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Muslims and Textual Variants

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

>I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior. I need help regarding a situation here at OSU. In the KJV it contains the verse of John 5:4, but in other Bibles it is missing. This has led to a heated debate in which the Muslims have convinced some people that the Bible has been changed and corrupted, they asked the following question, "Which Bible is God's Word?" I am writing to you so I can refute there claims and show the students that the Bible is the Word of God. Please write to me as soon as possible.

There are basically three Greek texts that are used for Bible translation: The Majority Text (MT); the Textus Receptus (TR); and the Critical Text (CT). A discussion of these different Greek texts can be found in the articles listed under "Greek Text Types" on the following page on my site: Bible Versions Controversy.

There are some differences between these Greek texts as they are somewhat different philosophies in dealing with textual variants among the Greek manuscripts. But overall, they are very similar. The TR agrees with the MT 99% of the time and the CT agrees with the MT 98% of the time (Cornerstone magazine, Vol. 23; Issue 104, p.38). So there is only a 1-2% difference overall between these published Greek texts.

John 5:4 is one case of a textual variant. The verse appears in the vast majority of manuscripts; but is lacking in a handful of them. Now, I personally believe the MT best reflects the originals and this verse is contained in it. It is also contained in the TR but is lacking in the CT.

But I must emphasize, that the differences between these three published Greek texts are rather minor. With over 5,000 Greek manuscripts to compare, there are bound to be variants; but at the same time, the great number of manuscripts enable a very accurate reproduction of the originals to be made. The best estimate is that the MT "represents at least 99.8% of the original wording" (Wilbur N. Pickering in unpublished article "Majority Text Theory in Acts").

As for your Muslim friends, ask them how many early manuscripts of the Koran are there? I would guess no where near 5,000. The reason being, Muslims destroy manuscripts that are found that disagree with their accepted text; whereas, Christians are always looking for more manuscripts, hence why there are thousands of them. So Christians can collate between these thousands of manuscripts to arrive at a very accurate text; but Muslims have little evidence that the current version of the Koran truly reflects the original.

Again, for more on this subject, see the articles listed on the page above. See also the following article: Have Precious Truths Been Lost from the Bible?

>Hi, Thank you for your response. Another verse which he bought up was 1John 5:7 (in the KJV this verse refers to the Trinity). He showed that it was not in the NIV or other modern version of the Bibles, and he said that this verse was not in the KJV either, it was a marginal footnote. Can you comment on this? Thanks.

Your brother,

I discuss this variant on following page on my site: Significant Textual Variants - TR vs. MT.


>Dear Sir, I just read some excerpts from your web page concerning Islam. My family and I are currently serving a 2 year term in the Middle East. (I am teaching English here with a mission agency.) The questions you received concerning Islam vs Christianity are exactly the same type of questions we're asked on a regular basis.

Muslims love to discuss religion. My wife and I have shared with many neighbors, friends, and students, but unfortunately, our words seem to fall on deaf ears. We have done a lot of reading on apologetics, especially in answering the claims of Islam. We feel as if we understand the basic beliefs of Islam and how to answer any question that they throw at us. I must confess we have both felt quite a bit of discouragement at the lack of positive response. I personally have come to the conclusion that Islam is a religion of intimidation and fear.

People here do not change because they're afraid. One of my coworkers and I have both shared with a mutual friend about salvation. He comes on a weekly basis to study the Bible with us but has yet to confess Christ. He once told my coworker that if he were to become a Christian, his family would kill him. Fear and intimidation. With all of that in mind, I have a 3 part question.

1. Is there a special strategy or a Bible study outline of the plan of salvation that you use in Muslim evangelism?

2. How do you urge someone to cross over that barrier of fear and accept a new life in Christ?

3. I've read about 2 or 3 testimonies of former Muslims who have embraced Christ. Does your publication include such testimonies? I figure if I can understand what brought one Muslim to Christ, maybe it will do the same for someone here.

Blessings to you,
C. E.<

Thank you for your letter. What you relate confirms what I have heard about conditions in Muslim countries. However, I doubt I can be of much help. My experience with Muslims is very limited.

What you see in the two "E-mail Exchanges" on my Web site is all I have written on the subject (above and Questions on Islam vs. Christianity). I also mention the Koran on the following page: What Happened in 30 AD? - Part 2.

You might want to check the following site: Answering Islam.

God bless you in your efforts.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site in April 1998.

The Bible: Textual Integrity

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