What is this book which still needs to be "revisited" even though it was published 10 years ago?
What is this book which would take a doctor away from his medicine for three years in order to write an answer?
It is a book which one finds in almost every book store in Tunisia and Morocco.
It is a book which turns up in the United States in the hands of a young Egyptian who wishes to use it to influence the girl he is courting.
It is the first book on the book rack, just below the Qur'an and the Hadith, in the Mosque at Regent's Park in London.
It is a book which is considered so valuable by some that as of 1983 it had been translated from the French original into English, Arabic, Indonesian, Persian, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, Urdu, and Goujrati.
I first heard of this work, written by a French medical doctor, from a young Tunisian. He said, "Have you read the book by Dr. Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, The Qur'an, and Science? He has a lot to say about the Bible and the Qur'an. He even says that the Qur'an has no scientific errors."
When I examined the book I found that the author did indeed have much to say about the Bible and the Qur'an, and he does say,
It was only when I examined the text very closely in Arabic that... I had to acknowledge the evidence in front of me: the Qur'an did not contain a single statement that was assailable from a modern scientific point of view.
In contrast, when speaking of the Bible, he mentions only "contradictions, improbabilities and incompatibilities". He claims that the Biblical specialists usually ignore these, or, if they do mention them, they just, "try to camouflage them with dialectical acrobatics."
Muslims are obviously thrilled with Dr. Bucaille's book because, if it is true, it strengthens them in their confidence in the Qur'an. It is a type of second witness.
Equally obvious, is the fact that we Christians are sad to see the ease with which strong testimonies to the truth of the Bible have been ignored.
Fulfilled prophecies are not mentioned.
Dr. Bucaille denies that any of the Gospel writings are the work of eye-witnesses.
The earliest copies of the Gospel are dismissed with a few words, leaving the impression that there is no good testimony to the validity of the text which we now have.
In the end, the Gospel is compared to the Song of Roland (Chanson de Roland), "which relates a real event in a fictitious light."
These ideas fit very well, of course, with what most Muslims claim - that we Christians changed the Gospel - that there is no valid witness to Jesus' words and life.
This is a very serious and disturbing charge, but having heard it from almost every Muslim with whom I spoke during long years in North Africa, I thought that I had gotten used to it, that it no longer bothered me. However I was mistaken.
In 1983 while passing through London, I went to the British Museum to see the Codex Siniaticus, one of the oldest complete copies of the New Testament dating from about 350 AD. I wanted to take the picture which can be seen on page 155. After asking the guard for directions, I went over to the glass covered case which he indicated, thinking only about how to take a picture through glass without getting a reflection.
I took one look at that Bible and it was as though all the hundreds of times I had heard "YOU CHANGED YOUR BIBLE" went through my head in one instant. I burst into tears. Even now as I write these words tears come to my eyes. I wanted to touch it. It would be like touching my brothers who wrote it 1600 years ago. We would be one together even though they had died long ago. It was tangible, touchable proof that the Gospel is as it always has been.
I didn't get to touch it. I asked but they didn't feel that they could allow it, so I took my picture and left.
This book in your hands, then, is a response to these two evaluations of Dr. Bucaille; but, in fact, it is much more. It is an attempt to examine the real confrontation between Islam and Christianity at the deepest level, both intellectual and emotional.
For example Muslims claim that Muhammad will intercede for them. This is an emotionally comforting idea, because no one wants to stand alone in the white light of God's final judgment. But is there any evidence for this idea in the Qur'an?
Christians say that God has sent his comfort in Jesus, who died to pay for the sins of the whole world and is now alive to intercede for those who believe in him as Saviour. Is there any evidence for this in the Gospel?
As mentioned above, Muslims claim that the Bible has been changed. Is there any evidence for this in the Qur'an" In the Hadith? In history?
If the two books differ in what they say, how shall we choose between them? How can we know a true prophet?
And who am I that I should try to discuss all these things? First of all I, too, am a medical doctor. Secondly I, too, have learned Arabic - the Arabic of North Africa. Thirdly I, too, have studied the Qur'an and the Bible.
Even so, some of the areas touched in this book are outside of my competence. Therefore, I have asked advice from specialists in several fields: astronomy, geology, and even embryology of the human, and have thus tried to avoid errors of fact, in so far as possible. If the rocket-probes sent to investigate Halley's comet make the information about meteors in Chapter I of Section 5 out of date, I ask the reader's patience.
I have asked men whose native language is Arabic to evaluate my word studies in that language. Other friends, including my wife, have given of their time to read and comment on the entire manuscript, and I thank each one. In the final analysis, though, I accept full responsibility for the choice of what is written on these pages.
The first and second Chapters speak of basic assumptions and bias on the part of any and every author. My basic assumption and bias is that the Bible is a valid historical document and that the good news of the Gospel is true. In discussing the meaning of the Qur'an and the Gospel, I have tried to understand and stick to the obvious meaning of the text - the meaning that would have been understood by those listening when the verses were given - and avoid the temptation of making a verse say what I want it to say. How successful I have been in curbing my own bias, each reader will decide.
Before closing I would like to explain why I decided to use, almost exclusively, the term "basic assumption". One of my friends suggested that this word was not the best word to express what I wished to say - especially in the chapters on science. He proposed "presupposition", "postulate", "a priori", or "bias". To this could be added "conjecture" and "hypothesis".
It is true that "basic assumption" usually refers to the very important assumptions which serve as a foundation for one's life, or the formation of a hypothesis in science. Therefore, in many places "conjecture" might be a better term, but in the end I have decided to keep basic assumption. I prefer to keep the term because it follows the idea of a great English philosopher of the 1300's named William of Occam. He said,
"Essentia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem",
"Basic assumptions (about the essential nature of things) must not be multiplied beyond necessity."
This phrase came to be known as Occam's razor. We must cut out, as with a razor or a knife, or at least recognize, all the extra basic assumptions.
Secondly, it keeps before us the idea that each time we make a basic assumption, even a small one, it is a new beginning. We were stuck in our reasoning and we had to think up a NEW possible explanation.
We all make these NEW basic assumptions to try and reconcile problems. In Chapter I of Section 3 we will see that the "higher critics" made a basic assumption that Moses couldn't write.
In Chapter II of Section 1, Dr. Bucaille's basic assumption that the word "smoke" as used in the Qur'an can refer to the primordial gases is compared with the basic assumption of some Christian men of science that the word "water" as used in the Torah can be used in the same way.
In Chapter II of the 4th Section we will see that Dr. Torki makes several basic assumptions in his discussion of the seven heavens.
There is nothing wrong with this activity. It is not a sin. That is what thinking is all about, but we must realize that we do it and try to keep it to a minimum.
Lastly, a few remarks about the usage of Arabic words.
The English names of the Suras are those proposed by Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his English translation of the Qur'an.
International phonetic symbols have been used for the transcription of the Arabic names of Suras and for Arabic words discussed in the text, except for four exceptions such as "th" and "sh" where there are good English equivalents for the sounds.
There are, however, some gray areas. Personal names of Arab authors writing in French or English have been left as they themselves spell their names in Latin characters.
Arabic personal names as given in English translations of Hadith are not uniform. Therefore, I have usually left them as the English author wrote them, since I have not seen them in Arabic. Most Arabic words which have entered into English in former years and have a "correct" English form, such as Hejira and Shiite, have been left in their English form. However, a few, such as Muslim, Muhammad and Qur'an, have been used in their new modified English form. With these thoughts in mind let us now revisit and reexamine The Qur'an and The Bible in the light of history and science.
William F. Campbell, M.D.
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