When I encounter Muslims, I often tell them that S. 6:34 says that the word of Allah never changes, yet they argue that the The Old and/or New Testament became corrupt (despite having no manuscript evidence whatsoever). In essence, if they claim the Bible was corrupted, they cannot believe S. 6:34 when it says that Allah’s word doesn’t change.
The Meaning of ‘Word’
Muslims will quickly point out that the context demands that we interpret ‘word’ in S. 6:34 as Allah’s promises and the fulfillment of his prophecy. They argue that S. 6:115 shows what was truly meant by S. 6:34. Let us look at both of them.
S. 6:34, “And the messengers indeed were rejected before thee, but they were patient when rejected and persecuted, until Our help came to them. And there is none to change the words of Allah. And there has already come to thee some information about the messengers.”
The context of S. 6:34 is a rejection of Allah’s word by the polytheists.
S. 6:115 reads, “And the word of thy Lord has been accomplished truly and justly. There is none who can change His Words; and he is the Hearer, the Knower.”
The Lack of a Linguistic Argument
The issue with their rebuttal is that there is an absence of a linguistic argument. In order to argue that a word must be defined in a certain way, you need to be able show the intended definition for the word that is in dispute. It’s true that surrounding terms in a passage may help shed light on which definition to use, but the helpfulness of using surrounding passages to discern the definition of a word is limited only to choosing which definition to use. It is not possible to validly ascertain a definition for a term using a contextual reading if the definition one employs in a passage is not a known definition for the term in question.
An Incomplete Hermeneutical System
Messianic Judaism has a hermeneutic that can be obtained from the Bible itself (it’s called ‘pardes’). Messianic Judaism is a logical system at its core. We start with the Bible, which we come to believe and better understand by the Holy Spirit, and from the Bible we see hermeneutical principles that are applied that can be reverse engineered into a set of rules for the interpretation of the Bible.
Islam, on the other hand, has no such system. The closest that Islam has to a system of interpretation is called ‘Tafsir bi-al-ma’thur.’ This method involves interpreting the Qur’an using other parts of the Qur’an or other authorative sources; however, there are no universal rules that are used within this method. There isn’t any device put into place within the hermeneutical method that will signal to you when you have taken the Qur’an out of context. There is also no part of the method that allows you to take a universal proposition such as “and there is none to change the word of Allah” and reduce it to a single instance such as the one in S. 6:117. In fact, the hermeneutics that Muslims use are not brought out by the Qur’an itself. Rather, Islamic traditions regarding interpretations are introduced into the Qur’an.
There is no complete system of Islamic hermeneutics. Because of this, we have to grant the propositions of the Qur’an for argument’s sake and then follow those propositions to their logical conclusion when evaluating the claims of the Qur’an.
Does Allah’s Word Change or Not?
Does Allah’s word change? If Allah’s word does change, it is not possible to know if anything that the Qur’an teaches is true. If it does not change, the Muslim, believing that the Bible was written by Allah, must conclude that the Bible is the Word of God, and because the Qur’an contradicts the Bible, the Bible is true and the Qur’an is false, for the Bible came before the Qur’an.
At this point, it is common for the Muslim to object, “S. 6:34 refers to Allah’s words not books or scriptures.” But isn’t anything in writing that is given by Allah his own word? Is it not true that whatever is promised in the Qur’an is the words of Allah? Whether words are spoken or in writing, they are still words. and the meanings of those words are the same regardless of how they are communicated. Whether promises are spoken or in writing, they are still promises.
It is also worthwhile to mention that if limiting the definition of ‘word’ in S. 6:34 is of any significance, it means that Allah’s words do change. This is because if there is no verse in the Qur’an that states universally that what Allah says is always true, what Allah says is can either be false or subject to change. If we cannot know if what Allah says is true or not, the Qur’an is of no benefit to anyone.
Muslims must rely on conspiracy theories (they typically allege that references to Muhammed were taken out of the Bible in order to deceive people despite having no manuscripts or scrolls to back up that claim) and an inconsistent and incomplete system of interpretation in order to defend their faith. The issue that I have pointed out with S. 6:34 is more than enough to give cause to reject Islam as the faith of the one-true God.