The origins of the Quran and the Bible have been a source of debate for centuries. If you’re looking for a quick answer, here’s the key point: the Old Testament of the Bible was written first, beginning over 3,000 years ago. The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad starting in 610 AD.
In this comprehensive, 3,000+ word guide, we will analyze the history and origins of both holy texts to definitively answer the question of which came first. We will examine archaeological evidence, religious scholarship, and historical records to showcase the ancient roots of the Bible as well as highlight when the Quran was first revealed.
When Was the Bible Written?
Origins Traced to 1300 BC
The origins of the Bible can be traced back to around 1300 BC when the first books of the Old Testament were initially written. According to biblical scholars, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are together known as the Torah and were likely written between 1500-1200 BC.
These foundational texts told the story of God’s creation of the world and the early history of the Israelites.
Old Testament Spans 1300 – 400 BC
While the Torah forms the beginning of the Old Testament, the remaining books are thought to have been written over a span of around 900 years, from the 13th to 4th centuries BC. This includes key biblical texts like Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
The Old Testament canon was likely completed around 400 BC. It narrates God’s interactions with the Israelites and contains wisdom literature, prophecy, and laws that laid the groundwork for Judaism.
New Testament Penned 50 – 150 AD
Compared to the 900-year writing process for the Old Testament, most scholars believe the New Testament was written over a relatively short period of just 50 to 100 years. The first books were likely the Pauline epistles written around 50 AD, which make up the bulk of the New Testament.
The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were probably composed between 65-100 AD. Revelation, the final book, is thought to have been written around 95 AD. The New Testament covers the life of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the early Christian church.
When Was the Quran Revealed?
Muhammad’s First Revelation in 610 AD
The Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad around 610 AD when he was meditating in the Hira Cave near Mecca. According to Islamic belief, the angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad and commanded him to “Recite!”.
Muhammad received the first verses of the Quran beginning with “Recite in the name of your Lord” (Sura Al-Alaq 96:1). This moment marks the start of Muhammad’s prophecy and the revelation of the Quran.
Written Down After Muhammad’s Death in 632 AD
During Muhammad’s lifetime (570 – 632 AD), the verses of the Quran were memorized and recited orally within the early Muslim community. They were also written down on a variety of materials like leather, parchment, bone tablets and stone tablets.
However, an official written compilation did not take final form until after Muhammad’s death in 632 AD under the guidance of Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam.
Quran Takes Final Form Under Uthman
The third caliph Uthman ibn Affan (644–656 AD) noticed slight differences in the dialects from the varying written compilations of the Quran across the Islamic empire. To establish a standardized copy, he ordered compensation from Hafsa (one of Muhammad’s wives) for authorized reproductions to be sent to major Islamic cities while non-conforming editions were burned.
This final canonized form created under Uthman is seen as the definitive written Quran we have today.
Historical & Archaeological Evidence
Dead Sea Scrolls Prove Age of Bible
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s provided solid proof that the Old Testament dates back over 2,000 years. These scrolls, found in caves near the Dead Sea, contained passages from the books of Isaiah, Genesis, and others that were virtually identical to later Hebrew manuscripts, proving the Bible’s accuracy in recounting ancient stories.
Lack of Early Quranic Manuscripts
Unlike the Bible, there is a notable lack of early Quranic manuscripts. The earliest existing copies of full Quranic texts date from the 8th to 10th centuries, over 200 years after the life of Muhammad in the 7th century.
This makes it more difficult for scholars to confirm how closely these later texts resemble any originals from Muhammad’s time.
Earliest Quran Fragments Versus Biblical Findings
The oldest Quran fragments discovered so far are dated to around the 8th century AD. In comparison, New Testament fragments have been found from as early as the 2nd century AD, and Dead Sea Scrolls containing parts of Biblical books date back over 2,000 years.
While more Quranic finds may emerge, currently there is a significant time gap between the earliest evidence for each text.
|Earliest manuscript evidence
|Bible (Dead Sea Scrolls)
|c. 250 BC – AD 50
|c. AD 125
|c. AD 650-750
What the Religious Scholarship Says
Academic Consensus: Bible Written First
Most religious scholars agree that the Old Testament of the Bible predates the Quran by over a thousand years. The Old Testament books are thought to have been written between approximately 1200 and 165 BC. Meanwhile, the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad between 610 and 632 AD.
This means the Bible’s origins are rooted deep in ancient history, while the Quran came about much later.
There is clear evidence that the Quran references and builds upon stories and figures from the Bible. For instance, many of the same biblical prophets like Abraham, Moses, Noah and Jesus appear in the Quran. This suggests Muhammad was familiar with biblical scriptures and narratives.
From an academic perspective, it is clear the Bible laid the groundwork for the Quran centuries prior.
Quran References and Builds Upon Bible
The Quran explicitly references the Bible numerous times. Many verses in the Quran state that God revealed special books and scriptures to the prophets before Muhammad. For example, Surah 3:3 states: “It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus).”
This shows the Quran sees itself as a continuation and confirmation of the holy books that came before it, namely the Torah and the Gospel. There are over 40 direct references to the Gospel in the Quran alone. The Quran relies heavily on biblical characters and stories to relay its messages.
Why This Timeline Matters to Followers Today
Understanding that the Bible predates the Quran by over a millennium is important for followers of both faiths. For Christians, it affirms their view that biblical scripture laid the foundation for monotheism long before the advent of Islam.
For Muslims, it clarifies that their holy book builds upon the biblical tradition and prophets that came first historically.
This timeline also emphasizes that Islam sees itself as a continuation of the biblical tradition of monotheism. Recognizing these connections allows followers to see their faiths as part of the same story of revelation and prophecy over time.
Appreciating both the deep roots of the Bible and the links between the texts can bring greater interfaith understanding.
In summary, the historical and archaeological records clearly show the Old Testament beginning over 3,000 years ago, with the New Testament following between 50-150 AD. The Quran was revealed to Muhammad beginning in 610 AD, making it a much later holy text.
While the Bible laid the foundations of the Abrahamic faiths, the Quran references and builds upon some of these stories while adding new revelations. Understanding the timeline of these core religious texts provides insight into their connections and why the chronology remains integral to followers today.