The Divine Realm In The Quran And The Aramaic Gospel Traditions

In addition to condemning the evils of the clergy and favoring the prophets and their righteous entourage, the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions expound upon another central teaching of Near Eastern prophetic tradition, that is the divine realm. Concerning this subject, the language, imagery, symbolism, and rhetorical schemes of both scriptures form another unit within which there is strong dialogue. This chapter will deal with aspects of: divine kingdom and majesty; light and word; and finally mercy and forgiveness.

Divine Kingdom and Majesty

Generally speaking, “divine kingdom” does not designate a physical or worldly realm but rather a non-physical, otherworldly realm or state of mind. First we look at the meaning and use of the word for kingdom in the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions.

Kingdom: malakūt and malkūtā

The Aramaic word malkūtā, meaning “kingdom, sovereignty or reign,” is used numerous times in the Gospels—approximately 120 total in total and 56 times in the Gospel of Matthew alone. Virtually all instances of the word refer in some manner to the divine kingdom ushered in by Jesus. This divine kingdom has two names in Aramaic: the “kingdom of heaven” (malkūtā da-šmayā) and the “kingdom of God” (malkūtā d-alāhā). Unlike the other Gospels Matthew uses the latter much more sparingly as it occurs only five times (Matthew 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31; 21:43). This may be ascribed to the author’s Jewish sensibilities and his subsequent reluctance to overuse the word for God (alāhā). Thus, to the author of Matthew, “heaven” is a metaphor for “God.”

In the Gospels more generally, however, with a handful of exceptions wherein malkūtārefers to the fractious (Matthew 12:25–26; Mark 13:8; Luke 11:17–18; 21:10) and evil kingdoms (Mark 6:23; Luke 4:5) of men, “kingdom” appears almost exclusively in conjunction with the divine, whether it be God directly or heaven as an alternate divine metaphor. This understanding of kingdom is also adopted by later Syriac Christian authors. The meaning of malkūtāin the Odes may be construed, depending on the author’s original intent, as a heavenly or apocalyptic kingdom. This duality in meaning may be informed by the Gospels wherein Jesus shares the warning at the very heart of his prophetic tradition, “repent (tūbū), for the kingdom of heaven (malkūtā da-šmayā) has approached!” (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15) The apocalyptic dimension of this verse is dealt with in Chapter. At any rate, like the Gospels the Qur’ān has much to say about divine kingdom.

The phrase, “the kingdom of the heavens and the earth” (malakūt al-samāwāt wa al-ard.) occurs twice in the Qur’ān. It occurs once—perhaps in dialogue with Apocalypse of Abraham 5—when God finally reveals his kingdom to Abraham as he searches amid the constellations of the night sky, stating,

And thus do We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth (malakūt al-samāwāt wa al-ard.) that he might be among those assured (Q 6:75)

Elsewhere it is used when condemning the doubting members of Muhammad’s audience, stating,

  • And as for those who reject Our sings (ayātunā), We shall apprehend them from whence they do not know. And I will [even] dictate to them; indeed my scheming is strong. Have they not reflected? Their companion is not possessed (jinnah). He is, rather, but a clear warner (nadhīr mubīn). Have they not looked into the king-dom of the heavens and the earth (malakūt al-samāwāt wa al-ard.) and everything which God created, and that perhaps their fate has come near? So, in which speech (h.adīth) after it [the Qur’ān?] will they believe? (Q 7:182–185).

Related to this is the phrase “the kingdom of all things” (malakūt kull shay’) used in passages portraying God’s limitless power (Q 23:88) and glorifying His sovereignty (Q 36:83). As in the Gospels, the notion of kingdom in these qur’ānic verses is divine kingdom.

However, unlike malakūt which denotes divine kingdom, the qur’ānic term mulk can be associated with either divine or human kingdoms (See also Q 2:247; 43:51). The word mulk occurs 38 times in the Qur’ān with a range of meanings, at least one of which coincides with that of qur’ānic malakūt, and ultimately Mat-thew’s malkūtā. This is especially evident in qur’ānic passages in which the fairly common phrase “kingdom of the heavens and the earth” (mulk al-samāwāt wa alard.) occurs and which portray God’s limitless power (qudrah) to do with mankind as He pleases and—correspondingly—mankind’s utter helplessness without Him (Q 2:107; 5:40; 5:120; 9:116; etc). The early Muslim exegetes were correct in such instances to equate malakūt with the Arabic infinitive mulk, in so far as both terms refer to creation (khalq).

The Arabic word malakūt is clearly derived from the Aramaic construct nounmalkūt. The consonantal skeleton mlkt attested in ancient north Arabian inscriptions while philologically related to the qur’ānic malakūt, is less likely its predecessor. Rabin argues that the word, and all Arabic words with suffix-ūt, are an archaic absolute state preserved in the Aramaic dialect of the Hijāzī Jews in Arabia. In passing, Lüling asserts that the unification of the ummah by the Arabs in the 7th century was the implementation of “the kingdom of God on earth,”an intriguing explanation but one that assumes—as Lüling does—that the Arabian context in which the Qur’ān’s was revealed was a full-fledged Christian one. Katsh argues, given the volume of Rabbinic teachings in the Qur’ān, that the word is related to the language of the Midrash. While these diverse scholarly opinions exhibits the challenge of understanding the Qur’ān’s complex milieu and its sectarian nature, more likely is Mingana’s conclusion that the Qur’ān’s adoption of the word for kingdom (malakūt) comes explicitly from Matthew’s “kingdom of heaven.”

In addition, the expression [X] al-samāwāt wa al-ard. is a frequent qur’ānic formula whose function is to address, describe or demonstrate the sovereignty of God and—more importantly—embody divine kingdom. This is exemplified, for instance in “Lord of the Heavens and the Earth” (rabb al-samāwāt wa al-ard.;Q 13:16; 44:7; 78:43; etc), which Kropp considers the “Muslim answer to the Nicene Creed.” Likewise in the Gospels, when speaking about God as the master of divine kingdom, Jesus explicitly includes the earth in the formula, “Lord of heaven and earth” (mārā da-šmāyā wa d-ar‘ā; Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; Diatessaron 15:37; cf. Acts 17:24; see Chapter 3). The qur’ānic formula cited earlier and corresponding formulae from the Aramaic Gospel Traditions were likely inspired by Hebrew scripture. This is most evident in NRSV of Psalms 89:12 for example where it states, “The heavens (šāmayīm) are yours; the earth (ārēs.) also is yours; the world and all that is in it—you have founded them” (cf. also Psalms 108:5; 135:6; Deuteronomy 10:14).

It remains striking that in the qur’ānic articulation of divine kingdom the heavens are always accompanied by the earth, whereas Matthew excludes the latter (save for Matthew 11:25 which references “Lord of heaven and earth”). One could speculate as to why this Gospel’s vision of divine kingdom does not, like Hebrew Scripture before it, closely incorporate the earth into this vision.

It is certainly plausible that Matthew’s Gospel agrees with the new Christocentric vision illustrated in John’s Gospel wherein Jesus states, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36; Diatessaron 49:53). By re-incorporating the earth, while making explicit the gulf between the heavenly world of God and the earthly world of men, the Qur’ān emphasizes a strict monotheistic vision emerging from Hebrew Scripture and dogmatically re-articulates the very concept of divine kingdom found in the Aramaic Gospels. Thus, the purpose of Matthew’s kingdom of heaven is to designate a religious community on earth such as a church, or at least the symbolic heavenly authority over such a community.

Divine kingdom in the Qur’ān, on the other hand, represents the manifestation of God’s absolute sovereignty, limitless power, and supreme authority. Hence, it also lacks the immediate apocalyptic connotation of divine kingdom found in the Gospels. Therefore, while Matthew’s malkūtā da-šmāyāand the Qur’ān’s malakūt al-samāwāt wa al-ard.are philologically and syntactically related, they serve two relatively different purposes.

Finally, concerning the kingdom of God, Jesus introduces the parable of the mustard seed (see later discussion) in Mark’s Gospel, stating, “what is like the kingdom of God and with what parable can it be compared” (wa b-aynā matlānamtlīh; Mark 4:30). There is evidence that the Qur’ān dogmatically re-articulated this verse and perceives the kingdom of God here as a reference to paradise. For it introduces the portrayal of the luxuries in paradise stating, “the likeness/parable of the paradise promised to the conscious ones” (mathal al-jannah al-latī wu‘id al-muttaqūn; Q 13:35; 47:15). Although the content of the parables between both verses is different, it is clear that Q 13:35; 47:15 is in dialogue with the many parables of the kingdom of God/Heaven in the Gospels (cf. further Matthew 13:24; Mark 4:26; Luke 13:18, 20; and so on).

Keys to the Kingdom: maqālīd, qlīdā and kleis

In another verse found in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his chief disciple Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (lak ētal qlīdē/iqlīdē d-malkūtā da-šmāyā; Matthew 16:19; Diatessaron 23:38).

It is, moreover, not uncommon in the Christian literature of late antique Near East for keys—wherein the Aramaic absolute noun qlīd or iqlīd comes from Greek kleis—to symbolize the “binding and loosening . . . of legal or moral authority.” Similarly, elsewhere in the New Testament and Apocrypha, we find reference to “keys of knowledge” (Luke 11:52; Diatessaron 40:44; cf. Thomas 39), the Son of man’s possession of the “keys of hell and death” (Revelation 1:18), the “key of David” (Revelation 3:7), and so on. However, the use of keys as a metaphor of authority, established in Matthew, is carried on in Syriac Christian literature by prolific fourth-century Syriac authors like Aphrahat and Ephrem. The effect of this metaphor was far reaching and it circulated in the Qur’ān’s milieu. For it states about God, “he possesses the keys of the heavens and the earth” (lah maqālīd al-samāwāt wa al-ard.; Q 39:63; 42:12).

Classical exegetes and modern scholars agree that maqālīd is an Arabic broken plural of iqlīd, meaning key. By using the word maqālīd, as opposed to the standard Arabic word for keys, mafātih./īh cited in Q 28:76 and Diatessaron 23:38; 40:44, the qur’ānic verse is appropriating Matthew’s notion of “keys to the kingdom of heaven,” but transforming the more exclusivist Christian interpretation of “heaven” to the more inclusivist qur’ānic formula, “the heavens and the earth.” This also explains the difference in meaning between both usages. In Matthew, the verse explicitly entrusts divine authority—symbolized by keys—to a man, the disciple Peter, who was to become the foundation of the Christian Church (Matthew 16:18). The Qur’ān, in contrast, dogmatically re-articulates this profoundly Christian conception to reflect a stricter monotheistic one. It never explicitly grants the intermediacy of divine authority to any human being, but rather keeps it with God alone (cf. Qur’ān 55:33 vs. Matthew 28:18).

Giving Up the Kingdom to Another Nation

After the prophetic tidings and warnings of the Surah entitled “Muhammad,” Q 47 concludes criticizing the stingier members of Muhammad’s community—not unlike the Pharisees—for failing to give charity “in the way of God,” which is a dogmatic re-articulation of the sacrificial works done “for the sake of” Jesus in the Gospels (see Chapter 4). The verse concludes, stating,

So whoever is stingy (man yabkhal) is, indeed, stingy against his own soul. And God is wealthy and you are poor. And if you turn away, He will substitute a nation other than you (yastabdil qawman ghayrakum), and they will not be like you (thumma lam yakūnū amthālakum).(Q 47:38)

We have already examined how the abuse of charity is an issue of central importance to the ethics of the Qur’ān as well as the Gospels. What this verse adds is that the abuse of charity will cause God to dispose of a formerly favored nation with a newly chosen one. This idea is a dogmatic re-articulation of Jesus’s words in the Gospels as he attacks the Pharisees, stating, “The kingdom of God will be taken from you (tēštqēl mēnkun malkūtā d-alāhā) and given to a nation that will bear fruit (wa tētyahb l-‘ammā da-‘bad pīrē)” (Matthew 21:43; Diatessaron 33:57–58; cf. Thomas 41).

The Aramaic verbs tēštqēl, “it will be taken,” and tētyahb, “it will be given,” are subsumed in the Arabic verb yastabdil, meaning, “He will substitute.” Furthermore, the words for nation, qawm and‘ammā, are taken in parallel. Although the qur’ānic verse makes general reference to a people being substituted and does not explicitly mention that “the kingdom of God will be taken from you,” there is another reason to argue for a relationship between both passages. This is, namely, the reference in Matthew to “a nation that will bear fruit” (above) which is likely a reference to the “fruits that will be worthy of grace,” and that will spring forth from stones and replace the Jews as the children of Abraham (Luke 3:8). This conceptualization is dogmatically re-articulated in the qur’ānic portrayal of Abraham’s descendents who were rewarded for their gratefulness with fruits (Q 14:37; see Chapter 2).

Inheritance

Fruits are not the only manifestation of divine reward for the prophets and their righteous entourage in both the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions. So too do they inherit the divine realm which God has promised them. This realm may be of heavenly or earthly provenance. Amid the apocalyptic, prophetic passages at the end of Q 21, entitled “the Prophets” (al-anbiyā’), is a verse whose language emanates from the Aramaic Gospels and whose content is inspired by the Hebrew Bible. Thus it states, “And We have written in the Psalms (al-zabūr), after the [Hebrew?] scriptures (al-dhikr), that the earth will be inherited by my righteous servants (al-ard yarithuhā ‘ibādī al-sālihūn)”(Q 21:105).

There is no denying that this qur’ānic verse is in dialogue with the Psalms that state, “but the humble/poor shall inherit the land (Hebrew w-‘ēnawīm yēršūāra‘; Jewish Aramaic w-‘aynwātnīn yērtūn ar‘ā; Syriac w-mēskīnē yartīn ar‘ā), and delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalms 37:11 JPS; cf. Psalms 2:8; 37:9; 82:8; Q 25:63). However, when considered alongside qur’ānic verses (see later discussion) the articulation of Q 21:105 is most in line with corresponding verses from Matthew.

One of these comes from the Beatitudes as it states, “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (t.ūbayhūn la-mkīkā d-hānūn nērtūn l-ar‘ā; Matthew 5:5). The Arabic phrase al-ard.a yarithuhāmatches the Aramaic nērtūn l-ar‘āin both syntax and meaning; both are composed of the third person masculine plural imperfect verb of the D stem from the root y-r-t, “to inherit,” where the Arabic non-human plural pronominal suffix, hā, follows yarithuhāas it refers to the subject “my servants” (‘ibādī). This verb is adjoined to the standard noun for the earth in the accusative, al-arda and l-ar‘ā, where Aramaic ‘ regularly corresponds to Arabic d.. The subject of both verbs, too, may be taken as lexically equivalent as the relationship between the “meek” (mkīkā) and the “righteous” (al-s.ālih.ūn) has been established in Chapter 3.

The other verse from Matthew that relates to Q 21:105 takes place on the Day of Judgment when Jesus—who in this case is portrayed as a divinely sanctioned judge—extols the virtues of those at his right hand and rewards them (see Chapter 6), stating, “Then the king will say to those at His right hand, come (taw), you the blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you (īratū malkūtāda-‘tīdā/mt.ībā) from the beginning of the world” (Matthew 25:34; Diatessaron 43:46).

While this verse employs the masculine plural imperative verb of the D-stem from the root y-r-t, “to inherit,” it is the kingdom of heaven which is inherited, not the earth. Still this portrayal of divine kingdom has the added feature of resembling the paradise of the Qur’ān (Q 7:49; 56:27–31, 90–91; cf. Matthew 26:29). This is especially the case with scenes in the Qur’ān where God invites the righteous into paradise stating, “enter paradise” (udkhulū al-jannah; Q 7:49; 16:32; 36:26; 43:70), where the Arabic udkhulū, “enter” and Aramaic taw, “come,” are imperatives taken in parallel.

A final point concerning inheritance as a divine reward is that the other Gospels mention neither the inheritance of earth nor kingdom. However, the questions of Jesus’s audience members asking how they “can inherit eternal life” (d-īrat h.ayē da-l-‘ālmā; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25; 18:18; Diatessaron 29:10) may demonstrate the linguistic association of the root y-r-t, “to inherit” with “until eternity” (l-yawmāt ‘ālmā), found in earlier pagan Aramaean or Arabian will-testimonies left by kings and nobles for their heirs which were written in the Syriac dialect.

The Mustard Seed

In the Gospels, Jesus’s inquiring audience asks to what can they compare the kingdom of God/heaven (see earlier discussion). Jesus replies,

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed (damyā malkūtā da-šmayā la-frēdtā d-hardlā) . . . it is smaller than all seeds, but when it grows it is greater than all shrubs and it becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and make nests in its branches.

(Matthew 13:31–32: cf. Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19; Diatessaron 17:10–12)

Later Jesus advises his audience,

For truly I say to you, if there be within you faith like a mustard seed (haymānūtā ayk frēdtā d-hardlā), you could say to this mountain, “move from here,” and it would move, and nothing would prevail over you.(Matthew 17:20: cf. Luke 17:6; Diatessaron 24:46)

In the former passage, the kingdom of heaven is a spiritual, non-physical entity. In conjunction with the latter verse, the kingdom of heaven represents a party of the faithful. The mustard seed embodies membership in divine kingdom and, more importantly, the very core of faith that grows and prospers. In other words, it represents a small investment with large gains, towards which new members will flock and empower the group with the strength to move mountains.

In the Qur’ān however, the mustard seed is dogmatically re-articulated to signify the absolute, microscopic reach of God’s justice. It states,

We shall set up the just scales for the Day of Judgment, and no soul will be wronged at all, and if there were the weight of a mustard seed (mithqāl habbah min khardal) We would bring it; and enough are We as a jury.(Q 21:47)

The second occurrence of the phrase occurs as the prophet Luqmān advises his son, “If there were the weight of a mustard seed (mithqāl habbah min khardal) within in a rock, or in the heavens or in the earth, God would bring it; verily God is sublime and informed” (Q 31:16; Cf. 10:61; 34:3; cf. Jubilees 5:14). These pronouncements are in line with similar statements in the Qur’ān proclaiming that, “indeed, God does not wrong the weight of an atom” (inna allāh lā yazlim mithqāl dharrah; Q 4:40; cf. 34:22; 99:7–8). The phrases habbah min khardal is inspired by frēdtā d-khardlā, where the noun habbah is a calque forfrēdtā, and where Arabic khardal comes from Aramaic hardlā.

God’s Throne

Shifting our attention slightly from divine kingdom, the royal majesty of God is a motif shared by Hebrew Scripture (Psalms 9:7–8; 11:4; 45:6–7; 47:8–9; 93:2; 97:2; Isaiah 66:1–6; Jeremiah 3:17), Rabbinic commentary (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5),Christian Scripture (Matthew 5:34; 19:28; 23:22; 25:31; Acts 7:4; Hebrews 1:8; 4:16; 8:1; cf. also Revelation 3:21; 4:1–10; 7:10; 19–22), the poetry of Umayyah b. Abī al-Salt and the Qur’ān (Q 2:255). While the Qur’ān’s notion of God’s throne is probably informed by the entirety of this intertextual chain, its form and context are a dogmatic re-articulation of the corresponding passages in Matthew’s Gospel in Aramaic, which warn about the gravity of swearing by heaven. Thus Jesus teaches,

Again, you have heard that it was said to the ancients, “you should not lie in your oath, but carry out your oath to the Lord.” But I say to you, “you should not swear at all, neither by heaven because it is the throne of God (lā ba-šmayād-kūrsyā hū d-alāhā), nor by the earth because it is the footstool beneath his feet (wa lā b-ar‘ā d-kūbšā hī da-th.ēt rēgalūhī), nor by Jerusalem because it is the city of the great king (āplā b-ūrīšlem da-mdīnteh hī d-malkā rabā).(Matthew 5:33–35; Diatessaron 9:1–4)

Jesus further reprimands the wicked Pharisees and teaches that swearing by a sacred object entails swearing by all the holiness which lay within it, stating,

So, whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything that is upon it; and whoever swears by the Temple, swears by it and by He who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven (man d-yamē ba-šmayā), swears by the throne of God and by He who sits upon it (yamē b-kūrsyēh/maytūbītēhd-alāhā wa b-man l-‘ēl mēnēh).(Matthew 23:20–22; Diatessaron 40:48–52: cf. 2 Chronicles 9:18; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:49)

The relationship between the Qur’ān’s teachings of swearing an oath and those found in the Gospels have been discussed in Chapter 3. Concerning the “throne of God,” the Qur’ān states,

God, there is no god but He. He is not seized by aging nor sleep. To Him belong that which is in the Heavens and that which is in the earth. Who is the one who can show abundance before Him except with his permission? He knows that which is before them and that which is behind them. And they do not encompass any part of His knowledge except that which he wills. His throne occupies the heavens and the earth (wasi‘ kursiyuh al-samāwāt wa al-ard). Nor does preserving them encumber Him, and He is the high, the great.(Q 2:255)

The imagery of God’s throne is nothing less than an affirmation of the imagery in Matthew, “you should not swear at all, neither by heaven because it is the throne of God (lā ba-šmayā d-kūrsyā hū d-alāhā), nor by the earth because it is the footstool beneath his feet (wa lā b-ar‘ā d-kūbšā hī da-thēt rēgalūhī),” which is itself inherited from Hebrew Scripture. Since Matthew teaches that God’s throne is in heaven and Hisfootstool—perhaps too anthropomorphic to be adopted by the Qur’ān—is on earth, it follows then that “His throne occupies the heavens and the earth (wasi‘ kursiyuh al-samāwāt wa al-ard).” In sum, Q 2:255 is in dialogue with 2 Chronicles 9:18; Isaiah 66:1, but mediated through Matthew’s reformulation of those verses.Divine kingdom is a central teaching of both the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospels. The former’s emphasis on strict monotheism, as well as the historical circumstances surrounding Muhammad’s early Muslim community, explain why aspects of “the keys of the kingdom,” the symbol of “the mustard seed” and “God’s throne” (among others) were dogmatically re-articulated from Matthew’s Gospel especially.

Light and Word

The use of Light to signify divine kingdom, guidance, or the forces of good probably originates with the ancient astrological infatuation with the illuminating, life-giving powers of the sun. This notion of light is fairly common to the Semitic, Iranian, and Hellenic prophetic traditions of the late antique Near East, not least because Zoroastrian dualism and Neoplatonic impulses exercised great influence on Christian theology. So too did the principle of Greek philosophical discourse known as “word, speech or reason” (logos) exercise great influence on Christian theology. These metaphors—light and word—were also part and parcel of the Qur’ān’s milieu and were informed by the Aramaic Gospel Traditions.

The Light of the World

The famous ‘lamp-light verse’ of the Qur’ān states,

God is the light of the heavens and the earth (allāh nūr al-samāwāt wa al-ard). The likeness of His light (mathal nūrih) is like a niche (mishkāh) within which is a lamp (mis.bāh.). The lamp is within a glass. The glass is as though it were a brilliant constellation, kindled (tūwqad.) by a blessed olive tree, [which lay] neither east nor west. Its oil illuminates (tad.ī’) without being touched by fire (nār), light upon light (nūr ‘alā nūr). God guides to His light whoever he wills, and God puts forth parables for people; and God is about all things knowing. (Q 24:35)

Immediately following the lamp-light verse, it states,

[the lamp shines] within buildings (buyūt) which God has allowed to be erected and in which His Name is commemorated. Therein He is glorified (yusabbah) mornings and evenings—by men who are not distracted by trade or selling from the remembrance of God, nor from establishing prayer or giving charity.(Q 24:36)

Light as a metaphor, which plays an important role in the Qur’ān was common in late antique Near Eastern prophetic tradition. It informs the Gnostic sensibilities found in Sabian-Mandaean prophetology (Gēnzā RbāR4) and is even attested in jāhilīpoetry. However, this verse is more specifically a dogmatic re-articulation of those in the Aramaic Gospels. Jesus proclaims to his poor and downtrodden followers in the “sermon on the mount,”

You are the light of the world (antūn ēnūn nūhrēh d-‘ālmā). It is not possible to hide a city built on a mountain. They do not light a lamp (šrāgā) and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand (mnārtā), and it illuminates every-thing (manhar l-kūl aylēn) that is in the house. Like this, let your light shine (nēnhar nūhrkūn) before people that they may see your deeds (‘bādaykūn) and glorify (nšabhūn) your Father who is in heaven.(Matthew 5:14–16; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; 11:33; Diatessaron 8:41–43)

Similarly, in the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims on the Mount of Olives challenging the Pharisees, stating, “I am the light of the world (ēnāēnā nūhrēh d-‘ālmā). Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will find for himself the light of life (nūhrā d-hayē)” John 8:1 = 8:12 NRSV; Diatessaron 35:23–24).

Later, just before healing a blind man, Jesus states, “I must do the work of He who sent me while it is daytime; nighttime is coming when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (nūhrēh d-‘ālmāēnā)” John 9:5; Diatessaron 36:13–14; cf. in relation Q 30:57; Gēnzā RbāR5:174–6).

Concerning Q 24:35, unlike the passages from Matthew and John where Jesus proclaims himself and his followers to be the light of the world—which is expounded upon by Aphrahat—Muhammad’s anti-trinitarian sensibilities and his vision of strict monotheism found the proximity of mankind with the divine manifestation—light—to be problematic. So, the statement “you are the light of the world” (antūn ēnūn nūhrēh d-‘ālmā) or “I am the light of the world” (ēnāēnānūhrēh d-‘ālmā; nūhrēh d-‘ālmāēnā) is dogmatically re-articulated replacing the pronouns “I” and “you” with God. Thus, “God is the light of the heavens and the earth” (allāh nūr al-samāwāt wa al-ard). By claiming that the semblance of God’s light is that of a “lamp” (misbāh) within a glass within a “niche” (mishkāh), like a brilliant constellation whose oil “illuminates” (tad.ī’) . . . “light upon light” (nūr ‘alā nūr), the lamp-light verse is reusing the language and imagery of Matthew’s “lamp” (šrāgā) placed on a “lampstand” (mnārtā), and which “illuminates everything” (manhar l-kūl aylēn). The singular nouns mis.bāh.and mishkāh—are calques for šrāgāand mnārtā. Furthermore the Arabic verb tad.ī’, “it illuminates” fulfills the function of the Aramaic active participle manhar, “it illuminates/is illuminating.” So too does the Arabic root n-w-r (as in nūr) correspond in meaning to Aramaic n-h-r (as in nūhrā/ēh, manhar, nēnhar, and so on).

Concerning Q 24:36, that God “is glorified (yusabbah) mornings and evenings—by men who are not distracted by trade or selling from the remembrance of God, nor from establishing prayer or giving charity” is a dogmatic re-articulation of “let your light shine (nēnhar) before people that they may see your deeds (‘bādaykūn) and glorify (nšabhūn) your Father who is in heaven” in Matthew 5:16 (see earlier). Not only is the same verb used to express glorifying God (sab-bah., šabah; see earlier) but it has been argued earlier that the Aramaic plural noun ‘bādē(from‘bādaykūn, “your deeds”), like Arabic ‘ibādāt is the normative word for deeds in both scriptures, including prayer and giving charity (see Chapter 3).

In addition, the “buildings” (buyūt) spoken of in Q 24:36 may well have been churches as Trimingham suggests, or perhaps given the tenets of remembrance, morning and nightly prayer (vigils?), and charity, some other Judeo-Christian house of worship (Luke 13:35). Furthermore, in 2 Samuel 7: 13, 26; 22:51 “the house for God’s name” is established to forever bless David’s kingdom which is a divine kingdom mandated by God unto Israel and inherited by Jesus—who is the heir of David—in the Gospels.

The statement “let your light shine (nēnhar) before people that they may see your deeds (‘bādaykūn) and glorify (nšabhūn) your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16; see earlier) has two implications. One is that as the kingdom of heaven/God approaches, Jesus’s poor and downtrodden followers, who were oppressed by the hypocritical deeds of the Pharisees and Rabbinic authorities of their day (Matthew 23:5–8; Mark 12:38–44; Luke 20:46–47; 21:1–4; see Chapter 4), will finally have the opportunity to openly share their good deeds and glorify the Father, which bring us to the missionary dimension of this language. That Jesus’s followers should “let their light shine before people, show their deeds and glorify the Father” is likely a missionary proclamation, one that is picked up by the Qur’ān as it condemns those who belied the prophet Jesus. More specifically, they are condemned for rejecting their prophet’s call (da‘wah) to the prophet Ah.mad and the religion of Islam (Q 61:6–7), stating, “They want to extinguish the light of God (nūr allāh) with their mouths, yet God will fulfill his light (nūrih) even to the hatred of the rebellious ones” (Q 61:8; cf. 9:32).

The “light of God” (nūr allāh)—which is an emendation of Matthew’s “your light” (nūhrkūn)—represents the expansion of the faith, and which is obstructed by “their mouths”—originally those of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:34; 15:11–18; Luke 6:45)—but fulfilled nonetheless.

And so in sum, the Arabic text of Q 2:35–36 and Q 61:6–8 dogmatically re-articulates the Aramaic text of Matthew 5:14–16; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; 11:33 and John 8:1; 9:5 insofar as it: reclaims the metaphor of light—which is one manifestation of divine kingdom and proselytism—from the human realm to the divine realm; employs the imagery of the illuminating lamp; mentions the glorification of men who perform good deeds, especially prayer and giving charity; and illustrates the spread of the faith.

The Lamp

The “lamp” (šrāgā) is a symbol that appears in a number of uplifting passages found in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions. The symbol of the lamp is also found in the Talmud, the work of Clement of Rome (d. ca. 101 CE) and Ephrem’s commentary on Genesis. The symbol of the lamp is, in turn, incorporated into verses of the Qur’ān. Thus, the Qur’ān speaks of a “lamp” (sirāj) among the constellations (Q 25:61; 71:16; 78:13). It further states,

O you who believe, commemorate God in frequent remembrance. And glorify Him morning and night. He is the One who prays over you, and his angels, in order to take you out of dark places into light (li yukhrijakum min al-zulumāt ilā al-nūr). And he is to the believers benevolent . . . O you prophet [Muhammad], we have sent you as a witness (shāhidan), a giver of good news (mubashshiran) and a warner (nadhīran), and a missionary towards God with his permission (wa dā‘iyan ilā allāh bi idhnih), and an illuminating lamp (wa sirājan munīran).(Q 33:41–46)

This verse bestows upon Muhammad the duties of being a prophet. These duties are to be a “witness (shāhidan), a giver of good news (mubashishiran) and a warner (nadhīran), and a missionary towards God with his permission (wa dā‘iyan ilā allāh bi idhnih)”—which emanate from a strong dialogue with the Aramaic Gospels (see earlier discussion and Chapter 3)—and finally an “illuminating lamp (wa sirājan munīran),” where both the singular noun sirāj and active participle munīr come from the Aramaic sphere. This reference to the prophet Muhammad is unique. For, while the Qur’ān demonstrates how the “lamp” (misbāh) is part of the divine realm (Q 24:35), the “lamp” (sirāj) is identified—as in the Gospels—with the human realm. What could account for this apparent break in the strict monotheistic vision of espoused by Muhammad and manifested in the Qur’ān? The answer liesin the Gospel of John wherein Jesus honors the deceased John the Baptist, stating, “He was a lamp that burned and illuminated (srāgā hwā d-dālēq wa manhar), and you wanted to boast for an hour in his light (b-nūhrēh). But I have a testimony (sāhdūtā) greater than John’s” (John 5:35–36; Diatessaron 22:43–44).

The phrase, “he was a lamp that burned and illuminated (srāgā hwā d-dālēq wa manhar)” is dogmatically re-articulated by Q 33:46 as “an illuminating lamp (sirājan munīran).” Furthermore, Jesus’s greater “testimony” (sāhdūtā) is preserved by the prophet Muhammad who is “a warner” (shāhidan), where the Arabic active participle shāhid (from sh-h-d) is informed by the Aramaic noun sāhdūtā(from the root s-h-d; see Chapter 6).

The Word: kalimah, meltāand logos

The Gospel of John’s content and literary style are distinct from those of the Synoptic Gospels. One of the salient features present in John is the theological conception of the “word” inherited from the wisdom literature of Hebrew Scripture, and which comes at the very start of the Gospel, “In the beginning was the word (mēltā), and the word (mēltā) was with God, and the word became God (w-alāhāītawhī hwā hū mēltā)” (John 1:1; Diatessaron 1:1).

It continues,

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (wamēltābēsrā hwā w-agēn ban). And we saw his glory (šūbhēh), the glory as of the only [begotten?]one of the Father (šūbhā ayk d-īh.īdāyā d-mēn abā), who is full of grace and truth (da-mlē taybūtā wa qūštā/šrārā). (John 1:14; Diatessaron 3:53)

he “word” (mēltā) is a calque for Greek logos and is identified by John with the person of Jesus. The theological and philosophical discourses on this subject are vast and were expounded upon by Syriac Christian authors. Nevertheless, the identification of the “word” with the person of Jesus circulated in the Qur’ān’s milieu and was affirmed by its verses as the angels give good news to Mary, stating,

When the angels said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you good news of a word (kalimah) from Him whose name is the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, handsome in the world and the hereafter and one of the near ones (al-muqarrabīn).”(Q 3:45)

Elsewhere, it polemicizes the People of the Scripture, reiterating,

O People of the Scripture, do not go to extremes in your religion! And say not about God except the truth (al-haqq)! The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary is merely the messenger of God (innamā al-masīh. ‘īsā ibn mayram rasūl allāh), His word that He spoke to Mary and a spirit from Him (wa kalimatuh alqāhāilā maryam wa rūh minh). So believe in God and his messengers and do not say “three” (thalāthah). It is better for you. God is merely one. Glorified is he [beyond?] having a son (subhānah an yakūn lahu walad). To Him belong that which is in the heavens and that which is in the earth. And God suffices as a representative (wakīlan). (Q 4:171)

There is exists a strong dialogue between Q 3:45; Q 4:171 and John 1:1, 14—and possibly Revelation 19:13—concerning the theological implications of the “word,” for which the Arabic kalimah is a calque of Aramaic meltā, which is in turn a calque for Greek logos.

Naturally, the theological formulation that the “word” (mēltā)—identified with the person of the prophet Jesus—“was with God, and . . . became God” was unacceptable to Muhammad’s strict monotheistic vision. Therefore, Q 3:45 and Q 4:171 redefine Jesus’s nature by dogmatically re-articulating John’s text. The verses portray him as “handsome in the world and the hereafter and from among the near ones,” and, furthermore, that “the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary is merely (innamā) the messenger of God, His word (kalimatuh) that he spoke to Mary and a spirit (rūh) from Him.”

The Qur’ān also attacks the People of the Scripture—presumably Christians or Jewish Christians—again by dogmatically re-articulating the language of John 1:14. Aware of John’s text, “And we saw his glory (šūbhēh), the glory (šūbhā) as of the only one of the Father, who is full of grace (taybūtā) and truth (qūštā),” it states “say not about God except the truth (al-haqq)! . . . Glorified is he [beyond] having a son (subhānah an yakūn lahu walad) . . . And God suffices as a representative (wakīlan).” In John’s Gospel, Jesus has glory (šūbhā) for the expressed purpose of being “the only one [that is, son] of the Father [that is, God];” in the Qur’ān, this glory (subhānah) is reclaimed by God for the expressed purpose of not having a son at all. Furthermore, the word “truth” (qūštā) which characterizes the word’s nature, is revived in the Qur’ān as al-haqq, which is a virtue demanded of the deluded “People of the Scripture.”

Words that Do Not Pass Away

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away (nē‘brūn), than one letter of the law to pass away (tē‘bar)” (Luke 16:17). Later, when speaking of events prior to the impending apocalypse, Jesus states, “Heaven and earth will pass away (nē‘brūn) and my words will not pass away (wa mēlay lā ne‘brān; Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; Diatessaron 42:29, 28; cf. Thomas 11).

The Qur’ān combines this language from the Gospels with the imagery of the “brook/waters that pass away” in Job 6:15; 11:6. Preceding the final verse of Q 18—which employs the rheotical style “say, indeed” (qul innamā; Q 18:110) of Jesus’s speech “truly I say to you” (amīn ēmar lak [ūn]; see Chapter 1)—it states,

Say, “if the sea (al-bahr) were a pen (midādan) for the words of my Lord (kalimāt rabbī), then the sea would have finished before the words of my Lord would have finished (la nafidh al-bahr qabl an tanfadh kalimāt rabbī). Even if we brought as much to supply it.(Q 18:109)

Elsewhere it similarly states,

For if, indeed, on earth all the trees were pens (aqlām) and the sea supplied them [ink] (wa al-bahr yamudduh), followed by seven more seas (min ba‘dih sab‘at abhur), the words of God would not finish (mā nafidhat kalimāt allāh). Indeed, God is Mighty, Wise.(Q 31:27: cf. Q 43:28)

In Q 18:109; 31:27, the Gospels’ “heaven and earth” are substituted with Job’s imagery of the “waters,” resulting in the metaphor of the pen—made up of all the world’s trees—that are supplied with ink as deep and vast as the seas. Additionally, by referring to the human Jesus the clause “my words will not pass away” (wa mēlay lā ne‘brān) conflicts with Muhammad’s vision of strict monotheism. It is, therefore, dogmatically re-articulated in order to restore the divine power of words back to God, stating “the words of God would not finish (mā nafidhat kalimāt allāh).”

God’s seemingly infinite verbosity in the Qur’ān may too be a dogmatic re-articulation of the final verses of John’s Gospel, which state,

This is the disciple that testifies about all these [things], and that wrote them. And we know that his testimony is true. There are, therefore, also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, not the world I suppose could suffice for the books that would be written.(John 21:24–25; Diatessaron 55:16–17)

In keeping with Muhammad’s vision of strict monotheism, it is not Jesus but God rather whose plethora of words cannot be restricted.

The Qur’ān clearly conveys its message concerning two salient manifestations of God’s majesty in the late antique Near East, namely light and word. In doing so, it dogmatically re-articulated—among other verses—those from the Aramaic Gospels which portray Jesus as the divine lamp and eternal word.

Mercy and Forgiveness

Mercy and forgiveness are salient dimensions of the divine realm throughout the Biblical and qur’ānic corpus. The vocabulary used in the Aramaic Gospel Tradititions to articulate God’s mercy upon his prophets, their righteous entourage, as well as the poor and downtrodden members of society is shared by the Qur’ān. So too does the Qur’ān adapt and dogmatically re-articulate the formulae and imagery used in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions with regards to the forgiveness of sins.

Mercy

The qur’ānic manifestations of God’s mercy—which are in strong dialogue with those found in Hebrew and Christian Scripture—are so numerous in form and diverse in content, as to constitute God’s very essence and His most basic, fundamental attribute. This is especially the case for the prophetic tradition that would flourish into Islam (Q 4:27; 9:27; 12:92; 16:119; 39:53; 44:42; and so on). Among a host of divine attributes (al-asmā’ al-husnā; Q 7:180; 17:110; 20:8; 59:24; cf.Gēnzā Rbā R1; names of Ahura Mazda in the Pazand) God is “the most merciful of those who show mercy” (arham al-rāhimīn; 7:151; 12:64, 92; 21:83) and “the merciful, the benevolent” (al-rah.mān al-rah.īm; Q 1:1, 3; 2:163; 27:30; 41:2; 59:22).

Following the articulation of “mercy” (rah.mē) found in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions, the Qur’ān conceives of “mercy” (rahmah) in both the divine and human realm. Therefore, in both scriptures mankind prays for God’s mercy (for example, Q 7:151; 11:47; 23:109; Luke 16:24; 18:13; and so on). Similarly, as the Gospels teach their audience, “blessed are the merciful,” (Matthew 5:7) and that people should “be merciful as [their] Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), so too does the Qur’ān teach its audience that the hearts of Jesus’s followers were filled with leniency (ra’fah) and mercy (rahmah; Q 57:27). In relation to this, it is worthy of mention that the Qur’ān describes both God and Muhammad as “lenient, merciful” (ra’ūf rah.īm; Q 9:128; 24:20; 59:10; etc)—which may like the phrase “the merciful, the benevolent” (al-rah.mān al-rah.īm; see earlier discussion; Chapter 3)—relate to the attributes of God in James 5:11, “the merciful . . . and the compassionate” (mrahmān . . . wa mrahpān). The Qur’ān also teaches the growing Muslim community to follow the example (mathal) of Hebrew Scripture and the Gospel Traditions (al-tawrāh wa al-injīl) by showing mercy to one another (Q 48:29; cf. Q 49:10).

However, the greatest point of divergence between both the Qur’ān and the Gospels concerns the original dispenser—that is, the source—of mercy. In the Gospels, the masses of blind men, foreign women, and other poor and downtrodden members of society invoke Jesus, stating: “Have mercy on me! My lord son of David (ētrah.am/rah.ēm‘lay mārī brēh d-dawīd)” (Matthew 15:22);” “[Jesus] son of David, have mercy on me!” ([išū‘] brēh d-dawīd ētrah.am ‘lay; Mark 10:47–48; Luke 18:38–9); “have mercy on us!” [My lord] son of David” (ētrah.am ‘layn [mārī] brēh d-dawīd; Matthew 9:27; 20:30 cf. Matthew 20:30–1) or something similar (Matthew 17:15; see further Luke 16:24; Diatessaron 12:34; 20:49; 31:25). Only in Luke’s Gospel there occurs the invocation, “God, be compassionate to [me] a sinner!” (alāhā h.ūnaynī l-h.atāyā; Luke 18:13; Diatessaron 32:20–21; see further Luke 1:46–78). However, in the Qur’ān, God alone is invoked for mercy. Thus, a typical qur’ānic invocation for mercy comparable to those in the Gospels but adapted to the Qur’ān’s milieu and Muhammad’s community is found in Adam and Eve’s plea, “They said, ‘our Lord, we have wronged ourselves; and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us (in lam taghfir lanā wa tarhamunā), we will surely be one of the lost ones’” (Q 7:23; cf. 7:149, 155; 11:47; 23:109, 118).

According to Muhammad’s vision of strict monotheism Jesus was not “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8; Matthew 1:23) nor God incarnate as the Gospel writers may have believed, but “merely a prophet before whom prophets came” (Q 5:75). Thus, in the Qur’ān Jesus cannot be invoked for mercy; Mercy is, after-all, the most essential divine attribute and may be possessed by God alone(Q 17:8; 18:98; 36:44; 44:42). He has, moreover, obligated mercy upon himself (Q 6:12, 54), which is a testament to God’s divine majesty, as well as a repudiation of the Gospels wherein Jesus is endowed with the power of giving mercy.

Forgiving for You Your Sins

Just as the Qur’ān describes God as merciful, so too is He described as “forgiving” (ghafūr; 2:218; 60:7; and so on) and in Q 40, entitled “the Forgiver” (ghāfir), He is referred to as “the Forgiver of sins” (ghāfir al-dhanb; Q 40:2). In Surah 7, which like many others enumerates a sequence of prophets and their rebellious followers, it states concerning the Israelites as they came out of the wilderness into Canaan,

And so it was said to them, “inhabit this village and eat from eat whatever you will, speak humbly, and enter the gate in worship,” We forgive for you your sins (naghfir lakum khatī’ātikum). We will increase the workers of good.(Q 7:161)

The events that Q 7:161 recall come from Hebrew Scripture (for example, Leviticus 14:34; Numbers 34:2; Deuteronomy 7:1). The syntax of the clause “We forgive for you your sins (naghfir lakum khatī’ātikum)” is similar to that of formulae asking forgiveness for oneself in the Qur’ān and Aramaic Gospels (see Chapter 3), namely:

verb + preposition li/la + pronominal suffix + your (pl.) sins

Taken alongside this general syntactic relationship shared by both scriptures, the word choice, “your sins” (khatī’ātukum; sg. khatī’ah) which remains the standard Christian Arabic word for “sin”—instead of the normative qur’ānic dhunūbukum (Q 3:31; 71:4; and so on)—the entire clause lends itself as a dogmatic re-articulation of Jesus’s words in the Aramaic Gospels. More specifically, these are his words intended to uplift the poor and downtrodden members of society, stating,

“Your sins are forgiven (šbīqīn lāk htāhāyk)” (Matthew 9:2, 5; Mark 2:5, 9; Luke 5:23; Diatessaron 7:19; 15:8; cf. further Joshua 24:19; 1 John 2:12). The difference is where Jesus’s statement is ambiguous by virtue of the passive construction “forgiven for you is” (šbīqīn lāk), God’s statement in Q 7:161 is an unambiguous and active verbal construction, “We will forgive for you” (naghfir lakum). This shift may reflect, once again, Muhammad’s strict monotheistic vision which fixes power of forgiveness firmly within the grasp of God alone, without associating or delegating it as affectation to Jesus or another representative.

Seventy Times or More?

The Qur’ān condemns the hypocrites of Muhammad’s community—those who openly accept but secretly reject the teachings of Islam by not giving charity from the riches God has granted them (Q 9:74). This seminal passage goes on to describe their hypocritical traits and the helplessness of praying for their forgiveness. It continues,

And among them [the community] are those who make a covenant with God [saying], “surely if He gives us out of his bounty, surely we would give alms (sadaqāt) and we would be one of the righteous.” So when He gave them from His bounty they clung to it greedily and turned away in aversion. So hypocrisy (nifāq) followed them into their hearts, until the day they will meet Him concerning the promise upon which they reneged against God and concerning their lies . . . Those who criticize the believers who freely give alms and those who cannot find except their labors [to give as alms], and mock them, God mocks them and they have a painful torment! [Whether] you ask their forgiveness or you do not ask their forgiveness (istaghfir lahum aw lā tastaghfir lahum)—even if you ask their forgiveness seventy times (in tastaghfir lahum sab‘īn marrah)—God will not forgive them (fa lan yaghfir allāh lahum). That is because they rebelled (kafarū) against God and his messenger. And God does not guide the corrupted folk. (Q 9:75–80: cf. Q 63:6)

We have already demonstrated that the link the Qur’ān draws between hypocricy (nifāq) and the failure to give alms (sadaqah) or charity (zakāt) is an impulse which comes from the portrayal of the wealth, greed, and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and their cohort in the Aramaic Gospel Traditions (see Chapter 4; cf. in relation Bahmān Yasht 2:44). According to Q 9:80, this hypocrisy—which like the Gospels is based upon a failure to pay up rather than adopt a form of correct theology—constitutes an act of rebellion (kufr) against both God and his messenger. However, why would Q 9:80 pose the scenario of asking the forgiveness of the hypocrites and rebellious ones in the first place? And, furthermore, why specifically does it stipulate 70 times? The answer lies in the Gospel of Matthew which states,

Then Peter approached him [Jesus] and said, “my lord, how many times if my brother wrongs me should I forgive him (kmā zabnīn ēn naskēl/nēh.t.ē bīāh.īēšbūq lēh)? Up to seven times (‘damā la-šba‘ zabnīn)?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven but up to seventy times seven-seven (lāāmēr ēnā lāk ‘damā la-šba‘ ēlā ‘damā l-šab‘īn zabnīn šba‘ šba‘).”(Matthew 18:21–22; Diatessaron 27:22–24)

Having established that the Qur’ān envisions a Muslim community built upon the foundation of mercy shared among Jews and—especially—Christians (see earlier; Q 48:29; Q 49:10), the hypocritical member of Muhammad’s Muslim community was inspired by Peter’s wrong-doing brother. Such a person can-not be forgiven and is prayed for seven and “up to seventy times seven-seven.” Aside from the reference to “seven-seven,”—present in all the Syriac manuscripts except the Harklean which simply states “seven” (šba‘)—Jesus concedes that a brother who commits wrong-doing may be forgiven if he is prayed for seven to seventy times. In an act of one-upmanship that seeks to challenge and reverse this conception, Q 9:75–80 dogmatically re-articulates Matthew 18:21–22 by adapting it to the circumstances of Muhammad’s community (that is, condemning hypocrities in the community who do not pay alms) and—most importantly—by insisting that “even if you ask their forgiveness seventy times, God will not forgive them.”In the Qur’ān and the Aramaic Gospels mercy and forgiveness are the dimensions of the divine realm that characterize the clemency of God. What then of his wrath? To explore this dimension we turn to divine judgment and the apocalypse.

References and Notes:

  1. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 240; Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 772–3.
  2. Cf. in relation M. Goulder, Midrash and Lection in Matthew, London, SPCK, 1974.
  3. It is noteworthy that “the kingdom of our father David,” which is ostensibly human in origin, is praised in heaven (Mark 11:10) and conferred upon Christ that he may rule forever (Luke 1:33).
  4. For example, Anonymous, The Odes of Solomon, 77, 79, 89–90, 92, 94; Jacob of Serugh, Homiliae Selectae, 1:167–9, 193 (On the Baptism of Our Redeemer).
  5. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 239–40.
  6. Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 166.
  7. On similarities to Q 23:88, cf. Umayyah b. Abī al-Salt., Umajja ibn Abi’s Salt, 43–4, 100–1.
  8. L. Marlow, EQ, “Kings and Rulers.” Geiger has mistakenly posited its Hebrew origin. Cf. Abra-ham Geiger, Judaism and Islam, 44.
  9. These meanings include “authority” (Q 2:247) and “power” (Q 2:248, 251; 3:26).
  10. Cf. Muqātil, Tafsīr, 1:209 (Q 3:189). Cf. further Q 1:355’s distinction between the mulk of Nimrod and the malakūt of God (Q 6:75). See further M. Plessner, EI2, s.v. “Mulk.”
  11. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 270.
  12. Thamudic and Safaitic inscriptions use the word to mean a variety of abstract nouns some of which are, “possession,” and “royalty,” and at least once used in conjunction with “force.” See Branden, Les inscriptions thamoudéennes, 515; Winnett, Inscriptions from Fifty Safaitic Cairns, 225, 613. These connotations are virtually synonymous with “kingdom.” While this further establishes the antiquity of a word whose consonantal skeleton is mlkt and its usage to denote kingdom, in the Arabian sphere, the word malakūt (that is, m-l-k in –ūt form) seems to have entered the Qur’ān from the Aramaic sphere.
  13. Chaim Rabin, Ancient West-Arabian, 109.
  14. Lüling, A Challenge to Islam for Reformation, 358.
  15. Katsh, Judaism in Islam, 96.
  16. Mingana, Syriac Influence on the Style of the Kur’ān, 86.
  17. While Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 136–137 and Lüling, A Challenge to Islam for Reformation, 72–3 ultimately trace the qur’ānic usage of rabb to Aramaic, each scholar derives its meaning differently. Jeffery prefers the more conventional meaning, “lord” or “master.” Lüling, on the other hand, prefers “leader” or even “archangel.” The wur’ānic use of rabb, however, most resembles that which Murray claims when speaking about the Aramaic term rab baytā(Arabicrabb al-bayt), “master of the house.” Cf. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 193–4; Lux-enberg, Die syro-aramäische Lesart des Koran, 166. Cf. identification of rabb al-‘ālamīn with “le signeur des tribus” (lord of the tribes) in Jacqueline Chabbi, Le coran décrypté, 199, 251–69.
  18. Manfred Kropp, “Tripartite, but Antitrinitarian formulas in the Qur’ānic corpus, possibly pre-Qur’ānic,” in ibid. (ed.), New Perspectives on the Quran, New York: Routledge Press, 258.
  19. Droge, The Qur’ān, 1 makes the connection between these passages and rabb al-‘ālamīn.
  20. Q 14:48; 20:4 expresses divine kingdom chiastically as “the earth and the heavens” (al-ard. wa al-samāwāt).
  21. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 240–1.
  22. M. Plessner, EI2, s.v. “Mulk.”
  23. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 1:243; 3:243.
  24. Payne-Smith, A Compendius Syriac Dictionary, 506; Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1370.
  25. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, 182.
  26. For example, Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1: 963–66 (On Persecution); Ephrem, “Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de paradiso und contra Julianum,” 5,5; 9, 9; 19, 18–19; 25, 24; 33, 31; 42, 40; 63, 58.
  27. Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 580; Jawālīqī, Mu‘arrab, 68, 362; Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 268.
  28. Cf. in relation Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 580.
  29. Otherwise called “folk.”
  30. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 148.
  31. Cf. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 262 for Q 35:32, 35 of T.alh.ah b. Mus.arrif’s codex.
  32. Cf. the text of JPS; Targum Psalms; Old Testament Peshitta. See also Thyen, Bibel und Koran, 216–17. And concerning Deuteronomy 34:1–5 see Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 285.
  33. Mingana, Syriac Influence on the Style of the Kur’ān, 91–3.
  34. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:392 records this Harklean reading.
  35. Note that Sinaiticus state sītar, “can increase,” which is a metathesized form of the Peshitta’s sīrat, “can inherit.” See in relation Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 585–6, 590.
  36. Drijvers and Healy, The Old Syriac Inscriptions of Edessa and Osrhoene, 151, 163, 178.
  37. See further Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 25
  38. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 258.
  39. Ibid., 122; See also Ahrens, “Christliches im Qoran,” 101; Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 26. Cf. further Tephen Dähne, EQ, “Weights and Measures.”
  40. Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 444.
  41. Geiger, Was hat Mohammed, 102; see also Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 322.
  42. Umayyah b. Abī al-Salt., Umajja ibn Abi’s Salt, 24–5, 84.
  43. Jamal Elias, EQ, “Throne of God.”
  44. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament, 2A:29.
  45. Cf. also Mujāhid, Tafsīr, 579 which alleges that even Muh.ammad read the stars. See further Q 56:75–76.
  46. T.J. de Boer, EI2, s.v. “Nūr”; Chaim Rabin, “Islam and the Qumran Sect” in ibid. (ed.) The Qur’ān: Style and Contents, 3; Han Drijvers, Bardaisan of Edessa, Assen: Van Gorcum & Co, 1966, 205.
  47. Jamal Elias, EQ, “Light.”
  48. Nawāl Zarzūr, Mu‘jam alfāz. al-qiyam al-akhlāqīyah, 130.
  49. For the qur’ānic adaptation of Aramaic‘ālmā, namely al-‘ālamīn, see Chapter 6; Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 209–10.
  50. Aphrahat, “Demonstrations,” 1: 21–26 (On Faith).
  51. Jefferey, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 266.
  52. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 894.
  53. Trimingham, Christianity among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times, 265.
  54. Genesis Rabba 30:7; Sanhedrin 108; Ephrem, “In Genesim et in Exodum commentarii,” CSCO 152–3, 71, 1955, 58–60; Clement of Rome cited in Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 94.
  55. See in relation Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 91.
  56. Jefferey, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’ān, 166–7.
  57. See also Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran, 430–31. See further Jamal Elias, EQ, “Lamp.”
  58. Ehrman, The New Testament, 92.
  59. See Thomas H. Tobin, ABD, “Logos.”
  60. Cf. ajinnah in Q 53:32 and CAL, “’-g-n.”
  61. This is implied but not explicit in Aramaic text.
  62. See Curetonius and Harklean readings in Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 4:6.
  63. For example, Jacob of Serugh, Homiliae selectae, 2:158–83 (On ‘In the Beginning was the Word;’ On the Only Begotten Word). See further Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies, 77; Sokoloff, A Syr-iac Lexicon, 775. See further Thomas H. Tobin, ABD, “Logos.” Certain impulses within these discourses likely informed the qur’ānic understanding of “words, talk” (kalām) and “speech” (h.adīth).
  64. Cf. in relation Ibn Qutaybah, Tafsīr, 18. See in relation Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 160.
  65. Brady, “The Book of Revelation and the Qur’an,” 218
  66. Cf. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’an, 18. See in relation Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 77
  67. Cf. in relation Ibn Qutaybah, Tafsīr, 344.
  68. Cf. in relation Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies, 77
  69. This is evident most clearly in Q 59:22–24 and among the exegetical literature, for example, Ibn Qutaybah, Tafsīr gharīb al-qur’ān, 6. Cf. also D. B. Macdonald, EI1, “Allāh.”
  70. See in relation Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 116–17.
  71. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon, 1455–56.
  72. Cf. r-h.-p in ibid., 1458.
  73. Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 1:225–6 records this in Sinaiticus.
  74. Ibid., 3:365 records that Sainaticus and Curetonius alternately state “have mercy” (ētrah.am), and the Harklean states “absolve/purify” (h.sā)
  75. Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’ān, 151, 154, 297 cites that the codices of Ubayy b. Ka‘b and al-Rabī‘ b. Kuthayyam preserve khat.āyāas an alternate plural for “sins” (Q 19:11–12; 26:82), which more closely matches Syriac h.t.āhā, “sins.” See in relation Beeston, Dictionnaire sabéen, 63
  76. Contrast our interpretation of hypocrisy (nifāq), which is inextricably tied to financial greed, with its normative definition in later Islamic literary sources like Ibn Manz.ūr, Lisān, 6:4509 which argues that hypocrisy constitutes a theological or doctrinal unfaithfulness to Islam. Cf. further Bukhārī 2:23:359 and parallels
  77. See variant readings in Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, 1:270–1.
  78. This is supported by the Greek text behind the NRSV of Matthew 18:21, and which states “church member.” Cf. also Q 83:1–5; Ardā Virāf Nāmak 27:4; 67:6; 80:5

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