Home > Carbon 14 Dating > Carbon Dating with the Potential to Become Controversial

Carbon Dating with the Potential to Become Controversial

September 2, 2015

AND:  The Get Religion blog gets down in the trenches with how journalist cover stories
like this. Be sure to read Jim Davis.

 

imagePaul Vale, in the UK edition of the Huffington Post, tells us that the Birmingham Koran Carbon Dating Reveals Book Is Likely Older Than Prophet Muhammad:

In what could prove something of a pot hole for current readings of Islamic history, a carbon test carried out on a Koranic manuscript recently discovered in England reveals the book is likely older than Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith.

The test used a piece of the ancient parchment, discovered in Birmingham University Library in July, with scientists dating the tome from between 568 and 645AD.

imageIslamic scholars believe Muhammad lived between 570 and 632AD and that he founded Islam after 610AD. The first Muslim community was founded in Medina in 622AD. This means the text was likely compiled either before the Prophet’s birth or during his childhood.

“It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged — and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions,” historian Tom Holland told The Times.

[…]

However, Keith Small, a researcher at the Bodleian in Oxford, urged caution as the carbon testing only used parchment rather than the ink from the book. He said: “If the dates apply to the parchment and the ink, and the dates across the entire range apply, then the Koran — or at least portions of it — predates Mohammed, and moves back the years that an Arabic literary culture is in place well into the 500s.”

Small added: “This would radically alter the edifice of Islamic tradition and the history of the rise of Islam in late Near Eastern antiquity would have to be completely revised, somehow accounting for another book of scripture coming into existence 50 to 100 years before, and then also explaining how this was co-opted into what became the entity of Islam by around AD700.”

For additional perspective, see Oldest pages of the Koran found in England may date to Mohammed’s lifetime by Mark Miller at Ancient Origins.

There are other manuscripts that may be as old as this one, the BBC says. Radiocarbon dating provides a range of years for an object being dated, and the years of this and other manuscripts overlap. But these two pages are among the oldest known surviving Koran manuscripts in existence.

Muhammad Isa Waley, a British Library expert on old manuscripts called the discovery exciting and Muslims would rejoice over it.

AND:  The GetReligion blog gets down in the trenches with how journalists cover stories like this. Be sure to read Jim Davis at GetReligion.org

How soon will it be before journalists are somehow linking this to the carbon dating of the shroud?

  1. Louis
    September 2, 2015 at 9:40 am

    One wonders whether the carbon dating of the manuscript can really be linked to the carbon dating of the Shroud. They are two very different objects.
    In the case of the Koran, it is important to remember that oral tradition was involved and the Arabic script evolved from time to time. There are scholars who have adopted a different approach. Michael Cook and Patricia Crone (Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, 1977, Cambridge University Press) contend that the book was formed gradually, in response to Jewish and Christian challenges.
    What we see here is also seen in the development of Old Testament and New Testament texts.

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