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The Old Testament and Witnessing to Muslims

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How should we go about trying to witness to Muslim people? There’s lots that could be said on this question, but here I want to persuade you that one key is to use the Old Testament lots.

A very Old Testament

Why is that the case? Well, there’s a bucket full of good reasons, but what I want to show is that is that the OT should be the key plank in our overarching apologetic with Muslims.

Think about it: the Muslim position is that their prophet Muhammad (who lived about 600 years after Jesus) came in continuity with Jesus and the earlier prophets of the Bible. In fact, the Qur’an itself tells people to look at the previous scriptures if anyone is in doubt as to what is revealed in the Qur’an. Yet, the problem Muslims face is that when you read the Qur’an it differs on significant matters with the Bible. So the Muslim is forced to say, “Your Bible has been changed!” Ever heard that before?!

Now this is a difficult view to defend because we have complete copies of the Bible from centuries before the Qur’an was written – how can the Qur’an say check out the Bible, if it was already corrupted? But there is an even better answer! Muslims typically believe that it was Christians who changed the Bible, especially the apostle Paul and the council of Nicea (325AD). So when you pull out your favourite NT verse to show Jesus is God, Muslim people tend to just to dismiss it as being exactly the bits they expect to be corrupted.

But what happens if we can get all the important points from the OT? Suddenly we have out-maneuvered the “Your Bible has been changed!” charge. Muslims tend to trust the OT more, because they think that Jewish teachings are much closer to Islamic teachings (none of that polytheistic Trinity nonsense and they don’t eat pork etc). But even if they think the Jews changed the OT, then here’s the question to ask: Did the Jews change the OT scriptures and the Christians change the NT scriptures independently, yet to teach the same ‘wrong’ doctrine?! Or, to turn this around, if the OT and the NT both agree on a key doctrine, yet the Qur’an disagrees, then who should we trust? By using the OT we are showing that the problem is with the Qur’an without actually saying so and at the same time showing why we can have such confidence in the message of the NT!

I remember a Muslim guy rather aggressively telling my friend that Paul invented the whole idea of Jesus dying for our sin. My friend opened up Isaiah 53 with him and suddenly he went quiet and started listening. So are we ready to use the OT?

Check back here in a few days to learn how…!

HT: Jonathan Carter, former Theology Network ASW at Cambridge, and current PhD student at New College, Edinburgh.

2 comments on “The Old Testament and Witnessing to Muslims

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