The Quranic Accusation that Jews and Christians Falsified Scripture

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
Islamic supercessionism, Uncategorized

In his 2010 article, On the Qur’anic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (tahrîf) and Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic, Gabriel Said Reynolds explains the Quranic accusation of Falsification (tahrîf).

Reynolds sees ” four different layers of meaning”   associated with the Arabic
word tahrlf.

First,  “scriptural falsification” to encompass all implications of tahrîf

Second,  “textual alteration” to “describe the common accusation of medieval (and modern)
Islamic literature that the Jews and Christians really erased (or destroyed) some or all of the
true scripture and rewrote it (tahrlf al-nass).”

Third,  “misinterpretation”, the “accusation that the Jews and Christians do not properly understand their own scripture (tahrlf al-ma^ânl).”

Fourth,  “they shift words out of their contexts” to “translate as literally as possible the Qur’anic phrase (related to tahrlf) yuharrifuna l-kalima ‘an mawädi’ihi ”

If you are new to this topic, take a moment to consider the serious nature of this indictment.    The charge is that God had to give his truth to humans three times, first to the Jews who deliberately falsified it, then to the Christians who falsified it, then to Muhammad who preserved it faithfully.    Jews and Christians are accused of having deliberately erased, destroyed and replaced scripture with falsehood.

That’s quite an accusation.    Christians and Jews falsified the world of God.   Deliberately.

And they continue to deny it.  Even when the Quran, the accurate word of God is set before them.

This  Muslim accusation obviously echoes the Christian accusation that Jews misinterpret the Bible.   Paul writes (Corinthians II  3:14) , “But their minds were closed. Until this very day, the same veil remains over the reading of the Old Testament: it is not lifted,for only in Christ is it done away with.”    Jews failed to discover the references to Jesus that Christians perceived in the text of the Hebrew Bible.  The Quran is harshly critical of Jews, accusing them of everything from slandering Mary to boasting that they killed Jesus.

“The Qur’an insists that God has cursed the Israelites (Q 5:13), a people who have not only falsified scripture
but who have also broken their covenant (Q 4:155) and killed the prophets (Q 3:181; 4:155); they are a people whose hearts are uncircumcised (Q 2:88; 4:155), who have slandered Mary (Q 4:156), and who boast of having killed Jesus (Q 4:157). God has made their hearts hard (Q 5:13) and sealed their hearts with their unbelief (Q 4:155), and the unbelievers among them were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus (Q 5:78).”

Reynolds argues that the Quran’s attack on the Jews is a result of Islam’s roots in Syriac Christianity, a Church with a particularly strong devotion to reading the Old Testament as a Christological document, and therefore, with a particular animus against Jewish failure to understand the Hebrew Bible as an intricately coded reflection of the life of Jesus.


On the Qur’anic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (tahrîf) and Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 130 (2010)



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