Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#13)
02/03/2005 - James WhiteBentley (as quoted by our Islamic writers) writes,
What really outraged men like Dean Burgon was principally that, however learnedly Codex Sinaiticus was edited, it revealed a text of the Bible that again and again differed from what they had revered and loved as Holy Writ. Take, for example, the Lord's Prayer. Generations of Englishmen had been accustomed to the version, in Luke chapter 11, verses 2 to 4:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
They learned to accept this as an alternative to the more familiar version in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 to 13.
Now they were presented with an even more truncated version. The Lord's Prayer of Codex Sinaiticus reads simply:
Father, Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins, as we ourselves also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.
And bring us not into temptation
This is presented in a very confused fashion by Bentley (p. 130). No discussion is offered of the fact that ancient scribes would often, due to their own ignorance, seek to "harmonize" parallel passages in the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). Almost invariably the attempted harmonization was to make the less well known passage "fit" the better known passage. This is most clearly evident in examining the "expansion" of Luke's more concise version of the Lord's prayer. The assumption of later scribes was that Luke's version should read identically with Matthew's (that errant assumption is behind the majority of such later attempts at harmonization). There are numerous attempts to conform Luke's brief version to Matthew's longer version, primarily in the Byzantine texts that underly the King James Version of the Bible. One can examine the textual data provided in the Nestle-Aland 27th edition and see the repeated appearance of the symbol p) which means "parallel" as in "this reading comes from the parallel passage" in the synoptic tradition. Now after noting the more primitive form of the text in a, Bentley makes the comment,
Codex Vaticanus even omitted the words, 'Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth'. For generations, it would seem, men and women had repeated spurious words, fondly believing that they came from the lips of Jesus himself. Moreover, even the more familiar version in Matthew was suspect. The Matthean ending to the Lord's prayer, 'For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen', likewise was absent from Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.There is no question that pious expansions of later centuries could be held to "fondly" by later generations, but that is hardly relevant to the reality of textual criticism: that is, that the manuscript tradition provides us with the means of recognizing these later expansions and scribal attempts at harmonization. There is nothing in the disputed phrases that is unbiblical in and of itself or is not found elsewhere in Scripture. Once again we face the reality that, at least in the context of Islamic apologetics, the use of such a quotation is misleading. Let's say there is a parallel to the Lord's prayer in the Qur'an, in some fashion. There are variants in it in the days of Uthman. The variants are removed and an "official" version is created, and protected, by a centralized body. There is no historical parallel to the transmission of the Christian scriptures. There was no centralized body, supported by force of arms, to function as the Caliphs of Islam. There was no "revision" such as that of Uthman to produce a singular text. The gospel was to go out to all, as widely as possible. It was not to be kept under the control of a central power. So once again, while the Christian must deal with these textual variations and not simply sweep them under the rug, God has given us the means in the manuscript tradition to work through them; further the original readings remain within that tradition. But the Muslim cannot say this, for the transmission line of his text ends not with Mohammed, but with Uthman (barring more finds such as those at Sa'ana, which would throw more light upon the pre-Uthmanian Qur'anic text, much to the chagrin of conservative Islam).