Muslim in Suffer

Bismi-lLahi-rRahmani-rRahiem. Assalamu\’alaikum Warohmatullahi Wabarokatuh!

Colonizing a Metaphor : The Bible and Middle East History

Posted by musliminsuffer on December 5, 2007

bismi-lLahi-rRahmani-rRahiem
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

Colonizing a Metaphor

The Bible and Middle East History

By ERIC WALBERG

December 3, 2007

For more than a century, archaeologists and historians have attempted to confirm beliefs of both Christians and Jews about their common past using the Old Testament (OT) and New Testaments (NT) as starting points. Christians, while embracing the OT as a harmless precursor of the NT, insist that the combined texts prove the truth of Judaic monotheism, with its covenant with God, a covenant that was renewed with the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. Jews, of course, stick with the basic OT texts, insisting they alone prove their role as God’s Chosen People and their right to create a Jewish state, Israel, in the Holy Land. This Jewish state was first grudgingly accepted by the Christian West, and now is enthusiastically embraced by some Christians based on their own misreading of the Bible. The Bible supposedly predicts that the Jews will return to their supposed promised land, and the messiah will (re)appear, signalling either the end of the Earth or the reign of God.

So what are the “facts”? What do modern archaeology and other sciences have to say about the Bible? Does it help us resolve the question of the validity of Jesus as a legitimate messiah, one who would end Judaism and found a truly universal religion for all mankind? Does it allow Judaism a new lease on life, providing proof of the existence of a Greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates, with a spectacular and ancient history? And are we fated to die in a fiery apocalypse as predicted in Revelations?

While archaeologists cannot help us answer the latter question, it can tell us something about the past. Biblical archaeology has expanded rapidly in the past half-century as a new academic field in search of both justification and funding. Unlike Muslims, for whom the Biblical legends are accepted as the legacy of all mankind and require no shards or inscriptions to prove this, both Christians and Zionists have tapped them to fuel their respective politico-religious agendas and have produced mountains of studies. But it is now clear to the most respected Christian, Jewish, Muslim and/or secular archaeologists that this supposedly scholarly, rigorous and objective discipline, with its methodology of taking biblical passages and digging and poking away in likely places, looking for proof of what they say, has been a big failure, if not a hoax. While the financial benefits of tying the Bible to archaeology have increased, historical and intellectual benefits have just as rapidly diminished.

Two egregious flaws lie behind this. Firstly, it is somehow overlooked that both the Old and New Testaments were first written down only in the fourth c BC (mostly from the third c BC) to the first c AD by Hellenised Jews, i.e., over a relatively short historical period of approximately four centuries, the culmination of Hellenism as it flourished in the Middle East up to and including its manifestation under the Roman empire. The references to “old Israel” of the distant past are directed at the enlightenment of people living at that time, and have much more to do with events at that time than some distant, mythical history which was never recorded in stone, so to speak, but was rather passed down from generation to generation much like other peoples have passed down the legends of their origins — orally, embellished by talented composers and poets. Furthermore, the OT and NT are closely integrated in structure, themes, and underlying philosophy, and to reject one part as heretical (as the Jews do the NT) or another part as a mere harmless introduction to the real text (as do the Christians concerning the OT) is not only unprofessional, but foolish and even subversive.

Secondly, the worldview of those recording the Biblical legends, stories, poems, philosophical essays, etc differs radically from ours. It was a product of Hellenism, where true reality is a Platonic ideal, recognising the ineffable quality of life, our overwhelming ignorance, and the fractured, shadowy nature of daily life as experienced by our senses. Our Aristotelian, materialist outlook, sees reality in hard, cold facts which we directly perceive and duly record, where the only truths are what can be physically demonstrated and/or refuted. This is quite alien to the mindset of the Biblical composers, writers and scribes. Taking the Bible literally, as a materialist recounting of “history” is a classic example of misplaced concreteness. To its credit, there is no word for history in ancient Hebrew, reflecting its origins in the pre- Aristotelian worldview.

To go a step further and assume that this bogus history is the “real” history of mankind, with the history of the thousands of other peoples taking a back seat, is just not on. The reality of the Bible is transcendent, universal, traditional, intuitive and emotional. To profit from it, we must rediscover this worldview, where myth is the “reality” and very essence of our lives, and the dunya is a lame, pale version of the sacred myths guiding us. Karen Armstrong, who has written widely on the monotheisms and the loss of myth as a vital part of our worldview, argues in The Bible: a biography (2007) that fundamentalist religion, be it Islamic, Christian or Jewish, is a response to and product of modern materialist culture, which undermines the role of myth as a vital element in the social matrix. Myth is reduced to its literal meaning, i.e., Jerusalem is a physical location at a fixed point in time, not a metaphor for the City of God, transcending the limitations of the physical world.

The full story in

http://www.counterpunch.org/walberg12032007.html

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-muslim voice-
______________________________________
BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW

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