All posts by tdaxp

Impressions of “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future,” by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Impressions of “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future,” by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, says competition is for losers. Zero to One is an exploration of this goal applied to founding a start-up. It’s based on lectures given at Stanford University, which are available online. (Thiel’s co-author is a student who took notes during class, and seems to have prepared the manuscript.)

Zero to One reads like a combination of three books, Seth Godin’s Linchpin, Jim Collin’s Good to Great, and Jordan Peterson’s Twelve Rules for Life, but applied at the company level. Lynchpin gave as career advice to do what is good at, passionate for, and can be get paid for. The goal is to become incomparable to other workers or professionals, so that one’s performance cannot be measured by exertion or time on task.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins urges doings this by finding a potential area to become the monopoly supplier of expertise in that is also enjoyable and profitable. Collins calls this the “hedgehog concept“, but this amounts to yoking a potential monopoly with an engine (enjoyment) to get there combined with a pay-off (a profitable market to be a monopoly in).

Thiel ads to this call a ‘greater’ scope — for Thiel the greatness is in the ability to form a company, for Peterson in 12 Rules For Life its in the ability to imitate the Logos. To Peterson “pulling yourself together,” having a more meaningful job, and so on are part of bringing order into chaos. Thiel includes several business guidelines, but I think more important is his view of creation, which mirrors Peterson’s (albeit with tech industry, and not cosmogonic, references):

“Every moment in business happens only once.

The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

It’s easier to copy a model than to make something new: doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.”
Peter Thiel, 12 Rules for Life

Given the similarity in their writing, and their politics, and Thiel’s role as an early Facebook investor, Peterson’s visit to Zuckerberg now make more sense to me.

Zero to One is a quick read, and includes many interesting anecdotes about life in Silicon Valley, and some about Thiel’s earlier career as a lawyer. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in self-improvement, technology start-ups, or the higher meaning of business.

I read Zero to One in the audible edition.

The Book of Jubilees

I have not been as excited reading extra-biblical scriptures since I read The Assembly of the Gods.

The Book of Jubilees, or Little Genesis, at first glance is like a lot of Biblical fan fiction. Famous characters return (in this case Adam through Moses), details are expanded upon (like some extra kids for Adam and Eve), and more time is given to the Biblical stories we know and love. It even incorporates some of them — adventures in The Book of Enoch such as the Watchers and the Giants are mentioned.

Except, it has a few pointed innovations.

And it is the literary basis of the Qur’an.

A Brief Introduction

Jubilees is interesting to me in how it sets the literary basis for the Qur’an. The angelic "We," the narration of history and theology to a Prophet, the written nature of the Logos, and the intentional changes from the Biblical text are all similar to the Qur’an. Before that, though, a few words from the Catholic Encyclopedia on it. In this case, while the Encyclopedia is unfriendly to Jubilees, it is also accurate:

An apocryphal writing, so called from the fact that the narratives and stories contained in it are arranged throughout in a fanciful chronological system of jubilee-periods of forty-nine years each; each event is recorded as having taken place in such a week of such a month of such a Jubilee year. The author assumes an impossible solar year of 364 days (i.e. twelve months of thirty days each, and four intercalary days) to which the Jewish ecclesiastical year of thirteen months of twenty-eight days each exactly corresponds. The whole chronology, for which the author claims heavenly authority, is based upon the number seven.

Except for the fact the author seems to be a supporter of the Maccabees, using the Maccabeen phrase "God Most High" regularly, it’s hard to really understand the author’s motives.

It is somewhat difficult to determine the particular Judaistic school its author belonged to; he openly denies the resurrection of the body; he does not believe in the written tradition; he does not reprobate animal sacrifices, etc. . . . and the fact that he wrote in Hebrew excludes the hypothesis of his Hellenistic tendencies. Equally untenable is the hypothesis advanced by Beer, that he was a Samaritan, for he excludes Mount Garizim, the sacred mount of the Samaritans from the list of the four places of God upon earth, viz. the Garden of Eden, the Mount of the East, Mount Sinai, and Mount Sion.

The oddness of the author’s identity is another similarity to the Qur’an, which sometimes feels integrated, sometimes seems to have two voices, and sometimes even more.

The Royal We

Jubilees narrated by a mysterious "We"…

And thereupon we saw His works , and praised Him, and lauded before Him on account of all His works; for seven great works did He create on the first day.
Jubilees 2:3

as is the Qur’an

We said, ‘O Adam, dwell with your mate in paradise, and eat thereof freely whensoever you wish, but do not approach this tree, lest you should be among the wrongdoers.’
The Heifer 35

… who turns out to be a collection of Angels…

He hath bidden us to keep the Sabbath with Him in heaven and on earth. And He said unto us: ‘Behold, I will separate unto Myself a people from among all the peoples, and these shall keep the Sabbath day, and I will sanctify them unto Myself as My people, and will bless them; as I have sanctified the Sabbath day an do sanctify unto Myself, even so will I bless them, and they shall be My people and I will be their God. And I have chosen the seed of Jacob from amongst all that I have seen, and have written him down as My first-born son, and have sanctified him unto Myself for ever and ever; and I will teach them the Sabbath day, that they may keep the Sabbath thereon from all work.
Jubilees 2:19-20

Presumably these angels are intended to be the same audience God spoke to elsewhere when discussing our species

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech."
Genesis 11:5-7

The Prophetic Hearer

Jubilees is narrated to a prophet, Moses, in the past tense, with changes both small

Amram thy father taught thee writing, and after thou hadst completed three weeks they brought thee into the royal court. And thou wast three weeks of years at court until the time when thou didst go forth from the royal court and didst see an Egyptian smiting thy friend who was of the children of Israel, and though didst slay him and hide him in the sand.
Jubilees 48:10

Parts of the Qur’an also seem to be narrated to Moses, though the identity of the hearer is fluid

When we delivered you from Pharaoh’s clan who inflicted a terrible torment on you, and slaughtered your sons and spared your women, in that there was a great test from your Lord.

And when We parted the sea with you, and We delivered you and drowned Pharaoh’s clan as you looked on.

And when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights, you took up the Calf in his absence, and you were wrongdoers.

Then We excused you after that so you might give thanks.
The Heifer 49-52

An age of 21 makes more sense than 40 for a crime of rage, but it indicates either a different tradition of exegesis than that held by the author of Acts of the Apostles, or at least an intentional change from it:

"Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian."
Acts 7:23-24

Whatever the details, Jubilees is clearly supposed to be spoken to Moses. The Qur’an likewise a spoken to a prophet — possibly the reader, and at times possibly Moses.

The Written Logos

Jubilees focuses on a celestial Logos, the Tablets of Heaven:

And the judgment of all is ordained and written on the heavenly tablets in righteousness — even all who depart from the path which is ordained for them to walk in; and if they walk not therein, judgment is written down fore every feature and for every kind. And there is nothing in heaven or on earth, or in light or in darkness, or in Sheol or in the depth, or in the place of darkness; and all their judges are ordained and written and engraved.
Jubilees 5:13-15

These Tablets seem to be the Book the Qur’an mentions:

This is the Book, there is no doubt in it, a guidance to the God-wary, who believe in the Unseen, maintain their prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe in what has been sent down and what was sent before, and are certain of the Hereafter.
The Heifer 2-5

The Tablets records specific sins and is itself the law by which sin is judged

And for this reason the commandment is written on the heavenly tablets in regard to her that gives birth: if she bears a male, she shall remain in her uncleanliness seven days according to the first week of days, ad thirty and three days shall she remain in the blood of her purifying, and she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor enter into the sanctuary, until she accomplishes these days which in the case of a male child. But in the case of a female child she shall remain in her uncleanness two weeks of days, according to the first two weeks, and sixty-six days in the blood of her purification, and they will be in all eighty days.
Jubilees 3:10-11

as well as the future itself. The heavenly Tablets, the Logos of this world, are the beginning and end of all things.

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 these words. And we told her the name of her son, and his name is ordained and written in the heavenly tablets, Isaac, and when we returned to her at a set time, she would have conceived a son.
Jubilees 16:2-3

that have been given to humans multiple times

God — there is no god except Him — is the Living One, the All-sustainer. He has sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He had sent down the Torah and the Evangel before as guidance for mankind, and He has send down the Criterion. Indeed, there is a severe punishment for those who deny the signs of God, and God is all-mighty, avenger.
The Family of Amram 2-4

This is all in opposition to the Christian idea, that the logos is not a creation of God, but God Himself:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:1-5

Jubilees and the Qur’an both point to written document in heaven of which all Scriptures are an incarnation.

Meaningful Changes

Jubilees changes the Biblical narratives, as for example of Jacob killing Esau!

And after that Judah spake to Jacob, his father, and said unto him: "Bend they bow, father, and send forth thy arrows and cast down the adversary and slay the enemy, and mayst thou have the power, for we shall not slay thy brother, for he is such as thou, and he is like thee let us give him honor. Then Jacob bent his bow and sent forth the arrow and struck Esau his brother, and slew him.
Jubilees 38:1-2

instead of the Biblical narrative of a heart-felt reconciliation

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, "Who are these with you?" …

And Jacob said, "No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. 11 Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have [a]enough.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Then Esau said, "Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you."
Genesis 33:4-5,10-12

(The Qur’an also changes this by omission — though Jacob called Israel appears many times in the Qur’an, his brother Esau is never mentioned.)

These same traits — the scripture narrated by "We, the prophet, the Book in heaven, the changes — are are attributes of the Qur’an. To give just one example, in Jubilees names the animal:

On the the six days of the second week we brought, according to the word of God, unto Adam all the breasts, and all the cattle, and all the birds, and everything that moves on the earth, and everything that moves in the water, according to their kinds, and according to their types: the beasts on the first day; the cattle on the second day; the birds on the third day; and all that which moves on the earth on the fourth day; and that which moves in the water on the fifth day. And Adan named them all by their respective names, and as he called them, so was their name.
Jubilees 3:1-2

As Adam does in the Bible:

Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
Genesis 2:19-20

But in Qur’an he is told the names:

When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am indeed going to set a viceroy on the earth, they said, ‘Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption it it and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?’ He said,’Indeed, I know what you do not know.’

And he taught Adam the Names, all of them; the presented them to the angels and said, ‘Tell me the names of these, if you are truthful.’

They said, ‘Immaculate are You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, You are the All-knowing, the All-wise!

He said, ‘O Adam, inform them of their names and when he had informed them of their names, He said, "Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen of the heavens and the earth, and that I know whatever you disclose and whatever you conceal?’
The Heifer 30-33

The changes are striking and thought-provoking if one has already read Genesis. But I do not know if Jubilees was supposedly to be in opposition to Genesis, or to replace it.

Final Thoughts

I was as excited reading The Book of Jubilees as The Assembly of the Gods. Here is why. Assembly was the first time I read the stories of ancient Canaan. Reading it I understood the world of the early prophets and the patriarchs, What those stories from ancient Canaan were to the Old Testament, Jubilees is to the Qur’an. The rhetorical strategies adopted by the writer of the Qur’an are the same as the writer of Jubilees. I assume the author of the Qur’an read Jubilees.

To understand the texts of the Old and New Testaments, one needs to read of Ba’al, Asarte, Lady Anat, Old Judge River, and El.

To understand the text of the Qur’an, and how the Scriptures are extended and modified into Qur’anic religion, one needs to read the Book of Jubilees.

I read the Book of Jubilees in the Kindle edition.

Qur’an 4: The Women

The fourth chapter, or book, or the Qur’an is called “The Women.” It is thematic but not linear. The Qur’anic author cares about Natural Law, Revealed Law, the relationship between God and the sinner, and the sinner’s calling on earth. The attacks on the Catholic Church escalate in metaphysical significance. Together these form of guide to what the Qur’anic author views as the good life.

The Natural Law

The Theme

We are sinners who find ourselves in the wrong places at the wrong times. To go from the right space, whether geographical or metaphysical, to the right one, is a migration:

Whoever migrates in the way of God will find many havens and plenitude in the earth.
And whoever
leaves his home
migrating toward God and His Apostle,
and is then overtaken by death,
his reward shall certainly fall on God, and
God is all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Qur’an 4:100

Man has migrated in this manner since Seth, the son of Adam and Eve:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh…
Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died.
Genesis 2:24, 5:6-8

The destination of this migration is “God and His Apostle.” Let’s put aside the identity of His Apostle for now…

Avoiding Chaos

According to the Qur’an, God so loves the world that he provides a logos that exists in the world that helps the sinner wherever he is. This logos is the Book, and is not ashamed to help a sinner in any step. Even prostitution is regulated and proscribed:

As to others than these, it is lawful for you to seek with your wealth, in wedlock, not in license. For the enjoyment you have had from them thereby, give them their dowries by way of settlement, there is no sin upon you in what you may agree upon after your settlement. God is indeed all-knowing, all-wise.
Qur’an 4:24

In the moral or psychological sense of the scripture, the unordered world that is outside the Logos brings chaos, but the unordered world inside the Logos brings wisdom. Thus, the Qur’an’s regulation of chaotic aspects of human life provides wisdom for navigating life:

This system of legalized and controlled prostitution is described in the Old Testament. What Muhammad brought after Christ is what Moses brought before Christ. The catch is even with Moses this chaos is not limitless — the temporary marriage contract can be entered into once per woman. (Lawyers may enjoy the complicated procedural process here)

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he
* writes her a certificate of divorce,
* gives it to her and
* sends her from his house,
and if after she leaves his house
* she becomes the wife of another man, and
* her second husband dislikes her and
* writes her a certificate of divorce,
* gives it to her and
* sends her from his house, or
* if he dies,
then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled.

That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Christ emphasized this law was given for the frailty of man. It is within the Logos not because it is an end-point, but because of the depravity that exists. Moses presents a stepping stone to Christ for those with heard hearts. Christ emphasizes this is not the final step. (And, like the Qur’anic author, he implicit references Genesis 2:24):

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:3-9

Christ says “It was not this way from the beginning” because rules were given to man because of

Moreover I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not executed my ordinances, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers’ idols. Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life; and I defiled them through their very gifts in making them offer by fire all their first-born, that I might horrify them; I did it that they might know that I am the LORD.
Ezekiel 20:23-26

Paul makes the same point. Pursuing the Law for itself is not good, because the law is not meant to be a rule-unto itself (there is no celestial “rule of law”), but a sign pointing to faithful allegiance to the Logos:

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
Romans 9:30-32

Paul is concluding by quoting Isaiah:

He will be as a holy abode, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of stumbling over To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Isaiah 8:14

An example of this interactive nature of giving the Law to the Jews was Christ’s noting that Moses gave the Jews a law of divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. And the same focus on Israel’s faults occur in this chapter of the Qur’an too:

Then because of their breaking their covenant, their denial of God’s signs, their killing of the prophets unjustly and for their saying, “Our hearts are uncircumcised,’ … Indeed, God has set a seal on them for their unfaith, so they do not have faith except a few.
Qur’an 4:155

Paul mentions this same blocking of faith by a covering placed by God, and the eventual solution for it:

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. But their minds were hardened;

for

to this day,
when they read the old covenant,
that same veil remains unlifted,
because only through Christ is it taken away.

Yes,

to this day
whenever Moses is read
a veil lies over their minds;
but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Indeed, all who believe will see Christ:

There is none among the People of the Book but will surely believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them.
Qur’an 4:159

Desiring the Good

Yet, the mercy of God does not imply confusion of the good or the bad. Virginity is better than whoredom. And the virginity of Mary Mother of Jesus is enthusiastically defended:

And for their faithlessness and their uttering a monstrous calumny against Mary
Due to the wrongdoings of the Jews, We prohibited them certain good things that were permitted to them, and for their barring many from the way of God.
Qur’an 4: 156, 160

This appears to be reference to an encoded section of the Babylonian Talmud, which to Jews is something like Patristic writings are to Catholics. The Babylonian Talmud reads in part:

Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, [did the children of Israel slay with the sword]. A soothsayer? But he was a prophet! — R. Johanan said: At first he was a prophet, but subsequently a soothsayer. R. Papa observed: This is what men say, ‘She who was the descendant of princes and governors, played the harlot with carpenters.’
Sanhedrin 106:39-41

A contemporary Jewish commentary on this passage reads:

‘Shipdraggers,’ (v. Rashi). Herford, Christianity in the Talmud, p. 48, suggests that Balaam is frequently used in the Talmud as a type for Jesus (v. also pp. 64-70). Though no name is mentioned to shew which woman is meant, the mother of Jesus may be alluded to, which theory is strengthened by the statement that she mated with a carpenter.

The God of the Qur’an is merciful and forgiving, but not blind. A weakness is not a strength, and a whore is not a virgin.

Avoiding Tyranny

If Order within the Logos is of God, the Order that is outside the Logos is just tyranny. The tyrannical nature of anti-Logos order can be seen by a mechanical interpretation of the rules for an Orderly life given by Moses:

“If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.
Deuteronomy 22:22

Christ, the Logos as shown by Christianity, mediates the relationship of man to God by removing tyranny. The law is not nullified, but what it means in practice is changed by its passages through the Logos:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
John 8:3-8

The Qur’an’s advice is parallel. “Four witnesses,” is a lot for any crime, and even more for a “lewd” crime which, even in a menage-a-trois, would leave only two witnesses against each participant!

Should any of your women commit an indecent act, produce against them four witnesses from yourselves, and if they testify, detain them in houses until death finishes them, or God decrees a course for them.
Qur’an 4:15

Just as the Logos defeats Chaos by providing wisdom to unordered activity, the Logos transforms Tyranny into the experience of God. Anyone could have executed the whore caught by the pharisees. Christ transformed the situation into an opportunity for penance.

Revealed Law

The Theme

The Qur’an is a post-Arian religious text and asserts the Unity of God and the created nature of his Son. But while this passage may seam to be an attack on the Trinity:

Indeed, God does not forgive that a partner should be ascribed to Him, but He forgives anything that to whomever He wishes. Whoever ascribes partners to God has indeed fabricated a great sinfulness.
Qur’an 4:48

It’s not, at least not in this passage. Elsewhere as we’ll see the Qur’an makes clear it is female partners which are being denied. And the Qur’an’s veneration for Mary makes it unlikely it is attacking the Holy Mother. Rather, the Qur’an is consistently against the one female or females that virtually all Christians consider to be totally necessary in salvation history, and which almost all Christians treat as a partner for God.

Hear, O Israel: The 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

God Alone

“The Women” contains a creed that is the clearest summary of Qur’anic religion I have found:

O People of the Book! Do not exceed the bounds in your religion, and do not attribute anything to God except the truth.

The Messiah,
Jesus son of Mary,
was only an apostle of God, and
His word that He cast toward Mary, and

a Spirit from Him.

So have faith in God and His apostles, and do not say “Three,” Relinquish! That is better for you.

God is but the One God.
He is far too immaculate to have any son.
To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens
and whatever is on the earth,

and God suffices as trustee.
Qur’an 4:171

It is interesting that this is parallel to the original Nicene Creed . The procession is changed from Father, Son, and Spirit, to Son, Spirit, and Father (reverse of the procession presented in The Shepherd of Hermas). The Nicene Creed, re-ordered to be parallel to the Qur’an, would read:

We believe in

One Lord Jesus Christ God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father

And in the Holy Ghost.

But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.

In one God
the Father Almighty
By whom all things were made both in heaven
and on earth

[Christ] for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;

But do you notice the partner that is added to the Trinity by the Nicene Creed, but rejected by the Qur’anic creed?

A first hint: it’s the only entity mentioned in the Nicene Creed consistently described as feminine in both Scripture and Church writings.

Indeed, God does not forgive that any partner should be ascribed to Him, but He forgives anything besides that to whomever He wishes. And whoever ascribes partners to God has certainty strayed into far error.

They invoke none but females besides Him, and invoke none but some froward Satan.
Qur’an 4:116-117

The Qur’an rejects the Bride of Christ, the Church.

You and God Alone

In Christianity not only are all Christians part of Christ:

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:27-28

This is a partnering like the partnering of a man and a woman in marriage, an analogy that goes back to John the Baptist:

John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.”
John 3:27-29

Christ extended this analogy:

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”
Matthew 25:1

In the Qur’an the struggle to find God is fundamentally individualistic. It is closer to Jordan Peterson’s intellectual system than either Catholic tradition or, perhaps, Peterson’s own works. The relationship is between the individual and God. Intercession, either of the saints or even of sinners by prayer, is non-existent. The Logos of the Qur’an is fundamentally passive and does not plead or intercede as does the Logos of Christianity, Christ.

Indeed, We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, so that you may judge between the people by what God has shown you; do not be an advocate for the traitors, and plead to God for forgiveness; indeed God is all-forgiving, all-merciful.

And do not plead for those who betray themselves; indeed God does not like those who are treacherous and sinful.

They try to hide from people, but they do not try to hide from God, though He is with them when they conspire overnight with a discourse that He does not approve of. And God encompasses whatever they do.

Aha! There you are, pleading for them in the life of this world! But who will plead for them with God on the Day of Resurrection, or who will be their defender?
Qur’an 4:105-109

This sounds harsh, but the very next verse emphasizes three-fold aspect of Divinity, Forgiveness, and Mercy. God saves souls, because He made them. Humans didn’t, goes the logic, and so don’t.

Whoever commits evil or wrongs himself and then pleads to God for forgiveness, will find God all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Qur’an 4:110

Others are on the same journey as you. But you do not need them, you do not need their prayers, you do not need their prayers. They are with God, where you want to be, but your destination is to God, not to them.

Whoever obeys God and the Apostle — they are with those whom God has blessed, including the prophets and the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous and excellent companions are they! That is the grace of God, and God suffices as knower.

O you who have faith! Take your precautions, then go forth in companies, or go forth en masse.

Among you is indeed he who drags his feet, and should an affliction visit you, he says, ‘It was certainly God’s blessing that I did not accompany them! But should a bounty from God come to you, he will say, — as if there were no affection between you and him — ‘I wish I were with them so that I had achieved the great success!’
Qur’an 4:72

God’s control of the cosmos is absolute. He has the power to destroy humanity if he wishes:

If He wishes, He will take you away, O mankind, and bring others; God has the power to do that.

Whoever desires the reward of this world, with God is the reward of this world and the Hereafter, and God is all-hearing, all-seeing.
Qur’an 4:133-134

Though he has promised not to do so, provided that man keeps the Commands given to Noah:

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with
you and with
your descendants after you, and with
every living creature that is with you:
the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you,
of all that go out of the ark,
every beast of the earth.

Thus I establish My covenant with you:
Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.
Genesis 9:8-11

This extends to the death of the Messiah. Christ did not die because of Jewish actions:

And for their saying, ‘We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the apostle of God — though they did not kill him nor crucify him, but so it was made to appear to them. Indeed, those who differ concerning him are in doubt about him: they do not have any knowledge of that beyond following conjectures, and certainly they did not kill him.
Qur’an 4:157

But because of God’s actions:

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
Colossians 2:13-19

But note the end of that excerpt, where Christ is the Head and the body are the members. In the Qur’an, your hopes and prayers do not matter to any soul except your own.

It will be neither after your hopes nor the hopes of the People of the Book: whoever commits evil share be required for it, and he will not find for himself any friend or helper besides God. And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, should he be faithful — such shall enter paradise and they will not be wronged the speck on a date-stone.

Who has a better religion than him who submits his will to God, being virtuous, and follows the creed of Abraham, a hanif! And God took Abraham for a dedicated friend.
Qur’an 4:123-125

This Message Is For You

The Theme

The lack of intercession radically changes the understanding of the Messiah’s greatest work It was not salvation for others, God has no son and no one except God can save. Rather, the Messiah was a perfect Apostle who, in spite of all the power he was given, humbled himself before God:

The Messiah would never disdain being a servant of God, nor would the angels brought near. And whoever disdains His worship and is arrogant, He will gather them all toward Him. Qur’an 4:172

Aryan Christians believed this interpretation was in keeping with the Bible, as long as phrases that would seem to indicate equality between Jesus and the Father instead emphasized similarity. For instance, the Christology of Paul’s letter to the Philippians hangs on the meaning of the phrase “form of God”:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-9

For You

Somewhere in the middle of the below passage I realized that “you” did not just refer to some Jews who lived 2,000 years ago. The text’s “you” is the reader’s “me.” And everything he said about me is true:

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…

And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
John 5:24-25,37-39

John the Evangelist uses the alienation effect to force the reader to realize he is reading a book, but the book has a message for him, right now, today. The Qur’anic author imitates this style. Superficially, “you” is the anonymous transcriber of the Qur’an. But you are “you”:

Say, ‘The enjoyments of this world are a trifle, and the Hereafter is better for the Godwary, and you will not be wronged so much as a single date-thread. Where-ever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you were in fortified towers.

If any good befalls them, they say, ‘This is from God:’ and when an ill befalls them, they say, ‘This is from you,’ Say, ‘All is from God.’ What is the matter with these people that they would not understand any matter?

Whatever good befalls you is from God;
and whatever ill befalls you is from yourself.

We sent you as an apostle to mankind, and God suffices as witness.”
Qur’an 4:77b-79

You will not be harmed. You will die. You are a messenger from God. And you are seen by God.

The Message

As Peter taught, we are all vicars of God’s grace:

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another,
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.

If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies,
that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:8-11

Similarly, “you” are interrogated for your belief, and the pattern is that the faithful man who is interrogated is given authority:

The People of the Book ask you to bring down for them a Book from the heaven. Certainly they asked Moses for greater than that, for they said, ‘Show us God visibly,’ whereat a thunderbolt seized them for their wrongdoing. Then they took up the Calf after all the clear proofs that had come to them. Yet we excused that, and we gave Moses a manifest authority.
Qur’an 4:153

It is to “you” that believes:

O you who have faith! Have faith in God, and His Apostle and the Book that He has sent down to His Apostle and the Book He had sent down earlier. Whoever disbelieves in God and His angels, His Books and His apostles and the Last Day, has certainty into far error.
Qur’an 4:136

As Paul believed:

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
Acts 23:6-8

We can follow Christ

Indeed, God raised him up toward Himself, and God is all-mighty, all-wise.
Qur’an 4:158

And be gathered to God:

God — there is no god except Him — will surely gather you on the Day of Resurrection, in which there is no doubt; and who is more truthful in speech than God.
Qur’an 4:87

In the Qur’an the relationship of the believer and God is direct, one-way, and unmediated. Only you can pray for your salvation. And only you can take it away…

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
James 1:13-18

… because God is all-forgiving, and all-merciful.

Conclusion

The most obvious, or at least pruriently interesting, features of “The Women” are regulations around prostitution, lewdness, and a clear pain at insults against Mary. But beyond and behind the women are a clear hierarchy — God, the Book, and you — which obviate the need for any society or any females in the work of salvation.

Some criticisms of Jordan Peterson have attacked him for not having elucidated the role of grace in his system. But reading “The Women” made me think a more serious problem is the lack of a role of the Church. In Maps of Meaning and later works he has tried to envision a Christianity without a church, whether based on alchemy or on a direct connection to the Holy Spirit as predicted as the Blessed Joachim of Fiore. It is that view of the Holy Spirit, a view that frees it from the Church,

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Matthew 12:31-32

This is a fundamental difference between Qur’anic religion and Christianity. The Church is a partner to God, a created and lesser partner, one on earth that is tainted by sin, one that is essentially feminine to Christ’s masculinity.

The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.
Cyprian of Carthage, “On the Unity of the Church,” circa AD 250

In the Name of
God,
The Son,
the Holy Spirit,

God, you who have established the foundations of your Church upon the holy mountains: Grant that she may not be moved by any wiles of error which would fain compass her overthrow, nor may she be shaken by any earthly disquietude, but ever stand firmly upon the ordinances of the Apostles, and by their help, be kept in safety.

Impressions of the Tom Stranger stories, by Larry Correia and performed by Adam Baldwin

The Tom Stranger stories are the best comedies I have read since Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979). Both cross the conceptual line between stories and radio performances. Both are great comedies.

The format is similar. The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent (2016) and Tom Stranger in… A Murder of Manatees (2018) feature a hapless everyman (Jimmy the Intern, Arthur Dent), a buxom but wise assistant (Muffy, Trillian), a ridiculous friend of tremendous power (Wendell the Manatee, Zaphoid Beeblebrox), and in-universe wisdom (excellent customer service, bringing a towel), and an effortlessly successfully traveler (Tom Stranger, Ford Prefect). The Tom Stranger books reminded me of how happy I was to originally read Adams “Hitchhiker series, his related work, and everything else by him. They reminded me how eager I was for more.

But Larry Correia‘s stories are not simply HHGTTG knock-offs. Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker” series was undergirded with depression — the books become increasingly dark, through the pitch-black ending of Mostly Harmless (1992). Instead, the Tom Stranger books have an undertone of, well, literature, with jokes that are set up and pay off, including in both stories gags that bookend the adventure. When I think of what the same fate would mean for Tom Stranger — Jimmy the Intern having his friends and family and life destroyed at the end of the series — I realize that Hitchhiker is a tragedy with jokes and not a comedy. But so far each of the Stranger books have been a comedy, in the classical sense — the ending is happy, and the reader is at peace.

The Hitchhiker books were build on top of Douglas Adams’ atheism. The guiding philosophy for Tom Stranger’s universe, on the other hand, is libertarianism with pleny of mockery of social justice warriors. Dolphins are easily offended, a degree in gender studies is an indication of worthlessness, and a hapless intern accidentally starts a tiki torch march. Religion is neither supported nor attacked in the Tom Stranger books, as Social Justice is never brought up that I can recall in Hitchhiker. They were written in different eras with different concerns.

Adam Baldwin‘s narration and performance, especially as Tom Stranger and Wendell the Manatee, are terrific.

Hitchhiker has the benefit of an author’s lifetime effort. Stranger compromises two stories. But on a page-per-page basis, Stranger is superior.

I read The Adventures of Tom Stanger and A Murder of Manatees in the Audible editions, performed by Adam Baldwin. The most scene in the second book, “Tom Stranger: Customer Service Response Panel,” is available online.

Qur’an 3: The Family of Amram

There are parts of some texts that are easy to understand. Then there are texts that are harder to understand.

And then there are texts even provide a hermenutical key to help in deciphering them.

It is He who has send down to you the Book.
Parts of it are definitive verses, which are the mother of the Book,
while others are ambiguous.

As for those whose hearts is deviance,
they pursue what is metaphorical in it, perusing misguidance and aiming at its interpretation.

But no one knows its interpretation
except God and
those firmly grounded in knowledge;
they say, ‘We believe in it; all of it is from our Lord.’

Only those who possess intellect take admonition.
Qur’an 3:7

The third chapter of the Qur’an takes its name from the father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam: Amram. An extended comparison between Miriam and the Virgin Mary (who in Hebrew have the same name) is presented. As before there’s also another voice, focused on the political and religious events of another time and that views Christians as an out-group. These two voices have a surprising convergence, at least for me, in their understanding of words and books.

Arian Christianity

The Two Marias

The Christian Bible contains two Marias, with the same name in Hebrew (“????????” or Miryam) . The name of the first is typically translated as “Miriam,” she is the sister of one of the men who during the Transfiguration talked with Christ: Moses. The second is typically translated as “Mary,” she is the mother of the man-god who during the Transfiguration talked with Moses: Jesus.

Both Marias are associated with songs, celebrating God’s overthrowing of the human inequity. In her song to the women, Maria sister of Moses sang:

And Miriam answered them:
“Sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”
Exodus15:21

In her own song to Elizabeth, Maria mother of Jesus sang:

And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord…
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
Luke 2:46,51-52

The typological similarities between the Marias as well known in our academic church literature

Tracing the attributes of Miriam, the sister of Moses, we discover the following: she is a leader, a prophetess, a mediator, an initiator, a servant. a nurse. a caring person, a model of discretion and timing, a negotiator, and a woman who secretly and effectively works behind the scenes in the salvific history of the people.
The Catholic Tradition uses such attributes for Mary of Galilee in the Church’s devotional hymns and litanies. The biblical sources for such expressions are taken from the Cana event (Jn 2:1-11) and from the Annunciation and Visitation accounts (Lk 1:28-45).
Old Testament Types of Mary,” Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Perhaps this is why the prophets who bridged the Old and New Testaments looked back not just on Egypt, not just on redemption, but the Family of Amram— the Prophet Moses, the Priest Aaron, and Maria:

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

The Family of Maria

In the above, I’ve said “Maria sister of Moses” and “Maria mother of Jesus,” but properly the style should be patristic. The first Maria would be “Maria daughter of Amram”:

The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.
Numbers 26:59

And the other Maria… well, we don’t know exactly. Smart people, going back to the Church Fathers, argued Mary’s father’s name was Perhaps Joachim/ and that we went by a nickname, “Heli.”

It is into this ambiguity that the Koran gives the Father of Maria another name, the name of the father of the first Maria: Amram

When the wife of Amram said, ‘my Lord, I dedicate to You in consecration what is in my belly. Accept it from me; indeed You are all the All-hearing, the all-knowing.’ When she bore her, she said, “My Lord, I have born a female’ — and God knew better what she had borne, and the male was no match for the female — ‘and i have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Your care against the outcast Satan.’
Thereupon her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance, and made her grow up in a worthy fashion, and He charged Zechariah with her care.
Qur’an 3:36-37

The Qur’anic author doesn’t just emphasize the connection between the Marias, he recapitulates their Songs into a new form, using the words of neither but the theme of both:

Say, ‘O God, Master of all sovereignty!
You give sovereignty to whomever You wish,
and strip of sovereignty whomever You wish;
You make mighty whomever You wish,
and You degrade whomever You wish;
all choice is in Your hand.
Indeed, You have power over all things.”
Qur’an 3:26

Post-Christianity in the Context of Christianity

The New Luke, the New Paul

After I read The Heifer I felt the Arian Christian and the post-Christian voices in the Qur’an were fundamentally alien to each other, or at least only inexplicably connected. But the beliefs of the men behind those voices may have been more similar than I suspect.

For instance, it may be that one or both of these men saw himself as a new Paul of Tarsus, or new Luke the evangelist

But if they deny you, apostles have been denied before you, who came with manifest signs, holy writs, and an illuminating scripture.
Qur’an 3:184

Luke quotes Christ speaking of the Jews in the third person in his edition of the Beatitudes

Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
Luke 6:22-23

Paul elevates this charge, adding the murder of Christ to their misdeeds:

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men
1 Thessalonians 2:14-15

Yet Paul nonetheless identified as Jew, at least tactically:

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
Acts 23:6

And at times a Pauline verse…

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
1 Corinthians 4:3-5

appears to cleanly flow int o a Qur’anic one, especially if the three-hold description of God (“Him, the All-mighty, the All-wise”) is in fact Trinitarian:

Nothing is indeed hidden from God in the earth or in the sky.
It is He who forms you in the wombs however He wishes.
There is no god except Him, the All-mighty, the All-wise.
Qur’an 3:6

This rhetorical imitation continues into unexpected areas. Luke uses the term “womb” more than all other New Testament writers combined. Though the emphasis on female participation reproduction according to God’s plan is more common in the Old Testament than the New:

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
And He who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who makes all things,
Who stretches out the heavens all alone,
Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;
Isaiah 44:24

That’s not even to mention the time travel.

The Apparition at Fatima

Take this verse, which is Luke writing Christ’s words to Paul:

So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said,
‘I am Jesus,
whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to
turn them from darkness to light, and
from the power of Satan to God, that
they may receive forgiveness of sins and an
inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me
.’
Acts 26:15-18

Edit the text down, and rearrange:

I am Jesus,
they may receive forgiveness of sins and
turn them from
from the power of Satan
darkness to light, and
an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.

Compare with the Fatima Decade Prayer, given by Our Lady to girls in Portugal nearly 1,900 years later:

My Jesus,
forgive us our sins,
save us from the fires of hell.
Lead all souls to Heaven,
especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
Amen.

And in between, the text of The Family of Amram:

Those who say,
‘Our Lord!
Indeed, we have faith.
So forgive us our sins,
and save us from the punishment of the Fire.’
Patient and truthful, obedient and charitable, and
they plead forgiveness at dawns.
Qur’an 3:16-17

Twice:

Our Lord, whoever that You make enter the Fire will surely have been disgraced by You, and the wrongdoers will have no helpers. Our Lord, we have indeed heart a summoner calling to faith, declaring, ‘Have faith in your Lord!’ So we believed.
Our Lord,
forgive us our sins and
absolve us of our misdeeds,
and make us die with the pious.
Our Lord, give us what You have promised us through Your apostles, and do not disgrace us on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed, you do not break Your promise.’
Qur’an 3:192

This is just weird. How can Christ’s words to Paul, as recorded by Luke, show up both in the Qur’an and at Fatima but chopped up and in a different order, and translated from the Lord’s perspective to man’s? There must, I think be, an intermediate form of this pray circulating in the Patristic age.

Does anyone still know that prayer?

The Battle

The post-Christian voice in the Qur’an returns multiple time to a battle. The battle seems to have been lost. But the specific details and locations are not described — the battle that either would have been well known to the audience, or its an allegorical battle.

The battle was against a people of the Book:

A group of the People of the Book were eager to lead you astray; they they lead no one stray except themselves, but they are not aware.
O People of the Book! Why do you deny God’s signs while you testify? O People of the Book? Why do you mix the truth with falsehood, and conceal the truth while you know?
A group of the People of the Book say, ‘Believe in what has been sent down to the faithful at the beginning of the day, and disbelieve at its end, so that they may turn back.’
Qur’an 3:69-72

Perhaps these references are to a battle in the late Classical period in the Arabian peninsula…

Certainly He has excused you, for God is gracious to the faithful. When you were fleeing without paying any attention to anyone, while the Apostle was calling you from your rear, He requited you with grief upon grief, so that you may not grieve for what you lose nor for what befalls you, and God is well aware of what you do.
Then He sent down to you safety after grief — a drowsiness that came over a group of you — while another group, anxious only about themselves, entertained false notions about God, no notions of ignorance. They said, “Do we have any role in the matter.’ Say, ‘The matter indeed belongs totally to God,’ They hide in their hearts what they do not disclose to you.
They say, ‘Had we any role in the matter, we would not have been slain here.’ Say, ‘Even if you had remained in your houses, those destined to be slain would have set out toward the places where they were laid to rest, so that God may test what is in your hearts, and God knows well what is in the breasts.
Qur’an 3:154

Or perhaps the references — to the persecuting people of the Book, to the falling asleep, to the death that awaits — is to something else:

And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.

Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
Mark14:40-43

There was, after all, something of a battle:

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
John 18:10-11

The Battle is used as an occasion to bless the weak and marginalized — the female, the migrant, the tortured, and the dead:

Then their Lord answered them, ‘I do not waste the work of any worker among you, whether male or female; you are all on the same footing.

So those who migrated and were expelled from their homes,
and were tormented in My way, and those who fought and were killed —

I will surely absolve them of their misdeeds and
I will admit them into gardens with streams running in them,
as a reward from God, and God — with Him is the best of rewards.’
Qur’an 3:195

This also is parallel to the Gospels:

Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.

Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
Luke 6:20-23

I wish I understood Arabic grammar better. “God — with Him is the best of rewards” states this voice, who I have been calling post-Christian. I wonder if this is a pun

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23

Christology and Bibliology

The Word and the words

Christians hold that God created the world through the Logos (“the Word”), and in some ways is identified with the Logos:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:1-5

The Word became flesh on earth:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

But is the Word-in-flesh identical to the Word, or instantiation of it? Jews believe that God has many hypostases He uses to speak to His creation, including the Spirit of the LORD, the Name of the LORD, and the Angel of the LORD. Is Jesus a part of the Word, or is He identical to it?

The Qur’anic author seems aware of this question, because it’s answered repeatedly: Christ is a Word of God:

When the angels said, ‘Oh Mary, God gives you the good news of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, distinguished in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near. he will speak to the people in the cradle and in adulthood, and will be one of the righteous.’
Qur’an 3:45

And the same term is used in the angels’ words predicting John the Baptist:

Thereat Zechariah supplicated his Lord. He said, “My Lord! Grand me a good offspring from You! You indeed hear all supplications.’
Then, as he stood praying in the sanctuary the angels called out to him: ‘God gives you the good news of John, as a confirmer of a Word of God, eminent and chaste, a prophet, and one of the righteous.
He said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son while old age has overtaken me and my wife is barren?’Said He, ‘So it is that God does whatever He wishes.’
Qur’an 3:38-40

The Members and the Body

The Church forms the body of Christ. All Christian are members of the one Body of Christ:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:15-17

Christ instructed us to abandon those members which cause sin:

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Matthew 5:29-30

A logical implication of this, I suppose, is those members of Christ which are still sinful are cast into the fire:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15:1-6

Or, as the Qur’anic author puts it:

When God said, ‘Oh Jesus, I shall take you, and I shall raise you up toward Myself, and I shall clear you of the faithless, and I shall set those who follow you above the faithless until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me will be your return, whereat I will judge between you concerning that about which you used to differ.
Qur’an 3:55

One Body, and many members.

The Qur’an’s theory of the Logos is similar. Many words, many books, many Scriptures, but one “Book.” The Torah, the Evangel (“Gospel”), and the mysterious Criterion are in some ways instances of it:

God — there is no god except Him — is the Living One, the All-sustainer. He has sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He had sent down the Torah and the Evangel before as guidance for mankind, and He has send down the Criterion. Indeed, there is a severe punishment for those who deny the signs of God, and God is all-mighty, avenger.
Qur’an 3:2-4

Yet, while a people may only have been given the Torah, and another only given the Gospel, they still had been given the Book:

When God made a covenant with those who were given the Book: ‘You shall explain it for the people, and you shall not conceal it,’ they cast it behind their backs and sold it for a paltry gain. How evil is what they buy!
Qur’an 3:187

The Seen and the Unseen

There is one Book in Heaven, the Book is with God, but the Book is not God.

The Torah, The Qur’an, the “Criterion” (whatever that is), even the Messiah, they are books or words, they are perhaps images of the Book, but they are not God.

Christians believe that face of Christ is how we see the face of God, he is a Divine Icon of Ineffable Divinity:

He is the image of the invisible God-, the firstborn over all creation.
Colossians 1:15

In the context of The Family of Amram, this is worse than sola scriptura — this is idolatry. Consider the following verse — it’s almost totally Orthodox, could almost conclude a Catholic prayer service – except for one line:

God will not leave the faithful in your present state, until He has separated the bad ones from the good.
God will not acquaint you with the Unseen,
but God chooses whomever He wishes from His apostles.
So have faith in God and His apostles;
and if you are faithful and Godwary, there shall be a great reward for you.
Qur’an 3:179

To me this is a striking. In my impressions of the Qur’an’s second chapter, The Heifer , I mentioned there was clearly an Arian Christian voice in the text as well a post-Christian voice. But on this issue of themes of both — the Arian instances on the created nature of Christ, and the Post-Christian emphasis on the created nature of the Torah, the Gospels, and the “Criterion,” they are.

Would these voices agree, the Word is a Book, and the Book became flesh, and in this flesh was a word in the Book?

I’m not sure. But I had not expected to find this parallelism in voices that otherwise seemed so disjointed.

Final Thoughts

The Family of Amram is the third chapter of the Qur’an. It follows The Opening, an introductory psalm or prayer, and The Heifer, which introduces both the Arian Christian voice and the post-Christian voice. The Family of Amram continues the development of these voices, but introduces a shared understanding: the multiplicity of words, scriptures, and books, in contrast with the one Book heaven. This intermingling of concepts implies that the apparently post-Christian voice may itself incorporate a Christian commentary, and is not so opposed to the Arian voice as I had first thought.

I read the second chapter of the Qur’an, The Family of Amram, in Gabriel Said Reynolds’ translation.

Impressions of “Introduction to Patristics: Learning from the Church Fathers,” by David Meconi

Sometimes you get exactly what you ask for.

In my impressions of When the Church was Young by Marcellino d’Ambrosio, I said how much I enjoyed the work, but wish I could read a more academic companion to it. Introduction to Patristics by David Meconi is that companion. And When the Church was Young is the superior book.

There are no substantial disagreements between the texts. Both begin with the apostolic fathers like Justin Martyr and Polycarp. Both end before John of Damascus. Both reference the Shepherd and the Protoeveangelium The fundamental difference is that the Church was Young attempts to presents a narrative church history and emphasizes memorable personal anecdotes or events in the lives of the Fathers, and how their lives intersected. Patristics is organized in a rough chronological order but primarily around major academic themes. But except for the slightly deeper discussion of heterodoxy, the Church was Young provides more memorable information than Patristics.

While Patristics (unlike the Church was Young) is more about what now-heterodox ideas were believed by some Church Fathers, that benefit does not overcome the other burdens in the text. For instance, take Origin (AD 184 – AD 253), a teacher of the saints who himself was never canonized.  Both books addressed major moments of his life, including the arrest of his father, his rivalry with his bishop, and his arrest and torture by the Romans.  And from Patristics (but not from the Church Was Young) I learned that Origen believed that even demons could come to repentance and salvation. But the Church was Young provides more context around the catechatical school in Alexandria, the continuity of Origen with other Fathers before and after, a  more vivid description of the man in general.

The situation is even worse with another heterodox church father, Tertullian (AD 155 – AD 240). Both books credit Tertullian with coining the term Trinity (in Latin “Trinitas”) to refer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Both conclude with Tertullian all but leaving the Catholic Church. The Church was Young establishes Tertullian’s belief in rigor and confessed impatience. It concludes with Tertullian joining the Montanists, “a rigorist sect.” This is implied to be a pattern in North Africa, and the implications for the Islamic conquest are left to the reader. Patristics does not establish Tertullian’s personality or reasons for leaving, aside from to joining a “gnostic” sect.

Yet neither of these are, perhaps, fully true! Certainly Tertullian seems like a kill joy — Wikipedia’s description of “public amusements, the veiling of virgins, the conduct of women, and the like” certainly matches The Church was Young‘s description of him. But Wikipedia’s description of Montanism implied something more:

Montanism held similar views about the basic tenets of Christian doctrine to those of the wider Christian Church, but it was labeled a heresy for its belief in new prophetic revelations. The prophetic movement called for a reliance on the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit and a more conservative personal ethic.

Neither book nor Wikipedia make the comparison, but the focus on the Holy Spirit’s new age of revelation recalls the Blessed Joachim of Fiore, a personal favorite of Jordan Peterson:

There are three states of the world, corresponding to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. In the first age the Father ruled, representing power and inspiring fear, to which the Old Testament dispensation corresponds; then the wisdom hidden through the ages was revealed in the Son, and we have the Catholic Church of the New Testament; a third period will come, the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, a new dispensation of universal love, which will proceed from the Gospel of Christ, but transcend the letter of it, and in which there will be no need for disciplinary institutions.
Joachim of Fiore,” Catholic Encyclopedia

There are a lot of lose ends, and neither work is a complete overview. But from When the Church was Young I can at least ask the question. Patristics, despite being more dry, provides less depth

Reading Introduction to Patristics probably helped me re-encode information I already learned in When the Church was Young. It was not very long, and along with The Orthodox Christian Church helped orient me to better understand this stage of the Church’s history.

I read Introduction to Patristics in the Audible edition.

Qur’an 2: The Heifer

The Heifer (or “Cow,” or “Young Cow”) is the second book of the Qur’an. It is also the longest, and ironically follows one of the shortest, The Opening. The Heifer is not named after a theme of the book, but is an important reference to the Bible in the book:

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
“This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying:
‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him.
Numbers19:1-3

The author of The Heifer — well, at least one of them — expands this episode into an illustrative commentary of Moses’s patience and Israel’s stubbornness:

Then you turned away after that. And if not for the favor of God upon you and His mercy, you would have been among the losers.
And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, “Be apes, despised.”
And We made it a deterrent punishment for those who were present and those who succeeded and a lesson for those who fear God.
And when Moses said to his people, “Indeed, God commands you to slaughter a cow.”
They said, “Do you take us in ridicule?”
He said, “I seek refuge in God from being among the ignorant.”
They said, “Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is.”
He said, “He says, ‘It is a cow which is neither old nor virgin, but median between that,’ so do what you are commanded.”
They said, “Call upon your Lord to show us what is her color.”
He said, “He says, ‘It is a yellow cow, bright in color – pleasing to the observers.’ ”
They said, “Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is. Indeed, cows look alike to us. And indeed we, if God wills, will be guided.”
He said, “He says, ‘It is a cow neither trained to plow the earth nor to irrigate the field, one free from fault with no spot upon her.'”
They said, “Now you have come with the truth.” So they slaughtered her, but they could hardly do it.
Qur’an 2:64-71

To say one of the authors is not as such to deny Divine Authorship. In the Bible some books clearly have more than one voice. The most obvious is the The Book of Kings , which begins with the same psychological realism as The Book of Samuel and after a couple chapters transitions into either popular or merely chronological accounts. Nonetheless, the Book of Kings maintained a unity of theme of the decline and fall of the Kingdom, and is accepted by both Jews and Christians.

The Heifer also displays multiple voices. The three apparent voices are an inexplicable source, a Christian sermon, a post-Christian source, and a wisdom or law code. (If you read that carefully carefully you’ll note that Numbers describes a “red” cow, while The Heifer has a “yellow” one. The voices described here are my own terms, and I am aware how far Biblical higher criticism has progressed since the Wiseman hypothesis. Qur’anic criticism is now where Biblical criticism was in the 19th century. Scholars like Michael Heiser have complicated earlier assumptions that different voices can be easily extracted from the Bible. Any literary analysis is speculative.)

Inexplicable

There are parts of the Qur’an that, if they occurred in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible, would be described as “corrupted” or “interpolations.” This does not mean that they actually are written by different writers — T.S. Elliot used such elements intentionally. Here, for example, Elliot’s poem includes a paragraph with a middle section that also would appear to be “corrupted” or “interpolated”:

On a summer midnight, you can hear the music of the weak pipe and the little drum And see the dancing around the bonfire The association of man and woman In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie — A dignified and commodius sacrement. Two and two, neccesarye coniunction, Holding eche other by the hand or the arm Whiche botokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles, Rustically solemn, or in rustic laughter
T.S. Elliot, East Coker I

Yet, to maintain the comparison between the Qur’an and Elliot’s poetry, at times the English poet does use earlier texts. Consider the phrase (which I myself mis-remembered as “All is well, and all manner of things shall be well”), and its 600 years of history in Christian prophesy and poetry:

One time our good Lord said: All thing shall be well; and another time he said: Thou shalt see thyself that all MANNER of thing shall be well; and in these two the soul took sundry understandings. One was that He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to noble things and to great, but also to little and to small, to low and to simple, to one and to other. And so meaneth He in that He saith: ALL MANNER OF THINGS shall be well. For He willeth we know that the least thing shall not be forgotten.
Julian of Norwhich, Revelations of Divine Love, AD 1393

C.S. Lewis, in both private letters and his published apologetics, slightly alters this phrase:,

I have been reading this week the ‘Revelations’ of Mother Julian of Norwich (14th century); not always so profitable as I had expected, but well worth reading… Christ tells her again and again ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.; She asks how it can be well, since some are damned. He replied that all that is true, but the secret grand deed will make even that ‘very well.’ ‘With you this is impossible, but not with Me.’
C.S. Lewis, “On reading The Revelations of Divine Love“, AD 1940

And, presumably via either Lewis’s published works or private conversations, Elliot adopts it too:

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now always —
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and-
All manner of things shall be well

When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
T.S. Elliot, Little Gidding, AD 1942

So what to make of bizarre referencing, those that make no sense have no known meaning and are untranslatable, like the very first words:

Alif, Lam, Meen
Qur’an 2:1

The same occur in larger passages. Is the below reference to Exodus merely corrupted? Is it a play on a lost homily on Jerusalem? A reference to either a lost book, such as The Book of the Wars of the Lord or oral tradition, perhaps maintained by desert dwellers to the south and east of the Kingdom? We do not know.

We shaded you with clouds and sent down to you manna and quails: ‘Eat of the good things We have provided for you,’ And they did not wrong Us, but they And when We said, ‘Enter this town, and eat thereof freely whencesoever you wish, and enter while prostrating at the gate and say, ‘Relieve,’ so that We may forgive your iniquities and soon We will enhance the virtuous. But the wrongdoers changed the saying other than what they were told. So We sent down on those who were wrongdoers a plague from the sky because of the transgressions they used to commit.
Qur’an 2:57-58

Christian

Yet the clearest and longest voice in the Koran is clear – it is clearly Christian. The Christian writer of the Qur’an is particularly fond of Moses, Mary, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus:

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

The faithful await the return of the Lord in a cloud. This will be the future sign that ends all speculation, after God’s repeatedly signs given to all sons of Israel:

Do they await anything but that God should come to them in the shades of the clouds, with the angels, and the matter be decided? To God all matters are returned. Ask the Children of Israel how many manifest a sign We had given them. Whoever changes God’s blessing after it has come to him, indeed God is severe in retribution.
Qur’an 2:210-211

This is a clear reference to the Gospel of Matthew:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matthew 24:29-31

Referencing Biblical texts can slide into expanding on them. This may be for high-minded reasons, or just for curiosity. John Chrysostom’s homily on Cain and Abel is something I feel deeply, but it reads into the order of God’s interrogation of Cain meaningfully pauses and an intentionality that is not explicitly there. On the other end, the The Protoevangelium of James has no particularly deep meaning, but elaborates the story of Christ’s early family to provide models for the faithful to imitate. The Qur’an has these too. One example is the elaboration of the Book of Numbers about the Cow. Another example is the Qur’an’s explication of God’s promise to Moses. In the original text, Abraham’s response to God is not recorded:

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
Genesis 22:15-19

While the conversation continues in The Heifer:

When his Lord tested Abraham with certain words, and he fulfilled them, He said, “I am making you the Imam of mankind,’ said he, ‘And from among by descendants?” He said, “My pledge does not extend to the unjust.”
Qur’an 2:57-58

The idea of Abraham’s fatherhood being potentially lost exists within Christianity. As the father-in-faith to Christians, those who lose faith logically lose lose him as a father. van’t Veer and other Reformed Christians go a step further, arguing that even the Jews (except for Mary and Jesus) had lost their inheritance by the time of the Incarnation.

With Other Voices

There seem to be at least two other voices in the Koran, though perhaps they are intended to be the same author .

Anti-Catholic

The Christian voice in The Heifer clearly has a bone to pick with the Catholic Church.

A number of teachings are directly criticized, such as the Intercession of the Saints:

O Children of Israel, remember My blessing which I have bestowed upon you, and that I gave you an advantage over all the nations. Beware of the Day when no soul shall compensate for another, neither will any random be accepted from it, nor will any intercession benefit it, nor will they be helped.
Qur’an 2:48

and Purgatory:

And they say, ‘The Fire shall not touch us except for a number of days.’ Say, ‘Have you taken a promise from God? If so, God will never break His promise. Or do you ascribe to God what you do not know?’ ‘Certainly whoever commits misdeeds and is besieged by his iniquity — such shall be inmates of the Fire, and they will remain in it.’
Qur’an 2:80-81

and the procession of the Trinity:

“Who is it that may intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not comprehend anything of His knowledge except what He wishes. His seat embraces the heavens and the earth and He is not wearied by their preservation, and He is the All-exalted, the All-supreme
Qur’an 2:255

What could be the context of this voice, this anti-Catholic Christian? One possibility is that the author is an Arian, a believer that Christ and the Holy Spirit are created God-persons that God has made in order to provide intermediaries between Him and the human race He loves so much. Arianism was widespread in much of the Roman Empire — indeed, most bishops at one point seem to have been Arian (including Achbishop of Constantinople Eusebius of Nicomedia, who baptized the first Emperor Constantine). Further, the Qur’an’s focus on man’s ignorance echoes an Arian assertion, that the precise Christology of the Nicaean Fathers was simply inappropriate given’s man’s limited knowledge of the unseen realm:

And nobody is unaware that this is catholic doctrine, that
there are two Persons of the Father and the Son, and that
the Father is greater, and
the Son is subjected in common with all the things which the Father subjected to him; that
the Father has no beginning, is invisible, immortal, and impassible; but that
the Son is born from the Father,
God from God,
Light from Light,
whose generation as Son, as has been said already, no one knows except the Father;
Second Cirmian Creed, AD 357

Or perhaps the author was a proto-Calvinist! Amusingly, the author sharks one tic with a contemporary anti-Catholic writer, William Dumbrell. Dumbrell creates his own list of Patriarchs, using a formula found nowhere in the Bible:

Thus the book of Genesis ends with Israel preserved and populous. Curiously, blessing, or the promise of it, comes to each of the three patriarchs (Abraham Jacob, Joseph) outside of the promised land, but with reference to the land.
William Dumbrell, The End of the Beginning, p. 133

The same category of innovation — changing the formula to describe the Patriarchs — occurs here, but instead of subtracting Jacob, Ishmael is added!

Were you witnessed when death approached Jacob, when he asked his children, ‘What will you worship after m?’ They said, ‘We will worship your God, and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, the One God and to Him do we submit
Qur’an 2:133

The Post-Christian

While one voice appears to specifically challenge the Catholic church’s teachings on Christianity, another seems to abandon identification as Christian altogether. For instance, like Mormonism, this voice views the canon as still open:

For any verse that We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring another better than it, or similar to it. Do you not know that God has power over all things? Do you not know that to God belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth? And besides God you do not have any friend or helper.
Would you question your Apostle as Moses was questioned formerly? Whoever changes faith for unfaith certainly straits from the right way.
Qur’an 2:106-108

This voice also refers to Christians in the third person, along with Jews and a group called the “Sabeans” (some speculate that “Sabeans” are followers of St. John the Baptist who thought following Christ wasn’t such a good idea):

Indeed, the faithful, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabeans — those who have faith in God and the Last Day and act righteously — they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.
Qur’an 2:62

A New Law

The other voice provides what appear to be reasonable practical guidance, and is something between wisdom literature that provides solid advice:

O you who have faith! When you contract a loan for a specified term, write it down. Let a writer write with honesty between you, and let not the writer refuse to write as God has taught him. So let him write, and let the one who incurs the debt dictate, and let him be wary of God, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it. But if the debtor be feeble-minded, or weak, or incapable of dictating himself, then let his guardian dictate with honesty, and take as witnesses two witnesses from your men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women — from those whom you approve as witnesses — so that if one of the two defaults the other will remind her. The witnesses must not refuse when they are called, and do no consider it wearisome to write it down, whether it be a big or small sum, until its term. That is more just with God and more upright in respect to testimony, and the likeliest way to avoid doubt, unless it is an on-the spot deal you transact between yourselves, in which case there is no sin upon you not to write it down. Take witnesses when you make a deal, and let no harm be done to the writer or witnesses, and if you did that, it would be sinful of you. Be wary of God and God will teach you, and God has knowledge of all things.
Qur’an 2:282

… and a law code basic on Moses:

O you who have faith! Retribution is prescribed for you regarding the slain: freeman for freeman, slave for slave, and female for female .But if one is granted any extenuation by his brother, let the follow up be honorable, and let the payments to him be with kindness. That is a remission from your Lord and a mercy; and should anyone transgress after that, there shall be a painful punishment for him.
Qur’an 2:178

Conclusion

I have spoken of the voices of the Koran. But as with the Bible and the mysterious “redactors,” at time the voices intertwine in the same paragraph. David’s last words to Solomon, for instance, combine the ruddy faith of the Shepherd-King with the high-minded theology of the Deuteronomist:

Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

“Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace.
1 Kings 2:1-6

In the same way, who can untangle the first paragraph of The Heifer. What is the “book” mentioned? Who is the “we”?

This is the book, there is no doubt in it, a guidance to the God-wary, who believe in the Unseen, maintain the prayer,and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down before you, and are certain of the Hereafter. Those who follow their Lord’s guidance and it is they who are felicitous.
Qur’an 2:2-5

I read the second chapter of the Qur’an, The Heifer, in Gabriel Said Reynolds’ translation.

Impressions of “When the Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers,” by Marcellino D’Ambrosio

Church Fathers are the ancient writers, sometimes bishops, sometimes saints, who defended the orthodox catholic church during the first several centuries. I became interested in the early Fathers as I began to realize the great role they have in teaching the faith, especially in the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and the implicit role they have in destroying it, according to Mormon thinking.

The age of the early Fathers begins as the first students of the Apostles wrote, and ended with the dawn of two new civilizations: Medieval Europe and Islam. During this era core, teachings of the Church — such as how many persons of Christ are there (one), how many substances Christ has (two, true man and true God), and how many persons are Christ (one, there’s only one Jesus Christ, Son of God) — were written down. This era includes fathers who lived before, during, and after the First Council of Nicaea, whose words became binding on all Catholics after the council.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten;
that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
By whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;
He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the Holy Ghost.
But those who say:
‘There was a time when he was not;’ and
‘He was not before he was made;’ and
‘He was made out of nothing,’ or
‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’
or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’
— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.

When the Church was Young traces the development of Nicene Christianity from the immediate post-apostolic era to just before the rise of Islam. The oldest of the Church Fathers are those who knew and learned from the apostles For instance, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp may have actually known the Apostle John. Gregory the Great, one of the very last Fathers in this book, overlaps with the Middle Ages. Indeed, his papacy is the close of the Patristic period and at the opening of *Medieval Christianity: A New History.

When the Church was Young reads like a quicker prequel to Medieval Christianity, like Ball Lightning is a breezy prequel to The Three Body Problem. The major points of development are presented, and the time around the Arian Heresy in particular is very well reported. I learned a lot from this book.

I was pleased at the presentation of two Church Fathers, Augustine of Hippo of John Chrysostom. I have read Augustine’s Confessions and Chrysostom’s mis-named Against the Jews, and the description of these Fathers matches my understanding of what I read. Likewise, the short descriptions of The Protoevangelium of James and The Shepherd of Hermas do not contradict what I read.

That said, while this is an introductory history of the early Church through the Fathers, it is not a neutral history. In Christian theology, people who propound beliefs that are later called heretical are not themselves heretics, as they did not have the advantage of the Church’s teaching when writing their ideas. D’Ambrosio, whose interest is in teaching correct Christian beliefs, does not spend much time on heretical or abandoned beliefs of the early Church Fathers. This leads to an accurate if biased depiction of the early Church. This is particularly obvious in the section on Origin, who is repeatedly defended against accusations of heresy without ever which of his beliefs were identified as heretical.

In How God Became King, Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright criticized the out-sized importance the Nicene Creed, and its derivatives, have in Christianity. The Nicene Creed was written to refute Arius, and insist that Christ was God, not a creature. The fathers were successful in this. Christological precision is important, but not more important than the person of Christ, His kingdom, or His teachings. Indeed, while I find the Mormon rejection of the Nicene Creed (on the complaint the concept “substance” is not found in the Bible) hypocritical, as Mormonism itself imports Greek philosophy into its cosmological system, Mormons are certainly right that the focus on the Greco-Roman interpretation of the Scriptures, instead of the Hebrew con-text of the written Word, has clouded much of our understanding. Marcellino D’Ambrosio does not seem to realize this. Worse, the hygienic purity of terms in Greco-Roman philosophy can lead to a lack of awareness of the “unseen realm,” and the world of flesh, demons, and supernatural entities which inhabit the cosmos.

I was disturbed to learn of the early church practice that the Sacrament of Reconciliation could be obtained only once or twice a lifetime. Something like this is referenced in Shepherd of Hermas, but I did not realize Shepherd was either reporting a literal procedure, or itself had been taken literally, later on. In my current state I participate in this sacrament bi-weekly, and if anything this does not seem enough. I do not think I would have done well with the early Christians, who seem to live lifestyles of the religious orders in particular, except as someone like the church father Ambrosia of Milan who was not baptized until just before he was named a bishop.

I enjoyed reading When the Church was Young. I have a better grasp of the life of the early Church, controversies which shaped the terms and phrases used and the learning about the ecclesiastical transition into the Middle Ages. I wish the narrative had contained more depth on what the Fathers actually believed, and I would have enjoyed learning about John of Damascus, who commented on the Qur’an, and viewed it as a form of Arianism.

I read When the Church was Young in the Audible edition. The author has a brief summary of the Church Fathers available online.

Qur’an I: The Opening

Nearly ten years ago, Gabriel Said Reynolds published “The Qur’an and the Bible” in First Things. That has now been expanded into a book, The Bible and the Quran, which is centered around a translation of the Koran into English, with notes by Reynolds.

The first Surah, corresponding to “chapters” or “books”, of the Koran is also the shortest, and is called “The Opening.”  It is short enough to reproduce in full:

In the Name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful
All praise belongs to God, Lord of all the words
the All-beneficent, the All-merciful
Master of the Day of Retribution
You do we worship
and to You do we turn for help
Guide us on the straight path
the path of those whom You have blessed
— such as have not incurred Your wrath, nor are astray
Qur’an 1: The Opening

In the First Things piece Reynolds notes that the Catholic bishop Paul of Antioch argued in the 12th century the three-fold definition of divinity was not merely rhetorical, but referred to the persons of the Trinity.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,
the God of one substance,
trinity of natures.

From the humble monk Paul of Antioch, Bishop of Sidon,
letter to one of his Muslim friends in Sidon. …

There are substantial attributes having the value of names, of which each is different from the other, since God is unique, neither sharing nor dividing. Moreover, it says at the beginning of the Book:

“In the name of God, the Benefactor, the Merciful,”

it is confined to three attributes to the exclusion of the others. – attributes which, for us are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that which means a living speaking being. Besides, it is said in this Book:

“In the name of God…”

Moreover it is said in this Book:

“Say: Call upon God, or call upon Mercy, but whatever name you call Him by, to Him belong the most beautiful names…”
Paul’s Letter to the Muslims” (translated by Dr. Nafisa Abdelsadek) circa AD 1200 Paragraphs 1, 32

Like the writer of the Qur’an and Bishop Paul, the Gospel account uses a tri-fold formula for one Name:

Go therefore
and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:19

Three comparisons are included by Reynolds to this Surah: the Our Father (as found in Matthew and Luke) and the first Psalm. Like the Our Father, Surah 1 has a general ‘downward’ trend, starting at celestial purity and ending in temptation…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:9-13

The same pattern is also in the first of the Psalms:

Happy the man who has not walked in the wicket’s counsel,
nor in the way of offenders has stood, nor in the session of scoffers has sat. But the LORD’s teaching is his desire, and His teaching he murmurs day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water,
that bears its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither —
and in all that he does he prospers.

Not so the wicked,
but like the chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicket will not stand up in judgment,
nor offenders in the band of the righteous.

For the LORD embraces the way of the righteous,
and the way of the wicked is lost.
Psalms 1:1-6

The first Surah reads like a part of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Like the “Our Father” and the First Psalm it is a short prayer that presents the glory of God, the fallen nature of man’s sin, and a gradation of holiness between them. Like the First Psalm “The Opening” is a clear textual unit, and like the “Our Father” it is a threefold invocation of God.

Every book I read in 2018

Last year I copied my friend Tanner Greer and listed every book I read. I am stealing his idea again. As with last year’s list, the best book I read in every category is bolded. And like last year I will give special attention to one work: Jordan Peterson‘s Maps of Meaning is the rare book that changes how you read other books.

And Thomas Merton‘s work is that rare book that changes your daily life.

The Holy Bible

The Book of Exodus
The Book of Leviticus
The Book of Numbers

The Apocrypha

The Protoevangelium of James
The Shepherd of Hermas, translated by Daniel Robinson

Christian Apologetics

How God became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, by N.T. Wright
To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age, by Robert Barron with John L. Allen, Jr.
Manual for Spiritual Warfare, by Paul Thigpin

Christian Writings

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
Four Quartets, by T.S. Elliot
My God is the LORD: Elijah and Ahab in the Age of Apostasy, by M.B. Van’t Veer
The Seven-Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton

Comparative Religion

Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, by Jordan B. Peterson
The Orthodox Christian Church: History, Beliefs, and Practices by Peter Bouteneff
Wrestling the Angel — the Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity, by Terryl L Givens

Business Strategy

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Beneath a Surface: The Inside Story of How Microsoft Overcame a $900 Write-down to Become the Hero of the PC Industry, by Brad Sams
Dogfight: How Apple and google Went to War and Started a Revolution, by Fred Vogelstein
Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella with Greg Shaw and Jill Tracie Nichols
We Were Yahoo!: From Internet Pioneer to the Trillion Dollar Loss of Google and Facebook, by Jeremy Ring

Politics and Political History

Dangerous, by Milo Yiannopoulos

Science Fiction

Ball Lightning, by Cixin Liu