The Qur’an and the Bible

Posted: March 14, 2010 by joelmartin in Book Reviews, Islam
Tags: , ,

After weeks of waiting I received my copy of Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation by John Wansbrough. This book is not a light read. It needs to be read with a copy of the Qur’an close at hand and it requires flipping to notes and translations at the back of the book all the time. This does not deter me, because many great works have difficult gateways to get through.

Wansbrough is arguing that the Qur’an does not make sense without the Bible as a backdrop. The Qur’an takes many Biblical narratives and turns them into parables. It expects the reader / hearer to know the Biblical story already, or else much of what it says would not make sense. He sees the Biblical motifs of election (not all Israel is Israel) and the remnant in the Qur’an; for example:

And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make thee a leader of men. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the wrongdoers, said He. (2:124)

He goes on to list many more examples of borrowing and transfer from the Biblical story.

  1. Mansoor Tirmizi says:

    Dear Educated writer,

    Islamic teachings started from Prophet Adam pbuh – the first prophet to Prophet Muhammad pbuh – the last prophet. That is why Quran gives reference to what had happened before the advent of the last prophet Muhammad pbuh. So here you are right that if Quran is learned and taught keeping Bible in view, it will help us more to understand. in Quran, ALLAH did not negated Bible at all but what ALLAH – The Lord – emphasized is to accept from Bible what is in accordance with the Quran only because the religious community of Christians and Jews have changed the injunctions and direction given by ALLAH – The Lord in the Bible.

  2. joelmartin says:


    Outside of the Qur’an saying so, what makes you think that the Christians and Jews changed injunctions given by Allah?

    The point of the book I am reading is that many of the hadith are stories generated to make sense of things that actually make sense due to referring to the Bible. For example, Gabriel Said Reynolds points out:

    “In the fourth chapter, for example, the Qur’an accuses Jews of various offenses: breaking their covenant, disbelieving the signs of God, killing the prophets, and saying “Our hearts are covered.” Most Muslim commentators explain this final accusation by noting that, when Muhammad arrived in Medina, the Jews there stubbornly refused to accept his claims of prophethood, saying to him, “Our hearts are covered from everything you are saying. We will not listen to you.”

    Yet the Arabic word for covered ( ghulf) here means, more precisely, “uncircumcised.” In other words, the Qur’an is employing Jeremiah’s famous metaphor of an uncircumcised heart, which, in the New Testament, both Luke and Paul direct against the Jews. Muslim commentators, having little interest in or knowledge of the Bible, miss the metaphor.”

    The entire article is found here:

    Peace to you Mansoor.

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