And yet, literally billions of our neighbors deem the contents of the Bible and the Qur’an to be so profound as to rule out the possibility of terrestrial authorship. ~Sam Harris

If I made it my business to be a professional religion-basher, and if I thought getting my criticism of religion was right as an important way to shine the light of reason on the darkened corners of religious minds, I would at the very least get my facts straight about certain key elements of the religions I was bashing.  Christians and Muslims agree that their scriptures are authored by God in the sense that they accept that the revelation comes from God.  They do not agree that revelation came in unmediated form and that the text as set down in its complete form (which, of course, was a redacted and edited form also in the case of the Qur’an) is the uncreated Word of God.  Muslims believe this, Christians do not. 

Therein lies one of the most significant differences between the two religions, and the one that has possibly has done the most damage of the intellectual culture of the Islamic world than any other.  As I understand it, the Qur’an is not open to hermeneutics of any kind, and there is no other way to understand it except literally, where by literally I mean there is no possibility of interpreting the same text in several different senses.  That creates certain obvious problems for the possibility of reconciling revelation and other sources of truth, since multivalence in a religious text is effectively impossible without some room for interpretation.  On the other hand, Christians acknowledge, as they have acknowledged since the beginning, that Scripture is a divine revelation mediated through inspired authors and the composition of the texts is attributed to various patriarchs and apostles.  (We can set aside for the moment the high criticism’s doubts about the traditional attributions of books of the Bible.)  Terrestrial authorship, in the sense that it was understood that the Scriptures themselves were set down by men according to the revelation, is not only a possibility for Christians, but it is taken for granted and assumed to be the case. 

Muslims do not have a tradition of remembering the Composers of the Qur’an as they remember the Companions of the Prophet, because they believe that Jibril spoke the Qur’an to Muhammad and that was it.  Christians commemorate and many venerate the Evangelists and others in recognition of what can only be called terrestrial authorship of Scripture.  That they also take Scripture to be true and inerrant is not surprising, but they plainly do not rule out “the possibility of terrestrial authorship.”    

There was an awareness from the beginning that the accounts of the Gospels differed and there was also an awareness of the potential problems and contradictions in Scripture.  Because of the possibility of having multiple senses in which one could read Scripture, it became possible to interpret revelation on the assumption that God guided the Fathers and the authorities of the Church in this work of interpretation and teaching.  Undoubtedly Mr. Harris will spew forth venom at all of this as well, but for him to do that he would first have to know about it, which he evidently does not from the comments that he made.