What are the Tawrat, Zabur and Injil?
It is common knowledge that Muslims recognize four remaining holy books out of a total of 104 revelations, of which 100 are missing. Although Muslims are often taught that the 3 remaining books previous to the Koran have been altered, still, Muslims for the most part, respect those 3 holy books. The 3 holy books are known as the Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil.
This paper will not deal with the Muslim belief in abrogation of previous scriptures, nor will it major on the Muslim belief in the corruption of the scriptures by Jews and Christians. The purpose of this paper is to examine the various opinions held regarding these 3 holy books. How did they come up with that understanding?
Let it be stated here that this author has confidence that the Tawrat, Zabur and Injil extant today amongst Jews and Christians (i.e. the Holy Bible), are the same as those books originally given by almighty Allah.
Muslim belief about the previous holy books has been in part shaped by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)'s interaction with Jews and Christians of his time. Some of these Jews and Christians were his earlier converts. The prophet's first wife, Khadijah was known as a Christian before converting to Islam, as was her cousin Waraka (or Warqa), who was considered a serious Bible student and perhaps even a translator of Scripture. So it would be beneficial to try to understand exactly what the Koran says about those holy books, and also what Jews and Christians of that time would have thought about the books. In doing this, we will also look at the holy Injil's use of various titles for different Scriptures.
General Muslim understanding today of the Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil, is somewhat simplistic. Each is thought to be a revelation in the form of a written book that was given through Hazrat Musa, Dawud, and Isa (peace be upon them) respectively. But there is some divergence of opinion:
Three sections of the Bible are cited by the Koran as being Divinely revealed: the Pentateuch, or Books of Moses (Tawrat); the Psalms of David (Zabur); and the Gospels of Jesus (Injil) (Glasse, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, pg. 72.)
Others however, would say that the Tawrat is more or less the entire revelation given to the Jews:
The religious dissociation of Abraham and other religious personalities from the main body of Jews and Christians was an inevitable consequence of two strands among Jews and Christians. The Qur'an continuously praises the one strand, and condemns the other, e.g., 'From among them (i.e., the People of the Book) there is an upright group but most of them perpetrate misdeeds' (V, 66). They were asked to live up to the Torah and the Evangel (V, 68), but, like the proprietors of all organized religious traditions, Jews and Christians quarrelled among themselves and each claimed that the keys of salvation were firmly in their exclusive grasp: 'The Jews say the Christians have nothing to stand on and the Christians say the Jews have nothing to stand on, and they both read the Book' (II, 120). (Fazlur Rahman, Islam, pg. 27)
It may be inferred from the preceding quote from Fazlur Rahman that the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians may be summed up in the words Torah (or Tawrat) and Evangel (or Injil), i.e. the Old Testament and the New Testament. This thinking is partly due to the Koran's own testimony, more of which will be seen later. The same belief is expressed by A.J. Arberry, noted English Muslim in his introduction to his translation of the Koran:
In many passages it is stated that the Koran had been sent down 'confirming what was before it', by which was meant the Torah and the Gospel; the contents of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, excepting such falsifications as had been introduced into them, were therefore taken as true and known. (Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, pg. xi.)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali seems to equate the Tawrat with the Old Testament, "Vaguely we may say that it was the Jewish Scripture." (Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, pg. 282.) However, because of his belief in the corruption of the Bible, there are qualifiers:
But it was lost before Islam was preached. What passed as "The Law" with the Jews in the Apostle's time was the mass of traditional writing which I have tried to review in this Appendix. (Ali, Ibid., pg. 285.)
The "mass of traditional writing" to which he refers is the Talmud (Ali, Ibid., pg. 284.) (see section on Interval Between Christ and Muhammad for more).
So in Ali's opinion, the Tawrat no longer exists.
Regarding the Injil, the same divergence of opinion is true. This divergence however, is only variations of the same theme. The "same theme" is this, the Injil has been corrupted. Some holding this belief vehemently, say that the Injil is no longer extant, and that today's New Testament bears little, if any, resemblance to the original Injil::
The Injil (Greek, Evangel=Gospel) spoken of by the Qur'an is not the New Testament. It is not the four Gospels now received as canonical. It is the single Gospel which, Islam teaches, was revealed to Jesus, and which he taught. Fragments of it survive in the received canonical Gospels and in some others, of which traces survive (e.g., the Gospel of Childhood or the Nativity, the Gospel of St.Barnabas, etc.). (Ali, Ibid., pg. 287.)
Toward the other end of the spectrum is Cyril Glasse, a western Muslim scholar. He uses three different names for the Injil interchangeably, Gospels of Jesus, the Gospel, and New Testament::
Three sections of the Bible are cited by the Koran as being Divinely revealed: the
Pentateuch, or Books of Moses (Tawrat); the Psalms of David (Zabur); and the Gospels of
However, the Gospels and Psalms have found no place in an Islamic canon and their contents are mostly ignored and unknown to Muslims. Moreover, the Gospel poses particular difficulties in Islam. Leaving aside the distinction between direct revelation from God, which is the case of the Koran (in Arabic tanzil, which corresponds to sruti in Sanskrit), and secondary inspiration (in Arabic ilham, the equivalent of smrti in Sanskrit), which is the case of the Gospels, the Christian Gospel clashes with Islamic understanding of doctrine on several points, most importantly regarding the nature of Jesus...
Muslims believe that the New Testament as used by Christians is incorrect and has, somehow, been falsified. (Glasse, Ibid., pg. 72.).
So there is divergence, but it is only a matter of degree. Because of supposed corruption, some Muslims refuse to accept the New Testament as the Injil.
Some, despite supposed corruption, do identify the two as one and the same. Hughes made an interesting comment along this line back in 1885:
Injil is used in the Qur'an, and in the Traditions, and in all Muhammadan theological works of an early date, for the revelations made by God to Jesus. But in recent works it is applied by Muhammadans to the New Testament. (Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, pg. 211.)
For some Muslims it is difficult to conceive of the fact that Hazrat Isa (pbuh) did not speak or write the Injil. A multiplicity of authors for the various New Testament books is a new concept to them.
The Zabur or Psalms, does not seem to be a big issue. Except for the comment by Cyril Glasse above about the Psalms, very little is said or discussed about this matter.
To top this all off, reference must be made to Abd-al-Rahman Azzam, respected Muslim leader and founder of the Arab League, as well as one who was instrumental in steering Malcolm X towards a more orthodox Islam:
The Imam Ibn-al-Qayyim said, "God (may He be praised and glorified) sent His messengers and revealed His books that people may measure with the justice on which Heaven and earth have dwelt." (Azzam, The Eternal Message of Muhammad, pg. 102.)
In commenting on this quote, Azzam says, "By books is meant the ones revealed by God: the Bible, the Koran." (Azzam, Ibid., pg. 102n.) Azzam equated the other three heavenly books with none other than today's Holy Bible.
A. The Tawrat.
The term Tawrat is simply the Arabic equivalent for the Hebrew Torah, normally understood as the law of Moses (Hazrat Musa). The Koran gives abundant testimony to the Tawrat, so much so, that it is mentioned more than any other part of the Bible:
It was We who revealed the Law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light. By its standard have been judged the Jews, by the Prophets who bowed (as in Islam) to God's Will, by the Rabbis and the Doctors of Law: For to them was entrusted the protection of God's Book, and they were witnesses thereto: Therefore fear not men, but fear Me, and sell not my Signs for a miserable price. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) Unbelievers. We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.".... (surah 5:47,48a)
From this quotation it can be seen that the holy Koran highly esteems the Tawrat ("guidance and light"), and as having been revealed by Allah. Also a quotation from the Tawrat is given, which seems to be from Exodus 21:23-25,
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Ex. 21:23-25)
In al-Koran it sometimes appears that the term Tawrat refers not only to the books of Hazrat Musa (pbuh), but to the entire Hebrew Scriptures, especially in verses that mention the Tawrat and Injil together:
He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel (3:3, Pickthall)
Ye People of the Book! Why dispute ye about Abraham, when the Law and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have ye no understanding? (surah 3:65)
Three "people of the book" are in view in these verses -- Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Their respective "books" in a nutshell are the Tawrat, Injil, and Koran. The second verse mentions only two, but implies Muslims, whom the others should emulate. This particular understanding of Tawrat is borne out in the Hadith :
Abu Harairah said: When the Prophet (may peace be upon him) went to his bed, he used to say: O God! Lord of the heavens, Lord of the earth, Lord of everything, Who splittest the grain and the kernel, Who hast sent down the Torah, the Injil and the Qur'an, I seek refuge in Thee from the evil of every evil agent whose forelock thou seizest...(Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 3, pg. 1403.)
Of course, the prophet knew that the Zabur had also been sent down, but perhaps in his thinking he was including it under the Tawrat, i.e. the Jewish Scriptures. Another tradition makes an apparent quote from the Tawrat, a prophecy regarding the Prophet:
Ka'b, quoting the Torah, said we find written, "Muhammad God's messenger, My chosen servant, is not rough, or coarse, or loud-voiced in the streets, he does not requite evil with evil, but forgives and pardons. His birthplace will be in Mecca, his place of emigration in Taiba, his kingdom in Syria, and his people will be those who are devoted to praising, who praise God in prosperity and adversity, who praise God in every
alighting-place, who declare God's greatness on every rising ground, who watch for the sun and observe the prayer when its time comes, who tie their lower garments round their middle, who perform ablution at their extremities, who crier summons in the open air, who are the same in fighting as they are in prayer, who make a low sound at night like the buzzing of bees." (Mishkat Al-Masabih, vol. 2, pg. 1237.)
The section in bold-type is of interest because of its parallel to Isaiah 42:1-4:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.
The rest of the quote from the Hadith claims to come from the Tawrat as well. If you compare with the rest of Isaiah 42, you do seem some parallels. For example, Isa. 42:11 speaks of the "desert" and "Kedar", probably being the Arabian desert and the territory of Haidar (Kedar), the forefather of the Prophet (pbuh). As well, Isa. 42:10-12 speak of a lot of people praising God, many of whom live in the Arabian desert. Now back to the real point of all this... This tradition refers to the book of Isaiah as being part of the Tawrat, backing up the idea of the Tawrat sometimes being used to refer to the entire Hebrew Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.
This term "Zabur" is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew zimra, translated in the King James Version as "psalm" in Ps. 81:2 and 98:5. The Hebrew word has the meaning "song, music", as in Ex. 15:2, "The Lord is my strength and song". It along with zamir (song) and mizmor (psalm) is a derivative of zamar , meaning "sing, sing praise, make music". (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, pg. 245.)
In the Koran, the Zabur is mentioned by name only three times:
...And to David We gave the Psalms. (surah 4:163)
And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some Prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms. (surah 17:55)
Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): "My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth." (surah 21:105)
The last reference is of interest because of the quotation from Psalm 37:29 which says, "the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever." Many Muslims scholars think that it also has reference to Exodus 32:13, "...it will be their inheritance forever."
Well-known Christian apologist, C. G. Pfander went as far to say that al-Koran's reference to the Psalms is actually a reference to the third division of the Hebrew Scriptures, known as the Writings or Kethubim: "as it begins with the Psalms, it is so styled in the Gospel (Luke 24:44) and in the Qur'an alike". (The Balance of Truth, pg. 51.)
"Injil" is Arabic for euaggelion in Greek, evangel or gospel in English. The term occurs twelve times in the holy Koran:
We sent after them Jesus son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy. (surah 57:27)
This particular reference is of interest for several reasons. First, it states that Hazrat Isa was given the Gospel by God, from which Muslims infer that the real Gospel (i.e. real New Testament) came from the mouth and pen of the prophet Isa. Second, as an aside, God made Christians to have two distinctive qualities -- compassion and mercy. It is reminicent of the heading of most surahs of the Koran, and the common formula for blessing and beginning any good work: Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, "In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful". It seems that Christians are said to have the character of Allah! What a testimony the holy Koran gives regarding followers of Hazrat Isa! Third, this verse is the only one out of twelve specific mentions of the Injil or Gospel in the Koran that does not also mention the Tawrat (Law). The Injil is almost always coupled with the Tawrat (see also 3:3, 48, 65; 9:111; 5:49, 50, 69, 71, 113):
Muhammad is the Apostle of God; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from God and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Tawrat; and their similitude in the Gospel is: Like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight... (surah 48:29)
The verse states that the Prophet's Companions were a mixture of humililty and strength. Strong against enemies of God, humble toward God and other believers. It says that their humble prostration in prayer is like that found in the Tawrat (cp. Numbers 16:22, "Moses and Aaron fell facedown..."). Then it says that the strength and victory of Muslims is like that spoken of in the Gospel, apparently referring to the parables of Isa:
...A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain -- first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head... ...like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade. (Mark 4:26-28, 31-32)
The group of Muslims started off small but grew quickly to become an international force. However, the main point we need to see is that this is one of ten Koranic references which couple the Law and the Gospel closely together, implying that the totality of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures can be summed up in the phrase "the Law and the Gospel". One more example:
Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. (surah 7:157, Pickthall)
Another interesting verse. It states that the coming of the Prophet is prophesied in the Book of the Jews, and in the Book of the Christians. From the Torah, Muslims usually refer to Deut. 18:15 as indicating Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh),
The Lord you God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. (Dt. 18:15)
It is explained that only Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) qualifies to fulfill this because the phrase, "from among your own brothers" is taken to mean "from among those who are brothers to you Jews, that is, Ishmaelites for example". They see it as significant that the Prophet was not a Jew. As far as Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) being prophesied in the Injil goes, it is helpful to look at another Koranic verse:
And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of God (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of an Apostle to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad." (surah 61:6)
This verse does not have the word Injil or Gospel but it does give the idea that news of the coming of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) is in the Injil. This verse also reinforces the "law and gospel" couplet pattern in the Koran. Muslim scholars look to an emended version of verses in John's Gospel to support this Koranic statement:
"Ahmad", or "Muhammad", the Praised One, is almost a translation of the Greek word Periclytos. In the present Gospel of John, xiv. 16, xv. 26, and xvi. 7, the word "Comforter" in the English version is for the Greek word "Paracletos", which means "Advocate", "one called to the help of another, a kind friend", rather than "Comforter". Our doctors contend that Paracletos is a corrupt reading for Periclytos, and that in their original saying of Jesus there was a prophecy of our holy Prophet Ahmad by name. Even if we read Paraclete, it would apply to the holy Prophet, who is "a Mercy for all creatures" (xxi. 107) and "most kind and merciful to the Believers" (ix. 128). (Ali, Ibid., pg. 1540, footnote.)
Muhammad often addresses Christians in the Koran, such as,
Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. (surah 5:50)
Christian leader Michael Nazir-Ali in commenting on the preceding ayat makes an observation which is perhaps worth as much as everything else that has been said:
The point here is not what Muhammad [pbuh]thought the Injil to be...but what in fact it was at his time. He is, in the above passage, exhorting the Christians of his day to look into the Injil for guidance. Now, if these Christians had responded to such an exhortation and had looked into their Injil or evangel into what would they have looked? The answer is quite obvious: They would have looked into their New Testament (which is also ours)...(Nazer-Ali, Islam: A Christian Perspective, pg. 14.)
D. Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil together.
Nowhere in the Koran are these three books mentioned together. They are not even mentioned within the same surah. To find all three together, you have to go to the Hadith,:
Abu Huraira told that when God's messenger once asked Ubayy b. Ka'b how he recited in the course of the prayer and he recited Umm al-Qur'an [the first surah of the Koran], he said, "By Him in whose hand my soul is, nothing like it has been sent down in the
Torah, the Injil, the Zabur, or the Qur'an, and it is seven of the oft-repeated verses and the mighty Qur'an which I have been given." (Mishkat Al-Masabih, pg. 454.)
This tradition neatly encapsulates the Muslim belief in four heavenly books. The Koran mentions no other such heavenly books, but it does mention biblical prophets who are not contained in the Pentateuch, Psalms, or New Testament.
Biblical prophets who fall outside the pale of the three accepted books of the Bible and yet are mentioned in the Koran are, Job (4:163), Elijah (6:86), Elisha (6:87), Solomon (2:102), Jonah (4:163), Ezekiel [or possibly Isaiah] (21:85), and Ezra (9:30). In addition, there are other non-prophet biblical characters mentioned such as Goliath (2:251), Korah (28:76ff), King Saul (2:247ff), and the Queen of Sheba (27:22). All this serves to indicate that the names Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil, cover more than those Scriptures given through Hazrat Musa, Dawud, and Isa (pbut). It is in fact, a strong argument that the whole of the Holy Bible is indicated by these three titles. The argument strengthens a little when you read verses like these,
Say (O Muslims): We believe in God and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (surah 2:136)
This verse leaves open the possibility of other Scripture which is not included in the Tawrat and the Injil. Surely more must be intended than just the Zabur and the Koran? There are other verses also:
If only they [i.e. the People of the Book] had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. (surah 5:69)
Say: "O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord." (surah 5:71)
Some Muslim scholars take the bold phrases (my doing) to refer only to the Koran. Some however, seem to be unsure and lack dogmatism. Certainly, at least the Zabur must be included here, and perhaps other writings. Other verses showing a wider field of revelations are 5:113 and 3:48. They are almost identical in content, speaking of how God would teach Hazrat Isa. Surah 3:48 is given here:
And He [God] will teach him [Isa] the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel. (surah 3:48, Pickthall)
Torah is clear, and so is Gospel, but what is meant by "the Scripture"? Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi seems to represent the safe and common position, "the revealed Books in general". (Tafsir-ul Qur'an, vol. 1, pg. 227.) The word for "Scripture" in Arabic furnishes no clues because it is al-kitab, the generic word used for any holy book including the Koran. But since it is so generic, perhaps we could say the Scripture includes the writings which speak of Elijah (Hazrat Ilyas), Elisha (Al-Yasa), Ezekiel (Dhul-Kifl or Hizkil), Jonah (Hazrat Yunus), etc. However, these could also be comprehended in a more general understanding of Tawrat to signify "the Jewish Scriptures", including the Tawrat proper, the Psalms and writings, and the Prophets.
We did aforetime grant to the Children of Israel the Book, the Power of Command, and Prophethood; We gave them, for Sustenance, things good and pure; and We favoured them above the nations. (surah 45:16)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse in this way:
Israel had the Revelation given through Moses, the power of judgment and command through the Kingdom of David and Solomon, and numerous prophetic warnings through such men as Isaiah and Jeremiah.. (Ali, Ibid., pg. 1358.).
He seems to recognize the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah as legitimate prophecy from God. This is remarkable in view of the fact that such prophets are mentioned neither in the Koran nor the Hadith..
A Hadith of great importance shows that Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) attributed wahi (Divine Inspiration) to at least one of the Apostle Paul's writings:
Abu Huraira told that after God's messenger had stated that God most high has said, "I have prepared for my upright servants what eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man," he added, "Recite, if you wish, 'No soul knows what comfort has been concealed for them'." (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is quite close to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9,
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)
The quoted Hadith closely follows Paul's wording. To top it off, it says that God most high said this! Then the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) must have thought 1 Corinthians was part of God's Word, as part of the Injil. Though many Hadith are admittedly unreliable, this one (like all mentioned in this paper) are of high authority and considered trustworthy. This one gets a double portion, being found in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
In al-Koran, Tawrat can refer to the law of Moses or the entire Old Testament revelation, depending on the context. The Zabur is at least the Psalms of David, but perhaps equivalent to the Kethubim., the third division of the Hebrew Bible. The Koran does not militate against such an interpretation. The Injil is that revelation given to the Christians, i.e. the New Testament. From the Koran's testimony we learn that in addition to the 3 previous holy books, there are other prophets who may have been given written revelation from God. The Hadith help define the previous holy books to be exactly three, but show us also that an unnamed prophet might make contribution to a holy book (i.e. the apostle Paul contributed to the Injil).
The Injil uses several terms to designate the Old Testament books, the most generic one being "Scriptures". But second to it possibly is the way "law" is used many times:
Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? (Jn. 10:34)
Hazrat Isa Masih quotes Psalm 82:6 and says it is in their "law", that is, the Old Testament.
The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'? (Jn. 12:34)
It is interesting that of all the possible Old Testament cross-references that the NIV Study Bible gives for this verse, not one of them is from the Pentateuch. "Law" is again being used in a wider sense than the law of Moses.
But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.' (Jn. 15:25)
Again, Hazrat Isa quotes the Psalms and calls it the "law". But just so no one can say that this usage only occurs in John:
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matt. 5:18)
That this usage refers to the entire Old Testament is borne out by two things: 1. Matt.5:17, the previous verse says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets...". The second reference to Law in verse 18 calls back not only to Moses' law, but also the "Prophets"; 2. Reason tells us that Jesus would be saying that nothing in any of the previous revelations would be deleted or abrogated. Rather, they would all be fulfilled. So, "law" must refer to the whole of the Old Testament.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. (Romans 3:19)
This statement by Paul puts words in the mouth of the "law". What words? The words found previous to this verse in Romans 3:10-18, after "As it is written". The familiar gospel verses are quoted from the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah, but not from the Pentateuch. Again, "law" is used of the entire Old Testament.
In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord. (1 Cor. 14:21)
This quote from the "law" is out of Isaiah 28:11,12.
But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord you God will raise up for a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.' (Acts 3:18, 21,22)
In this passage, it appears that even the law of Hazrat Musa is included as part of the "prophets". Other passages that indicate a more generic use are:
But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. (Mt. 26:56)
When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots [that the word spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled: "They divided my garments among themselves and cast lots for my clothing". (Mt. 27:35)
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago). (Luke 1:69,70)
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled." (Luke 18:31)
All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43)
The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. (Acts 13:27)
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. (Heb. 1:1)
I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Pet. 3:2)
The last two references very clearly point to the entire Old Testament revelation, as opposed to the New Testament revelation. That the "prophets" also includes the Hebrew Scriptures section, the "Writings" or Kethubim, is clear from Hazrat Isa's own designation of Daniel as a prophet (see Matt. 24:15), and Peter's testimony in Acts 2:30 concerning David that "he was a prophet".
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7:12)
This couplet of "the Law and the Prophets" (or variations thereof) is found some fourteen times in the New Testament. See also Matt. 5:17; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16, 29, 31; 24:27; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 26:22; 28:23; Rom. 3:21. The implication is obvious in every case that the phrase signifies the entirety of the Old Testament revelation.
Just prior to his departure from this earth, Hazrat Isa (pbuh) said:
This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. (Luke 24:44)
This is the only such statement in all of the Bible, dividing the Old Testament into 3 sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. It is a well known fact that the Jewish Bible is divided into 3 sections as well: the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nebi'im), and the Writings (Kethubim), the Psalms being the first book in the Writings, as the chart shows.
|Law (Torah)||Prophets (Nebi'im)||Writings (Kethubim)|
|1. Genesis||A. Former Prophets||A. Poetical Books|
|2. Exodus||6. Joshua||14. Psalms|
|3. Leviticus||7. Judges||15. Proverbs|
|4. Numbers||8. Samuel||16. Job|
|5. Deuteronomy||9. Kings||B. Five Rolls (Megilloth)|
|B. Latter Prophets||17. Song of Songs|
|10. Isaiah||18. Ruth|
|11. Jeremiah||19. Lamentations|
|12. Ezekiel||20. Ecclesiastes|
|13. The Twelve||21. Esther|
|C. Historical Books|
The preceding classification, with minor variations, is one that was settled before or by the fourth century A.D. in the Babylonian Talmud. The name "Writings" or Kethubim seems to be a title that came along later than the New Testament, even though the divisions themselves were in existence in New Testament times. However, it is apparent that the list of Kethubim was by no means fixed and rigid. The title of that section was also slow in coming as is indicated by the 2nd century B.C. reference to the Old Testament in the Prologue of Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus:
...my grandfather Jesus, when he had much given himself to the reading of the law, and the prophets, and other books of our fathers, and had gotten therein good judgment, was drawn on also himself to write something pertaining to learning and wisdom...
For the same things uttered in Hebrew, and translated into another tongue, have not the same force in them: and not only these things, but the law itself, and the prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language. (The Apocrypha according to the Authorised Version, pg. 94.)
The ancient writer knew that there were 3 sections to the Old Testament, but he did not seem to know the name of the third section, if there was one. Hazrat Isa's only-one-time designation of Law, Prophets, and Psalms, may indicate that the third section was still lacking an accepted widely-known name in the 1st century A.D. However, this designation was used at least sometimes in the 1st century, else his disciples might have not understood what was being referred to:
The three sections are also referred to, in the first century AD, by Philo (De Vita Contemplativa 25) and by Hazrat Isa Masih (Lk. 24:44), both of whom give the third section its earliest name of "the Psalms".
Hazrat Isa (pbuh) followed the order of books found in the Hebrew Bible in one sweeping statement, when he covered the contents of the entire Hebrew Old Testament, from the beginning book (Genesis 4), to the end (2 Chronicles 24:20-22):
Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel [Habil]to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. (Luke 11:50-51)
Naming this section of the Hebrew Bible after its first book, Psalms, is not without precedent among the Jews. The Hebrew title for Genesis took its name from the opening words in the book, as did the Hebrew titles for Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Lamentations. So it is natural for the unnamed collection of writings to be called by its first book, "Psalms". Many scholars take it for granted that what Hazrat Isa had in mind in saying "Law, Prophets, and Psalms" was in fact, the three divisions of the entire Old Testament canon. An interesting corroboration comes from Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
The Jews divide their Scripture into three parts: (1) the Law (Torah), (2) the Prophets (Nebiim), and (3) the Writings (Kethubim). The corresponding Arabic words would be: (1) Tawrat, (2) Nabiyin, and (3) Kutub. This division was probably current in the time of Jesus. In Luke xxiv. 44 Jesus refers to the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. (Ali, Ibid., pg. 283.).
The ancient historian Josephus gives further evidence of the existence of the three-fold division in the first century, also similar to Hazrat Isa's "law, prophets, psalms" designation:
For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them, five belong to Moses, which contain his laws, and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. (Josephus: Complete Works, pg. 609.)
It is apparent that Josephus' breakdown (5+13+4=22) does not tally with the (5+8+11=24) scheme found in Hebrew Bibles today, but that is due to the unsettled arrangement/combination of books within the last two divisions during that time, and not due to a different accepted canon. There is an additional reason for Hazrat Isa (pbuh) and others identifying the third division with Hazrat Dawud's book, the Psalms:
David Noel Freedman, "The Formation of the Canon of the Old Testament," in
Religion and Law: Biblical-Judaic and Islamic Perspectives, ed. by Edwin B. Firmage,
Bernard G. Weiss, and John W. Welch (Winona Lake IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), pp. 320-321: The
effort to rewrite or revise the classic history of Israel did not entirely succeed, but
the Chronicler's work, ultimately supplemented by the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah,
constituted the framework of a third cycle of literature in the canon. Such books as the
Psalter, Proverbs, and others that could be associated with the house of David (for
example, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes) were included, as well as those that dealt
with the fortunes of the sacred city and its Temple (for example, Lamentations, and later,
Thus, the division of Zabur as the corpus belonging to David is not an unexpected category of the Old Testament canon. It does not, in and of itself, deny the existence of the Kethubim or even make it difficult to explain their association. Freedman's explanation also answers questions regarding the separation of books like Chronicles, Ruth, and Daniel from the Prophets. When we look at the Old Testament canon in this fashion we find that the three divisions center around Moses, David, and the prophets. This is consistent with both the Islamic division and the New Testament division of the Old Testament canon. (letter from Dr. W. Barrick)
Freedman's comments bear a remarkable similarity to the record found in 2 Maccabees 2:13, written sometime prior to 50 A.D.:
The same things also were reported in the writings and commentaries of Neemias; and how he founding a library gathered together the acts of the kings, and the prophets, and of David, and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts. (The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English.)
The Greek of the LXX supports a translation along the lines of Nehemiah gathering books concerning "the kings and prophets, and that of David, and letters of kings concerning votive offerings" In Nehemiah's time, the canon/arrangement of the Pentateuch was settled, but the rest of the Old Testament canon was still in the process of being revealed and arranged. Interestingly enough, the writer of Maccabees mentions the gathering of literature which looks suspiciously like the last two sections of the Hebrew Old Testament as it was known during the first century; namely, the Prophets ("the kings and prophets", corresponding roughly to the former and latter prophets respectively), and the Psalms ("that of David"), or as later known, the Kethubim. One can only guess what scripture is signified by "letters of kings concerning votive offerings". Generally speaking, according to the above observations, the Kethubim would be primarily concerned with David (Hazrat Dawud), his lineage, or his city. Specifically speaking, however, where does the book of Job (Hazrat Ayub) fit into this scheme? Was it packaged with Hazrat Dawud because it was the only section of Scripture containing a significant amount of poetic/wisdom literature? One possibility is that as has been held by some, the author of the book Job, is none other than the son of David, Hazrat Sulayman (pbuh), linking the book with the house of David through authorship. Or perhaps there was a time in the early development of the Kethubim when Job was not included there but among the Prophets? Might this also explain why Josephus includes only four books in this section (perhaps Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs)? Anyway, these are questions that probably cannot be answered, seeing there seems to be no strong evidence to prove or disprove them.
In the first century, the Old Testament Scriptures were known usually as the Law and the Prophets. Sometimes this was abbreviated to the Law. These Scriptures were also known by a threefold division, by the first century designated as the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.
The Jews continued to follow the three-fold division of the Hebrew Old Testament, whereas the church thought more in terms of the divisions originally given in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the books of Law, History, Poetry and Wisdom, Prophecy), and later adapted by the Latin Vulgate, and brought over to the order found in the present-day Bible we have in our hands. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had dealings with both Jews and Christians and learned something from each religion. He learned about the Law, the Psalms, the Gospel, and about many prophets. The mention of these four things could naturally lead to the three Jewish Old Testament divisions and the New Testament.
Christian leader Chrysostom (c. 354-407 A.D.) in his commentary on the Book of Galatians, makes a comment on Galatians 4:21 which verse says, "Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?" His comment reads, "It is the Book of Creation which he calls here the law, which name he often gives to the whole Old Testament." (Schaff, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: First Series, vol. 8, pg. 33.) So "the Law" can be understood as the books of Moses, or as the entire Old Testament.
Verses about the prophets and Prophethood abound in the Koran, but not one clear reference to the "book of the Prophets". This is not because the inspiration of the Old Testament prophets was not recognized. It has before been shown that the Old Testament prophets are recognized by Islam.
There seems to be no direct evidence that the Jews in the Prophet's day knew the Kethubim also as the Psalms. It can only be assumed based on the practice of Jews in preceding centuries. It is clear that the accepted Hebrew canon before Hazrat Muhammad's time placed Psalms at the head of the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and it is also clear that Hebrew Bibles today do the same. However, the Babylonian Talmud (pre-400 A.D.) places Ruth, not Psalms, at the head of the Kethubim:
The oldest testimony of Jewish tradition about the order of the kethubim is furnished by the Babylonian Talmud. In the treatise Baba Bathra (14b) we find after the Prophets the series of the kethubim as follows: 'The order of the kethubim is: Ruth, and the Book of Psalms and Job and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and Lamentations, Daniel and the roll (megillath) of Esther, Ezra and Chronicles.' (Dhorme, A Commentary on the Book of Job, pg. vii.)
Two things are worth noting here: 1, that the section is not called Psalms but Kethubim (Writings), and 2, that the first book is not Psalms, but Ruth. This may mean that the Zabur of seventh century Arabia was only the book of Psalms, but not necessarily. "The first five editions of the Hebrew Bible begin the Hagiographa [Kethubim] with Psalms, Proverbs, Job." (Dhorme, Ibid., pg. viii.). The Babylonian Talmud was not the only authority in Hebrew scriptural matters at the time (e.g. - the Palestinian Talmud), and obviously its authority has not carried through the years in this particular matter. So it is possible that Zabur stands for the Kethubim. This designation may have been used among Jews, but what about Christians? The church did not follow the Hebrew Bible divisions, seeing that their Bible was the Septuagint. What then did this term "the Psalms", or Zabur in Arabic, mean to the church?
Tertullian, in the second century, tells us that the Christians were wont to sing Psalms at their agapæ, and that they were sung antiphonally. From the earliest times they formed an essential part of Divine Service. Hilary, Chrysostom, Augustine, all mention the use of the Psalms in the public service, and describe them, sometimes as being sung by the whole congregation, at others as being recited by one individual, who was followed by the rest. (Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vol. in 1, pg. 23.)
To emphasize the importance that the early and medieval church placed on the Psalms, Van Espen's comment on a canon of the Second Council of Nice (787 A.D.) that "a Bishop must know the Psalter by heart" is in order, because of what it says about prior church history:
And it should be noted that formerly not only the clergy, but also the lay people, learned the Psalms, that is the whole Psalter, by heart, and made a most sweet sound by chanting them while about their work. But as time went on, little by little, this pious custom of reciting the Psalter... slipped away to the clergy only and to monks and nuns...(Schaff & Wace, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, vol. 14, pg. 556, 557.)
It is no wonder that Gustav Oehler speaks of the Psalms as he does:
The book of Psalms is, above all other portions of Old Testament Scripture, that which, from the first, has been most used by the Christian church, and which she has cherished as one of her noblest jewels. Just as the Lord himself, following the passover custom of his nation, at his last meal with his disciples sang the great Hallel out of the Psalms, Mat. xxvi. 30, so the apostle also, Col. iii. 16; Ep. v. 19, has exhorted the Christian community to edify itself out of the same. From this Israelitish book of song and prayer not only have the liturgies of the Christian church drawn many of their parts, but from it also has the sacred hymnology of the church itself proceeded. And how can we suitably express all the spiritual benefit which believers of all time have received from these songs? (Fairbairn, The Imperial Bible-Dictionary, vol. 5, pg. 334.)
Of course, that statement holds true not only for the church, for as Perowne said, "the Psalter has been in the truest sense, the Prayer-book both of Jews and Christians." (Perowne, Ibid., pg. 22.) It appears from all this, that Arabic Christians would have understood Zabur to mean the book of Psalms, and that they treasured it.
The Koran's way of calling the New Testament, "the Gospel" or Injil is something to be addressed. When the Koran mentions "the Gospel" is it referring to the New Testament or to another book? After all, Christians do not commonly call the New Testament by this name today. If it can be shown that this was a common title (used by Christians) for the New Testament before and/or during the time of Muhammad, then it can be argued that the Koran is actually referring to the New Testament as it is known today. One strong argument for identifying the Injil with the New Testament is the word Injil itself. This word found its way into the Koran ultimately from the New Testament. Christians would have been heard to use the word gospel quite regularly. Jews would not have used it much, and neither would Arabian idol-worshippers. Where did Christians get the word from? The New Testament, of course. The word euaggelion occurs some 77 times in the New Testament, and euaggelizw/euaggelizomai some 55 times. Injil or gospel is a New Testament word. Not only that, but the New Testament authors made it clear that they believed their message (whether spoken or written) was the gospel or Injil:
Mark 1:1-- The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Romans 16:25,26-- Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him --
1 Thess. 1:5-- ...because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
The common belief is that the original Injil was given to Hazrat Isa (pbuh), and so people have difficulty in seeing the New Testament written by anyone other than him. The following quote from the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas may help to bridge the gap from the Muslim position and the New Testament as it stands:
And when he [Isa] chose his apostles, which were afterwards to publish his Gospel, he took men who had been very great sinners; that thereby he might plainly shew, That he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (The Lost Books of the Bible, pg. 149.)
The New Testament itself bears abundant witness to the gospel being Hazrat Isa's
gospel, a gospel which he committed into the hands of his followers to publish
throughout the world.
From historical documents it is clear that the church of the centuries before Islam arrived, did use "Gospel" as a title for all or part of the New Testament:
At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection. They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John. This fourfold collection was originally known as "The Gospel" in the singular, not "The Gospels" in the plural; there was only one Gospel... Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, refers to "The Gospel" as an authoritative writing, and as he knew more than one of the four "Gospels" it may well be that by "The Gospel" sans phrase he means the fourfold collection which went by that name. (Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? pg. 23.)
Toward the end of the second century, Irenaeus gave a similar testimony, "The Word gave to us the Gospel in a fourfold shape, but held together by one Spirit". (Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, pg. 99.) In the fourth century, Chrysostom wrote,
We assert, therefore, that, although a thousand Gospels were written, if the contents of all were the same, they would still be one, and their unity no wise infringed by the number of writers. -- Whence it is clear that the four Gospels are one Gospel; for, as the four say the same thing, its oneness is preserved by the harmony of the contents, and not impaired by the difference of persons. (Schaff, A Select Library of Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: First Series. vol. 8, pg. 7.)
But what about the rest of the New Testament?
The corpus Paulinum, or collection of Paul's writings, was brought together about the same time as the collecting of the fourfold Gospel. As the Gospel collection was designated by the Greek word Euangelion, so the Pauline collection was designated by the one word Apostolos... (Bruce, Ibid., pg.25.)
Apparently, Augustine knew of the same divisions in his day in the fourth century, "For
I ask them, is it good to take pleasure in reading the Apostle? or good to take pleasure
in a sober Psalm? or good to discourse on the Gospel? They will answer to each, 'It is
good'." (The Confessions of St.Augustine, pg. 144.) In the same time period,
"Gospel" was used by Christian church historian Eusebius in the same way, as
well as for each of the four gospels individually.
The whole New Testament was known as simply the Gospel very early on however. In fact, Christian theologian B.B. Warfield states that it was the earliest name for the entire New Testament collection:
The earliest name given to this new section of Scripture was framed on the model of the name by which what we know as the Old Testament was then known. Just as it was called "The Law and the Prophets and the Psalms" (or "the Hagiographa"), or more briefly "The Law and the Prophets," or even more briefly still "The Law"; so the enlarged Bible was called "The Law and the Prophets, with The Gospels and the Apostles" (so Clement of Alexandria, "Strom." vi. 11, 88; Tertullian, "De Præs. Hær." 36), or most briefly "The Law and the Gospel" (so Claudius Apolinaris, Irenæus); while the new books apart were called "The Gospel and the Apostles," or most briefly of all "The Gospel." This earliest name for the new Bible, with all that it involves as to its relation to the old and briefer Bible, is traceable as far back as Ignatius (A.D. 115), who makes use of it repeatedly (e.g., "ad Philad." 5; "ad Smyrn." 7). In one passage he gives us a hint of the controversies which the enlarged Bible of the Christians aroused among the Judaizers ("ad Philad." 6). "When I heard some saying," he writes, "Unless I find it in the Old [Books] I will not believe the Gospel,' on my saying, 'It is written,' they answered, 'That is the question.' To me, however, Jesus Christ is the Old [Books]; his cross and death and resurrection, and the faith which is by him, the undefiled Old [Books] -- by which I wish, by your prayers, to be justified. The priests indeed are good, but the High Priest better," etc. Here Ignatius appeals to the "Gospel" as Scripture, and the Judaizers object, receiving from him the answer in effect which Augustine afterward formulated in the well-known saying that the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is first made clear in the New. (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, pg. 413.)
Again, in his letter to the Smyrnæns, early church father Ignatius identifies the Gospel, alongside the Law and the Prophets:
Only in the name of Jesus Christ, I undergo all, to suffer together with him; he who was made a perfect man strenthening me. Whom some not knowing, do deny; or rather have been denied my him, being the advocates of death, rather than of the truth. Whom neither the prophecies, nor the law of Moses have persuaded; nor the Gospel itself even to this day, nor the sufferings of every one of us. (The Lost Books of the Bible, pg. 187.)
The Apostolic Constitutions, probably written in the late 4th century, though parts possibly dating from the 5th century, contains several interesting references to the "Gospel":
Let him [a bishop] be patient and gentle in his admonitions, well instructed himself, meditating in and diligently studying the Lord's books, and reading them frequently, that so he may be able carefully to interpret the Scriptures, expounding the Gospel in correspondence with the prophets and with the law; and let the expositions from the law and the prophets correspond to the Gospel. ...and let [the repentant] depart after the reading of the law, and the prophets, and the Gospel, that by such departure they may be made better in their course of life...
Let us walk after the law, and the prophets by the Gospel. (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, pg. 397, 414, 461.)
These quotations make it clear that "the Gospel" was a title used to refer to the entire New Testament, as opposed to the Old Testament ("the law and the prophets").
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