All posts by tdaxp

Qur’an 26: The Poets

“The Poets,” the twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an, directly addresses the previous chapter, “The Criterion.” In “The Criterion” you are expected to the a Prophet of God, and to elaborate the Book, the logos, in your “criterion.” But what happens when others ignore the way you point to God, and mock the book of your life?

Readings

Entrance Antiphon:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
Matthew 23:37

A reading, from the Book of Genesis:

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.
Genesis 7:1-6

Alleluia, Hallelujah

On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark
Genesis 7:13

Alleluia, Alleluia

A reading, from the Second Letter of St. Peter:

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment
2 Peter 2:4-9

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

Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:

“Woe to you, Chorazin!

Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
Matthew 11:20-24

Communion Antiphon

Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.
Exodus 14:31

A Qur’anic Homily

While addressed to a specifically Arab-speaking audience, the twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an continues to speak directly to you, the reader. The Holy Spirit continues to speak to you, as it speak to your ancestors and the great figures of the Bible:

This is indeed sent down by the Lord of all the worlds, brought down by a Trustworthy Spirit upon your heart (so that you may be one of the warners), in a clear Arabic language. It is indeed in the scriptures of the ancients.
Qur’an 26:192-196

Catholics concerned about the Universal Call of Holiness may face despair at all those who seem totally deaf to holiness. Likewise, the Universal Call to Prophethood found in the Qur’an’s twenty-fifth chapter can lead to despair over those who not only do not join in the universal call, but who are deaf to the resulting signs pointing to God.

You are liable to imperil your life that they will not have faith.
Qur’an 26:3

But the results of prophecy — whether others actually listen or not — is up to God, not the prophet. You, as a prophet, do not have the power to compel obedience or worship. God can do all things as He wants. For you, responding to the Call is enough.

If We Wish, We will send down to them a sign from the heavens before which their heads will remain bowed in humility. There does not come to them any new reminder from the All-beneficent but that they disregard it. They have already impugned, but soon there will come to them at the news of what they have been deriding.
Qur’an 26:4-6

Indeed, the twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an includes six summaries of prophets, both biblical (Moses to Egypt, Abraham to the Chaldeans, Noah to his antediluvian people, Lot to Sodom) and otherwise (Salih to Thamud, Shu’ayb to Aykah), each of which are described as following this pattern.

The universal call to prophethood gives each individually a mandate to ensure the book of their lives — their “Criterion” — points to God. You have a duty to protect those you listen to you to the best of your ability. But do not despair of those who reject your righteous signs.

Warn the nearest of your kinsfolk, and lower your wing to the faithful who follow you. But if they disobey you, say, “I am absolved of what you do.” And put your trust in the Almighty, the All-Merciful, who sees you when you stand, and your going out about among those who prostrate.
Quran 26:214-219

By doing so you will be writing a book of your life within the logos — elaborating the Book in daily living — and thus prophet. The opposite fate is to be writing a book that is outside the logos, and elaborates something different than the Book. These “poets” ultimately channel ideas from devils:

Shall I inform you on whom the devils descend? They descend on every sinful liar. They eavesdrop and most of them are liars. As for hte poets, the perverse follow them. Have you not regarded that they rove in every valley and that they say what they do not do?
Qur’an 26:221-226

An Example

The archetypal imagery of Light and Water, order and chaos, are repeated in the life of every prophet.

Have they not regarded the earth, how many of every splendid kind We have caused to grow in it? There is indeed a sign in that; but most of them do not have faith. Indeed, your Lord is the All-Mighty, the All-Merciful.
Qur’an 26:7-9

But so is the narrative. Within “The Poets” the most detailed example is of Moses, but every poet in his own life lives the same drama. Obeying God and starting on a heroic path:

So approach Pharaoh and say, “We are indeed envoys of the Lord of the worlds, that you let the Children of Israel leave with us.”
Qur’an 26:16

Rapidly leads to a reminder of your weakness and your past missteps:

He said, “Did we not rear you as a child among us, and did you not stay with us for years of your life? Then you committed that deed of yours, and you are an ingrate.”
Qur’an 26:17

God, in His greatness, may send a sign:

Moses said to them, “Throw down whatever you have to throw!” So they threw down their sticks and ropes, and said, “By the might of Pharaoh, we shall surely be victors!”

Thereat Moses threw down his staff, and behold, it was swallowing what they had faked.
Qur’an 26:43-45

Which — for a few, at least — maybe persuasive:

Thereat the magicians fell down prostrating. They said, “We believe int he Lord of all the worlds, the Lord of Moses and Aaron.”
Qur’an 26:46-48

But often enough, ignored by the person we think we are there to prophecy to:

He said, “Did you believe him before I should permit you? He is indeed your chief who has taught you magic! Soon you will know! I will cut off your hands and feet form opposite sides, and I will crucify you all.”
Qur’an 26:49

Our good deeds, once more leading to insults and humiliations:

Then Pharaoh sent heralds to the cities: “These are indeed a small band. They have aroused our wrath, and we are alert.”
Qur’an 26:53-55

But have patience. God works wonders in His time, not yours.

Thereupon We revealed to Moses: “Strike the sea with your staff!” Whereupon it parted, and each part was as if it were a great mountain. There, We brought the others near, and We delivered Moses and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest.
Qur’an 26:63-66

These patterns repeat over and over, in the Scriptures and without, in Arabia and without, in your life and in your years and months and days. They repeat endlessly.

Until the last day.

Conclusion

The twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an, “The Poets,” examines the consequences of responding to the universal call to prophethood. Your life is a book, the criterion by which you will be judged. It is a Book of the Lord, or merely a book of poetry. If it is a Book of the Lord, have patience. God could show dazzling signs and wonders to all who reject you if He wished. Your prophethood is not wanted because God needs a prophet — Your prophethood is wanted because God is all-good, and prophecy points to the good. If the book of your life is not a Book of the Lord — if it is merely a book of poetry inspired by devils — well, you will see how it ends soon enough.

Impressions of “Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers,” by Richard Garriott with David Fisher

Explore/Create is an odd book in need of a better episode. It is composed of episodes from two of Richard Garriott’s passions: making computer games and space. These two stories eventually converge, with exciting and unexpected results. Because of the nearly-random ordering of chapters, though, most of the dramatic tension is lost. The story is still fascinating if you care about either — or better, both — of these passions, however. Garriott is a legitimate pioneer in both fields.

I knew Garriott from computer games, where he is known as “Lord British.” Garriott was the writer of one of the first commercial computer games — Ultima — and the founder of one of the first successful games publishers, Origin Systems. Even before I had a computer I knew of his work through Ultima IV, a computer game where the moral “alignment” of the player character is under continued development. Likewise, I remember following the launch of Ultima Online in high school, as well as the famous assassination of Lord British.

But while this is happening a loving but titanic figure looms in the background — the astronaut Owen Garriot. Richard had grown in up Houston near Mission Control. A number of chapters which at first seem to be self-indulgent narcissism lead to Richard’s contributions to human space flight: his company Space Adventures was an early funder of the X prize

I greatly enjoyed the episodes of the history of computer games. Growing up in Houston near NASA, Garriott was part of the Texas computer scene (indeed, he founded Origin around the time that Compaq was founded.) But while California was a golden light for the Compaq founders, for Garriott it was a warning: the flightiness and drug-use of early California entrepreneurs served as things to avoid for Origin.

I wish Garriott spoke more about the transitions Origin made. He writes about the painfulness of transitioning from Apple-based to a PC-based clones, but has few details. Origin is sold to EA, but beyond making shelf space easier to get, little is said to why.

While at EA Garriott created Ultima Online, the first large-scale massively multiplayer online role playing game. Garriott describes some of the corporate politics that went into creating the game, including the unexpected consequence of people selling in-game “gold” for actual money. Even though the creation of Ultima Online is one of the most detailed parts of the narrative, I was left wanting more of these details (And less of, say, Garriott’s Titanic themed party in Austin).

Much more is said of why Garriott left NC Soft, and the subsequent lawsuit. And here’s where the two threads of Garriott’s life — attempting to reach space and making computer games — clearly interacted. Richard was fired immediately upon returning from the International Space Station, while still in quarantine. His $32 million victory would be the highlight of many lives — Garriott’s life is exciting enough that it’s a transition from one chapter to another.

So I wish these threads were better connected. Garriott’s love of space, and his skill at the game business, lead him to dramatic climaxes at nearly the same space and time. In my mind I organize the stories in the book this way. But instead the book begins at a seemingly self-indulgent tale of Garriott viewing the Titanic, and events that make the lawsuit with NC Soft more meaningful (like previous experience at Origin) is treated only superficially.

I also wish there was more on Garriott’s space exploration work. I don’t know if what appears to be a gap between what Garriott describes (funding for early space companies, a role in the creation of the X-Prize, etc.) and what I can find elsewhere represents Garriott’s grandstanding in this book, or his unfair marginalization in other work. Frustratingly, not enough detail is given in this book to even have a clear idea.

Last, it’s too bad that Richard did not narrate his own book. Garriott is charismatic and a good speaker, and many of the events in this book are better told in Garriott’s interview on Retro Tea Break. Richard Garriott is justly respected in the history of of computer gaming, yet an openly admiring interviewer is able to extract a more coherent narrative out of Garriott than he presents of his own life.

I really want to read an Explore/Create 2.0. I want to know more of Garriott’s work at Origin, more about EA, more about space, more about NC Soft. Hopefully, one day I will be able to.

I read Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers in the Audible edition.

Qur’an 25: The Criterion

The twenty-fifth chapter of the Qur’an, “The Criterion” contains a universal call to prophethood.  “The Criterion” contrasts blasphemy and prophecy — blasphemers and prophets differ in how they relate to the Logos, or in Qur’anic terminology, the Book. Blasphemers are unable to do anything outside the Logos (outside the Book), even though they call themselves “gods.” Prophets, following the sign of Jesus and Mary, are called to spread the good news to all nations. To the extent you allow your actions to be guided by God’s Spirit you are a prophet, and The Criterion is your elaboration of the Logos in this world.

Readings

Entrance antiphon:

For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:21

A reading, from the Book of Numbers

Then the Lord met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, “Go back to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” So he came to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab were with him. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?”

Then he took up his oracle and said:

“Rise up, Balak, and hear!
Listen to me, son of Zippor!

“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Behold, I have received a command to bless;
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.”
Numbers 23:16-20

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, Who boast of idols.
Worship Him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad,
And the daughters of Judah rejoice
Because of Your judgments, O Lord.

For You, Lord, are most high above all the earth;
You are exalted far above all gods.
Psalms 97:7-9

A reading, from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
1 Corinthians 14:1-5

Alleluia, Alleluia

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

A reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Matthew:

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
Matthew 10:1-10

Communion antiphon

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
Revelation 1:3

A Qur’anic Homily

Briefly, the Qur’anic author describes a number of Prophets, and the written works they were given. The phrase “We gave—,” when attributed to angels, can apply to…

Moses and the Book:

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

Other Prophets the Book:

And We gave [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob and guided each of them. And Noah We had guided before, and from his offspring David and Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron — thus do we reward the virtuous — and Zechariah, John, Jesus, and Elijah — each of them among the righteous — Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot – each We preferred over all the nations — and from among their fathers, descendants and brethren — We chose them and guided them to a straight path.

That is God’s guidance: with it He guides whomever He wishes of His servants. But were they to ascribe any partners, what they used to do would not avail them.

They are the ones whom We gave the Book, the judgment, and the prophethood. So if these disbelieve in them, We have certainly entrusted them to a people who will never disbelieve in them. They are the ones whom God has guided. So follow their guidance.
Qur’an 6:85-90

Then We gave Moses the Book, completing on him who is virtuous, and as an elaboration of all things, and as guidance and mercy, so that they may believe in the encounter with their Lord.

David and the Psalms:

Your Lord knows best whoever is in the heavens and the earth. Certainly We gave some prophets an advantage over the others, and We gave David the Psalms.
Qur’an 17:55

And Christ the Gospel:

We followed them with Jesus Son of Mary to confirm that which was before him of the Torah, and We gave him the Gospel containing guidance and light, confirming what was before it of the Torah, and as guidance and advice for the Godwary.

Let the people of the Gospel judge by what God has sent down in it. Those who do not judge by what God has sent down — it is they who are the transgressors.
Qur’an 5:45-47

As St. John calls he who reads and hear prophecy “blessed,” so is the Logos itself Blessed. For all right words come from the Logos, and all right hearing is the hearing of the Logos, and all mercy is in the Logos:

And this Book We have sent down is a blessed one; so follow it and be Godwary so that you may receive mercy.
Qur’an 6:154-155

This is the context for the unknown prophet and his Criterion. God is known through the Logos, and the Logos (in an elaboration of the Book which is not the Torah, or Psalms, or Gospel, but something else) is sent down to an unnamed prophet in a work called the Criterion.

Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion to His servant that he may be a warner to all the nations.
Qur’an 25:1

The phrase “all the nations” seems reserved for Jesus and Mary in the Qur’an, meaning the unnamed prophet is associated somehow with bringing the Christ and the Virgin into the world:

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

The identity of this prophet and his elaboration of the Book, the Criterion, is the dramatic tension that drives the opening of this chapter. So what do we know about the Prophet?

The Identity of the Prophet

The Prophet is embodied — he buys and sells. He is vulnerable to persecution — he does not have any visible angelic protection. He is limited as all men are limited — he does not possess unlimited wealth:

And they say, “What sort of apostle is this who eats food and walks in the marketplaces? Why has not an angel been sent down to him so as to be a warner along with him? Or why is not a fortune given to him, or does he have a garden from which he may eat?’ And the wrongdoers say, ‘You are just following a bewitched man.”
Qur’an 25:7-8

The prophet preaches to those who need conversion:

He was indeed about to lead us astray from our gods, had we not stood firm by them.” Soon they will know, when they sign the punishment, who is further astray from the Way.”
Qur’an 25:42

People will mock the prophet…

When they see you, they just take you in derision: “Is this the one whom God has sent as an apostle?!”
Qur’an 25:41

And if you need to re-read the above sentence: the prophet is you, insofar as you spread the good news of salvation and warm others of the wages of sin:

We did not send you except as a bearer of good news and warner. Say, “I do not ask you any reward for it, except that anyone who wishes should take the way to his Lord.
Qur’an 25:56-57

You and the Bishops and God

The Qur’anic authors views of the the Christ’s commissions to his disciples is much closer to the Presbyterian or Unitarian perspectives than to the Catholic one. The Qur’anic author clearly does not see a role for apostolic succession and does not believe Christ is establish it. Rather, Christ’s commissioning of the apostles is a type of the Holy Spirit commissioning men after Pentecost.

A notable difference int he Qur’anic authors terminology, as opposed to the early Protestant Reformers, is the use of “Prophet” as opposed to “Saint” to describe a follower of the Logos. The Qur’an presents the Logos as a passive Book to be read, rather than a an active Man united with God, so the prophetic rather than saintly aspects of a godwary Logos-follower are emphasized.

Thus, those who point away from God are basically anti-prophets, taking gods who are not God. Without God and His Logos these fake gods (and there was a species of bishop at the time who called themselves “gods”) are only men without the ability to truly destroy or create. (As with Reformation-era Presbyterians and Unitarians, the Qur’anic author is rather obsessed with the Catholic hierarchy.)

Yet they have taken gods besides Him who create nothing and have themselves been created, and who have no control over their own harm or benefit, and have neither control over death, nor life, nor resurrection.
Qur’an 25:3

Also like the Presbyterians and Unitarians of the Protestant Reformation, the Qur’anic author emphasizes the value of prophecy and ministry, against the Catholic view of office. Aaron’s role as the first High Priest is minimized, his personal role as a minister is emphasized:

Certainly We gave Moses the Book and We made Aaron, his brother, accompany him as a minister. Then We said, “let the two of you go to the people who have impugned Our signs.” Then We destroyed them utterly.
Qur’an 25:36-37

The “false gods” (the bishops) and the the “prophets” (the godwary) are both men. The Qur’anic authors emphasis of the incarnate nature of the bishops does not by itself deny their divine mandate, but does serve to emphasize that at best a bishop can point the way to God, but should not be taken for a God Himself:

Have you seen him who has taken his desire to be his god? It is your duty to watch over him?
Qur’an 25:43-44

The Justification of the Prophet by Works

The prophet — that is you — should not despair at the lack of conversion of the powerful. God will judge them in time. God will decide which of them are god-fearing and which are not. Judgment is reserved to God, even from those who are made to be prophets:

On the day that He will muster them and those whom they worship besides God, He will say, ‘Was it you who lead astray these servants of Mine, or did they themselves tray from the Way?’ They will say, ‘Immaculate are You! It does not behoove us to take any master in Your stead! But You provided for them and their fathers until they forgot the Reminder, and they were a ruined lot.”
Qur’an 25:17-18

They mock you as they do not see your guardian angel. But they will not be mocking when they do see the angles.

The day they will see the angels, there will be no good news for the guilty on that day, and they will say, “Keep off!” Then We shall attend to the works they have done and turn them into scattered dust.
Qur’an 25:22-23

Yet in at least one way the Qur’anic author would have been uncomfortable with the Protestant Reformers: his focus on the importance of good works. The righteous “prophets” are defined their actions, from social actions such as saying “Peace” to their manner of prayer:

The servants of the All-beneficent are those who walk humbly on the earth, and when the ignorant address them, say “Peace!” Those who spend the night for their Lord, prostrating and standing. Those who say, “our Lord! Turn away from us the punishment of hell. Its punishment is indeed enduring. It is indeed an evil station and abode.
Qur’an 25:63-66

Belief and action are not taken as separate things in the Qur’an, but as a unity. For instance, the right prayer itself is a work. The Qur’anic author does not make salvation as easy as a question of belief, but nor is it physically impossible for any accomplish:

And those who say, “Our Lord! Give us joy and comfort in our spouses and offspring, and make us leaders of the godwary.” Those shall be rewarded with sublime abodes for their patience sand steadfastness, and they shall be met there with greetings and peace, to abide in them, an excellent station and abode.
Qur’an 25:74-76

A Prophet, not a “God”

Unlike the bishops who during the Roman period say themselves as temporal rulers, the ruler of this world (According to the Qur’anic author) is clearly God: God organized the cosmos…

It is He who merged the two seas: this one sweet and agreeable, and that one briny and bitter, and between the two He set a barrier and a forbidding hindrance.
Qur’an 25:53

along the lines described by St. Ephrem the Syrian

The upper waters, because they had been separated on the second day from the lower waters by the firmament set between them, were also sweet like the lower waters. (The upper waters are not those that became salty in the seas on the third day.)
St Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis

God uses water to bring the dead to life:

And it is He who sends the winds as harbingers of His mercy, and We send down from the sky purifying water, with which We revive a dead country and provide water to many of the cattle and humans We have created.
Qur’an 25:48-49

And even water to create the first life:

It is He who created the human being from water, then invested him with ties of blood and marriage, and your Lord is all-powerful.
Qur’an 25:54

It is God, and not man, who placed the lights in the sky: For as these lights help man to know the night from the day, but cannot create themselves, so a prophet is a boon to his fellow man, but is not a god to be worshiped by him:

Blessed is He who appointed houses in the heavens and set in it a lamp and a shining moon. It is He who made the night and the day alternate for someone who desires to take admonition, or desires to give thanks.
Qur’an 25:61-62

Conclusion

The Criterion is the work of your life, you are the prophet who hears the Book from the Spirit. Does your prophecy point to God or to seductive idols? Do you look ahead to a house with many mansions, or to an evil abode in hell?

Impressions of “#1 in Customer Service, The Complete Adventures of Tom Stranger,” by Larry Correia and performed by Adam Baldwin

I said it last time, and I’ll say it again:

The Tom Stranger stories are the best comedies I have read since Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

#1 in Customer Service: The Complete Adventures of Tom Stranger includes the previous Tom Stranger stories, three new tales

  • A short story, “Doughnut Run,”
  • A new full-length story, Apocalypse Cow
  • and another short story, “The Custies”

Of these new stories, my favorite is “Doughnut Run.” It is told largely from the perspective of an arrogant manatee visiting Tom Stranger’s office. The way we are re-introduced to familiar friends from a comically villainous perspective is terrific. Manatees make such arrogant antagonists.

The tropes are always the same, and always delightful. Jimmy the Intern is a hapless fool who is well intentioned but makes the situation worse. Tom Stranger is comically flawless. Manatees are tough and often rude. Villains are both topical (like FBI Director Robert Mueller) and hilarious. Instead of a Douglas Adam’s ultimately gloomy atheist galaxy, Larry Correai presents a libertarian multiverse where anyone who MSNBC praises on this earth is at risk of ridicule in these pages.

Now that I’ve read five Tom Stranger stories, it seems fair to compare the entire work to the five Douglas Adams books. But — the Tom Stranger stories are likely to live in. Douglas Adams’ work began with the destruction of earth, proceeded to the end of the universe, and then by way of a galactic genocide went through the loss of wildlife and the death of our main characters. But Tom Stranger is there specifically to avoid these bad outcomes. An insurance agent against for cross-dimensional skulduggery, Stranger would never let his clients come to harm (provided they had the right policies).

I strongly recommend all Tom Stranger stories, and I can’t wait until the next one.

I read #1 in Customer Service: The Complete Adventures of Tom Stranger in the Audible edition.

Qur’an 24: The Light

The twenty-fourth chapter of the Qur’an, “The Light,” uses mythic language to describe God and Christ in an Arian cosmology. God is a Light, and Christ (according to the Qur’anic author) a lamp who held the light upon a Tree, allowing it to shine to the world. The Light is known to the world through Water (a feminine, passive medium, and a type of Mary), through which The Light created the world. . The ideal life of the faithful is to be like pure water, receiving God and making Him known to the world.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon:

The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire.
Leviticus 21:9

A reading, from the Book of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
Genesis 1:1-3

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
By His name YAH,
And rejoice before Him.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

O God, when You went out before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness, Selah
The earth shook;
The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God;
Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
Psalms 68:4-8

A reading, from the Second Letter of St. Peter:

And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit…

But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.

These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
2 Peter 1:19-21,2:12-17

Alleluia, Alleluia

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to John:

Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them…

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
John 12:35-36,42-46

Communion Antiphon

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

A Qur’anic Homily

This is a chapter of signs, of symbols that point to the Way. You have to read and understand the sign. But with advice from God, and the clarity that comes from God, the meaning of these symbols should be clear. God is the source of knowledge and wisdom and, by understanding the signs in this chapter, you can grow in these things.

God advises you should you ever repeat the like of it, if you are faithful. God clarifies the signs for you, and God is all-knowing, all-wise.
Qur’an 24:17-18

The Signs of Light and Water

Consider the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the Spirit was over the Waters, and there was Light. As St. Ephrem the Syrian, a Doctor of the Catholic Church, wrote:

It was through light, then, and through water that the earth brought forth everything. Even though God was able to bring forth everything from the earth without these things, it was His will to show that there was nothing that was created on earth that was not created for the purpose of man or for his service.
St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, c. AD 350

Remember the meekest, the most humble, the most passive, the most feminine part of this primordial creation: the Water

God created every animal from water. Among them are some that creep upon their bellies, and among them are some that walk on two feet, and among them are some that walk on four. God creates whatever He wishes. Indeed, God has power over all things.
Qur’an 24:45

The Waters is not a Creatrix because she is more powerful than God. The Waters is not a Mediatrix out of her own power. The special place of the Waters is in receiving the Spirit, and joining her heart to His. In the Qur’an the ideal human female — Mary — is contrasted against the false male ideal of the Bishop.

Femininity without the Logos is chaos that can never be light.

Masculinity and femininity are paired, and (in the Qur’anic view) methods of God revealing himself through the Logos, the Book: Vicious masculinity earns the response of vicious femininity, but we know God through orderly wisdom within the Book. Masculinity within the Logos is responded to by femininity within the Logos:

Vicious women are for vicious men, and vicious men for vicious women. Good women are for good men, and good men for good women. These are absolved of what they say. For them is forgiveness and a noble provision.
Qur’an 24:26

The limits of Gods love is only an individual’s ability to accept it. The only masculine response to chaos — femininity without the Logos — would be tyranny, and not God’s loving command of “Light.” The only right response to tyranny — masculinity without the Logos — would be chaos.

As for the fornicatress and the fornicator, strike each of them a hundred lashes, and let no pity for them overcome you in God’s law if you believe in God and the Last Day, and let their punishment be witnessed by a group of the faithful.
Qur’an 24:2

But we know God within the Logos – in Qur’anic terms, the Book, and He responds to a sliver of order with graceful wisdom, and a sliver of wisdom with merciful order:

Were it not for God’s grace and His mercy upon you in this world and the Hereafter, there would have befallen you a great punishment for what you ventured into.
Qur’an 24:13

Marry off those who are single among you, and the upright among your male and female slaves. If they are poor, God will enrich them out of His bounty, and God is all-bounteous, all-knowing.
Qur’an 24:32

The Sign of the Clouds

Look up in the sky, and you may see another sign sent by God, to remind you of the beginning: Light and water, mixed together in the Clouds. A dark cloud, without light, is foreboding and a great danger. Light without water is too bright to bare, one would die in the radiant summer of eternal sunshine. But for us creatures, light and water, held by the breathe of God in the sky, allow life to thrive. But light and water can be a reminder of the power of God too — hailstorms and lightning:

Have you not regarded that God drives the clouds, then He composes them, then He piles them up, whereat you see the rain issuing form their midst? And He sends down hail from the sky, out of the mountains that are in it, and He strikes with it whomever He wishes and turns it away from whomever He wishes. The brilliance of its flashes almost take away the sight.
Qur’an 24:43

It’s important to remember that Water, if not for Light, would become darker and darker, and fold in on itself. All life is created by Light and Water, the formlessness and chaos of Water without Light is not a condemnation of water, but a reminder of Water’s need for Light to produce life.

Or like the manifold darkness in a deep sea, covered by billows upon billow, overcast by clouds; manifold darkness one on top of another: when he brings out his hand, he can hardly see it. One whom God has not granted any light has no light.
Qur’an 24:40

But it is not God’s will that we know Him without Water — without Darkness.

God alternates the night and the day. There is indeed a lesson in that for those who have insight.
Qur’an 24:44

The Sign of the Light and the Tree

Consider the Tree of Olives, at the very center of the world. On this Tree is a lamp which holds the Light. On this tree is a Light that signs like a star. A tree on the very edge of turning into flames, but a Tree that is protected from all burning. This Tree is Light Upon Light.

If the meaning of this isn’t clear, the Qur’anic author spells this parable out in the first words: God is the light.

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is a niche wherein is a lamp — the lamp is in a glass — the glass as if it were a glittering star — lit from a blessed olive trees, neither eastern nor western, whose oil almost lights up, though fire should not touch it. Light upon light, God guides to His Light whomever He wishes. God draws parables for mankind, and God has knowledge of all things.
Qur’an 24:35

But this is not Nicene Christianity. The Son is not Water, but nor is He Light itself. Instead we have the Light, through a Lamp, through Glass, shines. This is a ordering of the Trinity — Father, Spirit, and Son (and thus the processional priority of the Spirit over the Son) also found in other places in the Qur’an:

They question you concerning the Spirit. Say, ‘The Spirit is the Word of my Lord, and you have not been given of the knowledge except a few.’
Qur’an 17:85

And in ancient Christian writing:

God caused that holy, pre-existent Spirit which created all things to dwell in a body which he chose. The body into which that holy Spirit was placed served the Spirit, walking rightly and purely in humbleness, never defiling that Spirit. The body obeyed that holy Spirit at all times, laboring rightly and virtuously with Him and not faltering in any way. That wearied body served in humility, but was mightily approved to god with the Holy Spirit, and was accepted by Him. This courageous course pleased God because e was not defiled in the earth but kept the Spirit holy. Therefore He called His Son and the glorious angels as fellow councilors, so that this body might be given a place of honor — since it had served the Holy Spirit blamelessly — and that it would not seem to have lost the reward of its service. For the body in which the Holy Spirit dwelt that has been found without spot of defilement will receive a reward.
The Shepherd of Hermas, “The Fifth Parable”

The Qur’anic then immediately transitions from this parable to an observable reality: monasteries. Relative to God all souls are feminine, because He is active and generating while we are receptive and receiving. The Spirit works through us, not us through the Spirit. The most virtuous mate of any soul is God, we are the water through which He is made known on the earth.

In houses God has allowed to be raised and wherein His Name is celebrated, He is glorified therein, morning and evening, by men whom neither trade nor bargaining distracts from the remembrance of God and the maintenance of prayer and the giving of alms. They are fearful of a day wherein the hearts and the sights will be transformed, so that God may reward them by the best of what they have done and enhance them out of His grace, and God provides for whomever He wishes without any reckoning.
Qur’an 24:36-38

You are Like Water to Light

You are the Water, the appropriated beloved of the Light. The Water makes the Light known, as an Apostle makes God.

One of the most common phrases in the Qur’an is “This is the Book,” — that is, “This is the Logos.” In Qur’anic theology any person who reads The Book (whether the Torah, or the Psalms, or the Gospels, or the Qur’an itself) is a prophet, and apostle, someone who repeats the word of God in human words.

You know what to do. You know what God wants. So command yourself, and do it.

All the response of the faithful, when they are summoned to God and His Apostle that He may judge between them, is to say, ‘We hear and obey.’ It is they who will be felicitous.
Qur’an 24:51

The Qur’anic author (foreshadowing not just centuries of protestant thought, but St Augustine) that Bishops are not mediators or “partners” of God. Worship God, don’t call creatures “god,” have faith, do good works, and you will inherit the earth:

God has promised those of you who have faith and do righteous deeds that He will surely make them successors in the earth, just as He made those who were before them successors, and He will surely establish for them their religion which He has approved for them, and that He will surely change their state to security after their fear, while they worship Me, not ascribing any partners to Me. Whoever is ungrateful after that — it is they who are the transgressors.
Qur’an 24:53-55

The cross that you carry — to the Qur’anic author — is your own. God has sent Signs to show you what to do, and to the Qur’anic author Jesus himself is a sign. You have no helper except God, and no worker for your soul except yourself:

Say, ‘Obey God and obey the Apostle.’ But if you turn your backs, he is only responsible for his burden, and you are responsible for your own burden, and if you obey him, you will be guided, and the Apostle’s duty is only to communicate in clear terms.
Qur’an 24:54

And the terms are, to the Qur’anic author, as clear as can be. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Give alms to the poor. Obey the words you know that you have spoken. And God will have mercy on you.takes

Maintain the prayer and give alms, and obey the Apostle so that you may receive mercy.
Qur’an 24:56

Conclusion

“The Light” describes Creation as ongoing, with The Light working through Water to be known. At the beginning this was the Deep, at the Incarnation she was Mary. The ideal for the believers is the monastery, where the Light that shone from the Cross is praised and remembered.

Impressions of “Open: How Compaq Ended IBM’s PC Domination and Helped Invest Modern Computing,” by Rod Canion

There’s basically two histories of consumer technology. In the standard, California history of technology, East Coast institutions (ARPA and Bell Labs) created Arpanet and the semiconductor, which created the foundation for California’s’ explosion. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Google, Oculus, Yahoo and the rest are the real story. Then there’s the everyone else, including Canadians, Europeans, and the Japanese. There are few pioneering stories from the middle of the country. But Open, the story of Compaq, is just such a tale.

It’s immediately clear in Open that Compaq’s founders are not tech visionaries. They are successful, if unhappy, employees of Texas Instruments that believe they could be more successful, happier, and richer if they went into business for themselves. The opening section is in some ways the best part of the book, as the last minute worries around leaving corporate health insurance, and the details of what venture capital around 1980 looked like, are fascinating.

Compaq’s initial strategy, to be totally compatible with IBM computers, was all the more striking in that IBM itself wasn’t compatible. IBM’s initial PC portable did not run all the programs its initial desktop PC did, leading to Compaq to decide if they wanted to mimic IBM (including breaking compatibility) or be more useful for IBM customers tan IBM was (by ensuring compatibility). They chose compatibility, and that combined with operational excellence and good legal advice, made much of the difference.

“Open” is written by Compaq’s founder and CEO (and given the relatively dry style, either literally read by him or fleshed out by an unimaginative ghostwriter). It is interesting him describing corporate successes that either are now standard (such as free pop and t-shirts) or dated (such as promising retailers never to sell directly to consumers). Rod Canion’s excitement at the celebrities who appeared at Compaq’s press events is still obvious.

Canion describes the IBM PS/2 as the “death star,” and the portion of Open dedicated to Compaq’s reactions to it are the most exciting parts of the book. While earlier IBM releases were only partially incompatible out of lack of work, IBM attempted to intentionally break compatibility with every add-in board, and many pieces of software, by switching to a new system of internal and external ports called “Microchannel.” Simultaneously, IBM was working with Microsoft to develop OS/2, a would-be replacement for DOS. He also speculates that IBM was seeking long-term to replace Intel as a source of chips. Before I read Open I was excited to learn more about OS/2 but thought the hardware story was boring. I had not realized the threat that the PS/2 posed to the existing PC market, and I wish this section was extended.

Compaq retaliated by funding development of EISA, the “Extended Industry Standard Architecture,” and licensing it freely to all competitors. This allowed other companies to have similar technical advances to what the IBM PS/2’s “microchannel,” offered, but with retaining backwards compatibility.

Open‘s denouement is extended, and is a series of vignette’s of Canion’s last days at Compaq. A retailer pushes for better deals. Stock market expectations. And so on. To me the end of the book dragged on, as the details of Canion’s last days were not particularly interesting, and not enough detail was spent on EISA to elevate the work.But… there was more to the story! A documentary, Silicon Cowboys, was filmed based on this book, with extended interviews with Canion and others!

The documentary makes Canion’s exit more interesting, if more tragic, as the high-end strategy began to crack on the wave of the early ’90s PC boom. Instead, Compaq’s early investors pushed for a new CEO capable of competing in the low-end, volume market. This was done, and Canion may have been uncomfortable in writing of this process, but Compaq’s glory days as an industry leader was behind it.

I enjoyed reading Open. I expected a book like Losing the Signal about Blackberry or Transforming Nokia, but instead the book read as a start-up success. Canion is not a writer of the quality of Black Harris, but Harris’s histories of Oculus and Sega of America are the nearest things that come to mind.

Compaq was young once.

And it defeated IBM.

I read Open: : How Compaq Ended IBM’s PC Domination and Helped Invest Modern Computing in the Audible edition.

Qur’an 23: The Faithful

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

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

A Reading, from the First Book of Enoch:

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

A Psalm, from the Psalms

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

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

A Reading, from the Book of Jude:

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

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communion Antiphon

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

A Qur’anic Homily

The Audience of the Qur’an

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

They believed in God

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

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

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

Were familiar with the Bible:

Certainly We created man from an extract of clay.

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

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

Then We created the clinging mass as a fleshy tissue.

Then We created the fleshy tissue as bones.

Then We Clothed the bones with flesh.

Then We produced him as another creature.

So blessed is God, the best of creators!

Then, of course, you die after that.

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

Were tempted by other gods:

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

And believed death was the end:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Penitential Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Journey of the Faithful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Until the Trumpet blows. Then everything changes.

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

This is not the book I thought it was.

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

Nope!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

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

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

Then, his wife Anna mourned and lamented,

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

Pseudo-Matthew — doesn’t:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cool Fan Fiction

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

Jesus creates birds from clay.

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

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

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

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

Joseph talks!

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

There’s plenty of fun stuff like that.

The Perfect Son

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Jesus was silent, and answered nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Intercession of Mary

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

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

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

And immediately he who had done this died.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to the Qur’an

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

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

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

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

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

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

The episode more clearly reflects the Pseudo-Matthew:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Qur’an 22: The Pilgrimage

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

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

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

A Reading, from the Second Book of Kings

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

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

"Thus says the LORD God of Israel,

‘Tell the man who sent you to Me,

"Thus says the LORD:

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

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

‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel:

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

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

A Psalm, from the Psalms

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

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

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

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

Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

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

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

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

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

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Luke

And Mary said:

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

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

Communion Antiphon

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

A Qur’anic Homily

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

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

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

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

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

The Prophetess and the King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Theology of the Muslim Qur’an

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and in many nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A creed of Arius, now embittered over the years

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Follow our father-in-faith, Abraham:

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

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