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I found this book being advertised on Mohamed Ghounem's Jews for Allah website a few weeks ago. Given the very exuberant title and the claims being made for the book (some are listed below), I felt compelled to check it out and see whether or not Ghounem managed to accomplish all that he had set forth to accomplish. It is stated by the publisher that, among other things:
"7. You are buying four books in one:
*A book of Errancy; that lists over two hundred contradictions in the Bible.
*A book of Excuses; in light of religious fairness, excuses by the top Biblical apologetics have been included!
*A book of Rebuttals; refutations to the Biblicist excuses are listed, so that the reader can view both views with an open mind!
*A book of Corrections; which lists the ways the Quran corrects the Old and New Testament.
8. Detailed descriptions of over 200 miracles in the Quran. What thousands of priests and thousands of years could not do: the Quran does."
I was wondering how all of this, along with the claims found within the other 8 reasons given by the publisher in the link for buying this book, was going to be accomplished in only 200 pages and change. Unfortunately, it turns out that Ghounem has not only not done justice to the relevant evangelical scholarship in regards to how common Biblical difficulties are often reconciled, but appears in some cases to not even have a proper grasp of the issues that he is attempting to refute. Moreover, Ghounem's approach in attacking the Bible could also be applied at least as forcefully to the Qur'an. For instance, Ghounem makes much of divergences in parallel accounts in the Bible of the same event as well as alleged contradictions and errors (e.g. historical, scientific, etc.), but such exist in the Qur'an as well (See here and here). The Qur'an and the Bible were each written centuries ago and in milieus consisting of different cultural, social, and literary norms and standards than what we often find today. From our modern point-of-view, it is to be expected that we would find quite a few passages in either text that appear, at least on the surface, to have problems. A reader that is aware of the fact that there are relevant background issues to be considered, especially when dealing with ancient or semi-ancient texts, before a proposed contradiction, error, or argument from outrage would have any substance will find the kind of superfical conflict-approach Ghounem uses against the Bible to be wanting. The purpose of this somewhat lengthy review is not to look exhaustively at all of Ghounem's 210 sections. We will, however, select a few sections from each chapter to discuss and, in most cases, provide links to material that challenges the author's assertions. This is in order to: 1) Give the reader a taste of what this book has to offer and 2) Demonstrate that the issues are often much more complex than what Ghounem would have the reader believe with his inadequate treatments of such matters. First, however, we'll summarize the outline of the book and make a listing of its good points.
At the beginning of the book, the 210 issues discussed by Ghounem are listed in a "contents" section. Next, we have a brief introduction which describes the book's purpose and contains a chart of replies to "studious excuses by top Biblicists." This is appealed to often throughout the rest of the book. The main text is divided into ten chapters: "God," "Prophets," "Science," "Laws," "History," "Women," "Jesus," "Trinity," "Afterlife," and "Additional Ways." In each chapter, alleged problems in the Bible are discussed, each of which is related to the particular topic of the chapter. There are four subsections in each section that follows a consistently ordered format: 1) Errancy; 2) Excuse; 3) Rebuttal; 4) Correction. For each "Errancy" subsection, the author demonstrates an alleged contradiction or error in the Bible, including passages that he deems to be theologically, morally, and/or scientifically absurd. In the "Excuse" subsections, the reader is given (usually) a very brief statement as to how Christians reconcile the problematic passage(s) (sometimes "excuses" are said to be "not available" for the alleged problems). In some cases, Ghounem will list more than one way in which apologists supposedly reconcile the alleged problems, but this subsection comprises, at most, in each case, a few sentences of writing. This is followed by "Rebuttal" subsections where it is detailed by the author why the apologetic argument(s) supposedly fail(s). Finally, in each "Correction" subsection, we are given a passage, or passages, in the Qur'an where such matters are supposedly corrected or clarified. The book ends with a brief conclusion summarizing why the Qur'an is allegedly superior to the Bible, how Christians and Jews should be informed of these issues, how the Qur'an is said to correct the alleged problems, and how the Qur'an can thus unite Christianity and Judaism.
The good points of the book, unfortunately, are few compared to its weak points. Ghounem does manage to present the information in a format that is easy to follow and the book is written with a relatively pleasant demeanor. The reader that knows virtually nothing about Islamic apologetics should gain at least some insight into some of its basic approaches after reading this book. Finally, and related to the last point, the book discusses many of the common arguments given by Muslims, which overlaps substantially with those used by other classes of skeptics, against the Bible and Christianity. A Christian that is wanting to know what kind of polemics might be hurled at him/her in a discussion with a Muslim might get an idea by reading this book.
Now let's take a deeper look into the book itself and elaborate briefly on some of its weaknesses. I make some references to the Qur'an in the following paragraphs. For those that want to check out those references directly, an on-line Qur'an can be accessed from this page.
For somebody that has supposedly placed 6 years of research into this book, the Bibliography appears to be rather scant, not only in terms of quantity, but also quality. The meager 3 page resource section includes the likes of C. Dennis McKinsey's Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, the Skeptics Annotated Bible, and "Was Jesus Crucified?," a book written by the very popular Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat. OTOH, Ghounem does acknowledge some of the common authors/books used in Christian apologetics for solving Biblical difficulties, such as Gleason Archer's "New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties," Walter Kaiser and Peter Davids' "Hard Sayings of the Bible," and several books co-authored by Norman Geisler, including "When Critics Ask" and "When Skeptics Ask." With this being the case, it is kind of surprising to see some of the very odd "excuses" Ghounem lists that Christians supposedly commonly use in response to particular problems, but more on that later. Unfortunately, besides the admittedly good variety of "problem solving" books used by Ghounem, the good scholarly sources regarding Christianity and/or the Bible, in Ghounem's Bibliography, appear to be but few.
The apparent sparsity of Christian scholarly resources that Ghounem has included in his research is only where the problems begin, however. We happen to know that Ghounem is well aware of the Answering Islam website (he lists one of Jochen Katz' articles, this one, in his resource section), and this makes it somewhat surprising that he would have written a book that gives only a superficial (and I'll add very biased) glance at issues relevant to both Christianity and Islam when he should be well aware at this point that much more depth is required in order to do these issues justice.
There is also a methodological flaw in Ghounem's thesis from the very start. Sam Shamoun and company have collected an immense amount of data supporting the assertion that the Qur'an, contrary to what most Muslims claim, actually *endorses* the Bible rather than to claim that the written texts have been corrupted. See the following resource page:
Thus, any errors and/or contradictions that may actually be found within the Bible are detrimental (rather than helpful) to Islam, since this would mean that Muhammad endorsed an erroneous book.
This data, in addition to the overwhelming manuscript evidence supporting the assertion that what was originally written in the NT has been substantially preserved, makes for a 1-2 punch that, I submit, destroys any intellectual credibility behind the common Muslim assertion that the Bible has been corrupted. While we're at it, there is good reason, especially in light of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, to believe that the OT has been substantially preserved as well. Consider the material from the following links:
Ghounem does not touch on any of these issues in his book other than to simply reiterate the common Muslim position and assume that it actually holds water.
In the introduction, we are given a list of 9 replies to common "excuses" given by Biblical apologists in solving Biblical difficulties. As mentioned earlier, the author constantly makes appeal to this chart throughout the book, so it is worth discussing a few of the replies, namely those that we find to be the most unreasonable, before moving on to the actual text. We are told that to respond to a Biblical problem by saying, "You must understand the context of the verse" is:
"a false claim because there are an abundant amount of chapters in the Bible that contain no context, for example; Proverbs. The verses are a number of independent statements that skip through different subjects. Other examples include the discrepancies between Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, which contain verses about people, and numbers, which invalidate the out of context argument."
This is the first time I've heard a skeptic deny that context is important, and it is certainly an "excuse" that Muslims are fond of giving in regards to problematic or controversial Qur'anic verses. The bottom line is, as I'd think any reasonable skeptic out there would agree, and I'll state this in a way that should make Ghounem happy: *If there is a context,* it should be considered when examining an alleged problem in the Biblical texts. We are also told that "copyist error" is an invalid excuse because, by making such an appeal, we are admitting that our Bibles today have errors, and this makes it no longer a divine book. The next part of this reply is worth quoting:
"For example, an item is either made in China or made in the USA, it cannot be made in both places, unless it's transported between the two, at that point, it's no longer 100% Chinese or all American, it's diluted and hence no longer 100% authentic."
It might help Ghounem to consider JPH's article related to this topic, including the very short snippet on Islam and the Qur'an (about a third of the way down the page)(!), but if Ghounem persists in demanding that all copies of the Bible be 100% error-free for it to maintain its authenticity, he is free to think that way, but this criterion also disqualifies the Qur'an from being authentic since its history is certainly not free of textual variations.
We are next told that the "excuse" of claiming that "Later Scripture replaces Previous Scripture" is also invalid. Ghounem states that "If this is true, then over a billion Muslims state that the Qur'an, which came after the Bible, supersedes past revelations (Torah and Gospel)." We certainly can agree with Ghounem in theory, but new revelations must be in harmony with previous revelations, and even Muslims implicitly admit that the Qur'an is not in harmony with previous revelations by constantly resorting to the groundless claim that the Bible has been corrupted. Moreover, this is a rather shocking complaint by Ghounem since it could be applied much more forcefully to the Qur'an. There are passages in the Qur'an that were revealed that are said to supersede previous passages in the same Qur'an (and the Qur'an was only revealed over a 23 year time span, much shorter than the 1,500 years or so that comprised the time period of Biblical revelation!); this is a well-known and controversial issue in Islam known as Abrogation.
The apologetic "excuse" that certain words are to be understood figuratively rather than literally is scoffed at, as it is stated: "We cannot selectively choose which words in a sentence or scenario are figurative while the surrounding words in the sentence and chapter are literal." This criticism in some cases may be warranted. OTOH, there are times when a metaphorical explanation is perfectly acceptable, such as when considering passages in a book rich in poetry and/or apocalyptic imagery. At any rate, we figure that Muslims would certainly choose to opt for metaphorical explanations of certain Qur'anic passages as well, such as the one that states that the traveler Zul-qarnain found the sun setting in a muddy spring.
Ghounem also scoffs at the "excuse" of claiming an error in translation in order to explain a Biblical problem by stating: "This may be acceptable in earthly texts, but this excuse is unacceptable in Divine Scripture, especially in the light of the Qur'an." He goes on to say that this problem does not exist in the case of the Qur'an since it is only authentic in Arabic. Ghounem also states: "Yet, Bible apologetics want us to still believe that the Bible is Divine and inerrant in every language of the world when that is linguistically impossible,...." Actually, I'm surprised that Ghounem could find ANY knowledgeable Christian apologists that would make this claim. Similar to the issue of the copyist errors, very few, if any, knowledgeable Christians would claim that the translations are inerrant, and that is certainly not our position. As far as the Qur'an is concerned, the only way that the majority of Muslims in the world (that do not speak Arabic) can understand what is in it is through a translation. Ghounem is free to deny the "authenticity" of translations, but speaking philosophically for a moment, I personally find it more sound to believe that God would prefer our reading doctrinally sound, yet otherwise imperfect translations, than for most of His followers to not have any idea what they read when "reading" and reciting His written word.
Moving on to some of the specific problems in the book, Ghounem complains in chapter 1 about the Bible's use of anthropomorphic and/or metaphorical language, suggesting that the Bible REALLY is telling us that God needs rest (Gen. 2:2), that He sleeps (Psalm 78:65), and that He makes mistakes (Gen. 6:6-7). Of course, if Ghounem wishes to insist that these be taken literally, he has a problem since the Qur'an also uses anthropomorphic language to describe God (See the beginning of this article). Ghounem also states that God must need food since in Gen. 18:1-8, in one of the numerous OT theophanies, God consumes food alongside Abraham. It is stretching it to conclude, based on this one incident, particularly since this is a theophany, that God literally needed the food. This is especially the case since the Bible did not say that God literally needed it anymore than Jesus would have needed the fish that he consumed after his resurrection from the dead. We also have the usual about whether or not God can be seen.
In chapter 2, the Bible is derided for attributing various sins to prophets, specifically Moses, Aaron, and David. Qur'anic verses are then cited to confirm that the various sins discussed in the Bible concerning these men are either not mentioned, or are "corrected," by the Qur'an. Of course, these Biblical narratives were very unlikely to have been fabricated since the Bible writers obviously held these prophets in very high esteem. This is a good argument in favor of the preservation of the stories of these prophets rather than for their corruption. In addition, the common Muslim claim that all prophets were sinless is contradictory to some of the material written about them from early authoritative Muslim sources (See (1); (2); (3)). Ghounem complains in one place that Cain was not punished for the killing of Abel. He must have either overlooked Gen. 4:10-12 or thought capital punishment should have been inflicted on him, as the apologetic "excuse" listed is that God had not yet established capital punishment. His rebuttal to this is: "The problem with this excuse is that the Bible does not specify 'Thou shalt not kill' until (Exodus 20:13) hence, readers are bewildered as to why Cain is freed." Actually, it isn't bewildering at all. We know, from this incident perhaps more than anything, that killing was considered to be wrong from the very beginning, but capital punishment was not established until later as part of the laws governing the Israelite theocracy, hence the difference. The chapter ends with a couple of appeals to various passages in the Bible that Ghounem thinks foretell the coming of Muhammad (John 16:12-13 and Isaiah 29:12). These and other such claims have been debunked here, here, and here.
In the next chapter, Ghounem attempts to demonstrate that the Qur'an is compatible with modern science whereas the Bible is often not compatible with it. Some "contradictions" are appealed to as well, such as a couple in the two creation narratives. We are told that the Bible teaches that the heavens are supported, that the earth is flat, and that the Bible is contradictory about whether or not the earth is supported based on Job 26:7 vs. I Samuel 2:8/Job 9:6. Then, of course, we are told that the Qur'an corrects the Bible on all of these scientific mishaps. Whether or not Biblical Cosmology truly supports such assertions is one matter, but Ghounem may be surprised by the exegeses of classical Muslim scholars regarding what the Qur'an actually teaches about such things as well (See (1) and (2)). Ghounem claims that, while the Bible teaches that the 6 days of creation are meant to be understood literally, the Qur'an refers to 6 (or is it 8?) periods of time, supposedly more in harmony with modern science. We are told in another chapter that the Qur'an does not teach a global flood, unlike in the Bible, and that this is more in harmony with the scientific evidence as well. There are, however, quite a bit of relevant books, articles, and other literature from scientists of Christian persuasion that argue that the Bible does indeed teach a local flood rather than a global one and that the days of creation are to be understood as long periods of time rather than literal days (i.e. Old Earth Creationists; See this website). OTOH, there are scientists of Christian persuasion that argue that the Bible does indeed teach a global flood and a literal 6 days of creation, and propound scientific evidence supporting their assertions (i.e. Young Earth Creationists; See this website). Our purpose here is not to endorse one of these particular positions over the other, but merely to demonstrate that Ghounem has made some gross oversimplifications in his short discussions of these matters. As far as what the Qur'an actually teaches, there is ample data once again from classical Qur'anic scholars to cast significant doubt upon Ghounem's Qur'anic exegeses regarding these issues (See Global or Local Flood? and The Days of Creation). The claim that the Qur'an forcasts modern scientific findings is perhaps the most popular argument made by Muslim apologists in favor of the divine inspiration of the Qur'an. It is often said, for instance, that the Qur'an's teachings on Embryology match what has been discovered recently by modern science. Ghounem discusses this as well. Most of these issues have been substantially scrutinized here. The "scientific approach" is not foreign to Christian apologetics either. For those interested, an interesting and detailed article that applies this approach to the Bible can be found here.
In Chapter 4, Ghounem argues that various laws and/or commandments in the Bible are either contradictory to each other or "better versions" are to be found in the Qur'an. Many, perhaps all, of the "contradictions" can be reconciled simply by considering the textual and/or historical contexts of the verses in question. One quick example is an alleged contradiction in the Bible regarding whether marriage is to be encouraged (e.g. Gen. 2:18-24 and I Timothy 4:1-5) or discouraged (e.g. I Corinthians 7:8) [See here]. We are told, because of Ezekiel 20:24-26, that God gave laws as a form of punishment (See here). We are told that there is a contradiction between Gen.1:29-30 and 9:3 as to whether consuming meat is allowable. The standard apologetic "excuse" given, which is the one in which we agree, is that the latter command supersedes the former. Ghounem states that this would be acceptable if Paul hadn't claimed later that it was wrong to eat meat in Romans 14:21. However, Paul is most certainly not forbidding the consumption of meat, as can be seen earlier in that same chapter (Rom.14:4; see also I Timothy 4:1-4!). The context of this verse is in a chapter where Paul speaks of refraining from activities in the presence of those where such activities will provide a stumblingblock for them (in this case that would mean, for example, a meat consumer serving up lamb chops to his/her vegetarian guest). We find a complaint that the Bible and Paul do not condemn slavery, so it is doubtful that Ghounem has done any relevant homework on this issue and how it relates to the Biblical world. He also claims that the Qur'an states not to enslave other humans and that it teaches to free existing slaves. However, Muhammad did enslave other humans, and the reader is not given the full picture of slavery in Islam by Ghounem (Some info. from a critical point-of-view can be found in the following: (1) and (2)). We are told that the Bible commands that apostates be put to death based on Ezekiel 18:24 and Hebrews 10:26-29. The passage in Hebrews, however, is referring to events that will take place at the final Judgment. The passage in Ezekiel is referring to death for those that turn from righteousness to wickedness. While this is consistent with the fact that capital punishment was to be administered for the breaking of certain laws found within the Torah, this is not a "death to apostates" command per se, since the turning from righteousness to wickedness is not *necessarily* the result of "deconversion." It is also somewhat surprising that Ghounem would go this route since there are commands to put apostates to death in early authoritative Islamic literature. For more info. see this page. Ghounem does claim, based on S. 2:256, which states that there is to be "no compulsion in religion," that the Qur'an disallows the killing of apostates. However, he does not discuss this verse in its historical context (See here; the relevant portion is about 2/3 of the way down the page). We are told that Christians practiced polygamy for centuries after Jesus, and that it was not outlawed until the 19th century, and some Christian sects practice this even today. No evidence for any of these assertions is given, however (and see the link below where some evidence to the contrary is given), and the only Christian sect I personally know of that allows polygamy would be Mormonism, which is considered by most to be outside of orthodox Christianity. We are told that the Bible is unclear on this issue, yet despite the fact that various Biblical figures engaged in it, like David and Solomon, God's position on the subject is not as unclear as Ghounem would have us believe (See here).
To give a few examples from the chapter on history, we are asked, if Adam was to die after eating from the forbidden tree, why he lived for another 930 years (See here), and whether or not Noah took one or seven pairs of animals with him into the ark. Later we are asked why Jesus said that nobody ascended into heaven before him (John 3:13) since Elijah ascended (2 Kings 2:11) earlier in history (See here) and to exactly what group was it that Joseph was sold?
The chapter on women starts out in the Garden of Eden, where, according to Ghounem, "the root of negative stereotyping towards women" is revealed because Adam blamed Eve when questioned regarding the consumption of the forbidden fruit. This is an odd complaint in light of the fact that all 3 (including the serpent) are rebuked and punished by God, which brings us to the next complaint that asks why Adam and Eve are not equally punished. Ghounem bases this on Gen. 3:16, where, he states that there are four curses bestowed upon Eve (even though there are really only 1 or 2 at the most; i.e. sorrow in bearing children and having Adam "rule over her"), and that the curses bestowed on Adam in Gen.3:17-19 indirectly punish Eve as well. Kaiser and Davids' "Hard Sayings of the Bible" contains a great commentary on both "curses" bestowed upon Eve. Although Ghounem lists this book in his Bibliography, he does not interact with any of their material on this. We then have a comment in one section from I Cor.14:34-35 about women supposedly not being able to speak in churches. This assertion, in light of relevant background data, is false, as is discussed in the link below, but this is an odd complaint from a Muslim since Muslim women are not allowed to speak in mosques. The rest of this section is regarding the "submissiveness" and "silence" of women (I Tim. 2:11-15) and how Paul supposedly was contradicting himself as to whether or not women should stay silent by saying, in Acts 2:17, that women would prophesy. First of all, it was Peter, not Paul, that was speaking in Acts 2:17, but it is true that in other places Paul makes statements that would only make sense if women were indeed allowed to speak in churches (e.g. I Cor. 11). The link below to Miller's series on women clears up the "problems" found in I Cor.14:34-35, I Tim. 2:11-15, and others. We are told that it is a "pathetic excuse for cutting a woman's hand off," as is commanded in Deut. 25:11-12, just because a woman injures a man's genitals to where he can no longer have children. We are told that this is not fair to the woman since, with only one hand, she'd no longer be able to hold her own children and that she is being punished for "protecting her husband." This is another of many places that Ghounem has not done his homework, as JPH demonstrates, the punishment was for women that exceed what is necessary to break up the fight, and this punishment is just given the cultural issues of that time. Then there is a section implying the "unfairness" of women having to marry men that have raped them, as per Deut. 22:28-30 (See also here). It is understandable that this, as well as some other issues that Ghounem raises in this chapter on women, could cause consternation to the reader not well read in the background and cultural issues of the times, against which these issues become more lucid. Glenn Miller has a detailed series on women in the Bible here that we highly recommend.
Not surprisingly, however, such controversial topics surrounding the value of women in Islam are not touched upon by the author. Such issues would include the fact that the Qur'an refers to women as men's "tilth," which are to be approached by men when and how they will (S. 2:223). The Qur'an also states that men are superior to women and that men can *beat* their wives because of disobedience (S. 4:34). The Qur'an also allows men to have as many as 4 wives at one time (S. 4:3), allows them to have sex with their slave girls (S. 4:24), and claims that voluptuous virgins await Muslim men in Paradise (S. 78:31-33) (We aren't told, to my knowledge, whether or not women receive an equivalent reward). Moving to the Sahih Hadith, it is stated that when Muhammad saw hell, the majority of its inhabitants were women because they were ungrateful to their husbands and the good deeds done to them, and that they were deficient in intelligence and religion (See e.g. Sahih Bukhari: Vol. 1, Book 2, No. 28 and Sahih Bukhari: Vol. 1, Book 6, No. 301). All of these controversial issues regarding women in Islam, of course, require a more in-depth treatment, and should be considered against the background data of Muhammad's day and how these commands would apply today. It is beyond our scope to argue one way or the next regarding whether or not these commands are "morally acceptable," but suffice it to say that the reader can hopefully see from this how easily Ghounem's prooftext-approach could be turned around in order to denigrate the Qur'an as well. [We recommend to the reader that is looking for more detailed presentations regarding women in Christianity vs. Islam the material that can be accessed on this page. Muslim Sherif Abdel Azeem's "Women In Islam Versus Women In The Judaeo-Christian Tradition: The Myth And The Reality" is a very popular article among Muslim webpages. Access to Azeem's article and the comprehensive rebuttal by Christian Martin Lull, "Of Myths and Women," can be found in the link.]
We move on to the topic of Jesus in chapter 7. It starts off with a couple of common "contradictions," such as whether or not Jesus healed two blind men or one blind man on the way to Jericho. JPH has an article on the number of demoniacs, where the same principle applies in harmonizing this apparent discrepancy, as well as certain other alleged numerical discrepancies. Then, there are 21 sections on the Passion narratives discussing alleged contradictions or inconsistencies in the accounts detailing the night in Gethsemane, the events leading up to the crucifixion, the crucifixion itself, and the resurrection narratives. Most of these "problems" are solved on Tekton and in your typical harmonization sources, and Ghounem needs to do some homework on the relevant principles involved (which are clearly more complex than his simplistic approach to the ancient texts would lead the reader to believe) before any of his claims of contradiction would have merit. Ghounem does at times interact with relevant answers given to these proposed contradictions, yet it appears in such cases to be he that is making the excuses rather than the apologists. For instance, while Ghounem acknowledges that "stauros" and "xulon" can mean the same thing (note: this is in regards to what Jesus was hanged on, a cross or a tree), he claims that because the two words CAN mean something different, this answer is not acceptable. I suppose if we asked a couple of people that spent a day together to describe it to us, and one told us "We went to the stadium to see the baseball game" and the other said "We went to the park to see the baseball game," we should conclude that they really didn't go see the game at all since "park" and "stadium" CAN mean two different things! Another example is regarding the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus. It is asked why Mark states that the two thieves reviled Jesus (15:32) whereas Luke records one defending him (Luke 23:39-42). The apologetic response that one of the thieves later repented is said to be "a false rationale because if one of the thieves did indeed repent, then the remorse would have been documented as the Gospels record the repenting centurion standing below Jesus;...." Ghounem then alludes to Matt. 27:54 and Luke 23:47, which details the centurion's confession that Jesus was innocent and truly was the Son of God. In other words, Ghounem thinks that because some confessions are recorded in the Gospels that all such confessions/repentances were detailed by the Gospel authors, and since the thief's alleged confession is not to be found, it didn't happen. In fact, he says "Throughout the Bible, if a repent happened, especially in the presence of Jesus, it is recorded, therefore if they did not happen; they are not recorded as in the case of the criminal." First of all, how would Ghounem possibly know that only those confessions/repentances that are recorded are the only ones that actually happened? Given the degree of popularity and following that Christ received during his ministry (i.e. the number that did confess that he was a great prophet and/or the Messiah would have been rather high), Ghounem's assertion is false. Christ certainly had more followers than those few whose confessions are specifically detailed. Finally, such an endeavor to record every confession or repentance would have been extremely impractical, not to mention pointless to the authors' concerns. Ghounem is clearly taking an extreme conflict-approach to the texts, one that Joe Wallack would probably be proud of, yet one that is prodigiously unwarranted, and one that the Qur'an could certainly not withstand. Most of the time, however, it does not appear that Ghounem is interacting with the standard responses to these "contradictions," or if he is, the full scope of the apologetic response is not detailed. From all of these divergences, it is concluded that the Qur'an is correct in stating that Jesus did not get crucified, as per S. 4:157 in the Qur'an. Apparently Ghounem thinks himself to be more enlightened than the concensus of credentialed NT scholars that consider the crucifixion to be an established historical event; not to mention the fact that most scholars treat the burial story by Joseph of Arimathaea., the empty tomb, and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to be reliable history as well. We are also not told how the disciples' and the early church's belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead comports with the Qur'anic claim that Jesus' disciples were true followers of God (See here and here). We are later told that the NT scribes changed the word "man" in "Son of Man" to "Mary," so that the 85 times when we think Jesus used the phrase "Son of Man," he was really calling himself the "Son of Mary," a phrase that is used to describe Jesus in the Qur'an (e.g. S. 3:45). It is said that Jesus could not have used this title because he had no father, and because women had such a low status in the Bible it is likely that the scribes would have wanted to change the title "Son of Mary." In response, we would state that Ghounem's claim that women have a low status in the Bible is false (see our comments on the last chapter). Furthermore, if the Gospel writers wanted to obscure the status of women that badly, they probably wouldn't have reported that it was women that first discovered Christ's empty tomb. Additionally, Ghounem apparently does not know that Christ, by calling himself "Son of Man," had nothing to do with his having or not having a father, but rather was a reference to the Messianic figure found in Daniel 7:13-14. As far as I know, there is no textual evidence behind Ghounem's assertion. It would be extremely difficult for scribes to change more than 80 different occurrences from the original manuscripts without leaving behind any textual evidence or other evidence that such a change was made. Finally, few scholars doubt that Jesus did indeed refer to himself as the Son of Man.
Up next is the chapter on the Trinity, and among the problems with Ghounem's approach to this, we discover that his understanding of this doctrine is badly flawed. In at least a couple of places in his book, not necessarily in this particular chapter, it appears that Ghounem has confused the orthodox understanding of the Trinity with the heresy known as Modalism. Consider the following statements Ghounem makes, the first in regards to who the Comforter is, and the second on Christ being saved from the cross:
"First, Trinitarians claim that the Holy Spirit, God, and Jesus are all one entity while Jesus was obviously speaking of someone other than himself in (John 16:12-13). Jesus spoke about himself in (v12) 'I have' then switches from personal pronouns 'I' to 'he', rather then maintaining a constant personal pronoun of 'I'. Jesus does not say; 'I will come later to finish speaking'....
"Third, Jesus admits that he has nothing else to say; Jesus states that everything his Creator wanted him to say was already said;
"'for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.' (John 15:15)
"Which confirms an individual other than Jesus will say more. For example; it would be a symptom of schizophrenia for someone to say: 'I said everything I was told, and I will come to say more from me and I will glorify myself and I will say nothing of my own will other than what I was told by myself.'
"One has a free choice of following the Trinitarians' perplexity or believing that (John 16:12-13) was the logical prediction of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) because our loving God would not leave us for over 2,000 years with no other guidance." (chapter 2; pp. 38-39)
"What? Here is where Christian apologetics confuse the Bible even more. On the one hand Christians claim Jesus is God, and as we have read, Jesus obviously wanted to be saved, therefore the triune god wanted to be saved from the cross. However, in order to explain the contradiction, the Christians try to have it both ways by saying at that moment, Jesus was not God, and the Real God did not want Jesus saved. They try to have their cake (sacrifice) and eat it too (salvation). Christians claim that their trinity is One God, if so, how could their 'One God' want two different things at that same moment? Here we uncover their fallacy because you cannot have One God fighting Himself to live." (chapter 6; pg. 140)
Apparently Ghounem didn't spend much of his 6 years of studying for this project in trying to understand these particular issues. We could probably fill up several pages of writing in order to correct all of the gross misunderstandings of Jesus and the Trinity exhibited in the above two quotes. Suffice it to say that these problems that Ghounem has conjured up disappear once one grasps the proper Biblical understanding of Christ and the Trinity rather than his Modalistic strawman. Some relevant material regarding the true orthodox Christian understanding of the Trinity can be found in the following links: (1); (2); (3); (4).
Many of Ghounem's arguments also reflect an ignorance regarding the "Kenosis" of Christ. This issue is discussed briefly by Paul in Philippians 2:6-8 and is reflected in many Gospel passages. This concept is regarding how Christ, while still being divine in essence, emptied himself of much of his divine glory when he entered human flesh, humbling himself to the status of a servant. In short, it is explaining that Christ did indeed have human attributes, which helps to explain such verses as John 5:30, Mark 13:32, and others. It also helps to explain Christ's anguish from the night at Gethsemane onwards.
Continuing on in the same chapter, we have the typical argument from Mark 10:18 being presented. Next, the author seems to not take issue with the fact that Matthew 10:34 is NOT encouraging Christ's followers to become warmongers, but rather that, as people choose to follow him, they will do so often at the expense of being alienated from their families and/or communities. However, Ghounem claims that this is in contradiction to Col. 1:19-20 where it is said that Christ's death brought peace. The obvious answer to this is that Paul was here speaking of spiritual peace, or peace with God, as Christ even warns elsewhere that wars and evil will continue (see e.g. Matthew 24). The issue of whether or not Jesus prevaricated in John 7:8-10 is discussed. We are told that "Christians claim that God sired Himself;" based on Hebrews 5:5 and the word "begotten." Ghounem, however, does not consider the context and the linguistic issues involved. We then come to one of the longer sections in the book (about 3 pages) entitled "Trinitarians Lazy?," where it is claimed that the Bible is contradictory on whether or not Christians should follow the Law of God (Matt. 5:19 vs. Romans 10:4/Gal 2:16/etc.). Various OT Scriptures are also listed which use words like "everlasting" and "for all generations" in describing the Torah, indicating that Christians are wrong in their approach to it. These are understandable concerns, but are based once again on only a superficial understanding of the data (See (1) and (2)). Secondly, given that the Islamic laws, as a whole, are much different from the ones found in the Torah, this complaint would work against Islam as well. Perhaps Ghounem thinks that the disparities, or the verses in the OT that use words like "everlasting" in describing the Torah, are the result of the so-called Biblical corruption that occurred? Finally, there is an interesting commentary on Jesus as the "Word," as per John 1:1:
"Bible scholars have confused a miracle by God into a creation of God. "The Word" in context from the Bible delineates the method used by God to creat life;
"And God (said), Let there (be) light: and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)
"With a word, God created our planet's source of energy, the sun. The sun and the word of God became one; that does not mean we worship the sun, nor does it mean that the sun is God as ancient cultures believed.
"We see again that God creates many living creatures besides Jesus with a 'word';
"Then God commanded, 'Let the water be filled with many kinds of living beings, and let the air be filled with birds.' (Genesis 1:20)
"Unlike the people of pharaoh, we do not worship figures. If we follow the logic of the Trinitarians, those created with the "word" are considered divine.
"Therefore, we see in the framework of the Bible, that the word becoming flesh is a commonplace action and does not denote divinity."
That's very intriguing. We wonder if Ghounem noticed, however, that in John it isn't said that God used His Word to create Jesus. Rather, it is stated that God's "Word," the same One that was with God in the beginning and *was* God, was made flesh. By the way, be leary of Ghounem's comment that "the sun and the word of God became one," as the Bible does not say this. Rather, it says that God spoke it, as well as His other creations, into existence. The Word (or "Wisdom," or "Logos") is used as a proper name in John, and this concept is evidently alien to Ghounem's current understanding on this issue. The parallels he gives have nothing to do with God's "Word" or "Wisdom" in the "proper" sense, but rather on God's action of creating.
The short chapter entitled "Afterlife," starts out by claiming that there are multiple ways found in the Bible of removing sins (e.g. charity and incense), contrary to the Christian claim that blood is the only way in which atonement is made. This assertion is false as we show here. Then, a complaint regarding Original Sin is made. We are asked whether hell is a place of darkness (Matt. 8:12) or a place of light (Mark 9:48). This "contradiction" dissolves after being properly educated regarding the proper Biblical understanding of hell. We then come to an interesting section entitled "Untouched Males?" which contains comments again worthy of quotation:
"In an affront to 99% of humans world wide, the Bible makes an incongruous declaration that only a certain race, and certain gender, and certain marital status will be in front of God;
"'the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were -not defiled with women-; for they are virgins.'" (Revelation 14:3-4)
I wonder if Ghounem believes that other such players in the book of Revelation like the 7-headed dragon and the woman that stands on the moon and is clothed with the sun are meant to be taken literally as well.
We finally reach the closing chapter entitled "Additional Ways," which houses the last 10 sections of the book. We have here a couple of more misunderstandings about hell, one which doesn't recognize that the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 is a parable. There is a claimed contradiction between I Peter 1:4 and Psalms 102:25-26/Luke 21:33/ 2 Peter 3:10 where it is stated that the former says that believers will receive eternal life in heaven and in the latter that the heavens will be destroyed. Seemingly anticipating the obvious response to this, Ghounem states that, unlike the Bible, the Qur'an explains that there are levels of heaven (7 according to the Qur'an, with the lowest containing the stars). Apparently he overlooked II Cor.12:2 where Paul states that he was taken up to the 3rd heaven in a vision. Another "contradiction" is mentioned in that, while several passages in the Bible state that God loves sinners, in Hosea 9:15 it is said that God does not love sinners. This is where an understanding of the Biblical word for hate would have been helpful to Ghounem.
We've discussed material found in a few sections in each chapter of Ghounem's book. The basic problems with this book, as should be amply demonstrated by the material in the numerous links we have provided, is that the author 1) tried to include discussions on way too many topics for one book, thereby not addressing the issues adequately; 2) often had only a superficial understanding, and in some cases a misunderstanding, of the issues discussed, and perhaps worst of all, 3) did not often tell the whole story. Ghounem's goal was to provide answers to typical apologetic assertions regarding various Biblical issues, but in so doing, he either does not try to refute the best apologetic responses (most well-informed Christians would agree with Ghounem on the inadequacy of some that he listed), or does not adequately present the apologetic arguments being advanced. It might be said in response that providing the full breadth of the apologetic answers, much less giving detailed refutations to each apologetic assertion, would be impossible in one book, but that's the point of criticism #1. When there are better or more complete answers given by the apologists than what Ghounem lists and tries to refute, Ghounem really hasn't accomplished much other than perhaps to give the uneducated reader the false impression that he has refuted the best of what Christian apologetics has to offer on such matters when that is clearly not the case. Ghounem should have narrowed his scope to discuss fewer issues, and should have discussed those in much more depth. It won't due to treat these issues as Ghounem does, in the worst cases by finding prooftexts from the two books, and in the best cases by discussing the material in a mere 1-3 pages (each time with the express purpose of trying to make the Bible look bad and the Qur'an look good, I might add).
Unfortunately, this book appears to be reflective of typical Muslim apologetics in regards to attempting to refute Christianity. Regarding their basic approach, it is perhaps appropriate to reproduce some comments made by JPH to Skeptic X some time ago that seem relevant to this situation as well:
"I would like to remind the reader that whatever Skeptic X may accomplish in his little corner of the world, there are still tens of thousands of books out there written by people who either are not believers in inerrancy or are indifferent to it for the purposes of their text even if they do believe in it, but that nevertheless support the conclusion that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that the Bible is an overall reliable historical record of the dealings of God with the people of Israel, and more so as we approach the New Testament. Therefore, all that Skeptic X would have accomplished is to show that the Bible is not inerrant, but he would still have to confront the problem of overall reliability. What are the odds, I ask, that Skeptic X or anyone else could successfully refute the hundreds of other writers and their tens of thousands of books, articles, and speeches that have supported the general reliability (of) the Bible and the divinity of Jesus Christ? What would Skeptic X do, we wonder, to refute the works of the likes of John P. Meier, Ben Witherington, N. T. Wright, or James D. G. Dunn - disbelievers in any sort of inerrancy who nevertheless affirm that the data gives positive proof that Jesus Christ is Lord? It's not too hard to guess that Skeptic X taking on these giants would be much the same as Moe, Larry and Curly taking on Stephen Hawking! My point, then, is that even if Skeptic X should win on any point, or any number of points, he would not have disproven Christianity. In fact he will not have even joined the battle to do so." (Source)
Similarly, if Muslim apologists like Ghounem hope to mount a significant front against Christian scholarship, arguments over alleged contradictions and/or other types of errors that would, at best, disprove Biblical inerrancy, will not even come close to getting the job done. The Person of Jesus Christ, quite obviously, is the center of Christianity, and if Ghounem and others want to do some relevant homework in this area, they might want to educate themselves on the writings of such scholars as Richard Baukham, Craig Blomberg, Raymond Brown, D.A. Carson, William Lane Craig, James D.G. Dunn, R.T. France, Gary Habermas, Larry Hurtado, Bruce Metzger(!), Ben Witherington, and N.T. Wright, the likes of which are notably absent from Ghounem's resource list. Given that some of the greatest misunderstandings of Muslim apologists, including Ghounem, seem to revolve around the Christian concept of Jesus and the Trinity, this is all the more crucial.
In conclusion, no serious challenges to the veracity of Christianity, or good reasons to believe that the Qur'an is a superior revelation to the Bible, are presented in this volume. A reader wishing to familiarize himself/herself with common skeptical arguments, particularly from a Muslim's viewpoint, may find this book useful, but it is inadequate for a book attempting to give an accurate picture of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Postscript: For those interested in a good book on "comparative religion" in regards to Christianity and Islam, the best one that I'm personally aware of would probably be a book by Dr. William Campbell entitled "The Qur'an and Bible in the Light of History & Science." Information for ordering a hard copy can be found on this page, and the book is available on-line here. Dr. Campbell wisely limits his scope to fewer, yet very pertinent, topics, and in so doing discusses the relevant issues with much more balance, and in much more detail than Ghounem did in his book."Wildcat"