Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Two Details

The swine-array reappears on p. 107 of SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival, Chapter Six.

Do "'Deus lo vult!'" and "'Allahu Akbar!'" mean "...approximately the same thing"? (ibid.) Both "deus," the Latin word for "(a) god" and "Allah," the name of a god, have become names of God although one of my correspondents has argued that the Biblical and Koranic concepts of deity are fundamentally different.

Our characters enter battle so I ought to stop blogging and return to reading after some chores.

15 comments:

  1. Paul:
    "*Deus lo vult*" is usually translated as "God wills it"; "*Allahu Akbar*" I've typically seen rendered as "God is great" ... and thus I at least would say they mean CONNECTED but NOT "approximately the same" things. "God is great" doesn't necessarily mean the speaker can know WHAT God wills.

    Also, my understanding of the matter is that "Allah" is not properly a name but a definite article plus a descriptive word: "al lah," "the god" — meaning the ONLY God, and fie upon polytheists. It sticks in my memory that a Merseian captain told Dominic Flandry and Persis d'Io to "prepare your minds for the God" when Flandry refused to halt for boarding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David,
      Thanks. So "Allah" is closer to "deus" in meaning than I thought.
      Yes. Merseian monotheism refers to "the God," making Him sound remote, beyond personal relationships.
      Paul.

      Delete
    2. Kaor, Paul and DAVID!

      Paul, if you meant me in your second paragraph, then, yes, I continue to believe the Biblical and Koranic conceptions of God are fundamentally different. And David's comments about "Allahu akhbar" meaning basically "God is the greatest" seems to favor my view as well. God, as we see Him in both the OT and NT, is the Infinitely Transcendent Other, but also takes an intensely PERSONAL interest in the affairs o the world.

      I used to believe Muslims, however much in error they were on many things, at least believed in the God worshiped by Jews and Christians. But the more I learned about Islam the more I became convinced that was not the case (see, esp., Harry Austryn Wolfson's THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE KALAM).

      Sean

      Delete
    3. Well, it's more like the Jehovah of the Jews and Christians than, for example, the Mormon version.

      Delete
    4. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      I agree Islam is more like what we see in the OT, in some ways, than Mormonism. I don't consider the latter religion to be even a heretical form of Christianity, because it teaches as true too many ideas that no Nicene Christian could agree with.

      Sean

      Delete
  2. Sean: yup, I'd agree on that, and I have no dog in the fight. From what I've been able to puzzle out, the LDS doctrine is arguably not even monotheist; it reminds me of some types of Gnosticism. In a very Horatio Alger, work-your-way-up-to-Godhead sort of way. Islam's founding documents also reveal, if you look at them carefully, that whoever came up with those sections didn't -understand- Trinitarian doctrine. Or possibly it's a sort of very radical form of Arianism. Tho' the Koran also contains chunks which are only explicable as direct (and very bad) translations from Aramaic versions of the Gospels into Arabic. The languages are so similar (and were more so then) that misunderstanding is extremely easy, and Aramaic was the only extant written language for Semitic-speakers in that period.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In the history of Christianity (as Poul points out in the Time Patrol story about the Templars) it's useful to remember that for millennia most Christians were illiterate peasants who had a very basic grasp on the faith, mostly derived from sermons and visual aids like paintings on church walls, Mystery plays and so forth. Ideas that would strike a scholastic as "heretical" were ubiquitous, as were folk-pagan survivals -- things like leprechauns, not the formal pantheons. When the masses got involved in schisms and so forth, their motivations were usually as much "political" as "religious", the way Nestorianism and Monophysitism became identified with the Eastern provinces and the Semitic-speaking peoples as opposed to the Greek-speaking Orthodox church of the Byzantine empire. You got amateur theologians with a real grasp on the issues (at some periods you evidently couldn't buy a drink or get a shave in Constantinople without a theological argument) but those were mostly city-folk.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Donatist-Catholic split in North Africa was similarly linked to Latin-speaking vs. Berber, and city vs. country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      Many thanks for writing three comments to me. I'll respond to all of them here, one by one.

      Exactly, Mormonism is polytheistic, not monotheistic. And includes ideas like Mormons who became gods becoming the gods of other planets. No Nicene (a word I chose as including Catholics, Orthodox, and Trinitarian Protestants) Christian can agree with LDS theology.

      I have read of Hilaire Belloc's comments saying Islam could be understood as a stripped down, Arianizing imitation of Christianity (what you called "radical Arianism). Yes, Mohammed simply did not understand what Christians meant by the Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ. And I admit to being irritated by how Mohammed seemed to have thought Christians included the BVM as one Person of the Trinity!

      Hmmm, I thought, by Mohammed's time, Arabic was also a language used for writing, not just speaking. But that might have been just a small minority of Arabs and Aramaic was used because it was far more widely known at the time. And I can easily see how Arabic speakers might misunderstand much that was written in Aramaic.

      I certainly agree that for many centuries most Christians were illiterate and had to depend on the visual and audible aids you listed for learning about the faith. In fact, the Catholic custom of having Stations of the Cross in our churches is a survival of that practice. Yes, I also agree that non Christian elements of folk religion could slip into the religion of illiterate Christians.

      I can think of at least three of Poul Anderson's works where we see pagan survivals/folk elements in the religion of newly converted/illiterate Christians: THE LAST VIKING, THE MERMAN'S CHILDREN, and "Death And The Knight."

      Yes, politics became as entangled with the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies as the doctrines involved. And seriously contributed to weakening the Byzantine Empire, first in the wars against Sassanid Persia and then the invading Muslim Arabs.

      Problem was, the Eastern Romans thought religious unity was as important as political unity. Much as I disagree with Nestorianism and Monophysitism, I would have advised them that it was better to tolerate these heresies instead of trying to force orthodoxy on their adherents. That it was better to be content with winning their political loyalty. Given that, they might have been less willing to make the fatal mistake of accepting Muslim rule. A Monophysite Patriarch of Alexandria, actually surrendered, without a fight, fortresses to the invading Arabs!

      Yes, I have heard of the Donatist cotroversy in North Africa, and how it too got mixed up with politics. In their origins, the Donatists were rigorous Christians who objected to the Catholic practice of letting apostates back into the Church (after doing penance).

      Sean

      Delete
  5. Sean: try reading the Muslim version of the Annunciation sometime. It's actually sort of hilarious because of that mistranslation thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      I might well have! When it comes to using the Koran I prefer NJ Dawood's version. If the Muslim "Annunciation" is in the Koran, do you recall which Sura it's in?

      Sean

      Delete
    2. Not offhand. It's the one where the angel promises her that she'll be suspended over a river, IIRC..

      Delete
    3. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      Our Lady "suspended over a river"???? Now that certainly seems odd to me! I know St. Mary is mentioned five or six times in the Koran, but I don't remember that one.

      Sean

      Delete
    4. Sean:
      "Like a bridge over troubled water...." I'm being facetious here, and possibly flirting with sacrilege, but Simon and Garfunkel DID invoke religious imagery in that song.

      Delete
    5. Kaor, DAVID!

      I was not offended! Nor do I think Our Lady was annoyed! Rather an interesting metaphor used by Simon and Garfunkel.

      Sean

      Delete