‘And they were knowing…’ – willing disobedience amongst the People of the Book

Our Muslim friends inform us that the scriptures of the People of the Book were corrupted long ago, and accordingly Christians go astray in believing fabricated doctrines such as Jesus’ atoning death and his divinity.

We would therefore expect the main Qur’anic charge to be that the Jews and the Christians are deluded, deceived. However, as I read the Qur’an I am struck by how frequently their disobedience is said to be willing, knowing. How could this be unless they still had authentic scriptures telling them the truth, which they knowingly conceal?

The verse that reminded me of this:

Q 2:75 ‘So can you [believers] hope that such people will believe you, when some of them used to hear the words of God and then deliberately [i.e. min baʿd mā ʿaqalūhu, ‘after they had understood it’] twist them, even when they understood them? [wa-hum yaʿlamūna]’ (Abdel Haleem translation, here and elsewhere)

The following verse records the Jews in private conversation with one another: ‘‘How could you tell them about God’s revelation [to us]? They will be able to use it to argue against you before your Lord!’ (Q 2:76). Q 2:77 then speaks about them ‘concealing’ what God has revealed.

Numerous other examples could be given of wilful disobedience by the People of the Book (e.g. Q 2:89, 101, 140, 146; 3:75, 78).

How could the disobedience of the People of the Book be ‘knowing’ and portrayed as willing, if in fact their Scriptures had been corrupted long before they were even born? Let us know in the comments below.

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