Sunday 2 April 2023

A fairytale that has nothing to do with Scotland. Part 6

Part 5

Once upon a time there was born a woman called Maryam bint Imran and she was the older sister of Hārūn ibn ʿImrān and Mūsā ibn ʿImrān.

Unfortunately, Mūsā grew up at a time and place where the Egyptians were concerned about too many Jewish children growing up. So, Mūsā was put in a basket and left in the bullrushes.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it.  She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. Exodus 2 5-6

This story was repeated for hundreds of years but came out rather differently.

Pharaoh’s wife said ˹to him˺, “˹This baby is˺ a source of joy for me and you. Do not kill him. Perhaps he may be useful to us or we may adopt him as a son.” They were unaware ˹of what was to come˺. Al-Qasas 9.

So, was it a sister or a wife that found Mūsā? Well, this depends on whether you think Exodus comes before Al-Qasas?

We know that Moses if he was indeed an historical figure lived around 1300 BC. While Al-Qasas gave us the story of Mūsā sometime after AD 610. But it may be that God knew the contents of the Quran from the beginning of time and therefore although the Old Testament story of Moses was written more than 2000 years earlier that it is the Old Testament that is mistaken.

Approximately 1300 years after Mūsā was found in the rushes, we discover that Maryam still has a brother called Hārūn

O sister of Aaron! Your father was not an indecent man, nor was your mother unchaste.” Maryam 28.

She is also still Maryam bint Imran i.e., the daughter of Imran, but gives birth to Jesus or Īsā ibn Maryam.

It is no doubt the case that names like Imran can be common, and it may be perfectly possible to have a brother called Hārūn too. But it might equally well be that someone made a mistake.

There is no mention of Aaron in the New Testament being Mary’s brother, nor is there any mention of her father being called anything like Imran. Again, it is likely that the New Testament was somehow corrupted.

When Īsā ibn Maryam is born something unexpected happens for those of us who unfortunately only know the New Testament version.

So she pointed to the baby. They exclaimed, “How can we talk to someone who is an infant in the cradle?”

˹Jesus˺ declared, “I am truly a servant of Allah. He has destined me to be given the Scripture and to be a prophet. Maryam 29-30.

There is no mention of Jesus speaking when he was born in the New Testament, but interestingly there is in the apocryphal Syriac Infancy Gospel also known as the Arabic Infancy Gospel we have the following verse.

He has said that Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world. Verse 2.

Now it could be that the canonical Gospels were not always available in Arabia, but that an apocryphal gospel was more well known, but of course it is far more likely that the New Testament canon was mistaken in omitting Jesus speaking.

There is also the following story which does not appear in the New Testament.

[The Day] when Allāh will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, remember My favor upon you and upon your mother when I supported you with the Pure Spirit [i.e., the angel Gabriel] and you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and [remember] when I taught you writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and when you designed from clay [what was] like the form of a bird with My permission, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird with My permission. Al-Ma'idah 110.

This is similar to the apocryphal The Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

And having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did these things (or made them). And there were also many other little children playing with him.

There is usually a very good reason why apocryphal gospels were rejected by the early church. The main one was that they were written sometimes hundreds of years after Jesus died, but also because they had events that were fantastic and resembling a fairy-tale. 

Of course, if the Quran predates the New Testament because it always was and was merely revealed, then it might be that the New Testament is at fault for omitting Jesus speaking as a baby and making clay sparrows fly. But then we have to wonder how the author of The Infancy Gospel of Thomas knew what was going to be revealed to the Prophet in advance.

Maryam is not merely the brother of Hārūn and Mūsā and 1300 years later rather like a female Methuselah or Mattūshalakh gives birth to Jesus. She also turns out to be a one part of the Trinity.

And imagine when thereafter Allah will say: 'Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people: "Take me and my mother for gods beside Allah?" and he will answer: "Glory to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right to. Had I said so, You would surely have known it. Al-Ma'idah 116.

This is confusing indeed for the Christian. There have been times when Mary the Blessed Virgin has been treated as someone more perfect than a human being could be, but no Christian in the history of Christianity has thought that she was part of the Trinity.

But of course, it must be the New Testament that is confused about the Holy Spirit and the polytheism inherent in Christianity where God, Mary and Jesus are all Gods. Why else would Jesus on the cross say “Father, father why have you forsaken me?” rather than “Myself myself why have I forsaken myself?

But the Quran struggles rather with the concept of the Holy Spirt. No doubt because it is a sort of polytheism that ought not to be thought about.

And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, "O Children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allāh to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Aḥmad."

This is taken to mean that the New Testament predicts the coming of the Prophet and that he would be called Ahmad.

When Jesus in his final discourse with his disciples says

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; John 14:16.

He is not describing a person, let alone a person called Ahmad. He is describing the Holy Spirit that is not according to Christians a third God, but rather one God that is also three in a way that surpasses human understanding in the same way that God becoming man, being both fully man and fully God, surpasses human understanding. But naturally the Quran knows best because it came first, long before both the Old and New Testaments even if it also came afterwards. Which likewise defies all human understanding.

So, we are left with Maryam, Mūsā and Hārūn stuck in the Sinai desert waiting to enter the promised land, but we know that neither Moses nor Aaron reached the promised land so how did Maryam reach Bayt Laḥm in order to give birth to Īsā ibn Maryam and if she did get there how did it take her 1300 years to do so?

I admire Muslims who during Ramadan can get up before dawn to have a last meal and last drink of water until it gets dark again. I can barely go an hour without a cup of coffee. But then if I were to do so I would with the greatest respect require an explanation for clay birds flying, infants speaking, and a book written sometime after 610 AD somehow being independent and prior to the sources from which it derives much of its material.

The point when I began this story was to reach here.

The end. 

Part 7