Qur’an 23: The Faithful

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

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

A Reading, from the First Book of Enoch:

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

A Psalm, from the Psalms

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

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

A Reading, from the Book of Jude:

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

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communion Antiphon

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

A Qur’anic Homily

The Audience of the Qur’an

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

They believed in God

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

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

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

Were familiar with the Bible:

Certainly We created man from an extract of clay.

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

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

Then We created the clinging mass as a fleshy tissue.

Then We created the fleshy tissue as bones.

Then We Clothed the bones with flesh.

Then We produced him as another creature.

So blessed is God, the best of creators!

Then, of course, you die after that.

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

Were tempted by other gods:

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

And believed death was the end:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Penitential Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Journey of the Faithful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Until the Trumpet blows. Then everything changes.

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

This is not the book I thought it was.

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

Nope!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

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

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

Then, his wife Anna mourned and lamented,

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

Pseudo-Matthew — doesn’t:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cool Fan Fiction

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

Jesus creates birds from clay.

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

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

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

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

Joseph talks!

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

There’s plenty of fun stuff like that.

The Perfect Son

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Jesus was silent, and answered nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Intercession of Mary

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

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

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

And immediately he who had done this died.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to the Qur’an

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

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

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

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

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

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

The episode more clearly reflects the Pseudo-Matthew:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Qur’an 22: The Pilgrimage

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

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

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

A Reading, from the Second Book of Kings

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

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

"Thus says the LORD God of Israel,

‘Tell the man who sent you to Me,

"Thus says the LORD:

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

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

‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel:

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

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

A Psalm, from the Psalms

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

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

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

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

Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

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

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

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Luke

And Mary said:

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

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

Communion Antiphon

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

A Qur’anic Homily

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

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

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

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

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

The Prophetess and the King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Theology of the Muslim Qur’an

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and in many nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A creed of Arius, now embittered over the years

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Follow our father-in-faith, Abraham:

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

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