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Macamathehou in Lincolnshire and people named Muhammad in medieval England (caitlingreen.org)
54 points by pepys 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 41 comments





> an application of the name of the Arab prophet Mohammed (commonly though mistakenly believed by medieval Christians to have been worshipped as a god)

this is mentioned several times in the article, criticizing the translation of "pagan idol". I think it is a bit disingenuous to think the Christians at the time misinterpreted reality, as they have a broader prohibition against "false prophets" not just deities. So if the Christians, by definition only follow the words of Jesus Christ, then the prophet Mohammad who does not and has his own belief system would accurately fit those definitions. The writings and thoughts and actions of Mohammad are core to Islam and inseparable from the worship of a deity.


> So if the Christians, by definition only follow the words of Jesus Christ, then the prophet Mohammad who does not and has his own belief system

That argument isn’t as clear cut since Muhammad himself was adamant that he was preaching the same message of Moses and Jesus. In many ways, Islam was, in its eyes, to Christianity what Christianity, in its eyes, was to Judaism.

You would be hard pressed to find a Muslim theologian (who understands Christian theology) that claims Christians and Muslims worship different gods while until today it remains controversial for Christian theologians to go on the record saying they’re one and the same.

Edit: more to the point, until Victorian times, Muslims were most commonly referred to as Mohammedans because the English-speaking world just assumed Islam is to Muhammad as Christianity is to Jesus Christ.


Right but that isn't really up for reasonable debate. The quran says that Jesus never died on the cross, isn't God and isn't the son of God either. https://quran.com/23/91 Now contrast that with John 3:16, perhaps the most well known single verse that summarizes the central and only gospel of the bible. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%203%3A16&v...

To say that these two are compatible is willful ignorance.


I'll chime in on this, it won't be possible to keep the same level of decorum as before to drive these points but here it goes: Abrahamic religions have the same source material. They all branch off based on the consensus of who the self-proclaimed prophet is, or the consensus on a lack of prophet.

Christians branch off by following Jesus Christ. Nobody else follows that, to many people the whole story jumped the shark when one guy (Saul/Paul) decides to reform his life and go on a Eurotrip to talk about Christ and comes back with a story that has incorporated regional religions along the way. Now there are ghosts, and devotion due to fear has been replaced with devotion due to love. A lot of people just disregard that part because the "New Testament" is inseparable from that guy being the major contributor. The world has basically been splintered in three for the next two millenium because its a different story.

700 years into that, after two major councils that try to reconcile this, people are still like "yeah we're all in line with season 1 but season 2 eehhhhh we can agree the guy was inspirational but" and mostly ignoring it. New sects of Abrahamic religions continue to pop up and continue from older events and books because of the wide consensus that one branch was practically procedurally generated.

So the book of John is in the "New Testament", and if we are acknowledging the similarities of Abrahamic religions it means ignoring the New Testament just for the sake of comparison. When looking at the base material, which Christians also rely upon for inspiration or as rules on how to live life, they are very compatible. The primary distinction of all of the Abrahamic religions is the divinity of the prophets or lack thereof, and thats where the incompatibilities are. It isn't useful to make an example about who says Jesus is divine, when thats the primary distinction by definition. After you get past the prophets, there are more similarities than differences.


Book by Aaron W. Hughes about the use of the term "Abrahamic religions" Oxford University Press, 2012:

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/abrahamic-religions-...

From the description:

"Directly proportionate to the rise of religious exclusivism, perhaps best epitomized by the attacks of 9/11 and the problems now plaguing the Middle East and Afghanistan, there has been a real desire both to find and map a set of commonalities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This is often done, however, for the sake of interfaith dialogue, rather than scholarship."

"Like our understanding of Abraham, the category "Abrahamic religions" is vague and nebulous. Usually lost in contemporary discussions is a set of crucial questions: Whence does the term "Abrahamic religions" derive? Who created it and for what purposes? What sort of intellectual work is it perceived to perform? In order to answer these and related questions, Aaron Hughes examines the creation and dissemination of this category in Abrahamic Religions."

Quotes from the book:

"There is no historical precedent for reading the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim myths that deal with the figure of Abraham or Ibrahim together in the ways that many want to align them today."

"Those interested in reclaiming this Abraham for interfaith dialogue are not motivated by historical study, even though they may try to make certain appeals to it. Rather they imagine variously constructed romanticized and pristine periods of interfaith interaction. They subsequently create a set of words and categories based on their own contemporary concerns and desires, and then read these into various historical and textual sources."


Bold claims of theirs, but no, there is nothing romanticized about this conversation and “Abrahamic” here is simply used for brevity. You figured out what we were talking about which is the point of language.

Being part of a family of religions that use the same source material does not suggest interfaith in any way.


I don't doubt that you intended to use the term "for brevity." But I still suggest you become informed about the term, and posted the whole book about its construction. It's ahistorical and very recent, made with very specific agendas. I won't go into details, there's that whole book.

Any term can get vague at the borders. For example, you can imagine vehicles for which it's ambiguous whether the term "car" applies or not, but that doesn't mean the word "car" is useless. Similarly, clearly Christinity and Islam include some fairly direct reference to the same story of Abraham in a way that Norse mythology or ancient Greek mythology didn't. The term is useful despite not having a mathematically rigorous definition.

Perhaps it was the example you were thinking of, but Christopher Danielson really brings home the extreme ambiguity of terms using vehicles and children.

I keep coming back to that every time I'm trying to have one of these conversations with people, especially when the question is deeper than whether a salad is a vehicle(as if that were possible).

https://talkingmathwithkids.com/blog/vehicle-chat-invitation...

or discussed in audio form

https://aperiodical.com/2020/08/mathematical-objects-a-vehic...


My original point was really meant to be that I don't think any of this is deep, and that article seems to (acidentally) back that up. I spent a fair amount of time with philosophy students when I was at university and they would often waste time getting tangled up in semantics having discussions that sounded deep but really weren't. The solution is: accept that words have meanings that are fuzzy around the edges and don't let it worry you. There are contexts where you actually must let it worry you (e.g. determining if someone broke the law) but come up with a tighter definition in any circumstance like that, while accepting that the word will still be used more loosely in other contexts.

I hadn't seen that article before and didn't mean to refer to it. In fact the author is making an exceedingly simple mistake confusing two totally different things. The first is that a word that has a fuzzy meaning, and you notice that by looking at the edges of its meaning (e.g. is something still a vehicle if it doesn't transport people?). As I said, that is expected and not worth dwelling on. The second is using it as an analogy: is a salad a vehicle for dressing? Is a film a vehicle for an actor? Getting mixed up with the first question is a pretty basic mistake. When Forrest Gump says "life is like a box of chocolates" (technically a simile because of use of the word "like" but similar idea) you might think it's silly but not because the box of chocolates doesn't satisfy the literal meaning of "life". As with salads and films, that's not the edge of the meaning of the word; it's the very core meaning of the word used in a different context.


I think we're in agreement, and the misunderstanding is my fault for attempting humor in my reply. I believe the linked piece is in agreement too, it even concludes with:

> this is a social game of negotiating meaning, and of noticing that language which seems so precise is often not that at all.


I don't believe the OP were saying they were compatible. He's saying they worship the same God. Beliefs about God's nature are clearly different of course.

Thank you. I thought it was obvious enough to not need belaboring and was quite distinct from the point we were actually discussing.


It is worth mentioning that according to early Christian reports of Islam (St. John of Damascus), Muhammad’s encounter with Christianity – and therefore the kind of Christianity that he was suppposedly preaching the same message of – was with Nestorianism.

Nestorianism had already been denounced as a heresy by the core of the Christian world and consigned to the margins like Central Asia. The Byzantine Christian world especially was very insistent on christological formulations as a way of distinguishing the God that one worshiped. Groups like the Nestorians which held a different christological formulation were seen as worshipping a different god. No surprise this attitude also extended to Islam with its history of contact with Nestorianism and then a drastically different view of Christ.


> today it remains controversial for Christian theologians to go on the record saying they’re one and the same.

You are incorrect. That is not controversial. In a sermon delivered by Apostle Paul in Athens, he even tells the pagans they may be worshiping the same God but not know it. [0] Paul was probably the least flexible or accommodating of the first Christian teachers.

What is controversial is the details. While Muhammad was inspired by Christian teachings, specifically Nestorianism [1], later Islamic scholars declared that Christian teachings were corrupted [2] thereby nullifying any contradictions between Jewish, Christian and Islamic teachings.

So yes, a Muslim theologian might truthfully say Islam is a superset of Christianity and Judaism, but they are not referring to any known version of Christianity or Judaism.

Christians on the other hand consider themselves a superset of Judaism. For the most part they don't dispute Judaism (as it existed before 0AD) and think of Christianity are an updated/evolved version.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagus_sermon

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahira

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahrif


> Christians on the other hand consider themselves a superset of Judaism. For the most part they don't dispute Judaism (as it existed before 0AD) and think of Christianity are an updated/evolved version.

Can you clarify? Because the Gospels are largely the accounts of a man who spent the most impactful years of His life disputing Judaism as it existed at the time.

Also Christianity cannot be an offshoot of the religion now called Judaism, because the former precedes the latter chronologically. Rabbinic Judaism is significantly newer than Christianity. The old Hebrew religion died with the Second Temple.


> Can you clarify? Because the Gospels are largely the accounts of a man who spent the most impactful years of His life disputing Judaism as it existed at the time.

He disputed current practices of certain groups/sects, and his law superseded the "old" law. The key point is that Jesus did not "back date" his laws. He did not claim they applied to the ancient Hebrews and that they should be judged according to them.

> Also Christianity cannot be an offshoot of the religion now called Judaism

I make a point of noting that I was talking about Judaism as it was at 0 BC/AD.


> You would be hard pressed to find a Muslim theologian (who understands Christian theology) that claims Christians and Muslims worship different gods while until today it remains controversial for Christian theologians to go on the record saying they’re one and the same.

That's kind of been the Catholic official theological position forever (popular libels, especially associated with the crusades, notwithstanding.) Islam has always been considered a heretical set of beliefs about God (and particularly so in regard to its Christological views), not a religion about a different God, and that’s pretty much an unbroken chain of theology going back to the 7th Century.


Perhaps this is straying a bit far from the topic at hand, but is it really true that you'd be hard pressed to find a Muslim scholar who considers the worship of Jesus Christ as God to be tantamount to the worship of a false god? I really don't know one way or the other, but I find this a bit hard to believe. I understand one might try to rescue the position by pointing out that those worshippers of Christ do so while explicitly identifying Him as one with the God of Abraham. However, I also vaguely recall an episode in the Torah where the Israelites decide to worship an idol as a substitute for God (wait, wasn't this why Moses destroyed the tablets containing the ten commandments?), and it seems to me an obvious parallel for one who believes Christ to be a mere prophet.

To come full circle, this almost lends credence to the belief called out (as false) in the article, that the Muslims worship Mohammed; because it seems as though the line between the worship of Allah and the worship of his prophets is somewhat blurred. But presumably this does not at all follow the lines of actual contemporary Muslim theology :).


Sorry, I was focusing too much on the point I was trying to make that I might have not worded it correctly. No mainstream Muslim scholar would accept the trinity, or even the divinity of Jesus Christ; but the continuity of monotheistic worship and the identity of the entity being worshipped would crucially be viewed as unchanged (though worshipped in a way that they would undeniably find wrong).

Outside of the sliver of people that research religion that remain religious, I absolutely know many religious people who have no concept of the relationship between other religions and how they would have the same deity involved. From my experience this would be most people, I don't know what your experience is nor do I have a quantitive study on this. I have talked to many people that would find this entire conversation alien and also offensive, just from their own lack of exposure. Even the idea of verifying this or merely opening the holy books to see that many of the chapters and stories are the same would be sacrilegious to them.

> Outside of the sliver of people that research religion that remain religious...

I come from the rural area of a developing Muslim country (Bangladesh), most people around me didn't have much secular or religious education, and yet I think absolutely everyone around me knew Islam is a continuation of Christianity.

The idea is that current generation of Christians have lost their way (and one of their greatest sins is worshipping Jesus), that's why God had to reveal Islam, but the "true Christians" of past were righteous and worshipped the same God as ours.

I think you're not aware of how big a deal is shirk- the idea of attributing God-like power to humans- is in (Sunni-) Islam.


I’m not aware, this is really interesting to me

I definitely think that’s true of most people that unquestioningly follow what they’ve been raised/told, regardless of what it is they actually believe (and not just when it comes to religion).

I think it would be more prudent to look at the context in Muhammad's times. Muhammad often preached of Jews and Christians as also being brethren, as fellow "People of the Book". But it is also to be noted that Muhammad, during his travels to Damascus, was only exposed to the Orthodox flavor of Christianity in the ERE - which itself was just going through a phase of staunch iconoclasm. The later adoption and proliferation of icons in the ERE seems to be a response to Muslim rulers issuing coins with their names and phrases of the Quran. But it would be expected that in Muhammad's time, he would have seen a lot of similarity between (Byzantine) Christians and Muslims. If he had been on a trip to the WRE, he might have likely had a very different take on Christianity, albeit one in more staunch opposition.

Interesting take. Note that the Council of Chalcedon took place in 451 AD, or around a hundred and twenty years before Muhammad was born so the divergent views between the orthodox everyone else would have definitely been canonical by then, lending credence to that possibility. But note that Islam’s view on the nature of Jesus (a prophet but not a god) is probably easier to reconcile with the Chalcedonian view that separates between his purported divine and mortal existences to a greater extent than orthodox miaphysitism (which tends to blur the lines somewhat) does, at least as I understand it.

I would actually speculate that apart from the above iconoclastic view of Jesus from the orthodox belief, perhaps Judaism had a greater influence on Islam, and Islam's general view on the non-godliness of man. Islam and Judaism share almost similar prayer times, similar prayer styles, extremely parallel belief systems, etc due to the proximity of Jews in Arabia (Medina [Yathrib] was a largely Jewish city pre-Islam). But while Judaism chose to reject Jesus as even a prophet outright, Islam sought to reconcile the view by keeping him a prophet, perhaps because the Roman Empire under Heraclius was still very dominant.

It is important to note that Islam was created as a very administrative religion rather than a philosophical one, partly because Muhammad wanted to see it being adopted in 3 key regions. He sent emissaries to Heraclius the Elder (at Constantinople), who briefly considered the proposal, to the Patriarch of the Copts (at Alexandria), who amicably received it, preserved it (till today) and sent back his own friendly missive of rejection [1], and to Khusrau of the Sassanid Empire, who tore up the letter. So I doubt that Muhammad actually gave much effort to philosophical aspects such as Jesus or Ahura Mazda, and simply chose to borrow the history from nearby religions while reconciling them with the core that is Islamic monotheism. In fact, Muslims actually have four books they consider holy - the Torah, the Zabur (Psalms), the Injeel (Gospel of Christ) and the Quran (Revelations to Muhammad).

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Muqawqis


I wonder how strong the "family only, no entry by conversion" element of Judaism was at the time/place. If we consider Muhammad a person acting on human motivation (instead of divine instruction, a somewhat divisive approach considering how insistence on the latter appears to be the strongest theological moat of Islam), it could well be that Christianity was only referenced as a gateway, as a precedence for a form of Judaism that welcomed people not born Jewish, but that the goal wasn't at all Christianity (from far away), but an opened up version of the local Judaism.

> it could well be that Christianity was only referenced as a gateway, as a precedence for a form of Judaism that welcomed people not born Jewish, but that the goal wasn't at all Christianity (from far away), but an opened up version of the local Judaism.

Apart from the human motivation element, you're getting there as to what the Islamic view is. The Quran does talk of Jews as the chosen people of God whom he will gather back in Israel, but also mentions that their misfortune (at being thinly spread out and not collected in their homeland) is because of divine punishment for their waywardliness (which the Quran does not cease to stress upon a lot). Islam is considered to be Judaism v2 and out of closed beta, within the Quranic text itself. Obviously some of the strongly worded verses calling Jews misguided heretics is misinterpreted and largely the "divine proof" for a lot of animosity from the Muslim community towards Jews in general. The influence of Jews on Islam cannot be underestimated. Some Jewish kings, apart from the usual prophets in Islam, such as Shamir Yuharish of Himyar (modern Yemen) are still fairly popular in the Arabian peninsula among Arabic Muslims. In fact, we had to learn about them as expat students in an Arabic country as part of the regional history lessons.


The doctrine of the trinity certainly looks like it flirts with polytheism if you're coming at it from a traditional Jewish or Islamic perspective.

It is congruent to recognize it as a single consciousness with autonomous parts.

But ultimately people are more allergic to the word polytheism as they'll spend more energy interpreting why it isn't because it is crucial to their identity. Basically "only false idols are polytheistic", groups of people that were punished specifically for worshipping and exalting multiple deities. So although there are three supreme supernatural beings that all have to be pleased in different ways, the word polytheism would cause a greater reaction than simply brushing off how the venn diagram between polytheism and the trinity is a circle.


> remains controversial for Christian theologians

For what it's worth, your comment is entirely consistent with and reminiscent of my experience of GCSE 'Theology & Ethics' (a compulsory subject, not something I know that much about or took out of interest) in the UK.

Not that my teacher was some eminent theologian, though certainly great and knew his stuff, just some anecdata, and what I assume was - in broad strokes - on the national curriculum at least at the time (er, gosh, a decade or more ago).


> Edit: more to the point, until Victorian times, Muslims were most commonly referred to as Mohammedans because the English-speaking world just assumed Islam is to Muhammad as Christianity is to Jesus Christ.

People might have thought that way about Muslims (I'm actually quite sure that they did), but the term alone doesn't support that at all: Christian reformation movements that wouldn't dare to consider their namesake a prophet, much less something more deic (is that even a word?) are routinely referred to by the name of some person who is connected with the theological delta from where they split off. Lutherans surely didn't extend the trinity into a quad for example.


Right, Christianity is an outlier in that its prophet is also a supernatural being and also an autonomous part of a single consciousness that is the deity.

But thats not my point. My point is that this article and sources are misinterpreting an old english translation and misinterpeting what Christians do. Its not an argument about whether he was a supernatural deity himself nor about whether the deity is the same entity the Christians worship, its about Christians including non-supernatural prophets in their prohibitions. I think this article (and source book) has mistranslated and extrapolated way to much from that mistranslation.


At the very least no Muslim theologian would ever accept the Trinity. There's a certain degree of continuity from Jehovah to Allah but it's very far from "same".

> I think it is a bit disingenuous to think the Christians at the time misinterpreted reality,

Given the rather high volume of exchange between Christian, Jewish, and Islamic theologians historically, it's implausible that there was genuine misunderstanding on this point; OTOH, there were outright libels that were largely wartime propaganda for the Crusades.

> So if the Christians, by definition only follow the words of Jesus Christ

That's...definitely not how Christians (either generally now, nor specifically in the Middle Ages, defined themselves.)


Inseparable from the worship of a deity? That strikes me as much too strong.

I did notice recently in one of the supplements to Mencken's The American Language that the canons of the Roman Catholic church prohibit baptizing a child with the name Mohammed--as also, if I recall correctly, Calvin or Wesley.


If you ask any Christian (or Jewish) scholars whether the Bibles (Old Testament) includes many prophesies that had already come to pass, the answer is probably yes. But if you ask them whether Muhammad (alias Ahmad) name who has one of the largest followers in the world today is ever mentioned in the Bible, they probably said nothing or none or zilch.

But in the chapter of Song of Solomon (5:16) someone has incorrectly translated an official name of Muhammad (alias Ahmad) from Hebrew into English with "Altogether Lovely". If you ever translated anything in your life you know that it is wrong and it is not allowable to translate a name, because a name is a name.

The irony is that this is one of the Bibles' (Old Testament's) prophesies that had come to pass that any Christian (or Jewish) scholars will not dare to admit or celebrate.

Fun facts, there is an entire chapter in the Quran that was named after Mary, and Quran praised her (a Jewish woman not an Arab) as the best of women in the entire history of mankind. Quran also relieved her from the Jews accusation of her adultery and confirmed the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus as claimed by the Christian.


I love how civilised this discussion is - well done HN, a beacon of light in the world!

Well, that was interesting. I live in Lincoln, and my late mother is buried in a meadow a couple of miles from the place, which, despite having had a long association with the area - my dad was a Vulcan captain based at RAF Scampton, and I'd push-biked all over the place as a child, I'd never heard of, or been through.



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