Thought Question

How is the Bible different from the Koran?

Or, more specifically, how is what Christians believe about the Bible different from what Muslims believe about the Koran?

You can read my thoughts about it here (with a link to another good essay by Mark Roberts).  You should read the essay by Mark Roberts, including his quote from the pope.

But I’m interested in your thoughts on the subject.

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7 Responses

  1. It is my understanding that in Islam, the Koran is seen as the perfect and full revelation of God’s being and character. We sometimes talk as if the Koran holds basically the same place in their faith as the Bible does in ours, and as if Mohammed has roughly the same place in their faith as Jesus has in ours. In fact, Jesus is more analogous to the Koran than the Bible is. We believe that Jesus was the fullest and most perfect revelation of God’s being and character, just like the Muslim community views the Koran. As for Mohammed, they see him chiefly as God’s inspired messenger in bringing them the Eternal Word of God. In a similar way, we see the Bible as God’s inspired words to us, mainly pointing the way to Christ. So while we affirm that the Bible is the word (small “w”) of God, there is (in the John 1 sense) only one Word. And we should should not confuse the two; our allegiance is to Christ, and to the Bible only insofar as it is a witness to him.

  2. In my understanding, one primary difference between the Bible and the Koran is that the koran is considered the COMPLETE revelation of God. Though the Bible is considered inerrant, it is not considered all that God ever has to say to us: it is perfect in correctness, but not in completeness. The Koran is completely the words of God, exactly as he dictated them and Mohammad had nothing to do with the message except to pass it along.

    The difference this makes in application is that we as Christians can question God on our own and expect him to answer us in some way; We can question the text and not be committing heresy. The Bible has human authors with different writing styles and personalities. God gave them the message, but they are an active part of the process. To consider the human component of the Koran would be heretical because it is God’s exact words. To search out the information in the Koran based on history or archeology would be heretical as well because it is obviously correct no matter what history says. Allowing the human element allows us to test the Bible scientifically and historically. The Koran does not allow this sort of interaction with the text at all.

    The Koran is set, final, and all else breaks on it like waves on unmovable stone. The Bible is more like a riverbed and everything flows through it rather than against it.

    • Which actually makes the Bible more amazing. We are able to draw more out of it. The more we learn, the more we find that the Bible already told us.

      Not to mention that this means the Bible tells us about a much bigger God. If everything that our God had to say to us was able to be contained in a single book, then what kind of omni- God is that? John writes that the words and works of Jesus could not be contained in every book in the world. Combine that with Solomon telling us that there is no end to the writing of books. Our God is so big, we could write forever and never capture Him. Allah, on the other hand, has already been caught.

      Also, consider having simply a piece of something grand, knowing that one day you will have the fullness of it. Isn’t that better than having all of something and knowing that you will never get any more?

  3. This past May, I took the class “World Christianity” at Kentucky Christian University. One of the class days included a trip to an Islamic Mosque and a Roman Catholic Cathedral. I had never been in an Islamic Mosque, but found the experience very beneficial. Our tour guide, a practicing Muslim, offered much insight into the practical and non-extremist religion of Islam. One statement that the tour guide made, however, shocked me. The guide stated that the average Muslim does not know or study the Koran. They believe it to be Allah’s very words given to the prophet Mohammad, but do not study it like most conservative Christians study the Bible. The Mosque had verses from the Koran posted on the walls and there are certain phrases from the Koran that a Muslim repeats in worship, but the personal study of God’s Word appeared to be missing.

    I am by far not an expert in Islamic studies. Like I said, that was my first visit to an Islamic Mosque. So, I am not sure if that mindset is typical of most “average Muslims,” or if I visited a more “liberal” Mosque. According to Mark Robert’s article, Muslims use the Koran as “a source of guidance and inspiration.” The article goes on to say: “In traditional society it is still used to administer oaths and to be chanted as part of the cure for illness. Its recitation is therapeutic to Muslims, who derive comfort and strength from it.” But it does not seem that they use the Koran as “source of guidance” like most conservative Christians. The article discusses how Muslims often wrap copies of the Koran in clean cloth, place it on a high stand, never point their feet in its direction, and never leave it lying on the floor. Thus there is no doubt that Muslims respect the Koran but it appears it is worshipped more as an icon than a book of study. So, do most Muslims revere the Koran but neglect studying its actual teachings? I would love to hear anyone’s insight in this matter.

    In addition, I do have a concern about one reoccurring theme in Mark Robert’s article. This theme can be summarized in his statement about Christian allegiance: “Our allegiance to and reverence for Christ take precedence over our allegiance to and reverence for the Bible, even though we come to know Christ through the Bible.” I agree that Christ is our Lord and He is the Head of the church. I also believe that we should not worship the Bible as we do Christ. I am afraid, however, that such statements lesson the importance of teachings of Christ. In John 14:23-24, Jesus states: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” Our Lord indicates that if you love Him you will also love His teachings. I have often heard people say: “We are not saved by doctrine, we are saved by Jesus.” Though this statement may be well-meaning, I think it leaves open the possibility that we can follow Jesus without following his teachings. I find this idea troublesome. As the apostle John writes: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).

  4. Just as Chad mentioned in his response, I also made the trip to the Islamic Mosque this spring with the World Christianity class at KCU. The lecture, the field trip, and the subsequent discussions were my first experiences in studying the religion of Islam and learning about the history of the Koran.

    One of the many things I was surprised to hear about on the trip was that the Koran mentions many of the prophets and people from the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Koran includes many of the people and stories we study such as Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Solomon, David, John the Baptist, Mary, and even Jesus. Our guide/presenter pointed out that the Koran teaches and accepts many of the gospel miracles- including the virgin birth. In fact, we were told that Mary is perhaps the most mentioned woman in the Koran.

    The presenter continued that Jesus lived as a prophet and was the greatest of all the prophets-until Muhammad. She told us that Jesus will return to earth, but she was quick to add that their teachings say Jesus didn’t die. Rather, God raised him to himself in a manner like Elijah. This is, however, one area where our differences come to the surface. The central defining act of Jesus’ ministry is not accepted in their teaching – that is His death, burial, and resurrection.

    In Gerald McDermott’s book, Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?, he writes some of the significant differences between Muslim and Christian are the views on written revelation and the nature of scriptural inspiration. He writes the Koran was, “Dictated by only one man and is not a book of history, a life of Muhammad, or a theological treatise” (193). McDermott adds, “While Christians believe that the Bible is a joint product of both human and divine agency , Muslims believe their holy book contains not a shred of human influence…Muslims deny that Muhammad’s personality or cultural affinities had anything to do with the words of the Qur’an” (193).

    I want to add that I also explicitly recall that during our Q & A session, the speaker was asked by one of our class members, “Do Muslims know the Old Testament?” The presenters response came with a rather large chuckle and smile, “No, most don’t even know the Koran.”

    References:
    McDermott, Gerald R. Can Evangelicals Learn From World Religions? Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

    • I was also shocked to learn on the trip that Muslims believe Jesus is going to return. They think he will return because he never really died, and everyone must die. I had no idea that they believed this. Thanks for reminding me about that part of the tour.

  5. I must admit I have not enough knowledge of the Koran to comment except from what I have read in these posts and from what I have observed. It is a testimony to the power of Yahweh that he used various writers at various times to produce a document that lives. It lives because it is the written revelation of a living savior, Jesus, the Word of God. It lives because of the dual nature of human words inspired by a living God that are timeless. A document such as the Koran that appears to be dictated to one man does not involve his creation. I am thankful that the God of Chiristanity, the God of the Bible involved us in his written word and especially that he involved us in the living word, Jesus. It is a testimony to the power of the God of the Bible that he would use these various authors and descend to us as a man. This speaks of a God that is based upon love that he would come to us both as a man in Jesus and as the wriiten word found in the Bible. That is what the difference seems to me, the Triune God of the Bible loves us so much that he gave and offered and from that we are to obey. The God of the Koran only demands.obedience.

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