Is the Bible really written in different styles? Yes. Does this help us to understand why it is different from the Qur’an? Yes!
In learning about the Bible, especially if coming from a Muslim background, it is helpful to know that the Bible is written in several styles. At times the styles reflect the character of the author, their background, culture, or first language. It also includes what we would call different genres of literature, meaning different classes of writing. Some of the book is poetry, some proverbs – words of wisdom, some parables, some analogies, some history, theology, and advice for living. These examples show us how the Bible is written in several styles.
The inspiration of the Bible: How does the inspiration of the Bible differ from the way other holy books claim to have been inspired?
1 Peter 1:20,21, tells us that Bible Scripture was inspired as a prophet was led along by the Holy Spirit. This differs from the dictation form of “inspiration” recounted by Mohammed. He claimed to have a series of revelations from “Angel Gabriel,” at least one for each book (surah) of the Qur’an. (In fact, the hadiths, traditions, report that Mohammed was afraid after his first “revelation,” and not even certain if the angel that appeared to him was from God, or a demon.) Joseph Smith also received revelation from an angel. For the translation of the cryptic tablets of Mormonism, English words reportedly appeared to him in a box-like device.
Most of the books of the Koran begin with an affirmative statement, “Bismallah ar-rahman ar-raheem” (in the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate), for example at the beginning of book 2, The Cow. To those used to reading the Qur’an, such words are a key that what follows is to be considered as coming directly from God.
The Bible does have verses which say this about God (Exodus 34:6, Jonah 4:2), but no books of the Bible start out with a similar queue. So, for a Muslim who begins to read the Bible, it can be difficult to accept that it is the inspired Word of God. Also, the Bible includes many details about patriarchs and prophets that Muslims have heard about. Not everything it says about them is flattering. The Bible is a book based in reality, so it records the truth about God’s people, their mistakes and sins, as the saying goes, “warts and all!”
In order for Muslims to understand the difference in Biblical inspiration from what they expect, Dr. Cynthia points out that although there are places where the Bible directly reports what God says, “This is what the Lord says” (Jeremiah 21), and very rarely a voice is heard from heaven, as with Moses and the heavenly voice at Jesus baptism. God as Jesus spoke directly to the people in his sermons, like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and in instructions to his disciples.
God also speaks indirectly in the Bible. “Then the Word of the Lord came to me,” Zechariah says in 4:8, reporting to us who hear indirectly what he was told.
God’s word is often implied, as in wisdom presented in Proverbs, advice in letters of the New Testament, and in the lessons we absorb from considering the lives of Bible characters (1 Corinthians 10:11, James 5:10, Hebrews 11-12:3).
In this clip Huda asks if there is more than one translation of the Bible into Arabic. Dr. C tells her yes, and demonstrates several examples, explaining that some translations are easier for Arabs of Christian background, and others for Arabs of Muslim background.
In our current era we are blessed with an abundance of translations. This enables us to find just the right phrasing for the right society and educational level. However, this diversity of wording can be confusing to Muslims, who are used to a single wording in the Arabic Qur’an. Dr. C points out in this clip that not only do different English translations not mean different Bibles, but that there are multiple translations of the Qur’an into English as well. (See also “Are there Many Bibles?”)
The large variety of Bibles available today can often be confusing to Muslims and other un-churched people. In fact, you may hear, as we often do, “There is only one Qur’an. You have so many Bibles! How do you know which one is correct?” In this segment, Dr. C shows us many types of Bibles and explains that different methods of packaging the Bible with commentary in different sizes and colors does not mean many Bibles. (See also “Translations of the Bible and the Qur’an”)
This fun reality/travel segment shows us some of the environment and food around the fishing community of Fort Bragg, California.
What is in the New Testament? This video reminds us that there are four Gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Acts of the Apostles, 21 Letters to the churches, and the final book, Revelation. The “Epistles” or letters to the churches were written by apostles like Peter and Paul. They talk about theology – God and his grace and salvation through Jesus, and how to live a Christian life.
Revelation is composed of prophecies from visions given to John while he was in exile on the island of Patmos. Besides messages to 7 specific churches in Asia Minor, it touches on the end of the world, Christ’s return, the final judgment, and what heaven will be like.
What is in the New Testament? The Qur’an tells us that Jesus brought a book. Actually the Injeel, as Muslims call the New Testament, was written by Jesus’ followers in the decades after his death and resurrection.
Some Muslims and other unbelievers say that it is bad that Jesus did not write the New Testament himself. They are wrong. Actually, it is good! The Old Testament prophecies about Jesus the Messiah as God and his sacrifice for our sins was so strongly stated, that the church began with Jesus’ followers teaching from the Old Testament. There was no need to wait for his disciples to write new material. People in Jerusalem and Israel already knew that Jesus did amazing miracles and then died on the cross. The task of the early disciples was to point out that this was all in fulfillment of Old Testament promises, and that he rose from the dead to prove it!
What is in the New Testament? The New Testament are the holy writings that came after Jesus Christ. It contains 27 books: 4 gospels – the life and teachings of Jesus by his early followers, Acts – the story of the early church, and 22 books about Christian theology and living. We learn in the New Testament how the Old Testament’s teachings and predictions were fulfilled. The New Testament is much smaller than the Old Testament, and is about the size of the Qur’an.
What is in the Old Testament? The Torah (called Taurat in the Qur’an) is the first five books of the Bible. Genesis, called Taqueen in Arabic, means “Beginnings” in both languages. It tells us how people were created and where things come from. The Torah is of interest to people from Muslim background because it include many of the patriarchs they have heard of (and call “prophets”). For example, we meet Adam, Noah (Nuh in the Qur’an), Abraham (Ibrahim in the Qur’an), and Moses (Musa in the Qur’an) in the book of Genesis.
The Old Testament also includes books of history, poetry called “psalms” (the Zabur in the Qur’an), other poetry and wisdom, and the prophets. The books of the prophets are divided into first the “major,” and then the “minor” prophets. This distinction is based on the length of their writings, not their importance. It is wonderful that the Bible preserves the words of so many previous prophets.
In learning about the Bible, we learn about the books written before Jesus, called the Old Testament, as well as the books written after, called the New Testament (see “What Does Injeel Mean?”). Dr. C tells us that the Old Testament contains not only the Torah (known to Muslims as the Taurat), which are the first five books of the Bible, and the Psalms, (known to Muslims as the Zabur), but other books as well. These include books of history, and the words revealed to multiple prophets. The books of prophecy are divided into Major Prophets and Minor Prophets, not because of the importance of the prophets, but in reference to the size of their books.
Apologist Rev. Bob Siegel, of Jewish background now a Christian pastor, shares with us one of his favorite Bible passages, Psalm 23. During the challenges he has faced during his journey from Judaism to Christianity the words of this psalm (zabur) have comforted him, especially knowing that surely goodness and mercy will follow him all the days of his life and he will live with the Lord forever.
Huda asks Dr. C about how to approach the Bible, so Dr. C gives an introduction to how the Bible is composed for those who know little about it. The Bible consists of the Old Testament, which are the collected holy writings from before Jesus came, and the New Testament, which are the books composed after Jesus came.
The Old Testament reveals to us who God is, and gives us guidance on living a good life. It contains the Torah (known as Taurat to Muslims), which is also called the Law, or the Books of Moses, since he is most closely associated with him. These five books in the Torah include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
The Old Testament also gives many prophecies of things we see come to pass in the New Testament. The word “testament” means “agreement.” The New Testament does not cancel or “abrogate” the Old Testament, rather it fulfills it. Jesus told his followers that having his new teachings alongside the Old Testament was like adding new treasures to old.
What is the Bible and how is it put together? These are questions answered in the video segments on Introduction to the Bible and What’s in the Old Testament and What’s in the New Testament. Huda knows that The Bible is the Word of God. Dr. C tells us that is true! It is also called God’s message to us, the story of God and us, God’s love letter to us, and the book which explains the way of salvation.
Like a news article, the Bible answers the big Ws of life: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Who? God and us. What happened? What does God expect of us? When did salvation come? Where did we come from and Where are we going? Why are we on earth? And How should we live and get to know God?
Bible Teacher Mark explains to Dr. C and our viewers that Christians do not read the Bible for points, as Muslims believe accrue to them for reading the Qur’an. The benefit of reading the Bible is to let it purify our minds, let hope, faith, and truth enter it, and live these out in our lives, not for points toward salvation or heaven. Salvation and eternal life in heaven are gifts we receive by humble faith, not effort.
This reality clip takes you with Dr. C and Huda on their visit to Washington D.C. Besides seeing a few sites of the area, you are encouraged to think about the importance of a map, or GPS. What is the guide for your life? Is it the Qur’an? The Bible? Or simply your impulse of the moment?
In contrast to Islam, which preserves only the writings from its Prophet Mohammed, the Bible contains the writings of many prophets written over many centuries. It is a far greater challenge to collect the writings of only true prophets over such a long time, than to merely collect the words believed to be revealed to a single prophet. Isn’t it wonderful that we can read and know what God revealed to his men and women over more than 4,000 years?
“Injeel” is an important word used by Muslims to refer to the Bible, but unfortunately, there is confusion about what it means. In the Qur’an, Injeel refers to the book revealed to Jesus, and means, roughly, “The Gospel.” In practice however, at times Muslims use Injeel to refer to the four gospels, to an individual gospel, to the New Testament, or even the entire Bible. This segment attempts to clarify the distinction between individual gospels, like Injeel Yuhanna for the Gospel of John, the Injeel as the New Testament, etc.