Qur’an 13: Thunder

The thirteenth chapter, “Thunder,” introduces the Qur’an’s gendered ecology. The focus on God’s creation of the natural world recalls Pope Francis’s Laudato Si or Steve Boint’s Did Jesus Die for Dogs. But the use of mythical or archetypal gender in describing the source of this natural world recalls Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and Maps of Meaning of this lectionary. The Qur’anic author takes the listener through this gendered ecology by focusing on the opening, the fire and flow, and the destination of all creation.

As before, this chapter appears to be a homily, so I will first present biblical readings that the chapter reflects.

Readings

A Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; they are all bronze, tin, iron, and lead, in the midst of a furnace; they have become dross from silver. Therefore thus says the LORD God: ‘Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so I will gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you. Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst. As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have poured out My fury on you.’”
Ezekiel 22:17-22

A Reading, from the Book of Proverbs:

Does not wisdom cry out, And understanding lift up her voice?

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.

I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
Proverbs 8:1,22-23

A Song, from the Psalms:

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;

Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD.

For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.
Psalms 96:11-13

A Reading, from the Gospel according to Matthew:

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.

And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Matthew 21:18-22

A Qur’anic Homily

I have a suspicion that this chapter acts as a key for what I have read so far. “The Opening” is literally the title of the first Qur’anic chapter. The second chapter is named after a young female creature. And while we have had chapters with titles that tease a final destination — the Elevations, the Spoils, and so on — that so far is out of reach.

In any case, let’s begins at the beginning:

The Opening

Chaos is the feminine complement to order. Wisdom is chaos within the Logos — in Qur’anic terms, within the Book.

In the Name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the signs of the Wise Book.
Qur’an 13:1

The material aspect of the Book may be problematic considering the Qur’anic author’s attack on Christians for stating that women are mates with the Lord, but I feel this is unfair. The Qur’anic author is not stating that God is married to the Book like the Christians believe the Son is married to the Church, or the Holy Spirit is the spouse of Mary.

And now Our mind and heart turn back to those hopes with which We began, and for the accomplishment of which We earnestly pray, and will continue to pray, to the Holy Ghost. Unite, then, Venerable Brethren, your prayers with Ours, and at your exhortation let all Christian peoples add their prayers also, invoking the powerful and ever-acceptable intercession of the Blessed Virgin. You know well the intimate and wonderful relations existing between her and the Holy Ghost, so that she is justly called His Spouse. The intercession of the Blessed Virgin was of great avail both in the mystery of the Incarnation and in the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles. May she continue to strengthen our prayers with her suffrages, that, in the midst of all the stress and trouble of the nations,t hose divine prodigies may be happily revived by the Holy Ghost, which were foretold in the words of David: “Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” (Ps. ciii., 30).
Pope Leo XIII, Divinum illud Munus, AD 1897

The Qur’anic author rejects feminine partners to God, but views the Book — chaos and wisdom within the Logos — as feminine:

Thus We have sent it down as a dispensation in Arabic; and should you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have neither any friend nor defender against God.

Certainly We have sent apostles before you, and We appointed wives and descendants for them; and an apostle may not bring a sign except by God’s leave.

There is a written for every time:

God effaces and confirms whatever he wishes and with Him is the Mother Book.
Qur’an 13:37-39

Rather, the relationship is if anything closer to the Father and Wisdom, of the Creator and a feminine creature. Indeed, the Qur’an is neither able to intercede for the faithful (as Christians believe the Church and Mary are)…

If only it were a Qur’an whereby the mountains could be moved, or the earth could be toured, or the dead could be spoken to… Indeed, all dispensation belongs to God.
Qur’an 13:31

… nor is it as useful as a personal attribute, such as faith. Wisdom is the process of correct creativity. Within the home of our mothers, Wisdom allows the increase and the reduction of new life.

God knows what every female carries, and what the wombs reduce and what they increase, and everything is by measure with Him, the Knower of the sensible and the Unseen, the All-great, the All-sublime.
Qur’an 13:8

In the home of our world, this regulation of creation includes both secular features of creation, such as astral bodies:

It is God who raised the heavens without any pillars that you see, and then presided over the Throne. He disposed the sun and the moon, each moving for a specified term. he directs the command, and elaborates the signs that you may be certain of encountering your Lord.

It is He who has spread out the earth and set in it firm mountains and streams, and of every fruit He has made it in two kinds, He draws the night’s cover over the day. There are indeed signs in that for people who reflect.
Qur’an 13:2-3

As well the cyclical nature of lightning, fear, hope, and clouds:

It is He who shows you the lightning, inspiring fear and hope, and He produces the clouds heavy. The Thunder celebrates His praise, and the angels, in awe of Him, and He releases the thunderbolts and strikes with them whomever He wishes. Yet they dispute concerning God, though He is great in might.

To Him belongs the true invocation; and those whom they invoke besides Him do not answer them in any wise — like someone who stretches his hands toward water that is should reach his mouth, but it does not reach it — and the invocation of the faithless only go awry.
Qur’an 13:12-14

These openings of the world were created by God, both for every human life, and for all of creation.

The Fire and the Flow

The feminine, fluidic part of creation is the complement to order. Viewed from a masculine perspective, the Logos leads to the destruction by fire, an analogy in Both the Bible (“dross”) and Qur’an (“scum”):

He sends down water from the sky, whereat the valleys are flooded to their capacity, and the flood carries along a swelling scum. A similar scum arises from what they smelt in the fire for the purpose of ornaments or wares. That is how God compares truth and falsehood. As for the scum, it leaves as dross, and that which profits the people stays in the earth .That is how God draws comparisons.
Qur’an 13:17

These themes tie together as it is not only the unborn that the womb either produces or reduces, it is nations as well. They come and go

Thus have We sent you to a nation before which many nations have passed way, so that you may recite to them what We have revealed to you. Yet they defy the All-beneficent. Say, ‘he is my Lord, there is no God except Him; in Him alone I have put my trust, and to Him alone will be my return.’
Qur’an 13:30

as do apostles:

Apostles were certainly derided before you. But then I have respite to those who were faithless, then I seized them; so how was My retribution?
Qur’an 13:32

The Qur’anic author is giving chaos its positive meaning, and beyond just wisdom: Chaos includes the destruction of old orders that should be destroyed. To the Qur’anic author, God — who creates as He wishes and destroys as He wishes — uses chaos and order for His will.

The Destination

In the Bible God created man outside the Garden of Eden, and then placed him into it. Eden is not our true starting point…

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being… Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
Genesis 2:7,15

… but a picture of our destination:

A description of the paradise promised to the Godwary: streams run in it, its fruits and shade are everlasting. Such is the requital of those who are godwary, and the requital of the faithless is the Fire.
Qur’an 13:35

Just as hell contains humans and non-humans, so does the Garden:

It someone who knows the truth what what has been sent down to you from your Lord is the truth, like someone who is blind? Only those who possess intellect take admonition — those who fulfill God’s covenant and do not break the pledge solemnly made, and those who join what God has commanded to be joined, fear their Lord, and are afraid of an adverse reckoning — those who are patient for the sake of their Lord’s leisure, maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, and repel evil with good.

For such will be the reward of the abode: the Gardens of Eden, which they will enter along with whoever is righteous from among their forebears, spouses, and descendants, and the angels will call on them from every door.
Qur’an 13:19-23

Through faith and thru works man will be saved:

Those who have faith and do righteous deeds — happy are they and good is their destination.
Qur’an 13:29

God has knowledge of the mother Book, and witness to you:

The faithless say, ‘You have not been sent.’ Say, ‘God suffices as a witness between me and you, and he who possess the knowledge of the Book.’
Qur’an 13:43

In Christianity the eschaton is a wedding feast, an image taken Jeremiah’s romantic comedy view of salvation history and, before that, the stories of God’s drinking party.  The view of love as central to God’s creation extends to the present day in Hans urs von Balthasar‘s focus on both eros and agape as forms of Christian love.  To the Qur’anic author, God knows Wisdom, in keeping with this analogy.

Conclusion

“Thunder” emphasizes creation and its gendered origin. The Qur’an is revealed as female, and a component to the Proverbial “Wisdom” as a female creature through which creation was instituted. This is also the most explicit connection between the Book and the Logos, the ordering agency at the center of late classical Greek, Hebrew, and Christian thought.

And it is in this history of Christian thought, I believe, the Qur’anic author resolves Paul’s message.

For Jews request a sign,
and Greeks seek after wisdom;
but we preach Christ crucified,

to the Jews a stumbling block
and to the Greeks foolishness,
but to those who are called,

both Jews
and Greeks,
Christ
the power of God
and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24

The Qur’anic author does not see himself contradicting Paul, but in keeping with him. For to the Jews and Greeks, he seems to write, was given Christ, and the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Impressions of “Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit,” by Craig Oliver

Recently I read Unleashing Demons by Craig Oliver, an adviser to former UK Prime Minister David Cameron who also worked with the anti-Brexit campaign, “Stronger In.” Unleashing Demons presents an inside view of the failed attempt to convince the British people they should stay in the European Union. Oliver does a good job presenting a detailed history of events and lays blame at numerous people, but not himself nor his former employer. He makes a few claims that are questionable. The book itself is clearly intended for a British audience, but there’s some overlap with US politics too.

Unleashing Demons appears to be a re-purposed diary. It’s very detailed, and does not have a real sense of pacing. It seems likely that most of the book is literally composed of what Oliver recorded happening that day, narrowed down to the EU referendum.

The book begins shortly before the campaign. Oliver’s faction, “Britain Stronger in Europe”) or “Stronger In” for short),” was composed of the leadership of the Conservative, Labor, Liberal-Democrat, Green, and Scottish National Parties. The opposing faction, “Leave.eu” was primarily composed of unhappy Conservative Party members, including cabinet ministers. One consequence of this is that the “Stronger In” campaign was strongly associated with the establishment. Oliver realizes this, but fails to appreciate how profoundly this blinded him. At several points Oliver (who narrates the audible edition) seems truly angry and bewildered by “experts” in “post-war institutions” were so widely distrusted. He lives in an establishment world where the financial crisis and the Iraq occupation have not destroyed the credibility of the elite. Another consequence is that the Brexit referendum was seen as a Conservative Party civil war by the other parties. Oliver suspects the incompetent assistance by other parties may have been given on purpose, in order to weaken the Conservative Party.

Oliver briefly describes the pro-Brexit campaign. The official pro-Brexit campaign was Leave.eu, actually led by Cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove. At the same time the U.K Independent Part of Nigel Farage ran a more enthusiastic wildcat campaign. While tensions between these campaigns are mentioned, but pro-Brexit side appeared more united than the anti-Brexit side.

An irony of the book is that beliefs now associated with Brexiteers (such as that a vote is irrevocable, that “out means out,” and so on) were largely pushed by the Leave campaign and the Cameron administration. This is part of what was called disparagingly “Project Fear,” justified by Oliver as a method of emphasizing the negative aspects of Brexit as a risk to the self-interest of marginal British voters. Within the narrative previous Labor Prime Ministers argued against this approach, emphasizing that while the Brexit side has both a positive message (regain sovereignty) and a negative one (risk from immigration), the pro-Brexit side has only a negative message (risk to the economy) without a positive message (either Brown’s “lead not leave” British power within the EU, or a focus on an “open” world). In the text Oliver is dismissive of this view.

Oliver lists a number of villains who are responsible for Brexit being passed. These include German Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policy, the Labour party for sabotaging the referendum, disloyal Conservative ministers, people “who don’t like brown people”, a lack of a pro-EU story, and the BBC for not silencing news he disliked. In the book and outside it he has called for the BBC to censor political views he dislikes. These include differences from whether or not Turkey can ever join the EU, to whether there might be a EU army.

Unleashing Demons touches on American politics in a few points. The chief pollster for the anti-Brexit campaign was Jim Messini, whohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Fear also worked for Obama’s successful reelection campaign. Earlier in the book the narrative feels like it’s broken to insist Obama’s line, that Britain would go “in the back of the queue,” was written without British assistance, even though that is not an American expression. As the book neared its conclusion it began to feel more like Donna Brazille’s Hacks, as it became increasingly bitter to members of the author’s own party.

I read Unleashing Demonshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Fear: The Inside Story of Brexit in the Audible edition.

Qur’an 12: Joseph

So many of the chapters of the Qur’an are interpretive mash-ups — of Mary and Miriam, of Abraham and Peter, Moses and Joshua — that I wonder if the mash-ups are the essence of the chapters, and not just a feature of them. Specifically, I wonder if the chapters of the Qur’an are literally homilies, which follow a two-readings, a psalm, and a gospel as in most liturgical churches. So for the twelfth chapter, Joseph, and perhaps others, I will begin by presenting a list of readings that implicit in the chapter, and then discuss the particular narrative of the chapter itself.

Readings

A Reading, from the Book of Genesis:

And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.”

So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.”

So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison
Genesis 39:7-20

A Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles:

“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”

Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Acts 26:13-23,23-32

A Song, from the Psalms:

Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
He will judge Your people with righteousness,
And Your poor with justice.
The mountains will bring peace to the people,
And the little hills, by righteousness.
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.
Psalms 72:1-4

A Reading, from the Gospel according St. Matthew:

Then Jesus said to His disciples,

“If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross,
and follow Me.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Mark 16:24-28

A Qur’anic Homily

The Qur’anic author believes there is a “Book” or Heavenly Scrolls with God, but the Qur’an itself is not this book. It is a collection of talks, elaborated stories, that highlight the best of the Torah and the Gospels:

We will recount to you the best narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Lectionary and prior to it you were indeed among those who were unaware of it.
Qur’an 12:3

This Qur’an was written to more clearly express the morals in Torah and the Gospels:

There is certainly a moral in their accounts for those who possess intellect. This is not a fabricated discourse; rather, it is a confirmation of what was before it, and an elaboration of all things, and guidance and mercy for people who have faith.
Qur’an 12:111

The twelfth chapter of the Qur’an, “Joseph,” explains how judgment works. Good judges and bad judges are described, both in public matters and private.

For instance, in the Bible and the Qur’an Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph, and then frames him for rape.

They raced to the door, and she tore his shirt from behind, and they ran to her husband [Potiphar]. She said, ‘What is to be the requital of him who has evil intentions for your wife except imprisonment or a painful punishment? He said, ‘It was she who solicited me.’

A witness of her own household testified: “If his shirt is torn from the front, she tells the truth and he lies. But if his shirt is torn from behind, then she lies and he tells the truth.’

Joseph, let this matter alone, and you, woman, plead for forgiveness for your sin, for you have indeed been erring.
Qur’an 12:29

Yet the next we see Joseph, he is in prison. The judge has ‘compromised,’ like Pilate, leading to an unjust outcome.

Somewhat better is the king, who at least demands the truth, and gets it:

The king said, ‘What was your business, women, when you solicited Joseph?’ They said, “heaven be praised! We know of no evil in him.’

The prince’s [Potiphar’s] wife said, ‘Now the truth has come to light! It was I who solicited him, and he is indeed telling the truth. This, that he may know that I did not betray him in his absence, and God does not further the schemes of the treacherous. Yet I do not absolve my soul, for the soul indeed prompts to evil, except inasmuch as my Lord has mercy. My Lord is indeed all-forgiving, all-merciful!’
Qur’an 12:51-53

A wise judge, such as Joseph during his evaluation of his brothers, seeks evidence and considers it wisely.

“When he had furnished them with their provisions, he put the drinking-cup into his brother’s saddlebag. Then a herald shouted: O caravan! You are indeed thieves!.. The said, ‘The requital for it shall be that he in whose saddlebag it is found shall give himself over as its requital. Thus do we requite the wrongdoers.’
Qur’an 12:70,75

Joseph also judges — or balances — in theological matters. For instance, he uses dreams of bread and grapes (the raw material of the transubstantiation) to emphasize the need for absolute Monotheism and a lack of intercessors:

There entered the prison two youths along with him. One of them said, ‘I dreamt that I am pressing grapes.’ The other said, ‘I dreamt that I am carrying brad on my head from which the birds are eating.’ ‘Inform us of its interpretation, for indeed we see you are a virtuous man.’

He said, ‘Before the meals you are served come to you I will inform you of its interpretation. That is among things my Lord has taught me. Indeed, I renounce the creed of the people who have no faith in God and who also disbelieve in the Hereafter. I follow the creed of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is not for us to ascribe any partner to God. That is by virtue of God’s grace upon us and upon all mankind, but most people do not give thanks.

O my prison mates! Are different masters better, or the God, the One, the All-paramount?
Qur’an 12:36-38

And likewise Joseph prays for his brothers, not of his own initiative (Which would have been arrogant in the Qur’anic author’s eyes) but as a response to a request (which was to help those of weak faith)

They said, ‘Father! Plead for forgiveness of our sins! We have indeed been erring!.’

He said, ‘I shall plead with my Lord to forgive you; indeed He is the All-forgiving, All-merciful.’
Qur’an 12:97-98

Joseph is a type of Christ, calling others to follow him:

They said, ‘Father! Plead for forgiveness of our sins! We have indeed been erring!.’

He said, ‘I shall plead with my Lord to forgive you; indeed He is the All-forgiving, All-merciful.’
Qur’an 12:97-98

And even using his clothes to mediate his presence to others:

Take this shirt of mine and cast it upon my father’s face, he will regain his sight, and bring me all your folks.’

As the caravan set off, their father said, ‘I sense the scent of Joseph, if you will not consider me a dotard.’
Qur’an 12:93-94

Joseph is an icon of what a judge, a balances, a man should be. “Are you really Joseph?” in the reunion between Joseph and Benjamin could be replaced with, “Are you really what I should be?”

They said, ‘Are your really Joseph?”‘

He said, ‘I m Joseph, and this is my brother. Certainly God has shown us favor. Indeed, if one is Godwary and patient, God does not waste the reward of the virtuous.’

They said, ‘By God, God has certainly preferred you over us, and we have indeed been erring.’

He said, ‘There shall be no reproach on you today. God will forgive you and He is the most merciful of the merciful.
Qur’an 12:90-92

The cause of these though is the Lord, and it is the Lord’s power without intercession which allows any of this to work.

And as with Christ, Joseph leave us with a prayer, a variation of the Our Father.

My Lord! You have granted me a share in the kingdom, and taught me the interpretation of drams. Originator of the heaven and earth! You are my guardian in this world and the Hereafter! Let my death be in submission, and unite me with the Righteous.
Qur’an 12:101

Unites his father with his brothers:

And he seated his parents high upon the throne, and they fell down prostrate before him. He said, ‘Father! This is the fulfillment of my dream of long ago, which my Lord has made come true. He was certainly gracious to me when He brought me out of the prison and brought you over from the desert after that Satan had incited ill feeling between me and my brothers. My Lord is indeed all-attentive in bringing about what He wishes. Indeed, He is the All-knowing, the All-wise.’
Qur’an 12:100

And as with Genesis, in all of this, there is a shock.

The first book book with a Bible ends with the last of the Patriarchs, entombed, a mummy:

So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Genesis 50:26

To any who know typology, and what Egypt represents, the penultimate lines of Joshua are no less shocking:

When they entered into the presence of Joseph, he set his parents close to himself, and said, ‘Welcome to Egypt, in safety, God willing!’
Qur’an 12:99

The only thing more shocking in the Bible, perhaps, is the next Joseph who enters Egypt:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Matthew 2:13-15

Qur’an 11: Hud

Hud is similar to Jonah, with prophetic stories of call, warning, and salvation is repeated. Instead of the focus on the Prophet Jonah, though, multiple prophets inside and outside the Bible are described in basically the same way. This structure is used to comment on the Second Letter of St. Peter.

The Qur’anic author seems to provide a point-by-point contextualization of Pope Peter’s letter, focusing especially on themes form the first three chapters.

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you…

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked…

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 1,1:1-2,2:1-11,3:8-9

The rest of this post will go thru the Qur’anic interpretation of the bolded portions, and conclude with some thoughts on the first eleven chapters of the Qur’an as a whole.

Proclaiming the Lord

By the Righteousness of Our God[,] and [the] Savior Jesus Christ…

A lot depends on if “Our God and Savior Jesus Christ” is support to be a list or not. I don’t know whether either the Greek original or subsequent Syriac translations of Peter’s epistle are explicit in whether or not a comma can be placed between “Our God” and “and Savior Jesus Christ”, but it appears the Qur’anic author wishes there was one, at least.

In keeping with his theology, the Qur’anic author focuses on the Lord, the person of God the Father…

In the Name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

Alife Lam Ra. A Book, whose signs have been made definitive and then elaborated, from One all-wise, all-aware, declaring: “Worship no one but God. I am indeed a warner to you from Him and a bearer of good news.”
Qur’an 11:1-2

This are words that would be familiar with any Jew with a belief in a One-personed God:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4

Whoever the “I” in the Qur’anic quote is, the Qur’an does talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but in the same way it speaks of Moses and Mary — not in the way it speaks of God:

Certainly We gave Moses the Book and followed him with the apostles, and We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear proofs and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit. Is it not that whenever an apostle brought you that which was not to your liking, you would act arrogantly; so you would impugn a group, and slave a group?
Qur’an 2:57-58

Bring on Themselves Destruction

But there were also false prophets among the people … who .. bring on themselves swift destruction

The Qur’an denies the ability of humans to control most actions, but agrees with the Catholic faith in an important way: it is possible to choose sinfulness, or a path away from God. The Fire is a tryst, an erotic appointment for the sinner, that he chooses instead of God:

Is he who stands on a clear proof from his Lord and whom a witness of his own follows? And before him there was the Book of Moses, a guide and mercy. It is they who have faith in it, and whoever denies him from among the factions, the Fire is their tryst. So do not be in doubt about it; it is the truth from your Lord, but most people do not have faith.
Qur’an 11:17

This idea, that God gave to humans of the ability to choose, is found in the church fathers. Writing in Syriac (the language the Qur’an may be written in) shortly before the Qur’an, this reality was described in analogical terms by adding a scene to the Bible to make this point:

And the children of Seth, who had besmirched themselves in the mire of fornication, ran to the door of the Ark, and entreated Noah to open to them the door of the Ark. And when they saw the water floods which were swirling about them and engulfing them on all sides, they were in great tribulation, and they tried to climb up the mountains of Paradise, but were unable to do so. Now the Ark was closed and sealed, and the Angel of the Lord stood over one side of it that he might act as the pilot thereof. And when the floods of waters mastered the children of Seth, and they began to drown in their great and mighty waves–then was fulfilled that which David spake concerning them, saying, “I said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High. (Ps. lxxxii. 6.) But since ye have done this, and ye have loved the fornication of the daughters of Cain, like them ye shall perish, and even as they did so shall ye die.”
The Cave of Treasures, “The Third Thousand Years

The Qur’anic author generalizes this, emphasizing the Bible is not the limit of God’s action in the world, but a witness to its continuous operation:

These are from the accounts of the townships which We recount to you. Of them there are some that still stand, and some that have been mown down. We did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves. When your Lord’s edict came, their gods whom they would invoke besides God were of no avail to them in any wise, and they did not increase them in anything but ruin.
Qur’an 11:100

Here the Qur’an expands on the limitation of the written text to describe the transcendent reality found in the gospel. No text can fully describe the glory of God:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
John 16:12-13,21:25

God’s justice, in the Qur’anic view, extends to providing people what they have worked for, their revealed preferences. In a passage terrifying to any recurrent sinner, God promises to pay each according to his works:

As for those who desire the life of this world and its glitter, We will recompense them fully for their works therein, and they will not be underpaid in it. They are those for whom there will be nothing in the Hereafter except Fire: what they have accomplished in the world has failed, and their works have come to naught.
Qur’an 11:15-16

Here the Qur’anic author is not just following Qur’an 8:60 — he’s following Christ, who notes the payment from God is for work not paid on this earth. This is true for good works:

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Matthew 6:1-2

as well as the bad:

Judas Maccabeus has been a mighty warrior from his youth; he shall command the army for you and fight the battle against the peoples. You shall rally around you all who observe the law, and avenge the wrong done to your people. Pay back the Gentiles in full, and obey the commands of the law.
1 Maccabees 2:66-68

Angels and Humans

God did not spare the angels who sinned

The Bible states that judgment is not limited to humans, but extends to supernatural creatures too. Indeed, a cause of the flood (and seemingly the one that Peter and the Qur’anic author both references) was the angels having sex with women:

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 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.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil [e]continually.
Genesis 6:1-5

An angelic rebellion described at length in the apocrypha:

He [The fourth Fallen Angel] taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray, from eternity to eternity, and to this day.

For men were not created for this, that the should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink!
I Enoch 69:9-10

And resulting in eternal darkness for the rebellious angels:

But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Jude 1:5-7

Thus, do demons too shudder at the coming justice…

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:17-19

The Qur’anic author is even clearer: hell will be filled with humans and supernatural creatures “all together”!

Had your Lord wished, he would have made mankind one community; but they continued to differ, except those on whom your Lord has mercy — and that is why He created them — and the word of your Lord has been fulfilled: ‘I will surely fill hell with jinn and humans, all together!’
Qur’an 11:118-119

The judgment is not limited to humans, nor only to biblical characters. Just as Ezekiel included “Gog and Magog” to shock the reader out of seeing just familiar lists, the Qur’anic author includes other locations, other judgments, and other prophets, as well. One such is Hud, for whom the chapter is named. Others are included as well, as wonderful in their faith as Gog and Magog are in their terror.

When Our edict came, We delivered Shu’ayb and the faithful who were with him by mercy from Us. And the Cry seized those who were wrongdoers, whereat they lay lifeless prostrate in their homes, as if they had never lived there. Now, away with the Midian! — just as Thamud was done away with!
Qur’an 11:94-95

Noah the Preacher of righteousness

God… saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness

There is no record in Genesis of Noah preaching. But the first Pope proclaimed that he did, and early church fathers expanded on this using the Talmudic method of adding scenes or details to the Bible.

Although Noah was an example to that generation by his righteous and had, in his uprightness, announced to them the flood during the one hundred years, they still did not repent. So Noah said to them, “Some of all the flesh will come to be saved with me in the ark.” But they mocked him, Now will all the beasts and birds that are scattered throughout every corner of the earth come from all those regions.”
St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 6:9

The Qur’anic author does the same, for the same goal: to create from Noah a type of prophet who proclaimed salvation to a doubting people. But just as St Peter added to Genesis, and St. Ephrem added to St. Peter, the Qur’anic author adds to St Peter: a consolation for Noah for the lack of his preaching. In the Qur’an faith precedes belief.

It was revealed to Noah: ‘None of your people will believe except those who already have faith; so do not sorrow for what they used to do. Build the ark before Our eyes and by Our revelation, and do not plead with me for those who are wrongdoers: they shall indeed be drowned.

As he was building the ark, whenever the elders of his people passed by him, they would ridicule him. He said, ‘If you ridicule us, we will ridicule you just as you ridicule us.
Qur’an 11:36-38

Faith before belief might be rephrased as doxology before pistis. A preacher who has not first led people into praise cannot successfully pray for their salvation:

But Noah had previously taught his family to glorify God, so they could become obedient to him:

Why were there not among the generations before you a remnant who might forbid corruption in the land, except a few of those whom We delivered from among them? Those who were wrongdoers pursued in the means of affluence they had been granted, and they were a guilty lot.
Qur’an 11:116

Referring to the story above, of some of Noah’s family drowned through unbelief, the Qur’anic author emphasizes this point. Even the family cannot be saved, cannot even be prayed for, before they have faith. Unless the faithful praise God, there is no hope for them.

Noah called out to his Lord, and said ‘My Lord! My son is indeed from my family, and Your promise is indeed true, and You are the fairest of all judges.’

Said He, ‘O Noah! He is indeed not of your family. He is indeed ‘Unrighteous Conduct.’ So do not ask Me of which you have no knowledge. I advise you lest you should be among the ignorant.’
Qur’an 11:45-46

While Nicene Christians disagree starkly about the procession of salvation outlined here, they agree with the Qur’anic author is the primacy of the relationship to God to even the most sentimental familial relationships:

For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Luke 12:52-53

Deliver Righteous Lot

…turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot…

The Qur’an and Genesis agree that Abraham interceded for his nephew Lot on hearing of God’s planned destruction for Sodom:

And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.
Genesis 16:20-22

What happens next is a sort of game, where Abraham asks hypothetical questions and God plays along.

And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
Genesis 18:23-26

In the Qur’anic interpretation, this was a pointless exercise:

So when the awe had left Abraham and the good news had reached him, he pleaded with us concerning the people of Lot. Abraham was indeed most forbearing, plaintive and penitent.

O Abraham, let this matter alone! Your Lord’s edict has already come, and an irrevocable punishment shall overtake them.
Qur’an 11:74-76

Here the Qur’an agrees with the implication of the pre-Christian Book of Jubilees, where Abraham’s intercession is elided:

And on the new moon of the fourth month we appeared unto Abraham, at the oak of Mamre, and we talked with him, and we announced to him that a son would be given to him by Sarah his wife.

And Sarah laughed, for she heard that we had spoken these words with Abraham, and we admonished her, and she became afraid, and denied that she had laughed on account of the words.

And we told her the name of her son, as his name is ordained and written in the heavenly tablets (i.e.) Isaac,

And (that) when we returned to her at a set time, she would have conceived a son.

And in this month the Lord executed his judgments on Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Zeboim, and all the region of the Jordan, and He burned them with fire and brimstone, and destroyed them until this day, even as I have declared unto thee all their works, that they are wicked and sinners exceedingly, and that they defile themselves and commit fornication in their flesh, and work uncleanness on the earth.

And, in like manner, God will execute judgment on the places where they have done according to the uncleanness of the Sodomites, like unto the judgment of Sodom.

But Lot we saved; for God remembered Abraham, and sent him out from the midst of the overthrow.
Jubilees 16:1-7

The Qur’an does not elide the intercession, but presents it as parallel as another wasted gesture, Sarah laughing at the announcement that she will give birth in her old age.

Certainly Our messengers came to Abraham with the good news, and said, ‘Peace!’ ‘Peace!’ He replied. Presently, he brought a roasted calf. But when he saw their hands not reaching out for it, he took them amiss and felt a fear of them. They said, ‘Do not be afraid. We have be sent to the people of Lot.’

His wife, standing by, laughed as We gave her the good news of Isaac, and of Jacob after Isaac. She said, ‘Oh my! Shall I, an old woman, bear, and this husband of mine is an old man?! That is indeed an odd thing!’
Qur’an 11:69-72

Sarah’s story ends with grace on her, and amusement but not anger at her doubt. Because as with Abraham, it is doubt from one who has faith, and not from the godless:

They said, ‘Are you amazed at God’s dispensation? God’s mercy and His blessings upon you, members of the household. He is indeed all-laudable, all-glorious.’
Qur’an 11:73

The Promise of the Future

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance

Writing through the voice of angels, the Qur’anic author consoles the sinner with unseen support. As men and the supernatural can fall into the Fire, men and the supernatural wait and praise and hope for God’s grace together:

Say to those who do not have faith, ‘Act according to your ability; we too are acting. And wait! We too are waiting!’

To God belongs the Unseen of the heavens and the earth, and to Him all matters are returned. So worship Him and trust in Him. Your Lord is not oblivious of what you do.
Qur’an 11:121-123

Indeed, the elaboration of the heavenly book that is this Qur’an — as well as the Torah and the Gospels — are give to men for their hope:

Whatever that We relate to you of the accounts of the apostles are those by which We strengthen your heart, and there has come to you in this the truth and an advice and admonition for the faithful.
Qur’an 11:120

People who turn away from prophets have as their weakness this lack of hope. Prophets in ancient days were rejected because the good news was received doubtfully. They do not hope in God, and so see giving up their fathers’ unbelief for a new belief as a bad deal:

They said, “O Salih! Before this, you were a source of hope to us. Do you forbid us to worship what our fathers have been worshiping? We have indeed grave doubts concerning that to which you invite us.”
Qur’an 11:62

This is an old story.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Romans 1:20-24

Conclusion

The Qur’an itself is literally incomprehensible. Imagine the books of Exodus, Chronicles, and Hebrews together, but with the chapters in a random order. There’s obviously some context, some additional text, whose knowledge is assumed. Throughout this reading of the Qur’an I have read it with the context that makes the most sense of a Christian and Jewish, near eastern people: the Bible, the Church Fathers, the Apocrypha, and the Talmud.

The traditional answer is that the co-text should be the hadiths (sayings), a corpus that’s about 10x the length of the Qur’an, states what was happening when each verse was revealed, and often with a commentary by Muhammad.

Revisionists such as Christoph Luxenberg and Gabriel Said Reynolds instead argue for the method I present here.

A strength of the revisionist view is that they historical case is stronger than either Luxembourg or Reynolds seem to realize. They accept the typical dating of the Qur’an to around ~620 or so. This matches up to the end of Apostolic succession for the Arians in Justinian’s persecution campaign. The Arians not only insisted they were Catholic, and at one point had a majority of bishops, but also Apostolic succession and the seven sacraments. Without bishops all but two (baptism and marriage) would soon become impossible to actually receive. And the Arian bishoprics were destroyed around the time the Qur’an was written.

The Qur’anic author is wrestling with this traumatic dislocation. He is presented a post-Catholic version of Arianism, an Arianism that can survive without the sacraments. Except for three aspects which would strike most as esoteric (whether the church does exists as an entity, whether sacraments once could be obtained, and whether Christ is inferior to God inferiority of Christ to the Father), the Qur’anic author would have for into the Reformation worldview.

This is the context for Hud, the eleventh chapter of the Qur’an. Like a good Reformation writer, the Qur’anic author emphasizes the universality of God’s decision. The familiar and the foreign alike will face salvation or judgment, Biblical characters and people nowadays both need to have faith in God.

The Path Past the End of the Road

When I first read the below I thought it was from a bizarre, parallel timeline of this world. Considering the state of our current politics, it may be from a saner world.

The Path Past the End of the Road

The New Republic

“We’ve all made mistakes in our lives,” Paul Wolfowitz says to the county fair crowd one early September twilight evening, “like a few poorly written op-eds.”

“Or the Iraq War!” cheerfully chimes in Maureen Dowd.

With this the crowd of a few dozen laughs. No matter where, the crowd always laughs at this line. Wolfowitz does a scripted “aww shucks” look and continues.

“Thanks for reminding me, Maureen.” A pause allows for a few more chuckles. “But in all seriousness folks, we’re here to make sure America never forgets the most important lesson.”

Dowd steps up to the edge of the stage with a motherly face meant to give instruction, “That George Bush should never be trusted with presidential powers again.” A silence falls over the crowd. People let it set in. They remember. Oh how they remember. Dowd continues, “Now I know everybody knows we raised millions to fund this trip. But Paul and I have decided that we cannot let our message be influenced special interests which once backed Georgie.”

“So we’re relying on the generosity of strangers for day-to-day supplies and gas. But you didn’t come here to hear that, you came here for our show!” Paul finishes as the local band starts playing. The DowdWolf Variety Hour begins to cheers and laughter. A dirt path continues where many thought America’s road had ended.

End of the Road?

Do you remember where you were when America “died”? Some people claim it died when George Will, in his infamous sore winners speech meant to introduce John McCain as the 2008 GOP nominee for President, instead played a video of Japanese-special education children reading “THE DARDENELLES OF THE BELTWAY.” Thompson became livid because the video was on repeat and he stormed the stage where the glowering Will stood. The chaos of the day spread and effectively ended the establishment’s control of both the GOP and Democratic parties.

Others claim America died when the constitutional (detractors call it the mob while supporters call it the shadow) presidential elections in 2008 and 2012 were voided by the Supreme Court who instead indefinitely extended the judicial (detractors call it the court-imposed fraud while supporters call it the people’s will) presidential election between John McCain and Jimmy Carter.

Still others claim America past away when the various peoples’ rallies on the National Mall against the crimes of Tina Leans became the main voice of America’s frustrations.

But a Path Continues…

But are things really that bad? The answer is, of course, no. Even in the darkest days we had Jimmy Carter reminding us that “it is okay to believe again.” While some feared his persuading the Supreme Court to basically dissolve the presidency was extreme, the eternal campaign has made both McCain and Carter voices of America. They are true heads of states. When one of the 2016 mob election candidates says something extreme, McCain and Carter remind us in their debates how Americans truly should act. The mob rabble is further tempered by Dowd and Wolfowitz shadowing their illegitimate debates with their variety show.

And the downfall of the two big parties has allowed for an American Spring in the legislatures. Now various groups have voices in the House and Senate. Rational, extremist, and even funny parties are born and die every month. Truly we have a people’s house as diverse as the people.

A Dirt Path Not Yet Paved

Now, thing aren’t perfect. Supreme Court Justice Afghanistan is back on the bench after his Supreme Court pardon, Russell Means passed away of old age while Bobby Means was reportedly gunned down by cops at a traffic stop, we have all heard stories of those who try to travel on the interstates at night, Tina Leans still lives somewhere in Europe trying to rally people against Pope-King Kow I, and the Kurdlifate is causing the large Arab refugee crisis which threatens to overrun the Old World.

But as I see Wolfowitz trying to fix his invisible kazoo, I am reminded of Jimmy Carters campaign slogan: it is okay to believe again. America continues not as it was, but as it is.

Impressions of “Hans Urs von Balthasar: Rediscovering Holistic Christianity,” by Kevin Mongrain

Hans Urs von Balthasar is a short summary. I don’t have a firm grasp of the man Balthasar. But at a high level, it appears that Balthasar is similar to GK Chesterton in his focus on the codependency of mysticism and theology. That is, Balthasar sees Thomas Aquinas’s system view of God to be as true and valid as Francis of Assisi’s mystical vision. He also sees the Church Fathers as a “source” of the faith which has been neglected in favor of Aquinas’s “summary” of theology. Balthasar focuses on Glory as a goal of worship. The book does not spend enough time on Balthasar’s seemingly odd ideas about the Son, or his role in Catholic intellectual history.

I’ve become more aware of Balthasar over the last year, primarily from social and new media. Taylor Marshall, author of The Crucified Rabbi, greatly dislikes Balthasar. On his show he dedicated an episode to criticizing Balthasar and his ideas:

Meanwhile, Robert Barron, author of To Light a Fire, admires Balthasar greatly. He’s also put out his own videos — shorter but punchier, praising the man. A similar view has appeared on Catholic podcasts like Clerically Speaking* and Credal Catholic

Balthasar focuses on the “Glory” of God. Doxa, or “Glory,” is a form of belief that contrasts with (and complements) episteme. Thus the relationship between Glory and Theology is more obvious in Greek than it is in translation in Latin and in the West. Indeed, the demand that Aquinas’s theology have a mystical pairing is close to the Orthodox criticism of Catholicism.

The word doxa picked up a new meaning between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC when the Septuagint translated the Hebrew word for “glory” (????, kavod) as doxa. This translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was used by the early church and is quoted frequently by the New Testament authors. The effects of this new meaning of doxa as “glory” is made evident by the ubiquitous use of the word throughout the New Testament and in the worship services of the Greek Orthodox Church, where the glorification of God in true worship is also seen as true belief. In that context, doxa reflects behavior or practice in worship, and the belief of the whole church rather than personal opinion.
Doxa,” Wikipedia

But more often than “Glory,” Balthasar uses the word “Beauty.” I don’t understand what Balthasar means by using “Beauty” as a strict synonym, or his purpose in seeming to adopt the German romantic tradition into Catholicism. I am unsure if this is a culture touchstone that Balthasar uses to demonstrate his point, or indicates goals beyond the recovery of Glory into Christianity.

According to the book, Balthasar also shared ideas that fit less well with the Catholic or Orthodox traditions. He seems to see the Son as inferior to the Father, and insists that it was the Father who raised the Son, and not the Son who raised Himself. This changes the view of Good Saturday away from the Harrowing of Hell and towards the suffering of Christ in hell. Yet Balthasar’s insistence that the Christian re-presents the procession of the Trinity may fit with the Shepherd of Hermas.

I would have enjoyed a greater discussion about Balthasar’s role in Catholic intellectual history. Balthasar gives an important focus to Mary and prayer, in a way that’s presented as a change from neoscholasticism. This fits with what I have heard before, that it was Balthasar influence (and those with similar views) influence on the Second Vatican Council that helped center these in the Church’s teachings, and pivot away from the specific scholastic process that had been common before. Yet how his thoughts related to others in that council, what was the cause and what was the effect, is left unanswered in this short volume.

I read Hans Urs von Balthasar: Rediscovering Holistic Christianity in the Audible edition.

In Memory: Jeff Carlson

Some news is so surprising and hits so hard it paralyzes you.

Almost two years ago I received this email:

Some of you have already heard, but for those who have not, I am so sorry that I need to share unbelievably sad news with you all. Our beloved Jeff passed away on Monday, July 17 of a very aggressive lung cancer. We are in utter shock and disbelief.

Thank you to all of you who have known Jeff during his life, whether through his writing career or personal life, for your friendship and support to him throughout.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers and if choose to, please direct any communications back to my email address, noted above.

I knew Jeff the blogosphere. I had read his short story “The Frozen Sky.” The story was about an astronaut trapped under the ice of Europa. He was kind enough to discuss it with me. I then read the book version he wrote, and we spoke again. Having these brief interactions just made me happy, I was so excited to see where Jeff’s career was going.

And then I got the sad news. And it was just something that was there, in my inbox, and I didn’t want to do anything with it, because it felt so sad to know that I wouldn’t get to read the next part of the story in this life.

I am so grateful that I got to know Jeff, even if in an online way. We have the ability to have such effects on each other,

Jeff’s obituary is available online.

Qur’an 10: Jonah

After the nightmare of Repentance, with the teacher who wrote that book attacking the concept of teachers, the familiar opening of Jonah feels like coming home:

In the Name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the signs of the Wise Book.
Qur’an 10:1

Relatively little space is given to the obligatory attacks on Judaism and especially Catholicism. Instead a universal pattern of apostleship is given, where men produce elaborations upon the Book such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an. Water, the life of this world, is either the source from which the next world will be found, or is the graveyard of the unbeliever. This is shown through three biblical stories, those of Noah, Moses, and Jonah.

Intercession and Apostleship

As if to emphasize this, the rhetoric softens radically, with intercessors denied except if or when God permits them. At first glance this allow both a Jewish view of Moses, and a Catholic view of the intercessory role of Mary and the Church.

Your Lord is indeed God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and then settled on the Throne, directing the command. There is no intercessor, except after His leave. That is God, your Lord! So worship Him. Will you take then take admonition!
Qur’an 10:3

But there seems to be a parallel with the angels who speak — perhaps the only intercessors are those that elaborate on the Heavenly Book to man, if not the books such as the Torah that elaborate on the Book itself:

When Our manifest signs are recited to them, those who do not expect to encounter Us say, Bring a Lectionary other than this, or alter it. Say, I may not alter it of my own accord. I follow only what is revealed to me. Indeed, should I disobey my Lord, I fear the punishment of a tremendous day.

Say, Had God wished, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have made it known to you, for I have dwelt among you for a lifetime before it. Do you not exercise your reason?
Qur’an 10:15-16

Like some Protestants, the Qur’anic author refers to Catholic veneration of the saints as ‘worship.’ The author’s perspective, that created beings are unable to help themselves or others, means that this veneration is pointless — no intercession from a human to any creature is possible.

They worship besides God that which neither causes them any harm, nor brings them any benefit, and they say, ‘These are out intercessors with God.’ Say, ‘Will you inform God about something He does not know in the heavens or on the earth?’ Immaculate is He and far above any partners that they ascribe!
Qur’an 10:18

Indeed, the venerated may be unaware of the veneration. Given the Qur’anic author’s affection for Mary, this is striking, as it implies Mary is in a form of semi-consciousness or soul-sleep and unable to understand or know about this affection until the Last Day:

On the day when We gather them all together, We shall say to those who ascribe partners, ‘Say where you are — you and your partners!’ Then We shall set them apart from one another, and their partners will say, ‘It was not us that you worshiped. God suffices as a witness between you and us. We were indeed unaware of your worship.’ There every should will examine what it has sent in advance,d and they will be returned to God, their real master, and what they used to fabricate will forsake them.
Qur’an 10:28-30

The rhetoric hardens, limiting even the educational role of intercession. This is in keeping with the previous chapter, Repentance, but underscores the apparent rhetorical purpose of this chapter’s more gentle opening.

There is no guide, no teacher, no intercessor except for the elaborations of the Book. These elaborations, such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an, may be trustworthy, even if the humans who teach from them often are not.

Say, "is there anyone among your partners who may guide to the truth?’ Say, ‘God guides to the truth. Is He who guides to the truth worthier to be followed, or he who is not guided unless he is shown the way? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?’
Qur’an 10:35

According to Catholics, Mary is the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit, and the Church is the Spouse of God the Son. But these partners do not have teaching authority — a direct assault against the Church’s magisterium.

They say, ‘God has offspring! Immaculate is He! He is the All-sufficient. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. You have no authority for this. Do you attribute to God what you do not know?
Qur’an 10:68

The Parable of Water

This is so central to this chapter I’m going to repeat it word for word: According to the Qur’anic author, the parable of the life of this world is that of water.

The parable of the life of this world is that of water which We send down from the sky. It mingles with the earth’s vegetation from which humans and cattle eat. When the earth puts on it luster and is adorned, and its inhabitants think they have power over it, Our edict comes to it, by night or day, whereat We turn it into a mown field, as if it did not flourish the day before. Thus do We elaborate the signs for a people who reflect.
Qur’an 10:24

"Life of this world" is what is purchased with the broad that "comes down," the living bread that "came down," from heaven. The "life of this world" is obtained by bread which is somehow like rain water:

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
John 6:48-51

Like water, the life of this world can be formless nothingness, as well as the life-giving source:

Every soul shall taste death, and you will indeed be paid your full rewards on the Day of the Resurrection. Whoever is delivered from the Fire and admitted to paradise has certainly succeeded. The life of this world is nothing but the wares of delusion.
Qur’an 3:185

Water has a universal archetypal meaning that matches these extremes, both the maternal and the chaotic:

The domain of the unfamiliar might be considered the ultimate source of all things, since we generate all of our determinate knowledge as consequence of exploring what we do not understand. Equally, however, the process of exploration must be regarded as seminal, since nothing familiar can be generated from the unpredictable in the absence of exploratory action and conception. The domain of the known — created in the process of exploration — is the familiar world, firm ground, separated from the maternal sea of chaos.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning p. 94.

This world is water, chaos, and the origin point of spiritual growth. The soul can continue to God and onto dry land, or be thrown back into the water. This can be seen by central moments in the lives of three apostles involving water: Noah gathering his family into the ark, Moses crossing the Red Sea, and Jonah during the storm.

The Prophets

Three stories are used to illustrate this point: Noah, Moses, and Jonah

Noah

Noah was a non-Jew who lived among non-Jews, and

God decreed the earth to be wicked, selected Noah, and Noah led those who would follow:

And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch…

And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you…

Then the Lord said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
Genesis 6:13-14,17-18,7:1

Noah’s mission was sent to save his own family, though the Qur’an adds a scene where he also castigates the unbelievers who are about to be drowned.

Relate to them the account of Noah when he said to this people, ‘O my people! If my stay be hard on you and my reminding you of God’s signs, I have put my trust in God alone. So conspire together, along with your partners, leaving nothing vague in your plan; they carry it out against me without giving me any respite.
Qur’an 10:71

Moses

Moses follows the same pattern, of declaring judgment, selecting Moses, and Moses being appointed a leader for those who follow:

And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows…

So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."

Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;

So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.
Exodus 7,9-10,12,16,20

Yet there’s a shift here. Note that now it’s not just the family, and not even Israel’s children, but even Pharaoh repents:

We carried the Children of Israel across the sea, whereat Pharaoh and his troops pursued them, out of defiance and aggression. When overtaken by drowning, he called out, ‘I do believe that there is no god except Him in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am one of those who submit!’
Qur’an 10:91

This comes from an interpretation of Exodus in which it is Pharaoh, and not the narrator, who announces God’s glory after the drowning of the army:

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’

You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

"Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
Exodus 15:9-11

Jonah

The pattern is similar, though these three examples give us a fuller view of how God operates. Noah was a gentile sent to gentiles, Moses, a Jew sent to Jews and to the Gentiles (if Pharaoh did convert), Jonah was a Jew sent to the Gentiles:

Most people remember Jonah’s mission to Ninevah, which is at the end of the biblical book about his exploits. But before that he has an inadvertent mission to gentile sailors during a storm:

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up…

Then they said to him, "Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?" "I am a Hebrew," he replied. "I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they cried out to the LORD, "Please, O LORD, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."
Jonah 1:1-4,8-10,14

And in this case it is the stubborn Jonah, and not the initial disbelievers, who fall into chaos. The LORD was the true teacher of the gentiles, and Jonah’s lack of faithfulness meant he needed to convert his own heart as well:

So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
Jonah 1:15-16

Recall that, in parable, water is the life of this world. By recognizing God the sailors quieted the storm, and transformed the sea from the source of death to the source from which they would next enter dry land.

Why has there not been any town except the people of Jonah that might believe, so that its belief might benefit it? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world and We provided for them for a time.
Qur’an 10:98

An Apostle for Every Nation

As with Judaism (which instructs that God gave all men the Noahide Covenant, and only a few the Mosaic covenant) and Christianity (which holds Judaism must continue to exist until the fullness of the gentile enter), the Qur’anic author view of the diversity of religious expression as willed by God:

Mankind were but a single community; then they differed. And were it not for a prior decree of your Lord, decisions would have been made between them concerning that about which they differ.
Qur’an 10:19

All nations are given the Book — the Heavenly Scrolls — through lesser books that elaborate upon it. The Qur’anic author calls his own book the Lectionary (lit. qur’an), and sees is elaborating the Heavenly Book:

This Lectionary could not have been fabricated by anyone besides God; rather, it is a confirmation of what was before it, and an elaboration of the Book, there is no doubt in it, from the Lord of all the worlds.
Qur’an 10:37

Noah, Moses, and Noah came before, announcing God and warning of the water — the life of this world:

There is an apostle for every nation; so when their apostle comes, judgment is made between them with justice, and they are not wronged.
Qur’an 10:47

Because the work of these men (as well as Ezra and Jesus, according to the Qur’anic author) are fundamentally united — elaborating the Book — ambiguities in one elaboration can be answered by conferring with experts in other elaborations:

So if you are in doubt about what We have sent down to you, ask those who read the Book before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord; so do not be among the skeptics.
Qur’an 10:94

Elaborations of the Book

The message of the tenth chapter of the Qur’an is the widespread ability of man to elaborate on the heavenly Book, and the consequences of understanding that elaboration for man’s life. Without the Book, chaos will overtake man. With the book, chaos is the raw material out of which an eternal life can be built.

Indeed, God does not wrong people in the least; rather, it is people who wrong themselves. On the day He will gather them as if they had not remained except for an hour of the day getting acquainted with one another. They are certainly losers who deny the encounter with God, and they are not guided.
Qur’an 10:44-45

A similar message is expressed by philosophical self-help authors, from Jordan Peterson to Peter Thiel. It’s fair to say that the Qur’anic author was a thinker as brilliant and religious heterodox as Peterson and Thiel. And all of them are taking seriously the question of how the meaning of the world expresses itself in our world.

God has gracefully given the Logos — the meaning of all things — to His creation. Catholics then and now teach that this Logos is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christ’s words and deeds are elaborated by His bride, the Church, to whom He granted teaching authority. To the Qur’anic author, the logos is the Book, elaborated upon by books such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an. The chaos within the logos is Wisdom — the chaos outside of it is death.

Impressions of “Transforming Nokia: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change,” by Risto Siilasmaa with Catherine Fredman

Impressions of “Transforming Nokia: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change,” by Risto Siilasmaa with Catherine Fredman

Transforming Nokia ties together three business stories I’ve been reading about for years: the history of Bell Labs, the history of cell phones, and the history of Microsoft. The perspective is biased — told from the perspective of the last Chairman of Nokia’s cellular era and first Chairman of Nokia’s networking era — but informative. The book’s only weakness is it feels like a rough draft of a business self-help book glued onto a corporate history — I would take less self-help, and more corporate history.

The last ten years of the cell phone business has seen the death of companies like Blackberry and Palm, while Apple and Google formed a duopoloy.

Two other players in this market where Nokia, with the Symbian Operation System, and Microsoft with Windows Phone. The middle episodes of Transforming Nokia place place during events which made it clear that Symbian was now obsolete, but where it was unclear if Windows Phone provided a meaningful way forward. Windows Phone had less technical debt, better design, better monetization options for the company, and better tooling for engineers.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to combine Symbian’s marketshare with Windows Phone’s modern platform. There was no ability for apps written on one platform to run on another, and seemingly no discussion about this either. Windows Phone entered the market with no apps that could run on it, leaving it a worse library than any operating system. And new apps were written for the new market leaders, Apple iOS and Google Android, which already had share. To have bet the company on two different operation systems, both of which had complementary advantages and neither of which were able to survive on their own, must have been incredibly frustrating.

And not just frustrating — a major failure for another company too. Microsoft’s failure with Windows Phone lead to the firing of CEO Steve Ballmer and new CEO Satya Nadella’a major strategy shifts. Microsoft’s investments in Nokia were scrapped, and even Microsoft’s internal hardware development focused on a sister project, Windows RT, was fundamentally impacted by Nokia and Microsoft’s total defeat in the hardware market.

Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO during its attempted transition, temporarily ran the Microsoft Mobile division it bought from Nokia until Satya gave up on that effort. A lot of the book is given to the perspective of Risto Siilasmaa, who regularly criticizes the actions of the prior chairman while defending Elop, who had been hired by the prior Chairman. It seems that Riisto sees his role as primarily that of chief investor — a position typically taken by the CEO in the U.S. — and not of executive leader — also a role for the CEO in the U.S. While Risto ultimately abandoned the phone as a business, he seems to believe that Elop ran the phone business as successfully as possible given the circumstances.

Ultimately, Nokia sold the phone business to Microsoft, and used that successful sell to buy one and a half real businesses: the half of Nokia Siemens Networks the company did not earn, plus Alcatel-Lucent — Lucent itself being a rebrand of Bell Labs. The history of (Nokia) Bell Labs is tragic. The invention of the semicoonductor made computer miniaturization possible. Terrible leadership clapped itself on the back for changes that lead to the death of its ability to function as a first-class company or laboratory. Four years ago I read the most recent book about the firm, which was “high detailed, impressionist, echoing with nostalgia,” and impossibly beautiful.

Bell Labs – in the form of Alcatel-Lucent — enters Transforming Nokia near the end. Nokia is seeking safety in the telecommunications business, and Alcatel-Lucent is a similarly sized company with similar problems but complementary product lines. What feels like it should have been the most dramatic part of the story — a potential merger-of-equals under French control becoming a takeover of Alcatel-Lucent by Nokia — is oddly downplayed. Perhaps because those events are the most relevant inside the company, Siilasmaa is careful to avoid providing signals as to the company’s future intentions.

I enjoyed the history a lot, and the Siilasmaa’s in general seemed more forthright about Nokia than Satya did about Microsoft. The tone feels closer to very self-critical works, such as We Were Yahoo or Robert X. Cringley’s takedown of the modern IBM. My gripe is that the author uses a lot of buzzwords – phrases like “The Paranoid Optimist” and other jargon is used a lot, and I’m not sure if this is how the author thinks or if he’s planning a consulting career after Nokia. Or just really likes some phrases.

On a personal note I enjoyed hearing about the post-Nokia history of their phone business, called “Devices and Services” in the book. I knew Nokia D&S became Microsoft Mobile, I did not know these assets then formed the core of HMD, the company that made my (current) Nokia phone.

I read Transforming Nokia: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change in the Audible edition.

Qur’an 9: Repentance

The first chapter of the Qur’an was a prayer. The next seven chapters explored a churchless Arian Christianity. The writer of the Qur’an struggled with the loss of the sacraments, a church he felt to be fundamentally corrupt and hostile, all while showing his devotion of Mary, and belief in heaven, hell, and purgatory.

But now something breaks. Every chapter so far has begun with “In the Name of God.” Not this one.

A repudiation by God and His Apostle to the polytheists with whom you made a treaty:

Travel in the land for four months, but know that you cannot frustrated God, and that God will disgrace the faithless.
Qur’an 9:1-2

Like the author of Ezekiel the Qur’anic author is using the alienation effect to force the reader to stop think. You are reading a book. You are reading a teaching written by a teacher.

Remember this. Think about what polytheism, worship of many Gods, means. Recognize those false gods who are not the One. Follow the One, not the other gods. Worship the One Alone. And have hope, for the One demonstrates His greatness through your weakness, and not only your strength.

Kill and Protect the Worshipers of Other Gods

The Qur’an appears contradicts itself. This chapter does so immediately, and obviously. Believers are told to kill “polytheists” in one verse:

Then, when the sacred months have passed, kill the polytheists wherever you find them, capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every ambush. But if they repent, maintain the prayer, and give the zakat, then let them alone. God is indeed all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Qur’an 9:5

And be merciful in the next:

If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant him asylum until he hears the Word of God. Then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.
Qur’an 9:6

We can resolve this contradiction by treating the Qur’an as Wisdom writing. In this genre, the pattern of instructions reveals a broader theme.

Consider where Christ both demands constant forgiveness, and warns of a lack of forgiveness:

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Matthew 18:21-35

The Qur’anic author references this contradiction, and the seventy granted repentances, and the lack of any:

Whether you plead forgiveness for them or do not plead forgiveness for them, even if you plead forgiveness for them seventy times, God will never forgive them because they defied God and His Apostle, and God does not guide the transgressing lot.
Qur’an 9:80

The point of course is not to literally count the number of times we forgive. The point is not that God can’t forgive, or that God is not all-forgiving, all merciful.

The point is that forgiveness is divine. And that a lack of forgiveness separates one from the Divine.

Likewise, the Qur’an’s rival teaching of polytheists — they must be killed but granted asylum — likewise has a clear meaning: Do not worship other gods, worship the forgiving God..

Yet Arabia was largely Christian and Jewish during the writing of the Qur’an. So who were the “Other Gods” a poly-theist would have worshiped?

One Teacher, One God

Christ’s rhetorical attacks were often aimed at the “scribes and pharisees.” The target were folks who explicitly believed in God, and backed that with action, but with a priority greater than god. The Qur’anic author adapts and updates this attack, against “scribes and monks” in an attack against believers who loved gold more than God:

O you who have faith! Indeed, many of the scribes and monks wrongfully eat up the people’s wealth, and bar from the way of God. Those who treasure up gold and silver, and do not spend it in the way of God, inform them of a painful punishment on the way when these shall be heated in hellfire and therewith branded on their foreheads, their sides and their backs: ‘This is what you treasured up for yourselves! So taste what you have treasured!
Qur’an 9:34-35

Here the author is rephrasing the apostle James, who said the same:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
James 5:1-3

James and the Qur’anic author are emphasizing the same phenomenon — corrupted faithful who mislead others. False teachers. When only the One is a Teacher, and other “teachers” place heavy burdens on people by barring them from the way of God:

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
Matthew 23:1-9

The One Teacher does not mean that no one can physically provide information to another. But the source of any Teaching is the one Teacher: God. The Lectionary or qur’an — which seems to be the Qur’anic author’s way of referring to his work — the Torah of the Jews and the Gospel of Christ are all seen as teachings from God, but not a substitute for God.

Indeed, God has bought from the faithful their souls and their possessions for paradise to be theirs: they fight in the way of God, kill, and are killed. A promise binding upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Lectionary. And who is truer to his promise than God? So rejoice in the brain who have made with him, and that is the great success.
Qur’an 9:111

The Qur’anic author seems to be aware he’s at risk of pride here, putting his composition at the same as the Law and the Gospel. But from his perspective, both are re-establishments of a forgotten law:

The Gemara notes: And Reish Lakish follows his line of reasoning stated elsewhere, as Reish Lakish said: I am the atonement for Rabbi ?iyya and his sons, as initially, when some of the Torah laws were forgotten from the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, Ezra ascended from Babylonia and reestablished the forgotten laws. Parts of the Torah were again forgotten in Eretz Yisrael, and Hillel the Babylonian ascended and reestablished the forgotten sections. When parts of the Torah were again forgotten in Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi ?iyya and his sons ascended and reestablished the forgotten sections. This expression of deference toward Rabbi ?iyya introduces the halakha that Reish Lakish is citing in his name. And so said Rabbi ?iyya and his sons: Rabbi Dosa and the Rabbis did not disagree concerning the soft mats of Usha
Sukkah 20a

The theme of forgetting, and replacing what should be remembered with Teachers, is also in the Gospels:

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; 3 and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.

Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
Matthew 16:1-5

The Qur’anic author’s comparison of his Lectionary to the Torah and the Gospel seems not intended to place it as a divine object, but to emphasize the created nature of all earthly texts, and all earthly teachers. One may be a saint, or in biblical terminology a Son of God, without being the One:

The Jews say, ‘Ezra is the son of God,‘ and the Christians say, ‘Christ is the son of God.’ That is an opinion that they mouth, imitating the opinions of the faithless of former times. May God assail them, where do they stray?!
Qur’an 9:30

The Qur’anic author is using Biblical rhetoric, problematizing the Hebrew Bible’s description of an inner class of angel-like beings called the Sons of God. The Apostle, Paul, made the same point, twice emphasizing the equivalence of all believers with the Sons of God:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. or the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
Romans 8:14-19

The implication is here, for the Qur’anic author himself, and every subsequent transmitter of wisdom. The right action is grief for the distress of sinners, concern for sinners, and mercy to sinners.

There has certainly come to you an apostle from among yourselves. Grievous to him is your distress; he has deep concern for you and is most kind and merciful to the faithful.
Qur’an 9:128

But when he is rejected, that’s ok. Because while we are commanded to be righteous to each other, the true object of our love is the One

But if they turn their backs, say, ‘God is sufficient for me. There is no god except Him. In Him alone I have put my trust and he is the Lord of the Great Throne.
Qur’an 9:129

One Father, One God

Yet faith in God, to the Qur’anic teacher, means splitting from these teachers, and keeping one’s eyes on God as the Teacher. These aren’t the only Case where faith forces painful splits:

Works are to be split from Faith, in opposition to to the view of religion as managing a powerful relationship. Maintaining a house of prayer, like serving as a teacher, is no substitute for God:

Do you regard the providing of water to hajj pilgrims and the maintenance of the Holy House of Prayer as similar to someone who has faith in God and the Last Day and wages jihad in the way of God? They are not equal with God, and God does not guide the wrongdoing lot.
Qur’an 9:17

Likewise, as the earthly teacher is nothing compared to God as teacher, the earthly family is nothing compared to God:

O you have who have faith! Do not befriend your fathers and brothers if they prefer unfaith to faith. Those of you who befriend them — it is they who are the wrongdoers.
Qur’an 9:23

Christ, of course, made the same point:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:34-39

The Qur’anic author also uses the Lord’s prayer as an example of how even prayer needs to be separated from faith:

Among them are some who say, ‘Give me leave, and do not put me to temptation.’ Behold, they have already fallen into temptation and indeed hell besieges the faithless.
Qur’an 9:49

The choice is meaningful. For Just as Christ separated son from father, but united him with the One Father, the Qur’anic author tries to separate student from teacher, but unite every godwary student with the One Teacher.

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven Hallowed by Your Name…

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:7-9,11-13

One Foundation, One God

Jews and Catholics are blamed for their respect for their religious authorities:

They have taken their scribes and their monks as lords besides God and Christ, Mary’s son; though they were commanded to worship only the One God, there is no god except Him; he is far too immaculate to have any partners as they ascribe!
Qur’an 9:31

These merely human teachers give a foundation only as strong as sand. A house built on these teachers, on the worship of these other gods, will fall into chaos:

Is he who founds his building on Godwarines and pleasure better-off or someone who founds his building on the brink of a collapsing bank which collapses with him into the fire of hell? God does not guide the wrongdoing lot.
Qur’an 9:109

The Qur’anic author here is restating Christ:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
Matthew 7:24-27

There’s one solid foundation, for basing one’s faith, whether in reception or in promulgation: God.

“Hear, O Israel: he Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

We cannot see God on earth, but we can see His Image: Christ. This means that the visible foundation is Christ alone, while the foundation as such is God alone:

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him….

But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Matthew 17:1-3,7-8

But note how these ends. The words that are taught are actually commands from God. The “teaching” is not from the man who teaches it — it’s a commandment from the Lord:

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And it is God’s role, and not man’s, to share these facts. Consider how the first Pope was himself silenced by God:

While [Peter] was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” …

Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
Matthew 17:5,7

One Friend, One God

The Qur’anic author emphasizes the unique and direct relationship between the believer and God. So while there are apostles, helpers, and fighters, these are all fighters for God, those who “Help” through submission, and so on.

Certainly God has turned clemently to the Prophet and the Emigrants and the Helpers, who followed him in the hour of difficulty, after the hearts of a part of them were about to swerve. Then he turned clemently to them — indeed he is most kind and merciful to them.
Qur’an 9:117

Even the Kingdom of Heaven’s only Helper is God Himself, and not its subjects:

Indeed, to God belongs the Kingdom of the Heavens and the Earth. He gives life and brings death. And besides God you do not have any friend or helper.
Qur’an 9:116

The same wisdom in contradiction. We may help each other. But the only real Helper is God. This does not mean individual creatures can’t work together. Joshua’s conquest of Canaan was made possibly with the Commander of the Lord’s Army, for example. But the Work that mattered was God’s will, not a creature’s response to it.

Then God sent down His Presence upon His Apostle and upon the faithful, and He sent down hosts you did not see, and He punished the faithless, and that is the requital of the faithless.
Qur’an 9:26

We now see who the polytheists are — hypocrites: those who have the Heavenly Tablets as conscious knowledge but not in their hearts:

Fight those from among those who were given the Book who do not have faith in God nor in the Last Day, nor forbid what God and His Apostles have forbidden, nor practice the true religion, until they pay the tribute out of hand, degraded.
Qur’an 9:29

They are the enemy:

“O you who have faith! Fight the faithless who are in your vicinity, and let them find severity in you, and know that God is with the Godwary.
Qur’an 9:123

One Comfort, One God

How can we bare this message?

From a Catholic perspective, the answer may be: we can’t. The Qur’anic author’s vision is of a fundamentally atomized creation, with every created thing utterly dependent and contextualized by God alone. This is largely compatible with Calvinism as described by Dumbrell and van’t Veer, but contradicts the Catholic vision of creation as an inter-connected body in which all members co-participate in the work of salvation in this world.

But the Qur’anic author would respond that he re-presents a hope that can overcome any sin. Christ tells us not to put a light under a wicker basket:

“No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”
Luke 11:33-36

But even a light we desire to extinguish would be magnified if God wishes:

They desire to put out the light of God with their mouths, but God is intent on perfecting His light though the faithless should be averse.
Qur’an 9:32

The believer is promised a paradise even better than Eden:

God has promised the faithful, men and women, gardens with streams running in them, to remain in them, and good dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. Yet God’s pleasure is greater; that is the great success.
Qur’an 9:72

And even that famously backward people, the Arabs:

The Arabs are more obdurate in unfaith and hypocrisy, and more apt to be ignorant of the precepts that God has sent down to His Apostle, and God is all-knowing, all-wise…
Qur’an 9:97

Can be adopted into the love of God:

Yet among the Arabs are those who believe in God and the Last Day, and regard what they spend as nearness to God and the blessings of the Apostle. Now it shall indeed bring them nearness, and god will admit them into His mercy. God is indeed all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Qur’an 9:99

Conclusion

Kill the worshiper of other gods. Forgive the worshiper of other gods. If you believe that I am your teacher, you are the worshiper of other gods.

The Ninth Chapter, Repentance, is unlike any other. It starts in a shocking manner that makes one question the teacher. The lesson is going to be on poly-theism, the worship of other Gods in addition to God. Faith, according to the Qur’anic author, requires splitting all false foundations away from God and the believer. Only the One is a Teacher, as Christ said. God transcends the limitations of all limited teachers, and promises a reward greater than paradise to those who repent of other teachers.

In this chapter the reader is immediately taken out of just reading into realizing he is worshiping the writer as a God. This is an unforgivable sin. But the words that are missing from the very beginning of the Book are the most important words of all

In the Name of God, the All-Forgiving, the All-Merciful

The tDAxp eXPerience