Evangelical Textual Criticism

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Islamic apologetics book on NTTC

A kind correspondent has drawn my attention to Sami Ameri's book Hunting for the Word of God, which is featured on its own website. You can watch an introductory video with its compelling music here.

Here's the outline:


A Preserved New Testament?
Restoration of the Original Text:  A Mere Deceptive Claim
Why We Cannot Trust the Greek Manuscripts?
Why We Cannot Trust the New Testament Versions?
Can We Really Restore the Original New Testament through Patristic Citations?
Can the Witnesses Sustain Each Other?
An Ambitious goal and an Early Fail
“But That Does Not Affect the N.T. Reliability and Message!”

A Preserved Qur’ān?
The Early History of the Qur’ān
Authentication of the Qur’anic Readings
The Manuscripts in the Islamic Scale
The Testimony of the Extant Manuscripts
Wallace’s Seven Fables
Ten Shocking Facts
Small’s Delusion
Non-Muslim Scholars Testify to the Originality of the Text of the Qur’ān

Appendix:“Jesus’  Gospel”?


I've ordered the book for Tyndale House library. Is there anyone out there who might be interested in writing a review? No doubt they will be shocked to learn that there are actually differences between New Testament manuscripts ...

Update: See also this post about Keith Small's research on Quran MSS.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Too touchy a topic for that much flippancy, especially when I know better, and especially here, sorry.

    It's interesting to note how both traditions are in the position of having no autographs, and relying upon authoritative manuscript traditions with nothing behind them but speculation. The trouble is that the NT wasn't formed under a uniform authority, and so by the time we got Byzantine harmonization, we still had authoritative preserved versions that were too valuable to be lost. Imagine if our earliest layer were Byzantine?

  3. The book appears to be self-published. The author has an MA in Islamic Studies (not clear from where) and doesn't appear to have any knowledge of the Christian tradition, Greek, or manuscript studies. This is the Muslim equivalent of the many books written by well-meaning Christians in the "Behind the Veil" genre. There is a long history of the study of the textual transmission of the Qur'an, both among Muslims, and among modern Western scholars. See Bell's "Introduction to the Qur'an," re-issued and edited by Montgomery Watt in 1970, and then the numbers of books generated by Patricia Crone and Michael Cook (Hagarism, Slaves on Horses, Meccan Trade among others) as well as John Wansbrough's "Qur'anic Studies" and others that followed him. The book mentioned probably isn't really worth a review, unless someone has a lot of free time on their hands.

  4. I am wondering if David read the fancy conspiracy imagined by wansbrough? It looks like he is just pretending familiarity with the Qur'anic studies. Worst than that, he is attacking the author of being totally ignorant about the NTTC, WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST EVIDENCE. parts of the book are there for download with many quotes and references. I think the author is not bringing something new, he is just defending a well founded fact. I believe this book is an Islamic version of the Elden Jay Epp's thesis . .


    -Ali uthman

  5. Sure; I am willing to write a review.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  6. Looks like a review that Keith Small would do well. Let me know if you don't have his contact details, Pete.


  7. Steve, I e-mailed Keith Small about this book some weeks ago. He said he had not seen it. Keith's research is referred to in the book.

  8. It seems to me this book is written for popular consumption, similar perhaps to Keith Small’s “Holy Books have a History: Textual Histories of the New Testament & the Qur'an”. A quick search on Google would show there are tens if not hundreds of similar books / pamphlets distributed by evangelical Christians, such as the one named above.

    According to one comment, apparently Small’s research is referred to in the book. That being the case, I wonder if Ameri discusses Small’s claim that the text of the NT is “at least 99.5% accurate” and that “none [i.e., zero] of God's word is mistakenly excluded”. Or what about the statement that the quotations of the early fathers “in no way disagree with the manuscript evidence”. One could go on.

    Kind regards,

    Abdullah David.

  9. For a post on Keith Small's research see http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.se/2011/07/textual-criticism-and-quran-manuscripts.html

  10. Another book that has recently undergone a second edition is History of the Qur'anic Text by Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami. I reviewed the book in the journal Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 23:2(2011), 221-223. Half of his book he spent on vindicating the Qur'an and slamming critical scholarship by Western Orientalists. The other half he spends discrediting the OT and NT. In fact, much of his critique on the NT is based on B. Ehrman, who he quotes abundantly. His book is an important read as many Muslim apologetics seem to adopt his rationale.

  11. Also, I would like to mention that Keith Small is not only an accomplished scholar in the field of Islamic Studies, but he also was a kind and extremely helpful mentor as he served as a supplementary reader for my master's thesis at DTS (Daniel Wallace was my primary reader). The thesis was on evaluating the entry of the Annunciation account from the Protevangelium of James into the oral corpus of the Qur'an. I don't mean to openly advertise my work here, but if anyone would like a copy of it to use its bibliography, do let me know.

  12. Please allow me to ask: Is Keith Small a scholar in the field of Islamic Studies? The book mentioned above –written by a known scholar in the Arab world, at least to those interested in comparative religion- wrote that Small does not know Arabic, and he mentioned numerous scandalous mistakes in his Textual Criticism and Qur'ān Manuscripts and Holy Books have a History. I am expecting this book to end Small’s career, seriously talking

  13. I doubt that it will end his career since several scholars in western Islamic Studies are using Small's book in their classes. Fred Donner at University of Chicago is one of them.

  14. It is just ridiculous to suggest that Small does not know Arabic! Why this apologetic? Undoubtedly a hot potato.

  15. @Jonathan Reck , you said scholar Mustafa al Azmi have spent half of the book slamming critical scholarship.

    Well , in his book in the first half he discussed the history of Quran in through detail which is unmatched till date in any book dealing with the same topic in English language.

    Then he showed how superficially the western scholars operate when it comes to Islam and Quran.He showed EVIDENCE for that , can you show a single place where he went wrong in examination of the mistakes committed by western scholars .

    Mustafa al azmi aint no apologist like Kieth E Small , he is a PhD from Cambridge , Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan , Visiting Fellow at St Cross College, Oxford, King Faisal Visiting Professor for Islamic Studies at Princeton University, and Visiting Scholar at the University of Colorado at Boulder.He is also an Honorary Fellow in Islamic Studies at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.He was the recipient of the King Faisal International Award for Islamic Studies.

    Iam not trying to show how many degrees he has to his credit , iam only showing he is a serious scholar who has produced real research in his book . It is obvious you are not happy with him since he did that .

    Lastly when it came to the history of Bible in his book , i agree he did not went into detail but he quoted various other other scholars apart from Ehrman . It was in fact Metzger whom he quoted more than Ehrman.

    Plus , what is the problem even if he quoted Ehrman , isn't he a qualified person to quote on the history of Bible ?

    You cite Kieth E Small who is a Christian apologist as a source on Quran despite knowing he clearly has an agenda but you mock someone who quote as qualified a scholar as Ehrman who is neither a Muslim apologist nor has any agenda to prove Christianity wrong.

  16. @Tommy Wassermann

    Hi sir , my respect and regards to you .

    You do not know me but i know you as i have read your various articles and your contribution in the book ' The early text of New Testament' in the chapter of the early text of Matthew.It was really very informative . Thanks.

    Sir ,in your comment you said Small knows Arabic . I do not know how much Arabic Small knows but i want to say that in his previous book “Holy Books have a History: Textual Histories of the New Testament & the Qur'an” he brought arguments which Christian apologists are frequently seen bringing which absolutely do not have any scholarly or academic relevance.He quotes Jeffry , Crone , Wansborg whose theories are rejected now.Plus he draws his own conclusions on various topics without even considering what scholars say on the same.

    Small might be knowing Arabic but my argument here is that there are many Muslim scholars out there who are much through and perfect in classical Arabic than Small and should be referred on Quran and manuscripts not Small .There is tons of material and scholarly books when it comes to the history Quran , its manuscript contents in Arabic , but nobody refers them what they refer is Kieth Small.

    Will you consider the work of a Muslim apologist who openly denounces Christianity , when he writes on the manuscript history of Bible ?

  17. Dear anon, I replied only to the ridiculous suggestion that Small does not know Arabic. He is currently editing Arabic MSS for Brill.

    As for the book “Holy Books have a History: Textual Histories of the New Testament & the Qur'an” I have not read it, and it seems to be a popular and apologetic book. I am only familiar with Keith Small's thesis.

    By the way, I have seen some early and fascinating Quran MSS myself, and there were some thrilling things there – traces of major textual changes. I guess that might be a very sensitive issue to bring up.

  18. @Tommy Wassermann
    "By the way, I have seen some early and fascinating Quran MSS myself, and there were some thrilling things there – traces of major textual changes"

    Can you please share that sir , i also want to know which are these 'major textual changes' , which manuscript ? , which scholar evaluated it ?, who counter evaluated it and confirmed it ? .

    "I guess that might be a very sensitive issue to bring up."

    I will not mind a bit sir , instead i will be really thankful. At least can you please tell me what it is and which manuscript it is .

  19. hi,
    first of all forgive me for my bad English.
    Mr. Sami Ameri have many books in Arabic and also in English.
    about Quran Manuscripts I would like to say that we (muslims) don't debend on it, we debend on memorizing. Many kids memorize The Quran although they can not read. So Textual Criticism can't be applied on Quran.

  20. Tommy, I understand your furious reaction, but trust me, the Mistakes Small made are soooo bad to be from the pen of someone who knows Arabic!
    Small does not know Arabic, he might be able to use Babylon dictionaries, but for sure he is unable to read and speak Arabic fluently.
    Small did not use a single Arabic reference in his 2 books!!! WOW!! Even though he used second hand English references to allude to some Arabic published references. It is like writing a Phd dissertation on some fathers of the church, without going back to their own literatures, and being content with using modern references as a mean to quote from the fathers’ books or letters!!!! Or it is like writing a Phd dissertation on John Chrysostom’s theology, and using the Catholic Encyclopedia as the source of Chrysostom’s views and literal quotes without going back even a single time to his homilies!!!
    Other proofs:
    Hunting, p.177 Small referred to one of the most famous books of al-baqillani through an English second hand source (Madigan, Self-Image, p.47). He attributed to al-baqillani the exact opposing meaning of his statement, even though the English book he used offered the text of al-baqillani in Arabic!
    Hunting, p.178 “Small does not even know how to spell the name of the central, key figure of the readings studies; Small wrote the name of this person throughout his book as “Ibn Mujāḥid,” which is “ابن مجاحد” in Arabic, and his name is spelled “ابن مجاهد” with “هـ” “h,” and not “ح” “ḥ.””
    Whaaaaaaaaat, this is like publishing an academic book on the matter of the theology of the New Testament, and spelling “Saint Paul” all over the book as “Saint Pool” or “Saint Pale”.
    P.189 “The manuscript of Sana’a 01-29.1 has taqūmu in Q.14:41 instead of the standard reading yaqūmu. Small claimed that the Sana’a manuscript has an “un-canonical” reading, which means “When you reckon the account” rather than “when it is reckoned.” He adds, “This makes the invocation more internally consistent and personal between lbrāhīm and Allāh.” Actually, this is an impossible reading, as the verse reads,{رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَاب}. In order to say, “you reckon the account,” the word used would be tuqīmu, not taqūmu, as taqūmu al-ḥisāba is very awkward Arabic. ”
    This is an obvious mistake that no Arab, even illiterate, will miss.

    There are other mistakes mentioned in Ameri’s book…. Ameri’s response is not about these childish mistakes, he was concerned on smashing all Small’s claims regarding the preservation of the Qur’anic text, but I still think that these mistakes are worthy of mentioning.
    Babylon dictionaries are very helpful, but not in academic studies. Brill might need to reconsider Small’s qualification if they read the Hunting.
    I think Christians and atheists have the right to critically study the biography of the prophet of Islam, the Qur’anic manuscripts or any other issue related to Islam as long as they are qualified and honest.
    I think it is more appropriate, for wasserman, to review the Biblical section in the HUNTING. And by the way, saying sarcastically “No doubt they will be shocked to learn that there are actually differences between New Testament manuscripts ...” is senseless, because the author spent only few paragraphs talking about these differences. There are numerous facts, I believe, that would shock reviewers!

  21. Determining the credibility of a scholar based upon the use of ha or ḥa is not valid here. Small's spelling of Mujahid is shared by other scholars as well: such spelling certainly did not prevent Studia Islamica from publishing Christopher Melchert's article "Ibn Mujāhid and the Establishment of Seven Qur'anic Readings Stable" in 2000 (no 91, pp 5-22). Louis Massignon also spells Mujahid the same way in The Passion of Al-Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam (Princeton University Press: 1994). Discrediting Small on this basis is surely faulty.

    As for the previous anonymous post (11:10 am, February 15, 2013), al-Azami's approach in his work is unappealing if we're trying to bring about fruitful interfaith discussion. His presuppositions are restrictive and exclusivist toward western scholarship. For example, he writes that only devout Muslims can write on issues relating to Islam and the study of the Qur'an (p. 13). Also, he categorically rejects the existence of any text that differs from Uthman’s Mushaf, a position which clearly ignores the existence of rasm (consonental) variants, which Small provides in his text among the selection of manuscripts included in his work. Slanted argumentation mark al-Azami's approach to the Hebrew Bible and Greek NT, relying only on hyper-critical scholarship to enhance his positions (no moderate positions are brought into the discussion). Among other poor pratices, he also frequently references KJV textual issues in a way that makes the character of the NT seem suspect. Such issues are clearly well known in the field of NT studies, but al-Azami presents to his audience as if it should render the NT a complete mess. It's deceptive scholarship.

  22. Come on Reck! Christopher Melchert and Massignon wrote “Mujahid” with the right spelling. It is with ha’ but Small had it with a dotted H, WHICH IS ANOTHER DIFFERENT LETTER in Arabic as is in the table of transliteration in Small’s book. These are twooooo different letters!!!

    Come on man, let’s be honest! Can you tell that writing “saint Paul” as “Saint Pool” is a trivial mistake!!
    (I can tell that you do not know who Mujahid is! You just googled it, the first link was Wikipedia, and then you quoted the two references it had in the footnote (there are only 2 ref there!). Let’s be humble for a moment.
    Can I ask this question please, and I am in no way willing to offend you: if you are ignorant about Mujahid, how then did you write your PhD dissertation on a Qur’anic issue!!!)
    As for Azami issue, I do not think that Bart Ehrman represents a bunch of extremist scholars. Almost all Christian apologists agree that the misquoting did not bring anything new. No bad news and no good news, only the fact.

  23. You’re absolutely right Anonymous! I did see the references on Wikipedia – they provided convenient examples. And to note, I realize now looking at Small’s book that his spelling does not match the conventional spelling (my apologies for my mistake – I misread your entry), but I think you’re being presumptuous about my awareness of Ibn Mujahid. And why would you make it a requisite for me to know of him in order to be able to critically approach the Qur’an. I doubt anyone would place such a barrier against you when it comes to critically approaching the Bible. That sort of logic would be like saying that you must be aware of Athanasius’s or Origen’s work in order to do so. Certainly we would not place any sort of barrier to the Bible upon a Muslim.

    And what does it matter that Small uses ḥa instead of ha? He still is making valid points – the spelling has no influence upon his argumentation. Perhaps it could be an editorial error. This sort of editorial error involving diacritical marks is common even among textual criticism. Note, for example, how Small points out that the Qur’an manuscript BNF 330a makes a similar diacritical error in Q 14:37: it reads الْمُجَرَّمِ instead of الْمُحَرَّمِ as it occurs in Uthman’s Mushaf (see page 66). My point has been that simply because Small included a diacritical make under his English “h” certainly ought not discredit him as a scholar. I’d like to point out, if we’re going to be critical of these things, that no one is discrediting you for not including the long alif (ā) in Mujāhid.

  24. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_(letter)

    He (letter) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    He is the fifth letter of many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrewה, Syriacܗ an...

  25. Oh my GOD! Are you joking! So you do not know who Ibn Mujahid is (I am not using the long ‘a’ except when I am quoting from Ameri’s book, so obviously I am not erring!!)? Ya Allah! Ibn Mujahid is the central figure in the readings studies, he is “mussabi’ al-sab’a (’ for ’ayn)!! Misspelling Ibn Mujahid name in Small’s book is like misspelling Athanasius name ALL ALONG a book about the Nicene Creed. It is like writing a Phd dissertation on the early church heresy and not knowing who is Arius or Marcion!
    Anyway, that was only ONE simple example (made ALL ALONG the book of Keith Small). Just one of many you can check them in the Hunting.
    Moreover, I can not believe how someone dares to write an academic book on Qur’anic studies and not having one single Arabic book as a reference. Using second hand English references to get to Ibn Mujahid’s statements while Ibn Mujahid’s famous book is available (even online for free), is AN ACADEMIC SCANDAL. Period!
    Again, it is not about missing a dot, it is about missing academic competence to immerse in an Islamic study. It is worst than spelling Saint Paul as Saint Poll. It is about not knowing who Saint Paul is! I am just saying that small does not belong to where he is now!
    I am not really surprised because Alphonse Mingana, an orientalist more talented than Small made incredible mistakes when he was reading a manuscript which shows that he does not belong there too. You reviewed Azami book and you know what I am talking about.
    Dear Reck, when I see names like Robert Spencer, Keith Small and Ergun Caner on the covers of books about Islam, I can feel how bad the situation is in the western world.

  26. I got a copy of the Hunting. It is a very interesting book.
    I loved the first chapter: Restoration of the Original Text: A Mere Deceptive Claim (you can downloaded from the website), and two other chapters: Can We Really Restore the Original New Testament through Patristic Citations? + “But That Does Not Affect the N.T. Reliability and Message!” I noticed too that the author is well familiar with Daniel Wallace articles and responses. Job Well Done.
    -Ali uthman

  27. The author worked on a rich data and dealt directly with the Greek texts (UBS4 and the Textus Receptus). He debunked Dr. Daniel Wallace apologies. He did not copy Epp’s studies, what he did is elaborate on Epp and William Petersen’s thesis and then shed more light on the immature and deceitful aspects of the fundamentalist’s defense. This book is a must for any open minded-reader. It fills a huge gap in Ehrman’s critic of the New Testament reliability. I personally, lost hope in recovering the original text of the New Testament after reading this book. The author devastated TOO Keith Small’s book!

    -Ali uthman

  28. As for al-Azami, this guy seems to have gotten a bit angry: