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Jason Holliston
Tuesday, July 29, 2003  
The Qur'an Mistranslated?

After reading this article from Newsweek, I sat there and thought about the implications. They would be, to put it lightly, tremendous, if it all pans out in the academic wash.

A German professor of Semitic languages, is arguing that the Qur'an has been mistranslated for over 1000 years. The implication is that many ancient teachings are misguided (such as the promise of virgins upon martyrdom) and that the very roots of the religion are suspect. Here's the biggest bomb dropped:

The original Qur’an, Luxenberg contends, was in fact a Christian liturgical document—before an expanding Arab empire turned Muhammad’s teachings into the basis for its new religion long after the Prophet’s death.

If this holds up to the long process of academic scrutiny, it's almost impossible to imagine the shockwaves that would roll through the entire Muslim world at these revelations. It seems to me this would be akin to learning that due to translation errors, Jesus had no interest in creating a new religion that expanded on Judaism. That he wasn't God, but nothing beyond a prophet like Abraham. That he was just challenging Jewish stagnation. All this, and being shown almost conclusively that this is the case. Note, though, that I already found one huge error in the story:

In the West, questioning the literal veracity of the Bible was a crucial step in breaking the church’s grip on power—and in developing a modern, secular society.

Excuse me? I do realize that he didn't capitalize the 'c' in 'church', but one can assume that he is referring to the Roman Catholic Church. I'm sorry, Stefan, but literalism didn't really take on the form of a major movement until the late 19th century, when the American Evangelical community began to form. The Catholic Church has never taught that the Bible, in it's entirety, should be understood literally. Many of the early stories, especially in Genesis, are to be understood as symbolic, not to mention Jesus' regular use of allegories to teach.

The point is that if he made this whopper of a mistake, I suggest reading the source material before taking it too seriously. In the meantime, it's interesting to think of the wide-ranging effect this would have across the world over the next hundred years.

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