth God the Glorious, the Wise, inspire thee and those who were before thee." The word which is used to describe the "descent" of the Qur'an is also used of the earlier books. Hence, since things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other, it follows that the Qur'an teaches us that the Old and New Testament are as truly "sent down" by God and as truly "inspired" as the Qur'an itself claims to be. Therefore it is that the Qur'an commands Muslims to profess as firm belief in all the previous Scriptures as in the Qur'an (Surahs al-Baqara 2:130; Al Imran 3:78). They are also informed that the Qur'an was sent down for the purpose of confirming the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians, as, for instance, we read in Surah 3 (Al Imran), verse 2: "He hath sent down upon thee the Book, confirming what was before it, and He sent down the Taurat and the Injil before as a guidance unto men: and He hath sent down the Distinction." It is said, moreover, that those who reject the Book will be punished by God for doing so, for in Surah 40 (al-Mu´min), verse 72,73, it is written: "Those who hold the Book and that wherewith We have sent Our Apostles to be a lie, they therefore shall know, when the collars and the chains are on their necks: they shall be dragged into the hot water, then into the fire they shall be dragged." Baizawi in commenting upon these verses gives several different explanations of what is meant by "the Book". He says, "the Qur'an, or the Heavenly Books in general," and explains "that wherewith We have sent Our Apostles" as meaning "the rest of the Books, or Inspiration and the Religious Laws". Even if, therefore, we deny that in these verses "the Book" is that from which "the people of the Book" derive this title, yet the other words quite clearly denote the Old and the New Testament.
The Qur'an also states that the Old Testament and the New agree with one another in their general teaching, for in several passages we find statements similar to the following from Surah 5 (al-Ma´ida), verse 50: "And We caused Jesus, Son of Mary, to follow in their [the Prophets'] footsteps, confirming what was before Him of the Taurat, and We brought Him the Injil, in it is guidance and light, confirming what was before it of the Taurat, and a guidance and a warning to the pious."
From what has been said in this chapter we conclude: (1) that in Muhammad's time the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament, containing the Taurat, the Zabur, the Prophets' books, the Injil, and the Epistles of the Apostles (besides a few other tractates) were in existence among the Jews and Christians; (2) that the Qur'an states positively that these were given by Divine Inspiration; (3) that the Qur'an, claiming for itself the highest style of Inspiration and the highest titles, states that the Bible is due to the very same Inspiration as itself; (4) that the Qur'an gives to the Bible the titles of Book of God, Word of God, Furqan, Zikr, Light, Guidance, Mercy, etc. being the very same which it claims for itself; (5) that the Qur'an teaches that Muhammad was Divinely directed to appeal to the Bible and to bid the Jews and Christians take it as their guide; (6) that he did refer the Jews to it as authoritative; (7) that Muslims are in the Qur'an commanded to profess to believe in the Bible just as they do in the Qur'an; (8) and that very terrible punishments in the next world are threatened to those who reject wither the Bible or the Qur'an.
That the Old Testament and the New have never been abrogated, and can never be abrogated in (1) their facts, (2) their doctrines, and (3) their moral principles
From what has been said in the first chapter of this treatise it is evident that all Muslims who really believe and accept the Qur'an are bound in duty to study, honour, and obey "the Book of God", that is to say, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testaments.
But some deny that this conclusion is correct, because they assert (1) that the Old and the New Testaments have been abrogated. Others say (2) that the books now in circulation as the Bible, and generally received by Jews and Christians as their Holy Scriptures, are not those referred to in the Qur'an as such. Others again say (3) that, if the Jewish and Christian Scriptures are really those mentioned in the Qur'an, they have at least been altered and corrupted, and therefore are no longer worthy of reverence. With these two latter objections we propose, God helping us, to deal in later chapters. In the present chapter we devote our attention to the quotation whether it is true that the Old Testament and the New, that is to say, the Taurat, the Zabur and the Injil, have been abrogated. it is granted that, if these objections are correct, our argument in Chapter 1 is thereby nullified: But at the same time the effect on the authority of the Qur'an itself will not be favourable, as will be clear to every thoughtful man.
Be it noticed that some Muslim writers distinctly assert that the Bible has been abrogated. For instance, Baizawi in his comments on Surah 9 (al-Taubah), verse 29, explains the words "who profess not the Religion of the Truth," by saying, "which abrogates the rest of the religions, and annuls them," and he speaks of "their original religion, which is abrogated as to faith and conduct." Again, in the book entitled `Uyun ´Khbar al-Rida, chapter 36, occurs the following passage: "Every prophet who was in the days of Moses and after him was upon the highroad of Moses and his religious law and obedient to His book, until the time of our prophet Muhammad. And the religious law of Muhammad shall not be abrogated until the day of the Resurrection." Here it is distinctly implied that Jesus' law abrogated that of Moses, and that Muhammad's law abrogated that of Jesus. And Akhund Mulla Muhammad Taqqi yi Kashani, in his Persian work entitled Hidayat al-Talibin Dur ´Usul al-Din, finished in A.H. 1285, says (p. 166): "For the People of Islam knowledge has been acquired that now Muhammad is prophet, and his religion abrogates the religion of the previous prophets." This view is accepted by almost all the ignorant and by many of the learned in Muslim lands.
Yet it should be noted that there is not a single word in the Qur'an, nor is there a passage known to us in any of the Traditions current among either Sunnis or Shiites, which supports this opinion. Indeed, the whole tenor of the Qur'an is entirely opposed to it. The verb nasakha, with the sense of "to abrogate", occurs only twice in the Qur'an (in Surahs al-Baqara 2:100 and al-Hajj 22:51), and in neither of these instances is it used in reference to any part of the Old or of the New. On the contrary, it is used of the abrogation of certain verses of the Qur'an itself, of which Muslim Ulama say that 225 have been abrogated. Surah 2 (al-Baqara), verse 100, runs thus: "Whatever We abrogate of a verse or cause it to be forgotten, We bring a better than it, or its like: dost thou not know that God is Mighty over everything?" it is true that Baizawi tells us that several different readings of the verse occur, e.g. "Whatsoever We cause thee to forget of a verse, or We abrogate it", etc.: But in none is the sense changed at all. The reference is to the abrogation of certain Qur'anic verses, and to them only. A good illustration of the meaning is given in Baizawi's commentary on Surah 22 (al-Hajj), verse 51, where he tells us the story of how God abrogated in Surah 52 (al-Najm), verse 19,20, the words, "These are the exalted Swans, and verily their intercession is to be hoped for," which Satan had beguiled Muhammad into uttering in regard to Al Lat, Manat and Al `Uzza, three Arabian goddesses. The same tale is told by Yahya´ and Jalalu´ddin in their commentaries on Surah 22 (al-Hajj), verse 51, and by Ibn Ishaq in Ibn Hisham's Siratu´r Rasul (vol. 1, pp. 127 sqq.). Tabari and the Mawahibu´l Luduniyyah also narrate the tale. There can therefore be no doubt as to what is referred to by the words "Allah abrogated" in this latter verse.
Although the fancy that the descent of the Zabur abrogated the Taurat, and that the Injil in like manner abrogated the Zabur, is entirely devoid of foundation in the Qur'an and traditions, yet it is so widely held and so often asserted publicly among Muslims that it may be worth while to quote a book of some authority among them to confute it. Shaikh Haji Rahmatu´llah of Delhi, in his Izharu´l Haqq, published in A.H. 1284, vol. 1, pp 11 and 12, says that the statement that the Taurat was abrogated by the Zabur and the Zabur by the appearance of the Injil "is a falsehood of which there is no trace in the Qur'an or in the Commentaries; nay, there is no trace of it in any authoritative book belonging to the people of Islam. And in our opinion the Zabur does not abrogate the Taurat, nor is it abrogated by the Injil. David was subject to the religious law of Moses, and the Zabur was (a collection of) prayers." This writer asserts that only the ignorant and the common people among the Muslims hold the erroneous idea which he is confuting.
It is true that such an idle fancy can have arisen and can continue to exist only through want of knowledge of the Qur'an in the first place, and of the Old Testament and the New in the second. For if anyone carefully and prayerfully studies the Bible, when he comes to understand its teaching he will clearly perceive that the doctrines of the Old Testament and of the New are in harmony with one another. By this we mean that their teaching is given in a definite order of instruction, and in this is gradually unfolded to men the knowledge of God's Eternal Purpose.
In the Old Testament we are informed how men were created by God Most High, how they fell into sin, how a Divine promised was then given of the coming of a Man born of the seed of the woman, how (many years later, when all the nations had wandered far from the truth) God called Abraham and made a covenant with him, declaring that the Promised Saviour would be born of his progeny through Isaac. We are then told that this promised was renewed to Isaac and his son Jacob; that the children of Israel were trained in Egypt and Canaan for the work to which God had called them. We learn also how the Taurat was given to Moses, and in it these promises were recorded and fresh ones added. Prophets were raised up generation after generation, to reprove the Israelites for their sins and to explain God's will. These prophets, one succeeding another, gave teaching which gradually grew in spirituality, and taught those who were pious and faithful to attain to a fuller knowledge of God. prophet after prophet explained more and more clearly the work of the coming Saviour, telling beforehand where He was to be born, what He would do, and what He was to suffer. Then in the New Testament it is related how these prophecies were fulfilled, and how the Saviour commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, to make all nations disciples, and to await His promised return, to judge both the quick and the dead, to restore the earth itself to perfection, and to reign for ever and ever. The Acts and the Epistles tell us how this work of evangelisation was begun by the Apostles and the other disciples. Finally, the Book of Revelation prophetically narrates the conflict of the Christian church against Satan and wicked men, and the ultimate triumph of God's eternal kingdom. Thus the Old and the New Testaments taken together form one consecutive system of instruction and of the gradual revelation of the accomplishment of God's gracious purpose and the final victory of good. The Bible forms a marvellous structure, the Taurat being the foundation and the other books the completion of the glorious edifice. The whole of the perfected building shows forth the wisdom, the justice, and the unfathomable love of God Most Merciful, the almighty Creator of all things. In the Taurat God's gracious Purpose concerning men is so stated as to make it possible for them, through knowledge of the One True God, to have faith in Him, to serve Him acceptably, and thus to satisfy the yearnings of their spirits and to attain eternal bliss. In the books of the Prophets and in the Zabur this teaching gradually reaches higher levels. In these books God shows us how from the first He was training the children of Israel, in spite of their many sins and shortcomings, to be the teachers of the world in religious matters. He thus gradually through the prophets made it clear that the outward rites and ceremonies, in most cases originally taken from the heathen, but improved and sanctioned in the Taurat for a time for the use of Israel, were not of any value in themselves or as an end, though they were useful as means to the attainment of an end. This end seems to have been twofold: (1) to separate the Israelites from all other nations until the promised Deliverer should come, and (2) to reach them that the ceremonial ordinances of even a Divinely given law could not satisfy man's spirit nor please God, but that these were the shadows and symbols of true worship, since those who worship God acceptably must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Thus Samuel says: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22). In the Book of the Prophet Micah we are told that King Balak asked this question: "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" The answer that the Prophet then gave him showed how useless all sacrifices and all other rites were without the devotion of heart and life to the service of the living God. "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8). In full accordance with this teaching of the Old Testament prophets are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23,24).
When this lofty and spiritual teaching had thus been fully revealed, and when Atonement had been made for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), then chosen and trained witnesses, the apostles and other disciples of Christ, were sent forth to proclaim this good news everywhere, and to invite all men to accept the free gift of God, which is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), enabling them thus to rise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, and to endeavour to fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).
The doctrine that in time to come the adoration enjoined in the Taurat, and offered by means of animal sacrifices, incense and other outward rites and ceremonies, would be replaced by the spiritual worship of which these things were the types, and without which they were useless, and might easily become harmful (as is the husk or shell when the seed or nut is growing into a plant) was not a new one. This had been clearly taught in several passages of the Old Testament, for instance in Jeremiah 31:31-33:
"'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,' says the Lord. 'But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' says the Lord: 'I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'"
It is from this passage that the name of the New Covenant (Testament) is given to the second volume of the Bible.
The Lord Jesus Christ's words in John 4:21-24 teach the same lesson, that the temporary parts of the Law, and those parts which dealt with Jewish rites and ceremonies, were to be done away with in the fuller spirituality of the New Covenant which He was about to make with all who believed in Him, to whatever nation they might belong. Therefore He says to the woman of Samaria: "The hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father... But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." That not only the faithful Jews (Luke 2:29-32) but the most thoughtful of even the Samaritans understood that the Promised Messiah would introduce this New Covenant is clear from the Samaritan woman's reply to these words of Christ (John 4:25).
The Epistle of the Hebrews quotes the passage of the Prophet Jeremiah which we have given above, and points out that the mention of the future New Covenant implies that even in Jeremiah's time it was recognised that the Mosaic Covenant was old, and that it was therefore destined to give place gradually to the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13), which would not annul (Romans 3:31) but fulfil the types and spiritual teaching of the Taurat (Matthew 5:17,18).
Truth is in its very nature eternal and everlasting, and incapable of change or abrogation. The eternal truths of the Old Covenant must always remain true. The New Covenant, instead of abolishing them, taught them more clearly, and presented them in a form suited for all men in all ages. The Old Covenant was made with Israel alone, and was to be binding until its fulfilment of His Kingdom. Then, as Jeremiah foretold, the New Covenant was to be made with all true believers in Christ, with the spiritual Israel, the Israel of God, whether by birth Jews or Gentiles. It would thus be world-wide, as distinguished from the Mosaic Covenant. For the latter, as we have seen, was limited in its temporary parts, its rites and ordinances, to the one special nation which was being trained by means of it to become the disciples of the Promised Messiah and, through His grace, the religious teachers of the whole world. The husk in due time fell off, the seed grew and developed into a plant, into a tree. It could no longer be confined within the narrow bounds of the husk. But the seed was not destroyed and replaced by a new plant. It was developed into a tree, which is a very different thing.
Hence it is not correct to say that the Old Testament was abrogated by the New, except perhaps with respect to the local and temporary parts of its rites and ceremonies, which were enjoined on the Jews only, and on them merely for a time. The husk was let fall off the growing plant, but the latter grew and flourished, and still bears fruit to God's glory. Let it be again noted that to say this is quite different from saying that the Taurat was abrogated by the Gospel, unless it can be said that the blade of wheat destroys the seed from which it sprang. It does not destroy it; otherwise there would be no young shoot to spring up. The latter is the proof of the survival of the seed in a more vigorous form. it is not the destruction but the development of the germ from which it came forth. Only the husk is left behind, because the duty of the husk is done when the young shoot appears above the earth, and begins to drink in the sunlight that streams down upon it from heaven.
Let it not be overlooked that the precepts of the Taurat are of two different kinds, (1) the Ceremonial, and (2) the Moral. The former were binding on the Jewish nation alone, and for the most part did not become so until the Law was given at Sinai. They were not generally binding on Abraham: only the ordinance of circumcision (with possibly a few others) was enjoined on him. This fact is admitted by all. It is of great importance, because it shows that such ordinances were not always matters of obligation even for Abraham's descendants, still less were they binding upon other men. In the Taurat we learn that they were given hundreds of years after Abraham's time. They seem to have been appointed mainly, as has already been said, for two reasons: (1) To make a clear distinction between the Children of Israel and all other nations until the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom: thus keeping them free from the temptation to fall into the idolatry practised by the rest of the world. (2) To make them learn by experience that even divinely sanctioned rites and ceremonies could not satisfy man's spiritual needs, though some spiritual meaning underlay them, and must be sought. This search was a preparation for the fuller spiritual worship of which the Prophets taught so much (compare Psalm 51:16,17), and which was fully established by the Lord Jesus Christ. The ceremonial precepts of the Jewish Law were never imposed by God upon Gentiles. Even upon Jews they ceased to be binding when Christ's Kingdom had been fully established by His Resurrection from the dead.
But the Moral precepts, on the other hand, are of eternal obligation upon all men everywhere. They were included in the Shari`at (Law) given on Mount Sinai, but were binding on all men from the time of the creation of Adam, and will never cease to be binding. It was never right and in accordance with God's Law to commit adultery, to steal, to murder, to be an idolater, to worship any but the One True God. This Moral Law, being in accord with God's Most Holy Nature is therefore eternal and everlasting, and can never be abrogated. Hence it is clear that the fancy that the Injil has abrogated the Taurat is wrong, and is due to want of knowledge of the latter. The Injil has not abrogated the Taurat. On the contrary, it forms the complement of the Taurat and completes its teaching. Hence it is that in the New testament there are so many verses from the Old Testament quoted and explained. The Injil thus most truly confirms that Taurat, as indeed the Qur´an asserts: "And We caused Jesus the son of Mary to follow upon their footsteps, confirming what was before Him of the Taurat, and We gave Him the Injil" (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:50).
We must repeat that those Old testament precepts which are not binding upon Christians are merely those which are ceremonial, and were as ceremonies imposed only on the Israelites at Mount Sinai. even the latter are not annulled by the Gospel: they are fulfilled. For instance, in the Taurat God sanctioned and regulated the very ancient custom of animal sacrifice, which from very early days had been common to all nations. The Taurat commanded that different animals should be offered on different occasions and for different purposes. One of these purposes was to make atonement for sin. Yet it is clear that the sacrifice of animals can never take away human sin. Hence the prophet David said: "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering" (Psalm 51:16). In complete accordance with this is what we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, "Behold, I have come-- in the volume of the book it is written of Me-- to do Your will, O God." ' Previously saying, 'Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them' (which are offered according to the law), then He said, 'Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.' He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:1-10). The prophet Isaiah showed beforehand the spiritual meaning of such animal sacrifices by the wonderful prophecy of the Lamb of God (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), who, in God's "eternal purpose", had been "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). As this one perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world has been offered, animal sacrifices, which are merely types and shadows of it, are no longer needed. Hence Christians offer none. Nor do the Jews, since their Law forbids them to offer sacrifices except in Jerusalem, where the Temple stood; and as the Mosque of Umar now occupies its place, Muslims themselves prevent the Jews from there offering sacrifices. Instead, however, of slaying animals in sacrifice, Christians are bound to offer themselves, body, soul and spirit, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto the Living God, thus fulfilling the meaning which underlay the Whole Burnt Offerings of the Mosaic Law (compare Romans 12:1,2; 1 Peter 2:15).
Again, in the Taurat ablutions of the body are enjoined. For this doubtless there were two reasons. In the first place, God wishes us to keep our bodies clean and healthy, since He has made them. Filth of body generally leads to defilement of spirit. In the second place, it was intended that men should learn by experience that by washing the body the spirit is not purified from past sins, not the mind from evil thoughts and desires. Hence, to satisfy our spirits' need for holiness, without which no man can see the Lord, it became evident that Jewish ablutions were ineffective; that they were merely types and shadows of a true and spiritual purification, which can be obtained only through the blood of the Lamb of God, which through faith in Him cleanses from all sin. Therefore the true Christian should obey the direction of the Apostle who says, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). Both bodily and spiritual purification are necessary, but the former will not produce the latter.
Again, in the Taurat it was commanded that only in one place should sacrifices be offered to God (Deuteronomy 12:13,14), the place which God promised to choose "to put His Name there", that it might be considered in a typical sense to be His habitation (Deuteronomy 12:5). This place was at first Shiloh (Joshua 18:1), and afterwards Jerusalem. Yet King Solomon, who built the Temple, declared that it was not really God's dwelling, but only a sign of God's presence among His people, for He said: "Will God in very deed dwell on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27). Isaiah taught the same doctrine, for in his book we read: "For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isaiah 57:15). Our Lord Jesus Christ's teaching was, as we have seen, that the acceptableness of worship depends not on the place, but on the spirit of the worshipper (John 4:21-24). We have also seen that, after Christ had offered at Jerusalem the one perfect sacrifice of Himself, there was no longer any room for such sacrifices as had previously been offered. Hence there was no longer anyone special spot on earth appointed to offer them at. The New Covenant has admitted believers in Christ, of whatever nation they may be, to participation in all its blessings and privileges. it is necessary for each true Christian to offer himself to God, not in one special place, but in one special Person, that is to say, in Christ, to be a living sacrifice unto God. Thus the old command regarding sacrifice has been fulfilled with a new and higher meaning. And this took place at the moment when obedience to it, in its literal sense, was no longer requisite, beneficial, or indeed possible.
In the Taurat three special festivals were appointed to be observed by the Jews, and it was commanded that their males should in this way, thrice every year, present themselves before the Lord in the place which He should choose to set His Name there (Exodus 23:14,17; Deuteronomy 16:16). But when the Jews in process of time came to fancy that the more outward observance of these festivals, and the performance of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, quite apart from inward reverence and holiness, was acceptable to God Most High, and that such things were means of storing up merit, then His Prophets were commissioned to declare them to be thus rendered things abominable in His sight (Isaiah 1:14-17; Amos 5:21). Spiritual approach to God was the one thing really needful. That is attained in the New Covenant through a living faith ibn Christ's Atonement (Colossians 1:20.22; Hebrews 10:19-22).
Circumcision was appointed in the Taurat as a sign of the covenant between God on the one side and Abraham and his descendants on the other. But it implied that those who received this seal of circumcision bound themselves thereby to believe the promise that One descended from Abraham through his son Isaac should be the cause of the shedding of God's blessing on all nations (Genesis 17:10-14; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). Through Moses the same command was again given to Israel (Leviticus 12:3), though its object could not have been to distinguish the Israeiltes from the heathen, for many of the latter were also circumcised. It was doubtless intended to teach God's people the need of cutting off from their hearts all sensual desires. Hence in the Taurat itself the command is given, "Circumcise the foreskin of your heart" (Deuteronomy 10:16). This is explained in Deuteronomy 30:6, where the Israelites are told that love to God will alone drive out sensual desires and purify their hearts. The teaching of the new testament agrees with this (Romans 2:25,28,29).
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