The Incompleteness and Incoherence of the Bible


Bassam Zawadi

Sam Shamoun has written a series of articles over here in which he is trying to show that the Qur'an, when read alone, cannot be understood completely and lacks detail. He probably took this idea from the heretical Quranite sect, which one could see in the detailed refutations here. These arguments don't affect us orthodox Muslims since we don't believe that the Qur'an was meant to be read alone in the literal sense and that we must understand it along with the authentic Prophetic traditions. However, Protestant Christians such as Shamoun abide by the Sola Scriptura concept that teaches that the only source of religious authority is the Bible and nothing else. They don't appeal to traditions of any sort (like the Muslims, Jews, or Catholics) to seek a proper understanding of scripture. They believe that scripture should be allowed to explain itself.

Thus, if it could be shown that the Bible lacks detail and cannot be understood in certain parts of it, that would put Protestants such as Shamoun in a difficult position since they won't be able to appeal to anywhere else to help them understand the problematic verse in question.

I will present a few examples showing that the Bible cannot be understood perfectly when read alone.

First Example

God commands in the book of Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 6:8

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

This verse is obscure in meaning. Tie what, bind what, and how?

John Gill, in his commentary, stated:

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand.
As a man ties anything to his hand for a token, that he may remember somewhat he is desirous of; though the Jews understand this literally, of binding a scroll of parchment, with this section and others written in it, upon their left hand, as the Targum of Jonathan here interprets the hand:

and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes;
and which the same Targum interprets of the Tephilim, or phylacteries, which the Jews wear upon their foreheads, and on their arms, and so Jarchi; of which
(John Gill, The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible, Commentary on Deuteronomy 6:8, Source)

John Gill had to appeal to the Targum of Jonathan, a Jewish source, to understand the verse in question since he realized that the Bible alone does not sufficiently explain the command.

Are the Jews right in their interpretation of that verse or not? How can we prove them right or wrong by using the Bible alone?

Second Example

Paul said that women must cover their heads in Church:

1 Corinthians 11:6-10

6If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

Do Protestant Christian women today practice this? No they do not. Why not? They argue that Paul was speaking in a specific cultural context. However, the passage makes it quite clear that Paul was not instructing women to cover their heads due to any cultural reasons.

In verses 7-9, you see that Paul is saying that the woman is the glory of man and is created for man and then verse 10 comes and says that because of this reason and because of the angels, the woman must cover her head. Do these sound like cultural reasons to you? Of course, they do not. So why don't most Christian women today implement this? Where does the Bible say this was only due to cultural reasons and this command was temporary?

Also, notice how Paul says 'because of the angels' in verse 10. What does that actually mean? Some Bible commentators were perplexed and simply did not know, and some even argued that it was referring to lustful angels! (Refer to this article) It appears that this passage does not make much sense when the Bible is read alone.

Clearly, there is no consensus on what Paul was speaking about when he was referring to the angels. So doesn't this show that the Bible, when read on its own, is actually unclear in meaning in certain aspects?

Third Example

God in the Old Testament commands:

Exodus 16:29

Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out."

It says that everyone must stay where they are on the Sabbath. However, what does that mean? How literal should we interpret this command to be? If someone is in his bedroom, does that mean he can't go to the living room? Can the person wander freely in his house? Can he go out to his backyard? How about roaming the city to ensure he doesn't pass its outskirts? This verse is not clear on its own.

John Gill, in his commentary, stated:

let no man go out of his place on the seventh day;
not beyond two thousand cubits, as the Targum of Jonathan, which is the space the Jews generally fix upon for a man to walk on a sabbath day, so far he might go and no further; and which perhaps is the same space as is called a Sabbath day's journey,
(John Gill, The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible, Commentary on Exodus 16:29, Source)

Again, we see that John Gill had to appeal to the Targum of Jonathan, a Jewish source, to understand the verse in question properly since he realized that the Bible on its own does not sufficiently explain the command.

There are so many other examples that I can provide; however, the reader should have gotten to the point by now.

Shamoun is nothing more than a hypocrite by launching an attack against Islam (which doesn't even affect us since we don't even believe that the Qur'an should be followed alone in the literal sense), which would more forcefully be used against the Bible.

I have no problem with God allowing certain verses to be unknown if they are irrelevant to one's salvation. Thus, one should not interpret this article as me attacking the integrity of the Bible. Rather, the whole purpose of the article was to point out Shamoun's double standards.

We hope Shamoun learns his lesson, removes his arguments against the Qur'an on this issue, and becomes more open-minded.

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