Sunday, February 24, 2013

The New Testament and the Qur'an: Mathematical Comparison

We have already looked at some of the New Testament texts in comparison to texts outside the Bible, including texts of other religions. Here we take a look at the New Testament as a whole, compared to the Qur'an as a whole. As a reminder, this is not a comparison at the subjective level, but a mathematical comparison of how often different words are used in the texts. So you come across issues like translations, and whether the same words (even if we allow across languages that they are the same words) really mean quite the same thing in two different cultures. Still, for a person who wants an idea how two things are alike and different, it is a place to begin.


The New Testament has a shared emphasis with the Qur'an of about 35%.

The Similarities

Much of the overlap is due to the shared monotheism: "God" is the single most prevalent word in both texts, if we allow "God" and "Allah" to be considered a shared match, and if possessives (God's, Allah's) are included in that count. "Lord" is also common in both texts. The overlap also includes the involvement of God with people through his word or message, as shown in the common use of "man, people, men, faith, called, truth, earth, good, life" in both texts. Both texts keep in mind the matter of time and eternity, with both texts having "day" and "heaven" as common words (if we posit that "heavens" in the Qur'an translation used matches "heaven" in the New Testament translation used).

The Differences: New Testament keywords not emphasized in the Qur'an

From the New Testament's point of view, the New Testament's distinctive view of God is missing in the Qur'an, as the New Testament common words "Jesus, Christ, son, father, spirit" are not among the Qur'an's common words. The different view of God is a long-noticed key difference between the two faiths, and is confirmed as an objectively real difference by the relative word emphasis. The New Testament texts portray God as loving and benevolent like a father, and involved to the extent of sending his Word to live among us as human in Jesus, and participating in our life now by sending his spirit to live in his people. Other words that are uniquely emphasized in the New Testament are "love" and "holy", which are not among the important words in the Qur'an. It bears mentioning here that the Qur'an's use of "mercy" is not entirely different than the New Testament's view of "love", and the details of that is well outside the scope of this set of notes on the statistical differences in word use.

The New Testament also has more emphasis on individual people and their history, as the common words include the word "disciples" and the names Paul, Peter, and John. The New Testament has more emphasis on the setting of Jesus and his followers, with "Jews" and "Jerusalem" among the common words. It looks to its Jewish religious setting with much discussion of the role of "law". While we saw the Qur'an along with the New Testament has a prominent place for the word "life", the New Testament also contains "dead" and "death" -- which come up in several instances, whether Jesus raising people from the dead, or God raising Jesus from the dead, or the New Testament teaching that Jesus' people are joined to him in death and therefore also in God's favor and resurrection. I hope to present the differences in chart form soon, rather than turn this discussion into a catalog, where a table or graph is a more suitable presentation for some material.

The Differences: Qur'an keywords not emphasized in the New Testament

From the Qur'an's point of view, the New Testament lacks the emphasis on judgment, hell, and the last day that are so prevalent in the Qur'an, where we have a whole series of common words that are not emphasized in the New Testament. "Fear, evil, penalty, fire, reject, unbelievers, reward, judgment, punishment" each have their own emphasis as keywords in the Qur'an. The persistent focus on hell and punishment is something that has caused comment among Christians who read the Qur'an, and again is confirmed as an objectively real difference by the relative word emphasis.

The Qur'an at time considers the role of other monotheists -- and their writings -- in its common references to "Moses" and "book". It also does have some emphasis on "mercy" -- while less prominent than the New Testament's emphasis on "love", it may be comparable in some ways. The Qur'an's view of "guidance" may also apply here. Again, I hope to present the word comparisons in chart form soon, since a table or graph is a more suitable presentation for some material.


Martin LaBar said...



Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Martin

I deeply appreciate all the encouragement.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF