Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bassam Zawadi on a Biblical "Absurdity"

In a recent debate with Bassam Zawadi, I said that he too readily accepts "problems" in the Bible, while he quickly dismisses errors in Muhammad's teachings. Bassam insisted that he is consistent in his methodology. I thought it would be good to give my readers an example of what I mean.

The Qur'an and the Hadith are filled with absurd teachings about Satan sleeping in our noses and prophets communicating with insects (see here, here, here, here, and here for some examples). Bassam finds Muhammad's teachings entirely plausible. But in an effort to draw attention away from Muslim sources, he has written an article on "Biblical Absurdities." Let's look at one of these "absurdities," to see whether I was right about him being too quick to condemn the Bible.

Judges 9:8-15

8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, 'Be our king.'

9 "But the olive tree answered, 'Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?'

10 "Next, the trees said to the fig tree, 'Come and be our king.'

11 "But the fig tree replied, 'Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?'

12 "Then the trees said to the vine, 'Come and be our king.'

13 "But the vine answered, 'Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?'

14 "Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, 'Come and be our king.'

15 "The thornbush said to the trees, 'If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!'

Trees and bushes can speak to each other?

Well, that certainly seems absurd. Trees and vines talking? This reminds us of Islamic teachings about trees and animals converting to Islam! But let's look at the passage in context, so we can see what Bassam has left out.

And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother's father, saying, "Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, 'Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?' Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh."

And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, "He is our relative."

They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him.

Then he went to his father's house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.

All the men of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.

Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out. Thus he said to them, "Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us!' But the olive tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?' Then the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come, reign over us!' But the fig tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?' Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come, reign over us!' But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?' Finally all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come, reign over us!' The bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.'

"Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved--for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian; but you have risen against my father's house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative--if then you have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech."

Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and remained there because of Abimelech his brother.

Now, in context, is the Bible saying that trees and vines talk to one another (as Bassam has represented it)? Not at all! When we add the context (which Bassam has omitted), we find that this is a parable being told by a man named Jotham. He tells a story to illustrate a point he is making. Hardly an absurdity!

The fact that Muslims will point to this as a problem in the Bible shows how desperate they are to attack the Bible. While I have come to expect this sort of thing from people like Nadir Ahmed, I really think that Bassam is better than this, and that he will remove this obvious misrepresentation from his website so that he doesn't continue to mislead his readers.


anakrinontes_tas_graphas said...

And when Bassam Zawadi gets to the NT, well, whaddayaknow, he only cites passages from Revelation, seemingly forgetting its apocalyptic nature.

Jay said...

My goodness - this is EXACTLY what I mean when I say that Muslim apologists mislead unwitting Muslims to the point of deception. So a character in an account tells a parable and this is somehow supposed to constitute an absurdity??? What is absurd is the way apologists like Bassam twist and turn to make their point.

B said...

Title of Link

Jay said...

Bassam - a quick response to your reply is that the so called absurdities you point out in the Bible are largely due to the fact that you are literalizing imagery. These images are not meant to be taken literally. So no, Heaven does not actually have literal floodgates and the slaying of a dragon refers to the defeat of Satan.

So I think your accusation of absurdity is easily explained, unlike the situation in Islam where we have teachings such as meteors being missles fired at demons. Unless you want to argue that this is also figurative, in which case I'd like to ask you what this teaching means in a figurative sense.

Secondly, you haven't responded to David's explanation that the context of this passage clearly shows that it is a parable. Now this means that you intentionally left out the context to make your point. This is either dishonest or ignorant. Don't worry about David - answer for yourself.

If this is dishonesty, why are you going to such extremes? I suspect it's because you, like ALL Muslim apologists, have to resort to such tactics because you don't have honest criticisms.

Dk said...

Dear Christians, I'll take this one.

Taken from the link Bassam refers to in his article:

"All Semitic languages, and especially Arabic, are full of metaphors and hyperboles. Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) used to speak in parables; similarly, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) used to instruct his people sometimes in a metaphorical and symbolic language."

Now this was written after a question about Satan going into noses while people are sleeping.

Firstly, "sometimes" doesn't indicate whether in this case Mohammed was using this sort of metaphorical language or not. But assuming that he means "sometimes" includes this case he is contradiced by the literal view which he does infact cite:

"Muslim scholars explain that the nose is one of the ways to one’s mind and thoughts. Satan tries to put his ideas and suggestions into the mind of a person during his sleep as well. The best cure is that after waking up one should clean one’s nose, make ablution for Prayers and seek God’s protection."

Now can Bassam do the same (without referring to "cult" groups within Christianity) in reference to his citations from the book of Revelation?

Bassam, in other words, since you are a salafi literalist, why do you assume that christians apply the same principles of intepretation with the Bible that you do with the Quran and Hadith?

Obviously your particular brand of Islam takes these passages in Bukhari etc literally, even proven by you:

"Be that as it may, the basic point is that animals/trees speaking, either to each other or with humans, humans speaking with insects etc., are some of the miracles granted by God from time to time on certain occasions."

Where in Christianity do we have the same with the passages you cited in such places as Isaiah and Revelation?

In order for your argument to work it needs to be completed by pointing out an actual inconsistancy exists, meaning that Christians similar to (Salafi Muslims) actually believe that these absurdities LITERALLY OCCUR.

Otherwise you are comparing apples and oranges. Since Salafis take this crap literally, while Christians don't take what is intended to be apocalpytic or allegory as "literal", then your argument is not a parallel and no inconsistancy is shown.

B said...

there is no point to answer you any of you, since none of you have read my article carefully.

Jay said...

Oh the irony of your statement Bassam :)