Christians and Jews Worship Yahweh; Muslims Worship Allah.

Let me simplify my last two posts on whether or not Muslims and Christians and Jews worship the same God. I’ve received lots of push back on my last post in the Karl Barth Discussion Group on Facebook; push back that in my view either never fully engaged with what I actually wrote, or misunderstood it and put words in my mouth that I never said (or wrote). In summary here is what I believe:

Jews and Christians worship the same God; Muslims do not.

  1. Jews and Christians worship = Yahweh.
  2. Muslims worship = Allah.

The name of God itself should be substantial enough to illustrate why there is a disparity between the god that Muslims worship, and the God that Christians and Jews worship. Obviously this still requires much more development (which I’ve gotten into in my earlier posts in regard to the Trinity, Incarnation, etc.), but this simple reduction should hopefully make this a little more problematic for those who want to reduce the God of the Jews and Christians into the god of the Muslims.

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27 thoughts on “Christians and Jews Worship Yahweh; Muslims Worship Allah.

  1. Bobby, it appears to me that many of those on the other side are erring in these ways.

    (1) Those who identify the unity of God with the Creator are not seeing the Son and the Holy Spirit as that Creator. See, for example, Dale Tuggy’s comment on Fr Kimel’s blog today.

    (2) Those who reason from the similarity of the Bible and the Quran are overlooking the multiplicity of divine agents in the OT that have been studied by Kendall Soulen.

    (3) Those who reason by analogy from Judaism to Islam are forgetting the “two thrones in heaven” of Judaic religion (cf Daniel 7) that continued to be acknowledged in Jewish kabala. Although the rabbis did not recognize Jesus as the occupant of the second throne, they did not deny that someone, presumably the Messiah, could occupy it. Rabbis only ceased to speak of the second throne in the C2 after the revolt of 135 discredited messianism and after Jewish gnostics had argued that its occupant was the demiurge. The fathers and the rabbis most fundamentally parted ways over the idea that there was a “third throne,” the Holy Spirit.

    (4) Those who reason from the patristic view of Muslims as heretics to the idea that they worship the same god are misunderstanding patristic heresiology. The same fathers would have said that mythologizing gnostics were heretics, without implying that the demiurge was the same god as the Trinity.

    (5) Those who reason from the common philosophical heuristic of Ibn Sina, Moses Maimonides, and St Thomas Aquinas are confusing a hermeneutic with its text.

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  2. The syllabus of errors above is based, less on what Christians, Jews, or Muslims should ideally believe, than on what at their origins they actually did believe. Since we mostly discuss theology rather than history here, and Christianity rather than Judaica, some notes and references may be helpful to those who understandably find some of it a little odd.

    About #1. This is the conflict at the heart of Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God and Michael Bird’s How God Became Jesus. Ehrman updates the old history of religions narrative (eg Harnack) in which a rigid Jewish belief in a monadic Creator moved out into the sophisticated world of polytheistic Hellenism and there exfoliated into a belief in the Trinity that Jesus and the prophets before him would all have found bizarre. This appears to be telling the story backwards. As Richard Bauckham reconstructs this history, the Judaic critique of idolatry distinguished, not the one from the many, but the Creator from the created, and a rich devotion to the Creator acknowledged several agents sharing his single identity. In preaching about Jesus, the apostles carried this idea of the Creator’s plural unity throughout the Roman Empire where it was easily confused with philosophical monotheism, which really is about the one and the many. The Church battled this confusion until the seventh ecumenical council finished the job in 787. Thoughtful readers will already have seen two implications: (1) Passages like the depiction of Wisdom in Proverbs 8, although consistent with Judaic insistence on serving only the Creator, are nevertheless the shrk forbidden in the Quran; (2) Amid a rising tide of iconoclastic Islam, the seventh ecumenical council upheld the veneration of icons to insist that the distinction between God and not-God was that of Creator and creature, not that of invisibility and visibility.

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  3. About #2. So even in the OT, God is not the monad of philosophical monotheism. Rather, the agents whose signs are usually englished as Law, Word, Wisdom, Presence, and Spirit share a common identity. The incarnation in particular is anticipated by Daniel 7:13 (cf St Mark 14:62) and the structure of passages describing the Angel of the Lord. Thus the trinitarianism of the NT emerged from a plurality in God’s identity that was already present in ancient Judaic religion. In this early talk, Tom Wright shows a deep appreciation for the older Judaic language that is worth considering–

    http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_JIG.htm

    –but the key resource is Kendall Soulen’s research on the divine names in the OT–

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scriptorium/2014/03/symposium-on-soulens-the-divine-names/

    https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Divine_Names_and_the_Holy_Trinity.html?id=xcAavWqwKqQC

    Among latter day Barthians, Robert Jenson has made particularly creative use of this, both in his theological exegesis and in an innovative trinitarian soteriology.

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  4. About #3. The founders of rabbinical Judaism were well aware of the “two thrones in heaven” of Daniel 7:9ff. In the history of Judaism, the very first known mystic in the tradition of merkaba spirituality (cf Ezekiel 1) that later became kabbala is– St Paul. For him, this obviously grounds his devotion to Jesus who had risen to the right hand of his Father. However other Jews were devoted to other heavenly figures such as Moses, Elijah, Enoch, and the angel Metatron, or else to earthly figures they recognized as the Messiah. At first, early rabbis dissociated from Christians, less because the latter believed in Jesus, than because they believed in a third throne in heaven, the Holy Spirit. Some believe that the venerable rabbi Akiva believed that Simon bar Koseva (aka Bar Kochba from Numbers 24:17) was the messiah, the christ if you will, who would sit on the second throne in heaven; both were executed by the Romans in 135. When this last messianic revolt failed and Jewish gnostics reinterpreted the second throne as the seat of a malevolent demiurge, the rabbis drew a line against belief in a dyadic God. From this time forward, the apocalyptic spirituality that flourished in Christinity was marginalized in Judaism to the heterodox practices of kabbala. This is why Judaism now seems to worship a monadic god.

    A quick path into this reconstruction is to read Daniel Boyarin’s Jewish Gospels–

    https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Jewish_Gospels.html?id=IVlZEHVmuw0C

    http://blogs.bible.org/bock/darrell_l._bock/daniel_boyarins_the_jewish_gospels

    –preferably with a Greek text of St Mark’s gospel at hand.

    Those more deeply interested in it should consult Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven and Paul the Convert, then Daniel Boyarin, Borderlines and Peter Schafer, The Jewish Jesus.

    Segal

    http://twopowersinheaven.com/

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/two-powers-in-heaven-is-back/

    http://yalepress.yale.edu/YupBooks/reviews.asp?isbn=9780300052275

    Boyarin

    https://books.google.com/books/about/Border_Lines.html?id=q8meFrEplncC

    https://www.scribd.com/book/262338542/Border-Lines-The-Partition-of-Judaeo-Christianity

    Schafer

    http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9724.html

    http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9724.pdf

    https://www.scribd.com/book/232955801/The-Jewish-Jesus-How-Judaism-and-Christianity-Shaped-Each-Other

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  5. About #4. In Hellenistic culture, mythology was sometimes practiced as a mode of philosophical discourse. For example, to the outrage of the neo-pagan emperor Julian, Christian scholars in Athens could more convincingly explain Homer’s Iliad as an allegory of Christ than neo-pagan scholars could explain it as their sacred text. So historical scholarship views gnosticism as a practice of mythologizing beyond the Judaic scriptures in a way reminiscent of the Hellenistic philosophical schools. For example, explaining the evil prevalent in the world as an outcome of the Fall in Genesis 3 is orthodox, but speculating *beyond the canonical text yet within its narrative world* about a malevolent demiurge who made the material of the world evil is gnostic. Although there is some evidence that gnostic practice was tolerated at the margins of the early Church, it was inevitably on a collision course with the recognition of the canon (eg Marcion) and the beginnings of theology (eg Origen). Hence, the fathers who first encountered the Quran and its claim to be a correction to the corrupted scriptures of Jews and Christians had seen this sort of claim *beyond the canonical text yet within its narrative world* before. That they treated the Quran as heresy could mean that they regarded Muslims as former Christians, but does not mean that they saw Allah any differently from the way they saw that demiurge.

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  6. About #5. David Burrell has shown that St Thomas Aquinas’s formulation of creation ex nihilo was influenced by interpretations of Aristotle done by Ibn Sina, a Muslim, and Moses Maimonides, a Jew. This shows that all three believed that they could better understand their sacred texts by recourse to Aristotelian metaphysics. Bobby– any Barthian I suspect– would deny that this is true of St Thomas’s Bible. But my own point is that the applicability of a heuristic to signifiers of different religions does not make the signifieds identical. There are, after all, scholars in comparative theology who “see Christ” in the Tao Te Ching or the Analects, but this does not mean that “He shall judge the living and the dead” is like either the Tao or a Confucian magistrate.

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  7. Hi Bobby,

    I have been reading your website for a while and I do like your articles. My understanding of the word ‘allah’ is that it is arabic for God (literally, the God). If this is the case I do not think that the name is a clear distinction between ‘gods’.

    I think your focus on Muslims worshiping another God is well intentioned but ultimately is going down an unhelpful route. In reality, there is only one God, and through our sin we all have a broken image of that God. No matter to who we think we are praying, there is only one God who is hearing those prayers, there is only one God who creates.

    What Christianity has is through Jesus Christ we can see ‘who’ God really is (revelation). We have a way of restoring the real image of God correcting our broken image – but we do this imperfectly, hence theology.

    Islam is a perversion of Christianity and Judaism and has a remnant of the true image of God revealed in Jesus Christ – but as it does not point to Jesus Christ it is not helpful, it will ultimately leads people away from the ‘who’ of God and what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. This is why Islam is dangerous.

    But in terms of engaging Muslims I think it can be helpful to build upon what Islam has right about God before correcting what it has wrong. When Muslims were praying to ‘Allah’, there prayers were heard by Yahweh, when they believed there is one God, they were not wrong in that belief, just as the Israelites were not wrong in believing there is one God. But that one God is in three persons (as the Koran both suggests and denies).

    I think if we go down the route of saying that we are only worshiping the true ‘God’ if we understand the Trinity, or some other doctrine, then it is a slippery slope. What theology is essential to be able to say that we are worshipping the real God, essential to call ourselves Christians? Its not knowledge that saves, it is Christ.

    This is not to say that Islam is a path to God, I believe that Islam is very dangerous because its theology is so wrong, but it is recognising that Muslims are seeking God and our issues with them is not their belief in the one God, but that if they want to find who God really is they need to look to Jesus not Muhammad.

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  8. Allah is a generic name for God just as Elohim is a generic name for God. Yahweh is not a generic name for God but revealed. Allah takes on a particular meaning within the context that Islam gives it within the Qur’an etc.

    I reject the idea that God is knowable apart from revelation, special revelation. In other words I reject natural theology and general revelation.

    There are better ways to engage with Muslims rather than reducing our concepts of God to another. I’ve worked with Muslims in the past and that approach just does not work.

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  9. Hi Bobby (and Bowman)

    Bowman had only posted his first comment when I first loaded the page. His expanded comments are very interesting and has given me much to think about. I certainly do not find myself agreeing with Volf on this matter.

    I see where you are going with the names but I still do not think the names is substantial enough to suggest that Christians, Jews and Muslims worship different Gods. Many arabic Jews and Christians use Allah (as generically God) to refer to Yahweh and I think we do a diservice to them to imply that if they use Allah they are worshipping a different God due to name alone.

    I agree that we should not ‘reduce’ our concepts of God to another, but I am not sure the only two options are a. to reduce our concepts of God to another or b. claim that they worship another God. Bowman’s mentioning the gnostic heresy has given me pause for thought here though that I will need to think on. I can’t help but feel there needs to be a more inclusive approach (and I am not advocating natural theology or that God can be known outside of special revelation).

    To me saying that Muslims worship another God implies there could be another God. The reality is that there is only one God (Yahweh). People cannot really worship another God, because there is no other God. To me our engagement with Muslims should not begin with ‘your God is false’ or ‘you believe in another God called Allah’. It should begin with ‘there is only one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we life; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.’

    I.e. our approach should be based more on preaching the truth (of the gospel), rather than declaring the error of the heresy.

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  10. The problem I think I am struggling with is the question which has defined your answer.

    God is who he is, not who Christians or Muslims define who he is. In this regard the question ‘do Christians and Muslims worship the same God’ is the wrong question, because it asserts that the identity of God is defined by Christianity and Islam. The question assumes who God is rather than seeks who God is. Given both Christians and Muslims all have slightly different assumptions about who God is, no wonder there has been so much debate. Yet if we ask the question ‘who is God’ then I think it leaves our approach to Islam much clearer and would be more constructive and perhaps help with the commonality that Volf is looking for.

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  11. Gavin,

    I think the issue is one of thinking about God’s inner life and outer life. His inner life is ontologically always the same (Triune etc). His outer life revealed in Christ is determined to be what it is antecedently by His inner life but it is not contingent upon the outer revelation. This is where the differences come in; i.e. What people do with the ad extra outer revelation. Muslims reject that and so they fail to have a grasp on the inner in se reality as well.

    Bridge building should not be the mode that determines our prolegomena.

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  12. There are other entities; i.e. demons etc. The Bible is very clear about that. There are other gods they are just false gods. Just because Muslims claim to worship God doesn’t mean de jure that this must be the true God. The Canaanites claimed to worship various gods i.e. Baal, et al, but we don’t presume that they were worshipping the true God but false gods.

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  13. Gavin,

    Consider both of these:

    “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things, and through whom we live” (1Cor 8:4-6)

    “Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an Idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles [Paul’s Audience!] sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1Cor 10:18-21)

    These aren’t contradictions. The problem is you’re ramming things through the first one, without accounting for St. Paul’s maintaining of both subjective and objective. Yes, there is only one God, despite talk of other gods, but there is also the worship of demons. Do demons not pretend to the authority of the One?

    The issue Bobby is getting at is the source of Revelation. This is where our knowledge of God comes from? The created world reveals God, but St. Paul says we repress this in unrighteousness. If anything, all this revelation can tell us is certain attributes. But none of this is about the ‘who’, which is what is truly important: Who is God? When Muslims reject Christian revelation, and substitute another source, we are now talking about different Gods. We are not saying Christianity or Islam define God, but they are contradictory accounts who produce a very different ‘who’.

    Of course, that is if you take Islam’s pronouncement that God neither begets or is begotten as talking about merely an appendage to Christian doctrine. If God is primarily One, or is primarily Uncreate, then that’s a path towards Arius.

    In almost every possible way, Islam takes different paths down similar stories. Whereas God repeatedly says He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (in the Bible), in the Koran it is rather explicit that God had chosen Ishmael as his promised seed.

    Just because people talk about belief in one god, does not mean we are on the same page. Functionally, many Americans are demon-worshiping pagans, which is why this conversation is most polarized. It’s all politics and a claim to legitimacy in the US apparatus.

    cal

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  14. Good cannot come of a proposed comity that *says* about any group “X are not so different that we should reject them,” but *sounds* like “X should be accepted at least a little insofar as they are like us.” Muslims in particular are already too numerous in the US to be accepted as citizens and neighbors on the basis of such condescension.

    Moreover, the questions before us are not theological, at least not as Christians define theology. Debating inter-communal relations as *theology* (as Volf appears to do) evades the cultural discussion a democracy should have about concrete differences that actually matter when peoples with distinct histories share territory. For example, even if the foci of devotion of the three religions were shown to be the same or similar, a fair jury in most of this country would still take the incendiary anti-Zionist preaching of Yemeni and Saudi imams as incitement to a riot under established law. To understand the motivation of such rhetoric, a juror does not need to understand the Quran’s account of Allah; he needs to understand that proximity to Mecca and Medina has historically inspired strong feelings about Arab territory. To understand the juror’s lack of sympathy, an imam does not need to understand the Trinity; he needs to know that America’s wide open spaces make old world fights about borders seem petty and political rather than cosmic and religious, and that Americans after the Second World War despise even loose talk about genocide. To try the case, the judge does not need to read my other comments; he just needs to know the law and whether the imam urged violence before that violence actually happened. To understand the law, the defense attorney does not need to know how Judaic anti-idolatry differed from shrk; he needs to know that the Tudors wrested all temporal power away from the pope and that American law takes that order of things for granted. To understand his jailer, a convicted imam would not benefit from arguing that if the Arabs had conquered England a better law might have let him speak his heart about the justice due to Zionists; he would benefit from knowing that jailers live in the world they find when they wake up in the morning. That some things allowed in Arabia will never be tolerated here is a matter, not of theology, but of history.

    If we want to do comparative theology for the sake of mutual understanding– a worthwhile goal– setting one religion as our model and seeing whether others conform to it is not very illuminating. They will not. For Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the Scriptural Reasoning project of Peter Ochs and David Ford seems a more promising and enjoyable approach.

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  15. Dear Bobby & Cal,

    I appreciate your insight. I am convinced that Muslims worship an idol. I think in part I wanted there to be some revelation, some (limited) understanding of who God is in Islam, even if it is corrupted. It is a sad thought when you think that there are 1.6 Muslims out there.

    Bobby mentioned in a previous post that Mormonism is a similar category and I can see the similarities in terms of it appealing to an outside revelation. Cal you seem to include Arianism.

    I don’t disagree at all with these but where would you draw the line with regards to saying that someone is worshipping the real/true God? (or the very least the same God as us).

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  16. I’m not including Arianism. What I’m saying is that if you define God as the Uncreate Creator, primarily, then you are on the road to Arianism. Trinity becomes a kind of Christian shibboleth, but that’s it. Many American Christians function this way.

    However, if Arians are arguing from the Bible as the Revealed source of the true God, then we are talking about the same God. Muslims and Mormons don’t do this. For them the Bible is a corrupted witness, thus why the Book of Mormon or the Koran is necessary.

    If Muslims worship an idol, then they worship nothing or they worship a demon. But you can’t say they worship an idol and that they know who the True God is. Cornelius didn’t know that God was incarnate in Christ Jesus and had given authority to the Twelve, but he did know the God of Israel was the true God, and worshiped him with alms and prayers. For this the angel praises Cornelius. Muslims deny that Jews know who Allah is.

    We can say that people across the globe know something about God’s attributes, but suppress this. Many peoples post the existence of somekind of creator, whether conscious or not, but none know who this is. If I worship my dog as the Creator, what difference does that make?

    Again to my Arius comment: If we’re going to dismiss me because I say my dog, but allow for anyone who says invisible, omnipotent, creator, law-giving, uncreate Monad, then we are privileging this as the primary identity of God. This was Arius’ mistake (according to Athanasius). We know God as Trinity not because it is some abstract presupposition, but because Christ came, revealing the fullness of God in the flesh, fulfilling all the promises of Israel.

    cal

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  17. Hi Cal,

    I think we are mostly in agreement on this. I am convinced by your argument about Muslims and Mormons viewing the Bible as a corrupted witness. Your comments on 1 Corinthians were astute and helpful. I agree that Muslims worship an idol, i.e. nothing or a demon.

    But I think if we are a drawing a line between whether someone is worshipping the true God, for me it has to be in this case whether they acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.

    This raises problems for whether Jewish people worship the same God as Christians.

    Can we say that Muslims worship a different God because he is called Allah and Christians and Jews worship the same God called Yahweh when their are Christian who call God Allah (as a generic term for God) and Jews deny that Christ is Lord? (which is the ‘who’ of God).

    Can we say that Jews worship the same God because they follow the Tanakh? If we are, are we saying that it is only the OT scripture that determines whether someone is following the real God? What if they do not have access to a complete set of scriptures? If they just have fragments is that really that different from Islam and mormonism? If it is an appeal to another source of revelation can that argument not be thrown against Aquinas in Bowman’s (5) above?

    I think we have to say Jews worship the same God as an exception. If it is an exception it has to be qualified (i.e. it is an incomplete revelation of God they are worshipping). If we are not qualifying it are we not really just reducing our concept of God to the Jewish concept of God without the direct revelation of Christ. This reduction of our concept of God is in part what Bobby is objecting to with Volf’s argument for Muslims worshipping the same God as Christians.

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  18. Well, consider how Jesus responds to the Samaritan woman:

    “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”

    The Samaritan was worshiping in ignorance, for she rejected the Canon and believed that the worship was to be given on Mt. Gerazim, not Mt. Zion. Now, I don’t want to build a whole apologetic out of a single verse. But I think it’s helpful to note this in terms of salvation history. The Samaritans were Israelites who believed that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They disregarded the belief that Jerusalem was that center of worship (1 kings!)

    In the same way, the Sadducees only accepted the 5 books (Torah) as revealed Scripture. Jesus never confronts the Sadducees as demon-worshipers. Rather, knowledge of God came through God’s self-revelation in time. In this way we can say that all worship the same God, though the Samaritans do so ignorantly of God’s dealings with the Throne of David.

    While Samaritans and Sadducees may disregard other books of Scripture, or have wrong teachings, they are still within the same stream. But for Muslims and Mormons, particularly, they originate outside the stream, claiming to be the stream from an extra revelation.

    Thomas, even if he is drawing from bad paradigms (i.e. Medieval Aristotelianism), is still rooting himself in the same God’s revelation, namely the God who covenanted with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with Moses and the Israelites, with David and his seed, and finally, in the Christ Jesus.

    But of course, we must consider whether any of this actually gets us anywhere. Jesus was willing to call his interlocutors in John 8 children of the Devil. We must ask whether knowledge means anything if it is lacking a relational knowledge (it doesn’t). It’s why the Twelve may be friends of God, but not necessarily all Jews; why the Samaritan, and not all of Samaria. It has to do with accepting God’s presence in His final and complete Form. Demons know and tremble!

    This is why Volf’s project is mostly incoherent. That is, if we are asking theological questions and puzzling over this in that way. However, if we’re asking from a perspective of US social cohesion, public policy, public square relations etc., this all makes a lot of sense. He’s trying to be a peacemaker, but at what cost?

    cal

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  19. We should heed Bowman here, because he’s put his finger on it exactly. This is a matter of social issue, history, and common law. Volf’s approach doesn’t make any sense except to the well-to-do mainliner who is moderately ignorant, fearful, and whitebread. But it’s oldhat and, given today’s conditions whether Europe or the US, is condescending.

    I won’t try to get in his head, but perhaps Volf is looking at this through the lens of the Balkan conflicts. The violence between orthodox Serbs and muslim Albanians was intense. Like Northern Ireland, and other conflicts, the issues were more than doctrine or worship, but these things were loci in a nationalist conflict. I think he’s trying to help, but I don’t know if he is. He sees the possible conflict expanding to Muslim immigrants to Europe and America and is trying to diffuse the tension. He may not be a shill, but he sounds pretty much like GW Bush on this issue. Bush didn’t hate Muslims, and was conciliatory towards them, though he was many times resented (not always). Bush stands as a figurehead for the Project for a New American Century, and the whole host of Neo-Cons during those years, but I digress.

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  20. “Allah is a generic name for God just as Elohim is a generic name for God. Yahweh is not a generic name for God but revealed.” This is the first post of yours I have read. Could you briefly summarize what you say elsewhere about El (not ‘Elohim’, but ‘El’)?

    Bowman Walton, you write of “the Quran and its claim to be a correction to the corrupted scriptures of Jews and Christians”. Is that a claim of the Quran or an interpretative claim respecting the Quran by Muslim commentators, exegetes, etc.?

    Cal, ÿou write, “Whereas God repeatedly says He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (in the Bible), in the Koran it is rather explicit that God had chosen Ishmael as his promised seed.” I understand from (Christian) scholars who can read the Koran and Muslim commentators in Arabic (which I cannot), that it is precisely not explicit in the Koran “that God had chosen Ishmael as his promised seed”, but that this is a matter of (for whatever reasons) fairly common and confident (later) Muslim interpretation.

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  21. Elohim is the plural of El. I haven’t written anything else about that.

    Bowman’s point is what Muslims claim about the Qur’an … that is common fare. They say the texts behind the OT and NT have been corrupted, which is obviously and demonstrably a false claim.

    I’ve read the Qur’an and it is quite clear about God’s choice of Ishmael over Isaac. W/o this premise Islam crumbles, it is a touchstone belief for Islam to work.

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  22. Thank you!

    Are you considering doing so? There are distinct ‘El’ uses, alone and in combination (as, in Genesis 14:19-20, 22), that invite consideration.

    So, you are confident that Bowman Walton recognizes a distinction between what the Quran text says, and what (various) Muslims make of that, and he was in fact addressing the latter. (Have either of you ever happened to address the textual discussions in Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, in connection with the Quran text and/or such “common fare” Muslim interpretations of it?)

    Whern you say, “the Qur’an […] is quite clear about God’s choice of Ishmael over Isaac”, what texts are you thinking of? Again, the distinction between Qur’an and “Islam” is worth attending to. Any “Islam” built on treating possible interpretations of the Qur’an as necessary ones, is therewith succeptible (as common accounts of the Battle of Siffin clearly suggest).

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  23. What bearing do you see El and Elohim having on this discussion? I don’t see any.

    What the Qur’an says funds what various Muslims make of it; Muslim theology isn’t an abstraction. And that’s what’s important anyway, i.e. What Muslim theologians make of it, that’s, and more importantly what Mohammed made of it in his actions. Not sure where you are trying to go with that.

    I don’t think the distinction between Qur’an and Islam is worth much at all. Can you explain an Islam to me w/o the primacy of Ishmael.

    Instead of you asking questions why don’t you make your point?

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  24. The bearing of ‘El’ lies in the statement “Jews and Christians worship = Yahweh”. Which recipients of revelation in pre-Incarnational Scriptural history would not equally have said with respect to this, ‘we worship = El’? (And if any would not have equally done so, why would that have been?) In the Masoretic text of Genesis 14, for example, Abram says something complexly related to this (which I have encountered different commentators interpreting very differently).

    There is also ancient extra-Scriptural Semitic textual evidence (e.g., Ugaritic tablets) of ‘El’ being married to ‘Athirat’ and fathering with her numerous children (including ‘Ba’al’). Were the recipients of revelation in pre-Incarnational Scriptural history ignorant of this, throughout the period of the writing of Scripture before the Incarnation? If not, they would appear to affirm the personal Name of El, without attributing to Him any of this (wife and children, etc.).

    So, it would appear we could accurately say, with respect to this personal Name,

    1. ‘recipients of of revelation in pre-Incarnational Scriptural history (including, e.g., Abram, Issac, Jacob-Isra-El, the Isra-El-ites, the Jews as far as distinguished from ‘Isa-El-ites’, etc.) worship = El’

    2. ‘Ugarites (among other ‘polytheists’- to use a later term) worship = El’

    without them meaning the same things with respect to Him.

    One can clearly distinguish between what Jews who do not accept Jesus as Christ (have come to) make of pre-Incarnational Scriptures and those Scriptures (and what those Jews and others who do accept Jesus as Christ make of those same Scriptures).

    What (some) Jewish theologians (who do not accept Jesus as Christ) make of them is not what’s (most) important about the text of those Scriptures.

    Similarly, various early Arabic-speaking Christian theologians/writers and various modern scholars perceive what (various) Muslim theologians make of the Qur’an text as not the only, or even necessarily the most important, thing about it. They variously (appear to) think the distinction between Qur’an and Islam is worth a very great deal.

    You ask, ” Can you explain an Islam to me w/o the primacy of Ishmael”? There appear to be a considerable variety of actually already existing and other possible answers to that which I will not take up further, just yet.

    I apologize fo any obscurity in supposing all of these matters were probably known to you without more explicitly setting them out first as what I was thinking about, before proceeding to questions about whether you had already addressed them elsewhere, or, if not, would consider doing so in the future, as to what you made of them.

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  25. As far as “El”, how it was used in ANE doesn’t make much difference; as far as I’m concerned its meaning is determined by the context it is used within. If Abram used El in reference to the true and living God and others used it in reference to false gods, all this illustrates is the reality of polysemy in language. I don’t think that point does the lifting you seem to want it to.

    As far as Jewish reception juxtaposed with Christian reception of Scripture, I’m not sure what you are trying to strain from that relative to my point. My point is not contingent upon reception but the givenness of Scripture, and more importantly *who* gives it. So you’ve missed my point there.

    And my questions were rhetorical, they weren’t because I don’t see what you are *trying* to say. Ishmael is fundamental to Islam, no matter what sect; are you claiming that’s not the case?

    And what do these scholars think the importance is in re to the distinction between the Qur’an and Islam itself. The Qur’an’s reception among all Muslims only has meaningful relevance because of a prior commitment, on all Muslim’s part, to a theory of revelation wherein the Qur’an itself is Allah’s revelation to them. You assert that these scholars make some sort of distinction, but so what! What does that have to do with anything?

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