Most Muslims argue that the Quran is absolutely perfect in every way: it represents God’s words, accurately recorded, with no contradictions, and no textual changes by scribes.  Most fundamentalist Christians argue the same thing about the New Testament.  Is either one true?

I’m pleased to announce that I will be hosting a special event on May 4-5, an eight-lecture course on “The Bible and the Quran: Assessing their Historical Problems.”   I will be giving half the lectures discussing textual, literary, and historical problems connected with the New Testament, and an expert on Islam, Javad Hashmi, will be dealing with the SAME problems with the Quran.

Now THIS is something you’ve never heard before.   It is not connected directly with the blog (except to the extent that I’m involved with both and that blog people will certainly be interested in it!).  I myself am planning on learning a ton.   Here is some information on it:

*******************************

Overview

This course will consist of eight 45-50 minute lectures, alternating between Christianity and Islam, exploring the Bible and the Quran using the latest historical scholarship.  To our knowledge this is the first publicly offered course to explore the origins of Islam in an academic and historical-critical way, and the first to take seriously the historical problems posed by the Quran in comparison with those of the Christian Bible.

From the earliest of times, faithful Christians and Muslims have held their respective scriptures to be divinely inspired, providentially preserved, and infallible. Yet, modern historians and critical scholars have challenged many long-held traditional ideas about the Bible and the Quran. In this course, we will explore academic views of these sacred texts and ask: Do we have access to the original texts of the New Testament and the Quran? Who wrote them and how certain can we be that they have been reliably transmitted to us?  Are the contents of the Bible and Quran historically and scientifically accurate? Or are these texts suffused with ancient myths and legends? What does all this tell us about the authors of the texts and their respective environments?

Based on such analyses, this lecture series will also explore the difficulties posed by these scriptures for knowing about the  historical figures of Jesus and Muhammad. In what ways do scholarly historical reconstructions align with popular religious perspectives, and in what ways do they diverge?

 

After outlining the basic historical problems related to the scriptural texts and founding figures of Christianity and Islam, we will then turn to the specific topic of scripture and violence, asking the tough question:   Can we blame the Bible and the Quran for the long history of hatred, intolerance, and violence in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim contexts?

In the end, we will explore a key the provocative issue: Is it even possible for faithful Christians and Muslims to study their scriptures historically, critically, and honestly?

 

Y’all know who I am.  But who is Javad Hashmi?  I’ve talked with him over the past few months and think that he is extremely intelligent, well-informed, clear,and interesting.  And his views of the Quran, as a Muslim intellectual, are very different from what one normally reads and hears, based on his historical scholarsip.

Here is a brief bit on him.

Javad T. Hashmi is a PhD candidate in the Study of Religion (Islamic Studies) at Harvard University, specializing in Quranic Studies, Islamic origins, and the historical Muhammad. Additionally, he focuses on the question of religion and violence. He has earned bachelors and masters degrees in Arabic & Islamic Studies from UC Berkeley and Harvard, respectively. His doctoral dissertation focuses on the ethics of war and peace in the Quran and during the lifetime of the historical Muhammad. Dr. Hashmi is also a board-certified emergency physician and was formerly a Fellow of Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School, specializing in Islamic (bio)ethics.

I’ll say a few more things about the actual lectures we’ll be giving in the next post.  But if you’ve already heard enough, you can register for it here:  https://ehrman.thrivecart.com/bibleandquran

*********************

 (NOT to put too much significance on the fact, but when I just now was getting ready to post this announcement I saw that the word total came to 666.  Really)  (BTW: for a $5 discount at registration, just enter Blog5)

 

Over $2 Million Donated to Charity!

We have two goals at Ehrman Blog. One is to increase your knowledge of the New Testament and early Christianity. The other is to raise money for charity! In fact, in 2022, we raised over $360,000 for the charities below.

Become a Member Today!

2024-04-21T16:14:37-04:00April 20th, 2024|Public Forum|

Share Bart’s Post on These Platforms

47 Comments

  1. Zena April 20, 2024 at 8:02 am

    Here is an apparent logical conundrum that I would like an Islam scholar to address:
    *Jesus was male, therefore his sex chromosomes were XY.
    *Mary was female, therefore hers were XX.
    *For a male, the X chromosome can come only from the biological mother and the Y from only the biological father. A mother does not have a Y chromosome to pass on to an offspring.
    *Muslims affirm the virgin birth, yet deny that Jesus was begotten by God
    *What entity then, if not God, do Muslims believe was the source of Jesus’ Y chromosome?

    • lenak17 April 23, 2024 at 3:56 pm

      This does not prove anything as Christians also affirm his birth to be miraculous just like Muslims do.

      • Zena April 27, 2024 at 7:12 am

        You are correct, both faiths affirm Jesus’ birth to have been miraculous.

        But, with respect, my point was this: There is no way around the fact that whoever has provided the Y chromosome for an individual, by whatever means (intercourse, IVF, surrogacy, miracle) is that individual’s biological father.

      • Zena April 29, 2024 at 5:27 am

        Christians affirm that God provided Jesus’ Y chromosome by way of a miracle, and affirm that God was Jesus’ father. This seems logical.

        Muslims affirm that God provided Jesus’ Y chromosome by way of a miracle, but deny that God was Jesus’ father. This seems illogical.

    • Zena April 25, 2024 at 11:08 am

      Here’s an explanation I came across. Mary had a genetic abnormality, Kleinfelter’s Syndrome, in which the afflicted individual has XXY chromosomes. So, Mary could have passed both an X and a Y on to Jesus, and thus she was both his mother and his father. But… Kleinfelter’s afflicts males, not females. Nevertheless, it is argued, Mary, in spite of being a woman, did have this genetic disorder.

      Hmmm. Anyone else have an explanation?

    • OmarRobb May 1, 2024 at 6:21 pm

      In Quran 3:59: {Indeed, the example of Jesus in the sight of Allah is like that of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him, “Be!” And he was! (translated by Quran.com)}.

      This verse has been used for so many arguments:

      # If some people think that Jesus is a God because he has no father, then Adam should be a much greater God because he has no father and no mother.

      # Also, some could argue: if it is surprising that Jesus had the Y chromosome without a father, then it is much more surprising that Adam had the YX chromosomes without a father or a mother.

      In a nutshell, if you believe in the creation of Adam then the creation of Adam is much much more miraculous than the creation of Jesus.

      • Zena May 1, 2024 at 7:17 pm

        I believe that the Adam creation narrative is a myth. The evidence that human beings evolved from earlier primate species in Africa some 200-300k years ago is unequivocal.

      • Zena May 3, 2024 at 5:42 am

        If God created Jesus from dust, and Jesus was born of Mary, then God must have first put dust into Mary’s uterus. Then, God said “Be” and there Jesus was, at an embryonic stage of development, already with his XY chromosomes, & later to be born.

        With this line of thinking, Mary must have been a surrogate mother, carrying Jesus in her womb but not having contributed genetically. This would be a better logic fit with the claim that God had not “begotten” Jesus, in the sense that God’s Y did not unite with Mary’s X. Instead, both X and Y were from God.

        So, here might be a way out of the logical conundrum I had previously identified. Nevertheless, I personally continue to prefer the Christian version of Jesus’ origin.

        • rickgill May 15, 2024 at 5:08 am

          > in the sense that God’s Y did not unite with Mary’s X. Instead, both X and Y were from God.

          you got an assumption here that when god creates he has something from himself which unites with mary. does this mean god is both x n y because at one point in time mary did not exist. so did the woman or monkey mary came from had gods x n y?

    • OmarRobb May 8, 2024 at 4:15 am

      If you don’t believe in the creation of Adam, then (by default) you don’t believe in miraculous birth of Jesus, therefore, the Y chromosome of Jesus is not an issue for you.

      However, your original question was directed towards Muslims, asking them about the Y chromosome. In essence, you were asking then how they can incorporate the Y chromosome into their beliefs. Therefore, the response from Muslims will be based on their own beliefs, not yours. Therefore, the answer you receive will not fit with your belief, but rather with their beliefs.

      Now …. we (the Muslims) don’t know the technical specifications and processes that created Adam or Jesus, but we know that God has power over the laws of nature. Therefore, as we believe in the creation of Adam (with his XY chromosomes), then the creation of Jesus (with his Y chromosome) should not be surprising to us; because the creation of Adam is much more miraculous, and this is clearly understood from Quran 3:59.

      So, yes, I do understand that you don’t belief in all the above, but you were asking the Muslims about their beliefs, therefore, you should expect the answer to be from their own beliefs.

      • Zena May 13, 2024 at 7:14 am

        Thank you for your response. Just for the record, I do believe in the miraculous birth of Jesus. Whether both of his chromosomes (XY) or just the Y came from God I have no idea. The miraculous birth narrative of Jesus is neither refuted nor confirmed by objective evidence, but is supported by much circumstantial evidence, and so IMHO is a matter of faith.

        The miraculous creation narrative of human beings, on the other hand, is strongly refuted by objective evidence. I was brought up in a religious tradition (Roman Catholic) that insisted on the literal historical interpretation of Genesis. In the 3rd grade, I got myself in trouble with the nuns when I asked about dinosaurs.

        I respectfully acknowledge that many good and faithful people will disagree with me. However, as I see it, if a truth claim is clearly refuted by objective evidence, I am not going to accept that truth claim. The genre, I am going to conclude, must have been something other than literal historical narrative. Myth, allegory, fiction, parable, poetry are all legitimate literary forms.

        • OmarRobb May 16, 2024 at 7:31 am

          How the miraculous birth is not refuted by objective evidence!

          I think we might have different understanding for the meaning of “evidences”. I think it has been regarded as a fact (which is supported by numerous evidences) that since millions of years ago, every single individual of the mammal species has a father and a mother.

          However, the people of most religions have claims of rational evidences to indicate that their scriptures is from God who has power over nature. These people would follow the natural explanations (according to their knowledge) unless it has been clarified otherwise by their scriptures. And this is the root for the miraculous birth of Jesus which is only supported by the scriptures and “nothing else”.

          But surprisingly, the origin of humans is still a serious scientific puzzle. Just to clarify, there are no verses in the Quran that reject the theory of evolution except in the origin of humans, and humans are just one among one-billion species, therefore, the gap between the Quran and evolution is just “one over one-billion”.

          This puzzle is related to the “missing link”, and I did write about it, in section-2 in the following short article:

          https://omr-mhmd.yolasite.com/resources/66.03-6Days-Humans-5.pdf

  2. Patty April 20, 2024 at 8:29 am

    This sounds really interesting. I’ve never heard any experts talk about the historical problems with the Quran. Paired with the Bible, it should be good!

    • lenak17 April 23, 2024 at 3:57 pm

      same here I am excited for this one!

  3. daniel.calita April 20, 2024 at 1:31 pm

    Hi, Bart,

    Regarding the scene in Matthew where it seems like it is written that he sat on two animals (donkey&colt), could you please comment on the following explanation?

    “The final personal plural pronoun αὐτωv in Matthew 21:7, read together with the final coordinating conjunction καὶ, has been shown that it relates to the garments upon which Jesus sat, not on the two donkeys. The study also shows that when the final καί in Matthew 21:5 is read epexegetically as an adverb or ascensive conjunction and translated as “even,” the allusion to Zechariah’s prophecy proves that Matthew was aware of Hebraic poetic parallelism. The same holds for the Hebrew text in Zechariah 9:9, where the waw conjunction is considered epexegetical.”

    I do not know greek and I wish you could help me clarify this.

    Thanks a lot!

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2024 at 9:01 pm

      He’s Iif it’s a guy?) saying that the garments were placed on the two donkeys and that Jesus sat on “them” (the garments) not on “them” the two donkeys. He’s translating the final “and” as an adverb to mean “even” instead of and. The way he’s putting it sounds like nonesense to me. An epexegetical “even” makes no sense. Maybe I”m misunderstanding because I don’t have enough of his comment, but what he says sounds like a lot of sophistry meant to sound compelling but that doesn’t hang together. Can you tell me who this is?

      • daniel.calita April 24, 2024 at 6:25 am

        Thanks for the answer!
        It’s an extras from a book by Isaac Chiyokoma

  4. Billygambone1 April 20, 2024 at 6:37 pm

    Hello Dr.Ehrman,
    I have a question that is kind of off topic but still relevance to the reliability of the documents. Take the 4 gospels for instances. I know there contradictions within each other really calls them historical reliability into question. But I am curious if the 4 gospels did not have all the contradictions that they do within each other would that boost them over to therefore being historically reliable? Or is there other problems then just the contradictions for why we cannot hold them as historically reliable? Thank you for your time and have a good day

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2024 at 9:03 pm

      No, it would not mean they are reliable. It would just mean they are not contradictory. If there is a contradiction between two stories about what happened, both stories cannot be accurate at that one point. If there is no contradiction but the stories are the same, that doesn’ mean it’s accuate though.

      • Billygambone1 April 22, 2024 at 11:14 pm

        Thanks for your reply. How would you then show that an ancient source is reliable ?

        • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:14 pm

          The same way with any modern source — you evaluate it in light of other informatoin you have about the events and general probability and even plausibility, etc. If you read two news articles that both claim that Bill Clinton served three terms as president, they wouldn’t contradict each other and, based on everything else you know, you’d realize they aren’t accurate. For ancient sources, if an account says something that is highly implausible (Julius Caesar visited North America, to pick a wild example) then you’d say you don’t trust it. Or if it says that Jesus died in 90 CE, you would say you know it’s just not true. Sometimes, of course, it’s easier to gauge the accuracy of a source than other times.

          • OmarRobb April 27, 2024 at 3:59 am

            Hi Bart,

            Would you agree on the following:

            1# Authenticity is about the trust level of the data to be from the source. So, if the data is authentic then we trust that this data came from the cited source.

            2# If there are no contradictions in the data then we can trust that this data is consistent.

            3# If we trust that the source is honest and informed then the source is valid.

            ###

            Therefore, if the data is authentic, consistent, and source is valid then the data is reliable. But if the data is not authentic OR the data is not consistent Or the source is not valid then the data is not reliable.

            However, reliable data does not necessary mean that it is accurate, and non-reliable data does necessary mean that it is false. But we would consider reliable data to be accurate unless it was opposed by solid evidences (i.e. more reliable data).

            So, if reliable data is opposed by non-reliable data, then the non-reliable data will be rejected. But if reliable data is opposed by another reliable data, then we need either to reconciliate between them or we need to select one over the other.

          • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:40 am

            Well, kinda. Lots of honest and informed people are just completely wrong about things. Of course if the source is filled only with factual data and it can be checked and verified, then the honesty of the people is irrelevant. So I’d say there is a whole lot more to it than data, contradictions, and honesty. Though I have to say, I’m in favor of sources that meety\ your criteria. But in no way does that mean the sources are *right*.

          • Billygambone1 April 27, 2024 at 4:14 am

            I think I got what you are saying. Things like the miracles in the Gospels makes it unlikely that they are reliable. Since Jesus walking on water or resurrecting for that matter is highly implausible

          • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:41 am

            I’d say that these miracles cannot be shown to have happened using historical methods. If they really could have happened or not is more of a scientific question then a historcical one.

      • Billygambone1 May 1, 2024 at 6:27 am

        To add on to OmarRobb comment. So you are saying that even if we can show the works are reliable to its earliest sources. That just means that the information was transmitted truthfully that doesn’t mean that the sources themselves are right .

        • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:46 pm

          I wouldn’t say the “information” was transmitted truthfully but that the author’s actual “words” were transmitted accurately. Whether his words were right or not is a completely different questoin!

          • Billygambone1 May 1, 2024 at 5:52 pm

            Could you explain this distinction ? “I wouldn’t say the “information” was transmitted truthfully but that the author’s actual “words” were transmitted accurately. “

          • BDEhrman May 6, 2024 at 1:16 pm

            Two things: for one, I want to avoid the impression that I think the informatoin is “truthful.” Second, When someone copies a text they are reproducing the words; it would be possible to reproduce the “information” accurately without copying the words accurately (by saying the exact same thing in a different way). But when it comes to copying we’re looking at accurate reproduction of words themselves.

          • Billygambone1 May 6, 2024 at 6:41 pm

            Why think the accounts aren’t true?

          • BDEhrman May 11, 2024 at 11:57 am

            Every historical account — not just scriptural texts — has to be studied to see if it contains historical anachronisms, if it contradicts known facts of history, if it presents complete implausibilities, and so on, just like newspaper articles and biographies etc. today

  5. Moshe April 20, 2024 at 11:36 pm

    Naturally, I’ve immediately signed up. Two things you should know:

    I paid with PayPal and didn’t see any place to enter the blog discount code.

    Those of us who have bought previous lecture series apparently get emails with subject lines different from those you describe because our email addresses are recognized by the system.

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2024 at 9:04 pm

      I’m afraid I don’t know about any of that. I’m surprised there was no place for discount code; could you send a note to “help” t ofind out what the deal is?

  6. Steefen April 21, 2024 at 12:32 am

    Bart, someone wants to know

    Regarding Matthew 15:25-27 where Jesus tells a woman it’s not right to take bread from children and give it to dogs and the woman replied, crumbs from the Master’s table ARE eaten by dogs.

    I said:
    It seems that at the time that happens in the narrative, Jesus hadn’t opened his ministry beyond the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

    It would be interesting to note when were Stephen and the Hellenists welcomed to hear the ministry of Jesus.

    Then again, one would think that the Sermon on the Mount/Plain would not have excluded Gentiles. So, Jesus could have shared some of his teachings with her as other gentiles had heard his message.

    What? Jesus hadn’t healed Gentiles yet in the story–the Roman soldier’s servant?

    What do you think?

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2024 at 9:05 pm

      The Hellenists came on board only after the resurrectoin.

      • Steefen April 27, 2024 at 6:53 pm

        The Sermon on the Mount is Chapter 5.

        The Roman Centurion’s servant is healed in Chapter 8.

        Matthew 15 – No Samaritan, you’re not the children of my ministry, you’re like a dog in the kitchen

        The Gospel of Matthew is not edited well.

        Tell us Gentiles were not allowed at the Sermon on the Mount
        if Jesus is going to be prejudice.

        If you (Bart) are saying Jesus’ position on don’t give children’s food to dogs” means some Gentiles did not come to Jesus until after the resurrection is an erroneous attempt to try to answer the question by what’s in the gospels and Acts of the Apostles.

        Even worse: Jesus breaks his prejudice for an officer of the Empire, but is prejudice towards a woman from Canaan (whatsoever you do to the least of my brother/sister).

  7. Blackpanther7 April 22, 2024 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Bart,

    I’m looking forward to the course. Since you are partly planning to reveal the historicity behind the New Testament I was wondering if you are aware of the recent claim of theologian Geurt Henk van Kooten, from Cambridge, who says that the gospel of John may actually be the oldest gospel. It sounds strange to me, because the gospel of John is a very developed theological book, in contrast to Mark.

    He bases this claim on one Bible verse, John 5:2: “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.”. John refers to the pool in the present tense, which would mean that the pool still existed when John was written, before it was destroyed in 70 A.D. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Thank you and kind regards from the Netherlands,

    Jacob-Carl

    • BDEhrman April 22, 2024 at 9:11 pm

      It’s an old argument that’s been around for a long time. THere are so many reasons to date John later. It wouldn’t make sense to base the dating of a 21 chapter book on the use of one verb in the present tense! But in any event, John uses lots of traditions that he has heard or read/ and often one can simply use the verb tense one has in the story one has heard/read without meaning that the tense is still applicable.

      • Stephen April 25, 2024 at 2:36 pm

        Just to clarify, Geurt Henk van Kooten’s position is not that the Gospel of John is the oldest written gospel but that it contains sources that are older than, and independent of, those in the Synoptics.

        • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:44 pm

          I agree they are independent, and some parts may go back to sources tha are older.

      • Blackpanther7 April 26, 2024 at 9:13 am

        Thank you. Makes sense to me. It’s also nothing new that christian theologians/apologists like to blow things up.

  8. RizwanAhmed April 24, 2024 at 12:21 pm

    I love Hashmi’s work so I was thrilled to see this course pop up. Seeing two of my favorite scholars team up, how exciting! I’m very curious how this course came to be. Did Javad approach you with this idea or was it the other way around? If it was Javad, was it something you were immediately interested in or did it take some convincing?

  9. MohammedFawzi April 27, 2024 at 1:01 pm

    Prof Bart :
    1/ Is Dr Javad Hashmi an expert of Arabic language and it’s technics ( The Original language of the Quran) ?

    2/ You Prof Bart stated :
    “Y’all know who I am. But who is Javad Hashmi? I’ve talked with him over the past few months and think that he is extremely intelligent, well-informed, clear,and interesting. And his views of the Quran, as a Muslim intellectual, are very different from what one normally reads and hears, based on his historical scholarsip.”
    My question is:
    Is he open to counter arguments and admitting the mistake/ mistakes if he commits one or more when it comes to Arabic or Methodology ?

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:46 am

      1. Yes. 2. Yes, that’s what a critical historian does — look at all the options and openly and honestly decides which is most probable. (He was raised with traitional Muslim views, of course)

  10. Patty May 2, 2024 at 8:40 am

    How long will each session be including the live Q&A? I work from home and can’t take off this weekend, but I can work around it. It says Saturday starts at 12pm/Sunday @1pm.

    I should have asked way before now. I was thinking it was later in the month. Gotta put my schedule 24 hours in advance. Hopefully you’ll see this in time!

    • BDEhrman May 6, 2024 at 1:23 pm

      It was recorded and will be made avialble to be watchd at leisure.

  11. marh May 6, 2024 at 12:09 pm

    If you are interested in Dr Javad Hashmi’s views concerning Islamic modernism versus traditionalism, see this debate: Islamic Modernism (Dr. Javad T. Hashmi) vs. Traditionalism (Daniel Haqiqatjou)

    It can be found at https://youtu.be/U0ZYJSb8ieQ?t=95

    The above link includes a timestamp that will take you directly to Dr Hashmi’s opening statement.

    I just finished listening to it and am still very favorable impressed by his knowledge and capacity to present sound and rational arguments for what distinguishes fundamentalist – traditionalist Islam from the reasonable, as he argues convincingly, essence of Islam. Calling Javad’s version of Islam ‘modernist’ is misleading as the evidence he presents makes the case that Muhammad’s teachings were rational, and reasonable – and therefore modern – right from the beginning.

    So just based on that evidence for Javad and Bart’s demonstrated fairness, it seems like we have quite a fantastic pair of critical historians in Dr Ehrman and Dr Hashmi!

Leave A Comment