Ansar's Argument: The Bible Cannot be the Literal Word of God
Bible cannot be literal word of God as it is not in the original language in which God spoke to the prophets. Even the original Greek manuscripts are not available. What we have today is the ‘translation’ of the ‘translation’. Different versions of Bible are in circulation in the world. How can we tell which one is the word of God and which one is not? Further, if the whole Bible is word of God, then why many statements attributed to God are written in quotations? For example, in the following verses taken from Genesis-3, words in quotations are God’s own words.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" 10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." 11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"It shows that the words outside quotations are not God’s words, literally revealed upon or inspired to Moses, but of the author of Genesis in later period who also wrote in Deuteronomy (34:5-8) about the death and burial of Moses. Thus the Bible cannot be called literal word of God as the original words spoken by God are not known today.
Analyzing Ansar's Argument
For various reasons, I'm not sure I understand his last paragraph, but I think I have the gist of his argument. Ansar has, explicitly or implicitly, taken the following positions:
1 - In order to be the literal word of God, the Bible must be in the original language in which God spoke to the prophets.
2 - We do not have the original Greek manuscripts; what we have today is the translation of a translation.
3 - The existence of different versions of the Bible means that the Bible cannot be the literal word of God.
4 - Since there are words in the Bible that do not belong to God, the Bible cannot be called the literal word of God.
When we further unpack Ansar's position, we find the following presuppositions:
5 - The "literal word of God" must mean exact words dictated by God and heard by prophets.
6 - Our possession of the original manuscripts somehow affects whether the Bible is the literal word of God.
The place we must start is #5. What does Ansar mean by the word "literal?" Ansar has imported a fallacious view of inspiration to the Bible, and thus has misrepresented what a Christian might mean when he says the Bible is the "literal" word of God. This is what we call a "straw man fallacy"; in other words, Ansar has inaccurately represented the Christian position, and then has attacked that inaccurate representation, leaving the real position untouched.
When a Christian says the Bible is the literal word of God, he does not envision a Muslim view of inspiration by dictation, as if prophets have a heavenly fax machine that prints out word for word what God tells them to say. The Christian view of inspiration is that God uses the mind, vocabulary, experiences, etc. of a human author to express exactly that which God intended him to express. In other words, God uses a human author to craft the exact message God intends to convey.
When I as a Christian say "The Bible is the literal word of God" I mean that the Bible is the result of the Holy Spirit inspiring a very real human to write words which we can literally ascribe to God Himself. I do not mean that God spoke an audible voice in a human language which has then been transcribed.
This response nullifies many of Ansar's positions, i.e. #1, #4, and #5. It has shown Ansar's whole argument to be radically misdirected, and thus adequately demonstrated why Ansar's argument fails.
For Good Measure
But there's plenty more that's problematic with Ansar's argument.
- Whatever he conceives #2 to mean, it is false. If by "original Greek manuscripts" he means we do not have any Greek manuscripts, that is blatantly false. If by "original Greek manuscripts" he means the autographs, that does not yield the conclusion that all we have is "a translation of a translation." It would mean we have copies, or copies of copies, since we do have Greek Manuscripts, and the original language of the NT was obviously Greek.
- Due to lack of precision, we cannot be sure what Ansar means by #3. My guess, though, is that he is conflating "versions" and "translations." The existence of the NIV, NASB, RSV, ESV, etc. does not mean anything for the Greek, since these are all based on the Greek text.
- #6 is a false notion as well, since whether we have the autographs has nothing to do with whether what we have is the literal word of God or not.
Three Fingers Pointing Back
However, what is surprising is that Ansar would advance some of these arguments in light of the fact that he is a Muslim. Ansar is not arguing in a void, he is arguing as a Muslim. If he presupposes certain truths which undercut his own theology, it can only tell us that he either does not believe in his own arguments or he does not believe in his own faith. Unfortunately, all four of his major points undercut his own theology.
- #1 undermines the authority of the Qur'an, since Muhammad never heard a single word spoken to him by God. The Muslim consensus is that Muhammad heard the angel Gabriel, not Allah. Thus, according to Ansar's argument, the Qur'an cannot be the literal word of Allah (though it can be the literal word of Gabriel).
- #2 undermines the authority of the Qur'an, because we do not have the autographs of the Qur'an. What's worse, all the Qur'anic material written during Muhammad's lifetime was systematically destroyed by Uthman. What we have today is a copy of a reconstruction, not even a copy of a copy.
- #3 undermines the authority of the Qur'an, because not only are there different "versions" of the Qur'an (that is, translations) but there are also different "readings" of the Qur'an. Most of the Muslim world reads what's called the Hafs an Asim, that is, the reading of the Hafs qirat as read by Asim. This is one of 10 major readings of the Hafs qiraat. Another commonly read qirat is Warsh an Nafi, that is, the Warsh qirat as read by Nafi. These are two of 80 versions of the Qur'an which resulted from Ibn Mujahid's attempt to limit how many versions of the Qur'an were official in the late second/early third century AH.
- #4 undermines the authority of the Qur'an, as well. Read Surah al-Fatiha, the first surah of the Qur'an. This is a prayer to Allah. Obviously, then, it cannot be Allah speaking to Muhammad. Thus, according to Ansar's criteria, the Qur'an cannot literally be the word of God.
Far from arguing against the Bible being the literal word of God, Ansar has demonstrated that, by his own standards, the Qur'an is not the literal word of God.
Logical and Personal Integrity
Logical and Personal Integrity
It behooves Ansar at this time to either recant his argumentation, which has been shown to undermine his worldview, or to recant his worldview. Lord, I pray it is the latter! But, if experience means anything, I know it will be neither. Ansar will sidestep his own faulty position and attempt to poke holes in my position. However, as we have seen, if Ansar represents my position accurately, his argument loses all potency.