Quran Read-A-Long: Al-`Imran 1-9 Discuss the Quran Itself

We’ve reached the third surah! What’s more, verse two begins with a very important affirmation that we’ve discussed before: that there is no deity but God. Why important other than the obvious truth of the matter? Because Mohammed had to make it clear to the Quryash and other Arabs that Allah was the only God and that the secondary daughter deities that they worshiped and had shrines to were not real.

Verse three is a noteworthy internal affirmation of the Quranic revelation. The idea, as Asad seems to interpret it, is that whatever still remains so of the Torah has its verity confirmed by the Quran wherever the Quran speaks of similar things. We’ve discussed that the Quran believes the Torah and the Gospels to be corrupted. I have agreed that the Torah is not a single text but actually a series of interwoven texts (this theory is known as the Documentary Hypothesis). What I am particularly interested in at this moment is the Injil, or what the Quran believes the Synoptic Gospels are based on – a more accurate Gospel of Jesus. Is this document the same one that biblical scholars believe exists – the document known as Q? Or is this more similar to the Torah situation in which there is believed to be a complete and accurate document that lacks corruption and tells the story of Jesus’ life exactly as it happened (the implication here being that scholars don’t believe that Q is necessarily the truth so much as a document closer to Jesus and which the documents we have would have been partially based on)?

It seems significant that the directly stated verses are the “essence of the divine writ,” though there are many other verses that are allegorical in nature and require more strenuous mental searching and understanding. I think this is for the benefit of everyone who reads the Quran. All Muslims – not just the wise – should be able to read the Quran, God’s word, and take away from it the most important points, values and rules. There are plenty of simple people in the world and they should not be intimidated by reading the Quran and hearing God’s word: they should have the pleasure of knowing what God wants from them on their own. This speaks to the Islamic lack of clergy (which I think is awesome, by the way) because Muslims don’t require someone else to tell them what the Quran says. It is God’s word right to their ears. Similarly, Muslims don’t need any sort of intermediary through which to offer their prayers, whether a preist or Jesus (or Mohammed, as the case may be). Their prayers go right to God – perhaps in part because they are able to undersand God’s simple and most important words for themselves.

What are your thoughts about these verses? Please feel free to answer any posed questions or just address your own issues with the opening verses of Al-‘Imran.

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Al-`Imran 1-9

In the name of God, the most gracious, the dispenser of grace:

1. Alif. Lam. Mim. 2. GOD – there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being! 3. Step by step has He bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, setting forth the truth which confirms whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations]: for it is He who has bestowed from on high the Torah and the Gospel 4. aforetime, as a guidance unto mankind, and it is He who has bestowed [upon man] the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Behold, as for those who are bent on denying God’s messages – grievous suffering awaits them: for God is almighty, an avenger of evil. 5. Verily, nothing on earth or in the heavens is hidden from God. 6. He it is who shapes you in the wombs as He wills. There is no deity save Him, the Almighty, the Truly Wise. 7. He it is who has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, containing messages that are clear in and by themselves – and these are the essence of the divine writ – as well as others that are allegorical. Now those whose hearts are given to swerving from the truth go after that part of the divine writ which has been expressed in allegory, seeking out [what is bound to create] confusion, and seeking [to arrive at] its final meaning [in an arbitrary manner]; but none save God knows its final meaning. Hence, those who are deeply rooted in knowledge say: “We believe in it; the whole [of the divine writ] is from our Sustainer – albeit none takes this to heart save those who are endowed with insight. 8. “O our Sustainer! Let not our hearts swerve from the truth after Thou hast guided us; and bestow upon us the gift of Thy grace: verily, Thou art the [true] Giver of Gifts. 9. “O our Sustainer! Verily, Thou wilt gather mankind together to witness the Day about [the coming of] which there is no doubt: verily, God never fails to fulfil His promise.”

Fun with the Bible: 6 Great Reasons that Moses Could Never Have Written the Bible

I was asked during the first Fun with the Bible post to talk about the authorship of Genesis-Deuteronomy, also known as the Pentateuch, the Torah or the Five Books of Moses. The question was, is Moses the author of the books whose collective title bears his name. The answer is no.

What Are Our Premises?

Now, numerous religious people will be popping their lids right now and claiming that I’m wrong, a blasphemer, a moron, evil, Satan, etc. And who would I be to deny most of those appellations. But as for the first one, I must object. Moses is not the author of any part of the Bible.

How do I know such things? Well, I must admit that my criteria for investigating the Bible are reason, logic, linguistics, archaeological evidence and the actual words of the Bible. I’m not concerned with what religious authorities say unless they are basing their arguments on these criteria and not just tradition, which is the only thing that could contend for Moses’ authorship.

Though I can’t supply a full list of reasons right here, I will offer a few examples as food for thought to get you started, and then send you on your way to read the first books of the Bible yourself.

A Few Good Reasons

1. Reason number one is that the Bible NEVER claims to be authored by Moses or anyone else for that matter. No one internally claims authorship. If Moses authored the Bible, you think he’d have said something – or anyone who wanted to be remembered for doing so for that matter. Only later religious people, hoping to attribute authorship and lend validity, claimed that Moses was the author.

2. Another issue is time. The Pentateuch is written in such a way – and doesn’t try to hide the fact! – that implies looking backward. It refers to the present day by saying things like “until this day” or “that was current then.” For instance, Genesis 23:16 refers to weights and measures as they were current in the time of the story, not the author’s time. Things are said in Moses’ time that they are there until this day.

3. Getting things plain wrong is a problem too. Presumably if God was telling Moses the way things were, he wouldn’t get facts wrong. For instance, in Genesis 21:32-34, the Bible speaks of Abraham residing in the land of the Philistines, a people that, archaeologically speaking, weren’t in the land until hundreds and hundreds of years after the supposed time of Abraham.

4. Mistakes and inconsistencies exist in the text, problems that surely Moses, if God were telling him what to say, would not have created. The reason for these problems, scholars have discovered, is that there are multiple authors’ voices and texts in the Pentateuch. In fact, Genesis through Deuteronomy is the weaving together of multiple texts to create one story. It was done very well but the originals were not changed. Some characters have multiple names, contradicting or repeating stories, etc. We don’t have to get into the details here but this is called the Documentary Hypothesis. If you want to know more, we can talk about it. Just ask.

5. Logical inconsistencies exist. Read the first verse of Deuteronomy. “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan.” Well, it’s logically impossible for Moses to have written such a sentence. “Beyond the Jordan” means on the other side of the Jordan (though some crappier translations try to gloss over this wording, the original biblical Hebrew has precisely this meaning) and it is a biblical fact that Moses never went into the land of Canaan. Therefore, if he was only on the eastern side of the Jordan River and the person said he spoke on the other side of the Jordan River the person writing must logically be writing from inside of Canaan (approximately modern day Israel). That person can’t be Moses. Get it?

6. Moses can’t speak of his own death, right? In the end of Deuteronomy, Moses talks of his own death – saying, “Moses died.” The author also says that Moses was “unequaled” after we are told earlier that Moses was the most humble man ever. Seems illogical that he could say both things about himself, huh?

Where to Go from Here

There are numerous other reasons besides and many more examples for each of the points I’ve mentioned but this should get you started. If you read Genesis through Deuteronomy from the beginning without the usual religious biases that people have trouble with then you’ll see all this for yourself.

Read the Bible like any other book that you would read, not affording it the privilege of not making sense simply because it doesn’t and because it’s the Bible. Ask questions and see what’s wrong. I’m here to help if you get stuck or don’t understand something.

This is having fun with the Bible – reading it on our own to see all the great things we can learn from it while trying to get at the truth about its history and origins.

Do you have any questions? Do you disagree with everything I’ve said and want to tell me why? Do you think Moses wrote the Pentateuch? Why?

Can you give any other examples of why Moses couldn’t have written the Pentateuch?

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