“The people of the book” in the Qur’an refers to Christians and Jews who had previous Scriptures from the one true Creator and Sovereign God. (The Old Testament (law of Moses, Zabur of David (Psalms, poetry books) and the Prophets) and the New Testament (Qur’an refers to the Injeel, a corrupted form of the Greek word, Evangel = “Gospel”.)
Muslims usually respond to Christians by quoting Surah 2:79 and 3:78. Christians use Surah 5:47 ( “Let the people of the Gospel (Injeel) judge by what God has revealed therein” ) and 10:94 (“If you have any doubts about what we are revealing to you, go and ask the people who have been reading the Scriptures before you.”) and many other verses (2:136; 29:46; 5:68; many passages that say the books of Jews and Christians are “between their hands”; the many texts that say, “no one is able to change the word of God”, etc.) to show that the Qur’an never actually says that the text of the previous Scriptures has been corrupted – but Muslims typically respond with Surah 2:79 and 3:78.
So woe to those who write the “scripture” with their own hands, then say, “This is from Allah,” in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn. Surah 2:79
And indeed, there is among them a party who alter the Scripture with their tongues so you may think it is from the Scripture, but it is not from the Scripture. And they say, “This is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah . And they speak untruth about Allah while they know. Surah 3:78
What is the context of Surah 2:75-79 ?
Do you covet [the hope, O believers], that they would believe for you while a party of them used to hear the words of Allah and then distort the Torah after they had understood it while they were knowing?
And when they meet those who believe, they say, “We have believed”; but when they are alone with one another, they say, “Do you talk to them about what Allah has revealed to you so they can argue with you about it before your Lord?” Then will you not reason?
But do they not know that Allah knows what they conceal and what they declare?
And among them are unlettered ones who do not know the Scripture except in wishful thinking, but they are only assuming.
So woe to those who write the “scripture” with their own hands, then say, “This is from Allah,” in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.
Qur’an, Surah 2:75-79 (Sahih International version) see here.
Many Muslims seem to constantly say 2:79 means the Torah was completely corrupted. But let’s look at the wider context.
- Surah 2:75 – “a party/sect/group from among them” ( the Jews) ” فریق منهم , who used to hear the words of Allah and distort / change (the Torah) after they had understood it.
This goes with Surah 3:78 – منهم لفریقا – “from among them there is a party/group” – a party among them who “distort the Scriptures with their tongues”. This means that they verbally misinterpreted the Scriptures, not that the text was changed.
Surah 7:159 – there is a faithful party / group of the Jews.
Surah 3:113-115 – a faithful party of the Jews who stayed up late at night reciting the Scriptures.
One party cannot totally corrupt all of the Scriptures because there are so many other copies all over the known Christian world of that time of the Scriptures and other groups are reciting the Scriptures faithfully.
So, it cannot mean that all of the original Torah was corrupted or lost.
- Keep reading to 2:85 – condemns people who don’t accept ALL of the Word of God. (in context, meaning The Torah or Tanakh)
The context of 2:75-79 points to some parts of verses or writings that people were making up and going apart and writing other portions and then saying “this is from Allah”, but it could not effect all the other Scriptures all over the world.
I would add that 2:78 shows that this group is:
a. Uneducated / illiterate (same Arabic word that is used to describe Muhammad in 7:157-158)
b. Don’t know the Scriptures (the text of the Qu’ran shows Muhammad also did not know the previous Scriptures, especially the New Testament). His information is from Gnostic infancy gospels, legends, myths, heretics, and Jewish fables and Midrash writtings.
c. Only going by what they hear. (that is how Muhammed got his information.)
so this group of 2:79 are uneducated and illiterate and don’t know the Scriptures and only going by what they hear.
This is seems to be what Muhammad did about 600 years later than the era of the true Injeel – the New Testament – he is just hearing things, doesn’t have the Scriptures in Arabic, and cannot read Hebrew or Greek, so he doesn’t know everything about the previous Scriptures (except what he is hearing, and the true parts of Midrash and apocryphal gospels – that God gave Jesus a message, “the Gospel” (Injeel), Jesus is Al Masih, born of the virgin Mary, did miracles, etc.) and is just assuming that he understands them and approves of them, and assumes the Christians and Jews are teaching wrong things.