Sunday, December 27, 2009

Islam's connection to Christianity versus Judaism's connection

He turned his eyes about him; his mouth opened and his lips curled back over his teeth. Then he seemed to make an effort towards control, and began to mutter something to himself. ‘Not much yet, lord god!’ Richardson heard. ‘Slowly, lord, slowly! I’ll make sacrifice—the blood of the sacrifice,’ and at that a sudden impatient anger caught the young man.

‘Fool,’ he cried out, ‘there’s only one sacrifice, and the God of gods makes it, not you.’ (Charles Williams The Place of the Lion)

Many years ago, when I began college, I took some classes that would give me knowledge about some of my immediate experiences. For instance my husband and I, with our six children, often made trips to an orphanage in Baja so I took a class on Mexican history. The teacher was intrigued with the history of the Aztec period so we didn’t get very far into the modern history of Mexico. We stood far too long around the bloody altars of the Aztec’s human sacrifices.

To supplement my knowledge of the Hebrew Bible I took a wonderful class on Jewish history taught by Mrs. Gabriel. That class was one of my favorite classes even though the teacher used the book The Passover Plot to teach about the beginning of Christianity. Yes, I understand that Jewish people do not believe Mary was a virgin or that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified.

So Walid Khalidi, the scholar who spoke at the UN this year (2009) on the "Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people" did not shock me when he inferred that Jewish scholars held some very poor views of Jesus and Mary.

But I was shocked while listening to the videos of Khalidi’s UN speech posted at the
Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Khalidi, who is speaking about his concern that Israel is trying to make Jerusalem a Jewish Capital, in the second video, attempts to make the case that Islam is closer to Christianity than Judaism because of the former’s high regard for Jesus and Mary.

But while Islam does hold Mary and Jesus in high regard one might ask, “Which Jesus and Mary would that be?” Or “Why is the Hebrew Bible Sacred to Christians but not the Qur’an?” And of great importance to those who love Jesus and love their brothers and sisters in Christ, “Why in light of Khalidi’s appeal to the relationship between Muslims and Christians do most Islamic countries
persecute those Christians who evangelize Muslims?”

Khalidi believes it is wonderful that the Muslim God did not allow Jesus to suffer crucifixion and instead raised him to heaven to return at the end of time. And he also sees the Islamic belief that Mary was a virgin as a sign of Islam’s strong connection to Christianity. But Islam’s connection to Christianity falls and is broken on the person of Jesus Christ as do all other attempts at redefining the biblical Jesus.

To the Muslim, Jesus is not God and so, although Mary may have been a virgin, she was not carrying God in her womb, but merely a perfect human who was to be a prophet. And if Jesus was neither God nor died on the cross, and therefore was not raised from the dead, then as Paul stated, our Christian faith is worthless and our sins are not forgiven. (The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins is the holy Trinity’s great gift.) But this worthlessness of the Christian faith is doubly certain without the Hebrew Scriptures for then Christ for us would have no meaning at all.

John Calvin was quick to remind his readers that the Jewish sacrifices and their sacraments looked forward to Jesus Christ the perfect sacrifice. And when Jesus taught his disciples, it was always from the deep riches of the Hebrew text. When Jesus walked the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples after his resurrection, he explained his mission, suffering and resurrection from the Hebrew Scriptures, including the law, the prophets and the writings. His words, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?” It is from the Old Testament text that we know Jesus not from the Qur’an.

If Khalidi wants to prove there is a close connection between Christianity and Islam he must go to the biblical text and understand who Jesus Christ is within that text. He could then reframe his assertion offering a true understanding of who Christians believe Jesus is. Next he must understand the close connection between the Jewish and Christian community since they share the same sacred text, the Hebrew Bible. They also share the same biblical understanding about God and humanity. That is that humans are all sinful and in need of God’s forgiving grace. And God, for both peoples, is the one who provides the sacrifice:

“Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it will be provided. (Genesis 22:13-14)”

Finally Khalidi must plead for his own faith leaders to stop persecuting Christian converts as well as those
Christians whose communities have existed since the first centuries of Christendom.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Viola –


I don’t see the purpose of this post and the accompanying quotes, other than to find fault with the Palestine Mission Network.

Regarding your comments on the close connection between Christians and Jews, Harold Bloom begs to differ with this claim in his book, Jesus and Yahweh. He thinks it is absurd to talk about a Judeo-Christian tradition, there is no such thing. Such a tradition is the fiction of Christians. He considers the Gospel of John as anti-Semitic and does not consider the Old Testament and the Hebrew scriptures to be the same. He believes the Christians rearranged these scriptures to suit their efforts to prove Jesus was the Messiah.

II Chronicles is the last chapter:

Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up.’

As opposed to Malachi:

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Viola Larson said...

John,
I am not sure what it is you are trying to say. Do you agree with Bloom, who by the way is not religious at all? Are you saying that Malachi is not in the Hebrew Bible so it can't have any connection with the New Testament?
It is after all a post-exilic book no matter where it is placed in the Hebrew Bible.

Hmm, I am wondering if any of my Jewish friends thinks that the Judeo-Christian tradition is a farce.

But the truth is that only those Christians who are attempting to redefine Jesus would do away with the O.T. or Hebrew Bible.

I know that Protestants have the arrangement of books in the Hebrew Bible placed differently but I don't believe that makes a lot of difference. Remember the first Christians had only the Hebrew Bible for their text.

So, and I know I am rambling a bit because I didn’t expect a Christian to take me to task for holding on to the Hebrew Bible- but are you suggesting that, as a Christian, you don’t see Christ in Isaiah 53 or Malachi or etc., etc.?

Anonymous said...

I thought Bloom’s comments were interesting. It would have been more respectful of Jewish tradition if we had not renamed its scripture and rearranged the chapters.

Isaiah is one of my favorite books in our Bible. Not so much because of the passages you are referring to, but because of passages like:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator* shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rearguard.
9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”

“Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
2to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil,
and that you may make the orphans your prey!
3What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help,”
Jesus’ mission reflected these passages.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

John said...

Viola, your Revisionist History is fascinating but not at all accurate. Let's face it, Christians have a long history of treating both Moslems and Jews horribly. We must work hard to achieve reconciliation and mutual respect.

The canon was officially closed by about 350 AD so how could the Qu'ran be embraced by Christianity unless and until we re-open the canon? I'm all for that! :-)

YHE POLITICS OF GOD by the author of THE PASOVER PLOT, Hugh Schonfield, is one of my favorite books. He argues for a movement of Christians and Jews together as a Global Servant Nation the way the Prophet Isaiah envisioned it and could easily be embraced by Moslems and others as well.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + The John A Wilde Blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

Viola Larson said...

John,
My revisionist History? will you explain?

Viola Larson said...

I like those chapters too John Mc- You didn't answer my question.

Anonymous said...

Viola

I was simply commenting on your post. I took the same membership vows you took. With your question are you trying to determine if I am sufficiently orthodox for you to call me a Christian? I’m not going there.

John McNeese

Viola Larson said...

Actually, John Mc I was trying to figure out why you seemed to be objecting to my insistence that the Hebrew Scriptures are the foundation for Christianity.

John said...

Viola, when you compare the Hebrew Scriptures to the Qu'ran, you are comparing apples to oranges. Do I have to spell that out again? I thought I already spelled that out in my comment.

Your selective understanding of history leads you to conclusions I find quite faulty.

A good example is that you point out many Islamic countries are opposed to Christian evangelization. Well. Duh. Colonialism hasn't exactly worked out that well for Islamic countries, has it? And, it is only in very recent times that European countries have welcomed Moslems, Jews and others as equals and with full rights -- after they stopped being officially Christian nations for the most part. Although, Switzerland seems to be having a problem right now since they recently banned minarets. And I have heard there are efforts to exclude Moslems in other European countries.

We have a long way to go to achieve basic human rights and Christianity has been an obstacle all too often. It doesn't take much reading of history to see that.

And your justification of Jerusalem becoming the capital of Israel to the exclusion of making it a capital of an Arab Palestine seems to be based on that selective understanding of history.

I do read you right on that, don't I?

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + The John A Wilde Blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

reformedpastor said...

John: Before you continue making completely one-sided statements regarding the history of Christian-Muslim or Jewish-Muslim relations, please read something like Bat Ye'or's "The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam : From Jihad to Dhimmitude : Seventh-Twentieth Century." Muslim opposition to Christian evangelization has nothing to do with colonialism, and if Muslims have been second-class citizens in European nations in the last two centuries, Christians and Jews have been in Muslim nations for over 1300 years.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

John
Of course comparing the Qur’an to the Hebrew Bible is like comparing apples to oranges. One of my points exactly. I was complaining that in suggesting that Islam was closer to Christianity than Judaism Khalidi was doing that. And how can it be done the views of Islam came several hundred years after Christianity and Christianity is built on the Hebrew Bible.

And David has it very right. Colonialism is not evangelism. Do you understand that evangelism is telling the good news to others that Jesus Christ lived, died and was resurrected to give new life and transform. I don’t agree with the banned minarets but that wasn’t what I was writing about. I was writing about giving Christians freedom to live openly as Christians which includes telling the good news to their Muslim neighbors.

Do you ever read the stories about the persecution of Christians in Arab countries?

Pastor Bob said...

Christians traditionally have claimed the Hebrew Scriptures as a foundational document and as Scripture. Christians have interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures in ways that Jews throughout the ages have thought are wrong. Christians have interpreted Hebrew Scriptures in ways not intended by the original writer/editor.

Jews claim the Hebrew Scriptures as a foundational document although interpreted through the Talmud. Jews claim that Christians have misused the Hebrew Scriptures and failed to interpreted them correctly.

Muslims claim both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament as foundational documents for them (I'm not sure whether or not they would use the word "Scripture" to refer to them). Muslims also say that the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament have been corrupted by Jews and Christians to say things that are different from the Koran. The suggestion was that the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures originally were closer in content to the Koran but were changed

From a Christian point of view therefore Christian theology grows out of the Hebrew Scriptures interpreted through the lens of affirming that Jesus is the Messiah.

From a Jewish point of view Christians have misused the Hebrew Scriptures. Further Christians have used the New Testament as grounds for persecuting Jews. Judeo-Christian is a modern term, invented in the 1800's I think. It refers for the most part to moral behavior.

Curiously if Christians, Jews and Muslims would agree to put our theological differences aside and concentrate only on moral and ethical issues we would find (at least among the conservatives in each group) that we share much. Consider the coalition between the Roman Catholics and the Muslims a few years ago at a UN conference when it dealt with the issue of abortion.

I think one could claim that, depending on the issue, Christians and Muslims have more in common (the virgin birth, Mary, Jesus as Messiah) and on different issues that Christians and Jews have more in common (Isaac instead of Ishmael).

Of course to do so is to try and remove emotion from the conversation and given our joint histories this is very unlikely.

John (one of you :) ) colonialism IS a big issue among Muslims. You hear the word used (inappropriately I think) to refer to Jewish settlement and later establishing a nation (Jewish point of view) or conquering (Muslim point of view) of Israel/Palestine. But it helps if we all remember all of history. Muslim attempts to conquer Europe when Christians were in the majority needs to be remembered. So do the Crusades, Christian persecution of Jews, the relative good treatment of Christians and Jews
by early Muslims that changed under the Turks. And a whole lot more.

There is plenty of sin to go around for all except for Jews until the 20th and 21st centuries.

Does all that help?

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Bob,
But I do want to add that Khalidi's contention that Islam is closer to Christianity than Judaism is based on his theological thoughts not on morals. I believe that most religions would find agreements when they turn to ethics. C.S. Lewis liked to refer to the Tao and yet he would not have dismissed Jesus Christ as the one Lord before whom all will someday bow.

And I still have to contend that the Jesus and Mary known by Islam cannot be the Jesus and Mary of the Bible.

I think what you have said about the various histories of the three faiths is quite correct. And your words, "and a lot more” is the biggest truth of all.

Viola Larson
Sacramento Ca

Pastor Bob said...

Viola

I would agree that theologically and historically Jewish tradition is closer to Christianity than Isalamic tradidtion. Neverthelessi Christianity is closer to Hebrew tradition than Muslim tradition. While the reference to Mary and Jesus as the Christ are simply non existant in Jewish tradition the Muslim tradition about Mary and Jesus are distant from the Muslim tradition even though Islam postulates a virgin Mary and Jesus as the Christ. Denial of the crucifixion altogether by Muslim tradition certainly does not connect to the Christian tradition. On the other hand Jewish tradition rejects the idea of the virgin Mary and meaningful interpretation of Jesus' crucifixion.

reformedpastor said...

I think it's important, for the purpose of the post, to recognize what Khalidi's purpose was. This was not an academic theological exercise. He was trying to convince Christians in the West that, because they supposedly have more in common with Islam than Judaism, they should make common cause against Israel and help the Palestinians in their quest to take over East Jerusalem.

There are similarities between the three religions. There are differences between them. Arguing which two are "more alike" is beside the point, unless you can make political hay out of it. That's what Khalidi's speech was actually about.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

John said...

Have you read THE HISTORY OF GOD by Karen Armstrong? What a scholar she is. She opened my eyes to so much neglected history of theology showing enormous common ground among Jews, Christians and Moslems.

Karen Armstrong is devoting her self these days to the newly unveiled Charter for Compassion which is not getting the press it deserves. It is far better IMO than that document associated with Manhattan.

We are the three Abrahamic religions. We are all people of the Book although what exactly is meant by the Book has always been an interesting question. Karen Armstrong delights in trying to find out what is meant. She has written extensively about Fundamentalism which she sees as a huge block to world peace which we all must strive to overcome.

Please don't deny how much colonialism has been connected to Christian missionary work over the centuries. And, Bob, as I have pointed out before, what Israel is doing is colonialism, a practice they learned from the British who had no trouble killing people and stealing land and allowing for huge amounts of death and destruction. Think India-Pakistan. Think South Africa-Zimbabwe. Think Australia. Think North America and the treatment of Native Americans and Africans. Oh, I know, the English are so nice!

And so are the Israelis. So nice!

And I can't leave out the good old USA. We are so nice too.

I love my fellow Americans, even Republicans. I love Israelis, even hardcore Zionists. I love the English too. But I do see the evil in our history and in current events and I'm sick and tired of people denying it.

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + The John A Wilde Blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

John said...

When the invasion of Iraq began in 2003, Christians represented about 4 per cent of the population (1 million people) of Iraq and were accepted and even had a privileged position under Saddam Hussein. I guess they were seen as better than the hated Shiites. Thousands of Christians have been killed since then and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands have left Iraq or want to leave Iraq.

We are in so much denial and ignorance about the world as we receive our information through a narrow lens of American exceptionalism realted closely to those glorious Israelis and those wonderful Brits who can do no wrong.

I'm not saying that everything England, Israel and the USA are doing is wrong. But a lot of our past and present policies have been either evil or stupid or both. We simply don't know enough about the people of the non-Christian world. We think we know best. We don't.

So many of the conflicts now creating so much fear and hate are the direct consequences of English, Israeli and US policies.

I love the people of my country, the USA, England and Israel ... but I detest the sin. Where have I heard that kind of language before?!

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + The John A Wilde Blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

reformedpastor said...

John: Karen Armstrong is not a scholar. She is a propagandist. She may be an effective one, but she has no scholarly credentials. Her only scholarly endeavor was to candidate for a D.Phil. in English (her interest was Tennyson), but she was failed and never received the degree. Beyond that, everything that she has written has been strictly popular, and with a very specific agenda in mind. That's not scholarship.

I repeat--if you would like to read something that would actually challenge your beliefs and assumptions, read Bat Ye'or, and recognize that the US, Israel, and Great Britain are not the only powers that have ever done anything wrong.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

John and David
As far as religions go I like to stick with standard texts on each religion. One of the BAs I got before doing a Masters in History was in Religious Studies. I also have worked writing about and counseling those involved in new religions and cults for many years. One of the standard texts I have used over the years is Paths of Faith by John A. Hutchison. It simply gives a great deal of information including the history of each religion. Another helpful person whose latest tomes are so expensive I have refrained is J. Gordon Melton. I have the oldest set-which in some cases is still good. He simply details every religious group in the United States. He is considered the expert.
Another newer and easy to read book is New Religions A Guide edited by Christopher Partridge and with a forward by J. Gordon Melton. Each chapter is written by an expert in that religious area. Finally another good selection is Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach. It is edited by Irving Hexham, Stephen and John W. Morehead. The later editor is a good friend.

I really feel that the only way to truly understand another religion is to read exactly what they believe. Reading their own works is also extremely important if possible. After that it is okay to read a comparative selection.

For the differences and sameness of Islam and Christianity there is no better book than Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad: Understanding the Differences Between Christianity and Islam by Timothy George.

Viola Larson
Sacramento, Ca

Anonymous said...

David, nice Ad Hominem.

I guess Bill Gates probably feels pretty bad that he's not a "real" computer scientist either ;)

http://sadtrombone.com/

Pastor Bob said...

John

I think we need to define colonialism. I would define it to mean conquering territory AND governing from afar. I don't think you can put Israel in the latter category. Conquering territory, yes. Ruling from afar? Nope.

And I would agree that simply looking at the 18th through the 20th (or 21st) centuries fails to see that the west is not the only culprit. Most recent in many cases, yes. But only? I don't think so. Would we call the Turkish conquering of the Balkans colonialism? How about the current attempts in Sudan to make sure the Arab Muslims control everything, particularly the oil? Chinese conquering of Tibet and the suppression of Tibetan nationalism and religion? Chinese oppression of Muslims in their western provinces? Russian colonialism from the Ukraine through the Muslim provinces, colonialism that continued in the statist Communist era? Attempts by Serbs to control and oppress Muslims and Roman Catholics?

Going back in history, how about the spreading of the Aztec Empire or the Incan Empire? And then the Spanish colonialism that followed? The feudalism of the Spanish speaking countries in Central and South America?

Ain't no one with clean hands that I can see.

Yes, as Americans we should critique the actions of our own government first. But let's not turn our eyes away from the evil propagated by others as well.

In

John Shuck said...

David,

That was a little nasty about Karen Armstrong. She is most definitely a scholar. She explains what happened with her PhD thesis in "The Spiral Staircase." More political than anything. She has certainly proven herself with her numerous works of high quality that has been acknowledged by other scholars.

Hey, love to play chess with you sometime!

John Shuck
Elizabethton, TN

Viola Larson said...

Anonymous please leave your full name, city and state.

reformedpastor said...

John S.: I wasn't trying to be nasty about Armstrong. I simply observed that she isn't a scholar. She's a popular writer with a very particular agenda.

As for chess--any time! Do you play at World Chess Live or the INternet Chess Club?

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

John Shuck said...

Hey David,

I haven't played on-line before. I haven't played a lot since my dad took me to tournaments when I was a teenager. Once in a while, I am in a tournament. You can find me on the USCF site-- Andy J. Shuck. I found you! I am quite impressed by the 1993 class B championship and by how you continue to be active. Our ratings are close but my guess is that you "live into yours" more than I into mine!

As you can tell, I am making lots of excuses beforehand! : )

I was actually thinking it would be fun to play in person someday, but maybe on the computer would work.

Anyway, despite that we find areas of disagreement on matters religious, social, and political, it is fun to find a point of connection!

Maybe chess is the answer. If we can get the Israelis and the Palestinians (and all the rest of us) to solve problems via the chessboard rather than via mortar shells we will have found the secret to peace!

Happy New Year to you and to all of you here!

John Shuck
Elizabethton, TN

reformedpastor said...

John S: Wel1, I'm impressed. 1816 is the highest OTB rating I ever managed, and old age is taking its toll now, knocking back to Class B. Let me know if you get on any of the online sites, or if, by any chance, you ever get up to the DC area to play in a tournament.

I think the idea of settling conflicts over chess is excellent, though I can't help remembering one example of doing so from the '30s horror movie The Black Cat, where satanist Boris Karloff plays psychiatrist Bela Lugosi for the right to use a young bride as a sacrifice. The results turned out to be pretty gruesome....

BTW, sorry, Viola, for taking this thread so far off topic.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

John said...

I rarely (maybe never) find anybody without an agenda. Yes, Karen Armstrong has an agenda. Currently she is focused on Compassion. I like that agenda a lot.

I see scholarship and getting degrees as two very different things. I think Karen Armstrong has easily won global recognition as a competent and challenging scholar.

Thinking about agendas, I wonder what makes us "Conservative" or "Liberal" or "Moderate" etc. I know I had some very negative experiences with a certain style of Christianity usually labeled "Conservative" as a child and as a young adult. And I had some very positive experiences with a style of Christianity usually labeled "Liberal." I wonder if that is the main reason for most of us to identify with an "agenda" as we become adults. I don't know.

Maybe my INFP personality type makes me inclined to being a "Liberal." It's probably a combination of things.

One thing I do know is that scholars can be anywhere in the spectrum and I'm sure we can learn a lot from those who have different agendas. But I usually get mad when I try to read a "Conservative" scholar and my blood pressure rises and that's not a good thing for me. You can keep mentioning books by "Conservative" scholars but I probably will not get to them. I am confident that I have read enough to be reasonably well informed about most of the topics Viola brings up here.

But thanks anyway for your suggestions. I know you probably won't take my suggestions seriously as well!

+ Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + The John A Wilde Blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

Pastor Bob said...

John W

I'm sure you have thought of me as a conservative. Yet you never puked in my presence. :)

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill PA

Viola Larson said...

John W. I notice that you have read a lot but the authors you read always put a progressive spin on even conservative writings. Perhaps you should read a few conservatives, you could keep a barf bag by your chair: )

Pastor Bob said...

It's always useful reading a variety of perspectives. Then at least you know who the players are.