My dear brother Ethasham has raised some good questions in some previous threads. I have decided to post some of these issues on separate threads, not to expose or attack Ethasham (in fact these are issue raised by Muslims generally), but so we can effectively deal with these issues separately; otherwise it will extend one thread so heavily that the reader will find it difficult to get along.
In this thread we will look particularly at the Christian covenant. Does the claim of the Qur’an that the Christians forgot parts of the covenant imply that they corrupted the Gospel?
Ethasam Gulam wrote:
As for the Quran 5:13-15, the Christians forgot their covenant as in, they made up certain doctrines, such as the divinity of Jesus, physical resurrection, etc. Also the original gospel was the Q Gospel-- which had sayings of Jesus and not the crucifixion or resurrection narratives. So according to Muslim Scholars-- this points out to the New Testament being corrupted.
Firstly Ethasham implies that forgetting some of the covenant implies that the Gospel was corrupted.
Before we look at the covenant let me just raise a few pointers here:
Firstly, the Qur’an is here stating that the Christians forgot some parts of the covenant, it does not say Scripture; there is a clear distinction in Jewish and Christians cicles between these two. God gave scripture to both the Jews and the Christians, yet to forget that covenant or parts of it is not tantamount to forget the Scripture.
Secondly, the Qur’an states that the Christians 'forgot', it does not state that the Christians corrupted. If forgetting is corrupting, how does the Muslim explain Sura 87: 6-7:
• By degrees shall we teach thee (Muhammad) to declare (the message), so thou shalt not forget, except as God wills ... (Sura 87:6-7, Yusuf Ali).
In other words parts of the Qur’an were also forgotten; hence if forgotten is corruption, then the Qur’an is corrupt. In fact forgetting seems to have been a major problem among the early Muslims even in case of Muhammad:
• Narrated Abdullah: The Prophet said, "Why does anyone of the people say, 'I have forgotten such-and-such Verses (of the Qur'an)?' He, in fact, is caused (by Allah) to forget." (Bukhari: volume 6, book 61, number 559, Khan)
Even Muhammad forgot revelation
• Narrated 'Abdullah: ... (Muhammad said) I am a human being like you and liable to forget like you. So if I forget remind me ... (Bukhari: volume 1, book 8, number 394, Khan)
According to Sahih Muslim 300 reciters had forgotten an entire chapter of the Qur’an which is still missing (Muslim: book 5, number 2286)
Thirdly, the Qur’an states that Christians only forgot a part of the covenant and even though the passage referred to the Injeel it implies that what was not forgotten was retained, which then implies that the Injeel we have today consists of those remaining parts, which then applies that the Injeel we have today is the truth, which would include Jesus death, resurrection and divinity.
Now lets turn to the actual meaning of covenant.
Ethasham claims that the covenant that was partly forgotten was totally corrupted, but can you (Ethasham) define covenant here, what covenant did the Christians supposedly forget?
Let me point out the problem here:
We only read of one covenant, and it is recorded in what you believe to be the earliest gospel, namely Mark’s Gospel.
Notice that many scholars believe Mark to be written 30-35 years after Jesus death, resurrection and ascencion. Some scholars say that Mark was written after years 70 AD, however this conclusion is based upon the humanist notion that miracles cannot occur and since Jesus in all the Synoptic Gospels predicts the fall of Jerusalem, many scholars date them late otherwise miracles occurs and pure naturalism is therefore questionable. These scholars have no other basis behind the conclusion except their own philosophical paradigm of the world, which renders liberal theology a practice of philosophy not as a basis historical studies.
Many Christians would not have a problem believing that Mark was written 60 AD, thirty years after Jesus, however, early tradition states that Mark was written in 50-55 AD, 25 years after Jesus.
So imagine we are here 25-30 years after Jesus ascended to heaven. Peter, Paul, John and many others are still alive; in fact most of the eyewitnesses are still alive at this time.
Furthermore, the church at this time is organised, much like Muslims, Christians are at this time memorizing their tradition (the gospel) orally under the influence of successors, who are either apostles or apostolic disciples (they will do so until 200 AD alongside the written transmission).
In addition the churches worldwide are united and are interactive even at this time.
At this time based upon Papias account who writes in 110 AD (based upon the living and abiding word of Aristion and John the Elder) Peter, the apostle of Jesus is giving his own personal account of the Gospel account in Rome and Mark records it.
Interestingly enough amid all this there is a covenant recognised among Peter and the Christians at this time, only 25-30 years after Jesus’ ascencion. It is recorded in this earliest written gospel, in chapter 14: 23-24:
‘Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it “This is my blood of the covenant ,” he said to them “which is poured out for many”’.
See Gulam this is the covenant and it is based upon the earliest written account of the gospel; it refutes the Qur'anic allegation Christians ever forgot their covenant partly or entirely.
It is interesting because we do based upon early church history know how Christians presereved their information through succession and transmission and how everything was controlled by the apostles and their disciples.
However we also know as Helmut Koester claims in his review of ‘Written gospels or oral traditions’ (Journal of Biblical Literature, Summer94, Vol. 113 Issue 2, p.293) that a third factor was always utilized in early transmission namely a tangible object, which in the Christian circle would be the Eucharist or the consummation of bread and wine to remember Jesus the doctrines, which is what we read off in Mark 14: 23-24.The Christian covenant is therefore according to Jesus' own words as recorded by a the apostle Peter in 55-60 AD based upon the death of Jesus Christ.
That was the covenant as understood by the early apostles. The Qur’an as every Muslim is aware of ascribes great honour to the apostles and describes them as victorious, hence their wording from 60 AD ought to be considered factual and reliable by the Muslim community, that is if they adhere to the Qur'anic teaching.