Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fun Facts 4: Moses vs. Mohammed

The Literal Interpretation of Genesis One (Pt 2): Hebrew Poetry and Prose

Roman Catholic Apologists, ever pushing Evolution and allegorical interpretations of the Bible in many places (especially prophecy * ),
also wish to downplay or avoid a literal interpretation of Genesis chapter One.
One apologist recently tried to sell Genesis One as a kind of 'hymn' or poetic allegory.
 The creation account in Genesis 1 resembles a hymn, and is thus sometimes called the Hymn of Creation, or the Poem of the Dawn.
No reference is given.
Just disembodied unknown 'people' of unknown authority.
The bogus practice of using the Passive Voice to avoid identifying the Subject of the Action,
has long been recognized as a charlatan's debating technique.

Whenham indeed calls Genesis 1 a "hymn", but even he does not call Genesis 1 itself poetry. Instead he compares it to poetry such as that found not in Genesis, but in
the Book of Psalms:.

In his commentary,
Wenham understands Genesis 1 to be unique in the Old Testament. He notes that it is neither typical poetry (Wenham 1987, p. 10) nor normal Hebrew prose as “. . . its syntax is distinctively different from narrative prose.” He instead calls it a “hymn” believing it to be elevated prose(Wenham 1987, p. 10). Wenham sees the use of phrases in day one that become a formula in the subsequent days as making the narrative highly stylized (Wenham 1987, p. 37). Because of this, Wenham believes Genesis 1
. . . invites comparison with the psalms that praise God’s work in creation (e.g., 8, 136, 148) or with passages such as Prov 8:22–31 or Job 38 that reflect on the mystery of God’s creativity (Wenham 1987, p. 10).
Does Genesis, as Wenham and others claim, invite comparison with Hebrew poetry? Psalm 8 is often used as a comparison with Genesis. However, Robert Alter states:
The poem [Psalm 8] might be described as a kind of summarizing paraphrase of the account of creation in Genesis 1 . . . The difference in form, however, between the two texts is crucial, and instructive. Genesis 1, being narrative, reports creation as a sequence of events . . . Psalm 8 assumes as a background this narrative process, but takes it up after its completion . . . (Alter 1990, p. 117).

Actually Genesis 1 contains NO instances of Hebrew parallelism,
which is a stylistic feature fully identified and described
in scholarly analysis. One feature of Hebrew parallelism
is that the parallel lines be consecutive and joined by VAV.

From the  Jewish Encyclopedia:

It is now generally conceded that parallelism is the fundamental law, not only of the poetical, but even of the rhetorical and therefore of higher style in general in the Old Testament. By parallelism in this connection is understood the regularly recurring juxtaposition of symmetrically constructed sentences. The symmetry is carried out in the substance as well as in the form, and lies chiefly in the relation of the expression to the thought. The same idea is expressed in its full import—that is, in its various aspects and turns—not in a continuous, uninterrupted sentence, but in several corresponding clauses or members with different words. Hencethe name "parallelismus membrorum" or "sententiarum." It has also been aptly called "sinnrhythmus" (Ewald). For the parallel members are related to each other as rhythmical protasis and apodosis, as προῳδός and ἐπῳδός.
(1) The synonymous, in which the same sentiment is repeated in different but equivalent words (Ps. xxv. 5; comp. ib. exiv.; Num. xxiii. 7-10; Isa. lx. 1-3; etc.).
"Shew me thy ways, O Lord;
Teach me thy paths"

(2) The antithetical, in which the parallel members express the opposite sides of the same thought (Prov. xi. 3; comp. ib. x. 1 et seq.; Isa. liv. 7 et seq.; Ps. xx. 8, xxx. 6).
"The integrity of the upright shall guide them, But
the perversity of the treacherous shall destroy them"

(1) There is nothing like this in Genesis 1.

(2) Its also a common feature of non-poetry, as stated above.

My opinion of the historical accuracy of Genesis 1 has no
bearing at all on whether or not its author intended it to be read
as narrative rather than poetry.

However, in hindsight, I think I would now modify my opinion:

As the first post in this thread correctly indicates,
after having taken a serious and thoughtful look at Genesis 1,
I have come to the conclusion first of all that it is indeed intended
to be a historical narrative, not poetry or parable.

Its accuracy is another matter, which I haven't evaluated,
except as to the question of its compatibility with what is known today
from science (see last half of first post).

I would now modify my original opinion,
and state that I would limit the allegorical or parable-like interpretation
of the Genesis text generally to the story of Adam and Eve.

However, even interpreting that text (Genesis 2 etc.)
as purely allegorical has its problems, because again,
from a scientific point of view there had to have been a physical
Adam and Eve, i.e., historical characters that were ancestors
at least of early (EME) Semitic tribes.

What I have shown however in this thread is that Genesis 1
most plausibly is read as a historical text.


I strongly suggest anyone try the following experiment:

(1) Find a few Jewish friends (more than one is a good idea).

(2) Make sure they can actually read Hebrew reasonably well.

(3) Ask them to take a fresh look at Genesis 1 in the Hebrew text.

(4) Limit your question to this very specific one:

"Regarding the form of the text here,
does this read to you more like poetry, or a simple narrative?"

Make sure you are clear that you are not asking about whether
your friend thinks the narrative is true or not.
Make sure you are clear that you are not asking him if he believes
it to be literal or figurative, or allegorical.

(5) Just get him to commit on one simple question:

"Does the text look like narrative or poetry to you?"

Get all the other opinions you want from them, but nail them down
on this one question.
Do this with more than one Jewish person who can actually read Hebrew.

Then count up the votes.


* In regard to false versions of Prophetic Interpretation, see our articles on that elsewhere.


The Literal Interpretation of Genesis One (Pt 1): Narrative, Poetry, Science

(1) Genesis 1 is not Hebrew Poetry.

Hebrew poetry is distinguished by three main features:
(a) Parallelism of Clauses
(b) Metaphoric and figurative language
(c) Lack of Narrative structure

(2) Genesis 1 is most closely related to Narrative.

Hebrew narrative is distinguished by:
(a) the conjunctive WAW to coordinate clauses
(b) Lack of figurative and metaphoric language
(c) lack of repetative parallelism.

(3) Genesis 1 has minor literary and poetic features.

(a) Delayed Parallelism of phrase regarding 'night and day'.
(b) Title and summary statements at the beginning and end of divisions.
(c) Genesis 1 reads as a structured narrative to a Hebrew reader.

(4) The Uniqueness of Genesis 1 is based on structure and content.

Unique features include:
(a) The content and topical focus is unique: i.e., Creation
(b) The narrative unfolds in 7 'days'.
(c) It contains literary forms common for AME documents and tablets.

(5) Genesis 1 presents primarily as a historical and descriptive document.

(6) Genesis 1 has no overt allegorical or parable-like features.

(7) Genesis 1 was in its earliest history interpreted literally (Exod 20:11, 31:17)

(8) Some Key Logical/scientific questions concerning the sequence
and order of events in Genesis 1 are non-existent.

(a) No Contradiction with Science having Light on 1st Day, the Sun on 4th Day.

If we check any scientific account of the Origin of the universe,
its obvious we have the creation of energy and light before
any stars including the Sun were formed.
Genesis has the order correct.

(b) No Contradiction with Science in having Light and Dark cycles prior to the Sun.

If the Light/Dark cycles were describing those we experience on earth, then
both the earth and the sun would have to exist. Since the narrator knows
in advance that neither have been created, the Light/Dark cycles described
cannot be intended as descriptions of what an observer on earth would experience.
Its a false contradiction, since what is described is not what takes place on earth.

(c) No Contradiction with Science in regard to the length of time for first 3 days.

Popular scientific theories like the Big Bang pose that drastic changes occurred
in the very short time-span of seconds and minutes in regard to the formation of
the universe. While the events do not correspond closely between Genesis 1 and
modern hypotheses, the modern hypotheses are speculative and allow for free energy
and light to appear within 24 hours of creation.

(d) No Contradiction with Science on relative age of Earth and Moon on Day 4.

Astrophysicists agree that the rough age of both the earth and moon are the same.
The only remaining issue is the interpretation of the overall length of time
between the creation of both and the present.

(e) No Contradiction with Palaeobiology on the Order of species creation.

The geographical record suggests that plants existed before animals,
and that sea creatures formed before land animals, and that birds (dinosaurs)
formed before mammals, with man coming late.

Biological science agrees that plants had to come before animals.
Palaeontology agrees that land animals came after sea creatures,
birds predate mammals, and man came last.

Given that the the Genesis account is so brief,
the only issue remaining is the actual
assigned time-periods between events.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Daniel (Pt 19): The Four Empires - more Details

We can be very satisfied that there were indeed Four Empires,
and that Daniel was indeed talking about them.

Secular records and non-Biblical historians of all ages will confirm the most basic and important details about each Empire and Era.

Thus it is appropriate to condense our chart and also add the main events
to the timeline on the right-hand side for reference and confirmation:

Again, we will provide a large and a small version for re-posting.

Smaller version:

Gospel of Barnabas: Medieval Muslim Forgery

Here are some exerpts from a booklet examining the question of
the authenticity of the so-called Gospel of Barnabas.

It exists in Italian and Spanish, and has been translated into English, and Arabic.

It has been circulated widely in the Muslim world, particularly in places
like Pakistan and India, where copies are printed.

It is claimed to be "the original gospel", but like so many others,
is a lame forgery, by a Medieval muslim, probably a Spanish Moor.

What Muslims don't know, but should be aware of, is that it not only
contradicts the New Testament and Old Testament, but also the Quran!

Barnabas Preaches against Paul:
The author of this book uses strong language to denounce the teaching of Paul in particular, especially regarding circumcision; the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus; and the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The whole book abounds in discourses levelled against those things which the author particularly takes Paul to task for, and there can be no doubt that the author of this book is poles apart from Paul and his doctrine and is diametrically opposed to his preaching and teaching.
There is such a contrast between the real Barnabas who through all these events chooses Paul as his companion, and the pseudo-author of the Gospel of Barnabas, who has a positive antagonism to Paul and his teaching, that we cannot help but conclude that the Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery. It was not written by Barnabas but by someone else who made a major tactical blunder in choosing a close companion of Paul as the author of this book.

Barnabas is made into an Apostle:

Here the author of the Gospel of Barnabas makes his first serious blunder for he suggests throughout his book, not only that Barnabas was actually one of the twelve disciples of Jesus during his ministry on earth, but also that he was known by this name “Barnabas” throughout that period of ministry. On more than one occasion in the book we find that Jesus allegedly addressed him by name and the first occasion, which comes particularly early in the book, is this one:
Jesus answered: ‘Be not sore grieved, Barnabas; for those whom God hath chosen before the creation of the world shall not perish’ (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.21).
Now we have here a patent anachronism which destroys the possibility that this book was really written by the Apostle Barnabas. The apostles only gave him the name “Barnabas” (Son of encouragement) after the ascension of Jesus because of the generous act he had done which had heartened the spirits of the early Christians. But the Gospel of Barnabas makes Jesus call him by this name some three years before he ascended to heaven.

Barnabas makes Circumcision Necessary for Salvation:

in the Gospel of Barnabas, we read that one of the “impious doctrines” that Paul was holding to was repudiation of circumcision. That he repudiated it as an essential element of salvation we will readily concede (Galatians 5. 2-6) – but his chief partner in this repudiation is none other than Barnabas! Once again the author has blundered in making Barnabas the author of his deplorable forgery. Indeed, according to the Gospel of Barnabas, Jesus is alleged to have said to his disciples:

‘Leave fear to him that hath not circumcised his foreskin, for he is deprived of paradise’ (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.26).
Thus circumcision is an essential element and a prerequisite of salvation in the Gospel of Barnabas and the author obviously assents to this doctrine. But of the real Barnabas we read that he joined with Paul in furiously debating against the doctrine of the Judaisers that circumcision was necessary for salvation.

Barnabas doesn't know what "Christ" means:
Two points from within the Gospel of Barnabas also show that the author could not be the real Apostle Barnabas.

Firstly, this book makes Jesus constantly deny that he is the Messiah ...and yet the same book calls Jesus himself the “Christ” (p.2). Now any man with a basic knowledge of Greek knows that “Christos” is the Greek translation of Messiah (a Hebrew word) and that “Jesus Christ” is an anglicised form of the Greek “Iesous Christos”, meaning “Jesus the Messiah”. The very real contradiction that exists here in the Gospel of Barnabas is further evidence that the author was not Barnabas himself. He came from Cyprus, an island where Greek was the common tongue, and Greek would have been his home language. The real Barnabas would never have made such a mistake as to call Jesus the Christ and deny that he was the Messiah!

Barnabas doesn't know the Quran endorses John
the Baptist:

Secondly, the author ...has deviously taken the testimony of John to Jesus in the Bible and changed it into a supposed testimony of Jesus to Muhammad. Whether Jesus ever predicted the coming of Muhammad or not is not at issue here. What is obvious, however, to anyone who has read the life of Jesus in the Bible, is that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas has tried to make Jesus a herald of the coming of Muhammad in the very mould of John the Baptist who was a herald of the coming of Jesus, and to achieve this he has put Jesus in the shoes of John and has made him say of Muhammad what John really said of him!
Accordingly the author has had to omit the person and ministry of John from his book altogether. But there is clear and plain endorsement in the Qur’an of the ministry of John the Baptist as a herald of Jesus (Surah 3.39)

Medieval Origin of Gospel of Barnabas:

(a) Barnabas mistakes Jubilee of Pope Boniface (c. 1300 AD) for Jewish Jubilee:

A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you. Lev. 25.11
About 1300 AD Pope Boniface the Eighth gave a decree that the jubilee should be observed once every hundred years. This is the only occasion in all history that the jubilee year was made to be only once every hundred years. After the death of Boniface, however, Pope Clemens the Sixth decreed in 1343 AD that the jubilee year should revert to once every fifty years as it was observed by the Jews after the time of Moses. Now we find in the Gospel of Barnabas that Jesus is alleged to have said:
‘And then through all the world will God be worshipped, and mercy received, insomuch that the year of jubilee, which now cometh every hundred years, shall by the Messiah be reduced to every year in every place.’ (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.104).
The author of the Gospel of Barnabas could only have quoted Jesus as speaking of the year of jubilee as coming “every hundred years” if he knew of the decree of Pope Boniface. This is a clear anachronism.

(b) Quotations from Dante.

Dante was an Italian who, significantly, also lived about the time of Pope Boniface and wrote his famous “Divina Comedia” in the fourteenth century. This was basically a fantasy about hell, purgatory and paradise according to the Roman Catholic beliefs of his times.
Now in the Gospel of Barnabas we read that Jesus allegedly said of the prophets of old:
‘Readily and with gladness they went to their death, so as not to offend against the law of God given by Moses his servant, and go and serve false and lying gods’. (Gospel of Barnabas, p.27).
The expression “false and lying gods” (dei falsi e lugiardi) is found elsewhere in the Gospel of Barnabas as well. On one occasion it is Jesus again who supposedly uses these words (p.99) and on another it is the author himself who describes Herod as serving “false and lying gods” (p.267). Nevertheless this expression is found in neither the Bible nor the Qur’an.What is interesting, however, is that it is a direct quote from Dante! (Inferno 1.72).

Likewise the expression “raging hunger” (rabbiosa fame) is also reminiscent of the first canto of Dante’s Inferno. Both speak of the “circles of hell” and the author of the Gospel of Barnabas also makes Jesus say to Peter:
‘Know ye therefore that hell is one, yet hath seven centres one below another. Hence, even as sin is of seven kinds, for as seven gates of hell hath Satan generated it: so there are seven punishments therein’. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.171).
This is precisely Dante’s description found in the fifth and sixth cantos of his Inferno. We could go on and quote many more examples

One striking quote must be mentioned, however, because in this case the Gospel of Barnabas agrees with Dante while contradicting the Qur’an. We read in the Qur’an that there are seven heavens:
He it is who created for you all that is in the earth. Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens. (Surah 2.29)
On the contrary we read in the Gospel of Barnabas that there are nine heavens and that Paradise like Dante’s Empyrean – is the tenth heaven above all the other nine. The author of the Gospel of Barnabas makes Jesus say:
‘Paradise is so great that no man can measure it. Verily I say unto thee that the heavens are nine … I say to thee that paradise is greater than all the earth and all the heavens together’. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.223).

(c) The Mediaeval Environment of the Barnabas Gospel:

Again we read in the Gospel of Barnabas that Martha, her sister Mary, and her brother Lazarus were the overlords of two towns, Magdala and Bethany (GB, p.242). This proprietorship of villages and towns belongs to the Middle Ages when the system of feudalism was rooted in European society. Certainly no such practice was known at the time of Jesus when the occupying Roman forces controlled most of the land of Palestine.
A similar example of the mediaeval environment of this Gospel is the reference in it to wine casks (p.196), for wine was stored in skins in Palestine (Matthew 9.17) while wooden casks were used in Europe in the Middle Ages.

It does well appear to be a forgery of the Middle Ages written by a Muslim who, probably frustrated at being unable to prove that the true Gospels in the Bible are corrupted, wrote a false Gospel.

Ignorance of Palestinian Geography:
Having arrived at the city of Nazareth the sea-men spread through the city all that Jesus had wrought. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.23).
In this passage Nazareth is represented as a coastal city, a harbour on the lake of Galilee. After this we read that Jesus “went up to Capernaum” (p.23) from Nazareth, as though Capernaum was in the hillside near the sea of Galilee. But ... Capernaum was the coastal city and Nazareth is believed to be up in the hills, if it indeed existed in the time of Jesus.

Barnabas contradicts Quran about the Jesus as Messiah:

Jesus confessed and said the truth: ‘I am not the Messiah … I am indeed sent to the house of Israel as a prophet of salvation; but after me shall come the Messiah’. (The Gospel of Barnabas, pp.54, 104).
Other passages in the Gospel of Barnabas contain similar denials by Jesus that he was the Messiah. It is clearly one of the express purposes of this book to establish Muhammad as the Messiah and to subject Jesus to him in dignity and authority. Here, however, the author of this book has overreached himself in his zeal for the cause of Islam.

For the Qur’an plainly admits that Jesus is the Messiah on numerous occasions and in doing so it confirms the teaching of Jesus himself that he was indeed the Messiah (John 4.26, Matthew 16.20). One quote from the Qur’an will suffice to prove this:
‘O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter’. - (Surah 3.45)

Barnabas Contradicts the Quran on the Virgin Birth:
The virgin was surrounded by a light exceeding bright and brought forth her son without pain. (The Gospel of Barnabas, p.5).
This is a clear repetition of Roman Catholic beliefs of the Middle Ages. The bright light and the painless birth find parallels in the beliefs about the Virgin Mary in the churches of Europe in Mediaeval times. No such details are found in the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus but the Qur’an directly contradicts the Gospel of Barnabas when it says:
And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. - (Surah 19.23)
The Gospel of Barnabas was obviously written as an ideal “Islamic” Gospel, setting forth a life of Christ in which he is made to be the Isa of the Qur’an rather than the Lord Jesus Christ of the Christian Gospels. But since it so hopelessly contradicts both the Qur’an and the Bible on the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and does this so often and so consistently, it must be rejected as a forgery by Christian and Muslim alike. There is no room here for apologetics or efforts to reconcile this book with the Qur’an or the Bible.

It is a (Medieval) counterfeit.


What Should Muslims Do?

...this book is truly a “bare-faced forgery” as George Sale so succinctly put it but the evidence given [here] should be sufficient to convince any reasonable Muslim that, while he might feel it would be very useful for a Gospel to be discovered wherein Jesus foretells the coming of Muhammad, the Gospel of Barnabas just does not provide him with the honest evidence he needs.

Muslim interest in this book is understandable but, in the name of truth and honesty, the Muslims of the world should admit that it is not a book contemporary with the life of Jesus, which proves that he really was the Isa of the Qur’an, but rather a lamentable forgery which, far from promoting the cause of Islam, must ultimately damage it if foolish men continue to propagate it as a true account of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.