by Dr. Dan Hayden •
A forgery is difficult to detect, especially if it has all of the characteristics of the original. Take art forgery, for instance. There are fraudulent paintings of the Great Masters that are nearly impossible to expose because the forgers are so good at imitating the features of the true artist. Elmyr de Hory was an artist with that kind of ability. In fact, Orson Welles was so impressed with Elmyr that he made a movie of his life, entitled F for Fake.
It is estimated that Elmyr de Hory “made more than 1000 counterfeit paintings”1 before he died in 1976. Art critics often mistook his works for the genuine masterpieces and, consequently, the forgeries were unwittingly sold as originals throughout North America, Europe and Japan. Knut W. Jorfald, the Norwegian film maker who also produced a movie of Elmyr’s life in 1997, said that the revenue generated by Elmyr’s forgeries “has been estimated at over one hundred million dollars.”2 On one occasion in 1968, the Spanish government imprisoned him for two months and then expelled him from their country for the crime of signing wrong names on his paintings—“Names like Picasso, and Van Gogh, and Modigliani, and Matisse.”3
Elmyr de Hory’s forgeries were almost impossible to distinguish from the original pieces. In fact, Robert Wilson makes the suggestion that, “Every time you walk through a museum and see a Picasso or a Matisse… you should stop and ask, ‘Now did Picasso or Matisse do that, or did Elmyr do it?’”4 It seems, in some cases, that there is concern in the art world as to who has the original masterpiece and who has the forgery.
When it comes to imitations of the Word of God, it can be equally difficult to separate the authentic writing from the pretender. Add to that the emotional element, and you have a real challenge! No one likes to admit that they are wrong or that they have been conned into believing something that is untrue. This is the situation faced by people who are committed to their religious traditions.
For instance, for a Muslim to admit that the Bible is the real Word of God and the Koran is the fake would be to deny his culture and family heritage, since these things are intimately entwined with the religion of Islam. The same would be true for Christianity of course. Yet, ultimately, somebody is basing his entire life and eternal destiny on a lie—and that’s disconcerting, to say the least. The greater the stakes, the more serious the fraud. In that regard, religious fraud is worse than art fraud because it affects both this life and the life to come.
The only reasonable solution is to study the evidence and allow the facts to determine the truth and expose the error. After all, how can a forgery be told from the original? Only by subjecting it to close scrutiny and careful examination can authenticity be verified.
The Bible and the Koran both claim to be the Word of God. They are each presented to the world as an authoritative voice from a divine source that reveals the will of God for mankind. Furthermore, both the Bible and the Koran have each enjoyed a degree of popularity. Yet the teachings in these books are diametrically opposed to each other as to who God is and what He expects from His people. Therefore, unless we are willing to abandon reason and logic in favor of a pluralistic philosophy (the notion that conflicting ideas can both be right), we are left with a choice. Which one is the Word of God? So let’s compare the two writings as we seek to answer that question.
THE KORAN—The Scriptures of Islam
According to Muslim tradition, the Koran (sometimes spelled “Quran”) is the foundation of Islam. It is for them the revelation of divine truth and is the Word of God given to mankind through the prophet Muhammad. Muslims consider it their most holy writing, although the Hadith (which records the sayings and deeds of Muhammad) is also highly revered.
Development of the Koran—A Brief History
Muhammad was forty years old when he began to receive the revelations that eventually became the Koran. He had been spending an entire month each year in a cave three miles north of Mecca, where he would “wrap himself in a garment, keep night vigils, and repeat the name Allah,”5 which in Arabic means “the God.” While in the cave on one occasion in the year 610 AD, the angel Gabriel reportedly appeared to him and gave to him his first revelation. Initially he thought that he had come under the influence of a demonic spirit, but his wife, Khadija, convinced him that the appearance was an angel of God and not the devil.
For the next 23 years until his death, Muhammad continued to receive revelations from the angelic spirit whom he had come to know as Gabriel. However, it was not until twenty years after his death that the Koran was actually compiled.
It is generally agreed that Muhammad did not know how to read or write. Therefore, as he received the revelations from the angel, he would repeat them to his followers and they would endeavor to remember them. They “carried portions on pieces of paper, stones, palm leaves, shoulder blades, bits of leather, and from the memories of men.”6 The official version of the Koran was then compiled from these sources by Uthman, the third Caliph (line of successors from Muhammad). There is a tradition in the Hadith that Uthman then ordered that “all other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burned.”7 From that point on, the compilation of the many fragmentary materials into one text by Caliph Uthman became the official version of the Koran.
The Koran contains 114 chapters (called “Surahs”) of varying lengths, and is comparable in length to the Christian New Testament. Muhammad is said to have received 86 of the Surahs from Gabriel in Mecca and the other 28 in Medina. The Surahs are not in any chronological order, and are simply a collection of instructions on “worship, marriage and family, economics, politics, community affairs, hygiene, and all other affairs of humanity.”8
The history of the development of the Koran, therefore, is brief and simple. All of the revelations were received in private by Muhammad from the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years. Muhammad, then, communicated them orally to his followers who, in turn, scribbled them on scraps and fragments. Finally, the fragments were compiled by the third Caliph, Uthman twenty years later. Thus, within a 43 year period (from 610 to 653 AD) the official version of the Koran was complete.
Comparison with the Bible—A Brief Analysis
A thoughtful and careful comparison of the Bible with the Koran would take more space than this brief analysis will allow. Therefore, for a fuller treatment of this subject I recommend the book by Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb entitled, Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross.
Yet there are a number of initial observations that can be made which will help us in our search for the real Word of God. Both the Bible and the Koran claim to be a divine revelation and the ultimate source for truth; and both have enjoyed a large measure of popularity. But a comparison of the two reveals a great deal of difference between them.
1. First of all, the circumstances surrounding the production of each book are radically different. The Bible was produced by 40 different authors (most of whom were prophets) over a period of 1500 years from three separate continents under a wide variety of circumstances in three distinct languages—giving ample opportunity for corroborating evidence to substantiate the claim to divine origin.
The Koran, on the other hand, was conceived by one man (Muhammad) in two adjacent locations (Mecca and Medina) over a 23 year period (610-633 AD) in one language (Arabic). No one else contributed to the Koran, except in compiling the texts of Muhammad (which was done solely by Uthman, the third Caliph), and no other person ever received a revelation from Gabriel or witnessed the angelic appearances. In other words, there is no corroborating testimony to bolster the claims of the Koran—that it is the Word of God. It stands solely on the witness of one man (Muhammad), who was an illiterate business man (admitted by many Muslims—although challenged by some)9, and who was an Arab living in Arabia five hundred years after the Bible was completed and accepted as the Word of God by most of the civilized world.
2. Second, there is no evidence of a divine presence in the Koran, as there is in the Bible—no miracles and no prophecy. Muhammad was not a man of miracles in the fashion of Jesus, who did many miracles. According to Abdul Saleeb,
All Muslims hold that miracles confirm Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet. But many Muslim apologists claim that his miracles were the Suras of the Qur’an. Indeed, in the Qur’an Muhammad himself never offered any other proof, even when challenged by unbelievers to do so (3:181-84).10
In other words, the Koran contains no miracles other than the miracle of the Koran itself—that is, that an Arabic literary masterpiece was produced by a supposedly illiterate prophet. It is true that miracles are attributed to Muhammad, but only miracles of a spiritual nature, like the miracles of the Miraj, where Muhammad claimed he was transported to Jerusalem by Gabriel and from there “ascended into heaven on the back of a mule”11 or, the splitting of Muhammad’s breast where “Gabriel is said to have cut open Muhammad’s chest… removed and cleansed his heart, then filled it with wisdom, and placed it back in the prophet’s chest.”12 But when it comes to tangible verifiable miracles like healing a blind man or raising the dead, there is nothing to match the Bible in the Koran.
Another area of divine presence manifest in the Bible, but lacking in the Koran, is the inclusion of legitimate prophecy. There are hundreds of substantiated prophecies in the Bible and some 300 prophecies of Christ’s first advent alone. Yet, there is nothing like this in the Koran. There are no general prophecies that could legitimately be called supernatural, and no prophecies concerning Muhammad. The element of predictive prophecy, verified by historical fulfillment, is missing.
There are a few instances in the Koran which Muslims like to claim as predictive prophecies that prove its divine origin, but they are mostly predictions of victory in battle. Muhammad is known as “the prophet of the sword,”13 and Muslim forces, which became a dominant presence in Arabia, were promised paradise for their efforts. Therefore, the prediction that they would win a battle was not necessarily a supernatural event. Abdul Saleeb adds this thought: “…the only really substantive prediction was about the Roman victory over the Persian army at Issus…” But he goes on to say, “Close scrutiny, however, reveals several things that make this prediction less than spectacular, to say nothing of supernatural.” 14
There have been numerous attempts on the part of Muslims to embellish Muhammad with miracles and prophecies in order to establish him as a legitimate prophet. Yet, all of the claims to the supernatural on his behalf are fanciful, unverifiable, and unconvincing. After discussing one such alleged prophecy having to do with ten years of persecution experienced by early Muslims as recorded in Surah 89:2 of the Koran, Abdul Saleeb makes this comment,
In any event, there is certainly no clear prediction of anything that would have been evident to an intelligent observer in advance of the event. Its very usage as a predictive prophecy by Muslim scholars shows how desperate they are to find something supernatural in support of the Qur’an.15
3. Another interesting observation with regard to the Koran is the fact that so much of the Koran is a reaction to the Bible. Most of the characters in the Koran are biblical personalities. In fact, Alan Jones, in his introduction to the Koran says, “Old Testament stories, often in a guise somewhat different from that in the Bible, dominate much of the narratives of the Qur’an.”16 These are mostly stories of God’s judgment on the disobedient infidels (the Jews), which in turn, becomes the proof that Muhammad is right and the Koran is true. In other words, the Koran is constantly trying to justify itself by demeaning Jews and Christians for their inability to live by their Scriptures.
The Bible, in contrast, speaks of a Savior who offers salvation to all on the basis of a vicarious sacrifice on behalf of those who have sinned. The Koran has no such thing. It is a self-effort system where the righteous Muslim earns his heavenly reward and God simply forgives his shortcomings without asking for the payment of a penalty. There is no divine justice in the Koran, except the condemnation of unbelief in Allah. Since martyrdom is the ultimate righteous act, worthy of a straight ticket to heaven, Muslims actually seek death in the service of Allah. This is the basis of terrorist acts of self-sacrifice. Some refer to this as “the dark side of Islam.”17
What a contrast to the teachings of the Bible where, although unbelief is also condemned, a truly righteous Savior (Jesus Christ) is presented who saves people from their sins by paying the penalty for their guilt through His sacrificial death. There is no savior in Islam. The Muslim is his own savior. The Bible is the only book that offers a Savior and a plan of salvation from the sin and evil that is in our world. The Koran is a book of law and judgment. The Bible is a book of grace and salvation.
4. One other comparison that should not be overlooked is the impact each book has had upon society. There is no question that over the years, bad things have been done in the name of the Bible, as well as in the name of the Koran. And radical extremists in each religious tradition have taken their teachings to limits that each book was never intended to portray. Yet, the type of society each one produces is radically different from the other.
Islamic societies, generally speaking, are restrictive regimes where other points of view are not tolerated, and where women are severely limited in their social interaction. Christian missionaries are not permitted in Islamic countries and proselytizing by Christians is a crime worthy of imprisonment. Also, women do not fare as well as men in Islam, being largely secluded and relegated to subservient roles. Furthermore, the welfare of the masses is a low priority with favor being reserved for the wealthy and powerful. These characteristics can be readily observed in countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, where Islam is the dominant political force.
Christianity, on the other hand, has influenced societies toward personal freedom and individual liberty. In Europe and America, for instance, Muslims can proselytize, own property, and build mosques, due to the principles of religious freedom and personal opportunity. Women are afforded equal rights in the western world and, generally speaking, are encouraged to express their individuality. There is a huge middle class in America, and to a large extent, the poor can exercise upward mobility through diligence, education, and hard work. America certainly is not perfect, but it is the land of opportunity.
Now the point here is that the west has been mostly influenced by the Bible, and the Middle East has been mostly influenced by the Koran. The two societies are true reflections of the Books that influenced them. Furthermore, the Books are true reflections of the type of God each Book represents. So the question for us is, which God seems to be the true God—the God of love and opportunity, or the God of law and restriction? The answer to that question will have a great bearing on which Book we believe is the true Word of God—the Bible, or the Koran.
Weight of Evidence
So, in comparing the Koran with the Bible, we are being asked to consider which one is the Word of God. In other words, which one has the higher degree of credibility and authenticity? One is a fraud—that much is certain. Both cannot simultaneously be the true Word of God.
There is obviously much more that could be said concerning the differences between the two books. Yet even a cursory comparison is enough for a fair inquirer to recognize that the Bible has the weight of evidence in its favor. The Koran cannot begin to demonstrate the same divine qualities that are manifest in the Bible. It is inferior in every respect, and deserves the label—“The Pretender.”
If the Bible, then, is the Word of God— as it claims to be and as we are convinced that it is—it deserves our undivided attention and requires our absolute allegiance. The Bible is God’s message to man, and that message simply cannot be ignored. ■
- www.nwfilm.org. “Masterpiece or Forgery: The Story of Elmyr de Hory” (Northwest Film Center Archive: March/April/May, 1999).
- Robert Anton Wilson, www.syntac.net/hoax/elmyr.php., “Painter Jailed for Committing Masterpieces,” p. 1.
- Ibid., p. 3.
- George W. Braswell, Jr. Islam (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), p. 12.
- Ibid., pp. 52-53.
- Ibid., p. 53.
- Ibid., p. 52.
- Norman L. Geisler & Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1993), pp.190-191.
- Ibid., p. 158.
- Ibid., p. 159.
- Ibid., p. 161.
- Ibid., p. 150.
- Ibid., p. 195.
- Ibid., p. 196.
- J.M. Rodwell, translator. Alan Jones, Forward and Introduction, The Koran (London: Everyman, J.M. Dent, 1994), p. xxii.
- R. C. Sproul & Abdul Saleeb, Tape series: The Dark Side of Islam (Orlando, Florida: Ligonier Ministires, 2002).
This article was published in the Spring 2003 issue of Sola Scriptura Magazine.
For further study, see: Did God Write the Bible?