Middle East Facts and Fiction: Interview with a Biblical Scholar
Today many sincere people of faith have been debating if the God of the Bible is the same author of the Koran. The answer could have profound political ramifications regarding the Middle East and the real estate we call the temple mount in Israel. To find out the answer to this religious and political enigma which is facing the world today, I will once again ask my husband, biblical scholar and historian, J.P. Sloane, what his research tells him.
L.S.: Could you shed some light on who the author of the Bible is and who the author of the Koran is and if they are the same person?
J.P.: That’s an excellent question. We know that the Koran makes the claim that the biblical angel Gabriel gave Muhammad the Koran. The Koran says in Surah (chapter) 2:97, Say, Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by god’s will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe.
Because we are in the Christmas season, let’s compare the angel Gabriel of the Bible and the angel Gabriel of the Koran regarding Mary and Jesus. Those of us who are Christians believe that Jesus is God. This is confirmed by the angel Gabriel where we read in the Bible how he told Mary she would soon be pregnant.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1: 26-32, NIV, emphasis mine).
How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin? The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35, NIV, emphasis mine).
Yet in the Koran, this same angel Gabriel, speaking on Allah’s behalf, tells Mohammad:
Blessed is Allah Who sent down the Criterion of the Quran to His servant Muhammad, that it may be a warning to all creatures; He to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: No son has he begotten, nor has He a partner in His dominion (Surah 25: 1-2).
Either Allah is not the God of the Bible or the angel Gabriel is schizophrenic! If Islam teaches that Jesus is not Allah’s son and, therefore, not God, the God of the Bible could not have authored the Koran.
L.S.: If Allah and the God of the Bible are different, where did Allah come from?
J.P.: Islam is a faith that emerges out of the ancient Arabian pantheon mythology. There are around 360 gods in the ancient Arabian polytheism, among which Allah is one.
Some have wondered that if there are up to 360 gods, how did Allah emerge to be the only one to survive in today’s culture. The answer, of course, is reasonably simple.
In Arabia of the seventh century, as in the Arabia of today, there are many tribes and customs. Mohammed’s tribe worshipped Allah, the Moon god (that’s why on the top of mosques we see the crescent moon) and the god of War. It is not unreasonable that Mohammed would acknowledge that out of all of the gods of the neighboring tribes, his tribal god was the one true god.
LS: Why are there so many discrepancies between what Muslims claim as facts and what we know historically — or what we can observe – regarding the accuracy of what some Muslims claim?
J.P.: We see that rooted in the Islamic religion is the concept that distorting the truth is acceptable. Even Allah can change his mind or promise one thing and then do another if he so desires (Surah 2: 106), but the God of the Bible never changes (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13: 8).
As the Koran states in Surah 3, verse 54, ‘and they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.’
Indeed, Mohammed’s famous, Hudaybiyah Treaty, demonstrates how a Muslim may lie for a better outcome. Mohammed made a ten-year treaty with the militarily stronger Koresh Tribe in the seventh century which has also become known as the Treaty of the Prophet. However, after two years, Mohammed was able to acquire greater military strength and ignoring the treaty he had made, he slaughtered the entire tribe. Presumably, what Mohammed did was done with the blessings of Allah.
Therefore, if Allah or a Muslim presents a scheme with an outcome different than what the participants agree to, this deception or lie is referred to as taqiyya. If you do research to see whether or not Allah can lie, many Muslim apologists will deny it, which leads us to question as to whether they are telling the truth about Allah lying or are they lying to fool (taqiyya )the infidel?
LS: What does this have to do with our dealings with Middle East Muslims today?
J.P.: Allow me to digress for a moment and share with you a point we made in a November 29, 2012, PolitiChicks.tv article regarding Mohammed going to Heaven from the alleged third holiest site in Islam, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Modern Islamists promote this idea by citing Surah 17:1 which is entitled, The Night Journey. It reads: Glory to Allah who did take his servant for a journey by night from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque, whose precincts we did bless, in order that we might show him some of our signs: for he is the one who heareth and seeth (all things).’
As we pointed out, this is a twentieth century invention of Haj Amin al-Husseini (1896-1972). al-Husseini is from the same tribe as Yassar Arafat who amplified this taqiyya doctrine after the 1967 war in Israel. However, the Temple Mount also has a structure built upon the exact spot where the Hebrew temple once stood—and the place where Muhammad allegedly went to heaven—a structure called the Dome of the Rock, whose very existence presents a major problem for Islam and the Jews.
L.S.: Could you explain the meaning of the name Dome of the Rock and what the rock is?
J.P.: The dome part, of course, refers to the structural dome roof of the building while the rock refers to a large rock table-like structure over which it is built. This rock has special importance because it is believed by Jews and Christians to be the very place called Mount Moriah where the Hebrew Patriarch, Abraham, prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to God (Genesis 22:9). It is also the place where many believe that the Holy of Holies stood in the First and Second Temples and where Muslims claim that Muhammad left earth on his Night Journey.
L.S.: I heard there is a controversy about who built the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. If it really is a Muslim building, it would be very hard to dismantle it and put up a third temple. What can you tell me about that?
J.P.: The reason why I digressed was in order to address the question you just asked which allows us to further explore Islamic truth and/or fiction regarding the Dome of the Rock.
The Koranic verse that the pseudo-Palestinian people use in an effort to gain validity that Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinians because it contains the Temple Mount from where Muhammad supposedly left earth on his heavenly journey is found in Surah 17 which reads: Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, Whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He Is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things). (Surah 17:1)
Now let us look at the historical facts. Mohammed died June 8, 632 A.D., in the city of Medina in what is now modern day Saudi Arabia. During Muhammad’s lifetime, Muslims had no control over the city of Jerusalem. The Christian Byzantines ruled Jerusalem from 313 A.D. until 636 A.D.; however, in 614, there was a revolt which led to the conquest of Jerusalem by Persian and Jewish forces. This revolt ended 15 years later in 629 A.D. when the Byzantine Empire regained control. As we stated, Mohammed died in 632 A.D., and it wasn’t until five years after his death in 637 A.D. when the Muslims, under Caliph Umar, took control of Jerusalem.
Obviously, a close look at the dates makes it abundantly clear that Mohammed never left from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during his lifetime, but from one of the two mosques referred to while he was alive, which are located in Mecca and Medina, thereby negating the premise of Jerusalem being the third holiest city in Islam through the use of the Koran’s The Night Journey proof text.
Through the centuries, there has been a debate as to who built the Dome of the Rock. We do know that when Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, he did some construction and restoration work; however, domed structures, admired by Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula, were not indigenous to the culture and architecture of the Middle East. It was with the introduction of the Byzantine Empire that the dome ceilings were introduced into the Middle East.
There has been much written pro and con regarding the controversial building we call the Dome of the Rock, however, we have heard about some interesting archaeology discoveries that were made in 1997 by Abner Raban, the Co-Director of the Caesarea excavations in Israel (which was documented in Zola Levitt Presents program entitled, “The Stones Cry Out: Rulers in Stone” and re-broadcast in part in December, 2012.
Abner Raban shows us what has come to be called the Second Temple Mount, located in the coastal city of Caesarea Maritime, Israel. Herod the Great built a large temple on the design of the Parthenon, although not as large, to honor the goddess Roma and Caesar Augustus. Later, the Byzantines built on that spot an octagonal temple, which is the same shape and size as the Dome of the Rock.
A Fatimid installation built within the marble floor of the octagonal church, a view to the East.
The team also recovered much additional evidence for the better-preserved early Christian church, octagonal in plan, built above the temple, and on the same orientation, about 500 CE. Newest discoveries include the base of the ambo, or preacher’s pulpit, the sanctuary or bema reached by two steps paved, like the rest of the church, with elegant marble, and the foundations of what appear to be a martyr’s shrine in the exact center of the octagonal church. This church resembles in design and size (ca. 40 m in diameter) the Muslim Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and, as has been suggested, may have been one of the inspirations for the celebrated Muslim monument, built two centuries later. ….After the Islamic conquest the octagonal church appears to have stood on the Temple Platform for more than a century, until it collapsed in the great earthquake that struck the region in 749 CE. In the 1999 season the excavators found additional evidence for seismic destruction.
As Raban pointed out in the above quotation, the temple dome in Caesarea lasted 100 years after the Muslims had conquered the Holy Land and was destroyed in an earthquake. To be fair, some have suggested that Caliph Umar simply copied the octagonal building and built it from scratch on the Temple Mount. While it is true that whenever Muslims conquered a country they would usually convert the churches into mosques as an outward means of showing that Allah Akbar (Allah is Greatest), they never were, to my knowledge, so enamored with any Jewish or Christian temples that they would copy them. If Caliph Umar did copy the octagonal temple at Caesarea, this would be an Islamic first. I rather suspect that the two octagonal domed buildings co-existed on both of the Temple Mounts at or near the same time and Caliph Umar simply did what many Muslims would do in the future – reconstruct or convert the existing octagonal domed building in Jerusalem. What we do know for sure about the two dome structures is that at one point they both existed at the same time and were identical in shape, size and structure.
In Zechariah 12:3, we see that God is going to make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for the whole world and as we read above, Jerusalem, and specifically the Temple Mount, is one of the most controversial pieces of real estate probably in the whole universe.
Did Mohammed leave from the Christian Temple Mount on his night journey, and is the Dome of the Rock originally a sacred Islamic mosque as claimed or merely a re-purposed Christian Byzantine structure that adds to another chapter in the volume of Islamic myths?