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The Significance of an Astounding New Discovery

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., http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/23/opinions/quran-manuscript-analysis/index.html

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.

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.


More on the Discovery of Ancient Qur’an Fragments
Accidental Scribal Changes

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Wael Ibrahim  July 25, 2015

    The Qur’an from the first letter that was recited by Muhammad to his followers, was meant to be ‘recited’ out loud. That’s why the very word itself means ‘recitation’ in Arabic – Muhammad and his followers did not rely on writing down the words, but rather they pour their heart in it and developed the culture of memorizing what they believed wholeheartedly to be God’s word. So i believe, like many Muslims around the world that this news of Birmingham University was not really shocking or surprising to the followers of Islam, because they never relied on the written text in the first place, but rather on memorization and revision throughout their life. That’s the difference between Christian scribes and the followers of Islam.

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      shakespeare66  July 27, 2015

      Could you explain this further. By that, I mean how was the entire Qur’an memorized and then passed down if it was not written in the first place? Did Mohammad have it committed to memory or was it written down in pieces over time, then committed to memory. I have come to learn different stories of that origin. Thanks for the help in clearing this up.

    • Avatar
      godspell  July 27, 2015

      Islam’s history is so different from that of Christianity as to make the comparisons a bit dodgy. Islam became the dominant religion on the Arabian peninsula during Muhammad’s lifetime, by dint of military conquest (as well as sincere conversion). It became the STATE religion, dominating (and in some cases abolishing) other religions there. You would, therefore, expect the Qur’an to be more carefully copied out, since within a few decades it reached a level of social entrenchment Christianity did not attain until the conversion of Constantine. They would have access to the very best scribes in a relatively literate part of the ancient world–and because Islam very early on identified itself as a book-oriented religion (“In the beginning was The Word”), drawing heavily on that aspect of Judaism, it was imperative that they get every detail right–to alter Muhammad’s words in any way would be considered blasphemous. Christianity had that element as well, but was so geographically dispersed and poorly organized in its early years that it had a much greater diversity–and hence, greater disparity in the texts.

      The Hadith are another matter–I think those, in at least a few cases, contain not only words but ideas that Muhammad never held to, let alone expressed (for example, there is nothing in the Qur’an to indicate any antipathy towards dogs–in fact, the only mention in it of dogs is highly positive). That is the oral tradition that developed around Muhammad’s life and legacy being written down well after the fact, and being greatly altered in the process. The Hadith may be well-copied as well, but the opinions they express of the place of women, of the way Muslims should treat animals, in some cases may not in any way express the opinions of Muhammad, but represent later adherents imposing their own ideas upon Muhammad, as Christians have so often done with Jesus.

      In all religions, we see a great prophet rising, expressing revolutionary ideas–and then lesser spirits creep in, and partly corrupt his teachings. Serpents in the garden.

      • Avatar
        godspell  July 28, 2015

        Reading this over, I think “in all religions” was something of an overstatement, but I was typing fast, and you can’t edit these things. :\

  2. Avatar
    Mhamed Errifi  July 25, 2015

    hello bart

    yes in deed it was amazing discovery . i believe this koran was one of 4 copies that othman prophet disciple sent to his province. this ilustration should explain to you how koran was preserved to this day .

    The entire Quran was however also recorded in writing at the time of revelation from the Prophet’s dictation, by some of his literate companions, the most prominent of them being Zaid ibn Thabit. Others among his noble scribes were Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Ibn Mas’ud, Mu’awiyah ibn Abi-Sufyan, Khalid ibn Al-Waleed and Az-Zubayr ibn Al-Awwam.[2] The verses were recorded on leather, parchment, scapulae (shoulder bones of animals) and the stalks of date palms.The codification of the Quran was done soon after the Battle of Yamamah (11AH/633CE), after the Prophet’s death, during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Many companions became martyrs at that battle, and it was feared that unless a written copy of the entire revelation was produced, large parts of the Quran might be lost with the death of those who had memorized it. Therefore, at the suggestion of Umar to collect the Quran in the form of writing, Zaid ibn Thabit was requested by Abu Bakr to head a committee which would gather together the scattered recordings of the Quran and prepare a mushaf – loose sheets which bore the entire revelation on them. To safeguard the compilation from errors, the committee accepted only material which had been written down in the presence of the Prophet himself, and which could be verified by at least two reliable witnesses who had actually heard the Prophet recite the passage in question. Once completed and unanimously approved by the Prophet’s Companions, these sheets were kept with the Caliph Abu Bakr (d. 13AH/634CE), then passed on to the Caliph Umar (13-23AH/634-644CE), and then Umar’s daughter and the Prophet’s widow, Hafsah.The third Caliph Uthman (23AH-35AH/644-656CE) requested Hafsah to send him the manuscript of the Quran which was in her safekeeping, and ordered the production of several bounded copies of it (masaahif, sing. mushaf). This task was entrusted to the Companions Zaid ibn Thabit, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair, Sa’eed ibn Al-’As, and Abdur-Rahman ibn Al-Harith ibn Hisham. Upon completion (in 25AH/646CE), Uthman returned the original manuscript to Hafsah and sent the copies to the major Islamic provinces.

  3. Avatar
    shakespeare66  July 25, 2015

    My sweetheart like to say “She has an agenda.” The early Christian writers had an agenda. They had to convince their audiences that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. At first, the attempt at convincing was with the Jews, and then Paul had to answer questions from various churches he set up about who could join the church and what the conditions had to be. These early scribal errors in Christianity speak volumes of the need to change things to accomplish an agenda. Would this be fair to say to my curious friends or is this inaccurate? Can I say that The Gospel of John was written with the intent of making Jesus to be someone more than he ever said he was?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      Yes, I would agree with that, but I don’t think there was necessarily a cynical or insidious agenda. John was speaking of Christ as he really believed him to be. But his portrayal ended up not being historical.

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        Jana  July 31, 2015

        Could the same thing be said of Mark? He wrote and postured Christ as an Apocalyptic Prophet as he believed him to be when possibly Jesus was not?

        • Bart
          Bart  August 2, 2015

          I don’t think Mark was inventing something. My view is that Jesus really was an apocalyptic Jew proclaiming the imminent end of the age.

          • Avatar
            Jana  August 2, 2015

            Honestly, I was half way through your lecture series on the Historical Jesus when the thought popped into my head “Was Jesus delusional?” (without defining the word “delusional”) and I had to stop viewing to reflect on this more. I am struggling with this thought and went on to view your other videos about the growth of Christianity. My inner jury is still out. Any comments?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 3, 2015

            No, I think he was a man of his time. And most people in wildly different contexts from ours seem delusional!

          • Avatar
            Jana  August 11, 2015

            Thank you for your patience. And this leads to another question. I now understand that what Jesus said should be interpreted within the limited (I choose this word deliberately) context of his age/time/era. However, are there words he spoke that would transcend his age/time/era? Sometimes I draw parallels with the Buddha whose words are interpreted beyond the limitations of his age and are in fact reinforced by personal and contemporary experiences. Dzogchen Buddhism is based on direct contemporary experience as opposed to adhering to an ancient belief system.

          • Bart
            Bart  August 11, 2015

            There may be words of his that are still applicable in very different times and places, sure. But I wouldn’t say that there are any words of anyone that are *universally* valid for every time and place. It’s just the nature of language.

          • Avatar
            Jana  August 15, 2015

            Now onto “the nature of language” !

  4. Avatar
    prince  July 25, 2015

    What i also find amazing is that if all the copies of the Koran that exist in the world today were destroyed, it would only take a 7 year old boy who has memorized the whole Koran to recited it completely and perfectly to bring it into existence again… fascinating!

    • Avatar
      hankgillette  October 24, 2018

      I don’t think that is so amazing. What would be amazing would be finding that 7-year-old boy!

  5. Avatar
    madmargie  July 25, 2015

    Strange…I have heard absolutely nothing about this discovery. Do you suppose that’s because it is the Qur’an? I know a Baptist preacher why declares that the Bible is the absolute word of God and is inerrant. Nonsense!

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      Maybe it was reported more in the U.K. than in the U.S.??

      • Avatar
        MShirazKh  July 27, 2015

        Actually, there are other universities in Europe that have similar claims regarding the fragments THEY have. Such as Tubingen in Germany and Leiden in Holland. (I wrote you about Tubingen in February:(“Bart has received your email submission on The Bart Ehrman Blog: The History & Literature of Early Christianity on February 18, 2015 6:19 am”) but it was not then of interest, I guess, and didn’t pique your interest.)

        Incidentally, the number of pages in the Tubingen collection are much, much more extensive, and they have published facsimiles of each page on the web at:

        http://idb.ub.uni-tuebingen.de/diglit/MaVI165

        and even have a pdf download in two versions, 37 MB(normal) and 132 MB(gross).

        Leiden’s fragments are mentioned here:

        http://www.library.leiden.edu/news/ancient-quran-fragments.html

        It is surprising that your friends at Birmingham had not heard about the fragments at either Tubingen or Leiden. The latter two have in fact been collaborating on what they call the Coranica Project with the French:

        “In 2011 the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the French Agence nationale de recherche (ANR) started the international Coranica project to research the early textual history of the Quran. The project is coordinated by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.

        “Not only the text of the Quran, but also the physical fragments are the object of investigation. The organic materials can be dated with precision with the help of radiocarbon analysis. Radiocarbon or C14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon. This analysis can only be carried out in specialised laboratories, which makes it relatively expensive. We therefore welcomed the opportunity when Leiden was invited to take part in the Coranica project by having a number or our ancient Quran fragments tested.”(from Leiden’s web page)

        Regards,

        Shiraz

  6. Rick
    Rick  July 25, 2015

    Doc,
    When, I suspect in protestant and probably fundamentalist, circles did the NT or the whole Christian Bible become the inerrant “Word of God”?
    From your, and other scholars, writings and our discussions here I get the impression that the Gospels originated as stories of the “good news”. The letters were just that – letters from a no doubt well thought of human being to other people. As such neither were, early on, the word of God and perhaps were more subject to changes.
    The Holy Koran on the other hand is supposed to be the final unadulterated Word of God, dictated by … I think Gabriel ( an angel without free will bound to do Gods will exactly) through the reciter Mohammed. Each Surra begins with “In the Name of God the Beneficent, the Merciful.” Point being there was far more inhibition in messing with the Koran than there was with stories about the messiah.

  7. Avatar
    sashko123  July 25, 2015

    I thought this might be interesting (and of concern) to a historian. C-12 emissions from fossil fuels may soon make carbon dating inaccurate. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/ancient/fossil-fuels-are-destroying-our-ability-to-study-the-past/

  8. Avatar
    Wilusa  July 25, 2015

    I think this depends on what you mean by “trusting” it.

    Suppose, for example, you learned that all the Gospels originally agreed that Jesus called *himself* the “Son of Man.” Making that very clear, in all references.

    That wouldn’t make you believe he *was* the “Son of Man.” But it would, I think, tell you that view was more widely held among the earliest Christians than you’d previously believed. In that sense, you’d be “trusting” the recently-discovered agreeing versions to change your views about something.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      Yes, when apologists say that we can “trust” the NT, they do not mean trust just that we have the words, but trust that what hte words say are true.

  9. Avatar
    jdmartin21  July 25, 2015

    Wonderful indeed!
    Regarding your question of why the Christian scribes didn’t do the same thing – protect the integrity of the documents they were copying – Is it possible that scribes during the first two or three Christian centuries were less diligent and more inclined to “correct” what they thought were errors because, for them, the documents they were copying were liturgical texts rather than the “the Word of God” which is a more modern conceptualization? Have scholars been able to pinpoint when these texts started to be thought of as the Word of God?

  10. Avatar
    bknight  July 25, 2015

    Bart: Did the carbon dating test just the parchment, or the ink as well? If only the parchment, then there could be a possibility, couldn’t there, that the text on the parchment is younger than the parchment? I’ve heard that the style of writing on the pages in question appears to be old, but that’s only incremental evidence of the date.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      Can’t test the ink without destroying it; so it’s *Possible* that the text was simply written on old parchment. See today’s post.

  11. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 25, 2015

    Very interesting as are most of your posts. My two cents worth:

    Question #1: Could it be that the early Christian scribes did not yet realize that they were copying “the Bible” since canonization did not occur until maybe the fourth century or later? Hence, early Christian scribes were not as careful to get it all perfect as the scribes copying the Quran who very early knew that they were copying scripture.

    Question #2: The more attestation you have, the more texts you have and, hence, the more copying errors you have. More copies means more errors.

  12. Avatar
    mowimbi  July 25, 2015

    I read about this recently, and I wonder: could the ink used on these fragments be tested in order to determine when they were written as opposed, to when the animal skins were produced? Or was this part of the original test?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      Only by destroying the ink, which no one wants. So yes, the text *could* have been written on old parchment.

  13. Avatar
    bnongbri  July 26, 2015

    This is potentially exciting news, but when claims like this come via press release rather than via scholarly conferences and peer reviewed journals, I’m a little skeptical. This is an instance in which I would like to hear more from palaeographers and students of early Islamic codicology. I’m not a specialist in Arabic books and scripts, but the New York Times quoted a source (whose work is unknown to me) as follows:
    “Saud al-Sarhan, the director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said he doubted that the manuscript found in Birmingham was as old as the researchers claimed, noting that its Arabic script included dots and separated chapters — features that were introduced later. He also said that dating the skin on which the text was written did not prove when it was written. Manuscript skins were sometimes washed clean and reused later, he said.”
    The phenomenon of erased manuscripts that were reused (palimpsests) is known from other very early copies of the Qur’an, such as the so-called Sana’a palimpsest (see discussion here: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/157005810×504518?crawler=true&mimetype=application/pdf ) I would be interested to learn from specialists whether the writing of the Birmingham manuscript is in fact consistent with a date in the first half of the seventh century, and it would be good to know if the manuscript has been subjected to multi-spectral imaging to see if traces of any earlier writing might be present.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      I’m gonna post this. Hope you don’t mind (since it’s public as a comment already.) Thanks.

  14. Avatar
    Wimrick388  July 26, 2015

    For a long time now, I have been troubled by the contrasts between Islam and Christianity. The holy book of Islam is essentially one voice, Muhammad”s, rigorously preserved just as the Angel of Allah purportedly transmitted it. The holy book of Christianity (the NT) is an olio of voices, some authentic some maybe not so much but none specifically charged by Jesus to record or transmit His words in writing to the faithful or the future. If I were a recent immigrant from a far off land without knowledge of either faith, and representatives of both approached me and laid out the case for the probability that both or either might be authentic — without regard for the content of the faith — then Islam must win hands down. I don’t want to second-guess Jesus, but I can’t help wishing he had appointed a secretary for his lifetime or taken up a pen every now and then. That he didn’t is most troubling.

  15. Avatar
    Ini  July 26, 2015

    hi Bart, this brings back the question I asked before about the Qur’an’s version of Jesus. If those who copied the Qur’an were careful to avoid errors, then wouldn’t there be some more percentage of relevance in the Qur’an’s version of Jesus story? What are your comments on this, thank you.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      No, the question of whether hte *transmission* of the Qur’an is accurate has no bearing on whether its *content* is accurate. The author(s) of hte Qur’an had no independent information on Jesus other than what he/they learned from Christians or Christian sources. before them

      • Avatar
        prince  July 27, 2015

        Perhaps the koranic sources/traditions about the person of jesus as reflected in the Koran portrays a more historically accurate picture of who Jesus was? .. some of the significant conclusions reached by scholars regarding the historical Jesus such as vermes, e.p sanders, dunn pretty much support what the Koran has been saying for the last 1400 years. Perhaps the early ebionite tradition found its way in Arabia with the more accurate traditions about Jesus?

        • Bart
          Bart  July 28, 2015

          Actually, I don’t think Sanders, Dunn, and Vermes *do* agree with Qur’an’s view of JEsus. But it’s important to remember that hte author(s) of the Qur’an would have not had any independent information about Jesus — only what they heard and read from (Christian) others over 450 years after Jesus’ death.”

          • Avatar
            prince  July 29, 2015

            but the historical traditions and scriptures related to the independent information used within the koran may date back centuries close to Jesus’ time.. i see strong ebionite resemblance of the person of jesus in the koran…perhaps when devoted jewish followers of jesus were persecuted in the 1 century.. many fleed to arabia to escape and took with them their gospel version of jesus that eventually made its way in the koran 450 years later?

          • Bart
            Bart  July 29, 2015

            One problem is that we don’t have access to Ebionite discussions of Jesus, so we don’t really know what their views were.

      • Avatar
        Mhamed Errifi  July 27, 2015

        hello bart

        but there are informations about jesus which you cant find in any other sources

  16. Avatar
    BrianUlrich  July 26, 2015

    A few points. First, this is not time Qur’anic manuscript pages have has such an early date. All such manuscripts, including this one, are usually dated paleographically to the late 600’s or early 700’s, and it is thought that the process of making the parchment involved certain organic elements – I forget what they are – that would yield an older date.

    That said, the fact there is such a cluster of dates c. 600 have caused some to wonder if Qur’ans really were circulating that early. This could give support to revisionist arguments that Muhammad did not actually reveal the text as the sacred book of Islam, but instead inherited or was otherwise somehow associated with an older lectionary of some kind.

    This discovery does not seem particularly important next to the nearly complete Sana’a codex, which has a similar C-14 date, but has the chapters in a different order suggesting it predates the standardization of the text traditionally ascribed to Uthman (644-656) but possibly undertaken by Abd al-Malik in the 690’s.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      Terrific! Many thanks. I’ll post this comment as it seems very important to me.

      • Avatar
        Mhamed Errifi  July 27, 2015

        hello bart

        when an english man says the bible is the word of God does he mean that the bible is made up from words that are divine ? in arabic word = kalima , for plural words = kalimat however when we say koran is the word or words of God we dont use kalima or kalimat we use instead this word kalam which can be translated as speech please dont confuse that with speech that president give on tv it is rather other meaning What is spoken or expressed, as in conversation; uttered or written words . so i urge muslims to say koran is the speech of God instead of koran is the word of God because thats the most accurate translation

        • Bart
          Bart  July 28, 2015

          It completely depends on which English person you’re talking to!! Fundamentalist Christians may say that, others would not.

      • Avatar
        prince  July 29, 2015

        http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Mss/Before you comnent Bart i suggest you refer to this in response to misunderstandings regarding Sana’a codex, 

    • Avatar
      MShirazKh  July 29, 2015

      Brian,

      Please provide references for the claims you make here regarding Sana’a codex having a different order.

      Part of the evidence indicating age, as mentioned regarding the manuscript fragments of Tubingen, and applying to the fragments at Leiden and Birmingham as well, is that the letters slope to the right, and this is known as the Hejazi script, which is claimed to predate the Kufic script, although sometimes it is misnamed as Kufic in the literature.

      Thanks.

    • Avatar
      prince  July 29, 2015

      http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/Mss/ addresses the sana’a codex misunderstandings

  17. Avatar
    BrianUlrich  July 26, 2015

    Oh, and on your question about the lack of change: Islam had a governing apparatus quite early, whereas Christianity did not. One you declare: “This is the Quran,” and have lots of mobility via trade and the hajj, people are more likely to know a mistake when they see one.

  18. Avatar
    bobdise  July 26, 2015

    My understanding is that the Qur’an was regarded as “scripture” from a very early on in its history, and therefore would have been copied with greater attentiveness than would’ve been the case with the texts that later were admitted to the emerging New Testament, texts which apparently were not regarded in any sense as “scripture” on a par with those of the (still ill-defined) Jewish Bible until around the middle of the second century, a century after the composition of Paul’s seven letters and three-quarters of a century after that of “Mark”.

    Furthermore, as you have argued so persuasively, and as any but a tendentious reading of Paul’s seven letters and the Synoptics demonstrates, the Jesus movement was apocalyptic from the time of Jesus’ own ministry, so its followers had little incentive to “scripturalize” texts recounting traditions about Jesus’ teachings and activities (none of which claimed to be direct revelations from God anyway, as the Qur’an does), because Jesus himself would be back by tomorrow afternoon and then everyone would see for themselves what this was all about. Islam was, and is, apocalyptic also, but my recollection of reading the Qur’an is that it is not so immediately apocalyptic as the teaching of Jesus and his early followers was, so preserving God’s revelations to Muhammad with reverent accuracy mattered more to early Muslims than preserving the memory of Jesus’ teachings and activities would have mattered to his early followers.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2015

      Interesting observations. Thanks.

      • Avatar
        Mhamed Errifi  July 27, 2015

        hello bart

        dont you find it ludicrous when some people are sugesting the dating is actually of the skin . nobody raised this issue with p52 for example and some are saying if voyel or dots are inclued in this text suggest it was written during omayad dynasty which was about 7 decades after prophet muhamed when dots and voyels were used the first time in arabic language . i can accept this from arabic ignorant person but not from an arab by the name of Saud al-Sarhan, the director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. why ? as you in hebrew voyels and dots one can add them later without having to rewrite the text the same thing in arabic language . so having text with voyels and dots does not mean it was written after this system was introduced . Muslims scripres could have gone back to the text and added them

  19. Avatar
    Phil  July 26, 2015

    “It turns out that there is a 95% chance that these pages were produced between 568 and 645 CE.”

    The carbon 14 dating of these two page of the Qur’an only show the pages are very old. It is possible that ONLY the pages are very old, not that the writing is that old. It could be a forgery written on old the old pages carefully planted in a book in the library as a hoax. Even if X-ray technology (and other such) prove that these sheets are not simply old sheet reused; they could be old blank sheets that were never used even though they date from 568 CE.

    Even if the writing proves to be in the style 568 CE, unless there is a way date the ink, there is still a problem. This could be a perfect example of an orthodox forgery designed to prove how accurate the Qur’an has remained over the years.

  20. Avatar
    Samuel Riad  July 26, 2015

    The Quran naively accepts Jesus’ virgin birth and naively denies his crucifixion (The most certain fact we know about Jesus) and then Muslims quote Dr. Ehrman and pretend modern scholarship validate Islam!

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