What do I think of Robert Spencer’s work? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Robert Spencer has gone through the Qur’an and given us information on the passages as well as pointed to leading scholars, past and present, to tell us about the origin of the Suras and about textual criticism. I had got this book several months ago, but I chose to wait until I finished the book before I reviewed it. I also wasn’t reading one sura (our equivalent of a chapter) every day, seeing as these can be long. A small number even have more verses than Psalm 119.
Some of you might be thinking this could be like the Skeptics’ Annotated Bible. I am pleased to say that it is not. It is not the case that Spencer jumps on anything that could be an inconsistency. There are times he even says that a claim against the Qur’an here is a poor one. Of course, he points out problems, but generally, it looks like his biggest goal can be to help with understanding.
One big problem some Muslims could have with the work is that he definitely shows textual variations that occur within the book. This is a problem since Muslims will often argue that there are no variations in the text. They say that the Qur’an is an eternal document that has always been with Allah. Of course, this gets us problems when we get to the abrogated passages, and that too will be discussed.
As I indicated earlier, Spencer interacts as well with Muslim sources of the past. This is important since it would be akin to us going to the church fathers to show the earliest handling of the text. These people were the ones closest to the writing of the book and were the ones most invested in the work.
This isn’t just a book for people who have never read the Qur’an. When I saw David Wood of Acts 17 Apologetics talking about the book, he said that he got new information on his look at the very first sura, and Wood has done a lot of work on dealing with Islam. That was enough to convince me that this was a resource that I could use.
Thus, you have a work here that goes through the Qur’an and yet thankfully, unlike the work of Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, I find to be fair. Spencer deals with misconceptions of the text. While there is no doubt he is opposed to Islam and the Qur’an, he also wants to be accurate in all that he says. He’s not going to jump on anything to go after it and he wants to make sure bad arguments against various passages are also dealt with.
One caveat though and I suspect it’s one that Spencer would not have a problem with. If you wanted to read something like Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, I would encourage you to at least read just the Bible first without any feedback along the way. In the same way, if you have not read the Qur’an on your own, as I had, then I encourage you to read it first and then come back and read the Critical Qur’an. It’s all about being fair with the text after all.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)