The Bible and the Quran – What’s the Difference?

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I have seen several articles by Evangelical Protestants and Catholics defending Islam and attacking Christians (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) who quote chapter and verse from the Quran, the sunnah and the hadith proving that Islam has violent and oppressive roots.  These articles I speak of mix apples and oranges when they make reference to the Bible in regards to violence and oppression mentioned by critics of Christianity.

There are some issues with this false dichotomy.  They will be addressed one-by-one.

(1) Not all acts in the Old Testament are prescriptive, but descriptive. – What does this mean?  The Old Testament is not a simple list of do’s and don’ts like the Quran.  It contains narrative.  Much of this narrative, whether historical or allegorical in nature, purveys a theological meaning; that is why Christian theologians for the past 20 centuries have taken the Old Testament largely on a theological basis rather than a literalist basis.  The same cannot be said of the Quran, the sunnah and the hadith which are taken literally for 1400 years of Islamic history which an almost universal consensus among Islamic sects and schools (e.g. Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Ja’fairi, Zaidi, Ismali), especially the oldest ones.  Taking passages such as 1 Samuel 15 literally and prescriptively was never a mainstream concept in Christianity and it was certainly not taught by the Author of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ Himself who has much the same role in Christianity as Muhammad in Islam and more.  The language in the Old Testament (e.g. in 1 Samuel 15) speaks to a particular character, not the reader; the language in the Quran speaks to the reader; hence the Quran’s call to violence is prescriptive, not descriptive.

(2) This claim ignores the historical differences of Christianity and Islam. – While some people were executed during the Inquisition, the practice was never dogmatically held and did not begin until centuries after the foundation of Christianity; it was largely a political approach to issues Christian rulers faced such as Islamic aggression and the executions were carried out by the state, not the Church, since heresy and apostasy were acts of treason against a state in which Christianity was the state religion.  This custom was not practiced by the early Church nor was it promoted.  The same cannot be said of Islam in which Muhammad himself is recorded of having ordered the mass killings of those who opposed him even peacefully, or the torture of those who had lots of treasures, or early Islamic conquests and wars after Muhammad.  You can look to the Battles of Tabuk, Mut’ah, Ajnadayn, the Sieges of Damascus (634 A.D.), Jerusalem (637 A.D.), Nicaea (737 A.D.), Rome (846 A.D.), or the Pact of Umar as examples to clear observances of Islamic texts’ call to wage jihad against non-Muslim nations which previously refuse to convert or at least accept Islamic rule.

(3) The Apostolic Churches do not use violent passages of the Old Testament to justify mass genocide. – This means Churches with historical continuity (a.k.a. apostolic succession to the apostles) — Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian — do not use such passages as advocating unjust war or excessive acts of war.  Such a claim even ignores the historical or narrative context of such stories in the Old Testament since the Israelites were surrounded by nations which actively sought to destroy her.  Any individuals who try to use such passages are taking Scripture out of context and are relying on personal interpretation of Scripture.  The same cannot be said of Islam which has historical continuity with teaching in favor of jihad and Sharia.

(4) It ignores that Jesus is the central figure of Christianity, not Saul, David, Solomon or Moses. – It is a known fact that the Bible records Saul, David, Solomon and Moses as sinning.  That’s not news.  On the other hand, people might note that Saul was rebuked for not obeying a command by God as told through Samuel that Saul must utterly destroy the Amalekites (rf. 1 Samuel 15).  The problem with this is that it speaks particular to Saul, not the reader; it misses the bigger picture which is obeying God’s word.  Since God does not command us to do the same there is no reason to and in fact He condemns it, which is why His only begotten Son taught us to have mercy.  Also, as religious skeptics like to claim, the Bible is composed of fables; so if 1 Samuel 15 is just a fable or an allegory, then the less reason to be concerned since stories often use extreme hyperboles to teach a moral.  Yet even if it were historically true, we do not model ourselves after Saul but Christ who is the Son of God, God the Son and the Incarnate Word who founded the New Covenant as fulfillment of the Old.  Christians are told to model themselves after Christ’s example; He is perfect after all.  Yet Muslims are told to imitate Muhammad’s example (rf. Quran 33:21), yet Muhammad committed many acts of violence, even mandating the execution of a penitent adulteress by stoning when Jesus Christ saved the adulterers from the same exact punishment (rf. John 8:1-11).

Ultimately this seems to the problem with Sola Scriptura, taking Scripture out of its biblical and historical context.  Christianity is not a religion of the book as Islam is and it never has been.  The Bible is not the final arbiter of truth in historical Christianity although the Quran is the final arbiter of truth in historical Islam.  Christ founded a visible Church which would interpret Scripture and Tradition, but Muhammad never founded a visible source of interpretation of the Quran but taught the Quran is God’s word which should be obeyed above all else.  So, what is written in the Bible may not necessarily speak for Christianity while what is written in the Quran does speak for Islam.  To say it is up to the readers is called ‘deconstructionism’ which is a liberal method of interpretation which is not all too different to Sola Scriptura.

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