Reasons to believe in the corruption of the Torah
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Many arguments have been offered against the authenticity of the Gospels, but there has been- comparatively- less discussion on the authenticity of the Torah. In this topic I will be highlighting some of my reasons for doubting the preservation of the Torah specifically.
For the purposes of this discussion, the Torah here refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
1- Lack of Evidence for Preservation
Unlike the Quran which depended mainly on oral mass-transmission (Tawatur) for preservation, believers in the Bible claim that it has been mainly preserved via manuscripts. Likewise with the Torah, which is claimed to be supported by reliable manuscript evidence. But is this true?
In the case of the Torah, the manuscript evidence is scant. The Torah is attributed to Musa (peace be upon him), who is said to have died sometime before 1 Millennia BC. The earliest manuscripts for the Torah are the recently discovered Dead-Sea Scrolls.
At the earliest (being very generous here) the Dead-Sea Scrolls date to around 400 BC. So even if the Dead Sea Scrolls were complete (which they aren’t), and perfectly matched the Torah as we have it today (which they don’t), there’s still over a 600 year difference between them and the life of the alleged author.
This is absolutely, not good evidence to believe that the Torah is preserved.
PS: I also believe exclusive dependency on manuscripts for preservation is not very reliable, but for reasons beyond the scope of this topic. Those may be discussed upon request.
2- Discrepancies Between Codices
There are several Codices for the Torah, but there are discrepancies between the different Codices. So how do the various Jewish and Christian sects determine which codex to base their scripture on?
Let us demonstrate this using an example:
One of the key differences between the Torah and the Quran is each book’s position on Ismail (peace be upon him). In the Quran he is a blessed Prophet from Allah, whose lineage will eventually lead to the Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him. Modern Bibles however, close the door on this lineage and belittle Ismail (peace be upon him) compared to Isaac (peace be upon him).
For the average Jew/Christian, Prophethood is exclusive to the descendants of Isaac (peace be upon him). There is a clear bias towards Isaac (peace be upon him) throughout the Bible, which Jews and Christians claim to be because God favored him over his brother.
In several instances in the Torah, Ismail (peace be upon him) is denounced as lesser than Isaac (peace be upon him). One such instance is Genesis 16:12, where the Torah explicitly insults Ismail (peace be upon him).
In most Bibles today, if one were to open Genesis 16:12 one would read (referring to Ismail peace be upon him) :
And he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be upon all, and everyone’s hand upon him, and before all his brothers he will dwell.
However, what those Bible translations don’t tell you, is that this text is based on the Masoretic Script. The Samaritan Pentateuch on the other hand, reads:
And he will be a fruitful man; his hand will be with all, and everyone’s hand with him, and before all his brothers he will dwell.
As you can see, huge difference and of a theological significance. Given the context of Genesis 16, the Samaritan Pentateuch also makes more sense.
And do not be fooled into thinking that there are only two variant Codices. There are at least five; we have the Masoretic Text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Latin Vulgate, the Septuagint, and the Peshitta. Many differences between them all.
What’s more, the Dead-Sea Scrolls do not consistently confirm one Codex over the others. They confirm a few passages from each. So if the Dead-Sea Scrolls are used as the standard for truth, not a single one of the Codices can be said to be completely true.
They would all, only be partially true, and partially fabrications. But of course, we have no good reason to believe that the Dead-Sea scrolls match that which was revealed to Musa (عليه السلام) either.
3- The Bible says the Torah was lost
Some Jews have claimed that the Torah, like the Quran, was preserved by Tawatur. They claim that there is an unbroken chain of narrators, consisting of faithful Jews over the generations, continuously memorizing the text and passing this knowledge down- from the days of Musa (peace be upon him) until present time.
But this claim is inconsistent with what the Bible says. That is because the Bible tells us that there were periods in history when the Torah was lost (if there is a break in transmission, Tawatur cannot be claimed).
The most obvious evidence for a gap in transmission is from Second Kings, Chapter 22. In this Chapter of the Bible, we are told that the Priest Hilkiah ‘re-discoveres’ the Torah during the reign of King Josiah. Upon hearing about this discovery, the King rips his clothes and begins reforming his policies to fit the commands of the Torah.
In the following chapter, 2 Kings 23:4, we also read about how King Josiah destroys the idols in the temple upon reading the newly discovered Torah. The implication is of course, that the Jews had fallen so far away from the Torah, that they started to worship idols in the temple of God!
How can the Jews have ignored the most pivotal commandment of the Torah (monotheism), if it had been preserved with them all this time? And if the Jews had been faithfully memorizing the Torah, one generation after the other, how could they allow their most precious scripture to become forgotten?
Why did the Torah need to be re-discovered for the Jews to finally realize that what they were doing was wrong? Most significantly, how can we know that this Torah that Priest Hilkiah found, matches that which was revealed to Musa (peace be upon him)?
There are many further reasons for doubting the preservation of the Torah, and the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament more generally. Those include: explicit passages talking about corruption (Jeremiah 8:8), anonymity of authorship, and canonization differences between the various Jewish and Christian sects. Nevertheless, the above are the main reasons that I think many Muslims may not be aware of.