Monday, January 14, 2008

Hitler's Last Secret

What if scholars can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Koran was not dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammad during the 7th century, but rather was redacted by later writers drawing on a variety of extant Christian and Jewish sources? That would be the precise equivalent of proving that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels really was a composite of several individuals, some of whom lived a century or two apart.

It has long been known that variant copies of the Koran exist, including some found in 1972 in a paper grave at Sa'na in Yemen, the subject of a cover story in the January 1999 Atlantic Monthly. Before the Yemeni authorities shut the door to Western scholars, two German academics, Gerhard R Puin and H C Graf von Bothmer, made 35,000 microfilm copies, which remain at the University of the Saarland. Many scholars believe that the German archive, which includes photocopies of manuscripts as old as 700 AD, will provide more evidence of variation in the Koran.

Spengler's article in Asia Times, about how the contents of documents long suppressed by the Nazis and now in a Berlin vault may hold proof of the origins of Islam, reads like an extract from the Da Vinci Code, only potentially more intriguing. The idea that Hitler might succeed, even in death, in exterminating the Jews would make a fascinating book plot.



Why were the Nazis so eager to suppress Koranic criticism? Most likely, the answer lies in their alliance with Islamist leaders, who shared their hatred of the Jews and also sought leverage against the British in the Middle East. ...

It may be a very long time before the contents of the Bavarian archive are known. Some Koranic critics, notably the pseudonymous scholar "Ibn Warraq", claim that Professor Angelika Neuwirth, the archive's custodian, has denied access to scholars who stray from the traditional interpretation. Neuwirth admits that she has had the archive since 1990. She has 18 years of funding to study the Bavarian archive, and it is not clear who will have access to it.

This is the 21st century. The era of "Hope"; the time for "Change". The first years of the End of History. Not. Even though the shadows of Chicago, Nazi Germany and even the 8th century in Arabia lie heavy on us the truth is that the past is as much a manufacture of the present as the present is a product of the past. The contents of the vault will not change the world, any more than the Dead Sea Scrolls could. What is invariant is the human heart; and we live within the prison of its longings and its hates.

42 Comments:

Blogger Phil said...

It is one of those forgotten aspects of history that in 1914 the Ottoman Empire declared jihad on the western powers, specifically exempting Germany and their Austrian allies.

Much of the British war effort in the Middle East, including sponsoring Arab independence was to blunt this call for 'holy war'.

Vast amounts of British gold and modern weapons swayed the Arabs to the British side in the short term. Although jihad (read violent anti-western sentiments) remained a potent force, which the Germans well knew.

1/14/2008 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

The Ottoman Empire's ghost is evident in both Bosnia and Iraq, the westernmost and easternmost fingers of the Grand Porte. The British Great Game against Russia and its Forward Policy bring us Afghanistan, Pakistan and to some extent Iran.

Before the Great War there were four mighty empires whose debris we are still dodging. The empire of Tsars, with their outposts in Central Asia. The Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian and finally, the British Empire. Almost every single crisis facing the world today has roots in their colonial politics.

It's kind of funny to hear about how the world would be a better place if only the peace-loving Europeans were in charge. But as I remarked in the main post, the present creates the past as much as the past makes the present. If we will a certain thing to be true in history it becomes true.

1/14/2008 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

To cite Hobbes for a moment, two thoughts come to mind. One:

But they that, trusting only to the authority of books, follow the blind blindly, are like him that, trusting to the false rules of a master of fence, ventures presumptuously upon an adversary that either kills or disgraces him.

And two:

And consequently, when we believe that the Scriptures are the word of God, having no immediate revelation from God Himself, our belief, faith, and trust is in the Church; whose word we take, and acquiesce therein.

1/14/2008 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Oh dangit! This is freekin me out!

All I have read is English translations. How coud I really know if I was reading the words of Mohammad (PBUH) to begin with.

Now this?

What can I say but.....

Salaam eleikum Y'all!

1/14/2008 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

And consequently, when we believe that the Scriptures are the word of God, having no immediate revelation from God Himself, our belief, faith, and trust is in the Church; whose word we take, and acquiesce therein.
///////////
it was this sort of calculation after the 30 years war in the 1600's that--over the next several hundred years--brought on the subjugation of the church to the interests of the state.

its got to the point that the interests of the state are so sublime that the populations of the peoples that have created them are in decline.

This is what G-d was talking about to Moses. Wait around long enough and the homosexual priests will have completely boggled the breeders into child sacrificing their civilizations into nothing.

Then come in with the troops.

1/14/2008 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I don't think archaeological results can upend established religions. In fact, I can't think of a single instance where they did.

What's interesting however, is the degree to which the past doesn't matter at all any more. Read one way, the entire Clinton-Obama war is about not how the civil rights movement was, but about how it should be remembered.

1/14/2008 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

The contents of the vault will not change the world, any more than the Dead Sea Scrolls could.
//////////
I disagree with this.

I think the finding of the dead sea scrolls ranks with the opening to the west of the moslem libraries in cadiz after that city was reconquered by ferdinand and isabella in the late 1400's. Those libraries transmitted the writings of the greeks which had been lost to the west for more than 1000 years.

1/14/2008 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger slimslowslider said...

"declared jihad on the western powers, specifically exempting Germany and their Austrian allies."

could this exemption status still exist? it seems abracadabra was trying to help relieve someones guilt (besides just his own) when he was doing all that holocaust denying. He wishes for the old days?

"The idea that Hitler might succeed, even in death, in exterminating the Jews would make a fascinating book plot.
Why were the Nazis so eager to suppress Koranic criticism? Most likely, the answer lies in their alliance with Islamist leaders, who shared their hatred of the Jews and also sought leverage against the British in the Middle East."

1/14/2008 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

I think the very specific claims of Islam render it more vulnerable to archaelogical discoveries than any other religion I can think of.

True, it won't be upended, but over generations such counterfactual proof, which contradicts its central claim, could, plausibly, defang the strident certitude of its adherents, taming the otherwise untamable metaphysical arrogance of Moslem true believers.

1/14/2008 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

aristides: On the other hand, in the nearer term I suspect it will only redouble the zeal of those true believers to nip this heresy in the bud before it ever has a chance to take hold amongst the ummah. What's the over/under on how long before we first hear some Islamic supremacist leader call this claim just another hoax perpetrated by the Americans and/or the Joooooooooz?

1/14/2008 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Final Historian said...

So Wretchard, you are positing that the current Obama/Hillary scuffle is in fact a fight over who/what gets to play the role of Theseus of the Democratic Party?

1/14/2008 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Another historical note. The armoured car predated the tank by a year or so. Rolls Royce started manufacturing them in 1914.

The British used them to great effect in the Middle East. Lawrence of Arabia found them almost invulnerable to Turkish rifle fire (presumably the tires were solid rubber).

Armoured cars and airplanes greatly impressed the Arabs, especially as the Turks had neither. An interesting example of modern technology (of the time) winning out over religous imperatives.

1/14/2008 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

I don't know about Theseus, but I think Orwell was onto something when he observed: "He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."

1/14/2008 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."
////////////
imho we've entered in a special period where the future carries a weight all its own--such that its also becoming appropriate to say he who controls the future controls the present and he who controls the present controls the past.

But this period won't last more than a decade or so. After that enough of a new pattern will have been set to make it more appropriate to revert to orwell's norm.

1/14/2008 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Shropshirelad said...

But who is in charge of the Present at present?

Even as (or maybe, especially as) a rational person, and a voter, I sometimes feel I have a lot less control over events than a determined jihadist.

I am not sure that nagging feeling bodes very well for Islam, or for Democracy.

1/14/2008 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

I think if you want to go after Islam, you don't attack the Koranic fortress but rather assault the outposts of the Hadith, Sharia and the Sirah first. Lidell Hart's indirect approach is the path to take. Show how Sharia is merely a repackaging of extant Arab tribal law. Prove that the Sirah is an ahistorical pious fraud on the order of say the infancy Gospels. Point out the contradictions in the Hadith. Once you have destroyed these, then you are perfectly positioned to attack the center of gravity of Muslim faith, the Koran.

1/14/2008 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Blogger Shropshirelad said...

But who is in charge of the Present at present?
////////////
well we are all captains of our our own ship in the way a jellyfish floating on an ocean current is captain of its destiny.

There is some wiggle room.

And if you zoom in close enough--there is a lot of wiggle room.

But then the stars are far far away.

1/14/2008 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger james said...

E.B. There are lots of hadith, and they already know that most of them are "unreliable." But they're very old, and even some of the unreliable ones are hallowed by ancient usage. I don't think an attack on the hadith will get you very far.

1/14/2008 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

History's Worst Typo

A new young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand. He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.

So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up. In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son."

So, he goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscript is held as archives in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot. So, the young monk gets worried and goes downstairs to look for him.

He sees him banging his head against the wall, and wailing "We forgot the "R", We forgot the "R" His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.

The young monk asks the old abbot, "What's wrong, father?"

With a choking voice, the old abbot replies, "The word is celebrate!" "The word is celebRate!!!"
:^)

1/14/2008 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

James: I would disagree. If the method of oral transmission for the ahadith results in unreliable hadith, then why would the method of oral transmission for the Koran be any more reliable? What is the point of view of Muslim? Of Bukhari? What explains the textual differences between them and the other compilers?

I would also ask if the average Muslim even knows about the reliability issues of the various ahadith. There are cracks in the edifice. There are weak points. They can be exploited.

The "reformation" of Islam that so many keep predicting doesn't happen unless you begin this attack and succeed. Otherwise every reforming movement (Bahai and Ahmadiya come to mind) gets crushed.

1/14/2008 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger RDS said...

Photos of the Yemeni Fragments (another set of Koranic texts) are also being analyzed:
Von Bothmer, however, in 1997 finished taking more than 35,000 microfilm pictures of the fragments, and has recently brought the pictures back to Germany. This means that soon Von Bothmer, Puin, and other scholars will finally have a chance to scrutinize the texts and to publish their findings freely -- a prospect that thrills Puin.
...
"To historicize the Koran would in effect delegitimize the whole historical experience of the Muslim community," says R. Stephen Humphreys, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "The Koran is the charter for the community, the document that called it into existence. And ideally -- though obviously not always in reality -- Islamic history has been the effort to pursue and work out the commandments of the Koran in human life. If the Koran is a historical document, then the whole Islamic struggle of fourteen centuries is effectively meaningless."
...
GERD-R. Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Koran. "The Koran claims for itself that it is 'mubeen,' or 'clear,'" he says. "But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense. Many Muslims -- and Orientalists -- will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible -- if it can't even be understood in Arabic -- then it's not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not -- as even speakers of Arabic will tell you -- there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on."
...
To Wansbrough, the Islamic tradition is an example of what is known to biblical scholars as a "salvation history": a theologically and evangelically motivated story of a religion's origins invented late in the day and projected back in time.
...
Wansbrough's arcane theories have been contagious in certain scholarly circles, but many Muslims understandably have found them deeply offensive. S. Parvez Manzoor, for example, has described the Koranic studies of Wansbrough and others as "a naked discourse of power" and "an outburst of psychopathic vandalism."

1/14/2008 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/14/2008 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

The existence of these manuscript images, is interesting, but not game changing.

The analysis of any work depends on the assumptions that it begins with. Muslims, like Jews and Christians with the Bible before the enlightenment, start their scriptural analysis with the assumption that the scripture is a single entity with one author. Start there and you get one type of analysis.

Begin with another assumption, one that is perfectly consistent with their history as they tell it. That the scripture was redacted from a number of sources (all human) over a period of time, and you will wind up with a very different analysis.

European deconstructions of the Bible were limed well before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi library, both of which occured after WWII. Those discoveries have informed subsequent analysis, but they have not changed its basic outlines.

Muslims will re-evaluate the Koran when they are emotionally ready to do so, and not before then. For now we need to just get them past the stage where thinking about joining the rest of the human race causes them to want to kill themselves and random strangers.

1/14/2008 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Aristides: I think the very specific claims of Islam render it more vulnerable to archaelogical discoveries than any other religion I can think of.

Try reading "The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Greed Forgery, Deceit and Death". This linked site actually gives a good recap of the overall subtext. An excerpt:

Hofmann had a grudge against the church, so he took special glee in selling bogus church-related documents. It was one thing to fool collectors, it would be quite another to fool the supposedly inspired leaders of the church. Besides, they had deeper pockets.

From his years of poking around old documents and studying church history, Hofmann knew there were skeletons in the Mormon closet. Authentic LDS history is far murkier than the official version. He also knew the church was interested in acquiring potentially embarrassing documents so they could suppress them. Again, the situation was ripe for exploitation.

Like most inactive Mormons, Hofmann was pretty sure the brethren had no special divine light, no powers of discernment. They did have access to document experts, though. So Hofmann tested the waters with some minor forgeries. The fish took the hook.

Hofmann knew Joseph Smith and his family had been heavily involved in ritual magic, astrology and alchemy. He knew they believed in charms and incantations, in ghosts and shape-shifting creatures. And he knew that the brethren knew and that they didn’t want others to know, because it wasn’t faith-promoting.

So Hofmann concocted the “salamander letter,” an account of JS encountering a talking salamander that turned into an angel. The forgery neatly connected the Smith family’s occult practices with the origins of Mormonism.

The fact church leaders accepted the salamander letter as authentic tells us several things. First, they didn’t say, “Joseph Smith, the Lord’s chosen prophet of the restoration, never saw any talking salamanders. That would never have happened, so this document is obviously fake.” Rather, they accepted that JS might have had such a vision because they knew there were even weirder things recorded.

Secondly, we know none of the brethren involved said, “Um, wait, something’s not quite right here. I’m having a stupor of thought, a bad feeling.” Either the brethren didn’t consult the Lord about the document and its “finder” (contrary to the claim they don’t spend a dime of the Lord’s money without his blessing) or they were insufficiently in tune with the Spirit to get the message, or the Lord didn’t care, or there was no divine force out there to give them a clue.


Mormonism and Islam have more than just polygamy in common.

1/14/2008 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Aristides said:
"I think the very specific claims of Islam render it more vulnerable to archaelogical discoveries than any other religion I can think of.."

Zenster replied:
Try reading "The Mormon Murders..."

Zenster beat me to the punch.

Mormonism is easily the religion most susceptible to archaelogical refutation. The silliness about reading Egyptian hieroglphyics on gold tablets with magic spectacles is comic nonsense.

It says something about religion that the Mormons can't admit that they were all deceived and convert in-mass to another religion. Given their gullibility, they would probably opt for something worse like Scientology.

1/14/2008 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Eggplant: Given their gullibility, they would probably opt for something worse like Scientology.

Dayum, Eggplant! You know that's going to leave a mark. Difficult as it is to admit, I'd have to wager that Mormonism is even more artificially derived than Islam. Mind you, only by mere nanometers but still leading the pack nonetheless. A difficult feat, I'm sure, but one that only a supremely contrived conglomeration of hodgepodge taurine fecal matter could possibly deliver.

1/15/2008 02:50:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Zenster and Eggplant,

Very good comments about supression of data. Same was evident in the Asia Times article. Same was evident at the Vatican.

Hopefully The Most High and The Truth truimph. But that last sentence of Wretchard's post is sobering: "What is invariant is the human heart; and we live within the prison of its longings and its hates."

Salaam freakin eleikum Y'all!

1/15/2008 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

The Hebrew Bible contains many inconsistencies, contradictions, and even opposing viewpoints about the nature of God and the ultimate futility of human existence. Ancient Hebrew scholars could have edited these sections out, but they did not. Perhaps the genius of these ancients lie in their understanding that these are difficult issues, and that being human is a very complicated learning process.

An honest person could derive great wisdom from the Hebrew Bible without ever even touching upon the ultimate source of Truth. The Bible is the handbook of how human beings progressed from tribal barbarity to cooperative civility by adhering to a basic rule set that remained beyond modification by man.

Islam also contain a rule set but it has nothing to do with civility and everything to do with the domination of one particular tribe over every other. Islam cannot exist without the underpinning of divine authority any more than the absolute authority of Western monarchs could exit after the rejection of the doctrine of the divine right of kings.

Whether there is an archaeological substance to these so called German archives or not will be irrelevant to Muslims. Delusion is such an essential element of Islam that truth matters not.

1/15/2008 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Peter said...

"The Hebrew Bible contains many inconsistencies, contradictions, and even opposing viewpoints about the nature of God and the ultimate futility of human existence. Ancient Hebrew scholars could have edited these sections out, but they did not."

I'm a dictionary-definition agnostic so you can take my religious opinions with a grain of salt. However I've always thought that the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was a mish-mash of gobblygook with most of the New Testmament only slightly better. I once tried to read the Koran but failed (IMHO, it's complete random nonsense). However, one part of the New Testament that I've always enjoyed is the life of Paul from the book of "Acts". To my mind that part of the Bible is high literature and of historical interest. It's my understanding that the original writings of Paul were what sold many of the Roman converts to the early Christian church.

In my humble opinion, it's unfortunate that the early Christian synods didn't declare Paul's writings as the only canonical text and all of the traditions pre-dating Paul along with the Hebrew Bible as apocryphal stories. Under that situation (in my very humble opinion), Christianity would have been a stronger religion and stood up better against the Islamic conquests of 632-732 AD.

1/15/2008 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Final Historian said...

Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I could have been. What I was trying to say was that you were arguing that the current arguments in the Democratic Party right now were an attempt to settle upon a unifying (around whom is the real matter at hand here) foundational mythology, much in the same vein that the ancient Greeks enjoyed. Theseus was the founding father, if you will, of ancient Athens, and it seems to me that MLK is playing a somewhat similar role. The role of history, in the manner you presented, seems to be eerily similar for the Democrats, who are now engaged in a contest of shaping the past to suit their present/future objectives.

But then again, one could make the case that is what History has always been about: shaping the past to suit the present or future; either to reinforce the current dominion, or to set about its destruction.

1/15/2008 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Eggplant

The Hebrew Bible can be read as literature. It truly is a Wisdom Document of Western civilization because the stories deal with how people should interact with each other and why. No other document ever written plumbs the depth of human understanding in the same way, although the collective works of Shakespeare may be as instructive.

An historical, non-religious course on the Hebrew Bible is available online from Yale: http://open.yale.edu/courses/religious_studies/index.html

Christianity survived political persecution and spread rapidly throughout the ancient world because the message was very consistent with the philosophy of life espoused by Plato and the Classical Greeks. It's not unreasonable to say that almost every educated person in the Greco-Roman world would have favorably recognized the tenets of Christianity even before they became aware of Jesus of Nazareth.

It is not accidental that the New Testament was written in Greek or that Paul proselytized in Greece. An historian could make the case that Ceasarian Rome was the ideal time and place, perhaps the only time and place, in human history that Christianity would influence so many people so profoundly, or perhaps even survive. Whether one wants to attribute this timing to sheer coincidence or divine providence is up for grabs.

1/15/2008 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Here is the link to the Yale Bible course.

1/15/2008 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

PeterBoston said:

"The Hebrew Bible can be read as literature. It truly is a Wisdom Document of Western civilization because the stories deal with how people should interact with each other and why."

That's a tough sell. There is some extreme nonsense in the Old Testament.

PeterBoston also said:

"Christianity survived political persecution and spread rapidly throughout the ancient world because the message was very consistent with the philosophy of life espoused by Plato and the Classical Greeks.... It is not accidental that the New Testament was written in Greek or that Paul proselytized in Greece."

Certainly Socrates set the stage for Paul and ancient Greek was a beautiful language (IMHO, classical was better than Koine). However early Christianity was under fairly stiff competition from alternative religions and various heretical derivatives of Judaism, e.g. Gnosticism. Mithradism and the Cult of Isis barely lost to Christianity.

No doubt Christianity was a better religion but the Cult of Isis was interesting. I recommend the ancient book "The Golden Ass" (The Metamorphoses) by Apuleius if you want an entertaining read and some insight about what early Christianity was up against.

1/15/2008 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

As a religious Jew (and former agnostic), the Hebrew Bible seems pretty consistent to me (of course).

However, I think a good part of why it holds together is the commentary (many rabbis over the ages). A trivial example: "an eye for an eye" was an expression, not literal (and was never enforced).

If you want to check it out with commentary, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0900689218/ref=cm_rdp_product

fwiw, I doubt any "proof" of Koranic evolution will affect anyone. As people have pointed out, issues with The Book of Mormon are pretty obvious (and don't have the sands of time to help obscure). And when I read biblical criticism "showing" the fallibility of Torah, I'm personally left pretty unaffected. I don't think any religious Muslim would much care about the contents of the archive (except to throw a riot or two).

1/15/2008 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Michael said:

"the Hebrew Bible seems pretty consistent to me (of course). However, I think a good part of why it holds together is the commentary (many rabbis over the ages)."

I'm reminded of the book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard P. Feynman (strongly recommended). Richard Feynamn was one of the brightest physicists who ever lived and also Jewish . Feynman wrote this funny story about when he was staying at a rabbinical school. The students there found out he was a physicist and asked him:

"Is electricity fire?"

Their interest in electricity was not academic but rather they needed to know whether the Talmud allowed them to use an elevator on the sabbath since the Talmud forbid having a fire on the same day.

Years ago, I looked through an English translation of the Talmud and was impressed with its logical convolutions. The Jews are very bright people.

1/15/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Eggplant

You're doing the "Hitchen's Thing" and mocking religion with the outliers. It's good fun I suppose. There are more than enough good examples, but it obfuscates the genuine historical value of Judeo-Christian wisdom.

The Greeks experimented with democracy (badly at times) but I'm unable to find any support for the conclusion that the Greeks thought that individual political rights should trump tyranny as a matter of first principles.

There is rational lineage between Magna Carta, The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution going back to the Hebrew Bible teaching that no man, including kings, were above The Law. I would posit that civil society cannot get from there to here without a First Principle that was beyond human manipulation.

My concern for the future of republican government in this age of secularization is the abandonment of First Principles. Progressives believe that man can come up with a better foundation for civil society, but I cannot imagine any situation that would not lead to the elites lording it over the rest of us.

1/15/2008 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

PeterBoston said:

"There is rational lineage between Magna Carta, The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution going back to the Hebrew Bible teaching that no man, including kings, were above The Law."

I suspect that rational lineage comes more from the medieval concept of "kingship through divine right", i.e. The king's authority comes from the Holy Roman Emperor who in turn was crowned by the Pope who's authority came directly from God.

PeterBoston also said:

"The Greeks experimented with democracy (badly at times) but I'm unable to find any support for the conclusion that the Greeks thought that individual political rights should trump tyranny as a matter of first principles."

Their experiments with democracy went badly almost all of time (Athens' democracy failed spectacularly). I remember that Plato wrote about this in the "Republic" but the political system that he described was not a democracy.

The founding principle of democracy should be the "granting of consent by the governed". I believe that was the idea promoted by the American founding fathers (many of whom were deists or agnostics).

1/15/2008 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

I mangled a paragraph in that last post. I should have said:

I remember that Plato wrote about the basis for individual political rights in "The Republic" but the political system that he described was not a democracy. Plato used the word "justice" as the label for "individual political rights".

1/15/2008 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Jewish Odysseus said...

Surely someone here has read Mircea Eliade's works on faith? Contrary to the brilliant "falisfiability" concept of the late great Karl Popper, religious faith is not subject to proof/disproof. Islam will not be reformed by even the most devastating archeological discoveries. It will only be reformed when a critical mass of Muslims are so sickened by what is spreading across the globe in the name of their faith that they demand that certain hideous tenets be ripped out of it. At that time, these archeological facts will then be seized upon to prove the degradation/corruption of the faith over the centuries, thus justifying a Koranic cleansing.

BTW, the Wall Street Journal had a great article on another "lost" Koranic archive in Germany a few days back--reprinted in full at:
http://www.aina.org/news/20080112005654.htm

1/15/2008 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Jewish Odysseus said:

"Surely someone here has read Mircea Eliade's works on faith? Contrary to the brilliant "falisfiability" concept of the late great Karl Popper, religious faith is not subject to proof/disproof."

I haven't read Eliade's book and probably won't. Have you read "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" by Christopher Hitchens? I have to confess that I have not yet read Hitchens book but will one-of-these-days (when I can get a cheap used copy).

Odysseus mentioned Karl Popper and alluded to the business of (blind) faith being the only basis for religion. The problem with this assertion is the removal of any basis for rejecting an obviously false religion, e.g. Mormonism. The Mormon can always claim that his religion is just as valid as the Jew's because both are exercises in blind faith.

As a dictionary-definition agnostic, I reject faith as a basis for religion and assert instead that religion is suceptible to the scientific method. Assuming that our civilization survives long enough, our knowledge of nature will ultimately become sufficiently complete that we will discover either irrefutable evidence that the universe is an artifact -or- a mechanism were the universe was created directly from chaos. It is my own suspicion that BOTH conclusions maybe true, i.e. that our universe is indeed an artifact but the creator of the artifact ultimately came from chaos. This originating "chaos" could be an even more ancient universe/multiverse that became so complex that it was indistinguishable from chaos (this dodges the "first cause" dilemma with creation).

This thread has almost expired so I'll say no more.

1/15/2008 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

In case it isn't clear from the posts that reference the book "The Mormon Murders" you need to be aware that there were several Bombings by forger Mark Hoffman, who had created a number of faked historical documents he fobbed off to Church Authorities as having bearing on the founding of the faith.

The FORGER was the murderer, attempting to forestall his exposure as a criminal fraud. It was not after all, murders by the Church to either suppress documents they regarded as threatening, nor to punish Hoffman for damaging the reputation of the Church of LDS.

On the other hand, so long as the Church elders believed his fakes to be real, they WERE ready to shell out big bucks to grab up documents that might be embarrassing or confusing, to prevent 'em being widely examined.

1/15/2008 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger nmac said...

Eggplant you miss the point. The Old Testament is indeed a mix of tribal history, laws, prophecies, etc. The beauty of it is the way you can see a different understanding of the nature of God, justice, humanity etc. evolving. I am often puzzled by the way that doctrinaire secularists go on endlessly about evolution; and then pointing in horror at the primitive elements of religion e.g. parts of old testament tribal culture. Are we to assume that religious thought is supposed in a fortnight to develop the insights we have now, bequeathed to us by 10,000 years of painful progress--much of it wrought by beneficial religious ideas? (Including the intellectual framework for the development of experimental science)?

Second point: Cutting the Old Testament from scripture is not a new idea: The Gnostics rejected the OT; the church insisted it remain as part of the story of salvation, warts and all. I have to agree about the Koran though. I felt like I was reading a railroad schedule. In fairness though, it reads differently in arabic I understand.

Finally, Charles you perpetrate a myth. The classics were circulating in Europe well before 1400. They were debated in European universities long before. It's my understanding that Cadiz provided some better translations and some 'missing texts'. Rodney Stark discusses aspects of this in 'For the Glory of God'.

Anyway, enjoyed the comments.

1/19/2008 08:24:00 PM  

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