The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Elkasaite Islam

Six decades ago Schlomo Pinès asserted that Islam is Jewish-Christian at base - that is, it was informed by an actual Jewish Christian sect, and wasn't just a freeform riff on the mainstream denominations' texts (as Mormonism). Pinès's main evidence was a tract he'd extracted from Abd al-Jabbar. Several scholars in the revisionist school ran with this claim, of which I was first aware of Nevo and Koren in 2003. But three years after that, Gabriel Said Reynolds in his study of Abd al-Jabbar proved Pinès's main claim was bunk. As a result I was de-convinced of the whole thing; I wouldn't touch Pinès with a barge-pole. But now I am ready to be re-convinced, in part.

Last year I'd included "Islam, Judaeo-Christianity and Byzantine Iconoclasm" as among the works of Patricia Crone which you shouldn't bother yourself with. This was because of Reynolds again: Crone's article successfully makes a connection between the rise of Islam and Byzantine iconoclasm, but fails ... to make a connection between either of these two phenomena and Judaeo-Christianity and, by the way, cited Pinès.

I have recently received Holger Michael Zellentin's The Qur'ân's Legal Culture: The Didascalia Apostolorum as a Point of Departure. This brings another set of sources to the Christian milieu, bridging the gap between "Jewish-Christianity" and the pre-Furqanic suras 5 and 17. (I still insist on suras 25, 26 etc being Marwanid-era; anyway those don't add much to Islamic doctrine.) I have also been independently pointed to Adolf von Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, 1909 edition (not noted in Zellentin). I cannot find this except in Google's snippet-view; but Marcus Gross has translated the relevant portion to English and I am reading it in Ibn Warraq's Christmas in the Koran. Von Harnack looked into the sects within Jewish Christianity, and dismissed the Ebionites; to focus our attention on the Elkasaites. Lastly, Zellentin's book tells us that Patricia Crone has drafted what is (unfortunately) likely to be her last book, another look at Jewish Christianity in Islam. This is likely to iron out the errors that she had transmitted before.

We can perhaps re-read Pinès with those chapters on Abd al-Jabbar deleted.

UPDATE 7:50 PM - reviews: Zellentin, Ibn Warraq.

posted by Zimri on 08:21 | link | 0 comments

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