Qur’an 23: The Faithful

The twenty-third chapter of the Qur’an, The Faithful, re-iterates the attacks on the Catholic episcopacy in “Mary” and deepens themes found in “The Pilgrimage” (which still seems like it should be ordered as the last chapter). “The Faithful” is explicitly addressed to a population, that believes in God, that worships ‘gods,’ that believes there is some-kind of promise of salvation, but that it is unavailable to them. The Qur’an urges followers to repent directly to God, and go on a journey toward faith.

Noah speaks, and a new creation waits to be born. # Readings

A Reading, from the First Book of Enoch:

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ Then swore they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And these are the names of their leaders: Samlazaz, their leader, Araklba, Rameel, Kokablel, Tamlel, Ramlel, Danel, Ezeqeel, Baraqijal, Asael, Armaros, Batarel, Ananel, Zaq1el, Samsapeel, Satarel, Turel, Jomjael, Sariel. These are their chiefs of tens.
1 Enoch 6:1-8

A Psalm, from the Psalms

Then they despised the pleasant land;
They did not believe His word,
But complained in their tents,
And did not heed the voice of the LORD.
Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them,
To overthrow them in the wilderness,
To overthrow their descendants among the nations,
And to scatter them in the lands.

They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor,
And ate sacrifices made to the dead.
Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds,
And the plague broke out among them.
Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
And the plague was stopped.
And that was accounted to him for righteousness
To all generations forevermore.
Psalms 106:24-31

A Reading, from the Book of Jude:

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ…

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Jude 4,12-15

Alleluia, Alleluia

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Hebrews 7:27

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

And it came to pass on the third day of their journey, while they were walking, that the blessed Mary was fatigued by the excessive heat of the sun in the desert; and seeing a palm tree, she said to Joseph: Let me rest a little under the shade of this tree. Joseph therefore made haste, and led her to the palm, and made her come down from her beast.

And as the blessed Mary was sitting there, she looked up to the foliage of the palm, and saw it full of fruit, and said to Joseph: I wish it were possible to get some of the fruit of this palm. And Joseph said to her: I wonder that you say this, when you see how high the palm tree is; and that you think of eating of its fruit. I am thinking more of the want of water, because the skins are now empty, and we have none wherewith to refresh ourselves and our cattle.

Then the child Jesus, with a joyful countenance, reposing in the bosom of His mother, said to the palm: O tree, bend your branches, and refresh my mother with your fruit.

And immediately at these words the palm bent its top down to the very feet of the blessed Mary; and they gathered from it fruit, with which they were all refreshed. And after they had gathered all its fruit, it remained bent down, waiting the order to rise from Him who had commanded it to stoop.

Then Jesus said to it: Raise yourself, O palm tree, and be strong, and be the companion of my trees, which are in the paradise of my Father; and open from your roots a vein of water which has been hid in the earth, and let the waters flow, so that we may be satisfied from you.

And it rose up immediately, and at its root there began to come forth a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling. And when they saw the spring of water, they rejoiced with great joy, and were satisfied, themselves and all their cattle and their beasts. Wherefore they gave thanks to God.
Pseudo-Matthew 20

Communion Antiphon

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus
1 Timothy 2:5

A Qur’anic Homily

The Audience of the Qur’an

The Qur’an was written to a population that believed in God, was familiar with the Bible, were tempted by other ‘gods,’ and thought that death was the end.

They believed in God

Say, To whom does the earth and whoever it contains belong, if you know? They will say, ‘To God!’ Say, ‘Will you not then take admonition?

Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the Seven Heavens and the Lord of the Great Throne? They will say, ‘To God!’ Say, ‘Will you not then be wary of him? ‘

Say, ‘In whose hand is the dominion of all things, and who gives shelter and no shelter can be provided form Him, if you know?’ They will say, ‘To God!” Say, ‘Then how are you being deluded?’
Qur’an 23:84-89

Were familiar with the Bible:

Certainly We created man from an extract of clay.

Then we made him a drop of fluid in a secure abode.

Then We created the drop of fluid as a clinging mass.

Then We created the clinging mass as a fleshy tissue.

Then We created the fleshy tissue as bones.

Then We Clothed the bones with flesh.

Then We produced him as another creature.

So blessed is God, the best of creators!

Then, of course, you die after that.

Then you will indeed be raised up on the Day of Resurrection.
Qur’an 23:12-16

Were tempted by other gods:

We have indeed brought them the Truth and they are surely liars. God has not taken any offspring, neither is there any god besides Him, for then each god would take away what he created, and some of them would surely rise up against others. Clear is God of what they allege! The Knower of the sensible and the Unseen, He is above having any partners that they ascribe.
Qur’an 23:90-92

And believed death was the end:

Indeed, they say, just like what the former peoples said. They said, ‘What, when we are dead and become dust and bones, shall we be resurrected? Certainly we and our fathers were promised this before. These are nothing but myths of the ancients.
Qur’an 23:81-83

The reason, I believe, was the Qur’an was written to a Catholic population in the thrall of a forged document that borders on the heretical: the so-called Constitution of the Holy Apostles. This forged Constitution reflected the belief that the Bishops mediated the relationship between God and man, and the Old Testament Priests pointed, not towards Christ, but beyond him to the Bishops.

The bishop, is the minister of the word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God and you in the several parts of the worship. He is the teacher of piety; and, next after God, he is your father, who has begotten you again to the adoption of sons by water and the Spirit. He is your ruler and governor; he is your king and potentate. he is, next after God, your earthly God, who has a right to be honored by you. For concerning him, amid such as he, it is that God pronounces: “I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are all children of the Most High.”
Constitution of the Twelve apostles II.IV.XXIV

The Bishops, the successors of the Twelve Apostles, are directly addressed by the Qur’anic author. Their actions are known by God, no matter what these “gods” do:

O Apostles! Eat of the good things and act righteously. I indeed know well what you do. This community of yours is indeed one community and I am your Lord, so be wary of Me.

But they fragmented their religion among themselves, each party boasting about what it had.
Qur’an 23:51-53

The Penitential Act

Like “Mary,” “the Faithful” contrasts the corruption of Bishops with the purity of Mary and her Son:

Certainly We gave Moses the Book so that they might be guided, and We made the Son of Mary and His mother a sign and sheltered them in a level highland with flowing water.
Qur’an 23:49-50

But while “Mary” is a sustained attack on the episcopacy, “The Faithful” has sustained sympathy for the community of believers. Those who follow the various Catholic creeds containing “We believe,” are welcomed in, and all who ask for the forgiveness of sins:

Indeed, there was a part of My servants who would say, ‘Our Lord! We have believed. SO forgive us and have mercy on us, and You are the best of merciful..’ But you took them by ridicule until they made you forget My remembrance and you used to lough at them. Indeed, I have rewarded them today for their patience. They are indeed the triumphant.
Qur’an 23:109-111

This is important because of the practice, ordered by Bishops at the time, of giving the Sacrament of Reconciliation only once or twice per lifetime. Those who mortally sinned after a the second reconciliation would be in grave danger of dying in mortal sin, and of losing an eternal reward. The Qur’anic author rejects this, and teachers instead to pray directly to God for forgiveness.

Say, ‘My Lord, forgive and have mercy, and You are the best of the merciful.’
Qur’an 23:118

The Journey of the Faithful

The Qur’anic author describes the faithful as on a journey, away from a corrupt world and towards God. In the preceding chapter, “The Pimgrimage,” the shocking destination of that journey (to a wholly new system of sacraments) is revealed. But that chapter may have originally been intended to be the Qur’an’s final chapter. In any case, the journey here is presented in more familiar terms:

Noah, fleeing a world, about to the drowned in water:

So We revealed to him: ‘Build the ark before Our eyes and by Our revelation. When Our edict comes and the oven gushes, bringing into it a pair of every kind, and your family, except those of them against whom the decree has gone beforehand, and do not plead with Me for those who are wrongdoers: they shall indeed be drowned.
Qur’an 23:27

(The infernal characterization of the flood comes from Jewish exegesis, which the Qur’anic author has incorporated before)

R. Johanan said: The corruption of the generation of the Flood is characterized as great, and their punishment is characterized as great. Their corruption is characterized as great, as it is written, And God saw that the wickedness of man, was great in the earth;2 and their punishment is characterized as great, as it is written, All the fountains of the great deep. R. Johanan said: Three of those [hot fountains] were left, the gulf of Gaddor, the hot-springs of Tiberias, and the great well of Biram.
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 108b

The believer suffers in an unbelieving community, as have countless others before.

When We seize their affluent ones with punishment, behold, they make entreaties. ‘Do not make entreaties today! You will not receive any help from Us. Certainly My signs used to be recited to you, but you used to take to your heels, being disdainful of it, talking nonsense in your nightly sessions.
Qur’an 23:64-67

But remain steadfast, urges the Qur’anic author. When The Truth walked among men he did not serve the religious authorities by obeying them, but by obeying the true religious authority: God:

Had the Truth followed their desires, the heavens and the earth would have surely fallen apart with those who are in them. We have indeed brought them their reminder, but they are disregardful of their reminder.
Qur’an 23:71

And even the Apostle Paul wrote words that to all who reject the Donatist view of Bishops-as-Gods are important: bishops cannot be mediators because there is One Mediator, Jesus himself, the Word (or in the Qur’anic view, a Word in the Book)

Is it that they do not recognize their apostle, so they deny him? Do they say, ‘There is madness in him’? No, he has brought them the truth, and most of them are averse to the truth.
Qur’an 23:68-70

The “rebellion” of those bishops who have taken to calling themselves gods is like the rebellion of those false teachers. The fallen angels, the false teachers, the blaspheming bishops are malignant cancer.

Should We have mercy upon them and remove their distress, they would surely persist, bewildered in their rebellion.
Qur’an 23:75

But it is God, and not they, who will prevail.

When the Trumpet is blown, there will be no ties between them on that day, nor will they ask each other.
Qur’an 23:101

Conclusion

God, the Qur’anic author believes, urges men to repentance, and makes it available to them without an intermediary. There are in creation all sorts of creatures who would aggrandize themselves, and present themselves as “gods.” Indeed, one famous forgery even labeled bishop as such. But God does not tire of creation. God gives us all individually time to repent, and will wash creation of those who continue in their evil.

God is not tired of creation. For a while, he will let it continue to flourish.

Then after them We brought forth another generation.
Qur’an 23:31

Until the Trumpet blows. Then everything changes.

Impressions “The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency,” by Annie Jacobsen

This is not the book I thought it was.

Annie Jacobsen is an amazing writer, and is great in this book. I loved her history of Area 51, which focused primarily on the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, and Air Force research projects that took place in Nevada. I assumed a major focus would be the creation of the Arpanet, the immediate predecessor to the internet, and Arpanet Terminals, like what Steve Wozniak used before co-founding Apple.

Nope!

Instead, Pentagon’s Brain is about DARPA’s major generation of research projects, focusing on hard sciences (nuclear war), then social sciences (brainwashing), then hard science (in Vietnam), then social sciences (also Vietnam), then hard sciences (“network centric warfare”), then social sciences (“counter-insurgency”). Throughout the book “ARPA” (Advanced Research Project Agency) and DAPRA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) refer to the same organization. ARPA/DARPA’s was done within the context of changing Secretaries of Defense, slower changing professional, social, contractor circles in and around DARPA, all-in the context of pre-need research for the military.

The beginning section is very similar to Jacobsen’s Area 51, as both the need for “pre-need military research” (like ARPA) and “Advanced Research and Development” (like Area 51) had its origins in the early Cold War and the emergence of nuclear weapons. In Area 51, Jacobsen uses the Roswell crash as a framing device for the levels of misinformation, secrecy, and confusion that surrounded the test site. Pentagon’s Brain almost has a similar framing device — the traumatic brain injury of Allen Macey Douglas, Jr.. Allen’s injuries prevented him from forming new memories of any technology described in this book. They also are the introduction of brain science into ARPA’s research, including research on brainwashing and “Manchurian candidates.”

The back-and-forth between hard and social sciences at times become humorous, as no one appears to remember that previous cycles even existed. One memorandum cited by Jacobsen, from early the Iraq Occupation, contains word-for-word similarities with another, from the Vietnam era. Both emphasized the need to introduce social sciences into the war effort for the first time.

I found it interesting how in some ways the 1991 Gulf War (and then 2003-Iraq Occupation) was a continuation of the Vietnam War. Drone warfare, C4ISR (as part of the McNamara Line), laser guided bombs, and more debuted in Vietnam with ARPA funding. In the case of laser guided bombs a bridge which the Vietnamese ad successful defended for years was destroyed in the waning days of the war. One wonders if the war against North Vietnam could have been won as easily as the war against Saddam Hussein.

The concluding section of Pentagon’s brain discusses Network Centric Warfare, which (at the time) was a focus of this blog. My 2005 posts on “Network-Centric Policing” and Network-Centric Politics* are attempted applications of the concept to other domains. In those early posts I contrasted Network Centric Warfare with “4GW,” Counter-insurgency, and related concepts (see posts from May 8, June 26, and June 30 especially make this point). Annie Jacobsen seems to agree, as her sharpest commentary is to a Pentagon apparatchik who tried to blur these lines as the Iraqi insurgency proved immune to Network-Centric operations.

Much of The Pentagon’s Brain is terrifying. The details of “Civil Defense” are nightmarish, and far worse than described in bleak films of a nuclear war, such as [Threads](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threads_(1984_film). Likewise, the expectations for what a germ war would look like (including the widespread use of a RNA human retrovirus, and a follow-on triggering agent) were unexpectedly relevant during the Wuhan virus outbreak. It is in this context that Jacobsen describes the widespread infection of humans of SV-40 during the Polio vaccination. As Jacobsen outlined the stages of a viral attack, I recognized that the widespread mockery without investigation of Dr. Judy Mikovitz was misplaced, if not skepticism of her specific claims.

Pentagon’s brain is very well written. BBN, SAIC, the Jason group, and many others in ARPA’s orbit are described. But I really wish more was shared about the origins of the internet! ARPA research is central part of our economy, and the story of the ARPAnet and the Internet is barely described in this book. There’s plenty of cool stuff about robots and cyborgs in the book, though.

I read The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency in the Audible edition.

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

Recently I read the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, in the translation by Alexander Roberts, Ian Donaldson, and Cleveland Coze. It is an “infancy narrative,” purporting like the Protoevangelium of James to tell stories that occur during the youths of Mary and Jesus. Protoevangelium takes itself seriously, was written at an early time, and speaks to the depths of the human experience

Then, Joachim was extremely frustrated and did not appear to his wife, but gave himself to the desert and pitched his tent there. He fasted forty days and forty nights. All the while, Joachim was saying to himself, “I will not go down for food or drink until the Lord my God visits me; prayer will be my food and drink.”

Then, his wife Anna mourned and lamented,

“I lament that I am a widow and I lament that I am childless.”
Protoevangelium 1:9-2:1

Pseudo-Matthew — doesn’t:

And having come to a certain cave, and wishing to rest in it, the blessed Mary dismounted from her beast, and sat down with the child Jesus in her bosom. And there were with Joseph three boys, and with Mary a girl, going on the journey along with them. And, lo, suddenly there came forth from the cave many dragons; and when the children saw them, they cried out in great terror. Then Jesus went down from the bosom of His mother, and stood on His feet before the dragons; and they adored Jesus, and thereafter retired. Then was fulfilled that which was said by David the prophet, saying: Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons; ye dragons, and all ye deeps. And the young child Jesus, walking before them, commanded them to hurt no man. But Mary and Joseph were very much afraid lest the child should be hurt by the dragons.

And Jesus said to them: Do not be afraid, and do not consider me to be a little child; for I am and always have been perfect; and all the beasts of the forest must needs be tame before me. Pseudo-Matthew 18

And it’s not just the cool adventures of dragons and lions and such, but even in the introduction by “Jerome” where the author is assured that this book is not canonical:

An arduous task is enjoined upon me, since what your Blessedness has commanded me, the holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew himself did not write for the purpose of publishing. For if he had not done it somewhat secretly, he would have added it also to his Gospel which he published. But he composed this book in Hebrew; and so little did he publish it, that at this day the book written in Hebrew by his own hand is in the possession of very religious men, to whom in successive periods of time it has been handed down by those that were before them. And this book they never at any time gave to any one to translate.
Pseudo-Matthew: “Reply to Their Letter by Jerome”

Later in the “introduction,” it’s made explicit that the story is doubtful, but at least it contains nothing harmful. Pseudo-Matthew is the King of Kings or Greatest Story Ever Told is the early middle Ages:

Whether this be true or not, I leave to the author of the preface and the trustworthiness of the writer: as for myself, I pronounce them doubtful; I do not affirm that they are clearly false. But this I say freely—and I think none of the faithful will deny it—that, whether these stories be true or inventions, the sacred nativity of St. Mary was preceded by great miracles, and succeeded by the greatest; and so by those who believe that God can do these things, they can be believed and read without damaging their faith or imperiling their souls.
Pseudo-Matthew: “Reply to Their Letter by Jerome”

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is Christian fan fiction, maybe to a heretical extent, but in dong so emphasizes the importance of Mary as an mediatrix between sinners and Jesus. Pseudo-Matthew is also referenced in the Qur’an, in its chapter on Mary.

Cool Fan Fiction

There’s lots of cool stuff that one would expect from Christian fan fic.

Jesus creates birds from clay.

And it came to pass, after these things, that in the sight of all Jesus took clay froth the pools which He had made, and of it made twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when Jesus did this, and there were very many children with Him. When, therefore, one of the Jews had seen Him doing this, he said to Joseph: Joseph, dost thou not see the child

Jesus working on the Sabbath at what it is not lawful for him to do? for he has made twelve sparrows of clay.
Pseudo-Matthew 27

Mary was teased as a teenager, and her living arrangement with Joseph early on sounds like a sitcom:

Then Joseph received Mary, with the other five virgins who were to be with her in Joseph’s house. These virgins were Rebecca, Sephora, Susanna, Abigea, and Cael; to whom the high priest gave the silk, and the blue, and the fine linen, and the scarlet, and the purple, and the fine flax. For they cast lots among themselves what each virgin should do, and the purple for the veil of the temple of the Lord fell to the lot of Mary. And when she had got it, those virgins said to her: Since thou art the last, and humble, and younger than all, thou hast deserved to receive and obtain the purple. And thus saying, as it were in words of annoyance, they began to call her queen of virgins. While, however, they were so doing, the angel of the Lord appeared in the midst of them, saying: These words shall not have been uttered by way of annoyance, but prophesied as a prophecy most true. They trembled, therefore, at the sight of the angel, and at his words, and asked her to pardon them, and pray for them.
Pseudo-Matthew 8

Joseph talks!

And Joseph said to the blessed Mary: I have brought thee two midwives–Zelomi and Salome; and they are standing outside before the entrance to the cave, not daring to come in hither, because of the exceeding brightness.
Pseudo-Matthew 13

There’s plenty of fun stuff like that.

The Perfect Son

In the canonical gospel we only have one vignette of Jesus’s life between infancy and being a man, the finding in the Temple:

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
[Luke](http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2015/08/19/the-gospel-of-luke.html 2:41-52

Recently, Pope Francis was attacked by some Catholics for saying Jesus was corrected by Joseph and Mary when he was young:

At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51). This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families. A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience. We know what Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little “escapade”, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience. Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience.
Pope Francis, “Holy Mass for Families, 2015

Some corners of the Catholic Internet were not impressed., and cited other Catholic thinkers, like the founder of the Redemptorists:

It is certain that, to a soul which loves God, there can be no greater pain than the fear of having displeased Him. Therefore in this sorrow alone did Mary complain, lovingly expostulating with Jesus, after she had found Him: “Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing” [Lk 2:48]. By these words, she had no idea of reproving Jesus, as heretics blasphemously assert, but only meant to express to Him the grief proceeding from the greatest love she bore Him, which she had experienced during His absence: ‘It was not a rebuke,’ says Denis the Carthusian, ‘but a loving complaint.’
St. Alphonsus Liguori, “The Glories of Mary

Here the author of Pseudo-Matthew would agree with St. Liguori over Pope Francis. In The Boy-God corrects (six years before being found in the Temple! at age six!) his teachers:

And the master Levi said one letter to Jesus, and, beginning from the first letter Aleph, said to Him: Answer.

But Jesus was silent, and answered nothing.

Wherefore the preceptor Levi was angry, and seized his storax-tree road, and struck Him on the head.

And Jesus said to the teacher Levi, “Why dost thou strike me? Thou shalt know in truth, that He who is struck can teach him who strikes Him more than He can be taught by him. For I can reach you those very things that you are saying. But all these are blind who speak and hear, like sounding brass or tinkling cymbal, in which there is no perception of those things which are meant by their sound.”

And Jesus in addition said to Zachyas, “Every letter from Aleph even to Thet is known by its arrangement. Say thou first, therefore, what Thet is, and I will tell you what Aleph is.”

And Jesus said to them, “Those who do not know Aleph, how can they say Thet, the hypocrites? Tell me what the first one, Aleph, is; and I shall then believe you when you have said Beth.”
Pseudo-Matthew 31

and is declared to be unlike a human being — the closest this document comes to heresy, bordering on docetism, the heresy that Jesus was “truly” God but not “truly” man.

I tell you of certainty, I am not lying, that to my eyes the proceedings of this boy, the commencement of his conversation, and the upshot of his intentions, seem to have nothing in common with mortal man. Here I do not know whether he be a wizard or a god; or at least an angel of God speaks in him. Whence he is, or where he comes from, or who he will turn out to be, I know not.
Pseudo-Matthew 31

The Intercession of Mary

The lack of the young Jesus’ familiarity with human experience in Pseudo-Matthew makes Mary more important as an intercessor. For instance, in one episode the young Jesus strikes down another for meddling in his work:

And it came to pass, after Jesus had returned out of Egypt, when He was in Galilee, and entering on the fourth year of His age, that on a Sabbath-day He was playing with some children at the bed of the Jordan. And as He sat there, Jesus made to Himself seven pools of clay, and to each of them He made passages, through which at His command He brought water from the torrent into the pool, and took it back again. Then one of those children, a son of the devil, moved with envy, shut the passages which supplied the pools of water, and overthrew what Jesus had built up.

Then Jesus said to him, “Woe unto thee, thou son of death, thou son of Satan! Dost thou destroy the works which I have wrought?”

And immediately he who had done this died.

Then with a great uproar the parents of the dead boy cried out against Mary and Joseph, saying to them: “Your son has cursed our son, and he is dead!”

And when Joseph and Mary heard this, they came forthwith to Jesus, on account of the outcry of the parents of the boy, and gathering together of the Jews.
Pseudo-Matthew 26

It is Joseph and Mary who has a passion, a passivity, in the face of this chaos:

But Joseph said privately to Mary, “I dare not speak to Him; but do thou admonish Him, and say, ‘Why has Thou raised against us the hatred of the people, and why must the troublesome hatred of men be borne by us?'” Pseudo-Matthew 26

And Mary intercedes for the woe-begotten youth with Jesus:

Then His mother asked Him, saying: “Do not so, my Lord, because all men rise up against us.” But He, not wishing to grieve His mother, with His right foot kicked the hinderparts of the dead boy, and said to him: “Rise, thou son of iniquity, for thou art not worthy to enter into the rest of my Father, because thou didst destroy the works which I had made.”

Then he had had been dead rose up, and went away. And Jesus, by the word of His power, brought water in to the pools by the aqueduct. Pseudo-Matthew 26

Links to the Qur’an

The nineteenth chapter of the Qur’an, “Mary,” includes an episode about a palm tree:

Thus she conceived him, then withdrew with him to a distance place. The birth pangs brought her to the trunk of a date palm. She said, “I wish I had died before this and become a forgotten thing, beyond recall.”

Thereupon he called her from below: “Do not grieve! Your Lord has made a spring to flow at your feet. Shake the trunk of a palm tree, freshly picked dates will drop upon you. Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, “I have indeed vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today.”
Qur’an 19:22-26

While there’s certainly an Old Testament type to this:

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar…

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many.
Ezekiel:47:1,7-10

The episode more clearly reflects the Pseudo-Matthew:

Then the child Jesus, with a joyful countenance, reposing in the bosom of His mother, said to the palm tree, O tree, bend thy branches, and refresh my mother with thy fruit. And immediately at these words the palm bent its top down at the very feet of the blessed Mary; and they gathered from it fruit, with which they were all refreshed. And after they had gathered all its fruit, it remained bent down, waiting the order to rise from Him who had commanded it to stoop.

Then Jesus said to it: Raise thyself, O palm tree, and be strong, and be the companion of my trees, which are in the paradise of my Father ; and open from thy roots a vein of water which has been hid in the earth, and let the waters flow, so that we may be satisfied from thee. And it rose immediately, and at its root there began to come forth a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling.
Pseudo-Matthew 20

The site of this location is at Kithisma, the long-destroyed Church of the Seat of Saint Mary. Built in 456, then a site of joint Christian-Islamic Marian devotion, then a mosque… and possibly the model for the Dome of the Rock.

In this Pseudo-Matthew reminded me of Jubilees, which is also a bridge between Christianity and Islam. Jubilees shares the narrative structure of the Qur’an — Angels telling a Prophet about past events — and Pseudo-Matthew contains some of those novel past events.

Conclusion

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is a popular work of Christian fiction, dating to the early period of the Dark Ages. It is Christian fan fiction. Jesus’ greatness is emphasized (at the expense of his Humanity), His power is emphasized (at the expense of His mercy), and cool tricks are emphasized (at the expense of His discretion). Plenty of well-meaning Christian movies do worse than the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in making the world of the gospels come alive. Think King of Kings, or (erring in a different direction) The Last Temptation of Christ.

Like much of the Qur’an, (the “Night Journey” after the Last Supper, or the Book of Jubilees, or “Ta Ha” about the Golden Calf), Pseudo-Matthew extends the Biblical narrative in ways that aren’t quite Christian. In the Catholic Encyclopedia the full text of Pseudo-Matthew is categorized under “Church Fathers.” I think this is because it provides, like The Shepherd of Hermas, the testimony of what Christians thought Christians were at an earlier time in Church history.

I read The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in the Kindle edition.

Qur’an 22: The Pilgrimage

The twenty-second chapter of the Qur’an, the pilgrimage, marks the journey away from the Christian tradition to a new monotheism of the Arabs. The Magnificat, the Eucharist, and the Sacraments are presented in unrecognizable forms. Prophets are accused to speaking the words of Satan, and this seems to be the explanation for the Prophetess Huldah telling King Josiah he would die in peace, just before he died in war. But, the Qur’anic author comforts, God will still provide ways to know Him, and He will judge all the races and faiths of man.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am severely wounded.
2 Chronicles 35:23

A Reading, from the Second Book of Kings

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her. Then she said to them,

"Thus says the LORD God of Israel,

‘Tell the man who sent you to Me,

"Thus says the LORD:

‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read— because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.’ ” ’

But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, in this manner you shall speak to him,

‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel:

"Concerning the words which you have heard— because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. "Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place."

So they brought back word to the king.
2 Kings 22:1-2,14-20

A Psalm, from the Psalms

All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD.
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
For the kingdom is the LORD’s,
And He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.
Psalms 22:27-29

A Reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike.

Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.

He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Romans 14:5-10

Alleluia, Alleluia

His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.
2 Chronicles 35:24

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Luke

And Mary said:

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.
Luke 1:46-47,54-55

Communion Antiphon

Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and the singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel; and indeed they are written in the Laments.
2 Chronicles 35:25

A Qur’anic Homily

This is not the Magnificat, the magnification of the Lord, you expected

It is not [camels’] flesh or blood that reaches god; rather, it is your piety that reaches Him. Thus has He disposed them for your benefit so that you may magnify God for His guiding you. And give good news to the virtuous.
Qur’an 22:37

This is not the sacrament and Eucharist (thanks-giving) that you know

We have appointed for you the camels as part of God’s sacraments.There is good for you in them. So mention the Name of God over them as they stand, and when they have fallen on their flanks, eat from them and feed the self-contained needy and the mendicant. Thus have We disposed them for your benefit so that you may give thanks.
Qur’an 22:36

There is a reason for this. All immortal things are moved by the Spirit, all things that last are sustained by Him.

The Prophetess and the King

The Lectionary ("Qur’an"), the Gospels, the Psalms, and the Torah are all elaborations of the Book, according to the Qur’anic author. Yet these elaborations, given to human prophets, are necessarily corrupted because of the influence that Satan has on all non-Resurrected flesh:

We did not send any apostle or prophet before you but that when he recited Satan interjected in his recitation. Thereat God nullifies whatever Satan has interjected, and then God confirms His Signs, and God is All-knowing, All-wise. That He may make what Satan has thrown in a test for those in whose hearts is sickness and those whose hearts have hardened. The wrongdoers are indeed steeped in extreme defiance.
Qur’an 22:52-53

This is an explanation for the mysterious case of the Prophetess Huldah and King Josiah, as seen in the readings. The Prophetess, when approached by the High Priest, said the King would die "in peace." Instead, the King was slain by an arrow. What happened here?

One explanation is that the Prophetess did not mean "in peace" like humans mean it – perhaps he died in the peace of God but in the war of man.

Or perhaps the Prophetess had a condition she attached to the prophecy.

Or perhaps the Prophetess was given a contingent picture of the future, which depended on other actions that did not come about.

Or perhaps — and this appears to be the Qur’anic author’s interpretation — her words were corrupted by Satan. By this reading the end of the sentence — "– and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place." is in fact a correction from God, which as intended to replace the problematic part of Huldah’s prophecy, "you shall be gathered to your grave in peace."

This obscure event is a pressing issue for the Qur’anic author. The Qur’an is written after the sunset of the Arian sacrements, and in the shadow of a local church that taught that Bishops were Gods. Whether or not the introduction of these strange new sacraments was intended by the Qur’anic author — or if this chapter is written a lifetime after the rest of the Qur’an — it defends the emergence of new sacraments and new traditions to bring God to a people without holy orders, without Eucharist, and without confession.

The Theology of the Muslim Qur’an

The Qur’anic Author sees God not just as real thing, but even more so as the Real. Thomas Aquinas would agree strongly with the Qur’anic author on this point:

So will it be, because God is the Reality, and what they invoke besides Him is nullity, and because God is the All-exalted, the All-great.
Qur’an 22:62

Beneath God is the Logos, the Book, the passive reason for all things

Do you not know that God knows whatever there is in the heaven and the hearth? Al that is indeed in a Book. That is indeed easy for God.
Qur’an 22:70

Beneath the Book are all things, the Heaven and the Earth. Death is a transition between them, but cannot serve as an escape route from God. Someone who dies in this world angry at God finds himself, in the next, angry at God:

Whoever thinks that God will not help him in this world and the Hereafter, let him stretch a rope to the ceiling and hang himself, and see if his artifice would remove his range.
Qur’an 22:15

Beneath the humans on earth are the the divisions created by God, the elaborations of the Book found in many faiths…

God will indeed judge between the faithful, the Jews, the Sabaeans, the Christians, the Magians, and the polytheists on the Day of Resurrection. God is indeed witness to all things.
Qur’an 22:17

… and in many nations

For every nation We have appointed a rite so that they might mention God’s Name over the livestock He has provided to them.
Qur’an 22:34

God’s Realness is made manifest through the Book, on the earth, in the nations, by the religions, — according to the Qur’anic author — in the Sacraments, which vary according to rite and custom:

That, and whoever venerates the sacraments of God — indeed that arises from the Godwariness of the hearts.
Qur’an 22:32

These sacraments and liturgies are different from the Christian tradition — and perhaps objectionable to many of the community that agreed with earlier portions of the Qur’an. Yet to the Qur’anic author, it is better to state Reality in a different liturgy than (as he accuses the Catholics of doing) proclaim a Nullity with an old liturgy:

For every nation We have appointed rites which they observe; so let them not dispute with you about your religion. And invoke to your Lord. You are indeed on a straight guidance.
Qur’an 22:67

All of God’s promises will hold true, the adoption of these new rites and sacraments (according to the Qur’anic author) does not threaten the promises of God to His people:

They ask you to hasten the punishment, though God will never break His promise. Indeed,a day with your Lord is like a thousand years by your reckoning.
Qur’an 22:47

The Catholic victory over the Arians, the end of Arian apostolic succession, is a crisis for the Qur’anic author. Either his beliefs, or his access to the sacraments, need to be lost forever. The Qur’anic author is gambling his pilgrimage from the sacraments of the church — now abandoned forever — will be rewarded by God for his faithfulness to his creed. The Arian faithful have been expelled from their home. But a hope of a Monotheism-of-an-Undifferentiated-God remains:

— those who were expelled from their home unjustly only because they said, "God is our Lord." Had not God repulsed the people from one another, ruin would have befallen the monasteries, churches, synagogues, and houses of prayer in which God’s Name is much invoked. God will surely help those who help Him. God is indeed all-strong, all-mighty.
Qur’an 22:40

A creed of Arius, now embittered over the years

As persons having pure faith in God, not ascribing partners to Him. Whoever ascribes partners to God is as though he had fallen from a height, then were devoured by cultures, or blown away by the wind, far and wide.
Qur’an 22:31

And now with new rites and sacraments for those who submit to it — for the Muslims:

O you who have faith! Bow down and prostrate yourselves and worship your Lord, and do good, so that you may be felicitous. And wage struggle (jihad) for the sake of God, a strugle which is worthy of Him. he has chosen you and has not placed for you any obstacle in the religion, the faith of your father, Abraham. He named you ‘those who submit’ (muslims) before, and in this, so that the Apostle may be a witness to you, and that you may be witnesses to mankind. So maintain the prayer, give alms (zakat), and hold fast to God. He is your Master — an excellent Master, and an excellent helper.
Qur’an 22:78

Conclusion

The Prophetess Hudah told King Josiah he would be gathered to his grave in peace. He died in war. To the Qur’anic author this is not an abandonment of God, but a sign of Satan’s activity even in the hearts of religious leaders. A similar apostasy came, in the view of the Qur’anic author, was the apostasy of the Christianity community from what he saw as the teaching of the Apostles, of the earliest Fathers, and of Arius.

What remains is a choice: retain the forms of a faith, while accepting a new creed, or accepting new forms, while retaining the oldest Creed. The Qur’anic author urges a new way to follow the Apostles:

So do not supposed that God will break His promise to His apostles. Indeed, God is all-mighty, avenger. The way when the earth is turned into another earth and the heavens, and they are presented before God, the One, the All-paramount — on that day you will see the guilty bound together in chains, their garments made of pitch, and the Fire covering their faces, so that God may regard every soul for what is has earned. God is indeed swift at reckoning.
Qur’an 14:47-51

Follow our father-in-faith, Abraham:

Indeed, Abraham was a nation, obedient to God, a hanif, and he was not a polytheist. Grateful for his blessings, he chose him and guided him to a straight path. We gave him good in this world, and in the Hereafter he will indeed be among the righteous. Therefore, We reveled to you,

"Follow the creed of Abraham, a hanif, who was not a polytheist."
Qur’an 16:120-123

Qur’an 21: The Prophets

The twenty-first chapter of the Qur’an opens with the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist.
Time moves backwards as we meet his father Zechariah, other prophets, and and Tubal-Cain, and finally the moments before Creation. The Holy Spirit gives and we receive. The Holy Spirit overshadows the waters, overshadows Mary, and uses the prophets as mouthpieces. Through the Holy Spirit all things have immortality: the delights of the world will be for the just, but the wicked will see hell burn all the hotter for the creation they perverted.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Genesis 1:2

A Reading, from the Book of Genesis:

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son — Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.

Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.

Then Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!
For I have killed a man for wounding me,
Even a young man for hurting me.
If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
Genesis 4:16-24

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.

For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.

But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Psalms 37:9-11

A reading, from the Second Letter of St Peter:

Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying,

“Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and

the earth
standing out of water
and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished,
being flooded with water.

But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:3-7

Alleluia, Alleluia

Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him.
Ezekiel 38:2

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew

For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
Matthew 14:3-12

Communion Antiphon

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35

A Qur’anic Homily

The Specific: John the Baptist and Herod Antipas

These are the last days. They have been the last days since the interrogation of John the Baptist, in front of the idiot Herod Antipas, whose heart was so set on magic tricks and his eyes on a belly dance that his ears missed the Word of the Spirit.

Mankind’s reckoning has drawn near to them, yet they are disregardful in obliviousness. There does not come to them any new reminder from their Lord but the listen to it as they play around, their hearts set on diversions. The wrongdoers secretly whisper together, “Is this not just a human being like yourselves? Will you give in to magic with open eyes?”

He said, “My Lord knows every word in the heaven and on the earth ,and He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.”

But they said,

“Muddled dreams!”
“He has indeed fabricated it!”
“He is indeed a poet!”
“Let him bring us a sign like those sent to the former generations.”
Qur’an 21:1-5

The way this all began — the way the world was created — certainly was for men like John the Baptist. But not for Herod Antipas, not for the squandering of creation but rather the glorification of God through it. The serpent may bight now, but Christ and His Mother will crush its head.

We did not create the heaven and the earth and whatever is between them for play. Had We desired to take up some diversions We would have taken it up with Ourselves, were We to do. Indeed, We hurl the Truth against falsehood, and it crushes its head, and behold, falsehood vanishes! And woe to you for what you allege.
Qur’an 21:16-18

But let’s think more of Herod Antipas. Yes, he wanted to see magic tricks. Yes, he enjoyed a lap dance. Yes, he was foolish in promises. But — he wanted to hear. And later, he wondered if Jesus could be John, raised from the dead. Herod remembered what people said of the prophets. Even a man as lost as he could still see — dimly — the consequences of the Lord God, of life returned:

Have they taken gods from the earth who raise the dead? Had there been any gods in them other than God, they would surely have fallen apart. Clear is God, the Lord of the Throne, of what they allege.
Qur’an 21:21-22

The Pattern: Zachariah and Tubal-Cain

But the stories of John the Baptist and Herod Antipas are not just of one man executed by another. Consider another pair, separated by thousands of years: the father of John the Baptist and (one might say) the father of Herod Antipas. John’s father was Zachariah, a priest, and a righteous man.

And Zechariah, when he cried out to his Lord, “My Lord! Do not leave me without an heir and You are the best of inheritors.’ So We answered his prayer and gave him John and cured for him his wife. They were indeed active in good works, and they would supplicate Us with eagerness and awe and were humble before Us.
Qur’an 21:89-90

But God’s credit does not end at the gift of a child. He also gave things that are missed. The Qur’anic author gives God credit for the invention of armor, which in the Biblical tradition is associated with Tubal-Cain. Tubal’s name is given to the land of Tubal, governed by Prince Gog of Magog. And as a man, Tubal-Cain was intermediary between the murderer Cain and the murderer Lamech:

We taught him the making of coats of mail for you, to protect you from your violence. Will you then be grateful?
Qur’an 21:80

There’s a pattern here, a pattern of what is good and how man uses it. How man receives the gifts of the Spirit. For the things that protect man cannot save him apart from God:

Do they have gods besides Us to defend them? Neither can they help themselves, nor can they shield from Us. We have indeed provided for them and their fathers until they lived on for long hears. Do they not see how We visited the land diminishing it at its edges? Are they the ones who will prevail?
Qur’an 21:43-44

And no deed done, for God, is without reward

Whoever is faithful and does righteous deeds, his endeavor shall not go unappreciated, and We will indeed record it for him.
Qur’an 21:94

Cain’s lineage is an early split in humanity: there’s an Enoch descended from Cain, and another Enoch who judged angles. Tubal-Cain is removed in bot ancestry and age from Zechariah. But as Jesus wished that we and He could be One as He and the Father are One, to the Qur’anic author reminds us of our common Lord and our common call. Catholics today may[] dare to hope that all may be saved](http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2019/12/31/impressions-of-dare-we-hope-that-all-men-be-saved-with-a-short-discourse-on-hell-by-hans-urs-von-balthasar.html) — the Qur’anic author seemed to, as well.

This community of yours is indeed one community and I am your Lord. So worship Me. They have fragmented their religion among themselves; everyone of them will return to Us.
Qur’an 21:92

The Elemental: The Spirit and the Deep

So see the pattern.

John the Baptist and Herod the Great. The prophet, and he who misused creation. For one, his life on earth was but the earliest part of his glory. For the other, the deeds of the earth are the makings of his torment.

And continue to Zechariah, and Tubal-Cain. Both famous fathers, one of John the Baptist, the other of armor. From God we have the greatness of what they crafted, his family and his ironworks. Zechariah, being faithful to God, sees the lasting legacy be something he intended. Tubal-Cain sees the kind parts of his invention remembered, while the cruelties have no life of their own.

This pattern extends beyond the material world. John baptized with water, the symbol of chaos, the thing over which the Spirit of God hovered at Creation:

Have the faithless not regarded the heavens and the earth were interwoven and We unraveled them, and We made every living thing out of water? Will they not then have faith?
Qur’an 21:30

The Spirit of God, who also overshadowed Mary:

And her who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and made her and her Son a sign for all the nations.
Qur’an 21:91

This combination of Spirit and the Deep — the life from beyond this world and the matter within this world — will either be the very thing that makes Hell so hot, or the very delights of paradise.

The Deep received the Spirit and, through Him, Creation.

Mary received the Spirit and, through Him, Jesus.

But human deeds and will, twisted, burn in the presence of the Spirit, for only Spirit upholds their existence, and the Spirit’s love to the wicked is as unquenchable fire.

Indeed, you and what you worship besides God will be fuel for hell, and you will enter it. Had they been gods, they would not have entered it, and they will all remain in it. Their lot therein will be groaning, and they will not hear anything in it.
Qur’an 21:98-100

So turn away from sin! Turn toward the Holy Spirit! The whole earth is given to you, as Christ’s life was given for you!

Certainly we wrote in the Psalms, after the Torah: “My righteous servants shall indeed inherit the earth.”
Qur’an 21:105

Even the end of the world, Gog and Magog, are part of the plan. With the Spirit all things will come to completion. Life and death, the Virgin Mary and Christ Jesus, the Natural World and the Supernatural Sacraments, all things are moved by the Spirit toward His ends!

It is forbidden for any town that We have destroyed: they shall not return until when Gog and Magog are let loose and they race down from every slope
Qur’an 21:95-96

Conclusion

The twenty-first chapter of the Qur’an, “The Prophets,” concerns the spokesmen for the Holy Spirit. The Qur’an author teaches that the Holy Spirit is at work in all things. The Qur’an’s author had earlier described the “We Believe,” the Nicene Creed, as emblematic of the rival non-Arian theology that he criticized. But in “The Prophets,” the Qur’anic author meets the Council, perhaps, halfway:

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life… who has spoken through the prophets.

Impressions of “All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class,” by Tim Shipman

Last year I read Unleashing Demons, a history of the 2016 United Kingdom Referendum to Leave the European Union written by the Craig Oliver. Oliver worked for the europhile and Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron, before working directly for Britain Stronger in Europe — the “Remain” campaign. All out War covers a similar period, but focuses on two rival aspects of the “Leave” campaign: “Vote Leave” (associated with Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, and the euroskeptic wing of the Conservative Party) and “Leave.eu” (associated with Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, and the U.K. Independence Party).

Even after I read Unleashing Demons, I had trouble telling “Vote Leave” and “Leave.eu” apart. Part of this was Oliver’s style of writing, where he criticized each of his rivals in broad strokes for weaknesses of any of them. But another reason is the political and cultural differences between the “Vote Leave” and “leave.eu” voters are probably lost on Americans. And to me understanding these divides were probably even more valuable than the day-by-day account of the Referendum campaigns that Shipman presents in All Out War.

The Labour Party is sometimes considered the U.K.’s version of the “Democratic” Party, but that’s not really true. The Labour Party is associated with Trades-Unionism, a form of economic and political organization that was widely discredited in the U.K. in mutual annihilation of the Labour Party and the Labour unions. The election of Margaret Thatcher in that year permanently shifted British politics around managerial capitalism and a social welfare state. The only Labour politician to become Prime Minister since 1979, Tony Blair, did so with a platform and governing agenda indistinguishable from Conservatives such as David Cameron.

After reading All Out War, it feels that British politics falls on a 2×2 axis, of anglophiles against europhiles and elitists against populists. The Conservative Power lock on power is as the cost of incoherence on one of the two important political axes in the country.

The refusal of the Labour Party to be viable, like the Republican parties of California, means a substantial minority of votes in most elections are simply thrown away, because the British Labour Party (like the California Republican Party) is unable to win.

But in the UK-EU Referendum, these votes mattered again. The referendum was a battle within the Conservative Party, between Elitist europhiles (Prime Minister David Cameron, etc) and Elitist anglophiles (Prime Minister Boris Johnson), with unaligned conservatives (Prime Minister Theresa May) and others battling for electoral position. The Referendum can be thought as two contests simultaneously, a Conservative Party civil war (elitist europhiles vs elitists anglophiles) combined with an English Civil War (elitist anglophiles vs populist anglophiles).

The Conservative Civil War

It was shocking to be how many people in the story went to Oxford. Prime Minister Tony Blair (’75), Prime Minister Theresa May (’77), Prime Minister Boris Johnson (’87), Minister Michael Gove (’88), Minister Jeremy Hunt (’88), Prime Minister David Cameron (’88), Dominic Cummings (’94), and Will Straw (’02) are a few. Both the “Remain” campaign (formally, British Stronger in Europe) and the “Vote Leave” campaign orbited this elite. The messaging from both campaigns was primarily designed for the delight: the dangers to the status quo of leaving vs “Vote Leave’s” focus on “respectability.” I greatly admire much of what Dominic Cummings (the campaign advisor for “Vote Leave”) has done, but reading the difference between Remain and Vote Leave, between Cameron and Johnson, felt like the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The English Civil War

This is why it felt like the most anger was within the Leave campaign – between the Oxfordian “Vote Leave” and the more populist Leave.eu. UK Leader Nigel Farage (Dulwhich College), UKIP Leader Paul Nuttall (Edge Hill), UKIP Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell (East Anglia), donor Arron Banks (no degree) are notable for not going to Oxford — of the prominent Leave.eu faction only MP Mark Reckless has a typical elite degree of Oxford.

Initially I was confused at the venom the two Leave campaigns had for each other, but after realizing the elitist vs. populist alignment made so much make more sense. For instance, “Vote Leave”‘s elitist campaign emphasized the powers of England’s domestic elites, and the ability of England to maintain a complex welfare state on its own.

By contrast, “Leave.eu” focused heavily on immigration. The highest profile advertisement, “Breaking Point,” was viciously attacked by both the Remain and “Vote Leave” sides. This confused me, because on the surface it appeared that “Vote Leave” and “Leave.eu” were cleverly messaging different audiences. But the divide between elitists and populists is deeper than a single election, and it is ironic that in the American mind Dominic Cummings and Nigel Farage are now associated with each other.

A humorous example of this is at one point Remainer and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (Oxford, ’93) warned that if the U.K. left the EU, housing prices would decrease. This was seen by Labour and UKIP voters (and more, who did not vote) as a remain for leaving the EU, as it would make a house more affordable for them or their children.

After All Out War was written Britain had a re-vote of sorts, as Theresa May’s coalition government was replaced by Boris Johnson. Johnson won a “crushing victory” over both the divided Labour/Scottish Nationalist/Liberal-Democrat opposition(s) and his actual rivals, pro-European, Elitist Conservatives. Johnson’s victory was helped by the political sacrifice of Nigel Farage, who withdrew his party from seats held by the Conservatives in a successful effort to guarantee an Anglophile victory.

So the civil wars were both won by Boris Johnson. He defeated David Cameron, he accepted Nigel Farage’s surrender, and he eliminated the Labour Part once again as a viable contender.

Differences with “Unleashing Demons”

As I mentioned, All Out War is primarily from the perspective of the rival Leave campaigns, while Unleashing Demons is from the perspective of the Remain campaign. All Out War is longer, starting earlier (so that the beginning of Unleashing Demons is nearly at the midpoint of All Out War) and continues later (through the replacement of the leadership of all major parties after the Referendum result). Unleashing Demons is written by a participant, so locks you into a single source.

All Out War is also more enjoyable. Human details, such as which pub important events happened in, make it possible to plan a “Brexit” tour of London. In any case, both books were used as sources for the excellent TV movie, Brexit: The Uncivil War.

Final Thoughts

All Out War is an excellent history of the Brexit referendum and the leaders on both sides. I enjoyed the inside look into Conservative Party politics, and look forward to visiting some of the pub recommendations.

I read All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class in the Audible edition.

Impressions of “A Companion to the Book of Enoch: A Reader’s Commentary, Vol. I — The Book of the Watchers,” by Michael S. Heiser

Michael Heiser’s commentary of 1 Enoch is fantastic. His commentary ties together scholarly criticism of the first part of Enoch, The Book of the Watchers, and reveals the context of the book’s composition. The closest I can compare it to is Gabriel Said Reynold’s commentary of the Qur’an. Central to the Book are the “Watchers,” fallen angelic beings who may be allegories of Temple Priests. In the book God condemns the Watchers and their sons as he condemned the House of Eli in the Hebrew Bible. But God also promises a renewed world, a Tree, a Throne, a the path of the Holy Mountain required to get there.

A Brief Note

I first read The Book of Enoch after exposure to Canaanite mythology and Robert Alter’s’ Biblical literary criticism.

Since then my reading has expanded to cover more of the allegorical sense of scripture. Augustine of Hippo and Jordan Peterson focused on experientially real meanings of concrete symbols, like with fish or snakes. I read Michael Heiser on the Second Temple supernatural context of the Bible, and N.T. Wright on the politico-religious context of Jesus and Paul. And I read works that derive from the Book of Enoch, like Jubilees and the Qur’an

This effected how I read Enoch. In my previous impressions I was basically lost, except for the “Animal Apocalypse” — an enjoyable retelling of the adventures of the Jewish people, but with all the characters being animals. What was going on, with “Watchers” and giants and the angelology? Now, I think I know.

Allegories and Angels

The rebellion of the sons of God is mentioned in Genesis:

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
Genesis 6:1-4

The Book of the Watchers takes this as a point of departure. And we immediately get characterization. In Hebrew scriptural literature] the first quoted line from a character indicates the character. And the collective character of them are of men seeking women:

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: “Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.”
1 Enoch 6:1-2

But then, somewhat surprisingly for a divine being, we see the character of their leader. And it’s not lust-incarnate or even family-incarnate, but fearfulness mixed with consensus-seeking. He’s acting like a middle-level manager, or a mildly successful politician. Why?

And Samjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: “I fear ye will not indeed agree to this deed, and I alone shall have the pay the penalty of a great sin. And they all answered him and said: “Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.” Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundreds, who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it.
1 Enoch 6:3-6

A clue is the number of theophoric names — names ending with “-el” (meaning “of God”) among this leadership of the falling angels. The names are Jewish, or at least Canaanite.

And these are the names of their leaders: Samlazaz, their leader: Arakiba, Rameel, Kokabiel, Tamiel, Ramiel, Danle, Ezeqeel, Baraqijal, Asael, Armaros, Batarel, Ananel, Zaqiel, Samsapeel, Satarel, Turel, Jamjael, Sariel.
1 Enoch 6:7

And why, after God commands Enoch (a human being!) to be a prophet to the watchers (angels!)…

Enoch, thou scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken unto themselves wives: Ye have wrought great destruction on the earth: and ye shall have no peace nor forgiveness of sin.
1 Enoch 12:4-5

… Do the Watchers ask him to intercede for them?

Then I went and spoke to them all together, and they were all afraid, and fear and trembling seized them. And they besought me to draw up a petition for them that they might find forgiveness, and to read their petition in the presence of the Lord of heaven. For from thenceforward they could not speak with Him nor lift up their eyes to heaven for shame of their sins for which they had been condemned.
1 Enoch 13:3-5

The Watchers

Here’s why, at least according to scholars cited by Heiser: “Watcher” is a thin allegory for Temple Priests, who serve in the presence (literally, face) of God. Presuming the author meant the Temple Priests of his own era, then his target were Sadducees:

And He answered and said to me, I heard His voice: “Fear not, Enoch, though righteous man and scribe of righteousness; approach hither and hear my voice.

And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: ‘You should intercede for men, and not men for you.Whereof you have you left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants as your sons.

And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those who also do who die and perish..
1 Enoch 15:1-4

The Sadducee Temple priests were targeted by Zealots (as collaborators), Pharisees (for the lack of belief in angels and the resurrection), and early Christians (also for the lack of belief):

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes of the Pharisees’ party arose and protested, saying, “We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”
Acts 23:6-9

The “Watchers” focused on women and power instead of service to God, and used their skills and position for all sorts of schemes not properly focused on God (according to the Zealots, Pharisees, and early Christians):

And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells. Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. 1 Enoch 7:1-3

To emphasize the point, and bite a bit more, the Sanhedrin of the Sadducees claimed succession to the helpers of Moses, organized in line with advice from Moses’s father-in-law, from the most trusted (Moses and the Rulers of Thousands) to the lowest level of managers, the Rulers of Tens:

So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.
Exodus 18:24-26

The “Watchers” are the lowest, and presumably least competent, in this hierarchy:

These are their chiefs of tens.
1 Enoch 6:8

The fate of the “Watchers” is to see the children, who they raised without fear of God, die.

And inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children, the murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and shall make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall ye not attain.
1 Enoch 12:6

This is the same fate that befell the High Priest Eli, an ancient days:

Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him,

“Thus says the LORD:

‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’

Therefore the LORD God of Israel says:

‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’

But now the LORD says:

‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your [u]arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever. But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age. Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.'”
1 Samuel 2:27-34

And as Enoch’s petition for the “Watchers” would fail:

I wrote out your petition, and in my vision it appeared thus, that your petition will not be granted unto you throughout all the days of eternity, and that judgment has been finally passed upon you: yea your petition will not be granted to you. And from henceforth you will not ascend into heaven unto all eternity, and in bonds of the earth the decree has gone forth to bind you for all the days of the world.
1 Enoch 14:1-5

The High Priest Eli also believed the judgment was irrevocable:

Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”
1 Samuel 3:18

The Future Priests

But God is the God of Hope. Even the condemnation of Eli’s sons came with a promise:

Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.
1 Samuel 2:35

It is easy enough, when we read Scriptures, to see the priestly predilection for power and sin:

Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
Matthew 26:2-5

Yet God will heal this. Both the To understand the Qur’anicand the Enochian authors promise this:

And heal the earth which the angels have corrupted, and proclaim the healing of the earth, that they may heal the plague, and that all the children of men may not perish through all the secret things that the Watchers have disclosed and have taught their sons. And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.
1 Enoch 10:7-8

While the Watchers, standing in for the Priests, seek a legalistic procedure of asking forgiveness through a formal petition, they don’t offer the repentance — the turn of the heart — advocated by the Prophet Isaiah:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood,
And your fingers with iniquity;
Your lips have spoken lies,
Your tongue has muttered perversity…

For our transgressions are multiplied before You,
And our sins testify against us;
For our transgressions are with us,
And as for our iniquities, we know them:

In transgressing and lying against the Lord,
And departing from our God,
Speaking oppression and revolt,
Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
Isaiah 59:2-3,12-13

This is also the meaning of the Qur’anic author: repentance is not a legalistic formula, but a turn of heart made manifest in works:

I indeed forgive those who repent, become faithful, act righteously, and thereafter follow guidance.
Qur’an 20 (Ta Ha):83

The Enochian writer sees this. The resolution to our story is not political games that can be won by Temple insiders, but a world free of oppression:

And cleanse though the earth from all oppression, and from all unrighteousness, and from all sin, and from all godlessness: and all the uncleanness that is wrought upon the earth destroy from off the earth. And the children of men shall become righteous, and all nations shall offer adoration and shall praise Me, and all shall worship Me. And the earth shall be cleansed from all defilement, and from all sin, and from all punishment, and from all torment, and and I will never again send them upon it form generation to generation and forever.
1 Enoch 10:20-22

And as the Letter to the Hebrews urge its audience to be (non-Sadducee!) priests for Jesus Christ

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16

So the author of Enoch urges continuous blessings of God by the (non-Sadducee!) righteous in his audience:

And as often as I saw blessed always the Lord of Glory, and I continued to bless the Lord of Glory who has wrought great and glorious wonders, to show the greatness of His work to the angels and to spirits and to men, that they might praise His work and all His creation: that they might see the works of His might and praise the work work of His hands and bless Him forever.
1 Enoch 36:4

The Mountains of the Lord

The way from the corrupted priesthood to to a renewed world leads up a mountain.

Non-Sadducee Jewish writing during the Roman empire saw an explosion of messianic writing, foreseeing the Lord enthroned on the Holy Mountain:

I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude, which I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. Then I asked an angel, “Who are these, my lord?” He answered and said to me, “These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and they have confessed the name of God; now they are being crowned, and receive palms.” Then I said to the angel, “Who is that young man who places crowns on them and puts palms in their hands?” He answered and said to me, “He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world.” So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said to me, “Go, tell my people how great and many are the wonders of the Lord God which you have seen.”
2 Esdras 2:42-48

Likewise, Enoch looks forward, to the Tree, and to the Throne of the Lord, on the High Mountain

And he said unto me: “Enoch, why dost thou ask me regarding the fragrance of the tree, and why dost though wish to learn the truth?”

Then I answered, saying: “I wish to know about everything, but especially about this tree.”

And he answered saying: “This high mountain which thou hast seen, whose summit is like the throne of God, is His throne, where the Holy Great One, the Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit, when he shall come down to visit the earth with goodness.”
1 Enoch 25:1-3

This is a prophecy looking back, towards Eden, and forwards, toward Golgotha. Thinkers from the Qur’anic author to Thomas Merton have seen the path to paradise going through the a mountain.

Between Eden and Paradise, the beginning and the end, is Purgatory:

The inhabitants of paradise will call out to the inmates of the fire. ‘We found what our Lord promised us to be true; did you find what your Lord promised you to be true?’ ‘Yes,’ they will say. Then a caller will announce in their midst, ‘May God’s curse be on the wrongdoers!’ — Those who bar from the way of God, and seek to make it crooked, and disbelieve in the Hereafter.

There will be a veil between them. On on the Elevations will be certain men who recognize each of them by their mark. They will call out to the inhabitants of paradise, ‘Peace be to you!’ They will not have entered it, though they would be eager to do so. When their look is turned toward the inmates of the Fire, they will say, ‘Our Lord, do not put us among the wrongdoing lot!

The occupants of the Elevations will call out to certain men who they recognize by their marks, ‘Your rallying did not avail you, nor what you used to disdain. Are these the ones concerning whom you swore that God will not extend them any mercy?’ Enter paradise! You shall have no fear, nor shall you grieve.
Qur’an 7 (The Elevations):47-49

Between Eden and Paradise is Jerusalem, the vision predicted by the Prophet Zechariah:

Thus says the LORD:

‘I will return to Zion,
And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,
The Mountain of the LORD of hosts,
The Holy Mountain.’

“Thus says the LORD of hosts:

‘Old men and old women shall again sit
In the streets of Jerusalem,
Each one with his staff in his hand
Because of great age.

The streets of the city
Shall be full of boys and girls
Playing in its streets.’
Zechariah 8:3-5

Te Enochian writer describes the geography of Jerusalem, a location with such significance (Mount Zion, Gehenna) that it transcends the merely topographical…

And there I saw a holy mountain, and underneath the mountain to the east there was a stream and it flowed towards the south. And I saw towards the east another mountain higher than this, and between them a deep a narrow ravine: in it also ran a stream underneath the mountain. And to the west thereof there was another mountain, lower than the former and a ravine between them,: and another deep and dry ravine was at the extremities of the three mountains.
1 Enoch 26:1-5

Within this cosmos geography is the Throne Room of God

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
Revelations 22:1-5

A geography that is in fact a cosmology — fire, lighting, and stars:

And the floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path of stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was of crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was a vision of cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and was whiter than any snow.
1 Enoch 14:17-20

And the promise of New Earth:

Then shall they rejoice with joy and be glad, And into the holy place shall they enter; And its fragrance shall be in their bones, And they shall live a long life on earth, Such as thy fathers lived: And in their days shall no sorrow or plague Or torment or calamity touch them.
1 Enoch 25:6

Conclusion

The Book of the Watchers, the beginning of 1 Enoch, seems to be an allegory of the Sadducee priesthood. The “Watchers” have access to the presence of God and have Jewish-style names, but intentionally choose to band together and ignore God. Whatever personal virtue they had during their rebellion is lost on their children, who become even worse. The Enochian author promises the Watchers / Sadducees are not the end of the story though, but promises all things (including, presumably, the priesthood) are cleansed. In this Watchers echoes both the Old Testament renewal of the priesthood after Eli, and foreshadows the Qur’anic call to Catholic religious centuries later.

I read A Companion to the Book of Enoch: Reader’s Commentary Vol. 1 — The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) in the paperback edition.

Impressions of “The Trial of Jesus Christ: And the History Behind It,” by David Shaneyfelt

“The Trial of Jesus Christ” is technically a podcast, but really is an audiobook. It is as long as many popular history books, about six hours. It covers similar topics with equal seriousness as popular history books, such as Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist or Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. Shaneyfelt is closer in quality to Ratzinger than Pitre, as where he acknowledges a limit to his knowledge (what Mary’s response to the angel implied about her marriage in Ratzinger’s book; what the inexplicable judgment of Caiaphas means in Shaneyfelt’s) stay with the reader as long as what is known. “Trial” is free to download, and I recommend doing so.

“Trial” begins around the Last Super, and continues through the triple execution of Christ with two violent criminals. The narrative is essentially chronologically, taking the reader through the arrest, Trial before the Sanhedrin, Trial Before Pilate, hearing before Herod, and then death. These are described vividly, with a focus on procedure. So for instance, the author notes multiple times that the early Christians never accused the Sanhedrin of procedural unfairness, implying that whatever methods were taken were within the letter of their authority, if nonetheless unjust.

Trial before the Sanhedrin

“Sanhedrin” is a Greek word for the local leadership or Senate of a community. In Jewish tradition the Sanhedrin is a successor to the elders of Israel, that advised Moses (when he would listen).

At the time of Christ the Sanhedrin was headed by a High Priest, a political office regularly controlled by Annas and family in the first century. While the office of High Priest was singular it was no longer the custom to serve for life. The Archbishopric of Canterbury, and the Bishopric of Rome, likewise have only one Bishop at a time, though multiple living Bishops have headed the city. Thus, there were at least two “High Priests” present during the trial of Jesus: Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas.

(Annas had been high priest when Jesus asked questions of the religious scholars at age 12. )

Yet while we know a lot, it’s possible to jump to the wrong conclusions. Many authors (including Pitre) take the Talmud, written by Pharisees (and later, Rabbinical Jews), and apply its traditions and rules onto the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin and the Temple Priests. But the Pharisees and Sadducees were rival traditions with Judaism. The system of Oral Law that factored so heavily into the Christiani-Nahmanides disputation in Barcelona would have been unintelligible to Sadducees. Pharisees and Sadducees differed in basic religious questions:

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.
Acts 23:6-8

To attempt by other authors to use Pharisaic rules to judge a Sadducee trial would like like judging am American courtroom according to British law. Or, because of its religious connotations, like evaluating a Catholic canon lawsuit by Jewish custom! Fortunately, Shaneyfelt does not do so, and reminds the reader of where we simply do not know what the Sadducee customs were at several points.

Here’s an example. The Sanhedrin is regularly calling up witnesses in pairs, and dismissing them.

Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'”
Matthew 26:59-61

This probably because of the clear meaning of Jewish Law, where two witnesses can establish a judicial fact:

One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
Deuteronomy 19:15

But then we have this oddity: immediately after this the Law states that false witnesses should be given the penalty that would have been given to the guilty party. Yet there’s no record of the witnesses found to be false by the Sanhedrin being crucified or brought to Pilate!

And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.
Deuteronomy 19:18-19

There’s also the section on Adjuration and Blasphemy. Caiaphas places Jesus under oath, and asks him if he asserts a title:

But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

This appears to be Adjuration, the power of a political leader to compel testimony. This does not occur in the Torah, but is witnessed elsewhere in the Jewish scriptures:

So the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
1 Kings 22:16

Yet neither “Christ” nor “Son of God” were titles exclusively reserved for God. Likewise, in Christ’s response:

Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?”

They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
Matthew 26:64-66

We encounter a non sequitur. Christ is clearly saying something meaningful, but it’s unclear what. Yet for both Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin the implications are clear. We are missing something. But we are left with the lack of any criticism over the procedural fairness from early Christian writers. So whatever we are missing must have been clear to them, too.

Perhaps, I wonder, was the “High Priest” mentioned is actually Christ, and presuming to put Caiaphas under oath was the blasphemy?

Trial before Pilate

Following the Jewish trial, the Sanhedrin presented Jesus to the Romans. The reason, and obstacle, are both clear. Jesus was convicted of blasphemy, which has a penalty of death under Jewish law. But under Roman law, only Roman courts could use capital punishment. Roman law was supreme to Jewish law. And, frustratingly for the Sanhedrin, blasphemy was not a capital crime under Roman law.

Compared to Sadducee process, we have a a more detailed understanding of the Roman legal system. We have centuries of written reports of how it functioned and change over the ages. In the case of Christ’s trial before Pilate, the outline is clear: while a non-Roman had remarkably few rights in Roman court in an occupied province, one of a governor’s primary public-facing duties was to adjudicate disputes, and a perception as a competent and wise judge was useful politics.

There are later written accounts of trials similar to Christ’s, but with different outcomes. One, of a man proclaiming himself a prophet, accused by the Jews, scourged — and then released, on account of insanity is intriguing because of the implied motives (did people remember a mess after a different outcome to a nearly identical process)?

As with the Sadducee trial, there’s mystery. Pilate appears to find Jesus not guilty and end the trial.

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “””Behold the Man!”

Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”
John 19:5-6

Or… perhaps not. Is the remark wholly sarcastic, as Pilate also sarcastically remands Jesus back to the Sanhedrin. Is the execution itself irregular, or was Pilate bullied by the mob? Or perhaps there was a new charge and a new trial — that of claiming to be Caesar, or abrogating a title (“Son of God”) belonging to Caesar:

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorian, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
John 19:7-9

In any case, Pilate tried to avoid responsibility for the whole affair by hoping Herod Antipas would take jurisdiction:

But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
Luke 23:5-7

Hearing before Herod

The only section that seemed light was the section on Herod Antipas.

From the Gospel he has some kind of complex relationship with Pilate:

That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.
Luke 23:12

Shaneyfelt praises Herod’s skill as a survivor. This may be true (I am not a historian), but my impression is that Herod survived because of a lack of ability. Herod the Great had killed or attempted to kill a number of competent successors or pretenders, including the last Hasmoneans, Aristobulus III and Hyrcanus II, and even Christ himself, so being able and surviving Herod the Great seem almost contradictory. In the narrative itself, Herod Antipas seems more interested in Christ as an actual magician than either as a rebel or as a spiritual leader:

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.
Luke 23:8-11

(To my mind, the Gospel writer is having fun with poor Herod here, as his puppet dynasty was hardly backed by his own “men of war”)

In addition, the Gospels present us a picture of a weak Antipas, afraid of his own court and being manipulated by females:

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison.
Matthew 14:6-10

What’s true? I don’t know. But I would have liked to know why Shaneyfelt makes the conclusions he does about Antipas.

Final Thoughts

The book ends with a section on the two robbers, lestai, ??????, criminals who take by force.

Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.

And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
Matthew 27:38-40

Robber, the same word in Greek, is the description of the attacker of the Samaritan

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves [???????], who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves [???????]?”
Luke 10:30-36

And it is a den of robbers — again the same word — that is the current state of the deformed Temple:

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves [??????].'”
Matthew 21:12-13

That “Jesus” — unadorned with titles or descriptions — is only used by a robber in our oldest Greek Bibles — is striking

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Luke 23:42

At the end of our journey to the trials of the classical near east, and the early life of Jesus, we are quietly left with this. Jesus, remember me. Shaneyfelt does not make it explicit, but as I finished the podcast I realized the Fatima prayer (which is also inexplicably echoed in the Qur’an!), helps us recognize that we are in the same state as that robber, that attacker of travelers, that desecrator of the Temple:

O my Jesus,
forgive us our sins,
save us from the fire of hell,
lead all souls to heaven,
especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

Jesus, remember us, when you come into your Kingdom.

I listened to “The Trial of Jesus Christ” in its podcast edition.

Qur’an 20: Ta Ha

The twentieth chapter of the Qur’an, “Ta Ha,” describes the birth, corruption, and potential transfiguration of holy orders. Aaron was established priest to help Moses. He helped Moses preach to Pharaoh, and in the Qur’anic narrative deserves credit for the conversion of Pharaoh’s magicians. But he built the golden calf, led the people astray, and mimicked instead of imitated Moses. Yet God was merciful, Aaron was re-united with Moses, and he was able to truly follow Moses after this correction.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.
Genesis 4:7

A Reading, from the Book of Exodus

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Exodus 32:1-6

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

He made a path for His anger;
He did not spare their soul from death,
But gave their life over to the plague,

And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt,
The first of their strength in the tents of Ham.

But He made His own people go forth like sheep,
And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;

And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear;
But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
And He brought them to His holy border,
This mountain which His right hand had acquired.
Psalms 78:50-54

A Reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews:

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.

For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies:

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
Hebrews 7:11-19

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!

“This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us.
Acts 7:38

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel according to John:

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.
John 15:11-17

Communion Antiphon

And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it.
Exodus 12:43

A Qur’anic Homily

The Lost and the Found

We read of those great events in the wilderness, the Epiphany in the desert. That day of Moses, foreshadowing the Day of the Lord:

So when he came to it, he was called, “Oh Moses!

I am indeed your Lord! So take off your sandals. You are indeed in the sacred valley of Tuwa.

I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed.

I am indeed God — there is no god except Me. So worship me, and maintain the prayer for My remembrance. Indeed, the Hour is bound to have.

I will have it hidden, so that every soul may be rewarded for its endeavor. So do not let yourself be distracted from it by those who do not believe in it and who follow their desires, or you will perish.
Qur’an 20:11-16

Let’s look at what that promised Hour is. It’s the restoration of things, when the way they should have been, are made again. Consider the transfiguration of Moses’s staff:

Moses, what is that in your right hand?’

He said, ‘It is my staff. I lean on it and with it I beat down leaves for my sheep, and I have other uses for it.

He said, ‘Moses, throw it down.’

So he threw it down, and lo! It was a snake, moving swiftly.

He said, ‘Take hold of it and do not fear. We will restore it to its former state.
Qur’an 20:17-21

Now let’s briefly look at another thing, lost but to be found. One man, Moses himself. Lost to his mother, and found again after his sister Mary became his helper.

When your sister walked up, saying “Shall I show you someone who will take care of him?” Then We restored you to your mother, so that she might not be grieve and comforted. Then you slew a soul, whereupon We delivered you from anguish, and We tried you with various ordeals. Then you stayed for several years among the people of Midian. Then you turned up as ordained, O Moses!
Qur’an 20:40

Man, lost during the fall, but regained through the Redemption:

Certainly We had enjoined Adam earlier, but he forgot, and We did not find any resoluteness in him…

Then his Lord chose him and turned to him clemently, and guided him.
Qur’an 20:115,122

Between the apparent triviality of Moses’s staff, the clear importance of a man’s own life and our existential (to us, at least) importance as humans, comes another class of creation: the priest. Like the staff it was created at first for Moses (according to the Qur’anic author), to assist him in his work:

Appoint for me a minister from my family, Aaron, my brother. Strengthen my back through him and make him my associate in my task, so that we may glorify You greatly, and remember You much. You indeed are watching us.

He said, “Moses, your request has been granted!”
Qur’an 20:29-36

Moses, and that kind of other-Moses the priest, are here to provide instruction, correction, and encouragement. Even Pharaoh should be spoken to softly.

Go ahead, you and your brother, with My signs, and do not flag in My remembrance. Both of you go to Pharaoh, for he has indeed rebelled. Speak to him in a soft manner; maybe he will take admonition or fear.

They said, “Our Lord! We are indeed afraid that he will forestall us or will exceed all bounds.”

He said, “Do not be afraid, for I will be with the two of you, hearing and seeing.
Qur’an 20:42-46

God will never abandoned us, never abandon anyone. As Christ said during Maundy Thursday, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you”:

And I chose you for Myself.
Qur’an 20:41

The Magicians

Even those who, from our perspective, were always lost may be found. Consider the Pharaoh’s magicians, who were never Hebrews, and never loyal to the God of Moses:

They said, “These two are indeed magicians who indeed to expel you from your land with their magic and to abolish your excellent tradition.
Qur’an 20:63

God is the ultimate sovereign, and God can save even them. Even persecutors from whom you have never experienced kindness may be saved by the Lord:

Thereat the magicians fell down prostrating. They said, “We have believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses!”

[Pharaoh] said, “Did you believe him before I should permit you? He is indeed your chief who has taught you magic! Surely, I will cut off your hands and feet from opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will know which of us can inflict a severer and more lasting punishment.”

They said, “We will never prefer you to the clear proofs which have come to us and to Him who originated us. Decide whatever you want to decide. You can only decide about the life of this world. We have indeed believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our offenses and the magic you compelled us to perform. God is better and more lasting.”
Qur’an 20:70-73

Of course, the opposite fate may befall them. Others, who were never gracious, will be destroyed:

We revealed to Moses, “Set out with my servants at night and strike out for them a dry path through the sea. Do not be afraid of being overtaken, and have no fear.

Then Pharaoh pursued them with his troops, whereat they were engulfed by what engulfed them of the sea. Pharaoh led his people astray and did not guide them.
Qur’an 20:77-79

The difference is clear: there is always the option to turn towards the Lord. In all places and in all times the Lord has the right to forgive who he wishes, and the contrite heart is always his desire:

I indeed forgive those who repent, become faithful, act righteously, and thereafter follow guidance.
Qur’an 20:83

Now, let’s turn from these two situations: the once virtuous who were lost, and the simply lost, to another: when the lost are your religious leaders.

When the Priests Turn From God

When Moses went up the mountain he left his brother Aaron as a shepherd over the flock of Israel, as a watchman over the people.

It did not go well.

He said, “We indeed tried your people in your absence, and the Watchman has lead them astray.
Qur’an 20:85

The Qur’anic author sees Aaron’s specific mistake as something between idolatry and iconography. Aaron creates a Golden Calf, and appears to equate it with his own God, Moses’s God, the God of salvation. This is in keeping with the old religion’s view of God as bull-like:

Then he produced for them a calf — a body with a low — and they said. This is your God and the god of Moses, so he forgot! Did they not see that it did not answer them, nor could it bring them any benefit or harm?
Qur’an 20:89

Aaron had turned away from God, insisting the people follow his (instead of the Lord’s) command — until Moses comes again, said the people:

Aaron had certainly told them earlier, “O my people! You are only being tested by it. Indeed, your Lord is the All-beneficent. So follow me and obey my command!’ They had said, ‘We will keep on attending to it until Moses returns to us.”

He said, “O Aaron! What kept you, when you saw them going astray, from following me? Did you disobey my command?”
Qur’an 20:90-93

The parallel to the Catholic Church is clear. Aaron’s conception of intermediaries made it easy for him to become a law to himself. Pope Benedict XVI wrote of a similar phenomenon, the secularization of the bishops, and their move to be powers of their own. This processed criticized as early as the Qur’an was not corrected until the middle 20th century:

While the medieval text prescribed a so-called indicative sacramental formula and saw the ordination as resulting from the indicative of the conferral of power, ordination is accomplished according to the 1947 text in a supplicatory form, in the manner of a petition, of a prayer. Thus it is apparent even in the external form that the true conferrer of powers is the Holy Spirit, to whom the sacramental prayer is addressed, not the human consecrator.

The medieval rite is formed on the pattern of investiture in a secular office. Its key word is potestas. The rite that Pius XII decrees represents a return to the form used in the early Church. It is pneumatologically oriented in terms of both gesture (since the imposition of hands signifies the conferral of the Holy Spirit) and word: the Preface is a petition for the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the key word is now ministerium or munus: service and gift; hence the words of priestly ordination speak also of the duty of good example and moral discipline.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, p. 241

The Priest mimicked Moses out of love. But the Qur’anic author distinguishes this mimicry from true imitation. Consider the dust came from Moses’s walk on his way. The Priest also throws up dust in mimicry, but by his hands and not his feet:

He said, “I saw what they did not see. I took a handful from the messenger’s trail and threw it. That is how my soul prompted me.”
Qur’an 20:96

From this Aaron is restored. Neither the Torah, nor the Psalms, nor the Gospels, nor the Qur’an itself (according to the Qur’anic author) are there to cause misery, but are hope and help from God.

We did not send down the Lectionary to you that you should be miserable, but only as an admonition to him who fears. A sending down from Him who created the earth and the lofty heavens — the All-beneficent, settled on the Throne.
Qur’an 20:2-4

Aaron was transfigured from a sinner he becomes a sacred priest and a preacher of righteousness.

He said, “Begone! It shall be yours throughout life to say, “Do not touch me!” There is indeed a tryst for you which you will not fail to keep! Now look at your god to whom you kept on attending. We will burn it down and then scanner it into the sea.

“Your God indeed is God; there is no God except Him. He embraces all things in knowledge.”
Qur’an 20:97-98

And thus, the Qur’anic author at last finally turns to his audience: religious and priests of the Catholic Church.

The Audience

The Qur’anic community was Arian Christians who were cut off from the Sacraments. But the novel theology of his denial of the Church and attack on corrupt bishops— combined with his reassuring love of Mary, devotion to the Passion and admiration of Peter — made him attractive for Catholic priests and religious too. The Qur’anic author seems to be speaking to Catholic priests and monks, whose alienation has a different source than the Qur’anic authors (presumably wavering Catholics upset by perceived unfair and unjust treatment, as opposed to Arian die-hards. But to this new audience the Qur’an (“Lectionary”) is presented as addressed to a particular people, and in a way that requires close reading to understand. The response to reading a part of it should not be to actually change one’s practices, but to give the rest a fair hearing as well:

Thus We have sent it down as an Arabic Lectionary and We have paraphrased the warnings in it variously, so that they may be Godwary, or it may prompt them to remembrance. So, exalted is God, the True Sovereign. Do not hasted with the Lectionary before its revelation is completed for you, and say, “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”
Qur’an 20:113-114

The bishops, those antagonists of the Qur’anic author, are much more powerful than either the author or his audience. But in the most prophetic part of the Lectionary, he looks upon the bishops in their cathedrals and remembers others who have been torn down:

Does it now dawn on them how many generations We have destroyed before them, and in whose dwellings they walk? There are indeed signs in this for those who have a good sense. Were it not for a prior decree of your Lord and a stated time… would have been immediate!
Qur’an 20:128-129

The solution is to be patient, as Moses was patient with Pharaoh. In the end the Pharaoh’s armies were smashed, and the same thing would happen to those armies loyal to the bishops. But just as Aaron was able to enlist the magicians to his side, the early Christian sympathizers to the Qur’anic author may gain allies as well.

Say, “Everyone is waiting.” So wait! Soon you will know who are the people of the right path, and who is guided.
Qur’an 20:135

So for now, be patient, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The Sacraments may not be physically available, but God still turns his ears to prayer.

So be patient with what they say, and celebrate the praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before the sunset, and glorify Him in watches of the night and at the day’s ends, so that you may be pleased.
Qur’an 20:130

But what of the ‘family’ of these — other priests and religious who are still in the Church? And what of the beloved dead, whose names would be forgotten if monasteries close? Will they be forgotten?

They are not forgotten, because God remembers them:

[Pharaoh] said, “Who is your Lord, Moses?”

He said, “Our Lord is He who gave everything its creation and then guided it.”

He said, “What about the former generations?”

He said, “Their knowledge is with my Lord, in a Book. My Lord neither makes any error nor forgets.”
Qur’an 20:49-52

And the beloved living should be encouraged in prayer. Pray. And trust in God. For God will decide what happens next.

And bid your family to prayer and be steadfast in maintaining it. We do not ask any provision of you: it is We who provide for you, and the ultimate outcome belongs to Godwariness.
Qur’an 20:132

Conclusion

The twentieth chapter of the Qur’an, “Ta Ha,” follows directly from the nineteenth, “Mary.” “Mary” contrasted the grace and simplicity of Mary with the behavior of the apostles and their successors, and asks the question: why rely on sacraments from the successors to the apostles when one can imitate the devotions of our holy mother? “Ta Ha” takes a similar aim but to a specific argument: Catholic religious. In “Ta Ha” the unique features of the Qur’an are minimized, the bishops are sympathetically if critically compared to Aaron, and the true nature of the imitation of Christ is explored.

In a dialogue intended to be between an angel and Moses, but applicable to all the faithful, the Qur’anic author writes:

Certainly We have down you a favor another time, when We revealed to your mother whatever was to be revealed: “Put him in the casket and cast into the river. Then the river will cast it on the bank, and he shall be picked up by an enemy of Mine, and an enemy of his.” And I made you endearing, and that you might be reared under My eyes.
Qur’an 20:37-39

Indeed. It is by entering a casket in a river — dying to ourselves — that we may be re-united with our holy mother. To this pious exhortation the Qur’anic author of course adds his heretical views — in his post-ecclesial community, a priest to die to himself means abandoning the bishops, abandoning the sacraments, and accepting a role as a preacher and a helper to the One whose return he awaits.

Qur’an 19: Mary

The nineteenth chapter of the Qur’an, “Mary,” contrasts Mary with the Bishops. The unparalleled access to Christ provided by Mary is contrasted to the Bishops, the successors of the Twelve Apostles. The Qur’anic author urges the God-wary to turn away from the successors to the Apostles, and look to Mary’s example of making Christ manifest.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon:

“Sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”
Exodus 15:21-22

A Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar…

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many.
Ezekiel 47:1,7-10

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.

I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
For You shall inherit all nations.
Psalms 82:5-8

A Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles:

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Acts 1:12-14

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
Luke 1:52

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A Reading, from The Holy Gospel According to Matthew:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38

Communion Antiphon

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Revelations 22:17

A Qur’anic Homily

Moses, Aaron, and Mary

Consider that holy family, the children of Amram. Wee see the way that Jews over the centuries honored Moses and Aaron. But perhaps Miriam — Hebrew for “Mary” — was the greatest sign for us:

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
I redeemed you from the house of bondage;
And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Micah 6:2-4

Paul spoke of many gifts of the spirit, including prophecy and priesthood. But Mary is greater than any of these gifts. Follow Mary!

Jesus and Mary

God could have granted Jesus an earthly foster father named Moses or Aaron. God didn’t. Think if this was a sign to what is Real — to what it means to really know what is Real:

That is Jesus, son of Mary, a Word of the Real concerning whom they are in doubt.
Qur’an 19:34

Mary is the prototypical submitter-to-God. Mary sister-of-Moses sung of God’s glory when horse and rider were thrown into the sea. And Mary mother-of-Jesus said “Yes!” and did not demand any honor or praise, beyond what was given to her by God. The Qur’anic author elides even Mary’s response — “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” — to emphasize Mary’s lack of pretension or demands on God:

She said, ‘How shall I have a child seeing that no human being has ever touched me, nor have I been unchaste?”

He said, ‘So shall it be. Your Lord says, “It is simple for Me, and so that We may make him a sign for mankind and mercy from us, and it is a matter already decided.”
Qur’an 19:20-21

Mary points to Christ the real in a way beyond how Moses and Aaron could, because she is more perfect than them. The Qur’anic author makes this point by having townspeople (who are accusing Mary of fornication) call her “kinswoman of the Aaronites.” Her namesake Miriam was kinswoman of Aaron. But As Christ’s priesthood is more perfect than Aaron’s, treating Mary as second to Aaron is just absurd.

Then, carrying him, she brought him to her people. They said, ‘O Mary, you have certainly come up with an odd thing! O kinswoman of the Aaronites! Your father was not an evil man, nor was your mother unchaste.’
Qur’an 19:27-28

Here’s another way to think of Mary’s priesthood. Consider that which makes Christ’s presence real — the Sacrament. While the Eucharist is the source & summit of the Catholic faith, Christ’s presence was even more complete and more manifest when Mary gave birth. Likewise, the true presence requires words from a priest’s mouth:

Take this, all of you, and eat of it:
for this is my body which will be given up for you.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
for this is the chalice of my blood,
the blood of the new and eternal covenant.
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me.

But when Mary made Christ manifest, he spoke for himself. The Qur’anic author emphasizes the closeness of Mary to Christ, by noting that a purpose of the Incarnation was itself kindness to Mary:

Then she pointed to him.

They said, “How can we speak to One who is yet a baby in the cradle?

He Said, “I am indeed a servant of God.

He has
given me the Book and
made me a Prophet.

He has
made me Blessed,
wherever I may be,

and He has enjoined me to the

The Prayer, and
The Alms-Giving (as long as I live), and To be good to my Mother.

And He has not made me self-willed and wretched.

Peace to me the day
I was born,
the day I die, and the day I am raised alive.
Qur’an 19:29-33

The Apostles and Mary

Now consider two groups: the bishops — the successors to the Apostles — and Mary. Which is a surer hope. The ones with worldly power and riches?

When Our clear signs are recited to them, the faithless say to the faithful, ‘Which of the two groups is superior in station and better with respect to company?’ How many a generation We have destroyed before them who were superior in furnishings and appearance!
Qur’an 19:73-74

The Bishops — especially in the middle east, and for three centuries before the Qur’anic author — insisted they were to be treated as “earthly gods.” Is this how we would expect Mary to demand to be treated? Does it give us a clue who is the surer hope?

The bishop, he is the minister of the word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God trod you in the several parts of your divine worship. He is the teacher of piety; and, next after God, he is your father, who has begotten you again to the adoption of sons by water and the Spirit. He is your ruler and governor; he is your king and potentate; he is, next after God, your earthly god, who has a right to be honored by you.

For concerning him, arid such as he, it is that God pronounces,

“I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all children of the Most High.”

And,

“Ye shall not speak evil of the gods.”

For let the bishop preside over you as one honored with the authority of God, which he is to exercise over the clergy, and by which he is to govern all the people. But let the deacon minister to him, as Christ does to His Father; and let him serve him blamelessly in all things, as Christ does nothing of Himself, but does always those things that please His Father. Let also the deaconess be honored by you in the place of the Holy Ghost, and not do or say anything without the deacon; as neither does the Comforter say or do anything of Himself, but gives glory to Christ by waiting for His pleasure.
The Constitution of the Holy Apostles, c. 325, II.IV.XXVI

The Qur’anic author has a number of criticisms of the Catholic Church. He seems to have been a heretic — at the time of the writing, his “Arian” beliefs that Christ was created at the beginning of all ages (instead of begotten before all ages) was in its last breaths, and Arian sacraments mediated by the successors of the apostles were nearly impossible to obtain. But were the remaining successors — who called themselves gods — the appropriate thing for the community take?

They have taken gods besides God so that they may be a might to them. No Indeed! Soon they will disown their worship, and they will be their opponents. Have you not regarded that We unleash the devils upon the faithless to urge them vigorously?
Qur’an 19:81-83

But Mary’s goal was not might among men, but quietly allowing her body to do the work of God. Thus did God send the Holy Spirit to Mary, and thus was the perfect child, Jesus, born:

And mention in the book Mary, when she withdrew from her family to an easterly place. Thus did she seclude herself from them, whereupon We sent to her Our Spirit and he became incarnate for her as a perfect human. Qur’an 19:17

Mary is a perfect imitation to and a perfect sign to Jesus, suffering in her birth pains as Christ would suffer in her passion, but while Christ was guided directly by God, it is Christ who even in the womb announces the gospel to His mother (in words that echo the Prophet Ezekiel, who notes that springs will flow from the Temple, in keeping with the traditional view that sees Mary as the perfect Temple).

Thus she conceived him, then withdrew with him to a distance place. The birth pangs brought her to the trunk of a date palm. She said, “I wish I had died before this and become a forgotten thing, beyond recall.”

Thereupon he called her from below: “Do not grieve! Your Lord has made a spring to flow at your feet. Shake the trunk of a palm tree, freshly picked dates will drop upon you. Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, “I have indeed vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today.”
Qur’an 19:22-26

The Qur’an’s view of Mary is very close Taylor Marshall‘s, who emphasizes Mary’s special and greater relationship, not just with Christ but with the Holy Spirit as well:

While the Holy Apostles were generally ignorant of the Holy Ghost, the Immaculate Mary knew Him intimately. Mary had already experienced the descent of the Holy Ghost at her Immaculate Conception since at that moment she was not merely preserved from all sin, but also filled with grace and the Holy Spirit. She was perfectly possessed by the Holy Ghost from the first moment of her existence. This is why Saint Francis of Assisi and other great saints have called Mary “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” The analogy of matrimony is the strongest and best way to signify a union of two persons in their mission.
The Spirit and the Bride,” by Taylor Marshall

It was obvious in the day of the Qur’anic author, and in our own day, that legitimate apostolic succession is not a guarantee of a shared communion. Today Catholic and Orthodox bishops recognize each others succession, but deny communion to each other. Even dire heresies — like the Arian divide, the Nestorian divide, and so on — had bishops on each side. Following the successors of the twelve men who made up the Apostles have not given us a united community.

[Jesus said,’ “God is indeed my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him. That is a straight path.

But the factions differed among themselves. So woe to the faithless at the scene of a tremendous day. How will they will hear and how well they will see on the day when they come to Us! But today the wrongdoers are in plain error.
Qur’an 19:37-38

Even worth, it has often not given us a gracious community. [Many bishops in the late classical world gave the Sacrament of Reconciliation only once or twice a lifetime. But does anyone believe that Christ would not forgive a repentant sinner the second time? Or that His mother would spurn such a contrite heart?

But they were succeeded by an evil posterity who neglected the prayer and followed appetites. So they will soon encounter perversity, barring those who

repent, believe, and act righteously.

Such will enter paradise and they will not be wronged in the least.
Qur’an 19:59-60

What good is the Sign of Peace from a bishop who will not cooperate with Christ to forgive sins? To be with Mary, to follow the signs to Jesus, means knowing a Sign of Peace that is without vanity, without pretension, but full of grace.

Therein they will not hear vain talk, but only “Peace!” Therein they will have their provision morning and evening. This is the paradise that We will give as inheritance to those of Our servants who are Godwary.
Qur’an 19:62-63

In Conclusion

Arian heretics considered themselves catholic, and professed the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They believed that Christ was created at the beginning of all ages, while the rest of the church taught that Christ was begotten before all ages. The successful obliteration of he Arian heresy among Bishops made it impossible for remaining Arian communities to receive the sacraments from an Arian bishop. At the same time, many Catholic bishops in the near east considered themselves “gods” and refused granting the Sacrament of Confession more than once or twice per lifetime — views both well documented and now considered bizarre. The Qur’anic author, caring for an Arian community in this context, urged the faithful to abandon the idea of the “church” and apostolic succession. He urged those who feared God to turn from the bishops and instead seek Mary as a sure way to God.

The tDAxp eXPerience