Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Does the Holy Bible claim to be the inspired Word of God?

Sam Shamoun

Oftentimes, when a Christian quotes 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

“All scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

To prove that the Holy Bible teaches that it is the written Word of God, Muslims are quick to mention the fact that when this statement was originally made by Paul, he wasn’t referring to the New Testament, but to the OT writings that he believed to be Scripture. They also like to point out that 2 Timothy 3:15 refers to the Holy Scriptures which Timothy knew from his childhood. They conclude from this that this statement excludes the NT writings since none of the Gospels nor the Pauline Epistles existed during that time.

The Muslim objection erroneously assumes that the blessed Apostle must have only been referring to those Scriptures which Timothy knew from his childhood, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. As we are about to prove, Paul was speaking about all the sacred writings that Timothy would have known from the time of his childhood and up until the time of Paul’s letter to him. As such, the blessed Apostle would have definitely included his own Epistles as part of the very Scriptures which God produced by his Holy Spirit, as we shall shortly demonstrate. 

Furthermore, Paul was not talking about the canon of Scripture per se, but about the origin and purpose of Scripture. The Apostle’s point is that the Holy Scriptures originate from God and are therefore able to accomplish God’s purpose of equipping the saints. In principle, this would apply to EVERY book that God produces, not just to the OT canon.

Paul himself provides evidence that this is what he meant. For instance, the blessed Apostle wrote the following in his first epistle to Timothy:

"For THE SCRIPTURE says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’" 1 Timothy 5:18

Here, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 AND LUKE 10:7!

"Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house." Luke 10:7

Paul not only calls Luke’s Gospel Scripture, he even groups it together with Moses’ revelation, thereby giving it the same kind of respect and authority!

Additional evidence that Paul is citing Luke's Gospel can be seen from a comparison of the Greek:

Luke 10:7 - ... axios gar ho ergates tou misthou autou.

1 Timothy 5:18 - ... axios ho ergates tou misthou autou.

The Greek of both texts are identical with the exception of the word gar (“for”), which Paul omits.

Now the reason why Paul refers to Luke’s Gospel as opposed to Matthew and Mark is because Luke happened to be with him during the time the Apostle wrote his letters to Timothy:

Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me.” 2 Timothy 4:11 – Cf. Colossians 4:10, 14; Philemon 1:24

It therefore makes perfect sense that the Apostle chose to quote from this particular Gospel, as opposed to any of the others, since Luke would have provided him with a copy of what he had written concerning the life of the historical Jesus.

To say that this is amazing would be a wild understatement. Not only was Luke not an Apostle, he wasn’t even an Israelite, and yet an Apostle of the risen Lord Jesus classifies the writing of one of his Gentile companions as Scripture and actually places it on the same status with Moses’ Law!

What’s more, Paul doesn’t inform Timothy where his citations come from, since he assumes that his protégé would immediately recognize them since he was already so familiar with the authors that wrote them down. This means that, even before Paul wrote his letters to Timothy, Luke’s Gospel was already well known and recognized as Scripture by the Christian communities that the Apostle ministered to!

This brings us to our next point. There are scores of passages where Paul claimed that God inspired his preaching and writings:

"And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people." 1 Corinthians 2:13

"since you are demanding proof THAT CHRIST IS SPEAKING THROUGH ME. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you". This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down." 2 Corinthians 13:3, 10

"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me BY REVELATION, as I have already WRITTEN briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets." Ephesians 3:1-5

"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you HEARD from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, BUT AS IT ACTUALLY IS, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13

In fact, Paul not only exhorted believers to publicly read and obey his instructions:

“And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the La-odice′ans; and see that you read also the letter from La-odice′a.” Colossians 4:16

 I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brethren.” 1 Thessalonians 5:27

"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, WHETHER BY WORD OF MOUTH OR BY LETTER FROM US." 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

He even warned them that they would have to answer to God if they ignored or rejected his commands, since doing so meant that they were rejecting the commandments of God:

"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I AM WRITING to you IS THE LORD’S COMMAND. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored." 1 Corinthians 14:37-38

"Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD JESUS… Therefore, he who rejects THIS INSTRUCTION does not reject man BUT GOD, who gives you his Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2, 8

This clearly doesn’t sound like a man who thought that God hadn’t inspired him to write his letters!

And since all these Epistles preceded the writing of 1 and 2 Timothy, we can safely infer that both Paul and Timothy would have definitely included them as part of the very Scripture that the blessed Apostle stated had been breathed out or produced by the Spirit of God!

Interestingly, this is precisely what the Apostle Peter believed:

"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:15-16

Noted Evangelical Scholar Douglas J. Moo comments:

“The implicit point Peter is making emerges from his claim that the false teachers distort Paul's letters ‘as they do the other Scriptures.’ The word ‘other’ (loipos) shows that Peter considers the letters of Paul to belong to the category of ‘Scripture.’ Some scholars think that this means no more than that Peter considered Paul's writings to be authoritative. But the word ‘Scriptures’ (graphai) ALWAYS REFERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT TO THOSE WRITINGS CONSIDERED NOT ONLY AUTHORITATIVE BUT CANONICAL – in a word, it refers to the Old Testament… Peter therefore implies that the letters of Paul have a status EQUIVALENT to that of the canon of the Old Testament itself.” (Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Peter, Jude [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI 1996], p. 212; bold and capital emphasis ours)

One other NT book that claims to have been inspired by God is Revelation. All throughout this specific writing, the author records how he had been ordered to write down everything that the blessed Spirit enabled him to see and hear:

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.” Revelation 1:1-3

“I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “WRITE what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Per′gamum and to Thyati′ra and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to La-odice′a.’ Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Now WRITE what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter. As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’” Revelation 1:9-20

“After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.” Revelation 4:1-3

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” Revelation 14:13

“Then I SAW a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I SAW the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I HEARD a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Also he said, “WRITE THIS, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ AND HE SAID TO ME, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’ Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,” Revelation 21:1-10

The inspired author even concludes his writing with a curse upon anyone who would dare tamper with the words of the revelation of his book:

“‘I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.’ The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy OF THIS BOOK: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described IN THIS BOOK, and if any one takes away from the words OF THE BOOK of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described IN THIS BOOK. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.” Revelation 22:16-21  

John’s Gospel is another canonical writing which testifies to its own inspiration, albeit implicitly. In this Gospel, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit in order to remind the disciples all that Christ had taught them while he was with them:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

On two occasions, the inspired Evangelist refers to moments in Jesus’ life which he and the disciples remembered and understood only after the time when Christ had been glorified:

“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” John 2:19-22

“The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!’ His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him.” John 12:12-16

The reason why the writer and the rest of Jesus’ followers only remembered these things after Jesus’ resurrection and subsequent glorification is because that was the time when they received the Holy Spirit:

“‘He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:38-39

This means that John basically wrote down all the things that the Holy Spirit had brought to his remembrance concerning the words and deeds of Christ.

In other words, John is testifying that the Holy Spirit inspired him to record all the things that he personally saw and heard Jesus say and do!

In light of the foregoing, it is evident that 2 Timothy 3:16 is not limiting inspiration to the OT canon but includes, in principle, EVERY writing that God would eventually produce by his Holy Spirit. This in turn includes the very books that eventually formed the NT canon.



Doesn’t Paul Admit that Not Everything He Wrote Was Inspired?

Some Muslims wish to argue that the Apostle actually acknowledges in 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 25 that the instructions he gave in that specific context were not from the Lord, meaning they were not inspired by God. Here is what these particular texts say:

"To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her… Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who BY THE LORD’S MERCY IS TRUSTWORTHY.”

Paul candidly admits that he has no command from the Lord and is simply giving his own judgment, statements which Muslims believe actually confirm that the Holy Bible itself testifies that not every part of it is the inspired Word of God.

The problem with this argument is that it severely misunderstands or grossly distorts Paul’s meaning. The Apostle nowhere denies that what he shares is revelation given to him by the risen Lord. Rather, his point is that the matters that he is addressing are not issues which the Lord himself dealt with while he was on earth. Yet, as Christ’s trustworthy servant who speaks with the wisdom given to him by the Holy Spirit, Paul is therefore thoroughly qualified to speak to such issues:

“In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God." 1 Corinthians 7:40 – cf. 2:13

The blessed Apostle’s concluding remark is basically an admission of inspiration, i.e. that he can speak about matters that the Lord didn’t personally address while he was on earth since he had the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s statement here does not express doubt whether he had the Spirit, as passages such as 1 Corinthians 2:13 prove. Rather, the Apostle is using sarcasm to address a Church who had individuals full of themselves since they thought they were super-spiritual prophets, despite the fact that they were highly disorganized and disunited. Evangelical Scholar and NT Commentator Craig L. Blomberg explains it best:

“… Verse 25b parallels the parenthesis in verse 12. In each case, Paul cannot cite a word from the earthly Jesus but believes God is inspiring him to offer reliable counsel… ‘I think that I too have the Spirit of God’ (v. 40b) does not reflect any doubt on Paul’s part but represents a slightly sarcastic aside to the Corinthians, who felt that only they had attained spiritual insight.” (Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary – 1 Corinthians [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI], pp. 151, 153-4; bold emphasis ours)

More importantly, 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 25 simply demonstrate the Apostle’s integrity and honesty since it shows that he wouldn’t simply make up sayings of Jesus. Paul made sure to distinguish his words from the commands which Christ taught while he was on earth.

Finally, if giving a suggestion is evidence that a person is not inspired then what will Muslims do with the following Quranic passages?

If ye divorce them before ye have touched them and ye have appointed unto them a portion, then (pay the) half of that which ye appointed, unless they (the women) agree to forgo it, or he agreeth to forgo it in whose hand is the marriage tie. To forgo is nearer to piety. And forget not kindness among yourselves. Allah is Seer of what ye do. S. 2:237 Pickthall

And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice. And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). S. 4:3-4

They consult thee concerning women. Say: Allah giveth you decree concerning them, and the Scripture which hath been recited unto you (giveth decree), concerning female orphans and those unto whom ye give not that which is ordained for them though ye desire to marry them, and (concerning) the weak among children, and that ye should deal justly with orphans. Whatever good ye do, lo! Allah is ever Aware of it. If a woman feareth ill treatment from her husband, or desertion, it is no sin for them twain if they make terms of peace between themselves. Peace is better. But greed hath been made present in the minds (of men). If ye do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Informed of what ye do. Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives, however much ye wish (to do so). But turn not altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense. If ye do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. But if they separate, Allah will compensate each out of His abundance. Allah is ever All-Embracing, All-Knowing. S. 4:127-130 Pickthall cf. S. 270-271, 280; 24:60

In these passages, the Quran is giving suggestions that are not obligatory upon believers. Using the logic of Muslims, this means that not ALL of the Quran is inspired either. (Actually, none of the Quran is divinely inspired and is not a revelation given by the true God!)

Clearly, these Muslim objections are biblically unsound since they do not handle the text of inspired Scripture carefully and/or accurately.