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HomeArticlesA Comparison of the Islamic and Christian Approaches to Hebrew Scripture

A Comparison of the Islamic and Christian Approaches to Hebrew Scripture

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This article endeavors to compare the Islamic and Christian approaches to Hebrew Scripture; that is to say, to describe the processes of thought implied in the transformation of Hebrew Scripture into the Old Testament and to compare them with those implied in the transformation of some narratives of Hebrew Scripture into the Qur’an. It does not seek to analyze the problem of literary or textual transmission, of how and when Hebrew Scripture became the Old Testament; or of where the Prophet Muhammad received his foreknowledge of Abraham, Jacob and Moses without which the Qur’anic revelations delivered by the angel would have been incomprehensible to him. Taking these questions for granted, it attempts to establish the significance of the Christianization and Islamization of Hebrew Scripture.

I Hebrew Scripture as National History

If we were to look upon Hebrew Scripture not as Old Testament or as Qur’an, but as Hebrew Scripture, and if we were to read it not in Victorian English or 20th Century American, but in the original Hebrew; if we were to allow Hebrew Scripture alone to speak for itself, to transport us to its own ancient world in Abraham’s Ur, Jacob’s Padan Aram, Moses’ Egypt and Sinai, in Palestine and Persia and Assyria, if we were to allow Hebrew Scripture to place us, as it were, in the Sitz-im-Leben in which its poems, oracles and narratives were received as expressing the Hebrews’ inner thoughts and feelings, fears and aspirations – if indeed, we did all this and took full advantage of the achievements of biblical archaeology and ancient history, what would Hebrew Scripture appear in fact to be?

Read from this presupposition-free standpoint, Hebrew Scripture presents us with the story of the life of the Hebrew. Every theological and moral idea, historical or geographical account is subordinated to the overall theme of the growth and decay of a people, and derives its significance from its pertinence to the history of that people. Hebrew Scripture is the record of Hebrew national history, written and preserved for the sake of the Hebrews, in order to mirror or to inculcate their faith in themselves as a people or to edify them in that faith. It is often held that the most characteristic feature of this national history is their religion and that the most central concept of their religion is that of the Godhead. But the fact is that religion is a characteristic not of the Hebrews, but of their later descendants, the Jews. As we understand it today, religion was impossible to the Hebrews. Their “religion” was their nationalism; and it was this nationalism of the ancestors that became – with its literature, its laws and customs – the religion of later times, of the Exile and post-Exile Jews down to the present day. The Ancient Hebrew worshipped himself; he sang his own praise. His god, Jahweh, was a reflection of his own person, a genuine deus ex machina designed to play the role of other-self in the Hebrews’ favorite intellectual game, viz., biographical painting or self-portraiture in words.

The god of the Hebrews is not what Christians and Muslims understand by the word “God,” or what modern Jews understand by that term after centuries of exposure to Christian and Islamic influences. Rather, the “God” of the Hebrews is a deity which belonged to the Hebrews alone. They worshipped it as “their God,” always calling it by its own proper names, of which it had many. To be sure that it is not confused with any other gods – the possibility and existence of which was never denied, though they were always denigrated – the Hebrews were fond of calling their god by the unmistakably relational names of “God of Abraham, … of Jacob,.. . of Isaac,… of Israel, … of Zion,” etc.’ This deity could not even conceive of itself as capable of being worshipped outside the limits of their geographic domain. Their mind was so obsessed with “the God of the Hebrews” that it was incapable of developing the concept “God” as a connotative category of thought rather than a class name with denotative meaning only. Theirs was certainly not monotheism, but monolatry, since there is not a single time where such a connotative concept of God occurs in Hebrew Scripture. Wherever “God” is mentioned, it is always the particular deity that is in question. True, at a late stage of their history and only at that stage, they did regard their god as lord of the universe, but their doing so was always an attempt at extending its jurisdiction so as to requite their own national enemies. Their god was never the god of the goyim in the sense in which he was said to be the god of the Hebrews; the former always falling under his power in sufferance, as patients of his might, especially of his revenge of his people, never equally as subjects of his own creation or care. Significantly, such extension of his jurisdiction did not take place except under the dream of Isaiah of a master-race, vanquishing the nations and entering them into a relation of servile servitude to the Hebrews.

II Christianization of Scripture

This Hebrew Scripture was Christianized. Its Christianization appears to have been predetermined by four notions which are implications of the Christian belief that Jesus is God. These pertain to the nature of revelation, the nature of divine action, the nature of man and the nature of God.

First, the Christian believes that Jesus is “the Word of God.” This fact determines for him the nature of revelation. Since Jesus was also man, and therefore an event in history, divine revelation must be an event; not something that God says, but something that He does. And Jesus is the revealed word inasmuch as he is a doing of God, a historical event, whose every part or deed is divine because Jesus himself is wholly God. From this, it follows that revelation is not ideational but personal and historical. Jesus, the perfect personality, the perfect event, the perfect history, is according to this belief, God’s perfect revelation.

From this Christian point of view, Hebrew Scripture is not the conceptual word of God, but that of the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist and Priestly editors. Its divine status does not pertain to its ideas and laws. These constitute the human tools which the editors have used in order to record the revelation. The word of God in Hebrew Scripture is the events, the doing and living of Hebrew Scriptural personalities. These events are revelation. Pointing to the dramas of Hebrew Scripture, the Christian exclaims, Voild God’s acts in history! Acts all designed and predetermined by Him to the end that He may reveal Himself and achieve His purpose. God’s method being that of revelation through personality, God chose a people, the Hebrews, and took them by the hand, as it were, on a long journey. At the end of this journey, when the time was fulfilled, He sent His Word, Jesus, and through his personality, i.e., his living and dying, God achieved man’s redemption. Hebrew history is Heilsgeschichte or salvation-history.

This position has advantages: It provides what is for Christians the greatest event of history, viz. the advent of Jesus, with the necessary anticipatory set of historical events, the antecedent links in a determined nexus of historical events. It gives a theological sense to Hebrew national life, to the Jews’ self-centeredness and separatism; for under its purview, their self-centeredness is not racialist nationalism but something which subserves a divine purpose. Finally, the words and, indeed, even the individual deeds of scriptural personalities can be as banal or as sublime as they may. The divine element that is here involved is the broad-stepping movement of history, the constituents of which are the more significant events of election, migration, exodus, invasion and conquest, political growth and decay, defeat and exile as well as the response of faith and trust, the handing down of the law, the dawning of the Messiah-expectancy, etc.

This position of the Christian presents a few difficulties, however. It runs counter to the textual evidence of “Thus saith the Lord.” The prophets had a sincere and arresting consciousness that the word they spoke was dictated to them by their God. Under the Christian view, “Thus saith the Lord” must be explained psychologically; for God acts, rather than speaks. And if on the other hand, God were to reveal Himself once by acting and once by speaking, the question then becomes one of assigning primacy to either form of communication. The Christian, if he is to speak as a Christian, must uphold the preeminence of event above all else. Indeed he must hold all speech-revelation as subservient to and determined by event-revelation. Thus, Koh amar Yahweh may have been sincerely uttered by the prophets, but it was not really true. They were under illusion. The truth is that God merely caused them to see it that way; but it was not really, absolutely, so.

Secondly, the notion of a deterministic history, though the kind of determination that is here in question does not have to be the efficient, the material or the formal, but the finalistic, is not easily reconciled with the ethical facts, the phenomena of freedom, of responsibility and of conscience. There is little evidence to support the thesis that Jacob’s migration to Egypt was an act of God and not the free responsible act of Jacob; that the successful escape of the Hebrews from Egypt and their victory over the Canaanites were not of their own doing. Historical determinism, even though the determiner is God, is groundless speculative construction. At best, it is a theory; a theory contradicted by moral phenomena, the facts of ethical living and acting. It is an instance of the logical fallacy known under the name of simplex sigillum veri, in this case, the acceptance of a finalistic explanation of an event because it is the simplest; because the finalistic explanation satisfies a longing engendered by the primacy of finalistic considerations for man; because, lastly, man tends to explain everything in his own image, as if that thing were human. This, however, is the fallacy of groundless extrapolation. For historical determinism extrapolates the finalistic explanation from the realm of human biography where it properly belongs, to that of cosmic history where human purposiveness is ruled out by definition. It remains a fact, however – and we acknowledge it readily – that nature and cosmos appear as if purposiveness is true of their unfolding in history. But this feature is never constitutive and may never be critically established. It remains a mere “als ob.”

In Islam, revelation is ideational and only ideational. “Thus saith the Lord” is the only form revelation can take. Islam upholds the prophetic notion of immediate and direct revelation as given in Hebrew Scripture. “Thus saith the Lord” means precisely what it says. For, in Islam, God does not reveal Himself. Being transcendent, He can never become the object of knowledge. But he can and does reveal His will; and this is wholly the ethically-imperative, the commandment, the law. This He reveals in the only way possible for revealing the law, namely, the discursive word. The moral law is a conceptually communicable, ideational schema of a value-content endowed with moving appeal. Certainly, it is not an event. The event may or may not realize the moral law; but it is not itself the law.

This Islamic view of revelation, which is also that of Hebrew Scripture, does not conflict with the phenomena of responsibility, freedom and conscience. For an idea does not coerce. It “moves”; and man may very well be, as not-be, “moved” by the idea. An event, on the contrary is one necessarily caused by necessary causes and issuing in necessary effects. Islam therefore is safe against ever having to rely upon a deterministic theory of history in order to justify itself. It does hold, though, that God may act in history. But such a divine act it always interprets as the reward of virtue or the punishment of vice; and it explains such divine intervention in history as the necessary real connection, or causal bond, that relates the real-existential matériaux of moral value or disvalue, with those of happiness or suffering. The so-called “saving acts of God” in Hebrew Scripture, Islam regards as the natural consequences of virtue and good deeds.

III Election and Covenant Concepts

The notion that revelation is by event, which follows from the notions that Jesus, the “God-man in history,” is both “the Word of God” and himself the revelation of God, further determines the Christian understanding of Hebrew election and covenant. For the Christian, Abraham’s election is God’s call to faith and his response is the predetermined response of faith. The patriarchal Chosen-People-complex he understands as the fact that the Hebrews suffered themselves to be the tools of God’s acts. Their insistence that they are a race chosen by God absolutely, i.e., for its own sake and for all time – a race chosen to be the favorite not as a reward for some virtue or worth but for its own sake – is understood by the Christian as God’s faithfulness in keeping his term of the covenant, and the elect’s faithfulness in being the recipient of God’s election; as his insistence “on maintaining his part of the Covenant,” as one of the foremost biblical scholars puts it, “even when Israel had broken that Covenant.” If you, Hosea, cannot put away your wife, though unfaithful and guilty, how can I, Jahweh, put away my people, though they are unrighteous and a stiff-necked people? Indeed, they are and shall remain my chosen favorites no matter what they do. This Hebrew callousness to the moral truth that only the more virtuous may be said to be the worthier, is offensive to moral sense. Hence, the Christian does try to ‘ethicize’ it, as when he holds it to be an election to the onerous burden of being the messengers of God. But this rationalization falls to the ground when we consider the doctrine of the remnant – equally biblical – which asserts that the Hebrews would remain the elect even when they have stopped “messengering,” when they have stopped being and acting as God’s ambassadors to men. But just as we may not hold election to be a matter of merit when the subject has become unworthy, we may not hold that election is a matter of embassy when the subject no more acts in that capacity.

The covenant is a perfectly ethical notion if only all it purports to say is the truth that if man obeys God and does the good, he would be blessed. As such, it is the Semitic way of saying that virtue equals happiness. It lays upon man an obligation – that of obeying God, of doing the good, and upon God an expectation, if not an equally binding obligation, that whoever obeys God and does the good will be blessed and happy. Although there is plenty of talk of “the Covenant,” yet the Hebrew Scripture covenant is nothing of the sort. It is, more properly, a promise, a one-directional favor-proffering by God upon “His people.” This transformation of the covenant into “the Promise” is the other side of the racialization of election.

The Qur’an admits that God had sent His word to the Hebrews, and that many a prophet and many a man believed and did rightly, and were consequently “blessed” and “raised above the rest.” But the rest rejected God’s word and were hence subject to his dire punishment. For the covenant is a purely ethical contract, unequivocally binding upon man and God. It is not denied. “Allah made a covenant of old with the children of Israel … and said: Lo! I am with you: If ye worship Me, live charitably, believe in My messengers and do their bidding – if (in short) you vest your trust in God and live according to His commandments, surely I shall remit your sins, and surely I shall bring you into gardens underneath which rivers flow.” The Qur’an also awards the status of elect to the Muslims, but on the firm basis that the Hebrews had rejected the prophets, the messengers of God, including Jesus; and with the unequivocal understanding that God’s word is a command to be realized, that if the Muslims should ever fail to fulfil that command, God will not only withdraw the trust and the election, but would destroy them and give their property as inheritance to another people more prepared to carry it out.

It is true that in extending election from Israel to the New Israel, the Christian divests it of its Hebraic racialism and transforms it into an election by faith, and this transformation stands at the root of his doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 4, Gal. 3). In Islam, election and justification are not at all by faith, but by works. Faith in Islam is only a condition, valuable and often necessary, but not indispensable. The Qur’an counts among the saved not only the hanifs, or the pre-Islamic righteous, but many post-Islamic Christians and Jews and gives as reason for their salvation their devoted worship of God, their humility, their charity and their good deeds. Islam may be said to have recaptured the pure Semitic vision, beclouded by the old Hebrew racialism as well as by the new ‘Christianism,’ of a moral order of the universe in which every human being, regardless of his race or color – indeed of his religion in the institutionalized sense – gets exactly what he deserves, only what his works and deeds earn for him on an absolute moral scale of justice. Certainly God may award his compassion, love and mercy to whomsoever he pleases; but it is not for man to go about the world carrying his title to paradise, as it were, in his pocket. The desperate attempt of Christian doctrine to save ethics from the sure death to which justification by faith leads it by requiring man to live the life of gratitude, i. e. of one whom God has irrevocably saved, exposes morality to the fanaticism implicit in a monistic axiology, where the value of gratitude is the only value, or to the implicit vacuity – where gratitude can mean all, any member or none of the whole realm of values, as each individual decides for himself in Protagorean relativist fashion, or the community decides for him by convention. On the other hand, the denial that God’s salvation is irrevocable opens the Christian faith to the charge that salvation is not a completed historical event, but an ideational command – whether carried by the discursive word or the exemplary deed – which is granted or denied as each person fulfils or fails to fulfil the morally imperative.

Islam, therefore, approaches Hebrew Scripture with the absolute moral law as the only presupposition; and it starts right at the beginning of the Hebrew and Christian tale of election and promise. Against the arbitrary, uncaused, unjustified “Get thee out” of Genesis 12, which marks the beginning of Hebrew racialist election, it explains the departure of Abraham from his people and land as the regrettable result of his dispute over their idolatry. Even so, the separation was temporary and Abraham is described as praying for his father and people that God may rightly guide them. The so-called “Legends of Abraham,” – his destruction of the idols, his being visited by angels, his redemption from the burning fire of Nimrod – all these come only from the Qur’an, the earliest appearance of them outside Islam being the Codex Sylvester of the Ma’ase Abraham which a Russian monk picked up in a Thirteenth Century bazaar in Constantinople, and the more recent Midrash Hagadol, written in the Seventeenth Century and discovered in Yemen in the Nineteenth.

IV Sin and Redemption

If there is to be a redeeming, evidently there must be something from which man is to be redeemed; and secondly, this something must be such that man cannot redeem himself from it by his own agency. This something must be universal and necessary; and this is precisely what Christian “sin” is. Looking into Hebrew Scripture, the Christian discerns this universal and necessary sin in Adam.

The Christian takes Adam’s disobedience to be the real and actual sin of mankind. Adam’s tasting of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is declared to be man’s necessary will to assert himself, to have his own way; man’s knowing, to be his pride and confidence in his own capacity. The Hebrews did not understand Adam’s story in this manner, and the Christian has therefore found it necessary to transfigure Adam’s disobedience into “sin.” The obligation to work and to suffer pain is hedonistically understood to mean doom and death eternal. Adam’s misdemeanour is universalized as that of the whole human race.

The Christian respect for personality, with its implied personalist theory of truth, should have prescribed that the sin of Adam be the sin of Adam alone. If, on the other hand, Adam is only a symbolic figure, it is nothing but the barest assertion to claim that sin is the necessary and universal phenomenon, that it is the starting point of man’s career on earth. Virtue is no less a universal phenomenon; and if it were to provide that starting point, an outlook totally different from that of Christianity would follow. Nonetheless, this Christian emphasis on sin is not without merit. Undoubtedly, sin is more often the rule than virtue. In the matter of man’s career on earth, the career of ever transcending himself in emulation of the divine, his shortcoming is far more relevant than his advantage. In battle, the enemy should occupy a peculiar category in the consciousness of general and soldier. The Christian’s obsession with sin is not altogether unhealthy and has the merit of focussing attention on that which is to be overcome. But this advantage immediately turns sour if attention to sin is exaggerated, as is the case with Christian doctrine, where it becomes the first principle of creation as well as of man’s moral being. However, the Christian asserts sin in order to deny it; for the Jesus-event had no rationale save the destruction of sin as a universal and primordial phenomenon, as human essence. But having denied it in the assertion that universal salvation is a fait accompli, the Christian has ipso facto forfeited his moral enthusiasm and laid wide open the gates of moral complacency. Gratitude, or the recognition that God has in fact saved him, gives man no ethic other than the obligation to give thanks and proclaim the salvation-news. That is precisely how many Christians (e. g. Karl Barth) understand the moral imperative. Faced with such difficulties, the Christians interpret Adam’s act in a variety of ways: Some insist that it is his knowledge of good and evil; others, that it is his desire to be like God; others, that it is his self-assertion and egotism; others more philosophic but with no little Buddhistic sensitivity and existential boredom with life, that it is his very actuality and existence. All these views evidently imply either that man’s creation was faulty or that it was undesirable. They transform man’s noblest endowments, viz. – his knowledge and will to knowledge, his cosmic uniqueness, his will to be and to persist, his will to become like unto God, into instruments of doom.

In Islam, far from being the father of sin, Adam is the father of the prophets. He received his learning directly from God, and in this, he was superior to the angels to whom he taught the “names” (i. e. essences, definitions) of the creatures. God commanded him to pursue the good as well as to avoid evil, the latter being the nature of the tree whose fruit he was forbidden to eat. The identification of the tree as “the tree of life and knowledge” is neither God’s nor Adam’s; but, if a Muslim may here make a guess on the basis of Christian Old Testament scholarship, the work of the priestly editors of “J” who branded knowledge of good and evil as evil in pursuit of their will to power and in perpetration of their monopoly over man’s reaching toward God. The Qur’an calls this wrong identification a lie told by Satan in order to lure Adam, prone as he was to know and pursue the good, to transgress God’s command and do evil. “Satan,” the Qur’an says, “enticed Adam saying, O Adam, shall I show you the tree of life and power eternal? Adam ate of the tree and committed a transgression and an evil deed. But God corrected him and he atoned and was rightly guided.” Adam, therefore, did commit a misdeed, viz., that of thinking evil to be good, of ethical misjudgment. He was the author of the first human mistake in ethical perception, committed, with good intention, under enthusiasm for the good. It was not a “fall” but a discovery that it is possible to confuse the good with the evil, that its pursuit is neither unilateral nor straightforward.

The fact that Jesus has redeemed man not only implies a theory of man – which we have just discussed, – but equally a theory of God. Jesus, for the Christian, is God; and redemption not only implies a certain kind of man, but equally a certain kind of God; a God who is so concerned about man that He would redeem him by doing what Jesus did, or by doing what He did ‘in’ Jesus.

Thus, the Christian looks upon the declaration of Genesis, “Let us make man according to our image” and sees therein the confirmation he needs of man’s fellowship with God. Man, an image of God, was created to be God’s fellow in paradise. But man has sinned. God would not acquiesce in this estrangement, in this self-waste to which man has committed himself. Hence, he punished him at first; then he chased him out of paradise and inflicted upon him all sorts of afflictions. Nonetheless, man continued to sin. God then decided that all creation was a mistake except for one man, Noah, and his family, and destroyed all life in a Deluge. Thereafter, touched by the “sweet savor” of Noah’s sacrifice, God vowed never to destroy life again as He had just done. But man continued to sin. Whereupon God decided upon another course of action, the election of the Hebrews and their divinely-operated history to the end that he may himself assume man’s sin and redeem him, acting through the God-man Jesus. All this points to the fact that God is man’s partner and fellow, and man is God’s partner and fellow, each of whom is indispensable for the other.

This Christian fellowship of man with God, though drawn from a Hebrew Scriptural account, puts God in a position irreconcilable with his omniscience and omnipotence. Nonetheless, it contains a great deal of truth. For despite the context in which the Christian understands it, man’s “fellowship” with God is an expression of the rapport which exists between God’s commandment, the ethically imperative, or value, and man. This rapport consists in that the ought-to-be, the modality of the ideally-existent value which possesses genuine moving power and being, is beamed towards man. It also consists in the capacity of the latter alone in creation to grasp that ought beam and fall under its determination. Man’s capacity to know and to do the good, or God’s will, is his “divinity.” God’s moving power, directed to man, is his “humanity.” But it should not be forgotten that this “human divinity” and “divine humanity” are not real facts, but mere modalities of real facts. The ought-to-be is a necessary modality of value; it may not be called a “need” unless value, or divinity, is hopelessly anthropomorphic; and it is crude to speak of it as a “fellowship,” or to ascribe to it the assumption of man’s “guilt,” to “crucify” it, etc. which the Christian does.

In Islam, God created man for the specific purpose of carrying out a trust in this world, a trust so great that the angels, to whom it was first offered, turned away in terror. This trust is the perfecting of an imperfect world deliberately created imperfect so that in the process of a human perfecting of it, ethical values would be realized which otherwise (i.e., in a necessarily perfectable or created-perfect world) would be ruled out ex hypothesi. God, therefore, is not man’s fellow, but his Transcendent Creator and First Mover whose moving does stand en rapport with man’s capacity for being moved. The nearness of a First Mover, of value as a genuine entelechy, is beyond question. But it is not the nearness of a “fellow” who is willing to do his partner’s supreme duty, as in Christianity. Rather, it is the nearness of a modality of our knowledge of the being of the Godhead, the nearness of the ethically imperative.

V Dogmatic vs. Ethical Approaches

In conclusion, we may therefore say that the Christian approach to Hebrew Scripture is dogmatic; i.e., governed by the desire to confirm articles of the Christian creed; whereas the Islamic approach is ethical, i.e., governed by absolute and immutable ethical laws, without regard to dogma. In consequence of his approach being dogmatic, the Christian is compelled to resort to a deterministic view of man and history, to an allegorical interpretation of unequivocal texts and to glossing over accounts and narratives of human conduct which no worthy morality can accept. Per contra, in consequence of his approach being ethical, the Muslim is compelled to separate the ethically valid from the perverse in Hebrew Scripture, for only the former he can call the Word of God. But Hebrew Scripture does not lose by having any of its parts demoted, as it were, from the status of revelation to that of human editing. Unlike revelation, human writing is capable of having both the good and the evil. On the contrary, rather than losing, Hebrew Scripture gains through such an attitude. Such an attitude to Hebrew Scripture as the Qur’an expresses is the first pre-requisite of the whole discipline known as Old Testament criticism which has saved Hebrew Scripture from the slow but sure process of repudiation by Christians of the last two centuries, by correcting its claims, reconciling its contradictions, and reconstructing its history on a sounder foundation. The first principle of this discipline has been the Qur’anic principle that not all the Old Testament is God’s word, but only some; that much of it – Christian scholars go to the extreme of claiming that all of it – is the work of editors and redactors of all sorts of affiliation.

Furthermore, because of his approach, the Christian is faced with the insurmountable problem of the Vergegenwärtigung (i. e. the representation or making contemporary and relevant) of Hebrew Scripture, of the Old Testament. For being a revelation in events, the relevance of past events for the present may always be put to question. The Islamic approach, which reads in Hebrew Scripture immutable though often violated ethical principles, and in Hebrew history some violation as well as some fulfilment of these principles, stands in no need of such Vergegenwärtigung. Ethical principles are always contemporary. But for the Christian, the problem is so great that nobody has so far given a satisfactory answer, while the Christian masses become ever more and more alienated from Hebrew Scripture. Indeed, Vergegenwärtigung is such an insoluble problem that men of the caliber of G. von Rad, Karl Barth and Martin Noth have spoken of a solution by proclamation. We may “vergegenwärtigen” the Old Testament, they tell us, by proclaiming its news, its events, “just as we would read a sheaf of news reports and pass them on just as they are.” ‘Proclaim the Old Testament as you please,’ a friendly warner may say in this connection, ‘the masses of Christendom will continue to give you an unsilenceable retort: So what?’


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