Answering Missionaries

May 11, 2006

Shabir Ally vs. James White debate – response to a Christian review part 2

Filed under: Debate reviews,James White,Shabir Ally vs James White — answeringmissionaries @ 1:12 am

This is my response, using the Rambo alias, to another review authored by a Christian named Fred Butler. Butler is not that bright actually, appears to know little about New Testament studies, and I strongly suspect he is a racist after reading some of his offensive comments about the “Arab culture.”

My reply:1

Hello Fred,

I am still waiting to see the debate and then decide for myself. I am sure you will understand why I am doubtful of the rosy picture painted by James White fans such as yourself 🙂 Nonetheless, let me respond to some of your points – the ones raised by James White – which display your (rather his?) lack of understanding of some issues.

The “apostate research” and the “media darling”, Prof. Ehrman, is probably the leading scholar of NT textual criticism today, perhaps second only to Prof. Metzger (an Evangelical Christian). So you cannot just dismiss Ehrman as a “nobody” even though he is not a Christian any more. Interestingly, he left Christianity after studying the New Testament in Greek for many years. It was not a “fun” or “happy” decision for him; he just couldn’t close his eyes to the truth. In any case, there is absolutely nothing wrong in referring to Ehrman, who is an expert in his field of study. And which “Jesus Seminary” scholar did Shabir Ally rely upon? I am just curious to know.

It appears that you are confused between redaction and textual criticism; Ehrman is an authority on textual criticism. As I read your comments in more detail, I see that you are indeed confused between the differences of redaction and textual criticism. No, redaction criticism is not about the “scribes” “exaggerating” the story of Jesus. Scribes enter in the textual transmission stage, that is, once the texts have been composed, and then they are transmitted by scribes who make copies. Redaction criticism would be, for instance, Matthew and Luke’s use of Mark – how they altered the Marcan narratives; or how the gospel authors adapted traditions etc. These types of issues fall under the heading of redaction criticism – how authors redact or edit stories and material (so, Matthew and Luke’s redaction of Mark for instance).

I think in a couple of other places you may have very well misunderstood Shabir Ally’s arguments, but I would need to listen to the debate first in order to make further comments.

A few more issues I will comment upon. No, Shabir Ally does not believe that scribes modified the New Testament texts to such an extant that Jesus being a prophet from Allah (God) is “lost” within the current canonical gospels. In all of his previous debates that I have seen, Shabir consistently argues, and rightfully so, that the image of Jesus as a Prophet of God is still most prominent in the gospels despite the changes that their stories underwent. So I think it is most likely you misunderstood Shabir on this instance as well. In fact, most scholars, rather virtually all, involved in the historical Jesus studies, readily acknowledge the historicity of Jesus as a prophet in the gospels.

Moving on, I am surprised you appear to doubt the priority of Mark and present it as something only accepted by the evil “liberals.” This scenario is entirely fictitious. Almost all conservative scholars also readily acknowledge the priority of Mark. This is one of those issues over which we have almost universal agreement among scholars of all leanings. There are some disagreements over Q, but most scholars, conservatives included, accept Q. True, Q does not exist any more, but that does not make it “mythical”. So there is absolutely nothing wrong for Shabir Ally to assume Marcan priority to put forth his arguments since Marcan priority is itself one of the soundest conclusion derived by scholars.

Coming to some of the claims you made were raised by James White, first, I am pleased to learn that White is one of a few brave Christians around today who openly acknowledges that Muslims are also monotheists and worship only one God. So, that’s a good start. But the remainder of what you claim he said are problematic. The most serious, rather fatal, error on White’s part is his baseless assumption that the Quran “assumes inspiration of the entire Christian Bible.” There is no passage within the Quran that can be construed by any torturous exegesis to “assume” the “inspiration” of the “entire Christian Bible.” In fact, I would love to see where in the Quran the “entire Christian Bible” is mentioned. Show me just one passage. Equally serious is White’s grave factual error that “Mohammed directed people to the Bible to check if what he was saying was true.” There is no such passage within the Quran.

Also problematic are White’s claim of Muslims allegedly using “double standards” in their arguments against the NT. He claims that Muslims use “liberal” scholars to discredit the New Testament text while rely upon “conservative” scholars to defend the Quran. I would love to know who these “conservative” scholars are. I have never come across any. Instead, Christians usually rely upon NON-MUSLIM scholars, known as Orientalists, to discredit the Quran (even though they often misuse Orientalist scholarship as well) whereas Muslims use CHRISTIAN scholarship against the Bible. Now you may label some Christian scholars with whom you disagree with “liberals”, nonetheless it remains that they emerge from within the Christian tradition and are almost always believing Christians themselves. So this is the scenario: Christians depend on those coming from outside of Islam to attack the Quran whereas Muslims rely upon scholars coming from within the Christian tradition to critically analyse the Bible. Thus the double standard is ON THE CHRISTIAN SIDE. You rely on outsiders whereas we rely on your insiders, even if you label them “liberals”.

White is also grossly inaccurate when he asserts that Uthman “burned” the “rivals” and “standardized” the Quran. There are no historical reports mentioning such a scenario. No reports mention any “rivals.” Instead, Uthman only reproduced the Quran in multiple copies – in a COMMUNITY EFFORT – and, later, with the SUPPORT OF THE COMMUNITY, the fragments and partial copies of this SAME QURAN were burnt in the open since proper copies were now available for all to read. That’s why Uthman was always praised by the Muslims and supported by them.

Well, these are all the comments I can make for now. Am waiting for the debate and then I will post a full review, offering a detailed critical analysis of the main Christian reviews. I just wanted to say that contrary to the impression you gave, it does not appear that Muslims, during the break time, were “pestering” White and “yelling” at him. I see the pictures and it seems like a lively and cheerful atmosphere, people surrounding both Shabir Ally and White, asking questions etc. I don’t find tasteful your stereotypical comment against the Arabs “they were emotional and animated in that Middle eastern Arab way if you know what I mean…” No I don’t know what you mean by this one, but I am sure you haven’t met many Arabs in your life apart from watching some on Fox news and CNN.


Later, it occured to me that Fred might have become confused about redactional and textual criticism for the following reason: Shabir Ally probably referred to the practises of scribes of altering the New Testament texts at times and later comparing that with the redactional activities of Matthew and Luke (their use of Mark). That is to say, the later scribes who copied the texts were acting the same way as Matthew and Luke, who used Mark and altered its stories at times to suit their theologies.


1. Made a few changes to my reply: spelling and grammatical corrections as well as refinement of some statements/arguments.


1 Comment »

  1. What the Qur’an confirmed was the revealed Taurat and Injil, which were revealed to Moses and Jesus respectively. The christian bible is authored by several writers. The NT is 70% authored by Paul, with James, John etc making minority contribution. The four Gospels were more of the life of Jesus and not of the revelation to Jesus. Only traces of the Injil are found in the NT. Christians should get this clearly.

    Comment by Ibrahim — June 19, 2007 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

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