a few linguistic twists in ancient books pt.2

  1. 1,781 Posts.
    Be patient Hebrew brothers there is some on the Tenach.

    A table, in Pt.1, is a bit out of alignment but that should not effect the illiterate who are sure to give up after the first few paragraphs.



    Documentary evidence for the Qur'an has always been difficult, due to the paucity of primary documents at our disposal (as was mentioned in the previous section). The oldest Muslim documents available are the Muslim Traditions, which were initially compiled as late as 765 A.D. (i.e. The Sira of Ibn Ishaq). Yet the earliest documents which we can refer to today are those compiled by Ibn Hisham (the Sira of the prophet), and the large Hadith compilations of al-Bukhari, Muslim and others, all written in the ninth century, and thus 200 to 250 years after the fact. They are much too late to be useful for our study here. Therefore we must go back to the seventh century itself and ascertain what documents are available with which we can corroborate the reliability of the Qur'an.

    (1) Doctrina Iacobi and 661 Chronicler:
    Two seventh century documents at our disposal are helpful here: a) the Doctrina Iacobi, the earliest testimony of Muhammad and of his "movement" available to us outside Islamic tradition; a Greek anti-Jewish tract which was written in Palestine between 634 and 640 A.D. (Brock 1982:9; Crone-Cook 1977:3), and b) a chronicle supposedly written by Sebeos in 660 A.D. Both of these documents deal with the relationship between the Arabs and Jews in the seventh century.

    The Qur'an implies that Muhammad severed his relationship with the Jews in 624 A.D. (or soon after the Hijra in 622 A.D.), and thus moved the direction of prayer, the Qibla at that time from Jerusalem to Mecca (Sura 2:144, 149-150). The early non-Muslim sources, however, depict a good relationship between the Muslims and Jews at the time of the first conquests (late 620s A.D.), and even later. Yet the Doctrina Iacobi warns of the Jews who mix with the Saracens,' and the danger to life and limb of falling into the hands of these Jews and Saracens' (Bonwetsch 1910:88; Cook 1983:75). In fact, this relationship seems to carry right on into the conquest as an early Armenian source mentions that the governor of Jerusalem in the aftermath of the conquest was a Jew (Patkanean 1879:111; Sebeos 1904:103).

    What is significant here is the possibility that Jews and Arabs (Saracens) seem to be allied together during the time of the conquest of Palestine and even for a short time after (Crone-Cook 1977:6).

    If these witnesses are correct than one must ask how it is that the Jews and Saracens (Arabs) are allies as late as 640 A.D., when, according to the Qur'an, Muhammad severed his ties with the Jews as early as 624 A.D., more than 15 years earlier?

    To answer that we need to refer to the earliest connected account of the career of the prophet,' that given in an Armenian chronicle from around 660 A.D., which is ascribed by some to Bishop Sebeos (Sebeos 1904:94-96; Crone-Cook 1977:6). The chronicler describes how Muhammad established a community which comprised both Ishmaelites (i.e. Arabs) and Jews, and that their common platform was their common descent from Abraham; the Arabs via Ishmael, and the Jews via Isaac (Sebeos 1904:94-96; Crone-Cook 1977:8; Cook 1983:75). The chronicler believed Muhammad had endowed both communities with a birthright to the Holy Land, while simultaneously providing them with a monotheist genealogy (Crone-Cook 1977:8). This is not without precedent as the idea of an Ishmaelite birthright to the Holy Land was discussed and rejected earlier in the Genesis Rabbah (61:7), in the Babylonian Talmud and in the Book of Jubilees (Crone-Cook 1977:159).

    Here we find a number of non-Muslim documentary sources contradicting the Qur'an, maintaining that there was a good relationship between the Arabs and Jews for at least a further 15 years beyond that which the Qur'an asserts.

    If Palestine was the focus for the Arabs, then the city of Mecca comes into question, and further documentary data concerning Mecca may prove to be the most damaging evidence against the reliability of the Qur'an which we have to date.

    (2) Mecca:
    To begin with we must ask what we know about Mecca? Muslims maintain that "Mecca is the centre of Islam, and the centre of history." According to the Qur'an, "The first sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (or Mecca), a blessed place, a guidance for the peoples." (Sura 3:96) In Sura 6:92 and 42:5 we find that Mecca is described as the "mother of all settlements." According to Muslim tradition, Adam placed the black stone in the original Ka'ba there, while according to the Qur'an (Sura 2:125-127) it was Abraham and Ishmael who rebuilt the Meccan Ka'ba many years later. Thus, by implication, Mecca is considered by Muslims to be the first and most important city in the world! In fact much of the story of Muhammad revolves around Mecca, as his formative years were spent there, and it was to Mecca that he sought to return while in exile in Medina.

    Apart from the obvious difficulty in finding any documentary or archaeological evidence that Abraham ever went to or lived in Mecca, the overriding problem rests in finding any reference to the city before the creation of Islam. From research carried out by both Crone and Cook, except for an inference to a city called "Makoraba" by the Greco-Egyptian geographer Ptolemy in the mid-2nd century A.D. (though we are not even sure whether this allusion by Ptolemy referred to Mecca, as he only mentioned the name in passing), there is absolutely no other report of Mecca or its Ka'ba in any authenticated ancient document; that is until the early eighth century (Cook 1983:74; Crone-Cook 1977:22). As Crone and Cook maintain the earliest substantiated reference to Mecca occurs in the Continuatio Byzantia Arabica, which is a source dating from early in the reign of the caliph Hisham, who ruled between 724-743 A.D. (Crone-Cook 1977:22,171).

    Therefore, the earliest corroborative evidence we have for the existence of Mecca is fully 100 years after the date when Islamic tradition and the Qur'an place it. Why? Certainly, if it was so important a city, someone, somewhere would have mentioned it; yet we find nothing outside of the small inference by Ptolemy 500 years earlier, and these initial statements in the early eighth century.

    Yet even more troubling historically is the claim by Muslims that Mecca was not only an ancient and great city, but it was also the centre of the trading routes for Arabia in the seventh century and before (Cook 1983:74; Crone 1987:3-6). It is this belief which is the easiest to examine, since we have ample documentation from that part of the world with which to check out its veracity.

    According to extensive research by Bulliet on the history of trade in the ancient Middle-East, these claims by Muslims are quite wrong, as Mecca simply was not on any major trading routes. The reason for this, he contends, is that, "Mecca is tucked away at the edge of the peninsula. Only by the most tortured map reading can it be described as a natural crossroads between a north-south route and an east-west one." (Bulliet 1975:105)

    This is corroborated by further research carried out by Groom and Muller, who contend that Mecca simply could not have been on the trading route, as it would have entailed a detour from the natural route along the western ridge. In fact, they maintain the trade route must have bypassed Mecca by some one-hundred miles (Groom 1981:193; Muller 1978:723).

    Patricia Crone, in her work on Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam adds a practical reason which is too often overlooked by earlier historians. She points out that, "Mecca was a barren place, and barren places do not make natural halts, and least of all when they are found at a short distance from famously green environments. Why should caravans have made a steep descent to the barren valley of Mecca when they could have stopped at Ta'if. Mecca did, of course, have both a well and a sanctuary, but so did Ta'if, which had food supplies, too" (Crone 1987:6-7; Crone-Cook 1977:22).

    Furthermore, Patricia Crone asks, "what commodity was available in Arabia that could be transported such a distance, through such an inhospitable environment, and still be sold at a profit large enough to support the growth of a city in a peripheral site bereft of natural resources?" (Crone 1987:7) It wasn't incense, spices, and other exotic goods, as many notoriously unreliable earlier writers have intimated (see Crone's discussion on the problem of historical accuracy, particularly between Lammens, Watts and Kister, in Meccan Trade 1987:3). According to the latest and much more reliable research by Kister and Sprenger, the Arabs engaged in a trade of a considerably humbler kind, that of leather and clothing; hardly items which could have founded a commercial empire of international dimensions (Kister 1965:116; Sprenger 1869:94).

    The real problem with Mecca, however, is that there simply was no international trade taking place in Arabia, let alone in Mecca in the centuries immediately prior to Muhammad's birth. It seems that much of our data in this area has been spurious from the outset, due to sloppy research of the original sources, carried out by Lammens, "an unreliable scholar," and repeated by the great orientalists such as Watts, Shaban, Rodinson, Hitti, Lewis and Shahid (Crone 1987:3,6). Lammens, using first century sources (such as Periplus and Pliny) should have used the later Greek historians who were closer to the events (such as Cosmas, Procopius and Theodoretus) (Crone 1987:3,19-22,44).

    Had he referred to the later historians he would have found that the Greek trade between India and the Mediterranean was entirely maritime after the first century A.D. (Crone 1987:29). One need only look at a map to understand why. It made little sense to ship goods across such distances by land when a water-way was available close by. Patricia Crone points out that in Diocletian's Rome it was cheaper to ship wheat 1,250 miles by sea than to transport it fifty miles by land (Crone 1987:7). The distance from Najran, Yemen in the south, to Gaza in the north was roughly 1,250 miles. Why would the traders ship their goods from India by sea, and unload it at Aden where it would be put on the backs of much slower and more expensive camels to trudge 1,250 miles across the inhospitable Arabian desert to Gaza, when they could simply have left it on the ships and followed the Red Sea route up the west coast of Arabia?

    There were other problems as well. Had Lammens researched his sources correctly he would have also found that the Greco-Roman trade with India collapsed by the third century A.D., so that by Muhammad's time there was not only no overland route, but no Roman market to which the trade was destined (Crone 1987:29). He would have similarly found that what trade remained, was controlled by the Ethiopians and not the Arabs, and that Adulis, the port city on the Ethiopian coast of the Red Sea, and not Mecca was the trading centre of that region (Crone 1987:11,41-42).

    Of even more significance, had Lammens taken the time to study the early Greek sources, he would have discovered that the Greeks to whom the trade went had never even heard of a place called Mecca (Crone 1987:11,41-42). If, according to the Muslim traditions, and recent orientalists, Mecca was so important, certainly those to whom the trade was going would have noted its existence. Yet, we find nothing. Crone in her work points out that the Greek trading documents refer to the towns of Ta'if (which is south-east and close to present-day Mecca), and to Yathrib (later Medina), as well as Kaybar in the north, but no mention is made of Mecca (Crone 1987:11). That indeed is troubling for the historicity of a city whose importance lies at the centre of the nascent Islam.

    Had the later orientalists bothered to check out Lammens' sources, they too would have realized that since the overland route was not used after the first century A.D., it certainly was not in use in the fifth or sixth centuries (Crone 1987:42), and much of what has been written concerning Mecca would have been corrected long before now.

    Finally, the problem of locating Mecca in the early secular sources is not unique, for there is even some confusion within Islamic tradition as to where exactly Mecca was initially situated (see the discussion on the evolution of the Meccan site in Crone & Cook's Hagarism 1977:23,173). According to research carried out by J.van Ess, in both the first and second civil wars, there are accounts of people proceeding from Medina to Iraq via Mecca (van Ess 1971:16; see also Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Dhahabi 1369:343). Yet Mecca is south-west of Medina, and Iraq is north-east. Thus the sanctuary for Islam, according to these traditions was at one time north of Medina, which is the opposite direction from where Mecca is today!

    We are left in a quandary. If, according to documentary evidence, in this case the ancient Greek historical and trading documents, Mecca was not the great commercial centre the later Muslim traditions would have us believe, if it was not known by the people who lived and wrote from that period, and if it could not even qualify as a viable city during the time of Muhammad, it certainly could not have been the centre of the Muslim world at that time. How then can we believe that the Qur'an is reliable? The documentary evidence not only contradicts its dating on the split between the Arabs and the Jews, but the city it identifies as the birthplace and cornerstone for the nascent Islam cannot even be identified with any historical accuracy until at least a full century later? Do these same problems exist with the Bible?


    (1900=Abraham, 1700=Joseph, 1447=Moses, 1000=David)

    The documentary evidence for the reliability of the Bible has been an area of research which has been increasing rapidly over the last few decades. But this hasn't always been so. The assumption by many former archaeologists was that the Old Testament was written not in the tenth to fourteenth centuries B.C. by the authors described within its text, but by later Jewish historians during the much later second to sixth century B.C., and that the stories were then redacted back onto the great prophets such as Moses and David, etc... Yet, with the enormous quantity of data which has been uncovered and is continuing to be uncovered, as well as the new forensic research methods being employed to study them, what we are now finding is that many of these preconceived notions of authorship are simply no longer valid. For instance:

    (1) The skeptics contended that the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses, because there was no evidence of any writing that early. Then the Black Stele was found with the detailed laws of Hammurabi which were written 300 years before Moses, and in the same region.

    (2) There was much doubt as to the reliability of the Old Testament documents, since the oldest manuscript in our possession was the Massoretic Text, written in 916 A.D. How, the skeptics asked, can we depend on a set of writings whose earliest manuscripts are so recent? Then came the amazing discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls written around 125 B.C. These scrolls show us that outside of minute copying errors it is identical to the Massoretic Text and yet it predates it by over 1,000 years! We have further corroboration in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew text, translated around 150-200 B.C.

    Yet to please the skeptics, the best documentary evidence for the reliability of the Biblical text must come from documents external to the Biblical text themselves. There has always been doubt concerning the stories of Abraham and the Patriarchs found in the books attributed to Moses, the Pentateuch. The skeptics maintained that there is no method of ascertaining their reliability since we have no corroboration from external secular accounts. This has all changed; for instance:

    (3) Discoveries from excavations at Nuzu, Mari and Assyrian, Hittite, Sumerian and Eshunna Codes point out that Hebrew poetry, Mosaic legislation as well as the Hebrew social customs all fit the period and region of the patriarchs.

    (4) According to the historians there were no Hittites at the time of Abraham, thus the historicity of the Biblical accounts describing them was questionable. Now we know from inscriptions of that period that there were 1,200 years of Hittite civilization, much of it corresponding with the Patriarchal period.

    (5) Historians also told us that no such people as the Horites existed. It is these people whom we find mentioned in the genealogy of Esau in Genesis 36:20. Yet now they have been discovered as a group of warriors also living in Mesopotamia during the Patriarchal period.

    (6) The account of Daniel, according to the sceptical historians, must have been written in the second century and not the sixth century B.C. because of all the precise historical detail found in its content. Yet now the sixth century's East India Inscription corresponds with the Daniel 4:30 account of Nebuchadnezzar's building, proving that the author of Daniel must have been an eye-witness from that period. Either way it is amazing.

    The strongest case for extra-Biblical corroboration of the Patriarchal period is found in four sets of tablets which have been and are continuing to be uncovered from that area of the world. They demonstrate that the Biblical account is indeed historically reliable. Let's briefly look at all four sets of tablets.

    (7) *Armana tablets: (from Egypt) mention the Habiru or Apiru in Hebrew, which was first applied to Abraham in Genesis 14:13.

    (8) *Ebla tablets: 17,000 tablets from Tell Mardikh (Northern Syria), dating from 2300 B.C., shows us that a thousand years before Moses, laws, customs and events were recorded in writing in that part of the world, and that the judicial proceedings and case laws were very similar to the Deuteronomy law code (i.e. Deuteronomy 22:22-30 codes on punishment for sex offenses). One tablet mentions and lists the five cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar in the exact sequence which we find in Genesis 14:8! Until these tablets were uncovered the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah had always been in doubt by historians.

    (9) *Mari tablets: (from the Euphrates) mentions king Arriyuk, or Arioch of Genesis 14, and lists the towns of Nahor and Harran (from Genesis 24:10), as well as the names Benjamin and Habiru.

    (10) *Nuzi tablets: (from Iraq) speaks about a number of customs which we find in the Pentateuch, such as:
    a) a barren wife giving a handmaiden to her husband (i.e. Hagar)
    b) a bride chosen for the son by the father (i.e. Rebekah)
    c) a dowry paid to the father-in-law (i.e. Jacob)
    d) work done to pay a dowry (i.e. Jacob)
    e) the unchanging oral will of a father (i.e. Isaac)
    f) a father giving his daughter a slave-girl (i.e. Leah, Rachel)
    g) the sentence of death for stealing a cult gods (i.e. Jacob).

    Because of these extra-Biblical discoveries many of the historians are now changing their position. Thus Joseph Free states: "New discoveries now show us that a host of supposed [Biblical] errors and contradictions are not errors at all: such as, that Sargon existed and lived in a palatial dwelling 12 miles north of Ninevah, that the Hittites were a significant people, that the concept of a sevenfold lamp existed in the early Iron Age, that a significant city given in the record of David's empire lies far to the north, and that Belshazzar existed and ruled over Babylon."

    While documentary evidence for the Bible in the form of secular inscriptions and tablets not only corroborates the existence of some of the oldest Biblical traditions, similar and more recent documentary evidence (such as the Doctrina Iacobi, and the Armenian Chronicler) eradicates some of the more cherished Islamic traditions, that Islam was a uniquely Arab creation, and that Mecca, the supposed centre for Islam, has little historicity whatsoever before or during the time of Muhammad.

    We look forward to further documentary discoveries coming to light, as they continue to substantiate and underline the Biblical record, while simultaneously putting doubt to the record of the Qur'an. Let's now look at the archaeological evidence for both the Bible and the Qur'an:

    Hey anyone made it to here? Oh you've lost your dictionary Trader Mick?

    MTF Pt3. yippee!
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