The multiplicity of Scriptural texts over a thousand years and more and the large number of textual variants are viewed by Muslims as a scandal. How could God's Word be variant or doubtful? For them, the Qur'an is the perfect counterfoil to the Scripture Text: uttered from the mouth of the Archangel Gabriel to Mohammed, who memorized it and passed it on to be written down, incorrupt.
For an educated Christian, however, the multiplicity of Scriptural texts and the hundreds of variants are a major blessing. First off, try drawing straight, parallel lines on a piece of paper. In elementary school I was taught that you needed at least three points to make sure a line was correct. By analogy, the thousands of Scripture texts (complete and partial) provide abundant evidence ("points") of the state of the original texts (the autographs).
What about all those variants? Don't they undermine confidence in the text? Not really. No significant doctrinal or historical divergence appears in any of the surviving manuscripts. The Good News of Jesus Christ is the same in every one. For thousands of texts over a thousand years in multiple languages, this is strong evidence for the reliability of our present text.
But is this not still inferior to the Muslim claim of a perfect, invariant text? No, because there is no such text. A great deal of the Qur'an's history has been destroyed thereby reducing the number of "points" we could test the present text against. Enough variants exist, however, to show that there was a history to the Qur'anic text which Muslim apologists are unaware of. Consider the following:
To quote Puin: "So many Muslims have this belief that everything between the two covers of the Qur'an is just God's unaltered word... They like to quote the textual work that shows that the Bible has a history and did not fall straight out of the sky, but until now the Qur'an has been out of this discussion. The only way to break through this wall is to prove that the Qur'an has a history too. The Sana'a fragments will help us to do this."
One early Muslim declared, "Let none of you say, 'I have acquired the whole of the Qur'an.' How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur'an has disappeared? Rather let him say 'I have acquired what has survived'" (As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an ).
Read the whole thing.
(Via Jihad Watch.)