Friday

WHAT THE GOSPELS MEAN TO MUSLIMS ? part 3


SUMMARY

Now to go back, in a kind of summary, I suppose there are two thoughts that came up here. I spent a lot of time, and maybe more then I should have, on the treatment of Scripture and how it is viewed. For the most part that is for the benefit of the Muslim. I tried to get across to the Muslim that not everybody who calls himself Christian has the same ideas about what the Bible does, what it is suppose to do. They are varying views on that.
It is one stream of Christianity that says the Bible is inerrant, "These are the words that God spoke." Even in the places where he said he didn't, I guess, because there are places like that. Paul said in one place: What you are about to read didn't come from God. There are those who say these are God's words precisely. The mainstream of Christianity doesn't go along with that.
When the apparent errors are cited the usual retreat is to say, "These are errors of transmission, that is, these mistakes were not there in the original manuscripts." Which might be true but we'll never know, will we? Since no one has the original manuscripts. It makes it a pretty empty claim to say I have a perfect book I just can't get my hands on a perfect copy. What good is this book if you don't know what used to be in it? It has not been so well preserved historically. At this point, the two streams of Christianity tend to meet because they will both say, "Yes but all these apparent errors do not touch on major doctrine in the first place." Personally, I disagree with that {Atonement being one issue}.
The mainstream of Christianity will try to tell the other branch the reason for that is the Bible, itself, doesn't talk very much about major doctrines. That's the reason why these verses that may have been miscopied don't touch on major doctrine because most of the Bible doesn't in the first place. That's what Martin Luther said about the Bible, that most of it is irrelevant. His basic philosophy was that unless a verse talks about a certain subject, his particular pet subject, he says that it is doubtful that is scripture. In his edition of the Bible, he took the books of James, Hebrews, and Revelations and put them in the back, like an appendix, because he said that they don't belong up here with the rest of the scripture. A hundred years later, they were moved back. The point is that the attitude that all of it is of equal value is an old and even fundamentalist position – well, they won't go along with that – to say not all of it speaks in the same way. It doesn't very often really touch on major doctrine. So the next step in this explanation is to say, "But we know that the doctrine has been transmitted historically correct because that is what the Bible is about, it is a record of a continuity of the Christian community." That is largely true but remember the original objection was that this document of historical continuity has suffered some problems in the continuity. It hasn't been that well translated.
Regarding thought, I was trying to encourage the idea of thinking about these things. There is just one final suggestion I would make there: Beware of a lot of things that pass for proof. Very often what people consider proof of something is a proof of something which is unreasonable by nature. That is, a person will tell you about a certain doctrine. You say that makes no sense. They'll tell you, yes, it is beyond reason and look, "I have proof that it is true!" That is self-contradictory.
If you produce a proof of something that is unreasonable, then something is wrong with your proof. The scientist who does a thought experiment in his mind, "If A is true then B is true, that would mean C and therefore D – and that's crazy! Wow, let me call the newspapers. I've proved a crazy thing." He doesn't do that. When he arrives at something that makes no sense, he goes back and thinks well I must have started with a wrong assumption or something is faulty with my argument. We don't rejoice at an unreasonable conclusion by process of reasoning. Something is wrong with the proof is the usual signal.
So those are some thoughts, and I'd actually be more interested in what you're thinking than what I'm thinking. If you have some questions or comments, don't be shy to speak up. Thank you for your time and attention, in any case. Don't do that. {Miller politely objects to APPLAUSE by a Christian audience of 40 or so people}
Questions &Answers
QUESTIONER1: Can we ask you questions not exactly on the Gospel but on…
DR MILLER: Sure
QUESTIONER1: In relationship to some words that we hear: Sunnis and Shi'ite. Like we understand Protestants and Catholics, so…
DR MILLER: Yes, it's not quite parallel to that, historically, those are really nicknames that were bestowed on people, I don't think people at least years ago deliberately told you, "I am Sunni or Shia or Wahabi" or something like that. Those are nicknames bestowed from outside. Just as I don't think the first protestant said, "I am protestant." That is a label that came on. That basically refers to different approaches to certain issues. The labels were unknown until some period of time after the time of the prophet I am saying, well, at least 250 years before people were using these kinds of things. And Shia just came from an Arabic word which means "party" like the Republican party, that sort of thing. It was kind of a nickname bestowed on people who claimed to historically belong to a certain party loyal to a certain man. Others put the emphasis on saying that the loyalty is not to a certain bloodline but to a certain code of behavior. That is basically the root meaning of Sunna, which has to do with characteristic behavior or habit or whatever. That is how these two nicknames came about: One said we want to follow the behavior of a certain group of people; and, the other group wanting to emphasize the line of descent of people. They are roughly divided 90% to 10%. Some of the issues that divide are much more important to a small group of people than they are to the bulk of individuals. That is to say, if you approached someone and said I take this position and I am against the position you take, chances are he doesn't know about either one of those positions. It is like a layman trying to debate the matters that Church councils take up. Usually they don't even know what it is they are talking about in the first place. Most of those issues are far removed from people, or if they have an idea of what those issues are, it maybe some simplistic view of one or the other favorite thing they carried over. I hope that's helpful.
DR MILLER: Yes (pointing to the next questioner)
QUESTIONER2: I was just curious how does a Muslim, how does he know that he has eternal life, what does a Muslim believe once he dies in sin?
DR MILLER: Well, as to exactly what happens to him, there are all kinds of stories about that, nobody really knows. MAYBE DEATH IS AS INTERESTING AS LIFE. It's like saying what's going to happen to this baby now that it is born (referencing an infant screaming and crying out in the audience)? What's going to happen now that this man has died may be a very complicated thing, too? The first part about what you are asking is how does he know about where he stands?
Look at it in this way, the Quran says that on the final judgment that the record of each man will be put in his hand. He knows by that record what the decision is what the verdict is. There are no surprises. It is not going to be the case where someone looks over his record and is thinking, "This looks pretty close, I hope the judge is in a good mood today." (Audience laughter) It's going to be very clear by the record.
So given that that is the case, anybody at any given moment should be able to stop and think, "What if I died right now? Am I ready or not?" The difference between that approach and the approach of some at least who would say, "I KNOW that my well being is looked after," is some of those who would say that, "I know that I am saved and a week from tomorrow I'll still be saved." Whereas the Muslim would say, "I am ready to die now, a week from tomorrow ask me a week from tomorrow." That is he knows what the situation is to now.
There is a confidence there I guess which the Muslim doesn't often talk about, there is the story of one of the men of 14 centuries ago, he was about to be executed, in fact crucified, by the people in Mecca, Hubaibe (a.s.), I am thinking of. The people who were about to kill him said, "You can have a moment to make some prayers if your want." So he prayed very quickly and then he came back, "I would have prayed longer but you would think that I was stalling and I was afraid, and I am not, let's get on with it, I shortened my prayer." So he was quite confident of what the situation was at that point. That is distinctly a possibility. It is just a matter of being honest with yourself, to say why have I done what it is that I've done, what are my intentions, what brought me to here. Is it good or is it bad? That's something you know from the inside.
QUESTIONER2: So how do you know the things that you've done throughout your life whether God thinks they're good enough for Him? I'm saying you appear before Him when you die, how do you know that it is good enough?
DR MILLER: It is not a question precisely of what is done, it is a question of intentions. That is, it is said that if a man made up his mind to do a good thing and he got up to leave the house to go do it and fell and broke his neck and died, the credit is his as though he did it. Because what matters is that he was of that frame of mind that he was intending to do that. Whereas if a man made up his mind to do a bad thing, and he broke his neck on the way, he has committed no crime, too bad that he was in that state of mind -- but he has committed no crime. In the third case, if a man made up his mind to do a bad thing and then changes his mind he has credit for changing his mind.
You see it is a matter of the intention, what is the frame of mind that you are in, NOT NECESSARILY THE VALUE OF YOUR ACTS. The good things that people do have a certain value but they really don't add up to anything like the compensation that comes back. As the one verse says, The punishment that men receive is exactly equal to the wrong done but the reward they receive is 10 times greater than any good they've actually ever done. That using the figure 10 apparently figuratively, just to say penalties correspond with crimes, but rewards are much greater than any particular good thing that was done.
QUESTIONER2: Well, my point would be, how do you know that your intentions are good enough?
DR MILLER: Well, it's a matter of being perfectly honest with yourself. That is all and that takes practice.
QUESTIONER2: How do you know that what you intend as good is good in His Sight?
DR MILLER: Well, it sounds like, and I'm not trying to make fun or anything, but that's a problem sometimes psychologists talk about called "scruples." Those are people who are paranoid about their own motivation. It is always good to ask why do I do this, and you've got to be honest with yourself, but you drive yourself insane if you are continually trying to accuse yourself of wrong doing. To think back, "When I was six years old, I remember my mother picked me up. Was I sexually aroused?" That is mentally ill but people can get into that state of mind if they are always doubting what was my intention. It good to on a regular basis to ask yourself why do I really want to do this thing, but if you are convinced that, "I'll never know," then you are losing your mind. If you are convinced that you'll never know your own mind, I think you've lost it.
QUESTIONER2: The point I'm trying to make is that you will never know.
DR MILLER: I disagree one hundred percent. You are saying a man will never know his own intentions and I saying that is should be an easy thing to do.
QUESTIONER2: The point is you will never know.
DR MILLER: Okay, then you have your opinion and I have mine. I think it is rather easy to know your own intentions.
QUESTIONER3: I think I understand his question. I'm not trying to reword it but what I'm trying to think of is the comparison of two people. If your intention is to do one thing: to wear a coat and tie because you think it's a good thing to do; and, my intention was to not wear a coat and tie, cause I didn't think it was necessary. In God's Eyes are your intentions better than mine or in God's Eyes is each person's good intentions, is there a standard of good intentions or does each person do the best they can do according to their own scruples?
DR MILLER: Well, I suppose maybe what you're, that's a complex question in this sense. However I answer it, I'm agreeing with something that you've wrapped up in a question with which I disagree. You've made it sound as though different people have different scruples, and that is basically what I disagree with. On the inside of every person is the same standard. The Quran says that men are made of one sort of thing, they have one kind of a nature, that is human nature. Men are not produced in such a way that some are a little more careful than others, they get to be that way but they didn't start out that way. They all have the same standards. If people develop different standards it is precisely because of that, they have developed those different standards.
QUESTIONER3: Yeah, so you're saying that the essence of human would be an across the board, everyone has the same…
DR MILLER: It should be the same
QUESTIONER3: I didn't hear you say that earlier.
DR MILLER: I didn't, it's my fault.
QUESTIONER4: I really appreciate the way you've presented yourself, and your obvious intelligence, and your competence in scripture. And I appreciate the gentle approach that you've taken both toward Christians and Moslems.
Do you believe that Muhammad taught that God gave the Law to Moses?
DR MILLER: See that's like one of the questions that are asked when you're put in a double bind of answer yes or no that eliminates any qualification as to the terminology that is used. And you say, "The Law" given to Moses. That He gave Moses a law I have no doubt. Yes, that is basically the Muslim position. That he gave Moses "THE" Law, which you can pick up from your public library, is another question.
QUESTIONER4: The only Law that we have of Moses goes back to the Dead Sea Scrolls which is about 200 years before Christ. There is nothing older than that and they have essentially agreed with the ones we had before that which were about a 1000 years after, maybe I should say, Jesus. Of course, Muhammad called Jesus Messiah as you know but he didn't mean what Christians mean, obviously. The reason I'm asking is that the center of the Mosaic Law was blood sacrifice. And in Leviticus 17 it says that without blood sacrifice there couldn't be atonement made for the soul. And it carries over into the Christian New Testament that there is a blood sacrifice made to make atonement for the soul, which is, of course, the blood of Christ. May I read a passage from scripture to support what I'm saying?
DR MILLER: Go ahead, if it is not that long.
QUESTIONER4: It says, "For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God." That just means that every human being has sinned. And I don't believe that there is a person in here who thinks they haven't. "Being justified freely by His Grace through the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus who God has sent forth to be a propitiation." That's a way of reconciling, an atonement. "Through faith in his blood to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins of their past through the forbearance of God."
So the same system of atonement, the reason I'm saying this is because you said that the system of atonement is not worked out very clearly. The same system of atonement applies to the New Testament scripture as in the Old, that is blood sacrifice. That man has sinned and God demands blood in the Old Testament it is animal sacrifice; in the New Testament it's the blood of Christ.
DR MILLER: Sorry, you had a hard time trying to get that out. I didn't know that's what you were getting at. The problem is that you should be arguing with the rabbi who'll tell you that is not so. I'm always telling people that but they have no reason to believe me, I guess.
I had the good fortune a couple of years ago at Emory University in Atlanta when there was a rabbi in the front row. This same point came up and I mentioned the fact is the Jews have NEVER believed in blood sacrifice actually paying the penalty for sins. If you don't believe me, ask the rabbi. He stood up, put his thumbs in his suspenders, he said, "The man is quite right!" They do not believe it, and I suggest as a reference in the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, the article, "Redemption." It points out that what you're talking about, the blood sacrifice actually paying for atonement, is a concept COMPLETELY UNKNOWN to the Jews.
That there were blood sacrifices, for sure, but what they were supposed to do is not the same kind of thing as orthodox Christian doctrine talks about. It relates to such places as the 31st chapter of Jeremiah. You find it in some of the Minor Prophets, the twelve so called Minor Prophets, where it is pointed out that, for example, and it was said that Israel was ransomed from Egypt. The point is made it doesn't mean that they were paid for. Even though the language reads like that.
Instead of trying to convince you of all that, I would say go and ask the rabbi if that is so. Look it up in the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia or any other reference, on Redemption, where it will show you that the Christian idea does not correspond to the Jewish idea, according to the Jews. They've been using the same books longer. It's a point that the Quran makes, for that matter, it says that the Jews and Christians use some of the same material and yet they disagree. This exhibits a difficulty: At least one of them is mistaken on this issue or various other issues.
As to what these verses themselves may mean when blood sacrifice is talked about in a Christian portion of scripture, there's room for disagreement on positions. The Universalists and others, for example, said Jesus spoke figuratively about an awful lot of things and it may be unjust to take him figuratively here and literally there. He said that unless a grain of corn dies it won't grow, he didn't really mean die, he means it goes into the ground. So maybe when he said I'm going to die he meant something like that and not literally die. It was Paul who said, "I die every day." He didn't mean I really drop dead everyday and then I get up. He meant something else.
The possibility has been there, it's not a popular Christian position, but the same words are open to other meanings by other people. I'm not even saying that they're right but I'm saying this thing is not so unambiguous as it is sometimes portrayed. It is still very much an open issue.
QUESTIONER4: I certainly think that there's a sense that you are right. Because there are scriptures that say God is not satisfied with the sacrifice of bulls, and the blood of bulls, and so the Messiah answers back, "that a body you have prepared for me."
DR MILLER: Now you see, that is precisely, I shouldn't have even made it sound like an unkind comment when I was saying it. Sometimes, the suggestion is made that errors in the Bible do not relate to major doctrine, and that's precisely the one I was thinking of that does. Because if you read in Hebrews the passage which says that a body was prepared for me, look up the Psalm that it's quoting from, I thinks it's the 40th Psalm, IT DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT A BODY. It says God made an ear for me. Which relates to an old miscopying of a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures by whoever wrote Hebrews when he mistook two words that ran together that meant "God dubbed me an ear" to God prepared me a body. This major doctrine has been built upon what was a mistranslation by somebody centuries ago.
QUESTIONER4: Well, it's just a matter of pointing and the Septuagint took it, ah, a Greek translation of the Hebrew scripture. Of course, took it as body, and so that's what the writer of the Hebrew put down, and he took his quote straight out of Septuagint, as you say, a wrong translation of the Hebrew scriptures. I realize that is controversial, maybe I shouldn't have even tried to use it…
DR MILLER: Yes, and I don't mean to embarrass you, I appreciate your input and I want to give everybody else a chance as well. I don't want to get into a harangue, anybody else?
QUESTIONER5: This is regarding your God-man dilemma. I was wondering why you chose to exclude any discussion of the physical resurrection of Jesus? That is one of the main bases of showing divinity.
DR MILLER: Why is the resurrection the basis of divinity? I hope I am raised up some day, what will that make me? Divine? Whether or not Jesus was raised up from the dead is another issue, but if I grant you that he was, what does that have to do with him being divine?
QUESTIONER5: It was a physical resurrection.
DR MILLER: I hope if I am raised up, that I look better than I do. I hope that it is a physical resurrection. I don't really see what that has to do with divinity. It's a case of show and tell, Jesus is divine: look he is raised up. It is not relevant to divinity.
QUESTIONER5: No body ever died and three days later came back to life.
DR MILLER: I know, suppose I told you no body or suppose I tell you many people. What does it prove? As a matter of fact, the documents that are passed down to us from the Roman empire of 2000 years ago report that this idea of that someone was killed and raised up again was a rather common notion. There're lots of people making the same claim. There was a Mespheles who had already drawn popularity in an area of the Mediterranean 200 years before the time of Jesus, and it was said of various people. In fact I'll bet you that you read in the next twelve months in the National Enquirer that somebody was raised from the dead. Reports of it were coming out all the time and these people didn't think that makes somebody divine.
How many people did Jesus supposedly raise from the dead? I've always wondered myself what it was like at the second funeral of Lazarus. A man that was dead then alive again then one day he must have died again. I'd have very mixed feelings as a relative going to bury him again. His actual resurrection doesn't establish the divinity of Jesus. And Elijah raised an individual from the dead according to 2nd Kings. The resurrection itself is all very interesting but it's virtually like anything you can point to, how do you demonstrate an Infinite God by pointing to some finite thing?
There's nothing a human being can EVER point to, that thing that proves the Infinite God. It establishes some power or ability beyond mortal men but to exhibit a thing that a man can look at with his eyes, and say that proves the Infinite Ability of God - It technically can not be done because of THE definition of the God they're trying to prove. Some Christian theologians have experimented with the idea that God is FINITE, not infinite. That's very interesting, that solves a lot these problems, I guess.
QUESTIONER6: Okay, now, some Christians claim that Jesus is God but Jesus never said that in the Bible that "I am God and worship me." On the other hand I would like to ask with so many interpretations of what Jesus said is that because nobody wrote it down when he said it? Or is it because it is written so after a long, long time?
DR MILLER: Well, maybe a little of both, I don't know. There is not a whole lot that is reported that he said anyway. There was one newspaperman in my city, Toronto, he said if you took all the words of Jesus you could print them on the front page of a newspaper. There are not that many words to go on that have been handed down. That was a point that I touched on, there, which I was trying to explain to Muslims sometimes, take it easy.
When I travel around it very often happens that someone meets me at the airport. Somebody I never met before, and he picks up the bag and we head out for the car and before we get to the car, before we're out of the parking lot, he says, "Does it say somewhere in the Bible that Jesus said he was God?"
The answer is, well, yes and no. It depends upon whether you are looking for precise words or are you looking to find out what did he mean when he said this thing? The Muslim has fallen into what is really an unfair kind of reply. The Christian says look here Jesus says I am THE Son of God. The Muslim says, "Ah, it must be a lie, somebody wrote that there!" When he, Jesus, may have well have said that but now let's see who was he talking to and what were they talking about when he said that. And who says that "son" should have a capital "S" there and so on. Those are ideas of some of the people who have reproduced these things.
The episode, in particular, that I mentioned where the Jews said we are sons of God his reply was no you are sons of the devil, I am a son of God. When they said son of God they didn't mean some kind of claim to divinity and when he said you are sons of the devil he didn't literally mean your grandmother slept with the devil, I don't think. But why is it that he MUST literally mean when he says, "I am the son of God, only when I say son of God, I mean SON of God, I mean capital 'S', Son!" Maybe he did or maybe he didn't. It is unfair to insist that what he meant was this thing and not something like what the Jews meant when they were having this discussion.
As to whether or not people worshipped him, that is another one of these things that, it is a trick of language, that the Quran accuses some people of doing. Worship used to mean in English, what was WORTHY, worthyship. In Canada we still call the mayor of a city, Your Worship. It doesn't mean I think he's God. It's just how you talk. It used to be in English, that if you stood up when someone came into the room they'd say you worshipped him.
It says in the Bible that a man came to Jesus one day and he worshipped him. If you look literally in the Greek the word there literally means, "he blew him a kiss." Now people have done that to me, I don't like it, but I didn't think they were worshipping me like I was God. (Audience laughter.) It's just what was said. What I'm getting at here is that, I believe it's the 2nd Chapter of Daniel, it says that Nebuchadnezzar came to Daniel and he worshipped him, in the King James Bible. You point to that and say doesn't worship here sound more just kind of like a salute? Or he nodded his head toward him or shook his hand or something like that. So in most Modern English translations they changed that to something else. But THEY HAVE LEFT ALONE A VERSE THAT SAYS A MAN CAME TO JESUS AND HE WORSHIPPED HIM.
Today, at least in many English speaking countries, worship has a different flavor than it had long ago. Today it seems to carry a lot of baggage that it didn't used to have. As I say, it still doesn't in many British areas, you won't find that argument cited by a Canadian generally will not point to the place where a man worshipped Jesus. That's kind of silly. Even a little town of 500 people we call the mayor, Your Worship. It's just a way of talking.
QUESTIONER4: May I do it again just for the sake of what the Christian scriptures say. It's your day and I'm not meaning to take it away. You've done a good job too. But can I do it with Thomas and read that situation out here?
DR MILLER: I can probably quote it for you without reading it, if you're talking about "My Lord and my God…"
QUESTIONER4: Yeah.
DR MILLER: See that's the same kind of…. I think everybody knows the passage…
QUESTIONER4: It's how Jesus responded that I'm interested in.
DR MILLER: What? How did he respond? Like this, you got it, Thomas, right on the nose?
QUESTIONER4: "Then Jesus said to Thomas reach here your finger and look at my hand." He's asking him to put his finger into the hole with his hands. "And put it into my side and don't be faithless but believing. And Thomas answered and said to him, 'My Lord and my God'." Jesus' response is "Thomas because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." So Jesus, I think, is backing up what Thomas says. He has him put his hand in the hole in his side and when Thomas calls him my Lord and my God, he blesses Thomas for having seen and believed. He doesn't say far be it from God that He should have a son.
DR MILLER: Well, the point is there are at least three ways that I know of that Thomas' words can be taken. I don't use it as a matter of course but it has happened to me that I've been surprised and I've said, "My God!" The man in front of me says yes, isn't it terrible, such and such a thing is true. He didn't say, no, what do you mean; I'm not God. It may have been an expletive.
He, Thomas, may have said, "My Lord, My God." What Jesus was then talking about was you Thomas didn't think I was raised up. Now you've seen and you believe I'm raised up, so congratulations. Other people won't get to see the evidence but they will believe. It's not necessarily an endorsement of some theological statement by Thomas.
In any case, even if Thomas was addressing him, "My Lord, My God," that has precedent in Scripture. The Muslim may not like it but the precedent is there of other people who were addressed as God without being God. When Moses spoke to the angel in the burning bush he called the angel, God. Stephen explains later that it wasn't actually God that was God's angel. When God Sends an angel and you speak to him you might call him God.
Moses was told, "I'm sending you as god to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet." In fact the word "as" is added in Italics in most English translations, it is not there in the Hebrew. God says I am sending you to Pharaoh, you will be god, as far as Pharaoh is concerned. This and other cases, the precedent is there for a human being or some other being to be addressed as God without being God. Paul talked about Satan as being the god of the world, so there is a question of god as capital "G" or small "g".
There are various ways of looking at it but I'm not arguing that your understanding is wrong, so much as trying to point out the case in not closed by that. Other things are possible. It is ambiguous. In a session like this it may sound like I'm trying to tell some people that they are wrong. My intention is more to say if you think you have proved something think again. Find something unambiguous or all-inclusive then wrap it up. If you can do that, then I will say, "Yes, you are right."
For now, what passes as proof is largely what is called SYNTHETIC reasoning. That is not a criticism. Synthetic reasoning is when you take a lot of things and you form what seems to be a sensible conclusion. IT IS NOT AN INEVITABLE CONCLUSION. That is analytic reasoning. Synthetic reasoning is when you say it is cloudy, the wind is blowing and the weatherman said rain – It's gonna rain. That's synthetic reasoning. You have not proved it's going to rain.
Analytic reasoning is where you have said A and B makes C, there is no other possibility. That's analytic reasoning.
These types of things are sold, in my opinion, as synthetic reasoning I've never seen it sold any other way. It is very coherent but it is not an inevitable conclusion that one arrives at, OTHER CONCLUSIONS ARE POSSIBLE BASED UPON THE SAME INPUT.
I want to give someone a turn who has not spoken; did I ask you before? (Miller addressing audience)
QUESTIONER7: Sir, we've talked about the Christian scriptures and their view of themselves, could you very quickly explain the Quran's view of itself in relationship to Christian scripture? What validity does it give for its own superiority, if it claims that?
DR MILLER: Yes, to start with, it's not so much a superior kind of a scripture, if that's what you mean. That is largely a Muslim misrepresentation, which is an over enthusiastic patriotism.
The Quran does not claim superiority in the usual sense that people are talking about because the Bible and the Quran are different kinds of books. The Quran reads approximately like most of the so-called Minor Prophets and some of the pronouncements of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. It is not like most of the Bible, which are stories. That is, the book of Jonah begins by saying the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, quote, what you are about to read came from God, through Jonah.
Whereas the book of Luke begins by saying, in effect, what you are about to read is what I have gathered and put together because it seemed like a good idea, saying, "It seemed the appropriate thing to do" to gather the evidence and write this story. He doesn't say, what you are about to read are words God has handed to me and I'm now putting down on paper for you.
Those are two different kinds of things. The Quran is like the former. That is why it is really rather short, it is about 80% the size of the New Testament. It is pronouncements: if you read "I" it is God speaking, if you read "you" it is you, it is God talking to whoever is reading this. So they are different kinds of books, largely.
What it says of previous scriptures for one thing is that it says of itself that it confirms the truthfulness of WHAT IS IN previous scriptures. That is certain things that have fallen into debate, people were arguing about certain things, and if they were really important things the Quran touches on them. To say, it was correctly reported in that scripture on this matter that it really happened like that.
It confirms the truthfulness of previous scriptures, and this verse also in the 5th chapter, also says of itself that it is, and the Arabic word is MUHAYMIN, which maybe best translated by the words, quality control. It is kind of a test against other scriptures. That is, if somebody brings something and says this is scripture and it says such and such, it may well be the Quran says that specifically is NOT so, and the evidence is in that place, go and look. It is acting as quality control in that regard.
But, of course, it does not go step by step all the way through the Bible, the Hindu Gupta, and various other scriptures and say chapter 1 is correct, there one mistake in chapter 2, 3 in chapter 4 and so on. It doesn't do that. It just talks about certain issues and the advice traditionally given to the Muslim right from the beginning was that if, for example, the Christian comes and he says such and such is true and it says so in my book, and you don't have a reason to agree with him – then give him the benefit of the doubt. He might be right; he might be wrong but don't insist he's wrong. Leave him with it unless you evidence to the contrary.
And so it is, a lot of what Muslims commonly talk about are really things they may have picked up from the Christian or the Jew. Often to their detriment, I'm afraid, they pick up some of the fairytales and carry them over as well. That's the key, it is confirming the truthfulness of key issues and it's also setting the record straight on certain other things that people have misrepresented. A great deal else it does not comment on because it doesn't really matter.
QUESTIONER7: It's a man-made instrument to confirm or not confirm another supposedly man-made instrument?
DR MILLER: Oh, no, it doesn't say of itself it is a man-made instrument. As I said, it's the Speech of God's commandments. When you read it, it says, "I" as God, and "you" the reader. It's a pronouncement like as I said some of the 18 of the 66 books of the bible are like that, they don't just tell the story of so and so, but they say, God told Hosea this, quote. It's of that nature.
QUESTIONER7: The point I'm trying to make is that its validity is based on the fact that in part that it says it has a right to confirm or not confirm other books of scripture.
DR MILLER: Well, as to its validity, there are various approaches to that. But the one that is easiest to explain is that the Book by its physical existence, the paper and ink, demands an explanation of where did it come from? What it repeats many times is that if somebody says the origin of this Book is such and such, then ask him or her so and so to see if they still thinks that's true. In another place, If they think this Book came from such and such, remind them of this. So a person is confronted with the Book and has to come up with an explanation of where did it come from, and the person pursuing that comes to the conclusion that that is not so easily answered. All of the usual ideas have probably already been discussed in the Book itself with an explanation of why that can't be so. You'd better come up with another reason. It's when you run out of options it becomes a proof by exhaustion. It comes down to either this man was deceived or was himself a deceiver, if you are going to explain all of the facts you need BOTH of those assumptions and the point is they eliminate each other. You cannot at one time think you are a prophet and lie to people about it. You cannot have it both ways. You can be neither a liar nor deceived; you might be one or the other, but you can't be both. You're left with still this paper and ink, unexplained – what is its origin?
That's one way of looking at how does it establish that it deserves respect.
There's also the influence that it has had. It has accomplished certain things that's why historians of science, language, and philosophy will still point to the Quran that's the reason why the Arabs were suddenly civilized after 10,000 years of NO preparation for civilization. Something in that book is a stimulus. I hesitate to mention that, I suppose, because Islam is not an Arabic sort of thing, don't get that idea. 80% of Muslims don't speak Arabic, anyway. The point is that it had a sudden impact. That needs an explanation, it calls for some kind of answer.
QUESTIONER8: Is there a difference between the word "gospel" and the word "bible" as it contributes to the scriptures?
DR MILLER: Oh, yes, that's a point maybe I should have dealt with. He's asking about words like bible, and gospel. The Quran when it talks about gospel it means Injeel, in Arabic, Injeel, which is related to the Greek, evangel, which is translated "gospel." A long time ago, it might have been better translated as "Good News." Injeel was a message it wasn't a book some place. It was in the 2nd century that the collections of the accounts of the life of Jesus got the nickname, gospels.
When technically any Christian that makes that distinction to say well these are the four gospels but the gospel of Jesus is a message. It is not these four books. These four books have the gospel in them somewhere. So the Quran is talking about what was it Jesus said not what are those four injeels.
As to bible, that is just an English nickname. It just means library; it is a collection of writings. In other languages, they sometimes don't call it that, the Germans call it "Helige Geschrift," holy writings. The "Bible" is just a convenient name. The Quran talks about people who use books, or use the book, or book people but it doesn't say people that use THAT book, the Revised Standard of 1881. People who are in the habit of using a book to support their position are people of the book without spelling out bible or the gospel according to Matthew.

 

By Gary Miller, Ph.D. Mathematics, Kansas
Transcribed from a videotape