Does the Qu’ran and the Bible Teach Jihad?

I hope you are intrigued by the title of this post and the link below and read on! Go to the below link last.

Is the Bible your puppet? Exegesis vs. Eisegesis.

I’ve been slowly going through Robert Spencer’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades. One interesting feature is how Spencer will compare the words of Jesus with the words of  Muhammad. His purpose is to show that jihad is fundamentally basic to Islam using the words of the Prophet while Jesus taught no such doctrine.

Conquests of Prophet Muhammad and the Rashidun...

Conquests of Prophet Muhammad and the Rashidun Caliphate, 630-641. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades

Spencer also frequently cites the Qu’ran to make the point especially that jihad (holy war) is part and parcel of Islam and that the Bible teaches no such thing.

The Qu’ran may be thought of as the holy book of Islam. Spencer cites the Qu’ran frequently but he also gives much guidance as to “how” to” read the Qu’ran.

The how to issue is rather important because it also raises the issue as to “how to” read the Bible. For some, it’s not important at all since they have already made up their mind as to the veracity of the Bible or of the Qu’ran and so to them it matters not how one approaches either set of texts.

But for those who find the “how to” question to be an intriguing question let me suggest to you the link above I’ve posted as a  starter.

In the interest of full disclosure the link comes from a Conservative Evangelical American point of view of which I am one for those of you who do not know that. It says much about how many conservative evangelical Americans approach the Bible in the first place.

The word “exegesis” means to draw the meaning out of a text from the text itself. To be done rightly it usually requires knowledge of Greek and Hebrew if the pastor/scholar is interested in doing his own “exegesis” as opposed to relying solely on the prior exegesis of others.

The most important distinction that I want to make however is between the idea of “drawing out of the text meaning (exegesis) and “reading into the text” (eisegesis) the meaning of a text.

Someone who reads into a text can find whatever one is looking for in the text. This means they have already assigned meaning to the text prior to studying the text. It’s why some people say “you can find whatever you want in the Bible.”  That is true, if you read into a text whatever you wish to find.

The exegetical method is certainly more objective than approaching the Bible with preconceived ideas and positions. The exegete attempts to draw out the meaning of the text even if it contradicts his preconceived ideas as to what the text means. I believe that such objectivity is possible as the pastor/scholar wrestles with the harder questions that can arise from using this method of biblical interpretation.

The sincere exegete will work hard to draw out the meaning of the text and let the chips fall where they even if it goes against popular opinion or what he may have learned in one theological system or the other.

Sadly, too few seminaries emphasize the exegetical approach to the Scriptures and that explains the plethora of interpretations floating about. It can be mind blogging for someone interested in Christianity but not having any idea where to start.

(Let me suggest that if you fall into the “where to start” category you begin by asking yourself the C.S. Lewis question. Who was Jesus? Was he insane? Was he just a good moral teacher? Was he liar? Or was he God as he claimed to be?  If you decide on the first three options as truth it really doesn’t matter how you approach the Bible since Jesus’s fundamental claim was he was God and he trusted the Scriptures and often times quoted from the Old Testament.)

Nevertheless, for a person interested in Christianity but unsure of where to start it would be a good idea to ask the church or denomination how they approach the Scriptures. Not all approaches are equally valid and some pretty bizarre things have been justified biblically when they are not biblical at all.

As for the Qu’ran and Spencer’s book…Spencer asks a very interesting question early on by making comparisons between the teachings of Muhammad and the teachings of Jesus. I’d rephrase the questions like this:

1. To what extent do the words of the Prophet Muhammad (Muhammad claimed to be Allah’s prophet) influence mainstream Islam in regards to Jihad or holy war?

2. To what extent do the words of Jesus (who claimed to be God) influence Christianity in regards to any war?

To answer the first question I do recommend The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades by Robert Spencer. You can tell by the book’s title that Spencer is not interested in being popular. Personally, I think the west is dangerously naive regarding Islam and I’m not  politically correct either.

To answer the second question I recommend Ethics for a Brave New World by John and Paul Feinberg. (Personally, I think most of the west is just plain ignorant regarding Christianity and in many ways the west is post-Christian. There is still a Christian veneer of sorts but even that seems to be getting thinner and thinner all the time. The Feinbergs are excellent exegetes of the Scripture and in this volume they detail how Christians have viewed war over the centuries and arrive at what they believe to be the best biblical position.

I’ll be adding to this post series from time to time as I work through Spencer’s book.

9 comments on “Does the Qu’ran and the Bible Teach Jihad?

  1. Bruce,
    What you have shared in this post is information that cries out for wide circulation. Unfortunately, the “itching ears” we are witnessing today are going to be hard to open.
    Another book by Spencer that you may have read is The Truth about Muhammad and one brief history of Islam is contained in James Wasserman’s book, The Templars and the Assassins (Due to the “over70” part, Old Bill has no clue how to underscore on this thing).

    • Thanks Old Bill for the encouragement.Your last post was in the back of my mind when I wrote it. I’ve read two other books by Spencer but not the one you mentioned nor the Wassserman book. I will put them on my list and get them on my stack of books to read. Thanks again!

  2. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. It takes courage to stand for something that is even remotely critical of you know who these days no matter how appalling the actions of those who claim to be following you know who’s teachings, though as a Christian it goes without saying that I prefer the teachings of Jesus Christ myself.

    Thanks for the enlightening explanation of the term exegesis Bruce. I am an exegete myself it turns out! I wonder how far one can go in re-interpreting Bible texts without causing upset though? For instance, the parable of the mustard seed is well known and thought to be well understood, but Jesus talks first in terms of a herb which then becomes a tree, so of something which becomes very different with time and growth, so different that it ceases to be that which it began as.

    Then comes the dark description of the birds of the air which come to perch in it. If this is a way of looking at the church does Jesus foretell a church that becomes so different to what God wanted it to be that some very dark influences can come to roost in it?

    This is what I find in the parable and happening in reality today, with a church being asked to change some fundamental attributes and teachings here in the UK. We have just had a debate about the ordination of gay Bishops for example and how long before the traditional teaching on homosexuality is over-turned if that happens? I believe in loving the sinner not the sin by the way and it is not really an issue for me, not something I even want to have to waste time thinking about, I want my church time devoted to the things of God. Then there are the child abusing Priests. Clearly they come into the roosting bird category?

    • Hi Stephen, welcome back. I missed you!

      2 Tim 2:15 indicates that interpretation is hard work and the man I work with works hard at it. He knows Hebrew and Greek and was trained to do exegesis at his seminary. It’s a rather well known one in the States. It’s called The Master’s Seminary and it’s in California. That’s not to say Christians don’t argue about interpretation. But, there are some basic rules, like verbs are always verbs and other grammar issues. I cannot do it myself because I do not have the training in the original languages. But I do enjoy studying the English text myself and much can be learned without knowing the Greek.

      I think parables are intended to have one central point. For example:

      He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
      (Matthew 13:31-32 ESV)

      The central point seems to be that the kingdom of heaven starts small and humbly and yet grows into something so large that birds can next in it. An agrarian people would get the tiny seed transforming into something quite large by comparison. As a stand alone parable it does not seem like much but if the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are one and the same (and I believe they are) then it is indeed a big deal.

      Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
      (Mark 1:14; Mark 1:15 ESV)and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

      So, the gospel starts small, but gets large. Jesus is the kingdom of God at hand, repent and believe in him.

      At least, that’s my thumbnail read on it. The gospel is central.

      Are you Anglican? I thought you were independent Bible? I know the UK Anglican Church is pretty liberal as is the Episcopal variant over here. Many churches that we would call mainline are going that route. It’s more important to them to be politically correct than to stick to what the text says. Sad, but apostasy is a biblical fact.

      My wife and I are in Virginia celebrating our 38th anniversary. Today we visited Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. It was a great tour but I bought a book about the big debate here. Was the US founded as a Christian nation? Many conservative Bible believing Christians believe it was. Others argue that guys like Jefferson and Franklin and others were deists but not orthodox Christians. I think we were heavily influenced by Christianity, especially Calvinism, which I’m a part, but not founded as a Christian nation per se. It has a major bearing on our politics though. As a whole the Democrats are liberal about their faith and their politics and the Republicans tend to be conservative in their religious views and their politics. These are generalizations of course. The real issue is that here in America Christianity is largely self-defining and often simply cultural. It’s probably like that in the UK as well. What matters to me is the centrality of the gospel, rightly defined.

      Anyway, as we say here, the world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket. Nice to talk to you again friend.

  4. Hi Bruce,

    The way of understanding the parable of the mustard seed which you outline is pretty much the teaching I am used to and I understand the implication regarding the kingdom I think. I agree they are one and the same and the ‘Our Father…’ surely supports this view, opening with that essential understanding of the kingdom of heaven realised on earth, so that heaven and earth are one, if possibly only in terms of a spiritual reality, one which we can experience at Holy Communion, a foretaste of what is to come?

    I may have gone too far in claiming to be an exegete in the true sense (clearly did even). I had not resalised that exegesis occurs at the interpretation of language level! I understood the process to be inspired by the Holy Spirit rather than one in which true bible scholars use the mind God has given us that we may know Him to know Him better through inspired texts.

    For the record I am confirmed in the Church of England but denomination has never been important to me and I have always believed in the unity of the churches, rejecting anything doctrinal which divides us, and accepting that interpretation in the exegesis sense may differ but need not divide. I have has some pretty intense discussions about the nature of Holy Communion with RC people for instance but always try to find the common ground and refuse the mindset which divides us, and not just RC and CofE (Protestant as the Rc would say).

    It has never occurred to me until now to question whether or not the USA is a Christian country! I sort of have it pegged that way! I will have to leave that one to you to sort out(!). Incidentally the other way of looking at the parabale of the mustard seed I refer to is actually one I came across in a book on the interpretation of the parables which i dip into as part of my rather sporadic Bible study. I mentioned it as I cannot leave that idea about it alone and I have come to learn that this is often a good indication that the Holy Spirirt is prompting, though to what end is not yet clear. It does not mean that i possess the Gospel Truth on this one clearly but is does seem to fit what is happening.

  5. Bruce,
    Revisiting this post is a little like rereading the Holy Bible (Had to put the “Holy” in to properly honor the Christian scripture, just as The One is careful to say “HOLY Qu’rrrrran” when he refers to his scripture). That is, additional thoughts come to mind when reviewing the same words.

    Mankind has been and seemingly always will be plagued with intellectual arrogance:
    “I’m right and if you don’t believe it, then you are intellectually inferior”.

    Much could be said about that in the natural since, but the point here is concerning the spiritual and how that concerns natural events. That failing (intellectual arrogance) of man has obviously hindered the pure unification of the body of Christ as evidenced by what seems to be the eisegesis you have explained.

    Today’s danger has possibly resulted from what “the Prophet” probably thought he knew about the teachings of “the book”, and used eisegesis and expediency of the moment to develop his “visions”.

    The problem is that, while those who call on the name of Jesus may be arrogant in mentally and verbally criticizing other doctrinal positions, there are certainly hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of Muslims who believe that differences must be settled by conversion, subjugation or death.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments Bill. After a long and somewhat painful journey in evangelical Christianity (I was born RC, but my wife and I left it in the mid-80’s) I’ve finally landed at an evangelical church where the pastor (I’m the asst.) preaches the Word as is, best he can, letting the chips fall where they may. It does not eliminate discussions on interpretation nor should it, but it is interesting to see how clear most things can be if a pastor follows established rules of interpretation and does not concern himself with popularity. The key I think you allude to is having an attitude of humility while working hard to rightly divide the Word of Truth. We’re all flawed and are tempted to get the Word to say what we want for a plethora of reasons. Unfortunately, in many circles in what is labeled evangelical Christianity many simply preach what they think people want to hear and as a result massacre the text and lead many astray.

      The books by Robert Spencer are especially helpful in understanding the Prophet and Islam in general. Islam hates him so he must be on the right track 😉 Seriously, his documentation is impressive and at the end of the day Islam and it’s liberal apologists have to work pretty hard to divorce Jihad (in it’s aggressive and passive forms) from the Koran. The “One” of course does not see this as a problem and as result radical Islam will march on. Islam is pragmatic only when they do not have the power and when they do your head may not be as attached to the rest of your body as you’d like. As always, thanks for the thoughtful comments.

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