March 3, 2013
THE REFORMATION ROLLS ON:
According to the standard Muslim account, the Quran contains revelations that Allah delivered to Mohammed through the angel Jibril between 609 and 632. They were fixed in written form under the third Caliph in the mid seventh century. Islamic scholar Christoph Luxenberg doubts most of this. In 2000, he published the German edition of The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, whose restrained title and dispassionate tone belie its explosive arguments-explosive enough for the author to hide behind a pseudonym. The book has been banned in several Islamic countries.One of Luxenbergs central arguments is that the Quran is an Arabic translation of an original Syriac/Aramaic text. Luxenberg is able to resolve oddities in the Arabic text by treating them as erroneous Arabic translations of an original Syriac text. Words that have no Arabic source turn out to be garbled versions of common Syriac terms. Luxenberg even finds evidence in the Quran itself for treating it as a translation. By his rendering, Sura 44:58 says "we have translated [the Koran] into your language so that they may allow themselves to be reminded."Luxenberg has become notorious for challenging the common translation of huri, usually understood as the hot-bodied virgins with whom faithful Islamic men hope to be rewarded in paradise. According to Luxenberg, they arent wide-eyed virgins, but white grapes, "juicy fruits hanging down," ready for picking (Sura 38:52). Its a vision of paradise similar to that of the fourth-century Christian poet, Ephrem the Syrian: "He who abstained from the wine here below, for him yearn the grapevines of Paradise. Each of them extends him a drooping cluster."That reference to Ephrem is not accidental, for Luxenberg argues that the Quran derives from a Syriac Christian lectionary. Again, the evidence is hiding in plain sight. It has become commonplace among scholars of Islam to recognize that the word Quran means lectionarium, but few draw the controversial conclusion: "If Koran . . . really means lectionary, then one can assume that the Koran intended itself first of all to be understood as nothing more than a liturgical book with selected texts from the Scriptures (the Old and New Testament) and not at all as a substitute for the Scriptures . . . as an independent Scripture." [...]Other early Islamic texts support the notion that Islam emerged not as a new religion but as a novel development within a Syriac Christian milieu. In his contribution to Hidden Origins, Luxenberg applies his method to the inscription on the Dome of the Rock, which seems to contain a straightforward Islamic confession: "There is no god but God alone . . . Mohammed the servant of God and messenger." Luxenberg points out that Mohammed, usually understood as a proper name, means "exalted be" or "praised be," and also notes that Syriac Christians, who were skeptical of the Nicene doctrine of Jesus divine sonship, preferred Isaiahs title "Servant" for Jesus. He contends that the inscription should read: "There is no god but God alone . . . Praised be the servant of God and his messenger." This makes better sense of the sequel, which explicitly identifies "Messiah Jesus, son of Mary" as "the messenger of God and his Word." An inscription about Jesus was later reinterpreted as a confession of a different faith entirely.
In his book, Did Mohammed Exist?, Robert Spencer--who, as the title suggests, pushes the argument further than he needs to--shows how central Christian iconography was to early Islam, appearing in art, currency, etc.
Posted by Orrin Judd at March 3, 2013 8:33 AM