Oldest Copy of Koran Found In UK

A couple of days ago, there was the startling headline of the oldest copy of the Koran found in the collections at the University of Birmingham in the UK.

The carbon dating of the item placed the date somewhere in the range of 568 and 645. This puts the document within a couple of decades of when Muhammad lived. Call me a nerd, but I think it is always exciting to hear about ancient documents!

In the article, Prof. Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam, said, "These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Koran read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed."

It would be interesting to hear if his view is shared by other scholars. However, it isn't a surprising assertion as the same conclusion was made about the Jewish Scriptures after finding the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is also the conclusion from comparing the voluminous copies of the Christian Scriptures found over the centuries.

People assume that textual transmission is going to result in gibberish like the "telephone" game where a message is passed from person-to-person and the end result is nothing like the beginning message.

However, experience has shown that religious texts are preserved fairly well all things considered.

First, it is highly likely that people who copy religious texts are going to be highly motivated to be accurate as they have a great commitment to the beliefs described by those texts.

Second, if the work is done in a community setting, there are more than one pair of eyes checking the texts. Thus, texts that make large errors will almost certainly be identified and pulled from circulation.