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The Holy Father intends to supply a subsequent version of this text, complete with footnotes. The present text must therefore be considered provisional.
Hopefully that will clarify points such as this
The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat
which Juan Cole criticises while also misquoting Ratzinger:
He notes that the text he discusses, a polemic against Islam by a Byzantine emperor, cites Qur'an 2:256: "There is no compulsion in religion." Benedict maintains that this is an early verse, when Muhammad was without power.

His allegation is incorrect. Surah 2 is a Medinan surah revealed when Muhammad was already established as the leader of the city of Yathrib (later known as Medina or "the city" of the Prophet). The pope imagines that a young Muhammad in Mecca before 622 (lacking power) permitted freedom of conscience, but later in life ordered that his religion be spread by the sword. But since Surah 2 is in fact from the Medina period when Muhammad was in power, that theory does not hold water.

This is going to degenerate into a textual criticism exercise...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 06:30:16 AM EST
This is a catastrophical trainwreck in the making... Good grief. It does show Homo Sapiens isn't trained to communicate for all that long, doesn't it?
by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 06:43:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note the subtle point that Ratzinger implies that the Sura 2 was composed by Mohammed and influenced by his political situation, while Juan Cole calls it "revealed". So, was the Bible composed or revealed?

That's what happens when you do exegesis of the Quran through medieval Christian polemics.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 07:18:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, the bible is revealed, but that's the word of God. The Koran is the work of a man. Don't you know anything?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 07:29:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am reminded of my review of The Cross and the Crescent:
it puts the emphasis on the mutual attitudes between the existing peoples and cultures and the expanding Muslim empire. However, I want to highlight what the attitude of the Byzantine empire towards Arabs was before the birth of Mohammed, because those attitudes are with us still today and have nothing to do with Islam
And the Ratzinger goes and quotes a late Byzantine Emperor's polemic with a Persian. As Quentin points out, it is unlikely that a man of Ratzinger's intelligence hasn't chosen his words carefully for calculated effect.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 07:33:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, even Fletcher's is a gross overgeneralization about the attitudes of the Byzantines towards Muslims. If he says it's the Byzantine root in Western thought that makes us intolerant of the Muslim world, how does he explain the Byzantine rejection of Rome? In fact, when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing, one of the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern Orthodox church in Istanbul, fought tooth and nail against the collapse precisely because of the age-old antagonism against Rome and European secularism.
by Upstate NY on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 09:45:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am quoting myself in that comment.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 09:49:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh, sorry. I thought that was a quote from him. But you deducted that from Fletcher's book, correct?
by Upstate NY on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 10:23:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Correct. Fletcher starts by surveying Byzantine writings on the Arabs before Islam even existed, which differe little from later writings about muslims. Then he argues that the principal attitudes between Islam and Christianity were indifference (by Muslims towards Christians) and ignorance (by Christians towards Muslims). He also claims that at the time on the Islamic expansion, Islam only could only fit within Christian worldview as a heresy (and Mohammed as a false prophet).

I don't think the East/West split or even the Schism play a role in Fletcher's narrative. Can you expand on that?

Also, while Byzantium (and Spain) were border regions with Islam (and Fletcher spends a lot of effort studying the frontier dynamics), Western Europe (organised around the Pope and the Emperor) had little contact with Islam. In addition, the Crusades were a Western phenomenon having to do with religious-secular power conflicts, and Byzantium suffered a lot of collateral damage.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 10:39:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was referencing the fact that the Ottomans--gradually though not initially--used religion as a means of governance. Under the millet system, the political hierarchy was determined by each ethnic group's religious leaders. In this way, each religion became an intergral part of the Ottoman state. So, any Byzantine bias against Arabs/Muslims was surely converted over the course of 400 Ottoman years to the point that religious leaders in the Ottoman empire sided with the state and against the revolutionary interests of a number of their subjects.

When we talk about the political ideology of one religious group through the eyes of another, we have to also acknowledge one tendency in all religious groups: they all like to remain in power, to demand fealty from their subjects. And that's why Christian leaders under the Ottomans were much more disposed toward an Islamic political regime than they were a Western or European one. Essentially, power is power, no matter the religion and ideology. I'm sure Benedict feels emboldened by the so-called clash of civilizations. He never would have uttered his words in an earlier era.

I should also say that I'm using the term "ethnic" in a much different sense than we use it today. The term ethnic under the Ottomans mainly applies to language use, although even there it's a bit fuzzy as a categorical term. Most Ottoman subjects identified themselves in terms of their religion. You were either Christian, Muslim or Jew. A secondary form of identification was the language you spoke. This second form was malleable however because under the Empire, there were all sorts of incentives to switch religions. Thus, you had Greek-speaking Muslims, and Ladino-speaking Muslims, but you also had Turkish-speaking Christians (the Karamans, crypto-Christians who had simply adopted Turkish as a mother tongue) as well. And I'm not talking about multilingual subjects. They spoke one language exclusively though they did not ascribe to the religion of their dominant language group. At most, the people who are known as Greeks today referred to themselves as Romans. But that distinction began to fall away during the Ottoman period. Hellenism didn't begin until the 17th century.

by Upstate NY on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 12:00:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where was it hiding?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 09:32:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I liked that bit as well (also that he is only refering to protestant theology and no catholic after the reformation, mentioning Harnack in particular.)
No, the Bible is of course composed. (We cannot go back before modernity means that as well)

The fact that the holy spirit guided the composers, is a different matter. But part of the reason, why your theology degree is so long in Germany is because you are supposed to learn greek and hebrew, and you have to look at the different levels of textual formation of the scripture (words that don't fit, events that don't make sense). There is Q, which is a source for Matthew and Luke.

No, the Bible only works as a composition. Anybody that thinks differently should look at what is really there. (and that includes original fragments and transcripts, translations and soforth)

by PeWi on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 08:18:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're contaminated by having studied theology in a scientific institution. Recant!

Snark aside, I should butt out of this. Like I said, this is going to degenerate into textual criticism, and that is an even stranger source for inter-civilisational casus belli than editorial cartoon drawing.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. — Euripides

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 15th, 2006 at 08:23:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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