Often, when we find ourselves in conversation with Muslims the authority for that which we are discussing comes up and we are forced to answer the question: “Which is the true Word of God, the Bible or the Qur’an?” As a Christian, I immediately affirm my own scriptures, maintaining that the Bible is the intrinsic Word of God. Obviously, for any Muslims, or others who may not have a religious position, this answer is not credible, as it involves a subjective statement of faith, one which cannot be proved or disproved, as there is no possibility of enquiry or verification. I am certain that when the same question is posed to a Muslim he likewise answers that the Qur’an qualifies as the final Word of God, and any further discussion ends. Both Christianity and Islam derive their set of beliefs from their revelations, the Bible and the Qur’an, yet we find that they disagree on a number of areas. One need only compare how each scripture deals with Jesus, sin, atonement, and salvation to understand that there are contradictory assertions held by both. Thus it is important to delineate which scripture can best make the claim to be the final and perfect Word of God.
When two documents which claim to be true are in contradiction, one must ascertain whether the contradictions can be explained adequately using criteria which a non-believer, or a third party, can accept; in other words, using criteria which go beyond the adherents’ personal faith commitment to their revelation. Essentially one must ask whether the Qur’an or the Bible can stand up to verification, or whether they can withstand an external critical analysis for their authenticity. This is an immensely complex and difficult subject. Since both Islam and Christianity claim to receive their beliefs from the revealed truth which they find in their respective scriptures, to suspect the source for revealed truth, the scriptures for each faith, is to put the integrity of both Christianity and Islam on trial.
Obviously this is not a task that one should undertake lightly, and I don’t intend to do so here. For that reason, and because of the lack of time and space, I have decided not to make a comparison between the claims the two revelations make for themselves, but simply ask the question whether the two scriptures can be corroborated by history; in other words whether there is any historical data or evidence which we can find that can help us verify that which they claim is true.
I start with the presupposition that God has intersected time and space and has revealed His truth to His creation. We should expect to see, therefore, evidence of those revelations in history, and be able to corroborate the historical claims the revelations make by an historical analysis. Both the Bible and the Qur’an claim to have been revealed at a certain place, and over a period of time. They speak of people, places, and events. If they are true, then we should be able to find evidence for their claims, and especially corroboration for what they say in the period in which they themselves profess they were revealed; the Bible between 1,447 B.C. and 70 A.D., and the Qur’an between 610 A.D. and 632 A.D. My intent in this study is to look at the historical data which exists in these periods, and ascertain whether it supports or denies the claims for the historicity of both the Bible and the Qur’an. This I will attempt to do by looking at three areas of evidence; that provided by manuscripts, documents and archaeological data from the periods mentioned above. If the manuscript, documentary and archaeological evidence supports the claims for the Bible or the Qur’an, then we can assume their reliability. However, if the evidence denies their historicity, then we have to question their authenticity.
I will admit that this study is nothing more than a mere ‘overview,’ with the desire that it will stimulate others to continue investigating this very important area in their own time. The hope is that, like Peter before us, we too can “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15).