Monday, August 18, 2014

Gunfight Rule #1

Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns
 Bring all your friends who have guns.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

17 August 1942

Just prior to dawn, the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion under Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson landed on Makin island from the submarines NAUTILUS and ARGONAUT. The next day the Marines left the island after destroying a seaplane base, two radio stations, a supply warehouse, and killing about 100 Japanese soldiers.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

9 August 1942

With the Guadalcanal airstrip secure after heavy fighting with the Japanese, the 1st Engineer Battalion commenced work on the runaway using captured equipment.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Something to consider

Muslims who say that differences in the Gospels are evidence of their unreliability rarely ever consider that the Qur'an contains parallel accounts of the same event that differ in detail, order, and content.

What did Lot say to the people of Sodom? Well that depends on which Surah we read:

Surah 7:80 - Will you commit foulness such as no creature ever did before you? For you come with lust to men instead of women; you are indeed a transgressing people!

26:165-166 - What! Of all creatures do you come unto the males? And leave the wives your Lord created for you? No, but you are people who transgress.

27:54 - Will you commit abomination knowingly? Must you practice lust with men instead of women? No, you are but a people that are ignorant.

29:28-29 - You commit obscenity such as no creature did before you. Do you come unto men, and rob on the highway, and practice wickedness in your meetings?

The literary nature of our primary translation, The Majestic Qur'an, means that the same Arabic terms sometimes are translated by English synonyms. The nature of the one word fahishat, rendered as "foulness," "abomination," and "obscenity," is defined here as "come unto the males," i.e., homosexual behavior. Buy in Surat 7 and 27 the Qur'an uses an interrogative, "Will you commit?" and in 29 add a reference to the sin's uniqueness, "as no creature did before you," yet one uses the decorative and the other the interrogative.

Surah 27 adds "knowingly" (literally, "while you see"); 29 includes further sins (robbery and wickedness). Surah 7 records the condemnation as "you are a transgressing (mus'rifuna) people"; 26 says you are a people who transgress" using a different term, aduna. Surah 27 moves further from both by saying they are ignoring (tajhaluna).

With the Gospels, we can see for instance why Matthew or Mark would use different terminology, as they drew from a common oral translation and sought to reach differing audiences in differing contexts. But how, in the Islamic view, can those three Qur'anic statements be harmonized? Did Lot say this three times?

On a simple literary level, these texts are very similar, yet we are looking at the Qur'an and specifically at the belief that these are the very words of Allah without human intermediation. The less conservative Muslim could suggest Muhammad used different terms and cadence and phraseology to produce a pleasing poetic form for his recitations. But Muslim orthodoxy has concluded that none of this can enter into the analysis of these parallel texts.

The heavenly Qur'an has nothing to do with Muhammad's thoughts, knowledge, or even means of expression. So why would Allah recite Lot's words in different ways? Did Lot speak of other sins, as in Surah 29, or not? Did he say "knowingly," as in Surah 27, or not? Islamic orthodoxy's demands as to the nature of the Qur'an revelation require answers to these questions.

What did the people of Sodom say to Lot?

7:82 - Drive them out of your city! They are people who keep themselves pure!

26:167 - If you cease not, O Lot, you will soon be of the outcast.

27:56 - Expel the house hold of Lot from your city, for they are people who purify themselves!

29:29 - Bring Allah's torment upon us if you are truthful!

There is wide variation as to the people of Sodom's response among these four accounts, all narrated, we are told, by Muhammad. It is easier to note the connections than the differences (with Surah 29 being even more "different" than the other three) Surat 7 and 27 refer to Lot and his people as those who "keep themselves pure" or "purify themselves" and include a command to expel or drive them out (with only a slight difference in forms). One could easily assume that each text gives a selection of many shouted-out replies borne of anger against Lot, but this does not mesh with the Islamic belief in the nature of the Qur'anic revelation.

How did Allah punish the City of Sodom?

7:84 - And We rained a rain upon them. See how was the end of the criminals!

26:173 - And We rained on them a rain. Zsnf dreadful is the rain of those who have been warned.

27:28 - And We rained a rain upon them. Dreadful is the rain if those who have been warned.

29:31 - We are about to bring down upon the people of this city punishment from the sky because of their corruption. And We have left a clear sign for people who understand.

In the fifth parallel account, Surah 11, that final judgment is styled, "So when Our commandment came to pass, We overthrew [that city], and rained down on them stones of baked clay, one after another." This provides a parallel with Surat 29 leaving 7, 27, and 26 closely parallel, again with slight differences in wording and phraseology. Surah 7 directs people to "see" how their end came about, while 29 refers to this judgment as a "clear sign people who understand," and 26 also speaks of if as a sign, yet which did not bring belief.

Note here the precisely identical Arabic text of Surat 26 and 27 in phraseology. Why is this significant? Because it shows the author could provide exact duplicate narration if he wished. In the majority of the parallels we can identify in the text, he does not. Though thus raises the question of why, the orthodox Islamic view of inspiration and revelation does not allow us to pursue the matter, for it denies that the author's intentions can be discerned-the author is not Muhammad or a later reactor, but Allah himself.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Can One Justifiably Infer Jesus' Resurrection on the Basis of Empirical Evidence?

  1. If it cannot be established that Jesus transformed into a supernatural body after He rose from the dead, then the Resurrection cannot be established. 
  2. If cannot be established that Jesus transformed into a supernatural body after He rose from the dead. 
  3. Therefore, the Resurrection cannot be established. 

It seems to say that even if Jesus somehow survived, there is no evidence whatever that He rose in an immortal/indestructible body. Therefore, the argument grants a resurrection of sorts, but not the supernatural kind the New Testament describes. Thus, the divine claims of Christ cannot be established by resurrection evidence. 

This argument seems to assume that one must establish proof of Jesus' resurrection by proving He had a supernatural body after He was raised. This really isn't an argument against Jesus' resurrection. Rather it's an attempt to prove that you can't justifiably infer Jesus' resurrection on the basis of empirical evidence. It's an attempt, not to refute the resurrection of Jesus, but to undercut a historical argument for Jesus' resurrection.

Borrowing From the Tanakh and Jewish Mythology

Compared to what very little knowledge the Qur'an author had with even the basic stories of the Gospels, let alone anything else in the Christian Scriptures, he shows a significantly greater familiarity with the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures. Numerous stories well known to Jews and Christians appear in the text (at times in oddly edited forms). However, as noted above in reference to Christian sources both historical and legendary, the Qur'an seems to make no differentiation between legendary Jewish tradition and what actually appears in the Hebrew Scriptures. We are struck with the strong contrast between the New Testament's immersion in their actual text and the Qur'an sharp disconnection from and ignorance of the same (even though, once more, familiar with oral stories and myths drawn from it).

The most oft-cited example of the Qur'an reliance upon Jewish traditions and myths is Surah 5:30-32:

30. The spiteful soul of the other [Cain] led him to the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother's naked corpse. He said: "Woe is me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother's naked body corpse?" And he became repentant. For that cause We ordained for the Children of Israel that whosoever kills a human being for other than [the crimes of] manslaughter or corruption in the earth, shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our Messengers came to them of old with clear signs, but afterwards many of them became committed to excesses in the earth. 

Jews and Christians familiar with Genesis 4 know well what happened when murder entered into the experience of the nascent human family. But where did the bird scratching on the ground come from? God sent a raven to teach a murder how to hide his victim's corpse? This is a strange addition. 

However, the Jews of Muhammad's day would not have been surprised, for once again again, in the sources containing the stories that were being told, we find a similar tale. A number of Jewish sources record tradition, dating to the second to third centuries AD, narrating an event that took place after the murder of Abel. While Adam and sat next to his corpse, a raven came up, scratched in the earth, and buried another bird. Adam and Eve take a lesson from it and bury Abel's body. In the Qur'anic version, Cain does the burying, buy in both a raven inspires the human family in the instance if its first death. 

How certain are we that this is Qur'an's source? Surety is increased greatly in that another extra-biblical Jewish tradition is referenced in this same section. The key text on mankind's unity, on the killing of one as the killing of all, is found almost word for work in the Jewish Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5: 

F In the case of a trial for property cases, a person pays money and achieves atonement for himself. In capital cases [the accused's] blood and the blood of all those who were destined to be born from him [who was wrongfully convicted] are held against him [who testifies falsely] to the end of time. 

G For so we find in the case of Cain who slew his brother, as it is said, The bloods of your brother cry (Gen. 4:10). 

H It does not say, "The blood of your brother," but, "The bloods of your brother" - his blood and the blood of all those who were destined to be born from him.

I Another matter: The bloods of your brother - for his blood was spattered on trees and stones. 

J Therefore man was created alone to teach you that who ever destroys a single Israelite soul is deemed by Scripture as if he had destroyed a whole world.

K And whoever saves a single Israelite soul is deemed by Scripture as if he had saved a whole world. 

So in the matter of only a few sentences, we find the Qur'an drawing from Jewish traditions that date from the second through the fifth centuries prior to its writing. The story of the raven is hardly found in the Mishnah, is one of the central theological affirmations in Islamic theology. That we can identify a preexisting source if such a vital section is extremely important. 

The next text often pointed to is the story of Abraham in Surah 21. Abraham refuses to worship the gods of his people. Upon destroying some of their idols, Abraham testifies that there is only one God. We pick up in ayah 68:

They said: "Burn him and help your gods, if you will!" We said: "O fire! Be coolness and peace for Abraham!" They wished to snare him, but We made then Losers.

There is no reference to such an incident, of course,  in the Hebrew Scriptures. But again, in the Jewish stories and traditions that existed in the centuries prior to the Qur'an's writing, we find a reference to Abraham, the destruction of idols, and a fiery pit. The second-century Midrash Rabbah has a strikingly similar story: Abraham smashes idols, and then is taken to the king, who, upon tiring of arguing with him, has him cast into a fiery furnace, and God saves him from the fire. The same pattern emerges: An ahistorical Jewish tradition is taken by the Qur'an's author to be historical and seemingly on the same level and authority as as the actual text of the Hebrew Scriptures.