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The History and authenticity of the Torah

It is said that an account of Moses and the later Prophets (peace be upon them) and of their teachings is contained in the Old Testament. But look at the Bible from the historical viewpoint. The original text of the Torah, as revealed to Moses (peace be upon him), had been destroyed at the time of the sack of Bait-ul-Maqdas (Jerusalem) in 6 BC, and along with it had perished the Scriptures of the former Prophets (peace be upon them). In 5 BC, when the tribe of Israel after their release from the Captivity in Babylon arrived in Palestine, the Prophet Ezra with the help of some venerable collaborators prepared an account of the life of Moses (peace be upon him) as well as a history of the tribe of Israel. In this work were incorporated in appropriate places such verses of the Torah as were readily available to the author and his associates.

Consequently, in the period falling between the fourth and second century BC, various authors (unknown) penned down the Scriptures (from which sources we know not) of those Prophets who had preceded them by several centuries. To take an instance, in 300 AD, an unknown person wrote a book in the name of Jonah and incorporated it in the Bible, despite the fact that Jonah was a Prophet of the 8th century BC The Psalms was committed to writing five centuries after the death of David and to it were also added sonnets composed by about a hundred poets. We have no knowledge of the sources from which the compilers of the Psalms had gleaned those Sonnets.

Soloman departed from the world in 933 BC, and an Anthology of Solomon's Proverbs was compiled in the year 250 BC which also incorporated the maxims of several other sages. In short, no book of the Bible bears an authentic connection with any Prophet to whom it is ascribed. What's more, even these books of the Jewish Bible perished at the second sack of Baitul-Maqdas in 70 AD, leaving extant only their Greek Translation, which dates back to the period falling between 258 BC and the first century BC

In the second century AD, the Jewish scholars prepared a Jewish Bible with the help of manuscripts which had survived the vicissitudes of time. The oldest copy of this Bible extant now dates back to 916 AD Apart from this, no other Jewish manuscript exists anywhere today.

The Jewish scrolls discovered from the cave of Qumran on the Dead Sea are not older than the first and the second century BC, and even these contain a few scattered fragments of the Bible.

The earliest manuscript comprising the first five Books of the Bible current among the Samartians was written in the eleventh century AD The Greek Translation prepared in the second and the third century BC was marred by countless errors. A retranslation form Greek into Latin was done in the third century AD By what standard can you judge this material as an authentic source of the life histories and teachings of Moses and the later Prophets of the Jews?

In addition to the above, there were certain unwritten legends called oral law, current among the Jews. For a span of thirteen of fourteen centuries they remained unwritten until in the later part of the second and the beginning of the third century AD, a priest known as Yahudah b. Sham'un committed them to writing under the title of `Mishnah'. Commentaries on this work by the Palestinian Jewish scholars under the name of `Halaka' and by Babylonian scholars under the title 'Haggada' appeared in the third and the fifth century respectively. The 'Talmud' is, in fact, an anthology of these three works. Significantly, authoritative evidence which may reveal the chain of transmission is lacking in the case of all traditions incorporated in these books.


This is taken from part of a speech "Message of Prophet's (saw) Seerah", given by Syed Abul 'Aala Muadoodi. He compares the history and authenticity of three scriptures, Torah, Injeel and Quran.

If you need more help, please send e-mail. mmirza@ee.eng.ohio-state.edu (Muhammad Mirza)

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