The Long View 2008-01-14: Bush & Gog; Hillary Found Out; What Damian Thompson did not expect; Variant Korans


Apparently the comfy chair did not dissuade Damian Thompson from his muckraking ways.

Bush & Gog; Hillary Found Out; What Damian Thompson did not expect; Variant Korans

Many persons hold President Bush in light esteem, but few actually identify him with Antichrist or his precursors. Nonetheless, that is the gist of the Megillat Bush, a scroll that was supposed to have been given to him during his recent visit to Israel. The scroll was written by Zionists of the sort who intend to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem on the site of the current Dome of the Rock, and who therefore object to any peace settlement that involves turning over that area to a future Palestinian state. The text of the scroll is available from the Temple Institute. It begins:

Esteemed Mr. George W. Bush, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal (Ezekiel 38:1), leader of the west!

Turning to Ezekiel, we read:

The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of [a] Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him 3 and say:...

Well, say very bad things, as you might expect. The verses in question have usually been interpreted to refer to a Russian leader in the millenarian tracts of the past fifty years. There is quite a bit of feedback between Christian millenarianism and Zionist messianism, but the transmission has never been perfect.

Readers interested in building their own Temples should consult the commendable graphics on the Temple Institute site.

* * *

That exegete Mark Steyn parsed some texts issuing from Hillary Rodham Clinton in connection the late Sir Edmund Hillary and found them wanting:

MS...And of course, he famously encountered Hillary Rodham Clinton a few years ago, and she told him that her parents had named her Hillary, H-I-double L-A-R-Y after him, which of course caused great amusement to those of us who looked into it and discovered that Hillary had been born, I think it was six years before he conquered Everest, when he wasn’t the conqueror of Everest, but he was an obscure New Zealand beekeeper, and an unlikely source of inspiration for the parents of a newborn in the Chicago suburbs. But far be it for me to question Hillary Rodham Clinton.

HH: Maybe they were into bees.

MS: I believe she actually floated that one for a while, that she claimed that when she was called on this, you know, rather ridiculous thing, she said oh, it wasn’t just the whole Everest conquering thing. My parents had seen an interview with him in a newspaper about beekeeping.

The industrious Snopes did the homework on this matter. It seems that it was not quite impossible that Hillary's mother read an article about Edmund Hillary in 1947: he was actually a moderately well-known mountaineer by then. However, a search of several major American newspapers from that period reveals no reference. Also, it is a little odd that Hillary Clinton did not mention this origin for her name until she met Sir Hillary in 1995. On the other hand, Snopes also notes that the Clintons' spokespeople say that this was a story that Hillary Clinton's mother told her, so the attribution of the name was just a family legend. Still, it appears in none of the thoroughly researched biographical accounts of her family.

* * *

There is no one in American Catholic journalism quite like Damian Thompson of the UK Telegraph and Catholic Herald. His moderate-conservative views are not rare, and neither is his suspicion that the Catholic hierarchy in his country is, on the whole, lethally incompetent. The difference is that he criticizes important English ecclesiastics and academic figures explicitly, by name, and in publications with a general circulation. Rumor has it that it will soon be the Comfy Chair for him:

Attempts are being made to silence Damian Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of The Catholic Herald and commentator for The Daily Telegraph on his Holy Smoke blog. Apparently, Mr Thompson is to be silenced in order that he can no longer criticise ‘the hierarchy, Eccleston Square, inaction on the Motu Proprio, Church bureaucracy, or make suggestions on Cormac's successor, or criticise the dreadful Tablet’...according to Father Ray Blake of St Mary Magdalene Church in Brighton, the hierarchy is indeed conspiring to silence Mr Thompson...words are being had and secret meetings are being held between Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Papal Nuncio, the Barclay brothers (who are Roman Catholic), the owner and chairman of the Catholic Herald and the editors of two national newspapers

The Comfy Chair is a Monty Python reference. Didn't you people ever study the classics?

* * *

Meanwhile, that Spengler at Asia Times is highly exercised about the recovery of early variant texts of the Koran:

Islam watchers blogged all weekend about news that a secret archive of ancient Islamic texts had surfaced after 60 years of suppression. Andrew Higgins' Wall Street Journal report that the photographic record of Koranic manuscripts, supposedly destroyed during World War II but occulted by a scholar of alleged Nazi sympathies, reads like a conflation of the Da Vinci Code with Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail....Why were the Nazis so eager to suppress Koranic criticism? Most likely, the answer lies in their alliance with Islamist leaders, who shared their hatred of the Jews and also sought leverage against the British in the Middle East.

You can find the piece by Andrew Higgins here. Visitors to this website should not be surprised by a Nazi-Islamist connection, or its persistence after the Second World War. However, an examination of the Higgins piece really does not support the thesis that the archive was kept secret all these years by disgruntled Nazi Arabists. Anyway, here is why is Spengler so excited:

The Encyclopaedia of Islam (1982) observes, "The closest analogue in Christian belief to the role of the Koran in Muslim belief is not the Bible, but Christ." The Koran alone is the revelatory event in Islam.

What if scholars can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Koran was not dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammad during the 7th century, but rather was redacted by later writers drawing on a variety of extant Christian and Jewish sources? That would be the precise equivalent of proving that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels really was a composite of several individuals, some of whom lived a century or two apart.

The theological explanation is correct. It is no real difficulty for Christianity, even sola scriptura Protestantism, that the Bible evolved; indeed, patristics is in part the study of the evolution of the canon. The Koran makes much higher ontological claims for itself. On the whole, though, I am underwhelmed by this report. It is not news that there was more than one early version of the Koran. The orthodox version is the one adopted by the caliphate at Damascus. This is not logically inconsistent with the proposition that the text chosen was the correct text. Neither were the variant texts at issue here discovered by archeology. They were found and photographed in Middle Eastern and North African libraries, whose curators presumably had some idea what they were curating and did not think it an intolerable embarrassment.

Logical consistency, however, is not the same as subjective confidence. The Dead Sea Scrolls were actually a nothing-burger in terms of their real implications for the history of early Christianity, but there was a cultural predisposition at the time of their discovery to entertain "scientific" challenges to the foundations of Christianity, and they were duly pressed into service for that purpose. To this day, there is an urban legend to the effect that the Dead Sea Scrolls refuted the New Testament. (There is a bit of this in the Higgins piece, too. The orthodox interpretation of the Bible actually survived the Higher Criticism very well. The scholarly consensus settled on the conservative side of most questions.)

So, I suspect that the new Higher Criticism will have a disruptive effect on Islam only if a disruption is already happening for other reasons.

Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly

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