Some classics from the ‘Abrahamic Big Three’ this month; Judaism (or Old Testament Christianity), Pauline Christianity (i.e. that which accepts Paul of Tarsus, the author of the second half of the New Testament, as a prophet) and Islam.
These three religions are essentially the same. Naturally, the prophets of Judaism could not predict and accept the religions which came after, but Pauline Christianity was marketed as a continuation and consummation of the Jewish faith, as was, in a different way, Islam, which accepted Jewish and Christian prophets, granted dispensation to ‘the people of the book’ and began, before Mohammad fell out with the Jews, by turning towards Jerusalem to pray.
The common source of the Abrahamic religions however runs much deeper than this shared mythological tradition. Their foundational commonality is in their conception of a remote God, which is entirely ‘transcendent’, which does not exist in or as nature (He — and it is he — is not ‘immanent’) but which commands a now desacralised nature. A nature which was now open to the fundamentally identical commands of atheistic science which took over from, and which is also essentially the same as, these religions.
Judaism / Old Testament Christianity
Judaism can be said to have begun when one [male] God usurped the pantheon of gods that the earliest Semites worshipped, imposed an exclusive relationship upon ‘His’ people while, at the same time, removing Himself entirely from the material world, which then became at once forsaken and, at the same time, profane.
The Israelites killed every one of the enemy in the barren country where they had chased them. Then they went back to Ai and killed everyone there… The whole population of Ai was killed that day: 12,000 men and women.
Joshua put everyone in the city to death; no one was left alive… After this Joshua and his army went on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. The LORD also gave the Isrealites victory over this city and its king. They spared no-one but killed every person in it (and went on to Lachish and killed everyone, then Eglon and killed everyone, then Hebron and killed everyone, then Debir and killed everyone). He spared no-one; everyone was put to death. That is what the LORD God of Isreal had commanded.
Once, while the Isrealites were still in the wilderness, a man was found gathering firewood on the Sabbath. He was taken to Moses, Aaron and the whole community, and was put under guard, because it was not clear what should be done with him. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘The man must be put to death: the whole community is to stone him to death outside the camp.’ So the whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD had commanded.
…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittities, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites —as the Lord your God has commanded you.
Moses said… Now therefore kill every every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
2 Samuel 15:8
And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.
1 Samuel 15:18
If a slave-girl is the recognised concubine of a man and she has not been paid for and freed, then if another man has sexual relations with her, they will be punished but not put to death, since she is a slave. After all, she is still his slave. The man shall bring a ram to the entrance of the tent of my presence as his repayment offering, and with it the priest shall perform the ritual of purification to remove the man’s sin, and God will forgive him.
Obey my commands. Do not cross-breed domestic animals. Do not plant two kinds of seed in the same field. Do not wear clothes made of two kinds of material.
If two men fight and one’s wife tries to help by grabbing the testicles of the other man, her hand will be cut off without pity.
And here’s a beautiful love-letter from the Jewish ‘Testament of Reuben’
For women are evil, my children, and by reason of their lacking authority or power over man, they scheme treacherously how they might entice him to themselves by means of their looks. And whomever they cannot enchant by their appearance they conquer by a stratagem. Indeed, the angel of the Lord told me and instructed me that women are more easily overcome by the spirit of promiscuity than are men. They contrive in their hearts against men, then by decking themselves out they lead men’s minds astray, by a look they implant their poison, and finally in the act itself they take them captive.
Christianity / Paulism
Jesus of Nazareth initiated a radical break with Judaism, with society and with the kind of rational, ‘utilitarian’ morality which rules over both (see here). For Jesus of Nazareth, the truth is enigmatic to rational consideration and is immediate — ‘laid out over the earth’. This teaching was so radical that Jesus’ followers — chief among them Paul of Tarsus — immediately and fatally compromised by reapplying rational moral standards to it and firing God back out into the distant heavens from which Jesus has rescued Him. They then set about persecuting every interpretation of their religion which was founded on the presence of the kingdom (as all Abrahamic religions have done from the very start) in favour of, in the case of Pauline Christianity, an intercessory faith; one which posits God as separate from creation and which therefore requires hope, faith, belief and the worldly authority of priestly mediation to reach — which is to say everything which Jesus repudiated at every step.
Children… obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing.
Be submissive to rulers and authorities… be obedient.
Titus: 3: 21
As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.
Obey your leaders and submit to them.
Hebrews: 13: 17
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
1 Timothy 2:11:14
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. He who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Romans 13: 1&2
Muslims don’t tend to take criticism very well I find. I therefore direct any readers interested in a good critical account of Islam to Maxime Rodinson’s ‘Mohammed’ and restrict myself to allowing the reader to contemplate these extracts from their holy book (which, despite being unusually explicit are not fundamentally different from the quotes above). I also recommend taking a look online for how they are justified by Muslim scholars.
I will instill terror into the hearts of the Infidels, strike off their heads, and strike off from them every fingertip.
Fighting is prescribed for you, and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you.
When the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them and take them captive, and besiege them and prepare for them each ambush…
When you meet the unbelievers in the Jihad strike off their heads; then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives.
…and slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, such is the reward of those who suppress faith.
That which the right hand possessed is war bounties whether it be women, children, money, or property. So Muslims are limited to four wives but may have no limit to the number of concubines which do not have the same rights as wives. A little provision (food and clothes) is sufficient.
…the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in their sleeping places and beat them…
These are from the Quran. The Hadith, the reported statements and acts of the Muslim prophet (‘the backbone of Islamic civilisation’) contains a fair few other… interesting ideas, but I’ll leave it to the reader to investigate these.
An Important But.
The Abrahamic tradition spans three millennia and covers half the planet. To say that it is devoid of imminence, convivial togetherness and extraordinary beauty — not to mention psychological truth — would be a monstrous misrepresentation. Sufism, the psalms, the Jewish intellectual tradition, Christian mysticism of the middle-ages and the religious art, thoughts and behaviour of people who call themselves Jews, Christians and Muslims is overflowing with qualities which the few quotes here give zero insight into. And although history certainly testifies to the fact that they have been influenced by or found justification in the above, there isn’t a deterministic causal relationship between the behaviour of Jews, Christians and Muslims and the contents of their sacred texts which, in many cases, they haven’t even read.