Isn’t that like the Holy Qur’an coming in Chinese though the Prophet (PBUH) spoke Arabic?
This is a great question. And probably there is another one along with it. Though we are asking ‘why’ we are also wondering if this in some way also negates or contradicts the idea that Allah inspired the Injil. Because after all, this is different from how the Holy Qur’an was revealed. So let`s discuss this in several steps.
First the analogy to Chinese-Arabic is not really accurate. There is no real historical relationship between Chinese and Arabic. Thus, revealing a Book in Chinese to an Arabic society would result only in nonsense. No doubt Allah does have the power to do such a thing miraculously, but it would result in a book that no one could understand – even the Prophet (PBUH) himself. And then the message of the Book would be useless, it would quickly be ignored (because it was not understood) and in a generation it would be forgotten – along with the memory of the prophet. No, a prophetic message, if it is to have an impact on society (and this is the reason a message is sent to a prophet in the first place) must be understood by that society.
The intent behind the revelation of the Holy Quran was to give a warning in Arabic. The following ayat tells us that:
We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an, in order that ye may learn wisdom. [Surah 12:2 Joseph]
Thus We have revealed it (Qur’an) to be a judgment of authority in Arabic… [Surah 13:37 (the Thunder)]
Thus have We sent by inspiration to thee an Arabic Qur’an: that thou mayest warn the Mother of Cities and all around her,- and warn (them) of the Day of Assembly, of which there is no doubt: (when) some will be in the Garden, and some in the Blazing Fire [Surah 42:7 (Consultation)]
We have made it a Qur’an in Arabic, that ye may be able to understand (and learn wisdom). [Surah 43:3 (Luxury)]
Yusuf Ali commentary on Ayah 7 of Surat 42 (Consultation) says that the ‘Mother of Cities’ is the City of Mecca and that “The point of the Qur’an being in Arabic is that it is plain and intelligible to the people through whom and among whom it was promulgated” (#4533). So the purpose of was to give a warning so that Arabs, especially those in Mecca could be warned, learn ‘wisdom’ etc. And for that to happen it had to be in Arabic.
But the Injil was a message not only to the Jews, but to all peoples. In the time of the Prophet Isa al Masih (Jesus – PBUH) the world was basically Greek-speaking. Because of the conquests of Alexander the Great some three hundred years before, most of the world (including the Romans who ruled in the time of Isa PBUH) had adopted the Greek language. A rough analogy exists today with English. Because of the past colonial power of Great Britain the international language of the world today is English. The major power in the world today (USA) adopted the English language because of Great Britain and thus English is almost universal. As one result, I, though Swedish origin, am writing this blog in English because my English has become better than my Swedish and I know that you could probably not read a Swedish blog.
The Greek language was also adopted by the Jews of that day so most were bi-lingual. In fact, the Jews started to use Greek so much that they translated the Taurat and Zabur into Greek about 200 years before Isa al Masih (PBUH). This translation is known as the Septuagint. The Septuagint became widely read by Jews and even by non-Jews of that day. Please see here and here from my considerthegospel blog to learn more about the Septuagint. The bottom-line effect of the Septuagint was that the Holy Books were read more in the Greek than in the original Hebrew by the time of the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH)
Isa al Masih (PBUH) may have spoken some Greek himself because we find in the Injil several times where non-Jewish Greeks and Romans spoke with him. However, he would have spoken in Aramaic to his disciples (companions) because that was the natural language of Galilean Jews of that day.
But the writers of the Injil were definitely bi-lingual and thus fluent in Greek. Matthew was a tax collector by profession and thus was working with Greek-speaking Romans regularly; Luke was a Greek and thus Greek was his first language; John Mark was from Jerusalem (Al Quds) and thus was a Greek-speaking Jew; and John was from a wealthy family (thus educated) and lived for much of his life outside Palestine and thus was fluent in Greek.
They were transmitting the message of the Injil to the world. Therefore, to make sure that the world of that day would understand it they wrote in Greek. Because the Taurat and Zabur make the Injil clear (as I show in my post on the signs of Injil in the Qur’an) the writers of the Injil frequently quote from Taurat/Zabur and when they do so they quote from the Septuagint (the Greek Taurat/Zabur). We know from history that this message did indeed explode across the Greek-speaking Middle Eastern world. This shows it was almost expected to have scripture read in Greek in that day.
So this answers ‘why’ it was in Greek. But could Allah still inspire these writers when they write down in a different language what Isa al Masih (PBUH) had said earlier in another language even if they were bilingual? Isa al Masih (PBUH) himself had promised that Allah would send guidance to them. Here are excerpts from a private discussion he had with his disciples just before his departure recorded in the Gospel of John. You can read the entire discussion by clicking here.
15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth….25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you… “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning….I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. … and he will tell you what is yet to come.
So the promise was that the Counsellor, the Spirit of truth, would guide them in their writing and testifying so that what they wrote would be true. 2 Timothy 3:16 explains this further:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The point here is that what they wrote would be guided and indeed inspired by Allah himself so that the word they wrote would be ‘God-breathed’. Thus the message would be safe and trustworthy – inspired by Allah.
So the way the Injil was revealed and made known was indeed different from how the Holy Qur’an was revealed. But does that make it wrong, worse or obsolete? I think to answer that we need to recognize that Allah has the right and the power to do different things in different ways. Because the Prophet Musa (PBUH) received the Commands on Mount Sinai on tablets of stone that were written by the finger of Allah, does that mean that all later prophets must also receive their message from Him on stone tablets? And only on Mount Sinai? Because the first prophets were Jewish does that mean all prophets must be Jewish? Because the Prophet Noah (PBUH) warned of a coming Judgment by water does that mean all judgments of Allah are by water? I think we would have to answer ‘no’ for all these questions. Allah has the power and the right, according to his sovereignty, to choose different prophets, methods and means to do His will. Our part is to decide whether the message is really from Him or not. And since the Holy Qur’an itself declares that the Injil was inspired by Allah, and Isa (PBUH) promised this same inspiration and guidance (per above) it would be foolish for us to argue otherwise.
In summary, the Injil was written in Greek so that it would be understood by the wider world of that day. A promise was given that Allah would give guidance and inspire the disciples when they wrote the Injil – and this is confirmed by the Qur’an declaring that this was inspired. This method of revelation is different from how the Holy Qur’an was revealed but it is not up to us to tell Allah what His limits are. Throughout human history He has used different methods, prophets and means to communicate His message.