Religious Studies 015: Week 4 Notes
February 4 and 6, 2003 (4.1-2)
by James Hoyt & James Stith [edited by "K"]

February 4 [4.1]
-interesting to compare Quran's stories with biblical accounts
Quran on creation: "man made out of clots of blood"
on man: created from a single soul, made woman as well

-some Muslims claim that it was Ishmael, and not Isaac, that was almost
sacrificed (see Gen 22)

TOWER OF BABEL -- premier example of an etiological tale to explain origin
of different languages
-not only etiological, but may also attempt to understand Babylonian ziggurats
"Babel" -- Semitic word that means "babbling"
image of ambitious men getting out of hand in God's sight

Tower made of brick and tar (some tar came from Dead Sea = "Asphalt Sea" -- a
body of water in Palestine, farthest below sea level of any such body)

Preceded by Noah story, which follows strange Nephilim passage in Genesis 6.1-4
Followed by story of Abraham in Genesis 12 and following

Note Lot as nephew of Abram accompanies Abram into Canaan
presentation of old names of Abram and Sarai, later to be changed
-Abram moved from Ur to Haran north of Canaan
*story of Abraham becomes a key for Israeli folklore of Promised Land
-progeny includes both Isaak/Jacob line (Israel) and Ishmael's Arabs

-Later story in classical Judaism (not in biblical tradition) has Abraham
leaving Ur after smashing all of the idols in his father's idol-making shop

-promises repeated to Israel's patriarchs only (after all, the materials
were preserved by the Israelites!) -- no more ongoing promises to Ishmael are
mentioned but Ishmael was initially blessed -- this was never edited out!
in Quran, Ishmael and Abraham discover Kaba (holy rock in Mecca)
in Genesis 22, near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham
(some Muslim traditions claim this was actually Ishmael, not Isaac)

Shema--basic tenet of Jewish heritage, "Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God,
Yahweh is one" (Deuteronomy 6).

Gen 16--Ishamel story
mentioned in Paul's Galatian letter as symbolic story of slavery v. freedom
passed along as Sarai v. Hagar rivalry
Sarai treated Hagar poorly--leaves, angel (or messenger, Hebrew is ambiguous)
tells her to return and promises many descendants

-- covenant is with Abraham to multiply, not Hagar--Abraham means "father
of a multitude"
-circumcision introduced (Gen 16:35)

-etymology: derivation/meaning of a word.


-Elijah is supposed to come back before Messiah, which is why there is an
open seat left for him at Passover time in traditional Jewish observances.
John the Baptist is similar, because he is seen as a precursor of Messiah Jesus.
The term "Messiah" as applied to Jesus is not found in Jewish scriptures,
although there are expectations of future special agents of God.

-Some Dead Sea Scrolls speak of at least 2 Messiahs (priestly and governing),
while Christian tradition shows the various functions united in Jesus

-Theophany = appearance of God. Theo = God, phan- (fantasy, phantom) =

February 6 [4.2]

-Lot is Abraham's nephew

-Theodicy = God + Justice (how can God be considered righteous if ...?)

-Judges: part of the narrative may have been adapted from poetic version (the
story of Jael and Sisera is told in both a poetic form, and in narrative)

-Melchizedek (king of righteousness)- king of "Salem" = Shalom (peace)?
-"priest of most high God" = evidence that at some point, God was understood to
operate outside of the Abrahamic tradition as well as within that tradition

-"the tenth" refers to "tithing" (giving 10% for God's purposes)

[At some point, we also looked at the little red riding hood story, to detect cultural influences on transmission of
stories, and at the "Nigerian scam" letters. That's not unimportant or frivilous material for understanding (by analogy) how some of the biblical stuff ended up as it has (e.g. in Gen 6.1-4 the "sons of god" become "angels" in some early translations; why? it's like not wanting grandma to be eaten!). Why is it that even in traditional Judaism, homosexuals are not executed? (Poor grandma!) Etc.]