Name that quote: the Bible vs. the Quran

In his remarks at this year’s Presidential Prayer Breakfast, President Obama talked about violence done in the name of religion:

Remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India—an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity—but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs… So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.

His comment about “terrible deeds [done] in the name of Christ” were met with unsurprising outrage and protestations of innocence.

A former Virginia governor called them “the most offensive [comments] I’ve ever heard a president make.”

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League undertook to rewrite history, arguing the Crusades were justified and suggesting the Church was barely involved in the Inquisition.

Ravi Zacharias, a respected Christian apologist, called Obama’s remarks a “presidential blunder” demonstrating an “absence of wisdom” the likes of which he’s never before seen:

The president obviously does not understand the primary sources of [Christianity or Islam] to make such a tendentious parallel.

Yet the president could’ve gone further. He could have mentioned Rwanda, where the church was complicit in one of the worst acts of genocide since the Holocaust. He could have invoked Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered at the hands of professing Christians. He could have highlighted the colonization of Africa, which was steeped in an imperialistic, racist brand of Christendom.

Obama’s aim, however, was not to pick on Christianity but to demonstrate how “religious faiths of all types” are vulnerable to distortion when they are used to justify violence and discrimination against others.

If we don’t recognize this, they maybe we’re the ones who need to spend some more time with those “primary sources” that Ravi Zacharias mentioned. It’s worth noting that both Christianity and Islam have their problem texts in their primary sources, the Bible and the Quran. Both contain passages that seem to allow or even encourage violence.

Read the texts below and see if you can guess which holy book they come from—the Bible or the Quran. (The answers are given at the end of this post. No cheating!)

One note: References to God and/or specific people have been generalized where necessary)


1. We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining.

2. When we resolve to raze a city, we first give warning to those of its people who live in comfort. If they persist in sin, judgment is irrevocably passed, and we destroy it utterly.

3. So he made a vow to God, and said, “If you will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” God listened to his voice.

4. When God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.

5. Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them.

6. You shall destroy all the peoples whom God delivers over to you; your eye shall have no pity on them.

7. Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love aggressors.

8. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and he will say, “Destroy!”

9. He left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as God had commanded.

10. Do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.

11. Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you.

12. True believers fight for the cause of God.

13. This charge I commit to you, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.

14. Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter, fight for the cause of God.


Were you able to tell the difference? What similarities did you notice between passages from the Bible and the Quran?

As Christians, we would argue that context matters when reading the Bible’s more violent texts. However we make sense of these passages, most of us agree they do not permit us to commit comparable acts of violence today. And we don’t like it when people use them as weapons to try to discredit or disparage our faith.

Which is kind of the whole point.

Muslims can say the same about their so-called problem texts. And we should give them the same benefit of the doubt that we expect others to give us.

We don’t get to decide what someone else’s holy book teaches—especially when most of us have read even less of the Quran than we’ve read of the Bible.

I don’t get to decide what the Quran says based a handful of proof texts I’ve heard quoted out of context.

I don’t get to decide what it says based on what a handful of extremists do with it—no more than others get to decide what the Bible teaches based on what white supremacists have done with it.

None of this is to encourage us toward religious relativism. The Bible is my holy book. This is about simple human respect—or, as President Obama put it, “basic humility.”

Yes, we should push back when others try to distort our faith. But we should let the experience remind us not to disparage or misrepresent someone else’s faith.



1. Bible (Deuteronomy 2:34)
2. Quran (17:16)
3. Bible (Numbers 21:2-3)
4. Bible (Deuteronomy 7:2)
5. Quran (9:5)
6. Bible (Deuteronomy 7:16)
7. Quran (2:190)
8. Bible (Deuteronomy 33:27)
9. Bible (Joshua 10:40)
10. Bible (1 Samuel 15:3)
11. Quran (2:191)
12. Quran (4:76)
13. Bible (1 Timothy 1:18)
14. Quran (4:74)

9 thoughts on “Name that quote: the Bible vs. the Quran

  1. I have read English translations of the Qur’an through twice, as well as reading bits and pieces often and memorizing a few short selected passages in both Arabic and English. Also, over the course of six years, we were in and out of Muslim majority countries quite a bit, typically two week visits, with a few of four to six weeks. In my countless conversations with Christians and Muslims, I have learned that when discussing either of the treasured books, what one quotes from it says more about the person speaking than it says about the books themselves. The Christian who highlights “turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and do good to your enemies,” and the Muslim who emphasizes “…there is no compulsion in religion” (Al-Baqarah 256), or other ayats that stress love, harmony and tranquility, have one perspective on life that shapes the way they see God. That perspective becomes clear by what they say the Bible or the Qur’an teaches. The Christian who is quick to refer, erroneously, to the “cleansing of the Temple,” Jesus telling His disciples they needed a couple of swords (again, used erroneously), or who reference the sadly misinterpreted Jesus of Revelation who is coming back to slaughter His enemies; and the Muslim who quotes similar texts from the Qur’an both have the exact same view of God. That perspective also becomes clear when they disclose what they believe their respective books teach about God and life. So my brothers and sisters from both faiths who have the later perspective stand back and speak misunderstandings about the other, speak condemnation and cause distrust and eventually killing. It comes down to understanding there are only two peoples in this discussion. They are not Christians and Muslims. They are those who have a view of God that causes them to value love and peace, which to them is at the very least integral to the nature of God; and those who have a view of God which causes them to value condemnation and judgment, which they see as integral to the nature of God. Let’s pray for more of the former and fewer of the later.


  2. Regardless of what obama or anyone else believes, They mention other faiths, but there is only one true faith, which is found in Jesus Christ. Whatever judgement God did in bible times that many see as violent is actually justified. Today’s violent has no justification for only God is judge. The God we serve is not a religion but our creator who brought us a Savior, not a jihadist. At the same time those using the name of God in vain will find God’s judgement against them. Obama seems to accept all faith, just like many so called Christians believe that all faiths lead to God, which is a huge distorted belief. There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus!


  3. My problem with Obama’s statement is that he resorts to the “No true Scottsman” fallacy. Of course those Crusaders weren’t real Christians! Of course the terrorists aren’t real Muslims! I’m loath to say that anyone is not a real Christian, given the wide variety of practice and belief. It might make me more comfortable to draw a line between myself and my Southern ancestor who was a Klansman, but I think it’s dishonest.


    Already world leaders and religious leaders are making excuses for religion. This happens each and every time a person commits violence in the name of religion.
    When right wing conservatives in America try to pass Christian sharia against women, they are not real Christians.
    When right wing Christian Talibanista’s commit violence at women’s health clinics we hear that they were not real Christians.
    When Christians committed rape, murder and genocide in Bosnia in the name of christianity we were told they were not true Christians and ethnicity was what it was about.
    When Christian conservatives from America go to Africa and promote death of gays we are told they are not real Christians.
    When Muslim extremists commit violence we hear the same excuses.
    “Religion hijacked by these extremists”
    “This has nothing to do with religion”
    This has everything to do with religion.
    Whether it be a Christian, Muslim or any other religion, when acts of violence are committed in a religions name it can be directly laid at the feet of that RELIGION.


  5. And yet we still have to face the fact that atheists, in the name of their political ideologies, killed more people in the twentieth century than in the all the wars of religion in the previous two thousand years.

    If someone claims to be a Christian then I take that at face value. At least then I can hold up the standard of Jesus and say, “you’re not acting as Jesus would”. Strangely enough I can’t do the same thing with atheists because there is no common moral code or example for atheists.


  6. A very wishy washy post modern assessment of comparative religion. You can’t understand the meaning of the verses unless you are a practitioner of that religion and even then they mean what you want them to mean. Yes I do get annoyed when the Bible is quoted out of context to condemn Christians because it’s so obvious that the commands given to Israel to destroy the Caananites were for a specific time, place and people. Also Jeremiah 31 clearly outlined that there would be a new and superior covenant given that would replace the Mosaic covenant written on stone with a covenant written on our hearts. Jesus annihilating his enemies in Revelation cannot be used to justify Christian violence as we were commanded to spread the Gospel throughout the world and it’s obvious from Paul’s example that it was by words and reasoning.

    I’ve read the Koran and Hadith of Al Bukhari which is considered the most authoritative Hadith for Sunni Muslims. There are many verses given in full context which are a general call to warfare against unbelievers, for all time everywhere in the world until there is no religion but Islam. The violent bits in the old testament were obviously given to the theocratic state of Israel and limited in time and space. The fact is that muslims are slaughtering non muslims around the world weekly. Just this week off the top of my head there was the Brussels suicide bombing, the suicide bombing against Christians in Pakistan, the kidnapping and beheading of a Catholic priest in Yemen, and the fatal stabbing/beating of a moderate Muslim by exremists because the moderate wished Christians a blessed Easter. Yes there are moderate muslims, but there’s plenty of in context passages in the Koran commanding Jihad against unbelievers until Judgement Day. The reason there are so many moderate muslims who choose to ignore the violent bits is they are so repugnant to our God given conscience.

    Muslims should continue to be held to account until they purge the violence from their religion, which will require them to rewrite it; as it’s so obviously a man made work which lifts many passaged from Jewish and Christian texts and some for Zorastrianism it matters not to me, just as long as Muslims stop butchering Christians. Yes there were a lot of bad things done in the name of Christ historically, but there’s also no doubt that the Church in the Middle ages was a corrupt and perverted form of Christianity and once Christians returned to the Bible only the violence waned.


  7. All the Bible verses you quoted are Old Testament (with the exception of 1 Timothy, which you quoted deceitfully, knowing he is speaking metaphorically). Christians live under the New Testament. A Testament is a covenant, an agreement with God, and the quotes you gave are relevant only as a matter of historical record.

    The Quran, however, was made by one man in one lifetime for all times.
    Bottom line, their “problem verses” still apply. Ours do not.


  8. One should deal with religion, not by how the believers behave, but how they *ought* to behave.
    When Christians kill or use violence, it is objectively against the teachings and actions of their founder. They are violating it.
    When muslims kill or use violence, it is objectively in agreement with the teachings and actions of their founder. They are fulfilling it.

    Bad things can be done by people any religion, but only certain religions *approve* of bad things. Only those who are acting in agreement with their religion are the true believers. The Quran says as much.


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