Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Nine Billionth Name of God

MSNBC reports that a Dutch Catholic Bishop "has proposed people of all faiths refer to God as Allah to foster understanding". Wizbang comments "it's been accepted that Christianity died in Europe a while ago, but if it still exists even in a small part, that will be wiped out soon enough with this attitude."

The Bishop claims it doesn't matter. "Bishop Tiny Muskens, from the southern diocese of Breda, told Dutch television on Monday that God did not mind what he was named and that in Indonesia, where Muskens spent eight years, priests used the word "Allah" while celebrating Mass. Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem."

Of course the Bishop is no longer in Indonesia but in the heart of Western Europe; and granting the name used to represent God is arbitrary then there's no logical reason the choice cannot go the other way -- that mosques in Europe shouldn't use the European word for God instead of the Arabic Allah. After all, "what does God care what we call him?" God may not care, but certain human communities might. And I think the Bishop took one glance at his pacific flock and then at the visages of those preferred a particular, but different name that God should be called and decided that it was better to face down his flock.



Once upon a time people believed that proper notation did matter even when it came to words. Words were not only arbitrary audible waveforms, they were objects modified by the cultural context from which they were minted. "To coin a word to refer to a thing ... But that word can transmit that meaning only within the language's grammatical structures and codes ... Codes also represent the values of the culture, and are able to add new shades of connotation to every aspect of life." Thus God and Allah might be an identity in the abstract, but written as they are in different languages, the human mind will compile each differently, depending on the language.

Arthur C. Clarke's Nine Billion Names of God makes the more extreme argument that the literal name of a thing actually does matter. His short story (full-text here) describes the efforts of Tibetan Monks to find the One True Literal Name of God in order to bring the universe to perfection and hence, to its end. Here's the Wikipedia summary.

This short story tells of a Buddhist monastery whose monks have long sought to discover the one true name of God. The monks create a writing system in which, they calculate, they can encode all possible names of God in no more than nine characters, with the same character not repeated more than three times consecutively.

They purchase a computer capable of printing all the possible permutations, and they hire two Westerners to install and program the machine. The computer operators are skeptical, but the monks believe that when the computer has printed all the names, existence will lose all meaning, and God will "wind up" the universe.

The operators engage the computer. After three months, as the job nears completion, they fear the reaction of the monks when existence will fail to end. The men decide to flee the monastery some hours before the computer finishes its task. After their successful escape, they pause on their way back to civilization at about the same time the computer prints the final name. And then, "overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."

And that in a way, perfectly describes what has transpired in the post-everything world of Europe. The names of God did not matter to the jaded intellectuals until the last. Allah is the nine billionth name of God. And now the stars, without the slightest fuss, are going out.

69 Comments:

Blogger dla said...

Although "allah" is the arabic word for god, the God of the Christian Bible and the god of quran are not even remotely the same.

To the avid heathens populating the Netherlands this does not matter. But to those identifying themselves with Jesus this is all important.

The Catholic Church has 1.1 billion adherents and there is bound to be a few nutty priests and bishops. After all, the American Catholic church is reeling from lawsuits stemming from the Church's acceptance of homosexual men into the priesthood. But can the Church err enough to equate the god of the Muslims with the God of Christianity?

A Christian in a Muslim environment can use the name "Allah", because they know to whom they are referring, and they don't want to offend their highly religious but theologically ignorant Muslim neighbors.

8/15/2007 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger patrick neid said...

dhimmitude....

8/15/2007 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger tony8489 said...

europe is finished. they died at auschwitz. auf wiedersehen

8/15/2007 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger R said...

I am reminded of that old story where the sailor is stranded on an island and discovers a talking snake who informs him that he (the snake) knows where a boat can be found and if he agrees to take the snake off the island with him to the mainland, he will show the stranded sailer where the boat is. Just before they row onto the mainland the deadly snake bites our sailer, whereupon the sailor asks prior to dying: Why did you bite me? Wherein the snake answers: Because I am a snake!

Who says those who are of the "cloth" know of what they speak?

Clowns to the right of me, clowns to the left of me.

8/15/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ivan Douglas said...

Problem cannot be called as problem solvable or not by priests or bishops in Indonesia,or USA by calling for solving problems of homosexuals.
All those problems must be addressed by only one institution - Rome.
Rome must clean any such filth as that of Dutch bishop et cetera.
Any experiment or trying to solve such heresy outside of Rome will show
strength and willingness of St.See to keep Rom.cat.and grec.cat.religion clean of any such
movements even 100 years ago inconceivable.
Europe is falling year after year deeper and deeper into mud of not only heresy but into upheaval mean very heavy injury to civilization of West.One of basic pols of civilization was if we will or not to agree religion with roots in Judeo-Christianity.
We cannot even express why we cannot call our God this or that.There is much deeper call for
preservation of civilization and again root of such preservation is in Rome. Sad side of everything what is happening in Europe is silence of Rome-could that mean consent?

8/15/2007 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The President of the United States, while perhaps not the foremost authority on religion, does speak for the United States. He disagrees with dla's position, no doubt of that:

"We see in Islam a religion that traces its origins back to God's call on Abraham. We share your belief in God's justice, and your insistence on man's moral responsibility. We thank the many Muslim nations who stand with us against terror. Nations that are often victims of terror, themselves."

If you stand with the United States, then stand with the President, do not reject the cornerstone of his foreign policy, not if the success of that policy is considered important.
Evey hate filled post sets the US further from its' goals.

"According to Muslim teachings, God first revealed His word in the Holy Qur'an to the prophet, Muhammad, during the month of Ramadan. That word has guided billions of believers across the centuries, and those believers built a culture of learning and literature and science. All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements."
Remarks by the President George W. Bush At Iftaar Dinner
The State Dining Room, Washington, D.C.


Or join the defeatists that proclaim the US efforts a failure and that we are lost.

8/15/2007 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

While visiting Malta, we were told by our Maltese guides that in this Christian (95%+ Catholic) country, it was humorously ironic that the Maltese name for God was Allah.

Given Malta's history, this is understandable and makes Malta probably the only Chrisitian community where the use of "Allah" would not be an act of politically correct multiculturalism.

8/15/2007 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

This basic attitude in Europe of regarding "Allah" as just another word for "God" is nothing new. At one time, it was called Hellenism.

There was a time when Thoth was equated with Hermes, Melquart was equated with Hercules, Ishtar was equated with Aphrodite, et cetera. Greeks and Romans would variously equate YHWH with Jupiter or Saturn. There were some folks who didn't agree with this "we are all the same" mentality -- Jews. They had the strange idea (for the time) that their god was the only one that existed and moreover that their deity was not to be physically depicted. So no, Hokmah is not Minerva Judaica.

It is rather amusing to watch a representative of a religion that calls itself the "true Jews" adopt the Hellenistic custom of equating one's own deity with the deity of a religion with a significantly different origin.

Muslim claims that its deity is the same as the deity of Christians and Jews would be more believable if Muslims didn't declare war on Christians and Jews in the name of their deity. Such claims could also be taken more seriously if Muslim rituals weren't so utterly derivative from Arab paganism, so Muslims ought not expect others to regard kissing their Black Stone with any more seriousness than kissing the Blarney Stone. If Muslims really think they pray to the same god as Christians and Jews, they wouldn't invoke their deity's name to pray for the destruction of Christians and Jews.

President Bush's statements may be wishful thinking, but they are also diplomatically necessary. What do you expect him to say, that all Muslims are our enemies? And then intern all Muslims for the duration of the conflict? Not only is it not good diplomacy to refer to all Muslims as our enemies; it isn't even true.

8/15/2007 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger VA Gamer said...

dla said... After all, the American Catholic church is reeling from lawsuits stemming from the Church's acceptance of homosexual men into the priesthood.

Words do have meaning, and we should be cautious of how we use them. From your quote above, DLA, one might consider you a bigot. Did you mean, "...lawsuits stemming from the Church's acceptance of pedophiles into the priesthood?" Homosexual men are no more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual men. If you did intend to use the term "homosexual," then I believe you to be a bigot.

To the argument at hand, however, I believe this bishop is foolish to use the term "Allah." Certainly God does not care what we call Him. He is beyond our meager ability to properly name Him anyway. The term "Allah" does matter to those who attend the bishop's church, though. He is laying the groundwork for the conversion of his followers. After all, if he cannot follow proper Catholic theology, why would it matter to the people which church (or mosque) they should attend?

8/15/2007 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

VA Gamer wrote...
"Words do have meaning, and we should be cautious of how we use them. From your quote above, DLA, one might consider you a bigot. Did you mean, "...lawsuits stemming from the Church's acceptance of pedophiles into the priesthood?" Homosexual men are no more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual men. If you did intend to use the term "homosexual," then I believe you to be a bigot."

Pedophiles prey on prepubescent children. Homosexual men desire teen boys. The lawsuits were in response to the molestation of teenage boys by priests.

8/15/2007 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I thought Allah was the moon god in the Arab Parthenon, in other in other words a lord of darkness that emits no light it’s self but is only a dim distorted reflection of the real thing.

One of many hence the retort “there is no god but Allah…”

8/15/2007 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

desert rat, thank you for showing the fine line that GWB, a Christian, walked while trying to defuse a cultural bomb. There are ~10million Muslims in the US, ~1.2billion worldwide. GWB was trying to find the center, the unity, the peacefull coexistence.

That was much better than our nation's attitude towards the "cheese eating surrender monkeys".

Of course, until Islam evolves and deals with the reality of the radical element, Americans will continue to equate "terrorist" with "Muslim".

8/15/2007 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Desert Rat,

GWB was wrong. Muslims ARE the enemy. There are a billion of them, so what? They are pretty much our enemy as long as they are aware of us.

If we kill enough of them they'll stop fighting. The trick is to do it quickly and decisively enough so it is not a mass slaughter.

As far as the Bishop goes, he's facing a dying flock. But young European men are not going to simply submit to Islam since they will be at the bottom.

Young European men will fight over who has the women, wealth, and power with Muslims and the Multi-culti. You'll notice the Black Bloq and other Anarchists don't hang around East Germany because the NPD there will crush them.

I've thought a lot about Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Franco, and the other variations on the same theme rose to power. IMHO it was young men priced out of the marriage market, nothing better to do, who were offered a "deal" with the promise of wealth/power (and likely, the restrictions on freedom of women to do as they please) that made the NSDAP, or Il Duce, or Franco or Lenin "winners" in the manpower battles.

Ultimately only Muslims or non-Muslims can control Europe's resources: wealth, power, and yes, women. Perhaps of no interest to a Bishop but of very much interest to young men.

Ultimately the dying of Christianity will simply be replaced by Paganistic monstrosities such as Hitler brewed up. People often dismiss the Nazi rise but it's lessons discomfit the multi-cultis and PCs and Liberals and Leftists as well as conservatives. Real Christianity and Nationalism would crowd out a noxious weed like Hitler's creed.

Muslims are moving too soon, aided by Dhimmi Liberals/Leftists who hate Western Civilization as much as Muslims do and love to humiliate themselves. I guess it must be an S&M thing.

Every European young man can look at this and see his options: emigrate from the land of his birth and seek refuge in America or perhaps Australia. Or fight and perhaps in fighting become the new masters of the land from the fat old priests. Submission in a permanent and sexless serfdom is not an option.

I have new respect for Ralph Peters. I thought he was simply spouting nonsense but now I see it.

the Bishop is the equivalent of Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Great for an audience, not much fun for a young German man looking for a wife. As Wretchard has noted, this problem in the Third World produced Commander Robot. Who knows what dhimmi led submission to Islam will bring to the European version?

8/15/2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

Maybe I haven't been in Indonesia recently, but I recall Christians there referring to God as Tuhan.

In fact, Pancasila, the state political philosophy refers to "Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa" not Allah.

8/15/2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Is Tiny a common Dutch first name or it a moniker given the priest for his tiny god, tiny faith, tiny culture, tiny chance of not ending up in the stew pot, tiny courage and tiny sense of manliness?

8/15/2007 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

The Arabic word for god is illah. Mecca was a pagan, multi-god religious center for many years before the 7th century. The Kabba was the focal point of Mecca and used to house the images of the many gods, among which was the moon god allah. The pilrimage to Mecca is pre-Islam and the tourist trade was a major source of revenue for this desert town.

Mohammed's family ran the profitable pilgrim concession at the Kabba. Much of Mohammed's angst probably stems from the fact that he was only a minor player in the family business and not in the line of succession for the big paycheck. He got kicked out of Mecca when he made a power play by rebranding the Kabba with Allah as the star and Mohammed as the chief honcho.

Islam got its start after Mohammed raised a gang in Medina to take by force what he was not able to get by persuasion. After making an offer that could not be refused Mohammed completed the rebranding of the Kabba, tossed out all the other illah and promoted Allah. The rest, as they say, is history.

Bottom line is that the illah that is Allah has nothing to do with the God of the Hebrew or Christian Bible. The only connection is that many Hebrew Bible narratives were plagiarized into the Koran with Allah cut and pasted for Jehovah.

The Europeans are replaying the frog and the slow boil story.

8/16/2007 01:39:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Whiskey,
GWB is NEVER Wrong,
He's Dhimmi in Chief.
Scratch a Globalist,
find a Dhimmi.

8/16/2007 02:08:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Unidirectional multiculturalism [Mark Steyn]

Andrew's post on Scottish hospitals telling infidel doctors to cut out working lunches during Ramadan and Kathryn's post on Dutch bishops telling European Catholics to call God "Allah" are two small examples of the remorseless incremental concessions we make every day in the name of "cultural sensitivity".

The question is:
At what point do you stop? If it's only being "sensitive" to insist that Belgian police officers not be seen eating donuts during Ramadan, when will sensitivity require that female police officers adopt Muslim-sensitive headscarves? If it's only being "sensitive" to ask Catholic worshippers in the heart of European Christendom to call God "Allah", why not rename churches "mosques" and disavow Jesus' divinity? These small groveling unreciprocated concessions that do nothing but provoke further demands communicate the same big message:
We're losers, and the best we can hope for is that you'll let us lose gradually.

I think this sums it up best:

Scratch a liberal, find a dhimmi.

8/16/2007 02:08:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Peter, now that is the kind of writing I like. The truth in a nutshell, or a coconut shell.

8/16/2007 02:14:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

The old feller allah had three moon daughters too, but I can't recall the names.

8/16/2007 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Lat, Uzza and Manat.

8/16/2007 02:22:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

(Stevie's) Wonders of the World

8/16/2007 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

re: Allah Save Us [Rick Brookhiser]

Kathryn, a priest from Malta once told me that the word for God in Maltese is Allah (the language is a fusion of Arabic and Italian). So the Maltese have been ahead of your Dutchman, ever since the demise of the Latin mass.

---
Allah Save Us [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

THE HAGUE, Netherlands
— A Dutch Catholic bishop who once said the hungry were entitled to steal bread and advocated condom use to prevent AIDS has made headlines again, this time by saying God should be called Allah.

8/16/2007 04:26:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Sources of Freedom

This from a letter I got today. The writer is of course from Hungary, a fine man who tries to educate me from time to time. Thought you’d enjoy reading a few of his lines:

There is a part of history the world quite literally little-noted nor long-remembered. After the Reformation, Hungary was Protestant. The Habsburg-led counter-Reformation gave people a simple, easily-understood choice: would you rather be Roman Catholic or dead. In parts of North Africa, you can still find descendants of those sold as galley slaves, fairer-skinned, and still retaining bits of Hungarian. Stephen Bocskai led the uprising against Habsburg rule and is immortalized as one of the heroes of the Reformation in Geneva, alongside, Calvin and the rest. Bocskai made possible two firsts, in the (related) secular and sacred realms. In 1568, Transylvania had the world’s first legally-guarantee of universal freedom (“faith is a God-given gift and thus an unalienable right” and ” everyone may follow the religion of his choice, and no one may interfere with persons professing any other faith”) and habeas corpus in 1606. (England introduced something similar in increments, beginning with the Act of 1641.)
- M Ledeen

8/16/2007 04:38:00 AM  
Blogger Roz said...

Allison: touche' :)

8/16/2007 05:25:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

TERROR WATCH
Scandal At a Prominent Mosque

Allegations of embezzlement, abuse and hate speech roil a Washington mosque.

Aug. 15, 2007 - Since its opening in 1957, the Islamic Center of Washington has been the city’s most prominent mosque—a center of worship for thousands of area Muslims, including many members of the capital’s diplomatic corps. President Bush even made a speech at the mosque earlier this summer.

8/16/2007 05:49:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"The charges and countercharges involving the Islamic Center come at an awkward time for the mosque. Only two months ago, President Bush used a visit to the mosque to announce that his administration planned to appoint the first-ever U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Bush had also made a highly publicized trip to the Islamic Center after the September 11 attacks."

8/16/2007 05:53:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. Ferris said...

For those Christian groups, such as the Armenians and those of the Greek Orthodox faith, who have had their fellow laity slaughtered in the the name of "Allah the Beautiful", the change in semantics would bring less than enthusiastic support. Nor do I suspect that over one millenium of brutal, savage mass looting, slaving, rapine and genocide has much to do with what sort of sound we make in the West when we refer to the Almighty.

Perhaps the Iberian peoples can be queried as to what methods were used during the Reconquesta and Inquisition to resolve disputes between members of the Islamic and Christian faiths. To my knowledge, other than the diplomatic negotiations of Tours in 732 and Vienna in 1683, no other long-lasting agreements with Islamic religious leaders were ever arrived at.

8/16/2007 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Could also ask the Jews how they feel about being expelled from almost all Muslim countries.

8/16/2007 06:34:00 AM  
Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

It has been suggested that 'Allah' is a diminutive form of the word 'Baal,' a pagan God.

Mohammed might have designated the word 'Allah' as reference to God so as to ease or facilitate the transition of pagans to Islam.

Names and words really do matter.

8/16/2007 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

While logically accurate, the Bishop's idea shows an alarming degree of ignorance. Words may be simply encoded sound signals, but the specific sound carries a load of connotation and association that evokes a silent symphony of neural resonance. The word "God" has, for instance, a long and intense association in the English Language with the word "good". The televangelists must all pronounce it according to an honored tradition that sets aside a particular pronunciation as holier than others.

The symbolic freight of a decision to accept the "Allah" word is, among other things, an endorsement of the violence that we hear in the word, and a clear act of submission to an unforgiving culture. Sensible Muslims could, if they wanted, take advantage of the positive associations we have with the sound of God's name in English. Alternatively, they could concentrate on improving the associations we have with the Arabic version.

8/16/2007 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

I can recall, 30 years ago, hearing Allah used in Methodist sermons in my home town as an alternate name for God.

You can argue that the actual name is important, but I think God himself would argue that it is HE that is important, and what he represents, not the name He is called by.

8/16/2007 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Ivan Douglas said...

31 comments-31 voices from trenches.
What I am missing is voice of command.
Europe is most important battle in war for preservation of Western civilization.
There must be heard voice of command.
Numbness and deafness of Rome-should be command, stinks as consent with situation.

8/16/2007 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Florentius said...

It turns out that this bishop is a regular dissenter from Humanae Vitae as well. The Catholic Church in the Low Countries is particularly well-stocked with odd-ball prelates. They are a continuing embarrassment and part of the reason why hedonism has triumphed there--for now.

The battle between Islam and hedonism for the soul of Europe is just now being joined and in the long run, I reckon that most of the hedonists will simply become Muslims so they can continue to practice their vices in peace.

8/16/2007 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Florentius said...

VA gamer wrote:

From your quote above, DLA, one might consider you a bigot. Did you mean, "...lawsuits stemming from the Church's acceptance of pedophiles into the priesthood?" Homosexual men are no more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual men. If you did intend to use the term "homosexual," then I believe you to be a bigot.

Well, considering the Jay Report stated clearly that over 80% of the cases were homosexual in nature with the vicitims being teenaged boys, it's not in the least bit bigotted to characterize this as a homosexual problem in the Church.

If the Catholic Church in America stopped ordaining homosexual men, over 80% of the problem immediately goes away. That's not bigotry. That's fact.

8/16/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

Then what measures would you councel for responding to the racial disparity in the crime rate?

8/16/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger TJ said...

It's likely the word comes from the same place the hebrew Eloha (pl. Elohim) does as Arabic is a Semitic language.
Wretchard, brilliant work on the meaning of language and necessity of symbols. I would go even farther, arguing it is impossible to convey and communicate meaning without words.
Oh, and this is my first comment here at the
Club.

8/16/2007 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Starling said...

The Dutch Bishop in question should know one thing: there will be no reciprocity. He may refer to God as Allah, or even use the words synonymously, interchangeably.

And he may do so with all the good faith and goodwill he can muster.

But he must not fool himself: neither his counterparts, i.e. the Imams, nor their flocks are likely to adopt this gesture. Not in Arabic, not in Farsi, probably not even in English.

8/16/2007 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Then what measures would you councel for responding to the racial disparity in the crime rate?"
---
Deport Criminal Illegals!
---
Deport Them Now .com
- Malkin at work.
Gotta love her.

8/16/2007 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

The stars are slowly going out, can't you see them disappear?

8/16/2007 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

A good short essay Here

8/16/2007 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

The God of Abraham, from Adam to Jesus is called Allah by Muslims.

The differences are cultural. Judaism was burn in indentured servitude/slavery. Christianity was born under occupation.

Islam was born among the Arabs who were idolatora at the time ant their civilization was tribal and primitive. Infanticide and cannibalism were commonplace. Islam brought order to this chaos and was initiall welcomed and supported by hebrews and Christianls alike.

I do have to say, though, I rest my cast in the previous thread about small Nederlandse balls. Native Nederlandse birthrate is 1.5 or so. I guess that may also prove my point!

Salaam Eleikum, Y'all!

8/16/2007 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

So It Is Written
Nine years in the making, a hand-written Bible takes shape

8/16/2007 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

A resurgent Pauline Hanson has called for an end to Muslim immigration to Australia

Maybe if we look actually at the female genital mutilation that happens to young girls in this country. I think it's absolutely atrocious, it's digusting, if people want to live like that they can go back to Muslim countries … this is Australia."

Ms Hanson confirmed that terrorism and security were key reasons behind her proposed ban on Muslim immigration.

She also referred to a 2006 incident where two boys were expelled from an Islamic school in Melbourne for urinating on a Bible, and Sheik al-Hilali's infamous comparison of women in Western clothes to "uncovered meat".

"I'm very concerned about [Australia changing]. I'm sick of people coming out here and saying our girls are like the meat market, or you have the Bible that's urinated on. Am I supposed to just forget about it?"

8/16/2007 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Exodus 3:1-17

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then He said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey ... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, they will worship God on this mountain."

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God said to Moses, "I_AM_WHO_I_AM*. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I_AM** has sent me to you.'"

God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD***, the God of your fathers -— the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob -— has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I will be called in every generation. Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers —- the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob —- appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites -— a land flowing with milk and honey.'

* The Hebrew Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh is difficult. The first and last words are the first person singular of "be", but they may be either present or future tense. The middle word may be "who" or "what". Perhaps the midrash is best: He is what He is by his actions, His deeds are his name.

This is seen is Ex 33 and 34.

Ex 33:19-20 And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

Ex 34:5-7 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming: "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

**The second I_AM could be thus read to be the ground of being, pure existence.

*** The grapheme that is traditionally translated as "LORD" is the tetragrammaton: Yod Hey Vav Hey. In vocalizing the Hebrew text, Jews say: Adonai which is the word for lord, as in the lord of the manor.

Before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., only the High Priest was allowed to vocalize the divine name, and then only in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. Since then the correct pronunciation of the name ha been lost. Although, every once in a while, a wonder working rabbi is claimed to have known it. The most famous example of that is Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (1698 –- 1760) the founder of mystical movement known as Hasidic Judaism. He is known to many religious Jews as the "Baal Shem Tov". This title is usually translated into English as "Master of the Good Name", i.e. he had mastered the the divine name. English attempts to vocalize the tetragrammaton such as Jehovah and Yahweh are purely conjecture.

8/16/2007 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/16/2007 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

'he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation'--however his name is understood, he shouldn't be understood to do that.

8/16/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

yhvh -> y[e]h[o]v[e]h
hebrew translation: will predict

elhoim -> el hoo im
hebrew translation: god is if

=

God exists if.. the prediction is true.

=

The existence of the God of Abram is predicated on the existence of the nation of Israel. Without the other neither will survive.

8/16/2007 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

The Lord has need of us.

8/16/2007 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Yes, Bob. Much like an echo.

8/16/2007 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

m'tusela:

If what you say is true, then YWWH/elohim cannot be regarded as anything other than the national deity of Israel.

I regard this as a valid argument (based as it is upon rabbinical tradition), although not indisputable. It does suggest that G-d as usually perceived in the West is closer to the theology of Philo of Alexandria (and the Greek philosophy that influenced him) than the Torah.

8/16/2007 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The mindset of the radical right and radical Islam is so similar that the animosity between them reminds one of the hatred between Communism and Nazism in the first half of the twentieth century. Never mind the obvious kindred dogmas regarding homosexuality, women, rationality, and the valorous nature of any acts of violence their side executes, the most stunning parallel is the lack of any ability on the part of both the jihadi and the wingnut to rationally analyze any data. Whether this anti-intellectualism is the cause or effect, together the wingnut and the jihadi advocate the same despotic societal organizational pattern of an unrestrained God and King reeking havoc on their powerless Subjects. And they both reject the rational principles that led to the rise of the West, the idea of a Deity restrained by natural laws and a Polis (state) controlled by constitutional laws creating a society where Citizens can flourish.

When confronted with data, both the wingnut and the jihadi will not analyse it to better understand the truth. Instead they are both convinced that they already have the truth, therefore they sift data for any morsels that reinforce their worldview and throw the rest away as heretic lies. Regarding US actions in the Middle East the Jihadi already knows the US is evil so that any data to the contrary is worthless and di. Regarding Europe, the wingnut is convinced that the forces of Allah are just about to take over power there. So when confronted with an article that seems to confirm his worldview (a priest calling for his flock to pray to “Allah”) the wingnut mines the article for confiming data and throws away as chaff any information that seems to contradict his constructed cosmos. So the fact that the priest’s actions were in response to a call for a banning of the Koran by a Dutch MP is ignored. Wouldn’t this fact tend to reverse the notion that Europe is about to surrender to the forces of Islam? And the fact that more than 90% of the respondents to a poll rejected the idea of praying to Allah is equally ignored. The right wing refusal to rationally analysis the whole picture and their child-like dependence on only grasping at the straws that confirm their preconceived “truths” explains both their ignorance of Europe and even more importantly of military strategy. It also firmly places them into an anti-rationalist camp that they share with Jihadis everywhere.

This is not to say that the Dutch priest is correct. For if Dutch Catholics were to pray to Allah nothing would change. Although the fact is that in the Aramaic of Jesus, the word for God was pronounced the same as Allah. I guess that makes Jesus a dhimmi is some wiingnut eyes. But no, the clash is not between Islam and the West, the clash is between the children of the Greeks and the Enlightenment who expect their deity to respect natural laws, in other words that science and human rationality have a veto over religion; and the followers of oriental (in the Near Eastern sense) despotism who promote an omniscient God who trumps any scientific knowledge. For when a society expects its deities to conform to natural law, it also expects its government to respect constitutional law. But a society with an all-powerful God, more often than not, is ruled by a despotic autocrat outside of any constraints.

But in order to determine the natural laws rationality must be employed. The followers of preconceived truths cannot live in a society ruled by rationality because “truths” often end up being proved wrong. This explains both the Jihadi and wingnut hostility to science, in particular the theory of evolution and the origins of life. Of course after the debacle of the years of right wing denial of the dangers of cigarette smoke it is astounding that anyone would take anything they say about science seriously again. The current right wing dogmas of the science of climate change being “anti economic growth” begs the question of what a right wing blogosphere would have thought of the originators of the ideas crop rotation and of leaving fields fallow. Surely these incredible developments of human living sustainable with their environment would have also been denounced as anti growth heresy if wingnuts were around in those days..

This closing of the mind to rationality and science is what caused the end of the “Golden Age of Islam”, specifically a ban on the use of ijtihad or creative reasoning, but not before they passed on the ideas of the Greeks and algebra which directly led to the Enlightenment and the rise of the west. Now in their hysteria to race to the bottom in a vain attempt to mirror our society to that which is desired by the Jihadis, one wonders how long before the wingnuts declare the teaching of algebra as a sign of Dhimmitude.

The enemy is not necessarily Islam. The enemy is anyone who places their God above human rationality, constitutional government, and science.

8/17/2007 02:11:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Every set of true believers, whether or the radical right or the radical left, pretends to the sole possession of the truth. Where they differ is efficacy with which they impose this truth. Before Pat Robertson or whoever might be regarded as the leader of the radical right, there were Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and whole host of lesser others. And the true believers of the radical left were orders of magnitude more effective at imposition than the radical right. The theocrats of the right are dwarves beside these titans, whose imaginations were so large they could encompass the murder of millions, while people like Robertson struggle with their petty little plots.

But if you bring radical Islam into the reckoning then you once again experience another step up in order of magnitude. As the radical left dwarfs the radical right, so too does the epic of Islam overshadow the accomplishments of the Left. Mohammed preceded Marx by more than 11 hundred years. The radical left's career as world religion lasted less than century. Islam has been a world religion for more than a millenium and has arguably never been stronger.

Look not to the dwarfs to your right. But tip your head back, up, up and see what looks down on you from a dark and dizzying height. You think you can handle something that size?

8/17/2007 02:32:00 AM  
Blogger dla said...

Kevin said...
The enemy is not necessarily Islam. The enemy is anyone who places their God above human rationality, constitutional government, and science.

So your god, science, is above all other gods? Do you realize how shallow and silly you sound? Do you realize how Marxist you sound?

The real long-term loser in the clash between Christianity (2 billion) and Islam (1.3 billion) are the secularists. Get used to dissappointment.

And Wretchard, Islam isn't at the peak of it's strength at all, but it is seeing the start of a resurgence.

8/17/2007 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

I don't think he sounds silly OR Marxist dla.

As a Christian knight in a movie once said, "I have seen all manner of atrocity done in the name of religion".

I think it's that sort that Kevin is referring to. Remember, the best way to get him to respect your point of view, is to respect his (not insult him).

And as a side note, a belief in science, Atheism/Agnosticism are not inherently Marxist, silly, or shallow to those who believe in it, any more than Christianity is silly/shallow to those who believe in it.

8/17/2007 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

What you call God is vitally important for the social order because the name of God defines the rule-set that society will follow.

The Hebrew Bible is arguably the most significant document in human history because it created the rule-set that guided social man in the difficult passage from tribal barbarism to civility. The Bible narrative teaches us that there is no civilized and independence centered social order without God because only a rule-set which has originated outside of man is beyond the reach of despots and self-anointed elites. This is why the Framers based the society they envisaged emerging as the USA on Truths that were "self evident."

If your God is the Jehovah of the Hebrew Bible your social order rule-set includes Thous Shall Not Murder and Thou Shall Not Steal. Christianity extended the reach of Jehovah to all humanity.

If Allah is your guy then murder, theft, and slavery are not only OK but mandated for all outsiders. It makes a difference.

8/17/2007 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

The enemy is not necessarily Islam. The enemy is anyone who places their God above human rationality, constitutional government, and science.


This has to be the most creatively stupefying statement I have yet to come across here at Belmont. The argument deliberately contradicts the very definition of Islam.

8/17/2007 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

A political drive to push amendments to the Immigration and Sedition Laws, to specifically tackle the threat of Islam and Islamist, I think, is the way to go, and something to seriously consider.

8/17/2007 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Dan said...

I thought Allah was the moon god in the Arab Parthenon, in other in other words a lord of darkness that emits no light it’s self but is only a dim distorted reflection of the real thing.

One of many hence the retort “there is no god but Allah…
//////////////////////////////
in the same/opposite sense it can be argued that what Christianity adds is the answer to the epistemological question..."how do you know what you know?"

The answer to which is that what you know "by definition"... are words.

Compare Creation of Genesis 1with the Creation of John 1.

Genesis 1
1 In the beginning God

John 1
1 In the beginning was the Word
.............

8/17/2007 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Charles,

A simple literary iteration of the text?

The earth, was chaos, and darkness, upon the face of the deep; and God's spirit, hovered on the face of the water.

And God spoke: 'Let there be light.' And there was light.

8/17/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Genesis 1
The Beginning
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

John 1

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

8/18/2007 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Charles,

Could be that John, familiar with countless errors in the Greek and other translations, added his own for good measure. :)

eg.

tohoo vavohoo =! formless and empty
tohoo vavohoo = chaos

In the hebrew, the words "tohu vavohu" is a play on the words "to go and to come", that is, a state of disorder and flux, chaos.

At any rate, "tohu vavohu" is where we begin.

8/18/2007 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

I'll own that I don't understand the original hebrew. But even without understanding hebrew its clear that the language of genesis 1 is more beautiful elegant -- and to the point-- than the odd cockeyed legalistic formulation of John 1.

Why?

Why was John twisting his words up into a pretzel.

I'm not an authority. But I do have an imho.

John's words are accessible by way of reason but not by poetry.

Why?

Why does John trade beauty for reason.

In a nutshell its the difference between what constitutes a theological proposition and what constitutes a philosophical proposition. In Hebrew God is the measure of all things vs the Greek "man is the measure of all things." A theological proposition begins in the character and personality of God...In God. A philosophical proposition begins in the character and personality of man ... in man.

So how do you distinguish between a philosophical proposition and a theological proposition.

Especially when canny preachers/priests/rabbis/immans/bearded & bald headed guys learn to use the pulpit to spout theological propositions in the service of private agendas based philosophical premises wholly at odds with their public theological pronouncements.

John's words were just the opposite. They were philosophical wiggle words in the service of a large theological proposition.

Jesus is Lord.

But I do understand that my imho is a tiny minority opinion. But I would argue that the reason for this stems from Nathanial Bacon who a couple hundred years ago formulated a tree of knowledge in which theology ranked as a sub branch of philosophy--when they aren't even in the same tree.

8/18/2007 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ratbuster said...

"I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy." God is sovereign and what Europe does is totally up to Him. Don't sweat it.

8/19/2007 02:37:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Charles,

On Tohu Vavohu
by Baruch Speiser

The narrative in which God creates the universe is, superficially, straightforward and simple. After thousands of years of exposition and expounding, we know this not to be the case. The complexity and subtlety of the first section of the Torah and of the universe’s history have well been established.

While reading through the narrative of even the first day of creation, we find the most perplexing verses, as the first thing that God creates, light, seems to have been superceded by darkness. While God proclaims, “Let there be light,” there seems to be no indication that He proclaims the existence of darkness. Hence, in the very next verse, it appears as though God is separating His creation, light, from that which seemingly He did not create, darkness, which preexisted!

One also discovers that the first day lacks the active participation of God's craftsmanship. On almost all of the other days of creation, the Pesukim explicitly state, ויעש, “He made,” or ויברא, “He created” (see 1:14, 16, 20, 21, etc.). On the first day, it is merely a passive participation, where God wills it and it then comes into being. This implies that while God ordered the creation of the light, the Almighty might not have fashioned it. This raises a second question: why does God choose to record the creation of light and darkness in a manner that depicts Him as a passive participant? The first day is the ultimate demonstration of the Almighty’s power, the day in which he makes order from chaos; it seems most significant that God is not recorded as decisively being the sole creator of all that is and all that is not. Why?

It is possible to suggest that because darkness was a part of the mess and undefined state of pre-creation – “Vehaaretz Haytah Tohu Vavohu Vehosheh Al Pnei Hatehom” (Gen. 1:2) - it did not need to be created; but this only exacerbates our question - did not God create this confusion, this "chaos and darkness", this "Tohu Vavohu Vechoshech?” Surely He had crafted this mayhem; it is impossible, unthinkable, and certainly untenable to suggest otherwise. So to reiterate, why does the Chumash present darkness as a lack of creation?

Allow us to turn to another of God’s great volumes of wisdom given to mankind: science. The themes of light versus darkness echo throughout literature, but as proven by physics, darkness is merely the absence of light. While this piece of information may not startle the average educated individual, its application to the reading of this passage produces a remarkable insight. The absence of light, a void, a vacuum, nothingness is so extraordinary that it can only be part of the pre-creation world. It is unfathomable for the human mind to perceive a total void, bleak and empty to all meaning and organization. The Torah was created for the sake of human understanding. The active creation of darkness would undermine the significance of nothingness; nothingness as we perceive it is still a concept, an idea; in the world of pre-creation there could be no such notion. The fact that God does not depict the creation of darkness does not present us with something that existed before creation, it instead serves to emphasize that nothing would or could even be if it was not for creation. The concept of “Tohu Vavohu Vehosheh Al Pnei Hatehom” (chaos and darkness upon the face of the deep) is absolutely meaningless without creation. Nothingness is only known to exist because of the creation that contrasts it. It is therefore clear that the first day of creation truly did mark the beginning of existence; because there could be nothing before the act and will of God that defined everything that is and that is not. So the Parasha continues: “Vayavdale Elohim Bein Haor Uvein Hachoshech” (And God discerned between the light and between the darkness) as we say in Havdala, God provided us with the ability to discern the difference between light and darkness, therefore on the first day He created the very concept of darkness; which would have a completely different meaning if subject to an actual declaration or creation. That would only rob humanity of the truth, leaving us with the impression that darkness and void is an entity in itself, and that pre-creation had meaning and structure. Such a notion would defeat the entire significance of creation.

8/19/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

I AM WHAT I AM. I think about that every time I eat my spinach. Popeye is so cool.....

Kevin, Nicely put. I was both until I met Wretchard. Now I am so "confused"! I agree the problem is not Islam, this is why I am a Muslim. The problem seems to be Wahhabism and Khomeinism.

dla, no comment.

When I close with "Salaam eleikum" ("Peace be with you), I truly mean it.

I'll admit I am unconventional and "eccentric". Being "multireligious" may have something to do with it. Having found conciliation within myself gave me hope this is possible in this world.

The human factor has always been a problem when it comes to religious/political systems.

Segregation is a possible solution but where would I go? I guess I'll have to hang with the agnostics.

I think about Socrates's address regarding his death sentence.

I ramble, please forgive me.

Salaam eleikum again.

8/19/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger dcat said...

It is easy to look to the past for islamic assholes!

The future is fighting a religion of hate and not peace!!!

That is obvious crazy muslim redneck!

8/19/2007 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

AM I WHAT I AM,

Enough with the Salaamies. Save em for future religion of peace asshole rejects.

8/19/2007 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

You last two....

Yeeeeehah!

I guess I'll have a choice to make at the next inquisition! Tribulation is at hand!

Sorry about those typos in my previous posts. Didn't have my glasses.

Salaam eleikum Y'all!

8/20/2007 03:58:00 PM  

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