Tee Vee

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at rawbw.com
Wed Oct 3 23:59:25 PDT 2001

``Maybe, if the Romans had been more diligent?'' (CG)

``Peter Brown, Authority and the Sacred. 78 pages or so, you will rarely find a more beautifully written book. It deals with the spread of Christianity in Roman life. It is a collection of three essays, and you could probably go through it in a couple of hours. No talk about architecture, but it has some insight into the forms and figures of Christianity in the fourth and fifth century. teetering off topic,''

ken ------------

Not really. What I had in mind was that ANE produced all three (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and the Romans did their best to suppress or get rid of the first two for a few centuries, but caved in to the second and were too worn out and over extended to manage much against the last one, bummer. That is a bad omen, since neither Rome nor Byzantium were shy about their methods.

My interest in the architecture comes from the fact that all three are iconoclastic in varying degrees of intensity, and architecture is the only visual medium they have to embrace---and of course WTC and the Pentagon are after all architectural monuments as well as religious icons. Since mass consumer culture is entirely devoted to the creation of icons, it becomes a central focus of manifest evil. This reaction appertains to their shared aesthetic purity and warrior cults---some distant residue of the ancient Greeks and Persians.

All of this has to do with developing a kind of cultural logic out of religious fundamentalisms and the assaults they have conducted on the secular world. Socially the most important focus has been on the status of women and secular education. Politically of course there is the re-establishment of theocracies, the corruption of secular law or its outright substitution. With the exception of the mass media, they seem indifferent to the structure of the political economy up to a point. None of them seem to be against money.

One thought occurred to me was that all these fundamentalism derive from at least secondary and tertiary derivations of the originary trunk of the OT. You mentioned a book on the spread of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries. Because I was attracted to Alexandria, I fiddled around with histories near the same period where most of the variants of the OT were composed and where Jewish scholars thrown out of Jerusalem after the destruction of the third temple ended up trying to resuscitate and continue rabbinic studies there as well. It is in the eastern roman cities like Alexandria, Antioch, Damascus, that all these traditions converge, and where Mecca and Medina are at the dusty horizons of empire.

I am sitting here reading the Qur'an (2.31-60) which deals with Adam getting tossed out of the garden and the children of Israel wondering around loose with Musa (Moses), then some sections on Hadhar isa(?), or JC. It is interesting because while the Qur'an follows along broadly similar story lines, it is clearly a different recitation. You probably didn't notice, but I have just stepped into apostasy. It seems a whole world of textural terrorism lurks everywhere in these musty studies.

>From Method Against Truth: Orientalism and Qur'anic Studies, S. Parvez
Manzoor (sounding a tad strident):

``The Orientalist enterprise of Qur'anic studies, whatever its other merits and services, was a project born of spite, bred in frustration and nourished by vengeance: the spite of the powerful for the powerless, the frustration of the 'rational' towards the 'superstitious' and the vengeance of the 'orthodox' against the 'non-conformist.' At the greatest hour of his worldly-triumph, the Western man, coordinating the powers of the State, Church and Academia, launched his most determined assault on the citadel of Muslim faith. All the aberrant streaks of his arrogant personality -- its reckless rationalism, its world-domineering phantasy and its sectarian fanaticism -- joined in an unholy conspiracy to dislodge the Muslim Scripture from its firmly entrenched position as the epitome of historic authenticity and moral unassailability. The ultimate trophy that the Western man sought by his dare-devil venture was the Muslim mind itself. In order to rid the West forever of the 'problem' of Islam, he reasoned, Muslim consciousness must be made to despair of the cognitive certainty of the Divine message revealed to the Prophet. Only a Muslim confounded of the historical authenticity or doctrinal autonomy of the Qur'anic revelation would abdicate his universal mission and hence pose no challenge to the global domination of the West. Such, at least, seems to have been the tacit, if not the explicit, rationale of the Orientalist assault on the Qur'an.'' [quote from Altantic Monthly, 01/99, Toby Lester, What is the Koran?]

The main article is on the web:


This is an article about finding very early copies of the Qur'an in the late Seventies buried in the walls of a Yemen mosque and their potential to historize Qur'anic studies which is what Manzoor is bitching about. The article is in three parts and sketches many very relevant theological/scholarly issues over the Qur'an that indirectly relate or echo the more visible confrontations between the Islamic world and the west.

The University of Calgary has a Qur'an studies department evidently and has some share in this controversy. Their web site on the Talmud is interesting since it has clickable redactions. Wondering through the Talmudic commentaries from tenth century Venice is yet another trip I took today, while claiming to recover from minor surgery and not going into work. Meanwhile there is the ninth and tenth century scholasticism of the Qur'an in Bagdad.

Ken you gotta move into comparative theology---this is more fun than a car wreck. Doing some completely random web surfing/comparisons of these redactions and commentaries of christian, jewish and islamic works is a fascinating way to see what Chip Berlet wants to call clerical fascism. Oh, thank the historical materialism of Venetian capitalists in the eleventh century for saving me---making their competition offers they couldn't refuse...

Chuck Grimes

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