In my previous posts I’ve mentioned the course I’ll be doing on the Quran and the NT with scholar of Islam, Javad Hashmi.  In the course I won’t myself be dealing with the Quran, since it’s not my expertise and I prefer as a rule talking about things I know about.  But in past years on the blog I have published some posts on aspects of the Quran and Islam that I AM able to say something about, and thought this would be a good time to re-air them.  Here’s one of them:


Those of you who follow the news have heard that a truly great manuscript discovery has been made public this week, coming out of the University of Birmingham, England.   The university has a very important collection of manuscripts, and for New Testament scholars it is famous for its Institute devoted to the study, analysis, and editing of Gospel manuscripts, an institute headed by my long-time friend and colleague David Parker, indisputably one of the top NT textual scholars in the world.

But the discovery that has been made is not connected to the New Testament.  It is connected to the Qur’an.  Since 1932 the university has had, among its collected works, a virtually full two page fragment of the Qur’an.   Recently they decided to see if they could come up with a (relatively) precise date for these pages.   And so they had a carbon-14 dating done.   The results are nothing less than astounding.  See, e.g., 

Let me say that carbon-14 dating is indeed a science, but it’s not a highly exact science.  It dates organic material based on the deterioration of its carbon-14 isotope, and so can give a range of dates that are statistically determined to be of relative accuracy.   Even so.  This dating is remarkable.   The dating was done by a lab devoted to such things in Oxford.    It turns out that there is a 95% chance that these pages were produced between 568 and 645 CE.  How good is that?  The prophet Mohammed, who (in traditional Islamic teaching) was responsible for producing the Qur’an was engaged in his active ministry in 610-632 CE.  These pages may have been produced during his lifetime or in a decade or so later.

In case anyone is missing the significance of that, here is a comparison.   The first time we have any two-page manuscript fragment of the New Testament is from around the year 200 CE.  That’s 170 years after Jesus’ death in 30 CE.  Imagine if we found two pages of text that contain portions, say, of the Sermon on the Mount, in almost exactly the same form as we have them in what is now our Gospel of Matthew, and suppose that these pages received a carbon-14 dating of 30 BCE – 40 CE.   Would we be ecstatic, OR WHAT???

Since I am a scholar of early Christianity rather than Islam, this discovery in Birmingham raises all sorts of questions for me that it would not raise for any of my Muslim friends and neighbors.  One is a historical question, and one is a question of modern Christian attempts to “prove” the “truth claims” of Christianity.

My historical question is this.   If these pages of the Qur’an do indeed show that the text of the Qur’an is virtually the same in, say 630-40 CE as it is in 1630-40 as it is in 2015, that would suggest that Muslims are indeed correct that at least in some circles (it would obviously be impossible to prove that it was true in *all* circles), scribes of the Qur’an simply didn’t change it.   The made sure they copied it the same, every time, word for word.   Now it *may* be that these newly-dated fragments have significant textual variants from the rest of the manuscript tradition of the Qur’an, and if they do, that too will be immensely interesting.  But my sense is that they must not be much, if at all different, otherwise *that* is the story that would be all over the news.

And so back to my question.  If Muslim scholars over the centuries – from the very beginning – made dead sure that when they copied their sacred text they didn’t change anything, why didn’t Christian scribes do the same thing???   Here I should stress that within Judaism as well, at least in the Middle Ages, there was exorbitant care taken to ensure that every page, every sentence, every word, every letter of the Torah was copied with complete and resolute accuracy (that’s not true for an earlier period of Judaism, to be sure; but it became true in Judaism in a way that never, ever was true in Christianity).  Christian scribes did not do the same thing.   We have many thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament.  They all have mistakes in them.   Lots of accidental mistakes (hundreds of thousands) from times that scribes were inept, inattentive, sleepy, or otherwise careless; and even lots of mistakes that appear to be places that scribes altered the text to make them say something other than what it originally said.

You don’t appear to get that with the Qur’an.  And so my historical question.  Why was that?  For Christians the New Testament was a sacred book, the Word of God.  Why didn’t they *make sure* that it never got changed?  I can understand on one level why they didn’t.  The scribes who copied it, especially in the early period, were not professionals.  In the early centuries, the copyists were simply the local people who happened to be literate who could do a decent job.  And they made lots of mistakes and changed the text in places intentionally.  But why didn’t anyone go to the trouble of making sure that didn’t happen?  It’s a genuine question.

My second point has to do with modern attempts to defend the truth of Christianity.  I hear a certain perspective expressed a LOT by Christian apologists who are determined to show that Christianity is true (and that, as a result, not just non-belief but all other religions are flat-out wrong).  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this view I would buy a summer home in Provence.  It is this:  since the New Testament is the best attested book from the ancient world, we can trust it.

There are so many problems with this view that it’s hard to know even where to begin in addressing it.   But let me just say two things about it.   The first is that even though it is absolutely true (as I’ve been emphasizing in my posts over the past week or two) that we have more manuscripts of the New Testament than for any other book from Greek and Roman antiquity – far, far more – these manuscripts all differ from one another and contains many thousands (hundreds of thousands) of differences among them, so that even though we can be relatively sure of what the authors wrote most of the time, there are numerous places of disagreement and some of these places really matter.  There are some passages where we will probably never know the exact wording.

That may not be the case with the Qur’an.

And that raises my second point, which is really THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ONE.  The fact that you do (or do not) know what a book originally said, has no bearing – no bearing at all, not a single bearing – on the question of whether you can trust it or not.  It is completely irrelevant to the question.  An absolute non sequitur.   I wish Christian apologists would learn this, instead of continuously filling people’s heads with nonsense.  Being the best-attested book from antiquity has no bearing on the question of whether the things that are said in the New Testament are true.  No bearing at all.

I can prove that.   Take a Christian fundamentalist apologist and ask him whether Mein Kampf (Hitler’s autobiography) or The Communist Manifesto (a writing of a very different order indeed!) or … well, take your pick of a modern book – whether there are serious textual problems with such writings so that you do not know what the author wrote.   The answer is NO.   There is not a huge question about how well these books are attested.  They are extraordinarily well attested.  And here’s the point:  Does the fact these books are well attested prove that you can trust them?  That what they say is true?   Of course not.  It’s completely irrelevant.  Whether you can trust a writing and accept its views as true is unrelated to the question of how well it is attested.Whether you can trust a writing and accept its views as true is unrelated to the question of how well it is attested.

The New Testament is well attested.  Does that mean you can trust that what it says is true?  Of course not.  You have to make that judgment on *OTHER* grounds.

And now we appear to have evidence – better evidence than, say, for the Gospel of Matthew, or  Paul’s letter to the Romans, or the epistle to the Hebrews – that the Qur’an was (at least by some scribes) very accurately copied over the centuries from the time it was produced.  Does that “prove” that you can trust what it has to say?  Of course not.   But for historians it is an absolutely stunning, marvelous, and wonderful discovery nonetheless.


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2024-04-21T16:28:52-04:00April 23rd, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

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  1. Hormiga April 23, 2024 at 11:46 am

    How does this manuscript compare to the palimpsest Quran found in Sanaa?

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:23 pm

      I’m not sure.

    • tom.hennell May 1, 2024 at 11:29 am

      If we take the 2 leaves in Birmingham together with the 16 from the same manuscripts in Paris (BNF Arabe 328c);

      – then this manuscript witnesses the same ‘Uthmanic text-type” as the upper writing in the Sanaa palimpsest; so exactly the same words in the same order, organised into the same chapters in the same order. They differ in some verse divisions, in some word forms, and in the extent to which short vowels and long consonants are noted with diacritical signs.

      Whereas the erased lower writing in the palimpsest does not conform to the Uthmanic text-type – indeed the only surviving manuscript Qur’an text that does not do so;

      – some chapters are in a different order;
      – word order within verses is sometimes different;
      – a number of words are replaced with (near) synonyms;
      – a complete verse is absent;
      – the ‘Basmala’ formula is added before the ninth chapter (contrary to otherwise universal practice);
      – a number of phrases are reworded, almost always in longer form.

      Clearly the lower writing is earlier than the upper writing; but there does not appear to be any ‘internal’ basis for critically assessing the lower *text* as earlier – e.g. fewer harmonisations, rougher expressions, variant theology.

      • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:46 pm

        Interesting. Thanks.

        • tom.hennell May 1, 2024 at 8:39 pm

          There does seem to be a wider issue here Bart; in that the “rules of thumb” commonly applied in New Testament textual criticism don’t seem to work for variant readings in the Qur’an. The criterion of dissimilarity is no use when the alternatives are equally similar; the criterion of independent attestation is of no use when almost all texts are clearly related to one another.

          For example, one manuscript reads “He will gather them together”; while another reads “We will gather them together”. This is a meaningful variant; but how might you determine which reading is likely to be earlier?

          Unexpectedly however, the critical method that does seem to work is stemmatics. Some 20 years ago, Michael Cook demonstrated that the forty ‘recognised’ variants within the consonantal skeleton of the Qur’an – as reported by medieval commentators – can be arranged into stemmatic trees of regional families. Then recently, Hythem Sidky ‘On the Regionality of Qur’anic Codices’ has shown that the oldest known Qur’ans (for instance from radiocarbon dating) do indeed tend to conform to one or another of Cook’s families in respect of these forty consonantal variants.

          • BDEhrman May 6, 2024 at 1:20 pm

            I would say the criterion of dissimilarity gets used in textual criticism, unless you are referring to the lectio difficilior. But yes, therte are very heated debates about transmission issues with respect to the quran, and the literature is wideranging in its perspectives.

  2. Serene April 23, 2024 at 2:34 pm

    This dating isn’t too far from the Early Church.

    Archaeology confirms that Nabonidus united with the Quedarites, the lineage claimed for Mohammad. Also the “world’s first archaeologist”, he had a team excavate and translate the earliest Sumerian texts. We have his two museums.

    Consensus is this is polemicized in Daniel 5, The Writing On The Wall. Obscure Nabonidus swapped for famous Nebuchadnezzer, or conflated, which I think happens with Bar-Abbas.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God” —

    In the beginning was cuneiform, and in cuneiform, God was a term of address incarnated/embodied by successive people. Narram-Sin, Akhenaten, Nabonidus and other emperors with vassals in the frontier Levant were proclaimed a Living God.

    I believe the ‘wandering Arameans’ (there’s settled Arameams with kingdoms circa the Patriarchal Age) of the moon god Yah/Suen/the Traveler — top god of Sargon of Akkad’s lineage — spread civilization (religion, literacy, tech) from the cradle of Mesopotamia.

    Sun gods = agriculturalists.
    Moon god = pastoralists. Semetic-speakers rule Mesopotamia by uniting these lineages.

    Nabonidus’ mother, high priestess for Suen, has an Aramean name. Suen’s temple centers are Ur and Harran.

    As tribes awaken to literacy or their regions become more important, perhaps the -El theophoric folk instruct them.

  3. OmarRobb April 23, 2024 at 3:52 pm

    1# The preservation of the Quran can logically be explained:

    1.1# The Quran is initially an oral book, and it was presented first time as an oral book. In comparison, the Torah and the Gospels were presented first time as written books.

    1.2# From the start, people were encouraged to memorize and recite the Quran, specially that reciting parts of the Quran is required during the 5 daily prayers.

    1.3# We can assume that few individuals would have solid strong memory. These few would likely memorize the entire Quran and often became Imams and scholars. It is customary for these Imams and scholars to recite the entire Quran in the group prayers in the month of Ramadan (one chapter of the Quran every day in that month).

    1.4# All the above would have made the Quran constantly active, and even in our current date, there are so many people who have memorized the entire Quran.

    1.5# Unlike the Gospels and the five books of the Torah, which are not poetic literature, the Quran is written in a poetic style.


    • OmarRobb April 23, 2024 at 3:53 pm


      It’s important to clarify that the Quran does not follow the style of Arabic poetry, but still, the Quran is structured with a musical and rhythmic flow, making it easier to memorize. To have a sense of this then just search Youtube for Quran recitation and listen to it. I would suggest the following link which is Surah Maryam in a group prayer:

      1.6# Additionally, writing the Quran served as a memory aid. It was also valued by those unable to memorize the entire Quran, as it was customary from the ancient times to privately recite the entire Quran once a month.

      1.7# So even if there were bad or ill-intentioned scribes, there were still overwhelming numbers of scholars who memorized the entire Quran, which would block the impact and output of these of scribes.

      2# Regarding the reliability of data (any data):

      It is evident that authentic and non-contradictory data does not automatically mean the data is reliable (as you have clarified). However, reliable data does require authenticity and absence of contradictions. Therefore, authenticity and non-contradictions are prerequisites for reliability, but not the other way around.

  4. tcasto April 23, 2024 at 8:01 pm

    My understanding is that Islam was on oral tradition. The Prophet would return and report that the angel had said “speak thus”. The Quran wasn’t compiled until sometime after the Prophet’s death. Or am I in error?

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:29 pm

      Yes, the revelation came to him which he transmitted orally.

  5. JackieP April 23, 2024 at 10:20 pm

    Dr Ehrman, off topic question. I just finished listening to your podcast on Job. How do conservative Christians/evangelicals view Job (and Jonah) in terms of historicity in your experience? Do they think Job was an actual person and went through the tribulations described? Or do they view it more as a parable-type story? Just how literally do they take it as opposed to some other view?

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:29 pm

      That’s a great question. I don’t know. I suppose they do think of him as a historical figure? Maybe someone else knows.

      • RolynTrotter April 27, 2024 at 10:32 am

        I listen to evangelical radio pretty frequently. A couple weeks back a pastor said explicitly that Jonah was literally historical, and cited Matthew 12:40 to claim Jesus himself confirms that belief –specifically the belly of the whale being historical.

        Extremely flimsy reading there, but that’s what I heard from one guy on one show.

        • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:43 am

          Yup, there are folk like that! Now that you mention it, I suppose I was one of them in my late teens!

      • meohanlon April 30, 2024 at 4:06 pm

        I’ve often wondered though if the ancients though that stories like Job or Jonah or even the Genesis accounts of creation were meant to be taken as literal history (especially if they were familiar with the contradictory accounts in Genesis)? Are there any ancient commentaries on that issue?

        I read vaguely recall reading that Josephus, writing in relatively ancient times, didn’t necessarily accept all Biblical accounts as accurate history, though I would assume he subscribed to their parabolic significance. To narrow the question, would there any ‘more’ reason for the ancients to accept (especially some of the more outlandish stories) with a clear moral as historical, than to assume the same about Jesus’ parables?

        Sometimes historicity is important to the understanding of a story in the Bible – for instance, prophetic works discussing the political and social context of their day, but to take other stories, as historical, any more so than Jesus’ parables, seems even to be missing the point of them. If they’re there to communicate moral truths in metaphorical terms, why would evangelicals need for them to be historical? If, in some cases, they do understand a story as parable, where do they draw the line?

        • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:39 pm

          The ancient that *talk* about these narratives do take them as historical, even if they draw broader lessons from them. Most everyone recognized the difference between a parable, a novel, and a historical narrative; I’d say Jonah and Ruth, e.g., are presented as historical narratives, even if in fact they were not. Jesus’ parables are presented as parables. And, say, Achilles Tatius’s Leucippe and Clitophon, is presented as a novel, and was always read that way.

  6. RizwanAhmed April 24, 2024 at 12:09 pm

    “You don’t appear to get that with the Qur’an. And so my historical question. Why was that? ”

    I would say that one of the biggest differences between the Gospels and the Quran is that the Quran was composed as an oral text that was meant to be memorized and was mass transmitted during the life of the Prophet himself. People were reciting parts of it at least 5 times a day for many many years before Muhammad’s passing. The Quran has a rhythmic verse structure and when recited properly, it also has what’s called “tajweed”, where you hold and elongate certain words which makes it sound almost like a song. I’d say it’s easier to memorize a song than a historical narrative. While we do have variance within the pronunciation of words, the consonant skeleton appears to be well preserved. By the time the Quran came to be written, it was already a well known text that was being recited daily by tens of thousands of people who had been alive during the birth of Islam. It would have been immediately noticeable if anyone tried altering it in any major way.

  7. dankoh April 24, 2024 at 12:58 pm

    Even before the Common Era, the Torah had acquired sufficient sanctity that only trained, professional scribes (sofrim) could make acceptable copies. It seems that early Christians did not rely (or did not rely exclusively) on a similar cadre, which would explain why we have far more variations in the Christian sacred texts than in the Jewish ones.

    That said, we still do have variant readings even in the Torah that appear to be scribal mistakes. These are labelled k’tiv-q’rah – write it this way, but read it that way. We also don’t know how many changes may have been made prior to the standardization of the Torah text and prior to the establishment of sofrim. Additionally, there are far more k’tiv-q’rah labels in the Prophets and the Writings, which gradually acquired their sacred status later on and so would be more vulnerable to scribal variants.

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:33 pm

      What evidence do you know for that? If it’s true, it would be hard to explain the multiple texual forms.

      • dankoh April 27, 2024 at 12:48 pm

        Commenting on 2 Macc. 2:13-15, as well as Josephus on the reliability of the Biblical books as opposed to Greek texts (Against Apion 1.8), M. H. Segal argues: “It may be assumed that the official body of scribes engaged in the task of supplying new copies of the scriptures for the use of the Temple and synagogues and schools did not work with the carelessness which characterized the individual and unofficial scribes working each for himself in previous generations.” (“The Promulgation of the Authoritative Text”, JBL March 1953, 41). He adds that of course there were variant readings, and that the scribes had to decide which one to use.

        But different scribes may well have preserved the version they had in front of them, which is why we have those multiple forms.

        I’m focusing only on what I understand to be the emergence of a cadre of trained sofrim who could be trusted (or at least, expected) to faithfully copy the Torah text (the one in front of them, anyway), as opposed to the more amateur efforts of early Christian copyists.

        • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:45 am

          My view is that cannot be assumed at all. I think since the 1950s scholarship has developed other understandings of the texztual situation.

      • dankoh April 27, 2024 at 12:50 pm

        Additional note: I’m only talking about the Torah here. I think that the reason we see more variations (in the Masoretic Text) in the Prophets and Writings than in the Torah is that they acquired their sacred status later on, and so there may have been less insistence on a trained scribe for them.

    • OmarRobb April 27, 2024 at 4:09 am

      The preservation of the Torah through the generations did flow a strict order as you have clarified here. However, two events need to be taken into consideration:

      1# The Babylonian exile (587 – 537 BC) presented about 50 years gap in this preservation process (assuming that this preservation process was only held in Jerusalem). Few years after this gap, Ezra (according to the Jewish tradition) collected/recompiled the Torah. This process of collecting is not clear, but I would assume he found some old pages of the Torah, and he might have extracted some data from the memory of the people around. However, the 50 years gap is large, therefore, many errors probably have entered the final edition of this collecting process.

      2# The events of 70AD and 135AD probably have disturbed the preservation process (assuming also that this preservation was only held in Jerusalem). The gaps in these disturbances are short, but it might explain some of the differences between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the current Hebrew bible.

      • dankoh April 27, 2024 at 1:08 pm

        It is far more likely that at the time of the Babylonian exile, the Torah did not exist in anything like the form we have it today. Most likely, it was still a collection of disparate manuscripts along the lines of the JEPD division which is generally accepted in principle by most scholars, though argument continues (naturally!) on the details and even on the broad divisions. We also don’t know exactly what form of the law Ezra brought back to Jerusalem. In addition, Antiochus’s persecutions destroyed many manuscripts and reconstructing them took time – though that is possibly the time when trained copyists began to work. In any event, Ezra’s version is almost certainly not the “final edition” we have now.

        I think it unlikely that the Roman-Jewish conflict disrupted the “preservation process” that much; by that time, copies were spread all over the diaspora. That is not to say that the copies were all uniform. And the DSS are not the only manuscripts that differ from the Masoretic text (see Robert Alter for more info).

  8. Serene April 24, 2024 at 1:07 pm

    So Hebrews are both Jewish and Arabs in the Biblical explanation, right? Eber is the ancestor of Abraham, from whom both Israel and Ishmael descend.

    From my very amateur research, both Israel and Ishmael originate as king names in intermarrying Aramean kingdoms, just a little Canaanized:

    [servant of/born of/protected by] + [theophoric] is the basic ancient Semetic recipe:

    •Israel — if Isra-El (hyphens are modern conventions), SR is the King Sarai line. Like Abraham’s Sara. Nobles had similar names for men/women, think Herod/Herodias, Gamaliel/Gamalat.

    •Ishmael – If Ishma-El, Ishma-Dagon is the king line. If a ‘sh’ shibboleth is involved, Yasmah-Hadad and Samu-El through Kings Sumu-Epu and Sumu-Dagon.

    Amorite-to-Aramean nomads switch out their theophoric when planting in a new place. Imo, they seem to just be translating ‘Supreme God’? Archaeologists note Yakub-Har and Yak-Baal as one king of multiple regions.

    Archaeologists think the name originates in Mesopotamia as Jacob-El. The Bible strips the theophoric from non-regnal names, like the Jewish Ishma of 1 Chronicles 4:3,

    I- upfront seems repeated with Ishmael and Issachar, if he’s Soker-Har, descendant of Jacob-Har. Semetic Hyksos.

    The consonantal abjad is brilliant likely because the *accent* shifts O to A to E as you go West. U going Northwest. I predominates around Mari, I think?

    • dankoh April 24, 2024 at 9:58 pm

      In Gen. 32:28, the angel explains to Jacob that his name is now Israel (ישראל) because he has contended (שרה, pronounced ‘sarah’) with אל ‘El’ – God. (There is no reason to connect שרה with a king nor with Abraham’s wife. The same verb, incidentally, appears in Hos. 12:4 (12:3 in some editions). The name is usually translated as “he who wrestles with/contends with/strives with [the god] El” but can also be rendered as “El strives” or even “EL prevails.” Your explanation would require “Israel” to mean “[King] Sarai is El[God]” which is not how theophorics (a god-name embedded in a personal name) operated.

      ישמעאל – Ishamael – comes from שמע – to hear – meaning “God hears.”

      The Genesis passage is most likely a later explanation for the tribal name, but what that shows is that El is very likely the earliest (or one of the earliest) gods the Israelites worshiped. Later on, the theorphoric was more likely to reference Yahweh rather than El: ‘yah’ or ‘yahu’ as an ending (Adonijah – The Lord is God) or ‘Yo’/’Ye’ (Jo) at the beginning (Yehonatan – Jonathan – God has given).disabledupes{7bbaae6c086274e3f66b8ed34fb9b055}disabledupes

      • Serene April 26, 2024 at 1:45 am

        Dankoh, thanks for making a great point on when El and Yah theophorics introduce themselves, it’s helping me clarify.

        Are you agreeing with the academic consensus that the worship of Yah or Yahweh was imported to Canaan, while the inscriptions to El were earlier?

        Or are you saying Yahweh is original to Judaea? Hosea 2:16 seems to says Yahweh used to be called Baal.

        YahwehElohim looks to me like a syncretism like PtahSokerOsiris. One god merged from three as “mixed multitudes” merged. It was the norm to do this.

        My read would be the nomadic Aramean god Yah + W (plural) + Ha the Desert Protector God. Elohim is El + ohim (plural) for maybe same reason — the Supreme God of all Canaan tribes.

        Academic consensus seems to approach the Bible’s explanations of name meanings as ‘folk etymologies’, especially the foreign names not from Canaan/Judaea, like the “wandering Aramean” Jacob/Israel.

        For example, Moses‘ name as an Egyptian noble wouldn’t mean “drawn from the water”, but likely “born of”, customary for Egyptian nobles. Heiroglyphics are hard. The folk etymology may preserve the importance of Sargon typology, a Semetic heir adoption by Empire.

        • dankoh April 26, 2024 at 9:50 am

          El is almost certainly older than Yahweh in the Israelite pantheon, possibly even the oldest. The scholarly consensus, as far as I am aware, is that El is most likely from the north of Canaan, maybe Phoenician or Ugaritic. There is a solid line of thought that El was originally the “chief” of the gods and that Yahweh at some point was one of the ones under El. Yahweh is more likely from the south, perhaps an Edomite god. Michael Stahl, “The Historical Origins of the Biblical God Yahweh” (on, 2020) has a good summary of current scholarly thinking. He and others (Mark Smith, Nadav Na’aman, etc.) think that El was gradually subsumed into Yahweh, while Baal became a competitor god. “Elohim” has different meanings at different times and its relationship to Yahweh is complex. I am not aware of any particular attempt to explain the derivation of “Yahweh,” but I don’t think “w” can be read as a plural; languages generally don’t put a plural marker in the middle of a word.

          Given Canaan’s importance as a crossroads between Egypt and Mesopotamia/Hatti, one would expect any number of foreign influences that would become local.

  9. fergmcb April 25, 2024 at 7:49 am

    “Take a Christian fundamentalist apologist and ask him whether Mein Kampf (Hitler’s autobiography) or The Communist Manifesto (a writing of a very different order indeed!) …”

    For fun, you should be asking apologists to consider the textual accuracy of Misquoting Jesus. You might get a stronger reaction than Mein Kampf!

  10. mwbaugh April 25, 2024 at 7:27 pm

    I wonder how this year number of manuscripts of the Quran compares to the number of New Testament manuscripts? It seems to me that if far fewer manuscripts were made, that could help explain why the Quran has fewer variations. For one thing, more manuscripts means more opportunity for mistakes. For another, if copying, the Quran is left to a smaller number of people, possibly more educated, you could get more consistent results.

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:44 pm

      I”m afraid I don’t konw. I guess we’ll find out at my course on May 4-5!

  11. OmarRobb April 26, 2024 at 1:05 am

    Hi Bart,

    As this post is about the Quran, then I would like to return back to your interview in MythVision, titled: Do Muslims Have The Correct Version of Jesus (about 2 years ago). You and Derek highlighted that the similarities between the Quran and the Historical Jesus were only that Jesus was a man and a prophet.

    But there are more similarities that I would like to highlight here. However, the discussion of these similarities would cover about 5 comments, therefore, I preferred (if this is OK) to put them in one pdf file and to provide the link here:

  12. Serene April 26, 2024 at 4:10 am

    So I think the academic consensus is that Yahweh and El merged in syncretization.

    I’m just noting that Midianites, who are associated with Moses first encountering the name Yahweh, are considered to be a multicultural confederacy of nomads traveling the desert. Could that include “wandering Arameans” (Syrians) and folks with exposure to the Egyptized Desert Protector god who first appears in Egypt in Hatseput’s time?

    So, Yah is a Supreme God if you go by the Sargonid Dynasty.
    Yah becomes Iah and Aah as you go East. If the Canaanite Supreme God El was syncretized with the Aramean nomad Supreme God Aah, seems like you get something interesting?

    Syncretization typically drops repeated letters, too.

    Nabataeans, called kings of the Arabs, had lots of well-done syncretic sculptures. Zeus-Dushara is just one example. It’s easy to tell that the sculptures merged different deities, because there’s the headwear of one with the accessory of another. Would this be as easy to notice in aniconic communities?

    Also, Josephus wrote that Midianites were King Midian’s dynasty that preceded Nabataeans, archaeology confirms. So when did syncretism start?

    Studying this gives me more weight of evidence to believe benevolent guidance.

  13. DirkCampbell May 5, 2024 at 10:10 am

    ‘I don’t think “w” can be read as a plural; languages generally don’t put a plural marker in the middle of a word.’

    How about Arabic? qaimah/qawaim, lists/lists; barij/bawarij, battleship/battleships; jawis/jawawis, peacock/peacocks; saruh/sawarih, rocket/rockets; hasib/hawasib, computer/computers

    (From the Wikipedia article – I don’t speak Arabic though I have a slight familiarity with bits of it.)

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