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IAmZamzam

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  1. The Trinity

    We Muslims were not raised on a desert island with no contact with modern civilization. We are very well aware that the Trinity does not literally teach the existence of three separate entities. In fact many of us (myself included) are ex-devout Christians. Please stop taking the things we say so horribly condescendingly literally. I'm sorry if I'm being snarky but it's hard to remain patient like a good Muslim should after being treated like an unreal sort of ignoramus a-hundred-and-fifty times in a row. Here is an article from my website which I hope should make things clearer. ON THE TRINITY Let’s say I were to ask two people, one a believer in the Trinity and the other a disbeliever, if they’re monotheists. The latter just says, “Yes.” The former first says, “Yes,” and then adds a “but”, and then adds another, extremely lengthy part *after* the “but”. This is significant. A Trinitarian is never comfortable. He always feels a need to defend himself, to explain the idea, and not only to a Muslim either. Just once before I die I would like see a single one of these people not assume that just because I’m not one of them that automatically makes me unfamiliar with the doctrine, and subject me to the same old lectures. It’s like a compulsion with these people, a force of habit. They’re positively bent on believing that no one in the world but them comprehends somethin­­g which they’re equally adamant is incomprehensible. I am familiar with the doctrine. I was at the top of my theology class at almost every moment at the Christian high school I went to. I’ve read practically everything C.S. Lewis ever wrote. I’ve been over the whole shebang already, many times through: the Council of Nicaea, the discovery and distortion of the hypostasis theory, St. Augustine, St. Patrick and the shamrock, “Mere Christianity”, the Athanasian Creed, Answering Islam. I’ve heard pretty much every analogy every apologist has ever thrown at anyone. I especially like the one about the ice, the water and the mist and how “the common element is love”. Whoever thought of that cute little gem is a good writer. It seems that analogies are all most Trinitarians have really got. Heaven forbid you people should ever try to explain *why* a doctrine should be considered true as opposed to just *how* it could be. But I am familiar with it. In fact I may have read more about your religion than you have. And I still don’t think it’s true, and I still don’t think it’s really monotheistic. That doesn’t mean I don’t get it, it means I see through it. It certainly isn’t to say I’m under the impression that Christians literally believe in three separate gods. That is such a silly thing to accuse me of in the information age when every detail about every minor celebrity’s life is laid bare for the whole world to see that I’m not at all sure any of you really think it’s that common a misconception. I’ve never met anyone in all my life that actually was under that impression. I’ve never seen any proof that such people even exist. If you have on some occasion heard a Muslim refer to the Trinity as polytheistic or even pagan then it’s not because that person has been living under a rock on Neptune. I repeat: *this is the information age*. It’s simply because we don’t define polytheism in the same way that you do. In fact we don’t even find the distinction between three gods and one God in three persons to be very important to begin with. It’s all the same to us. Before I explain why, though, there are a few real misconceptions (at least as far as evangelists go, anyway) I want to clear up first. I don’t know if any of you reading this article buy into any of this stuff or not but I’m talking to a potentially large and mixed group and need to get it all out of the way while the Trinity is on the table. First let’s talk about Qur’an 4:171. All it says is: Believe in God and His messengers, and do not say: ‘Three!’ Desist, for this would be best for you. God in truth is One—glory be to Him, that He should have a child! To Him belongs what is in the heavens and what is on earth. God suffices as All-Worthy of trust. Again we seem to have a case of people insisting on seeing claims of literal polytheism where there are none. What part of that passage sounded to you like, “There are not three gods?” What it *actually* says is, “Do not so much as say the word ‘three’ at all. God is one, period, end of story, and that’s all there is to it.” The use of the phrase “God in truth is One”—not “The Father” but “God”, as in every last bit of God—makes it clear that the book is acknowledging that Trinitarians are not engaging in actual polytheism but instead mitigating their monotheism with the attribution of a son to the Godhead. The only people who are *not* acknowledging this are the Trinitarians themselves. But again we’ll have to get to that in due course. An even more dramatically misunderstood passage is Qur’an 5:73-75, which reads: It is blasphemy they utter, those who say that God is the third of three! There is no God except the one God…Christ the son of Mary is only a messenger, and messengers have come and gone before him. His mother was a saintly woman and they both ate food! I’m sorry but at what point did this passage become any sort of reference to the Trinity in the first place? That Abdullah Yusuf Ali mistranslated part of it so as to make it go “they do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity” is probably what threw people. Everyone else but him that I know of, however, has always rendered the phrase as “God is the third of three”. So what about the correctly translated whole passage sounds like a reference to a Triune deity? It’s obvious who the three in question are. First God is mentioned, and then Jesus, and then Mary—and once again the “God” part refers to all of God all at once. No Trinity here. The complaint is the same one repeated later in verse 116, namely that of Jesus and Mary drawing worship away from the true God. And whatever your opinion might or mightn’t be of some of the more controversial doctrines of modern Catholicism the fact still remains that in the early history of Christianity there were many cults and figures who quite literally and in some cases intentionally worshipped Mary. In fact this Christian source I’ve come across here says that there was a time—right around The Prophet’s own, no less—“when the worship of Mary was specially promoted in the church”. The third misconception involves the way The Qur’an repeatedly uses the term “The Holy Spirit” to refer not to God but to Gabriel. I suspect that this objection stems more than anything from these evangelists’ insistent belief that Muhammad thought he was operating out of the tradition of The New Testament or the four biblical Gospels and this was what he meant in The Qur’an by al-Injil (“The Gospel”). That The New Testament never even referred to *itself* as “The Gospel” (nor had anybody, for that matter) doesn’t seem to bother them in the slightest. Nor do they care that Qur’an 5:110 and 57:27 explicitly refer to al-Injil as something personally composed by Jesus himself. And who’s to say that this al-Injil couldn’t have been corrupted like the other previous scriptures (Qur’an 2:79)? Nor does it bother anyone that the seventh century Arabian Christians weren’t even using The New Testament anyway, which hadn’t yet been translated into Arabic by that time. But back to Gabriel being The Holy Spirit. Get this: if The Qur’an was wrong to do that sort of thing then so was The Bible! There is no room here for a full verse-by-verse breakdown of this very complicated issue but in short when The Bible says “Holy Spirit” it can actually mean several different things by the term depending on the context and usage in question. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into the matter of whether Muhammad is The Paraclete. There is no need to open up that old can of worms (and frankly it’s already been opened and picked apart so many times by now that it’s starting to stink). Instead let’s go over some other aspects of the terminology which don’t get noticed as often in Christian-Muslim dialogue. Like I just said “Holy Spirit” can mean different things. If The Bible’s references to the Spirit ever do mean God then there’s no reason why it can’t mean *all* of God. More often than not, however, a straightforward reading totally free of Christian bias reveals the specific phrase “Holy Spirit” to mean something close to the simple, literal sense of “a mindset of holiness”. Some sort of inanimate abstract. This is at its most obvious in 2 Corinthians 6:4-7, in which the phrase actually appears in a list of virtues: As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left. (Revised Standard Version) Notice how it says “the power of God” only at the end, with this mention of God separated from the rest by an “and”. Let us look now at a different passage which, despite its use of another phrase, Christians still universally consider to be about the Holy Spirit. Remember when it came down in the form of a dove? Well the phrase used there, “the Spirit of God”, is the very same moniker employed in the book of Revelation to refer to the seven angels. When they first show up they’re called spirits of God but after that the terminology switches and from that point on they’re simply referred to as angels. There is no one else but those “seven spirits of God” that all these verses about seven angels could possibly be about. If you compare Revelation 4:5 to Revelation 8:2, for example, you’ll see how obvious it is that these are all the same guys. Then compare both of these passages to Matthew 3:16-17. (In fact if we take things a step further then we can see that the original idea behind the Matthew passage was apparently supposed to be that God was speaking through an angel who came down in the form of a dove!) So the Holy Spirit can refer to angels and already could many centuries before The Prophet came along. And why shouldn’t it? In any event the idea makes plenty of semantic sense. They’re spirits, they’re holy and their origin is of God, i.e. they’re spirits of God. Now we can finally get to the problem Muslims have with the Trinity. Actually in a sense the real problem may be more with the English language. English and Arabic don’t work the same way. English has more words than any other language in all of history. Arabic, on the other hand, has far fewer and the meanings for them tend to be more various, complex and tricky. So when, for example, people define the Arabic word shirk simplistically as “polytheism” or “idolatry” they are not doing the term justice at all. It doesn’t really *have* a proper English equivalent. Well to be sure the word itself, when taken in its pre-Islamic sense and translated in the most literalistic vein possible, means something like “sharing” but I’m talking theology here, not linguistics. Usually people define shirk as “associating other things with God” but these waters run deeper than that. God made us to worship, serve or please Him, depending on how you translate the original Arabic of Qur’an 51:56. Indeed, “submission” or “surrender” is the very meaning of the word Islam in Arabic. Since His one purpose in making us was for us to do this it’s easy to understand why He would be quite a stickler about nothing ever getting in the way of our carrying out the task. This is why, for example, icons aren’t allowed in our religion. They’re considered a kind of shirk. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are in using one: there’s nothing to be gained by it. You’re not supposed to have anything standing between yourself and your Maker. You don’t need any sort of conduit or extra step in your prayers. After all it’s not like God can’t hear you just fine. Nor should *you* have any problem speaking to *Him*. Just so long as you’re trying. You don’t need an object to represent anything. You can’t give a formless thing a form. You just need yourself, your thoughts, your words—and God’s grace. Anything else is a distraction and only muddies things up, takes away the purity. (In case you’re wondering The Kabah is not an icon but merely a compass which allows Muslims to all face the same direction so that we can stand shoulder to shoulder as brothers when we pray. See Qur’an 2:148-150.) Now here’s the thing: *deifying people also counts as shirk* according to Islam. You are associating a human being, a human body, with God. You aren’t supposed to give Him a form, remember? It’s comparable to using icons. Whether the image you make for the Deity is graven or of flesh it’s still an image. He doesn’t need either kind. He doesn’t need any sort of conduit at all. Cut out the middle man. We *need* no “mediator betwixt God and man”. There isn’t a thing that has to be done down here which God can’t just as well do from up in heaven without ever needing to become a human being. Teach us things? Any fiction writer knows that when you have a character who needs to find out something you don’t write yourself into the story and have your icon go up to that character and say, “Hey, I’m the guy who created you. Now here’s some stuff I want to tell you about.” No, there are only three sensible options in that situation. You either write the character into the story already knowing the information, you write in another character whose purpose is exposition, or you create an event which reveals the necessary info (or allows the guy to figure it out on his own). As The Qur’an says: It is not vouchsafed for any human being that God should address him except through inspiration or from behind a veil, or else He sends a messenger who reveals what He wills, by His leave. He is Exalted, All-Wise. (Surah 42, verse 51) Die for our sins? Nonsense. Once again every author knows better than this. When a character has made a wrong turn and needs to redeem himself you simply have him repent of his actions and that’s that. I mean, what else are you going to do, hop into the story and get your own self punished in the wrongdoer’s stead? That’s like if a judge pardoned a guilty man from death row only to, with the very next bang of his gavel, sentence *himself* to the lethal injection in the culprit’s place. What mad sort of interpretation of the law is *that* supposed to fulfill? Goodness demands that either the guilty party alone be punished or that there be no punishment at all and therefore no need for any sort of ransom or substitution. Pick one. Forgiveness is as simple as, “Please forgive me,” and, “I forgive you.” Ol’ Boz didn’t turn himself into a character in A Christmas Carol and make it so that the name on the grave read CHARLES DICKENS in order to sponge away the writing on the stone, now did he? No, he just had Scrooge reform, and then he told us that he lived happily ever after. The end. Why can’t God save a single person without torturing Himself to death first? Sin is a type of choice. Specifically, it’s what you call it when we choose to defy God. I ask you now: how is it possible for another entity to ever take your own *choices* onto himself? You are likewise cluttering things up by assigning to God any extra “persons”. It amounts to the same. It amounts to shirk. It’s more of those unnecessary extra steps. There is a reason why Deuteronomy 6:4 just leaves it at, “Hear O israel, The LORD our God is one LORD,” and doesn’t add, “Oh, by the way, did I forget to mention that this one Lord consists of three elements?” One is the loneliest number. Some Christians try to escape the old saying that the Trinity can be expressed as “1 + 1 + 1 = 1” by saying, “Aha! But 1 X 1 X 1 DOES equal 1!” Nice try, bucko, but you can’t *really* multiply a number by one, calculators only *pretend* you can because they’re programmed to follow the same mechanical patterns. “One times five” is just another way of saying “one set of five”, which is itself just another way of saying, “I have five of these things.” “1 X 1 X 1” is a meaningless redundancy. But the real problem with the Trinity could perhaps be better expressed by the fact that, *whatever* the formula you may argue is involved, it *is* still a formula of some kind and not simply the number one followed by a period, and even you Trinitarians can’t argue otherwise, and *no other religion in the world which is considered monotheistic* seems to define their beliefs in such a way. Isn’t there something odd about that? What’s more, you can deceive yourself into thinking that *anything* is perfectly consistent and logical if only you get shrewd or effortful enough about how you rationalize it. You can also justify anything easily enough by wrenching Old Testament passages away from their original context and spinning them to make them to look like prophecies. And don’t even think about accusing me of making that last part up. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 is just one of many, many examples: When your days are fulfilled…I will raise up your offspring after you…and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. (Revised Standard Version) Simple and straightforward, right? Plainly about the Messiah? Maybe until you read *the very next sentence*, which begins with “when he commits iniquity”. When is Jesus ever supposed to have done *that*? Most of the other Messianic prophecies which evangelists bring to the table are very much the same. They’re not merely out of context, you often have to read only one or two sentences before or after the part quoted before you can see it. Others can be disproven in different ways and in any event the “fulfilled prophecies” argument relies completely on the assumption of the Gospels’ historical accuracy to begin with. Again, anyone can do this sort of thing standing on their head. You could come up with a cute little analogy and a few Old Testament references to prove that God is going both up and down at the same time, for instance. Let me demonstrate something along those lines right now. Pretend that what follows is a pamphlet from an evangelistic organization or the transcript of an infomercial from a Christian TV channel or something. Let me tell you about what we believers call the Black-and-White. Because it really is sad just how badly the nature of God has been misunderstood all throughout history. But in order to explain the whole thing, folks, we’re going to have to start all the way back with the Old Testament. This is just a brief overview, mind you. In Jeremiah 8:19-21 it says, “Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.” This is an undeniable prophecy of the coming of the Messiah at just the moment when He is needed. It could refer to no one else but The Lord Christ Jesus. I mean, it speaks of the Lord and King coming to israel, what more do you want?! Now to be sure some people charge that in quoting this passage we have conveniently stopped one verse before you could see what the whole thing was really about: “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” But these folks just don’t understand how prophecy has always worked in scripture. And anyway the point is God’s color is black. It says so right there. And yet it is this same Bible which also prophesies, “I shall be whiter than snow,” (Psalms 51:7), and this equally remarkable prophecy is fulfilled in Matthew 17:2, in which Jesus’s true heavenly form is revealed and it is white, turning even his clothes the same color: “[Jesus] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” These verses are part of the reason why we call God the Black-and-White. It’s important that you understand that we’re not talking about there being two gods here, one of them black and the other white. It’s likewise important that you pay no attention to all those heathens who’ll tell you that there’s no evidence of the existence of the doctrine of the Black-and-White amongst the earliest practitioners of our religion. Of *course* there is! Didn’t you hear those verses I cited? Haven’t you ever read The Bible yourself? To think that anyone’s interpretation of anything could have changed at all over the course of so much time! Anyway you may ask me, how can all this be so? How can God be both black *and* white at the same time? Well brace yourself because this all actually has a parallel in Mother Nature! Now let *me* ask *you* something in turn. Let’s see a show of hands. What do you call the color you get when you mix all the other colors together? Who says black? Okay, now who says white? I see you’re about half-and-half here. Well guess what? You’re *both* right! If you were to mix red and green paint together then you would get brown paint but if you were to make the beams of a red spotlight and a green spotlight intersect then where they met it wouldn’t look brown at all, it’d actually be yellow. That’s because there are two different types of color chemistry at work or two spectra. One is called the additive spectrum and refers to the way colors blend when, for example, it’s on your computer screen or TV screen. It’s called additive because when you mix the colors together in it they really do combine. As a result they produce white when they’re all put together. There is also, however, the subtractive spectrum, in which when they blend colors cancel each other out instead of adding up, and so you get black by putting them all together. This is the chemistry at work when light rays bounce off a surface instead of intersecting with each other. It’s what you get when you, say, blend crayon colors on paper. So the same sum totality of all colors can be either black or white depending on circumstances. In color chemistry black and white are one—just as they are one in the Black-and-White. It’s all very technical and confusing, I know, but then again so is the doctrine itself. The nature of it is simply beyond our comprehension. Like I said all I’m doing is trying to give you an overview, make a rough comparison, somehow summarize for you as your teacher something which I am myself not humanly capable of understanding any more than just marginally better than you are. You see, guys? You can do this with anything. Give an ever so slightly creative human mind enough time and incentive and it will find some means to make even the statement, “God is a married bachelor,” sound vaguely deceptively plausible. And then it would doubtless band together over time with other minds who believed the same thing about God, and they all would start fuming about how the people who rightly accused them of contradicting themselves were under the impression that they believed in two separate gods, one married, the other unmarried. Sooner or later people can find a clever analogy, or an Old Testament passage, or a fancy bit of obscure Greek philosophy, to twist to their own ends for positively anything. That doesn’t make the belief genuinely consistent, it doesn’t make the logic valid, and it doesn’t make the doctrine true. It is, however, very easy to disprove it with a simple little syllogism: 1. Monotheism is simple and fully comprehensible. 2. The Trinity is complex and not fully comprehensible. 3. Therefore the Trinity is not true and unmitigated monotheism. Before I go I would like to note that in addition to all of the aforementioned problems with the Trinity doctrine there is yet another one which somehow doesn’t get discussed very much: namely just how suspiciously convenient the whole thing is. It seems to me that in the idea of a triune God Christians have come up with the ultimate fallback position for themselves. The idea must have been a dream come true for the Pauline branch of the religion. It allowed Jesus to be sent by the Father but not *exactly* sent by Him; subordinate to Him but not *really* subordinate, of course; it explained how the Father was greater than Jesus but not actually *greater*, mind you, just in some nonsensical metaphorical sense. And yet it didn’t *actually* explain anything at all, and that was the best part: it was beyond mortal comprehension, making it too blurry to really refute and allowing believers in the doctrine, even to this very day, to shift their ground whenever necessary between their defense being, “You just don’t get it,” and, “Nobody can really grasp it.” In a way I almost admire it all. There are so many levels on which the Trinity allows believers to have it both ways and to close their minds to any chance of being persuaded that they’re wrong that if I suspect Satan to be directly behind the whole thing then it is not because I find the doctrine sinful but because there is such a remarkably diabolical perfection to it all. It’s just so intricately psychologically airtight. One way or another it remains a fact that all of those mountains of elaborate philosophy built around that idea of a Word from God who was *with* God but also *was* God, and without which nothing was ever made that was made and et cetera et cetera, pales in comparison to the gorgeous and forcefully rational simplicity of the oft repeated statement in The Qur’an that when God wishes to create anything at all, including Jesus, all He need do is just say, “Be!” and it is and that’s all there is to it. Unity, simplicity, singularity, directness. These are the elements of true religion. To believe that you can pray directly to your Maker without having to do it through any people or objects, and that mercy consists only of mercy, and that you can be saved by grace alone without any need for human sacrifice, and to believe in one God just by believing in one God. No saints, no saviors, no icons, no incarnations, no indulgences, no confessionals—nothing, in fact, between you and The Big Guy at all. We Muslims believe that in the end all we really need do is seek God’s glory and try our best, knowing that we’re judged for our efforts and not for our successes. What is wrong with the inviolable purity of all this? Is it not the best, truest form of Abrahamic belief there could ever be? I fail not to see the appeal. Notes on writing: All passages from The Qu’ran in this article are from the Tarif Khalidi translation. Unless stated otherwise all passages from The Bible are from the King James Version.
  2. “Biblical Corruptions: Extremely Real, Extremely Pervasive, Extremely Theologically Significant” by me, Part 1 “All of the books of the New Testament had been written by [the second and third centuries] but there were lots of other books as well, also claiming to be by Jesus’s own apostles—other gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses having very different perspectives from those found in the books that eventually came to be called the New Testament. The New Testament itself emerged out of these conflicts over God (or the gods), as one group of believers acquired more converts than all the others and decided which books should be included in the canon of scripture. During the second and third centuries, however, there was no agreed-upon canon—and no agreed-upon theology. Instead, there was a wide range of diversity: diverse groups asserting diverse theologies based on diverse written texts, all claiming to be written by apostles of Jesus. Some of these Christian groups insisted that God had created this world; others maintained that the true God had not created this world (which is, after all, an evil place), but that it was the result of a cosmic disaster. Some of these groups insisted that the Jewish scriptures were given by the one true God; others claimed that the Jewish scriptures belong to the inferior God of the Jews, who was not the one true God. Some of these groups insisted that Jesus Christ was the one Son of God who was both completely human and completely divine; other groups insisted that Christ was completely human and not at all divine; others maintained that he was completely divine and not at all human; and yet others asserted that Jesus Christ was two things—a divine being (Christ) and a human being (Jesus). Some of these groups believed that Christ’s death brought about the salvation of the world; others maintained that Christ’s death had nothing to do with the salvation of this world; yet other groups insisted that Christ had never actually died. Each and every one of these viewpoints—and many others besides—were topics of constant discussion, dialogue, and debate in the early centuries of the church, while Christians of various persuasions tried to convince others of the truth of their own claims. Only one group eventually ‘won out’ in these debates. It was this group that decided what the Christian creeds would be: the creeds would affirm that there is only one God, the Creator; that Jesus his Son is both human and divine; and that salvation came by his death and resurrection. This was also the group that decided which books would be included in the canon of scripture. By the end of the fourth century, most Christians agreed that the canon was to include the four Gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul, and a group of other letters such as 1 John and 1 Peter, along with the Apocalypse of John. And who had been copying these texts? Christians from the congregations themselves, Christians who were intimately aware of and even involved in the debates over the identity of God, the status of the Jewish scriptures, the nature of Christ, and the effects of his death.” [1] Those interminable Roman numeral-numbered pages which open books are so tempting to skip, aren’t they? But just for once let us take a look at what it says at the start of the New King James Version of The Bible. “The Hebrew Bible has come down to us through the scrupulous care of ancient scribes who copied the original text in successive generations,” it reads. “By the sixth century A.D. the scribes were succeeded by a group known as the Masoretes, who continued to preserve the sacred Scriptures for another five hundred years in a form known as the Masoretic text.” That certainly sounds reassuring—until it’s contradicted a mere moment later: “Significant variations are recorded in the footnotes.” Now wait just one cotton-pickin’ minute here! If the text has been so faithfully preserved, how then can there be significant variations? The same thing happens in the section on the New Testament text. It begins with almost a whole page of apologetics arguing for the preservation of the manuscripts; this too is contradicted by what follows, wherein one sentence begins with the words “where significant variations occur in the New Testament Greek manuscripts”. (Another sentence there goes, “Important textual variants in the Old Testament are identified in a standard form.”) But the real shock comes when we get to this part: “It is most important to emphasize that fully eighty-five percent of the New Testament text is the same in the Textus Receptus, the Alexandrian Text, and the Majority Text.” [2] That’s it?! Only eighty-five?!! Is it just me or are they pulling the old “45% less fat!” trick of marketing department gurus? Let’s do the math. I’ve opened up a copy of The New Living Translation to a random page of Luke [3]and found that there are about fifty-eight verses on it. What these people are telling me, then, is that there could be nine altered verses on this one little page! Which ones are they, I wonder? How do I know that one of them isn’t Luke 1:35? That’s the verse that says, “The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.’” An educated Christian reader will no doubt respond that most of the altered material in The Bible, by far, consists of *inconsequential* corruptions—the ancient equivalent of typos. And for the most part that is indeed true. The alterations are generally meaningless—as far as bite-into-it-with-your-teeth physical proof has confirmed, and *for the most part*. You’ll notice, of course, that we’re still early on in the essay. That is because there are three problems that should keep this Christian from sitting back and relaxing. Bear in mind the title. It’s not a bluff! First off we don’t have any original manuscripts to compare the extant versions we do have to, nor even any reliable way of estimating what these original versions said. There are just *so* many variations overall. There is such a thing as death by a thousand cuts. In fact the details regarding two of our prime manuscript sources in particular, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, may turn your stomach when you hear about them later. For now let me sum it up with the bottom line: that the whole thing is in fact such an utter fiasco that prominent biblical scholar after prominent biblical scholar—William Petersen, Elden Epp, AnneMarie Luijendijk, Kim Haines-Eitzen, David Parker—have argued that at this point we can no longer meaningfully *speak of* the original versions of any New Testament books in the first place! [4] Second, there is a great deal of relevance in the context and the circumstances of each corruption. Hypothetically speaking say that there were only some ten or fifteen odd cases in the entire textual history of The Bible wherein any alteration ever occurred that was more major than a scribe forgetting to literally cross a T or dot an I (or rather do the equivalent of this in the original language—you know, do something like fill in the middle of that Greek letter called a theta). How if those ten or fifteen passages just happened to be all of the very same verses that Christians generally insist confirm the alleged divinity of Jesus? And how if all of these alterations were made to early manuscripts that spawned copies which were themselves copied, et cetera, until the final end product was The Alexandrian Text or something else used in Bible translations today? And as you shall soon see despite there being massively more than just ten or fifteen major corruptions (some of which are massively larger than a single passage!) something like that has actually occurred. And as you shall also soon see even a single mark on a theta *can* make a huge difference to the meaning of a very important verse—relating to the alleged divinity of Jesus. The third point I’ve already explained in passing, just a moment ago, but it does deserve much attention. There are indeed instances when tremendously long, vast swaths of text have been altered—and worse. And these aren’t the passages from John and Mark you might be thinking of, although I do need to go over those as well. The situation is much direr than you probably know. We’re not talking about info that merely checking the footnotes of your Bible can fill you in on. No, footnotes are made selectively and modern Bibles themselves seem to be pastiches of manuscripts made, if not *just as* selectively, then at the very least because those supposedly reliable texts like the Masoretic one are obviously not so well preserved after all. Just read this other introduction, to The New International Version: “For the Old Testament the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic text…was used throughout. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain material bearing on an earlier stage of the Hebrew text. They were consulted, as were the Samaritan Pentateuch and the ancient scribal traditions relating to textual changes. Sometimes a variant Hebrew reading in the margin of the Masoretic Text was followed instead of the text itself. Such instances, being variants within the Masoretic tradition, are not specified by footnotes. In rare cases, words in the consonantal text were divided differently from the way they appear in the Masoretic Text. Footnotes indicate this. The translators also consulted the more important early versions—the Septuagint; Aquila; Symmachus and Theodotion; the Vulgate; the Syriac Peshitta; the Targums; and for the Psalms the Juxta Hebraica of Rome. Readings from these versions were occasionally followed where the Masoretic Text seemed doubtful and where accepted principles of textual criticism showed that one or more of these textual witnesses appeared to provide the correct reading. Such instances are footnoted.” [5] But on with the specifics. Let us begin at The Bible’s own beginning, with The Torah (that is, the Genesis through Deuteronomy section, also known as The Pentateuch). Consider these two passages from Genesis: “Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but israel: for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Chapter 32, verses 24-28) “God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, who appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. And they gave unto Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hand, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. And they journeyed: and a terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan (the same is Beth-el), he and all the people that were with him. And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el; because there God was revealed unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. And Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried below Beth-el under the oak: and the name of it was called Allon-bacuth. And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but israel shall be thy name: and he called his name israel.” (Chapter 35, verses 1-10) Now what’s likelier: that one man went through the same renaming ceremony twice (the second occasion somehow involving a guy who’s *already* called israel receiving the name “israel”), or that what we have here is alternate versions of how Jacob came to gain that name? It’s because of things like that, as well as a number of sundry linguistic and historical arguments, that in the intellectual world the idea of The Torah having only one author isn’t widely accepted anymore outside of strictly evangelical circles. I mean, how *could* that be the case? One author would tell one tale. So how could a thing like this happen, you might ask? How is it that different texts got mingled into one? Let *me* tell you a story now—specifically the circumstances of how the film “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” was written. I assure you that I don’t mean anything sacrilegious by the analogy. It just happens to be the best one I know of, as chance would have it. And the scenario you’re going to hear about happens all the time, with all sorts of different films. It’s an everyday thing, a fact of life out there in Hollywood. The purpose of *any* analogy is only to clarify the new or obscure by relating it to the commonplace or familiar, and it’s easy enough to explain how a movie script gets corrupted. That’s all. Wes Craven (who didn’t even want the original “Nightmare” to have any sequels in the first place) was brought on to be the screenwriter of what was at first proposed to be the final film of a trilogy. Craven, however, was unable to do the job entirely by himself as he was tied up with another project at the time so he had another screenwriter named Bruce Wagner assist him. They came up with a script about suicidal mental patients turning out to be targets of Freddy Krueger. The actual writing itself basically had to be done by Wagner, who took a plot that was mainly Craven’s and worked out the specifics of it. If you think that’s the end of it all then I wish I knew as little of the way The Hollywood Machine works as you do. It seems almost as though studio executives have some unspoken etiquette against letting sleeping dogs lie. New Line Cinema producers Bob Shaye and Sara Risher didn’t feel that Craven and Wagner’s screenplay had enough commercial appeal so they hired two more writers, Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont, to completely rework the whole thing. In the end only some three-tenths or so of the original Craven-Wagner script, according to Risher, remained in the final cut. [6] And that’s not even taking into account how much of an impact improvisations and editing had on the production, if Robert Englund’s interview remarks are any indication. And remember: even the first draft was more Wagner than Craven. So by the time the film hit the screen little more than the general outline of the plot was very much the work of Wes Craven, when you get down to the nitty gritty. And yet, funnily, people will always seem to shunt everyone but him to the side when they speak of the movie. It’s as though it had no other authors at all, let alone four. Why is this? Because of human nature. Because “Wes Craven” is a famous name. (Frank Darabont wrote “The Shawshank Redemption”, which has often topped The Internet Movie Database’s best movie ever polls, but I don’t think this fact is well known.) One more thing needs to be mentioned before I move on. A bizarre misconception ended up occurring which served to obscure the drastic rewriting of the film and no doubt further exaggerate in the popular consciousness the degree of Craven’s involvement. (Apparently this began with a misunderstood remark from Craven himself.) Practically nothing, supposedly, was revised by Darabont and Russell apart from some character names. There were no significant changes. Whereas in actual fact the different versions of the screenplay were so worlds apart that one of the main characters, Nancy, wasn’t even originally going to be working as a doctor at the asylum: indeed she wasn’t a doctor at all. And that’s not even the most major difference I could cite. Ironically one of the name changes actually serves as a good example of the all but inevitable contradictions that the tacking on of new authors and of rewrites tends to add to a story. In the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” Nancy’s father is named Don; here he’s John instead, just like the actor who plays him. [6] The reason I’ve spent almost 550 words belaboring you with movie trivia is because this little piece of production history illustrates the whole situation fairly well. In fact it applies to biblical corruption in general to a fair extent. The Torah, despite allegedly being the sole work of Moses, bears signs of having had, due to late editorial tampering, four different authors at different times—and that was before further last minute edits changed the text even more. The more writers it gained the more of a clashing of styles there was (although this isn’t as evident in translations). The more writers it gained the more contradictory it became. The more writers it gained the more the original vision was lost. And yet few laypeople seem to know it—and those who have heard the allegation are often stuck on the misconception that the only changes the text ever suffered are minor ones which didn’t affect anything. The Torah we’re left with now is a masterpiece that’s definitely the work of skillful authors, sure—but not primarily the inspired work of the *original* Author. And even someone unfamiliar with the books’ true history, if they’re paying attention, might spot this by watching for the inconsistencies. By recognizing that there are indeed significant variations. Here’s a quick rundown of the situation. The following brief definition is derived from the website of a Jew who (for obvious reasons, and as you’ll be able to plainly see for yourself) has trouble accepting the facts and is trying his best to put a hyperbolic positive spin on a virtually hopeless situation: “The Graf/Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis was like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution of Biblical criticism. Its revolutionary claim profoundly influenced scholarship, and was widely accepted. Today scholars now feel that it leaves some questions unanswered, and now it tends to be only accepted with some reservations. What was once thought to be sloppy editing now is seen in a different light. The accuracy of the text, the original sources and their transmission has received more respect. It identified four main sources in the Torah: J, E, P and D… J is the Yahwist author, using the YHVH name (pronounced Adonai, and translated as Lord) for God. J is a consumate [sic] story teller (See the Book of J, a new translation of thoses [sic] stories identified as being by J). God is described in human terms. Characters are very real, described with emotions, strengths and weaknesses. Stories are people/earth centered. E is for Elohim (translated as God). E writes more like a historian; God is omniscient and omnipotent and in control. People are not flawed (as in J). Both J and E lived before the Assyrian conquest. J was from Judah (848-722 BCE). E composed in israel (922-722 BCE). J & E were later combined into one text. P is for Priestly. P is concerned with the cult, the Tabernacle, sacrifices and levitical [sic] duties. P is also the geneologist [sic]. P was most probably a priest descended from Aaron, living sometime between 722 and 609 BCE, probably during the reign of King Hezekiah. D is for Deuteronomy…Deuteronomy was authored in the time of King Josiah. The author believed that if you follow God, good will happen, but if you disobey God’s rule, you will be punished. Deuteronomy (and the books of the former prophets Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings) may have been written by the prophet Jeremiah (or his scribe Baruch). To pull it all together, they also refer to R, Redactor. The Redactor was the editor(s) who pieced together these 4 traditions. Friedman along with others, argues that Ezra was the final redactor who pieced together P, JE, and D. If you want, you can believe that Moses, Ezra, or some anonymous scribe was the Redactor. Whoever R was, the final result was one Torah that became the authoritative text that was what Jews have believed was a record of God’s revelation to the Jewish people.” [7] You may be curious at this point (I sure know *I* am) as to how any historian can affix these definite dates long after Moses’s time to completely anonymous authors when both the redactor(s) and the untrustworthy copyists came from later eras. israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, despite ceding that archaeological evidence is “the only source of information on the biblical period that was not extensively emended, edited, or censored by many generations of biblical scribes”—that, in fact, new layers were still being added to the Exodus saga for centuries after the time of King Josiah [8]—offer the following surprisingly (if perhaps unintentionally) forthcoming reason: “The specific references in the text to cities, neighboring peoples, and familiar places are precisely those aspects that distinguish the patriarchal stories from completely mythical folk-tales. They are crucially important for identifying the date and message of the text. In other words, the ‘anachronisms’ are far more important for dating and understanding the meaning and historical context of the stories of the patriarchs than the search for ancient bedouin [sic] mathematical calculations of the patriarchs’ ages and genealogies.” [9] In other words, “We historians *have* to make *some* sort of jump to conclusions, don’t we? Otherwise we’ll be forced to accept the fact that we actually don’t know much.” But don’t get complacent and start making predictable remarks about the whole Documentary Hypothesis itself being along the same lines: there are just too many reasons to believe in it. Too many by far. At the very least we can confidently say that the Torah we have now is the work of multiple authors. For one thing when scholars compare the choices of personal pronouns between those sections that are considered to be from the P text and those that are reckoned to be part of J or E they find something very interesting. In the former the word “ani” (meaning “I”) shows up about 130 times but there is only one use of “anokhi” (“we”). The ratio is nowhere remotely near this imbalanced in J/E. [10] That is only a small sample, one of a great many distinct differences in the writing style. Consider also chapter twelve of the book of Numbers. Aaron and Miriam sin equally here, in the same way, and at the same time: “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, Hath Jehovah indeed spoken only with Moses? hath he not spoken also with us? And Jehovah heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth.” (Verses 1-3) And what happens as a result of this sin? Miriam gets severely punished whereas Aaron not only pretty much gets away scot free, he’s actually depicted as somewhat of a *hero*, the way he magnanimously begs for mercy for his poor, poor sister. In this day and age I wonder if the casual reader is apt to see the passage as a case of archaic sexism. It’s not. Miriam is never given the shaft like that anywhere else. The whole thing comes right out of nowhere, to the point where this same casual reader will likely find it quite a shock. And there are all sorts of women with strong leadership roles or who are otherwise positively depicted throughout both Testaments—Jael, Judith, Anna, and so forth. No, the likeliest explanation is that this ludicrously unbalanced depiction is the result of the P author having a personal bias resulting from his own descent from Aaron. [11] And if you still don’t believe me then note how the passage describes Moses as the humblest man on earth. (In fact The New American Standard Bible even uses the very *word* “humble”.) Is that how humble people are likely to speak of *themselves*? But if, on the other hand, the passage has been authored or tampered with by a man with the perspective of someone speaking of a revered figure who’s now long since dead…someone like, say, a Levitical priest writing many generations after the fact…ah! Now there you go! Consider also, if you will, chapter 105 of the book of Psalms. Its list of the ten plagues looks incomplete, doesn’t it? If you’re going to come *that* close to giving a full account, why stop so very short? It’s not like the author just rattled off two or three plagues to give you the general idea and left it at that. Then it would look quite intentional. No, this list was *almost* complete yet *not* complete, and it’s part of an otherwise pretty comprehensive narrative summary. As such the passage can well be (and sometimes is) seen as evidence of the fusing of the J and P accounts in Exodus. [12] Of course there is an alternative. In this case it could be the book of Psalms instead that’s suffered a corruption. I can’t continue forever like this. Volume after volume has been written (and mostly by non-Muslims) on the evidence for how various separate texts were spliced together into the Torah we have now. And I haven’t yet done more than lightly grace on the subject of *further* corruptions caused by the alterations to The Masoretic Text and what not—you know, those preserved-yet-not-preserved manuscripts which both do and don’t have significant variations? But how much, I wonder, does any of this matter to the average Christian anyway? After all wasn’t The Torah there just for the sake of some “old covenant” which somehow got completely overturned by Christ’s alleged sacrifice? Never mind these clear-as-crystal words here: “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19) I quoted that not just to show how much the idea of a “new covenant” contradicts the purported words of Jesus himself, nor just to show how shaky the idea should begin to look to the informed that not one penstroke of The Torah can ever disappear for as long as the world endures, but mainly because when it comes to the matter of textual corruption this passage is significant in its own right. Tertullian, you see, cited a version of Luke 16:17 which contained this very same speech. [13]Can you find any trace of it in the version of the verse we have now? Doesn’t it seem to you that the line was probably removed on purpose because it didn’t square with standard Pauline theology and its insistence on a “new covenant”? So as you can see The New Testament is no more free from corruption than The Torah is. One of the examples which will pop up the most often when these matters are discussed is 1 John 5:8. In fact modern translations typically don’t even render that verse the same way anymore. The New Revised Standard Version, for instance, reads: “There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.” But the footnote still insists on saying: “A few other authorities read (with variations) There are three that testify in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth:” In Bible translations there are no “long since disproven authorities, hardly worth mentioning at all”, only these vague *other* authorities. It’s a sneaky, low, underhanded tactic deliberately intended to create a false sense of ambiguity. The idea is that the ignorant layperson comes away from the text with the impression of some ever ongoing debate constantly raging through the papers biblical scholars publish. Everything looks 50/50 when everything always gets pigeonholed into the same category of “other ancient authorities”. In actual fact you’ll be pretty hard pressed to find any *living* authority who will dispute that the original King James reading of, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one,” is based on a forgery. As Adam Clarke’s commentary put it: “It is likely this verse is not genuine. It is wanting in every manuscript of this letter written before the invention of printing, one excepted, the Codex Montfortii, in Trinity College, Dublin: the others which omit this verse amount to one hundred and twelve. It is missing in both the Syriac, all the Arabic, Aethiopic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonian, etc., in a word, in all the ancient versions but the Vulgate; and even of this version many of the most ancient and correct MSS. have it not. It is wanting also in all the ancient Greek fathers; and in most even of the Latin.” [13] “Very well, then,” the Christian reader might tell me, “but that’s just one verse. The Trinity doctrine is established all up and down The Bible.” What, you mean in places like Matthew 28:19? Eusebius cited that verse on twenty-one different occasions and never once in a form that mentioned any Father, Son or Holy Spirit. Rather he would just leave it at, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you.” [13] “Piddle sticks!” the Christian now tells me, “What about 2 Corinthians 13:14? *That* verse mentions all three parts of the Trinity as well!” I’m afraid you’re barking up the wrong tree yet again. 2 Corinthians, as it so happens, wasn’t originally a single text either. In fact the only difference between the situation here and the one with The Torah is that 2 Corinthians *does* appear to have had one author at the very beginning. It’s just that it started out as at least two different letters of Paul’s, and maybe as many as five, before getting pieced together into a sort of subjectively made collage—subjectively made by later scribes and not by Paul himself, and many years after the fact. This has been widely known amongst biblical scholars for over a century now, though it’s hardly public knowledge elsewhere. Moreover there is even a distinct possibility that *all* of Paul’s epistles come from a single lost ancient codex which was reedited (which is of course another way of saying “corrupted”) by its collector. [4]There is simply no telling how many contributors there were to any individual sentence of 2 Corinthians—or for that matter *anything* Paul wrote. “But but but,” they might now say, “what of Acts 20:28? Does it not say, ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood’?” Yes, it does say that—in the King James. But in Codex Alexandrinus, as well as other ancient sources, the key words read “the Church of the Lord, which he obtained by his own blood”. [14]The Lord? Yes. God? No. If you find this to be hairsplitting then I urge you to remember the obvious: somebody early on in the history of the Christian church did indeed find the matter to be so utterly important that he was driven (by desperation?) to change what he thought was the transmission of the very Word of God itself. It would appear that this issue of terminology was not thought to involve a very fine distinction back then! Because the difference between “lord” and “God” in ancient Greek (“kurios” and “ho theos” respectively) wasn’t something you could easily produce with an accidental slip of the pen. Although even accidents can still end up having the same sort of effect anyhow. Take 1 Timothy 3:16. The New King James Version reads: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” Let’s look at the footnote. It says, “NU-Text reads ‘Who’.” No detail is provided beyond these few, confusing words. Once again the makers of the translation are trying to stir up false doubt in the reader’s mind about the odds being 50/50 regarding whether the original version said “who was manifested in the flesh” or “God was manifested in the flesh”. Quite the contrary: we know very well that it was “who”. Many of the Greek manuscripts, you see, used abbreviations for sacred names like God’s. His own abbreviation was a theta sigma (the equivalent of T.H.S.; I’m guessing it was short for the word “theos”) with a line drawn over the letters. In one of the older manuscripts of 1 Timothy some ink ended up bleeding through from one side of the parchment to the other and the resultant smear landed squarely in the middle of an omicron, making it look like a theta instead. The difference between an omicron and a theta is pretty minute: the former is basically like an O and the latter is the same but with a little horizontal line in the middle. So the end result is that the Greek word for “who” turned into the abbreviation for “God”. All that was missing was that bar over the top to mark the letters as an abbreviation—which some later scribe came along and added for clarification, in a different type of ink. Unfortunately the scribe happened to be adding that line to *Codex Alexandrinus*—one of the most influential and oft-translated manuscripts in the world. [14] It was *so* influential, in fact, that the same corruption wound up getting copied into four other early texts of 1 Timothy afterward. [15] Into The Bible it went. And, because of the meretriciousness of our translators, in The Bible it has stayed. “But what of the opening of John?” the Christian reader may now be asking. “That part about how The Word was God, and then it became flesh and dwelt among us?” No dice. *It* wasn’t originally part of The Bible either. If by now some of you are starting to think this is all sounding suspiciously convenient, I’ll remind you of how much of a well-camouflaged (and tempting) trap circular reasoning can be for the human mind. *Of course* it’ll sound convenient: I happen to be right. The early believers in the Incarnation were quite naturally going to be in an awfully *in*convenient position when they found themselves without one theological or scriptural leg to stand on, and all it ever takes is a few bad apples and a little bad luck for forgeries to get written and slipped by unsuspecting eyes. In this case it’s oft reckoned by biblical scholars (who are generally Christians, by the way) that John 1:1-18 may very well have originally come from somewhere else and been inserted into the text. This is a very stylistically unique prologue we’re talking about here, isolated from the entire remainder of John by its grandiose poetic form. (Again this is the kind of thing that’s going to be more obvious in the original language.) An earthly narrative abruptly begins the instant the passage is over—one which could very well serve as a prologue on its own, I mean. (To be sure the two passages are awkwardly joined with an “and” but it hardly takes an expert forger to pull *that* one off.) And this “Word” moniker is never once used again anywhere else. [16] Besides which we already know that the passage was liable to be tampered with over the matter of the identity of Jesus in relation to “The Father”: in Codex Vaticanus there’s a textual variant of 1:18 which says “the unique God” instead of “the unique Son” (the latter phrase being what you’ll often see mistranslated as “only-begotten Son”). [17] [18]
  3. Nobody is in direr need of making an apology than myself--but what can I say at this point that would sound sincere?
  4. I would never have cast any aspersions on you at all if *you* hadn't gotten personal about *me*. But it seems like every time I turn my back both of you guys start talking smack about me (as well as Muslims in general) behind it. What I want to know is exactly how many pages we're going to have to keep this stuff up for before I'm allowed to go ahead and break the cycle without Redeemed snickering and saying that I've run off with my tail between my legs, too afraid to let anyone challenge me, while at the same time you stand there and sweetly project your own faults onto me plus my brothers and sisters. Am I going to have to linger for five further pages of this? Ten? Do I need to stick around for what, three other threads? Why should I have to prove myself to you?
  5. It is entirely possible that my frustration caused me to prejudge the situation myself--in fact I wondered that almost immediately after making the post--but "'The Qur'an does not claim biblical infallibility, does not confirm any entire scriptures at all,' What you're saying is it confirms in the Bible only what doesn't clash with Islam" does not look like it could possibly mean, "Problems (heresies) happen when people judge the Scriptures by what people say rather than judge the people by what the Scriptures say. THEREFORE, that makes the article implying the Bible is corrupted moot. I do not believe God would not preserve His first word and decide to preserve His latter word nor do I believe man's power to corrupt is greater than God's power to preserve HIS WORD. The article puts down the Bible to lift up the Quran; otherwise, the article couldn't stand nor can what it promotes." Not even with thirty minutes of reflection could anyone have ever gotten that interpretation out of your words. Have you even now read the article or have you instead merely come up with reasons why it's supposedly unnecessary to do so? Not even remotely good reasons either, just little more than the typical fallacy of appeal to the old. Do you do that sort of thing a lot? I wasn't trying to imply that this trait is unique to one political affiliation. Anyone who's biased against processing information contrary to a particular, preset, (usually Manichean) worldview will tend to have it.
  6. Redeemed, am I right in thinking that you're just as much a political as a religious conservative? There have been a lot of scientific studies done about things like how conservative minds spend less time reading information contrary to their own views, and especially how their brains do much less system 2 processing compared to system 1 (in a nutshell that's the difference between carefully thinking things through and just judging immediately by way of quick-and-dirty, intuitive, knee-jerk reactions). In short, it's good to actually read the article before deciding what the argument is based on a one-sentence summary. http://washmyheartwiththezamzam.tumblr.com/scripture Parts of it are probably due for modification soon, God willing, but not the *main* parts.
  7. That you can't even begin to imagine how anything an interfaith dialogue *could* consist of anything other than ten or twelve topics just goes to show exactly what I've said. Maybe every now and then a person comes here who might indeed gain a better understanding of Islam. You, however, are not that person, because you won't allow yourself to do any such thing. I link you first in a private message and then again publicly to an article of mine which goes into a perhaps *tediously* detailed account, passage by passage by passage, of how The Qur'an does not claim biblical infallibility, does not confirm any entire scriptures at all, and both times you just brush it off altogether and take the first opportunity possible to repeat the argument that it confirms The Bible. There's no federal law mandating that you agree with me but if you're going to refuse to even *acknowledge* what I've written then at least do that for a more self-consistent reason than, "Text isn't everything." That's what you keep saying time and again and yet time and again you go back on it by focusing everything you're saying on scripture. And then you go and tell me stuff like, "You've made a good argument but I'm not here to talk theology, I'm quite firm in my faith." That sounds *exactly* like something a person would say when they're afraid of their religion being questioned. Scroll through my past posts: there are countless occasions when I've let people hit me with everything they had. I encouraged it. I've probably even baited them into it without realizing. What good did it ever do?
  8. Mair: “In general I don’t think muslims like to be challenged about Islam, I don’t really understand that.. I challenge myself everyday, my search into Islam was born of such need of personal challenge because how else am I to know that the truth I accept through Jesus is valid and true. My comparisons... and to date Jesus has not been found wanting in any way, shape or form.” Mair (earlier): “Really I came here for answers to questions I have, I am not a wavering Christian I am quite firm in my belief, so efforts of Dawah are wasted on me. :) no offence” Redeemed: “I think [iAmZamzam] wants to say want he believes without being challenged.” Redeemed (earlier): “‘We have *plenty* of evidence. Do a search up there for golden ratio, to begin with. The thread that comes up might knock your socks off.’ A+B is to A AS A IS TO B PROVES what to you besides being the golden ratio?” And you wonder why I don’t want to waste my time anymore. Sometimes, Redeemed, that man in the burning building you spoke of genuinely *can’t* be saved. If all he does is claw and bite at you when you try to rescue him, sooner or later you get to the point where he clearly *is* a lost cause, and there’s even a possibility that you’ll have *two* people trapped there instead of one if he stays for much longer. You remember that scene from “Batman Begins”? Batman got so consumed by how upset he was with Henri Ducard that he neglected to mind his surroundings. If you’re actually that interested in talking to me, do so about something new. Why must everybody who comes to these places jump immediately into the same old malarkey, and never leave it? Every conversation is the same. Biblical infallibility in The Qur’an, biblical corruption, the depiction of Jesus (P), the Trinity, women in Islam, “is Islam a religion of peace?”, slavery, homosexuality, evolution, Zionism. These ten arguments are the only things you ever see in these places, and each one of them has a model that repeats eternally, to the point where after a while anybody could map out a flowchart in advance predicting every single page of each thread on the topic. The threads are roughly monthly—though every now and then you’re lucky enough to get a refreshing change with the quarterly threads on Ayesha’s age and the latest headline terrorist attacks, which of course are bound to be Islamist since the horrid news media is so selective that most folks don’t even know about the Buddhist ones in Myanmar, the Hindu ones in India, et cetera. In the words of that guy from “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3”, “We go around in circles, making minimum progress with maximum effort.” I’ve had it! If you want *any* chance at all if me joining in (and even then there’s no guarantee), talk about something you’re certain no one’s ever talked about here before.
  9. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    Ulfsark, I used to think that humbleness and pride were equal but opposite negative extremes before I realized something--the very same thing you need to realize now for a different reason. Which of the two traits is it that motivates a person to become more than he already is--to become stronger I guess is how you'd think of it--and which of the two is likelier to convince him to foolishly stay the way he is now because he already has what he needs? "Humility" isn't the antonym of "drive", you know. Pride, on the other hand, actively works against self-improvement, and thus inhibits the reaching of your potential. If you want to be strong and cunning enough to face your foes, will you be able to pull it off without first going out of your way to do everything you can to recognize your own limitations? Doesn't the old saying go that the first rule of combat is, "Never underestimate your enemy"?
  10. "Are we not adults here? Can we not have a dialogue and respectfully agree to disagree on some points and find a common ground on others?" No and no. This is a message board. Have a nice day.
  11. "May I ask why do you refer to Richard Dawkins as a hate preacher? When did being being an atheist automatically become to mean a hate preacher? Is it possible he is just a man without faith who expresses his opinion?" Michael Martin is an atheist who's simply expressing his opinion. Alex Gabriel is an atheist who's simply expressing his opinion. Maybe even Dan Barker, though he's made some very low blows in his day. Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same *sentence* as the phrase "man without faith who expresses his opinion". He doesn't even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the phrase "hate preacher". It's all in the review. I gave copious examples. Though I was scratching the surface. I'm out before this turns into an argument. It was only because I forgot what I said before that I showed up in the first place.
  12. What more is there to say at this point? http://washmyheartwiththezamzam.tumblr.com/thegoddelusion
  13. I don't think I've ever heard a single word about it. The miracle isn't reported anywhere (that I know of), so it isn't an issue. I believe the rule goes: with The Bible (as with anything, actually), if it contradicts the The Qur'an, it's out. If it's in agreement, it's in. If The Qur'an is silent on the issue, that's trickier and it's more up in the air. Agreement with the infallible is the only truly sure thing. This is a moot point anyway: in the original context Dawkins was talking more about miracles in general. You can find the video easily enough at Youtube--I believe it's called something like "Islam Is One Of The World's Great Evils".
  14. Having Second Thoughts About Islam...

    Do you feel this deep psychological urge to defend Paul at all times, *especially* when no one is actually saying anything about him? The thread is dead, please don't resurrect it now.
  15. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    It seems that once again your knowledge of Christianity alone has gotten in the way. Where does it say, "I know that nothing good dwells within me"? In The Qur'an? No. That's *nowhere* in The Qur'an. It's only in The Bible (Romans 7:18). The Qur'an says that man was made in the best of moulds (surah 95, verse 4). We have no concept of original sin. Indeed, the very first man was also the very first prophet (surah 3, verse 33). There is indeed a longstanding tradition in Christianity of positively ludicrous absolutism about seeing human nature as negatively as possible and good deeds as utterly meaningless. In Islam we believe that everyone is born pure (how could it be otherwise?) and those who become corrupt only do so later. It is true, however, that our purpose is to serve the One who made us. I fail to see the flaw in the logic. When you invent something, it's so that it can perform some tasks or other--for *you*.
  16. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    “It is right to follow those greater than yourself, it is part of Nature's Order and otherwise we would have chaos, but to plead and beg and grovel is pathetic, regardless of the power of the master, it is beneath me and any man.” “In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace: All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds, the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace, Lord of the Day of Judgment! Thee alone do we worship; and unto Thee alone do we turn for aid. Guide us the straight way, the way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, not of those who have been condemned [by Thee], nor of those who go astray!” That is the opening of The Qur’an and the central prayer of Islam (according to Asad’s translation). Does it sound objectionable?
  17. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    This is the scale of the universe, as far as anyone can determine: http://htwins.net/scale2/ (*grumling* They have to throw in that stupid teapot....) Now tell me: is it pathetic to be subordinate to something unimaginably greater than yourself, or is it just common sense? All of this came from somewhere.
  18. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    "The Problem with that is my people have no such Kings based on Divine Right. All our people descend from the gods, not just the royal family(ies), so a man claiming descent from Odin is no more special and likely to be king than the next one." That was hardly the point. But I don't find it at all hard to believe. I remember my old college anthropology textbook noting, in discussion of the universality of enthnocentrism, that when explorers traveled to other cultures they found a remarkable abundance of independent peoples whose name for themselves translates literally to things like "the people" or "the only people" or "the true people". For instance it may be considered less offensive to call someone Inuit than to call him Eskimo but the former ("the people", their name for themselves) is just as unnecessarily complimentary as the latter ("cannibals", the name given to them by equally ethnocentric settlers) is insulting. It's a no-win situation.
  19. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    How many divine chromosomes are required? Does it suffice to be 1/4,096th from your bloodline? You do know that eventually a point must come when everything from the original genetic code is lost, just as when tumbleweed picks up new bits of bramble as it rolls along the ground, a time comes after a very long while when it consists entirely of newer bramble? Does the religion have to end at that point?
  20. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    I did not mean to say that you came across as snobbish. If the misunderstanding was my fault then I'm sorry. I don't see why any religion should be passed down only. If you consider it to be true, why make a point of not teaching it to anyone who falls outside of a certain accident of birth?? That doesn't sound fair to me.
  21. Where Is Jesus In The Quran.

    "I am not a wavering Christian I am quite firm in my belief, so efforts of Dawah are wasted on me. no offence" You can dress it up in nice, soft, inoffensive language with a warm, positive spin all over it, but nothing changes the fact of what you're confessing to. You swear that you're comfortable with the thought of standing before your maker on Judgment Day. Just imagine having that statement thrown back in your face. It's the ultimate QED for any excuses you'll try to put forth. I guess I'm just going to have to stop *reading* responses. This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about.
  22. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    Didn't he say that he has a certain amount of familiarity with Christianity, just not with Islam? Yeah, I didn't know there were still Odin worshipers either. I realized this isn't good but at first I wondered if the whole thing was some kind of trick and dude was an atheist trying to pull an unusually subtle and complicated version of the old, "Make fun of believers by comparing their gods to mythological deities while being sure to insist to yourself that you're making a 100% fair intellectual argument and not being a tremendous snob." I forgot that it's the trademark annoying message board Christian evangelists who sometimes get deceptive like that, whereas the trademark annoying message board antitheists are much more in your face with their own respective vices. Why would they hide what they're doing?? They're too proud. I'm very sorry it even crossed my mind. I'm having trouble understanding the thrust of your religion, Ulfsark. This often happens when widely contradictory faiths meet, seeing as religion is expressed through a lot of symbols, and because it can be difficult to summarize succinctly. Is there some kind of central creed, like articles of faith or something? For instance Islamic doctrine boils down to believing in six things: God (S), His prophets (P), His angels, His divine plan, His scripture, and Judgment Day. Is there anything like that?
  23. Help Me Learn And Learn In Turn

    I'd kind of like to know that myself. A lot of what he's said so far bears a striking resemblance to what's recorded in Bulfinch's Mythology but I've been nervous about assuming that these guys take any of its sources seriously. A lot of those old Nordic texts were written by medieval Christians who for some reason insisted on inserting biblical and Christological elements instead of sticking strictly to the original story. (You'd think they'd have counted such an act as blasphemous.) The degree of reliance on scripture varies from religion to religion and in some of the pagan ones, both ancient and modern, you'll find a striking amount of indifference to the subject. Wiccans, for example, don't seem to have shared texts of *any* kind and just write their own "books of shadows", which are mere spellbooks/diaries containing what they've learned so far. But then again I know very little about that.
  24. Where Is Jesus In The Quran.

    I'm so very, very sorry, Mair. You're coming into this without prior context so let me explain: this time bomb has been ticking for several years now. Message boards are the stuff and pith of all that is annoying in this world, you see. It's as though everything horrible and foul about human nature gets concentrated like a laser. I think it's pretty obvious by now that it's gotten to me, and I didn't mean to take it all out on you. I've tried time and again to tear myself away from these places, but they're just too useful for the sake of dawah--if, that is, I stick to talking to people as they arrive and stay out of these awful, horrid, wretched recycled arguments that never result in anything but headaches and abuse. Because there's a reason why you can't make any progress here: there genuinely *is* a lot of closed-mindedness. And the repetition, oh the repetition. There are almost no new conversations at all! Don't get me wrong: some of this comes from Muslims too. There's just no point to regular discussion on religious message boards. The *only* useful thing is to what I've mentioned. So let this be my last. And again, I apologize.
  25. On Refuting Christians

    Can't can't can't can't can't. Every time it's the same thing. Just because He let them be corrupted, that means He was powerless to stop it from happening. I've pointed out to you at least twice now that this is exactly the same argument atheists make all the time about evil in the world: why CAN'T he make it all end? If He's up there, He'll automatically put a stop to it. Presuming a cosmic being's intentions, necessarily equating the concepts of "will" and "is able to", acting like The Big Guy's under some obligation to not let people use their free will as they see fit: indeed He may as well never let anything bad happen at all. And in your case once again topping it all off with the comically circular argument that this is all because He promised to preserve His Word...in The Bible. So the reason why The Bible can't be untrue is because The Bible says so. Should a human being disguise an underling as the enemy in wartime so as to be able to sneak him out when his enemies are surrounding him determined to move in for the kill, you'd never go up to that guy and slap him in the face, saying, "How DARE you plot and deceive like that! I hope no one ever trusts you again!" Just like no one calls God (S) a murderer when they read the crucifixion story in The Bible. Goodbye.
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