Knowledge of the Hour in The Quran and Aramaic Gospel Traditions

In contrast to the qur’ānic nomenclature of apocalyptic days (see earlier) in which the heavens are cracked, the earth is shaken and people are raised, the “hour” designates the very moment the apocalypse begins. The hour is part of the hidden repertoire of God’s knowledge (al-ghayb) and is known to Him alone (Q 2:30; 6:50, 59; 11:31; 27:65; 53:35). Concerning the hour, it states,

People ask you about the hour (yas’aluk al-nās ‘an al-sā‘ah), say indeed the knowledge concerning it is with God (qul innamā ‘ilmuhā ‘ind allāh). And how would you know that perhaps the hour may be near.(Q 33:63: see also Q 31:34; 41:47; 43:61, 85; 51:12)

This verse is a dogmatic re-articulation of the following verse in the Gospels, “However, about that day and the hour no one knows (‘al yawmā dēyn haw w-‘al šā‘tā hāy anāš lā yāda‘), not even the angels of heaven (āplā malākē da-šmayā),but only the Father (elāābā ba-lhūd)” (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; cf. also Luke 12:46; Diatessaron 42:33–34).

Samir notes the theological relationship between Q 33:63 to its antecedent in the Gospels. More specifically, this verse contains the formula found elsewhere, “they ask you about [X] Say indeed [Y]” (yas’alūnak ‘an . . . qul innamā . . .; Q 2:215) which matches: (A) Jesus’s words in Thomas 52, “if they say to you . . . say to them;” (B) the rhetorical style of Jesus’s speech throughout the Gospels, “truly I say to you” (amīn ēmar lak [ūn]; see Chapter 1); and—more broadly—(C) the didactic style of the Jewish haggadah.

It follows, therefore, that the use of dēyn in Aramaic, meaning “but, however,” is preserved in Arabic innamā, “indeed, verily.” However, concerning the “hour” (al-sā‘ah; šā‘tā) the inclusion of “people” (al-nās) in Q 33:63 reflects the fact stated in the Gospel passage, namely that “no one knows” (anāš lā yāda‘). Furthermore, in keeping with the vision of strict monotheism espoused by Muhammad, the “Father” (ābā) has been transformed to the impersonal “God” (allāh). One final point is that the Gospel passage reveals that the angels too lack the knowledge of the hour, which is an idea reflected else-where in the Qur’ān (Q 2:30–31).

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