The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Shared Stories, Rival Tellings

Late last Sunday morning at the Boulder Bookstore I spotted Robert Gregg's Shared Stories, Rival Tellings. It was in the comparative-religion section; not the Islamic section. I bought a copy. This thing is yuuge (721 pages) so I cannot review it all now. First-impressions only...

It is consciously in the spirit of Reuven Firestone's wonderful Journeys in Holy Lands; but it might be even more like Gabriel Reynolds' also-wonderful The Qur'an and its Biblical Subtext. Gregg offers up five themes which happen to be Qur'anic, and then he discusses the Jewish and Christian riffs on those themes, concluding with later Muslims' own riffs both upon their Qur'an and upon the earlier and contemporary kitâbî riffs. Here are the themes:

  • I) Cain (murderer)
  • II) Sarah and Hagar
  • III) Joseph (temptation)
  • IV) Jonah
  • V) Mary

As the Qur'an goes, Cain and Joseph are handled in one pericope each: Q. 5:27-32 and 12:30-56. The others are handled over rather more of the text. I'll note where mine own work intersects all this...

Various projects here have set sura 5 after sura 6 and before sura 22, so 30-65 AH / 650-85 AD - which is vague, I admit, for I have steered clear of sura 5 itself so far. What I can say so far, is that Q. 5:27b-29 presents Abel as a Warner on God's behalf. Cain in v. 30 becomes, then, not just a fratricide but the first propheticide. Neal Robinson "Hands Outstretched" sets out the Cain story as part "4/D" and links this with "7", vv. 51-58; p. 13 proves that, yes, Jews are meant there. So sura 5 transmits 1 John 3:12's (Gregg, 41f; cf. also John 8:44) subtext of Cain as forerunner of the Jews, who slew Jesus who was also a righteous man and (Matt. 23:34-35 / Luke 11:49-51) in the company of Prophets. Sura 5 is extremely anti-Jewish.

For the Sarah / Hagar cycle, my main sequence is: 6 > (7 >) 11 > 14 > 26 > 37 > 19 > 21 > 29. Alongside that: 6 > 4 > 14 > 22 > (32 and 39 >... yeah, I have more constraining to do on 22). I haven't yet looked at suras 15 or 51. Nor at sura 2, for my part; but Beck tells me 14 > 2 (Ibn Warraq, Koranic Allusions).

Sura 12 is more narrowly 65 / 685(ish); mine own humble Throne of Glass (as of last summer) credits that sura to the Marwanid walî 'Abd al-'Aziz. Sura 12's whole point was to prove the righteousness of Joseph and this just so the sura could stick the brother of the king as "'abd" of "Aziz". So, where Cain's wicked act was a primary prooftext of sura 5 (given what sura 5 was arguing); Joseph's temptation seems (to me) just a sideshow in sura 12. But maybe there's more to sura 12? I'll have to read Gregg's chapter on that.

I hadn't looked at Islamic Jonah much. I know 10 > 6 > 4 > 37; 4 > (19 >) 21. Sura 68 is interesting in that it does NOT count Jonah among the Prophets; it counts Jonah as an un-Prophet. It's got to be early.

Mary... ah Mary. I've been saying since '03 that 3 > Dome > 19 > 21 > 23 (okay, this last extra link, mainly since '11).

But as hinted at above, I have not read even a tenth of this tome, so I should get back to that before saying more.


posted by Zimri on 18:41 | link | 0 comments

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