Shifting the Playing Field

Got into a semi-debate with a Muslim this morning. He made a comment about eating pork and saying that Christians shouldn’t be doing it. I tried to explain to him that Christians are free to eat all the pig they wanted. He kept saying that the Bible said not to eat pork. I tried to explain that Israelites were not to eat pork and that is not binding on Christians. Then he accused me of wanting to pick and choose. So I asked him if he expected me to follow the laws concerning menstruation. He said, “Of course not, those were for women.” I responded, “But it’s in the book!”

So he proceeded to take that as an opportunity to tell his young and impressionable coworker that this is why he doesn’t subscribe to religion, because it’s full of man-made stuff. I told him that he’s as religious as the next guy whether he liked the word or not. Then he told me about the many merits of Islam and how they’re people of the book and they believe the Torah and the Gospels. I retorted that they believe what they want to believe and discard the rest claiming it’s a addition or fabrication. He told his coworker that this was evidence I had never read the Qur’an because if I had I would know that the Qur’an says no such thing. I explained that I didn’t charge the Qur’an with this, although I think a case can be made for this point from the Qur’an (see, e.g., 5:13-15), but that Muslims were guilty of it.

He called me a liar and said he’d bet me his paycheck that I couldn’t prove it. So I said, okay, the Gospels say that Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Do Muslims believe that? Does the Qur’an confirm that? He said, “That’s something people who followed Jesus said; Jesus didn’t write that.” Wait a second; I thought I was lying when I said that Muslims claim the stuff they disagreed with was added later or fabricated wholesale? Not so much, huh? Then he continued by saying that Muslims don’t deny that stuff; they just don’t believe it because it can’t be proven.

So he shifted subjects and talked about how the Bible has been tampered with and how all this stuff was added and how we don’t know what it originally said and how the Qur’an that the Prophet Muhammad received is the very same Qur’an that we have today and has never been altered in the original Aramaic. Remember, he’s saying all of this to me and his young, impressionable coworker. I said that this simply wasn’t true; that there are textual variants in Qur’an manuscripts and that scholars know well about them. I also brought up the Uthmanic recension. Oh, and I said that the Qur’an was written in Arabic, not Aramaic. You’d think he’d know that. He once again accused me of lying and told me to prove it. He said that there’s no changes whatsoever. None. Not one. Ever.

So I grabbed the laptop from next door and typed in “textual variation in the Qur’an” and Answering Islam popped up immediately with a plethora of resources on this subject. But no one had time to wade through all of that material. So I opted for the Youtube video on the subject. It started by talking about a discovery of ancient Qur’anic manuscripts from around 705-715 CE, which was about 70 years after Muhammad would have received the Qur’an. He told me to pause the video and then said, “That’s from 70 years later! That’s not the originals!” Wait. What? So there are changes in the Qur’an? “No, not to the originals.” What? What do you mean? Like the original that Muhammad dictated and was written down? “Yeah.”

Well I can claim that about the Old Testament and the New Testament. But he said that we didn’t have those originals and if we did he wanted to see them. He claimed that Christians keep their texts hidden and won’t let people see them. Nonsense! Scholars have been studying them for years. You can find hi-res photos online. You can visit the libraries and museums that house these ancient documents and see them for yourself. But he claimed the very original Qur’an is in Mecca. I asked him how he knew and he got all hot and bothered. He started asking how I knew that we had the originals. I explained that I knew that we didn’t. We’re not the ones claiming to have the originals. He asked why we don’t have them and I explained that animal skins and plant matter doesn’t hold up so well after thousands of years.

But before I grabbed the laptop (and before he put the kibosh on even hearing the evidence for textual variation in the Qur’an), he grabbed his phone and showed his coworker two different websites that each had the Qur’an in Arabic (not Aramaic folks) with an English translation. He said, “Look! You see how the Arabic is the same in both Qur’ans? The only thing that’s different is the English translation.” I’m not making this up folks; this was what he used as evidence of no variation. Tomorrow I’m going to bring in two copies of the NA27 and show him how there’s no variation between the two!

But the point of this story is that every time I made a point he’d shift the playing field. First the Bible tells Christians to refrain from swine. Then Muslims believe the Torah and the Gospels. Then they don’t reject any of it. Then they do reject some of it but only the stuff that’s not really supposed to be there. Then the Qur’an has no changes. Then it has changes but only in the copies; not the original. And I haven’t mentioned the dozen other red herrings and irrelevancies that entered the discussion. Thank God a customer ended up coming in and halting the conversation. Now I’m going to have to sit down with the impressionable kid and disabuse him of all the false information he heard from his Muslim coworker.



4 thoughts on “Shifting the Playing Field

  1. Nick: Bless you for your patience. I’ve had those conversations – mainly with antitrinitarians come to think of it. I wonder if there’s a connection?

  2. Tom: I wish I could say that i was patient through the whole thing. I raised my voice a couple of times and once I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me.

    Benjamin: Yup.

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