Although there are also many similarities (some of which are shown here) between the Quran and the Bible, this post highlights the differences. And they are very important differences! One wonders, would those who base their faith on one benefit from reading the other? And why are Christians so much more averse to reading even part of the Quran than Muslims are to reading part of the Bible?
- The Quran is a single integrated text that came essentially in one piece revealed over 23 years. The Bible is an anthology of many different books spanning eons collected by people into one volume.
- The Quran unequivocally defines itself as directly given by Allah (God) through Jibreel (Archangel Gabriel) to Prophet Mohammad, who neither wrote it nor contributed a single word to it, a definition accepted by Muslims generally. The Bible is universally described as written by people and “inspired” by God, a vague and variously interpreted term sometimes claimed “after the fact.”
- The Quran has no contradictions (when correctly understood). The Bible has so many contradictions and inconsistencies (no matter how you look at it) they have their own Wikipedia page. And there’s a list of 50,000 contradictions.
- The Quran is not written or arranged the way people write and arrange books. It doesn’t form a standard temporal narrative arc from “old to new” although it contains many narratives, nor does it develop characters and settings the way human-authored books do. But it presents a clear message of universal truths. The Bible is clearly written the way humans write books. It begins with Genesis and follows a trajectory of historical events, giving details of the characters involved that humans might be interested in, dramatic sequences and characters with flaws and conflicts. But the message as a whole of the Bible is unclear due to its many contradictions.
- The Quran exists in the original text and language in which it came. The Bible, being an anthology, was sourced from several languages and books, and no originals exist for any of them. This would make it, one imagines, interesting to study the Quran to see what a genuine Divine book looks like.
- The Quran focuses a great deal of attention on the natural world as a source of knowledge and inspiration regarding its Creator, as well as examples from human life, emphasizing our responsibility not to “corrupt” the earth. The Bible focuses less on nature and more on lineage, political events, polemic, and family conflicts which naturally would be human concerns. But therein lie many contradictions, and less concern about managing resources, today’s greatest survival issue.
- Although they both share narratives about the prophets, the Bible leaves out significant events mentioned in the Quran. These include: In the story of Noah, he encountered “waves like mountains,” water not only came from the sky as rain but also from the earth, and his own son was among the drowned even though Noah called out to him; Prophet Abraham’s firstborn son was Ishmael who was the one to be sacrificed as an adult and willing participant who advised his father to do what was shown to his father in a dream — thus no “binding of Isaac”; the full narrative of Mary the mother of Jesus, her birth pangs how she endured humiliating slander from her relatives, while Jesus spoke like an adult when he was a newborn infant; that Allah the Creator commanded the angels and Iblees who became Satan to prostrate to Adam, whose wife did not mislead him but was an equal partner with equal responsibility and God forgave them both because unlike arrogant Satan’s deliberate disobedience, their disobedience was not out of arrogance and they were deceived, thus there is no “original sin.” And much more…
- The Quran is simply beautiful to listen to and hear and easy to remember, and thus reciters of the Quran are popular even today both in person and in recordings, like the rock stars of the Muslim world. The beauty of it also makes Muslims love to hear and recite the Quran themselves, a large constituency of whom memorize the entire Quran in the original, something like a rite of passage in many Muslim countries. The Bible has many fine passages that people memorize, but it’s exceedingly rare to memorize the entire book, and because of inconsistencies, audio versions vary greatly and are not popular in the way the Quran is. Especially with so many versions and translations.
- The Quran is architectural, that is, it has structure to all its elements (from verse to Surah/chapter to the whole book) that enhances the meaning and message in graphic ways. This would be impossible for an anthology such as the Bible, although parts of the Bible have been shown to have ring composition and other structural elements, lending to the understanding, strongly confirmed by the Quran, that these were genuine Divine messages but through time and human interference have lost much of their original content which was mixed with human input.
- The Quran challenges anyone to write a single surah/ chapter equivalent to it. The Bible cannot issue such a challenge. And no individual book or section within it does that either. The last thing human authors would want is to issue such a challenge, since the Bible’s value lies in faith that it is from God, and that would only give fuel to naysayers. In contrast, the more one examines the Quran, the more miracles one finds in it, not least being its interactive nature; if one’s heart is opened to its possibilities, one may open the Quran to the very page that answers your inner thoughts or questions.
The above is the short version which is not found on the PDF. The list below is different, but gives more details, in case one wants more depth, and because it is so long, it’s also available as a PDF.
(1) A SINGLE DIVINELY-SENT BOOK VS AN ANTHOLOGY DIVIDED IN HALF
The Quran is the single final revealed Divine scripture in the Abrahamic tradition and proclaims itself as such, fully integrated and complete, clear and unequivocal, self-explanatory, sent down by Allah (God) through the “spirit” Jibreel (archangel Gabriel) in one blessed night and subsequently revealed over 23 years through Prophet Mohammad as Divine guidance for all people of all places and times. It remains intact to this day. Thus the Quran is the ONLY actual Divine text in existence today, the only extant single complete scripture in the original sense, revealed to Prophet Mohammad as a single highly-integrated book with no derived textual source except itself. No comparable Divine revelation has appeared since the Quran, confirming that it is, as it states, indeed the Final Revelation in the Abrahamic tradition.
The Bible, on the other hand, is an anthology, a collection of many sacred texts from many sources, eras, and different languages, whose writing, collection, and authentication took a period of at least 1,500 years, thus scholars agree they vary greatly in source, content, and veracity, or simply put:
The Bible is not a single book but a collection of books, whose complex development is not completely understood….written and compiled by many people, from a variety of disparate cultures, most of whom are unknown.
Further, the Bible is divided in half, an Old Testament, representing the books of prophets from before Jesus compiled by people, and a very different New Testament proclaiming a new religion after Jesus, widely understood to be entirely written by people. One believes it to be Divine by taking a “leap of faith.” Thus, in the Bible, people tell us who God is in varying points of view and thus no single claim can be made in God’s voice as to the integrity of the whole, and we then must believe them even if there is evidence to the contrary; whereas in the Quran, Allah (God) tells us who He is directly in His own words, which have not been lost, sent down to one undisputed Prophet Mohammad in a known tradition, telling us not to say about Allah what we do not know. Although the gospels are derived from the original Gospel sent through Jesus in the same Abrahamic tradition as the Quran and the Old Testament books, the New Testament was formulated to be new, re-introducing Jesus not as a prophet who was an iconoclast — which is true and very much in the Abrahamic tradition — but in the form of a god-man hybrid, destined for death by torture, from which he would rise like a Phoenix, somehow mysteriously relieving believers of the problem of sin and evil, which given the plethora of Christian evils like the Inquisition and Hitler, has been wildly unsuccessful.
(2) PRESERVATION OF THE ORIGINAL
The Quran has been preserved, as Allah promised in the actual text, in its original language as it was sent. This is generally not the subject of any serious dispute. But it is also agreed upon by many non-Muslim scholars and thinkers as well, including some who otherwise disparaged Islam. In the words of Stanley Lane Poole, a British orientalist, “It is an immense merit in the Kur-an that there is no doubt as to its genuineness…that…it has remained unchanged through nearly thirteen hundred years.”
The Bible, derived from many ancient texts which in turn were derived from oral transmission (as was the much-newer Quran), although much care had been taken for their preservation, could not possibly be perfectly preserved, especially considering the length of time and unknown but large number of people involved in compiling it, let alone contain a promise of its preservation.
The New Testament is dominated by the letters of Paul and four canonical Gospels whose authors were not the titular disciples named, and which no one even purports to be the original divine revelation sent to Prophet Jesus. So where is the original Gospel sent through Jesus? It no longer exists, nor in fact do Christians view it necessary to have it, since “Gospel” no longer refers to an original divinely-sent “book” per se, but rather “a book written about Jesus’ life and teachings,” not given through prophets but rather “apostles” such as Paul, who did not actually meet Jesus, bringing substantial changes in message as one finds between the Old and New Testaments in God’s very identity.
(3) CONTRADICTIONS WITHIN THE TEXT
The Quran is not self-contradictory, proclaims itself as “without contradictions/ deviance” (Quran 18:1, 39:28) and indeed challenges readers to find any or to produce even a portion of a book like it. Many Christians and Islam-bashers have attempted to find contradictions, resorting to excerpts taken out of context or from translations that do not reliably convey the meaning, or by arguing over “facts” in the modern sense without understanding how the Quran conveys meaning in a consistent and integrated way. No one has actually proven contradictions exist in the Quran.
On the other hand, The Bible contains many contradictions as one would expect from an anthology derived from so many sources, claimed by adherents to have 40 authors, likely many more, but the reality is no one really knows. In fact, inconsistencies in the Bible have their own Wikipedia page. Even the four canonical Gospels contradict each other:
All four books cover the life of Jesus with many similarities, but sometimes contradictions in their portrayals. Each is considered to have its own political and religious agenda linked to authorship. […] For instance, the books of Matthew and Luke present different accounts of Jesus’ birth, and all contradict each other about the resurrection. (Emphasis mine.)
A detailed analysis of contradictions between the canonical gospels can be found here. This site gives another comprehensive list of thousands of contradictions in the Bible. But probably the most consequential contradictions are between the Old and New Testaments, where the Old Testament (OT) affirms an Almighty monotheistic Creator who sends revelations to human prophets giving knowledge and guidance; whereas the New Testament (NT), canonically authenticated, sets out to form a new religion from that of the OT, presenting a radically opposing belief that Jesus was not a prophet in the Judaic tradition, but instead a “savior” both human and Divine, a “hybrid” echoing the Savior Archetype fundamentally inconsistent with previous OT texts (which forbade worshiping humans or any other than God as categorically One), but found in other religions such as Hinduism, where even the name and descriptions of the triune-based god Krishna closely align with the newly-minted NT’s Christian notion of Christ. This idea “won out” in the protracted history of New Testament formulation, but none can prove this was actually authentic in the sight of God, whose very Being had been essentially redefined in the NT, as if mortals could decide or reinvent who God is. Which was dependent on…
(4) HOW THE BOOK WAS SOURCED
The Quran was sent by Allah (God) through the spirit Jibreel (Archangel Gabriel) to His prophet Mohammad as all previous revelations including the Gospel were sent to their respective prophet/ messenger. Self-sufficient, it is a source in its own right, having been preserved as Allah Himself promised in the Quran. It is strictly prohibited to say “Mohammad wrote/ authored the Quran” because he only “received” the words given to him from the Almighty through Jibreel (Gabriel), the highly-placed messenger-angel for all previous messages. Only God would be so meticulous about clarifying precisely how scriptures are sourced, whereas people are obviously more interested in themselves, content to say a book was “inspired” by God, without regard to how such inspiration differs from the inspiration that artists and novelists, for example, receive.
The Bible was collected from many different sources, including prophetic texts, not all equally reliable, but once selected for inclusion, these very differently-sourced books became canon. In Biblical studies it is perfectly acceptable to speak of prophets being the “author” of the books associated with them, for example to say “Moses wrote the Torah.” Many therefore generally think prophets wrote these books after being Divinely “inspired,” a word left largely ambiguous. The devout believe that the Bible as a whole is reliable and each included book is of equal veracity, though this is not actually the case. The Old Testament was derived from the Septaguint, a 3rd century BCE Greek translation of the older (and painstakingly collected over a thousand years) Hebrew Bible’s texts (not so named by Jews), adding additional material, although which books came to which prophets or how they were compiled/ authenticated is largely a matter of dispute.
As to sources of the New Testament, we read this salient point regarding a major source who wrote the very first one: “Marcion holds a lasting legacy for Christians as the inventor of the New Testament.” That he “invented it,” i.e., made it up, is certainly true. Marcionites “believed the god of the Jews was a creator god that ruled based on judgment and violence,” and “Marcion saw the god of Jesus as an entirely new being, a higher god who provided escape from the judgment of this world. Most importantly, Marcionites had something no other Christians had: a canon of their own scriptures.” (Emphasis mine.)
This “inventor of the New Testament,” Marcion, “preached that the benevolent God of the Gospel who sent Jesus … was the true Supreme Being, different from and opposed to the malevolent demiurge or creator god, identified with the Hebrew God of the Old Testament”, a significant part of the Bible. To believe the same God who sent the prophets was malevolent, thus denying the understanding that there is One God, cannot help but have “inspired” (and definitely not by God) the whole mythology of Jesus as having been sent by a “true” Benevolent God as a “savior,” changing to a triune god to save us. From what? For Marcionites, from the Old Testament God. According to Paul: From being “slaves of sin,” as if God created us to be enslaved by Satan, putting in doubt the original idea of free will. So now we find millions literally worshiping a man who is supposed to remove the responsibility of free will ordained by God, thus abandoning the project of justice: simply “believe in Jesus” and “you will be saved,” unless of course this new “formula” doesn’t work because it neither makes sense nor is it just, and in fact isn’t actually true, no matter now many say it is or want it to be.
(5) THE INTENDED AUDIENCE AND PURPOSE
The Quran was sent by Allah (God) to all people, all times and cultures (in Arabic “all the worlds”) as was its prophet/ messenger Mohammad, as an eternal unchangeable Book/ message, a guide, a reminder, and both mercy (as a light guiding to the Truth) and warning (about the inevitable end of time and coming of Judgment Day and Eternity). All previous books were sent through a prophet to his specific community. This does not mean their messages were exclusive to that community, as for example, Prophet Moses being sent to the Pharaoh (and his subjects), and Prophet Joseph (Yusuf) also sent to Egyptians. But it means the message itself was directed to specific communities in their own language.
Thus the Bible, as an anthology, was not sent as a whole message to begin with, but collected by humans from among many different sent texts/ sources. Its compilation as OT and NT was intended to unite disparate Christian groups, consolidating their power and influence. The OT texts were derived from messages sent to specific communities, in this case collectively referred to as Jews or “children of Israel/ Jacob”. Also the original Gospel, the only book brought through Jesus, was sent as a single book, specifically to the Jewish people as with previous revelations in the Abrahamic tradition.
The NT, however, during the time of Paul as indicated in his letters, declares Christianity as a new religion with what is essentially a different formulation of God focusing on Christ-worship. Hence, although Paul preached the propagation of Christianity per se worldwide, it incorporates in the Bible the Judaic-traditional texts which do not have that directive. Thus its propagation is not of a text specifically formulated from a universal perspective in a language God literally transformed for that purpose. Rather it was written as described above to create a new religion without having been sent through the angel Gabriel in the specific way known to authenticate prophecy.
Paul’s directive was to propagate his message to “all nations,” similar in that sense to the intended audience of the Quran. Nonetheless, the fact remains that this was his intent just as it was his book, making the claim of a human-redefined God authorizing such dissemination a matter of human opinion.
(6) DEFINITION AND MEANS OF ATTAINING DIVINE MERCY
Mercy in the Quran is given freely by Allah (God) Himself, who is defined as Almighty, All-Merciful, in perfect balance of the Yang/ Yin attributes (without the negative extremities of either manifested in the separate category of creation) implied in His names. Perfect mercy must be just, and requires both omniscience and omnipotence to be perfected and perfectly applied. No human or any created being or thing can, due to their limitations of power and knowledge, discern and act with perfect justIce and mercy, but can seek to attain the best most compassionate behavior possible. Responsibility for one’s actions, the proper choices to be made by free will, and the ways to obtain Allah’s forgiveness are all given as guidance and as mercy in the Quran. “And who forgives sins except Allah?” (Quran 3:135)
Mercy in the New Testament of the Bible is claimed to be given by the torture/ murder/ sacrifice of Jesus as “son/part of god” identified as the “Old Testament God” in a change from Marcion’s idea, but through the interpretation of God as three-in-one. The idea of “son” implies the Almighty whom the OT describes as ineffably One and entirely Eternal in a category by Himself somehow “procreates,” and is begotten, therefore cannot have always existed as Eternal. And how is it merciful to promote the torture-killing of His faithful alleged “son?” Why must they believe God’s mercy to be insufficient to forgive people in and of itself, without such a convoluted human sacrifice ritual? In this case, the story of Abraham’s sacrifice is misunderstood and misrepresented in significant ways, even in the OT, as is Adam’s creation.
(7) HOW OTHER REVELATIONS ARE TO BE TREATED
The Quran clearly presents the difference between revealed books/ scripture and false scripture and tells how His revelations were falsified and furthermore reveals the characteristics of prophets so we can distinguish between truth and falsehood, and follow only the truth. It also affirms that the Quran is the final revelation in the Abrahamic tradition, and enjoins acceptance and respect of all previous messages as well as the prophets through whom they were revealed, admonishing Muslims not to distinguish or prefer any prophet over any others. However, the “previous messages” are inferred to mean those which have not been altered or replaced, hence do not contradict the Quran in essence, meaning Muslims don’t follow the contradictions but still respect the sanctity of all revelations.
The Bible does not describe how messages are sent as does the Quran, nor affirm its authenticity, but nonetheless the Old Testament names who the prophets were and what was their message contained in revealed Books. However the NT abrogates rather than affirms the OT tradition by implying God allegedly changed His nature and had a “son” not a prophet, denying the miracle of virgin birth by Allah’s word by which He creates as He created Adam, for which reason Jesus is called “word.” Instead, the virgin birth seems to have spawned the notion that Jesus could not be human like us. The point of virgin birth was to show the Judaic patriarchy (as Jesus’ message was sent to them) that their authority only comes from God, not from lineage and not because men are superior to women in matters of faith, as they had claimed, but by one’s righteousness, justice, and compassion. This is also expressed in parts of the NT, which do not contradict the Quran.
The letters of Paul, however, are not a revealed text in the prophetic tradition and the word “Apostle” or “messenger” is an invented term intended to replace prophets as something “old”, yet claim Paul was “like a prophet” hence Paul’s word is considered by Christians to be God’s word, without the affirmation of the traditional signs of prophecy. Christians were thereby made ignorant of what prophethood even is, and given the idea that to say Jesus was a prophet, which is the truth, is heresy. So the Bible in its Christian formulation appropriates the sense of trust traditionally granted prophets to give that same believability to Paul’s belief that supposedly God morphed into a human who died by torture to absolve us of Adam’s sin which God already forgave. They say Jesus thus immunized us from Judgment Day, all consequences of our actions being eradicated by “his blood,” as if God has blood, a body like ours, that of a man (pro-patriarchy!) no less, and this is presented as …
(8) JUSTICE and EQUITABLE ETHICS
The Quran is highly equitable in its narratives, laws, and recommendations for human behavior, concern with justice being of primary concern.
According to the Quran the purpose to create humans was only to worship Him (Quran 9:31, 51:55, 98:5) of their free will not by force (Quran 2:256) or being “programmed” to worship (13:15, 3:83) without choice (hence the angels were commanded to prostrate to Adam), a higher standard with higher reward to be closer to Allah. Suffering is the result of free will mistakes made by humans, but importantly also a means to purify the ego and thus become closer to God. The path to Allah is one of giving and spending on the needy, in dignity and with the same quality of food or clothing (or other giving) one gives oneself.
Examples: in the Quranic narrative, Prophet Abraham did not sacrifice the child Isaac, binding him to the altar, as in the biblical version, but rather saw a dream that he is sacrificing his adult son Ishmael, whom he informed of the dream and asked what to do — and who advised his father to do what Allah commanded, the moment of sacrifice then described as “when they both submitted.” Note the equanimity.
In the story of Adam/Eve, both were treated as equals in the Quran narrative. After both disobeyed Allah, He admonished then forgave them both; no mention as in the Bible, of Eve taking fruit first and giving it to Adam, therefore cursed with painful labor. No original sin to have to be “saved” from. Regarding women, the Quran features Mary’s actual childbirth, including her feelings and how newborn Jesus spoke to comfort her, none of which is in the Bible. The Quran tells us about Pharaoh’s wife, how she adopted and cared for infant Moses and later believed in his religion and God. No mention of her in the Bible. The Quran describes how the (non-Pharaonic) Egyptian King’s wife tried to seduce Jacob’s son Joseph whose brothers had thrown in a well from where he was sold to the King’s court as a slave, but later she confessed and repented. Nothing of this in the Bible. The words “equitable” and “justice” are mentioned with great frequency in the Quran, many ayat giving admonishments regarding the treatment of captives, slaves (freeing of whom is a way to atone for sins and mandating they eat what their “masters” eat in kind and amount), and more. The Bible does not deal with the issue of slavery or women’s rights in a meaningful way, whereas for example slandering of women’s repute is a huge sin in the Quran.
The Bible as a whole focuses more on narratives, the Ten Commandments, rules regarding chastity and clerical hierarchy, and especially in the OT, justice is more focused on adherence to restrictions and legal prohibitions. The NT does focus more on equitable treatment for women, even famously “tax collectors and prostitutes,” in keeping with the spirit of Jesus’ gospel as sent through him by Allah the Exalted. Not all such narratives are equal in fairness in the OT.
The Quran was, is, and continues to be memorized in its entirety by many, now millions of Muslims and although fairly long, is short enough to keep to memory. Allah the Exalted sent it in beautiful language with frequent rhymes, helping and even motivating memorization. Large constituencies in many countries also teach their children to do so and there are numerous competitions worldwide for this. In Pakistan and elsewhere it is common to celebrate a teen who became hafiz, one who has memorized the Quran in Arabic, and such competitions both genders compete.
The Bible is committed entirely to memory by very few Christians (if any) due to its large and unwieldy size and structure as a collection of many different texts, making it difficult and unrewarding to memorize. Thus most Bible memorization is of key verses or sections, and even this is not as widespread a practice as is Quran memorization, it being not a celebrated social event. .
(10) AUDIO PRESENTATION
If one wants to listen to the Quran, one can find recitations practically everywhere online, on various types of audio recordings and also in person, with an entire culture devoted to Quran recitation, for which there are specific rules/ protocols, different techniques, many many competitions classified by age, popular reciters with different styles and many fans, popular Quran apps giving choices of reciters, etc.
If one wants to hear audio recitations of the Bible, they will be hard-pressed to find one, as this is not part of Christian culture, where occasional/ favorite Bible verses are read, including read aloud, but not entire sections of the Bible, and certainly never intoned as are Quran recitations, noted for their sheer beauty and way of affecting the listener’s heart. It is certainly not consistent as is the Quran in poetic style and there is nothing comparable to the crowds of Muslims gathering to hear their favorite readers or smartphones playing their favorite surahs.
And that is how I would sum up an overarching difference between the Quran and the Bible: the Quran has in its entirely both truth and beauty, and it speaks to the heart. All Divine scripture does that – one can sense it in the Psalms even in translation, for example. But the constant revisions, inevitable mistakes in translation, and the deliberate manipulation or fabrications of truth that occurred, particularly with the New Testament, with what we have now in the Bible, makes the total difference.
This is not God’s doing, but the deeds of men of free will whom we know can do good or evil. And Allah is not going to change that, or become other than Who He Is, nor bring about some kind of torture for Himself to relieve us of the responsibility of free will. Why would He do that? One can find truth still in the Bible, but now it needs a filter, to filter out the interpretive dross such as literal interpretation of “father/ son” and implications that God incarnates into part of His creation, thus muddying the waters as described above.
Why not then get one’s source of truth and beauty and guidance directly from the self-evidently wondrous Quran? Or find out what a truly genuine unadulterated Divine text says?