zenpundit.com » scriptures

Archive for the ‘scriptures’ Category

It’s not quite Easter yet (for the Orthodox)

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — so I trust you’ll forgive me posting a couple of stunning movie crucifixion images ]
.

My first image comes rom the forthcoming Ernst Haas book, On Set, and features his sbehind-the-scenes shot of the crucifixion in The Greatest Stiry Ever Told:

On Set crucifixion Haas

The second image turned up while I was researching the Armednian Genocide for a forthcoming article. It’s taken from a 1919 documentary, Auction of Souls, and it brings crucifixion into the twentieth century:

Crucifixion 2 Armenian Genocide

**

For crucifixion in antiquity, see A Tomb in Jerusalem Reveals the History of Crucifixion and Roman Crucifixion Methods:

Examination of Yehohanan’s bones showed one of the many Roman crucifixion methods. Both of his feet had been nailed together to the cross with a wooden plaque while his legs were bent to one side. His arm bones revealed scratches where the nails had passed between. Both legs were badly fractured, most likely from a crushing blow meant to end his suffering and bring about a faster death. Yehohanan was probably a political dissident against Roman oppression. In death his bones have helped fill in gaps in the history of crucifixion.

Crucifixion in the Qur’an is one of several severe “hudud” punishments {Q 5.32-34):

Therefore We prescribed for the Children of Israel that whoso slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether; and whoso gives life to a soul, shall be as if he ha given life to mankind altogether. Our Messengers have already come to them with the clear signs; then many of them thereafter commit excesses in the earth. This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement, except for such as repent, before you have power over them. So know you that God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.

The Qur’an also states that Jesus was not crucified (q 4.157):

And for their [the Jews] saying, ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God’ — yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them.

It should be noted that this suggestion is similar to that in the (Gnostic) Acts of John, #97:

I, then, when I saw him suffer, did not even abide by his suffering, but fled unto the Mount of Olives, weeping at that which had befallen. And when he was crucified on the Friday, at the sixth hour of the day, darkness came upon all the earth. And my Lord standing in the midst of the cave and enlightening it, said: John, unto the multitude below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds, and gall and vinegar is given me to drink. But unto thee I speak, and what I speak hear thou. I put it into thy mind to come up into this mountain, that thou mightest hear those things which it behoveth a disciple to learn from his teacher and a man from his God.

For crucifixions today, we must turn to the Islamic State. A Fox News report noted that while “IS crucifixion” photos have been circulating, what is meant by crucifixion here may not be what we assume it means:

The series of photographs show different men bound to crosses in what appears to be a public square area, though it could not be independently confirmed that the subjects were dead or, if they were, by what means the executions had been carried out. The pictures do not show any apparent signs of the men nailed to a cross, nor are there any obvious, visible signs of fatal wounds.

crucifixion Fox

**

Plenty of room for thought herein.

Tomorrow: Christos aneste!

On fire

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — there’s rather more going on in the burning of the Jordanian pilot than I can handle — here are some of today’s relevant highlights ]
.

I’ll start and close with JM Berger, who has two of the wisest contextual comments of the day to offer us:

That’s the context as I see it, though you’ll note that Tim Furnish differs, later in this post.

**

Two tweets give us Qur’anic justification for and against the use of fire in punishment:

and:

The Quranic verse Zaid Benjamin quotes is given in English in his tweet. The first seven verses of Sura 85, quoted by Will McCants, read in the Arberry translation:

By heaven of the constellations, by the promised day, by the witness and the witnessed, slain were the Men of the Pit, the fire abounding in fuel, when they were seated over it and were themselves witnesses of what they did with the believers.

I would really like to see a detailed scholarly post commenting on McCants’ reading of Qur’an 85.1-7, with or without notes on related ahadith and tafsir.

**

Two tweets offer ahadith related to the case:

and:

**

Two from Tim Furnish:

and:

Here is Tim Furnish’s commentary, from MahdiWatch:

ISIS gruesomely burned alive Jordanian Air Force officer Mu`adh al-Kasabeh not simply to horrify or intimidate, but rather in order to exact retribution for the “Crusaders” and their Coalition allies dropping bombs and launching missiles that consumed Muslims (especially, allegedly, children) in flames. The Islamic doctrine of shifa’ al-sudur (the name of the video, note) was derived from Sura al-Baqarah [II]:179 and its idea of “legal retribution” which is supposed to lead to reconciliation between Muslims once scores have been settled in like fashion—between, presumably, ISIS and the Muslim nations (Jordan, UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Oman) named in the video as helping the “Crusaders.” So, in this mindset, al-Kasabeh had to burn–not simply be decapitated. Lex talionis according to Allah.

ISIS also adduces a saying from the famous Sunni cleric Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) that desecrating bodies is allowable if it horrifies (unbelieving) enemies into ceasing their aggression against Muslims—or, in this case, against the Islamic State proper.

So, just as with beheadings and enslavement of “pagan” women, ISIS is acting in a supremely, albeit brutally, atavistic Islamic fashion (not a nihilistic one, as the President keeps saying). Only when we admit that will we (Westerners and Muslims) be on the path to refuting and eradicating ISIS.

**

Mark Safranski, my gracious host and the publisher of this blog, refers us to the ICRC:

Mr Orange suggests there have been previous burnings by ISI, the predecessor to IS / Daesh:

It seems to me there’s room for plenty of research as between international lawyers and experts in the history of Islamic exegesis…

**

Three tweets regarding the Jordanian response:

and:

**

Common sense: this, from Daveed Gartenstein-Ross:

and John Horgan:

in light of which, let me add by way of requiescat:

**

I’ll close as I began, with JM Berger:

Let’s not feed the flames.

Brief brief: of binding and loosing

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — really just a note to myself, but you may read it over my shoulder ]
.

Joas Wagemakers, blogging on Jihadi-Salafi views of the Islamic State at the Washington Post, was talking about the “caliphate” today, and as usual, I went off on my own DoubleQuoting tangent:

SPEC DQ bind and loose

**

Here’s Wagemakers’s para that triggered the above:

In 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria set itself apart from most other radical Islamist groups by actually settling in a certain territory and establishing a state there. The group even declared a caliphate on June 29 and changed its name simply to the Islamic State (IS). Even al-Qaeda, which has long had similar ambitions to establish a caliphate encompassing all Muslims, has never achieved this. In its justification for the announcement of its caliphate, IS has made use of classical Islamic concepts: its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been vetted by a group of scholars described as “the people who loosen and bind” (ahl al-hall wa-l-aqd), was found by them to be a pious Muslim ruler who fit all the criteria for a caliph and was therefore worthy of believers’ oath of allegiance (baya).

Do I detect an echo here, between the two phrases — or is the concept of loosing and binding so basic to human experience that it crops up all over?

It’s a question at the intersection of two of my fields of special interest — depth psychology and cultural anthro — see for example Anthony Stevens, writing under the subtitle Archetypes versus cultural transmission:

Essentially, the theory can be stated as a psychological law: whenever a phenomenon is found to be characteristic of all human communities, it is an expression of an archetype of the collective unconscious. It is not possible to demonstrate that such universally apparent phenomena are exclusively due to archetypal determinants or entirely due to cultural diffusion, because in all probability both are involved. However, the likelihood is that there will be a strong bias for those phenomena which are archetypally determined to diffuse more readily and more lastingly than those that are not.

**

Now go read Wagemakers.

Not Paris, much nearer home

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — religious satire USA, plus two Charlie Hebdo resources ]
.

Jesus dinosaur detail 602

**

I hadn’t realized that comic book satire had entered the religion vs science debate — foolish of me, it’s an obvious medium for the task:

jesus-and-darwin 602

And here for total impact is the full page of Jesus riding the dinosaur (detail above), text included:

jesusdinosaur large

I have to say, neither these nor the Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten cartoons disturb me personally — but in our discussions of free speech and blasphemy, I think the voices of those who may be offended deserve a hearing.

**

Sources and Resources:

  • Popperfont, Did Jesus ride on a dinosaur?
  • Beliefnet, Jesus and Darwin fight
  • Daily Beast, 16 most ‘shocking’ Charlie Hebdo covers
  • Understanding Charlie Hebdo, Charlie Hebdo’s satire
  • Sisi followup: two publications of significant interest

    Friday, January 16th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — SH Nasr’s The Study Quran and the Diyanet collection of ahadith ]
    .

    Quran & Ahadith

    **

    In a recent post I quoted President Sisi‘s speech calling for “a revolution” in Islamic thinking about “that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” and which is now “antagonizing the entire world”. I would like to bring your attenbtion here to two publications which may well provide support for such a rethinking: SH Nasr’s The Study Quran and the Diyanet collection of ahadith

    **

    The Study Quran:

    I have seen some of the proofs of this Quran, and it strikes me that once it is published (in Fall this year) it is likely to be the resource of record for anyone lacking in depth Arabic language skills and knowledge of Islamic thought across history. Superb, and very auspiciously timed.

    From their prospectus:

    In The Study Quran, renowned Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr and a team of editors address the deeper spiritual meaning of the Quran, the grammar of difficult passages, legal and ritual teachings, ethics, theology, sacred history, and the place of various passages of the Quran in Muslim life.

    For the first time, both Muslims and scholars will have a clear and reliable resource for looking up the history of interpretation for any passage in the Quran—together with a new, accurate English translation.

    From the book itself:

    The Quran is the constant companion of Muslims in the journey of life. Its verses are the first sounds recited into the ear of the newborn child. It is recited during the marriage ceremony, and its verses are usually the last words that a Muslim hears upon the approach of death. In traditional Islamic society, the sound of the recitation of the Quran was ubiquitous, and it determined the space in which men and women lived their daily lives; this is still true to a large extent in many places even today. As for the Quran as a book, it is found in nearly every Muslim home and is carried or worn in various forms and sizes by men and women for protection as they go about their daily activities. In many parts of the Islamic world it is held up for one to pass under when beginning a journey, and there are still today traditional Islamic cities whose gates contain the Quran, under which everyone entering or exiting the city passes. The Quran is an ever present source of blessing or grace (barakah) deeply experienced by Muslims as permeating all of life.

    Inasmuch as the Quran is the central, sacred, revealed reality for Muslims, The Study Quran addresses it as such and does not limit it to a work of merely historical, social, or linguistic interest divorced from its sacred and revealed character. To this end, the focus of The Study Quran is on the Quran’s reception and interpretation within the Muslim intellectual and spiritual tradition, although this does not mean that Muslims are the only intended audience, since the work is meant to be of use to various scholars, teachers, students, and general readers. It is with this Book, whose recitation brings Muslims from Sumatra to Senegal to tears, and not simply with a text important for the study of Semitic philology or the social conditions of first/seventh-century Arabia, that this study deals.

    **

    The other publishing venture of great interest in this context is Turkey’s Diyanet project for a contemporary selected edition of the Hadith.

    Emran El-Badawi, co-director of the newly formed International Qur’anic Studies Association, told the Christian Science Monitor in 2013:

    Change is certain to come to the Islamic world, not just to the streets of Cairo or Istanbul but deep within Islam’s religious tradition as well. The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, called the Diyanet, recognizes this with its seven-volume revision of the Hadith – which is the source of Sharia law and second only to the Quran.

    Thousands of the prophet’s sayings and traditions were circulated and eventually collected in the centuries after his death in 632. The sheer size of Hadith collections and their archaic 7th century Arabian context have made the texts too intractable for many Muslims today. This is the challenge which the six-year Turkish Hadith project, with its selections and interpretive essays, seeks to overcome.

    The central issue surrounding the Hadith, as with other foundational religious works such as the Bible, is whether it should be read literally or in a historical context and for its inspired message. A literal reading, for instance, may seek to justify medieval practices like severing the hands of thieves or allowing underage marriage. An inspired interpretation would see them as historical practices absent the kind of rule of law that democracies like Turkey have today.

    The question for Turkey’s new multi-volume set is whether its contemporary interpretations can be widely appreciated by the Islamic community, or whether they will be considered too avant-garde – the fate of previous modern interpretations.

    Elie Elhadj, in his post A Turkish Martin Luther: Can Hadith be Revised? on on Joshua Landis‘ Syria Comment blog wrote in 2010:

    The Indian Islamic thinker Muhammad Ashraf observed that it is curious that no caliph or companion found the need to collect and write down the Hadith traditions for more than two centuries after the death of the Prophet (Guillaume, Islam, 1990, 165). Ignaz Goldziher concludes “it is not surprising that, among the hotly debated controversial issues of Islam, whether political or doctrinal, there is none in which the champions of the various views are unable to cite a number of traditions, all equipped with imposing Isnads” (Goldziher, Muslim Studies, 1890, Vol. II., 44). John Burton observes, “the ascription of mutually irreconcilable sayings to several contemporaries of the Prophet, or of wholly incompatible declarations to one and the same contemporary, together strain the belief of the modern reader in the authenticity of the reports as a whole” (Burton, An introduction to the Hadith, 1994, xi).

    Leaders of Turkey’s Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad (BBC, February 26, 2008).

    And Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor for Reuters noted in 2013:

    The collection is the first by Turkey’s “Ankara School” of theologians who in recent decades have reread Islamic scriptures to extract their timeless religious message from the context of 7th-century Arab culture in which they arose.

    Unlike many traditional Muslim scholars, these theologians work in modern university faculties and many have studied abroad to learn how Christians analyse the Bible critically.

    They subscribe to what they call “conservative modernity,” a Sunni Islam true to the faith’s core doctrines but without the strictly literal views that ultra-orthodox Muslims have been promoting in other parts of the Islamic world.

    As to its likely influence, in Egypt and thus (I infer) on Sisi’s project, Heneghan offers this hint:

    “Among intellectuals in Egypt, there is a welcome for this new interpretation which they think is very important for the Arab world to be exposed to,” said Ibrahim Negm, advisor to Egypt’s grand mufti, the highest Islamic legal authority there.

    **

    I haven’t seen any reference as yet to the preparation of an English translation.


    Switch to our mobile site