The House Of Islam

The Muslim holy book, the Koran, explains the conflict going on in the world. Few non-Muslims know it divides the world into two divisions. Dar El Islam, “the House of Islam,” and “Dar El Harb, “The House of War.” The first consists of those nations under Muslim control or which have been. The other is a designation of all other nations that are to be brought under the dominance of Islam.

That teaching makes our world situation more clear. The lands of Israel and Spain, for example, were once under Muslim control. It is for that reason they are considered Dar El Islam and targeted as nations desired back under such control.

When we attacked Iraq we not only attacked one nation we attacked the House of Islam, every Islamic nation. That defines the conflict as being more than the war raging in Iraq.

The militants opposing us in the war on terror are not primarily politically motivated. Our response has been as though they are. Their motivation is religion. Their leaders are religious. They believe the world must be brought under an Islamic form of government in which the laws of Islam apply to everyone. These nations are defined in the Koran as Dar El Harb, “the house of war” which are to be brought under Islamic control. Any means to that end is justifiable in their thoughts.

Our political leaders relate to their political leaders. The real power brokers, their religious leaders, are not dealt with.

When Islam was last in a world conquest mode it was stopped by intellectual Muslims who realized a radical group needed to be curbed. Though Islam suffered significant military defeats it was efforts from within that ended the aggression. Hopefully such a class will emerge again.

The Gnostic Gospels

Soon after Christianity burst on the world scene a major division occurred. Orthodox Christianity presented the historical Jesus as “the Word became flesh.” It was based on First Century works penned only by person who had encountered the risen Christ and had first person insight. Authors were eye witnesses who were servants of the Lord.

The “Gnostic Gospels” found mostly at Nag Hammadi, Egypt consist of 52 texts, including the “secret” gospels. All were written after the generation associated with Jesus had died. The anonymous authors affixed names of persons noted in the New Testament in an effort to give them creditability. Long before they were rediscovered at Nag Hammadi they had been initially highly discredited by the Church Fathers.

Gnostic “Christianity” presented a Jesus who is totally different from the Jesus of the New Testament. In them Jesus appears to be more of a lecturer on metaphysics than a prophet. An example of this is in the “Letter of Peter to Philip,” when the apostles enquire of the resurrected Jesus, “Lord, we would like to know the deficiency of the aeons and of the pleroma.”

To the Gnostic Jesus was basically a mirage not a real person. Illustrative of this is the “First Apocalypse of James” in which James is consoled by the resurrected Jesus who says, “Never have I suffered in any way, nor have I been distressed.

And this people has done me no harm.” This is in conflict with Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane and His suffering on the cross.

In the “Second Treatise of the Great Seth,” Jesus says, “I did not die in reality, but in appearance.” This represents the Gnostic belief that Jesus was an apparition.

With little background to help interpret what is said Jesus’ alleged teachings are presented in an abstract disjointed staccato fashion.

Advocates of the Gnostic Gospels represent them as “the Lost Books of the Bible.”

The two views of Jesus are mutually excluding.

A great deal of scholarly work is available exposing in detail the fraudulent nature of the writings. This brief is an overview as to why they are described as fraudulent.

Following three of the Gospels are dealt with in more detail.

The novel The DaVinci Code and the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” which are based on extra biblical writing have enjoyed great popularity. Most of these modern works discredit the New Testament gospels and claim a love relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. They advocate a conspiracy theory regarding the early church hiding certain testaments and other documents to exclude teaching they didn’t want known.

In truth there is a conspiracy theory related to the Gnostic Gospels. It does not relate to early Christians trying to hide them, but to modern efforts to use them to discredit Jesus and the New Testament gospels. They are represented as creditable records disproving much of the New Testament. Virtually all media coverage of the thesis is anti-Christian. Little scholarly evaluation has been made public.

These writings come primarily from the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in 1945. The library is named for the town in upper Egypt in which they were found by a peasant searching for fertilizer. They are known as the Gnostic Gospels. Some titles are The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of the Egyptians and the darling of all The Gospel of Thomas. There are other sources of Gnostic writings but these have by in large captured the imagine of moderns.

Unlike the New Testament Gospels these contain little or no social context or narrative from Jesus. Without the historical circumstances in which an event occurs or a statement is made it often loses its original intent. If it is just an anthology the meaning is difficult to interpret. In the New Testament the teachings of Jesus emerge spontaneously. In the Gnostic Gospels Jesus seems to be more of a lecturer on metaphysics than a Hebrew prophet. In the Letter of Peter to Philip the disciples are represented as saying to Jesus: “Lord, we would like to know the difference of the aeons and of the pleroma.”

Jesus is represented as going into a discourse regarding the precosmic time when “the mother” opposed “the father” and so resulted alien aeons.

The name Gnostic comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis. The movement’s roots seem to be embedded in ancient speculations of Babylonian and Zoroastrian priests. Some of its postulates come from Egyptian syncretism and Indian magic.

Gnosticism was not one school, but many, and displayed a very wide variety of thought. Because of this when an error is exposed some defenders assert it wasn’t a teaching of Gnosticism because they have a different point of reference. All the schools had much in common, but the variations of Gnosticism were multitudinous.

Gnosticism is more of a religion than a philosophy. Knowledge is believed to be the factor affording redemption. It distinguishes between the historical Jesus and the supernatural Christ. Their thesis is that the Christ’s nature joined Jesus at His baptism but departed before His death. Throughout Gnostic thought dualism prevails and often conflicts with itself. Some proponents advocate asceticism and other libertinism. A reader of the Books of Jeu find the opening strains of beautiful praise of Jesus in conflict with the sterile formulas in magic which comprise most of the book.

Based on their current popularity the Gnostic Gospels deserve a critical historical and literary review. These heresies from which the early church had to defend itself have been resurrected currently to challenge orthodox Christianity in our time. In evaluating the validity of any ancient document three aspects need to be considered.

AUTHENTICITY is a primary concern in evaluating the accurate preservation of a writing through the ages. A primary concern is whether the existing copies are reliable representations of the original texts. There are enough copies of the New Testament gospels to compare earlier and later copies and ascertain they are compatible and reliable historically. For example the Essenes who lived along the Dead Sea in the time of Christ hid ancient manuscripts before being annihilated.

In 1948 these scrolls were found. Many of them predated existing copies of Bible texts. The manuscript of the Book of Isaiah was approximately 1000 years older than any existing text of Isaiah. A comparison of the earlier ones with the more modern ones showed the Scripture had remained the same.

Scholars have concluded the Gnostic Gospels originated between 350 and 400 AD. The documents were buried around 400 AD. They have deteriorated badly over the years. This has left large portions missing and significant words lost that make interpreting certain passages challenging. In many instances there is only one version of a text. This prevents comparison and verification. There is no way to verify authenticity using comparison as with New Testament text where there are numerous copies over a period of years which show no corruption.

Supporters of Gnostic thought say there are no first century Gnostic writings because the church confiscated and destroyed them. There is no evidence of this. It would have been like gathering feathers scattered by the wind to have collected all such writings had they existed. We do not have any first century Gnostic writings because there were none.

AUTHORSHIP is a factor to be considered in evaluating historical documents. There is much insight that confirms the New Testament gospels were written by their name sakes. The dates of the lives of characters whose names Gnostic Gospels bear do not coincide with the time of the writing.

Reputable scholars consider most of these writings pseudepigraphical. Such are writings given the name of a person it is believed will give the writing credibility. Thus, the names of Bible era characters were given various Gnostic Gospels. Reputable scholars do not consider these works to have been written by the persons whose names are falsely ascribed to them. Not even the popular Gospel of Thomas is considered to have been written by the apostle whose name it bears.

TRUSTWORTHINESS of an author is vital in evaluating a creditable historical document. Did the author live at such a time and have contacts that would have afforded personal insights regarding his subject?

A case of inaccuracy is observable in a review by Michael Grosso of “The Last Temptation of Christ.” He says there were reports of the sex life of Jesus right “from the start of the Christian tradition.” He bases this on The Gospel of Philip which was written during the last half of the third century. Not exactly “from the start of the Christian tradition.”

Author Craig Blomberg has noted that most of the Nag Hammadi documents make no pretense of overlapping with the New Testament ones. It isn’t known who wrote them and their historical reliability regarding the time of Christ is highly questionable.

In summary they are not reliable sources regarding the life and teachings of Jesus.

Did the early church suppress Gnostic teachings found in these and other spurious gospels? Yes. They were close enough to its emergence to know it was heretical and therefore rejected it.

THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS is the darling of New Age philosophers who refer to it at “The Fifth Gospel.” Mohammed referenced it in the Koran. Allegedly it was written by Didymos Judas Thomas which means, Judas “the twin.” The Gnostics called Thomas the twin brother of Jesus.

This work more nearly resembles an anthology than a New Testament gospel. Many New Testament texts are added to, taken away from, modified, or rephrased. This often changes the meaning from its New Testament use. Some of the writing is orthodox enough to be compatible with the New Testament while other parts are completely contradictory.

For example, in the New Testament Jesus speaks kindly of women and especially Mary. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus is represented as saying, “Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.”

Most scholars agree it was written in the second century. There are indications it may have been written as late as the fourth century. The early church rejected the work as a perversion of New Testament era theology. Gnosticism was not an independent source on Christianity but a perversion of it. There was more than a century of Christianity before Gnostic doctrine emerged.

The Gnostic challenge to Christianity was having difficulty gaining devotees. To make it seem compatible writers began encouching Gnostic philosophy as though spoken by Christ. They ascribed their teachings to Christ in an effort to gain support. They put their words in His mouth.

Currently zealous efforts are being made to create a “poor little old Gnostics” atmosphere. They are cast as persons having the truth which the church discriminated against because it contradicted their contrived concepts. It is said the church suppressed their teachings and it did. Truth inevitably contradicts error. It was therefore natural for the church to treat it for what it was, a fallacious reaction to Christian truth.

In reality Gnostic thought was so foreign to the teachings of Christ and the consistency of Christian thought it was totally incompatible. The codified Christian concepts predated that of Gnosticism. Instead of Christianity discriminating against it, Gnosticism was a reaction to Christianity. Gnosticism was a heretical school of thought that sought to infuse itself into Christian thought.

Had the church not stood against the distortions of Gnosticism then Christianity would have failed to defend its truths. Instead of becoming global it would have perished like pagan religions of the day.

It must be remembered that the church in that era was not well established, communication was poor, and viable sources of authority were not numerous as today. To help insure uniformity of Bible truths the Christian community produces such documents as The Apostles’ Creed, the collection of Apostolic writings, and the offices of the church.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lions, in the last half of the second century, in his five volume work entitled Against Heresies goes to great length to define various schools of Gnostic thought and expose their error. If the church were trying to suppress and keep hidden Gnostic thought he never would have been so public in defining it. His defenses of Christianity in opposition to Gnostic thought made it a popular work in that era. He was not hiding Gnostic thought but revealing it for what it was.

The Gnostics claimed to possess secret traditions passed down to them by the apostles. Irenaeus countered this with another type of apostolic succession. He asserted that the truths handed down by the apostles were publicly preserved by the teachers in the church of the time.

From the same school of thought that says Jesus married Mary Magdalene and by her had children also comes the concepts that promiscuity was God’s law, veneration of the serpent for bringing knowledge to Adam and Eve, humans were created as unisexual, and the creation of woman was the source of evil.

In the struggle for purity of consistent thought in the emerging church Gnostic thought lost out. One contemporary writer says that in such struggles “the winner writes history.” True, but that does not make them bad historians. One has countered, “If truth is not a matter of majority vote, neither is it a matter of minority dissent.”

Noted Bible scholar Raymond Brown concluded in his review of the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hammadi that “we learn not a single verifiable fact about the historical Jesus’ ministry…”

Helmut Koester in the James Robinson edition of the Nag Hammadi Library states: “Neither the Coptic translation or the Greek fragments seem to have preserved this gospel in its earliest form. Even the comparison of the Coptic and Greek texts demonstrate that the text was subject to change during the translation.” Such a text was not considered worthy to have been included along with the New Testament gospels.

Gnostic thought went into eclipse because it was not historically true and lacked integrity. F.F. Bruce wrote of it, “Gnosticism was too much bound up with a popular but passing phase of thought to have the survival power of apostolic Christianity.”

Robert Speer wrote of why Christianity prevailed, “Christianity lived because it was true to the truth. Through all the centuries it has never been able to live otherwise. It cannot live otherwise today.”

In understanding the efforts to discredit Christ and Christianity the corruption of this school of thought should be kept in mind as the source being used as accurate history. The DaVinci Code, the “Last Temptation of Christ” and other works that try to discredit Christ and the church come from these unreliable heretical sources. Consider the source.

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious
Knowledge, Volumes IV & VI
Our Oriental Heritage, Volume I, Will Durant
Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity
History of the Christian Church, Volume I, Philip Schaff
A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Volume I,
Kenneth Scott Latourette
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels

The Foundations of Islam

The western mind is in general unfamiliar with the Islamic faith. Current conditions have created a general curiosity about its origin and some basic precepts. An overview of the founding of the faith helps appreciate its basis.

Muhammad, the man who dictated the Koran and gave guidance to the movement was born in Mecca in the Saudi Arabian peninsula in AD 570. Until the age of 25 he worked with caravans and was exposed to both Christianity and Judaism. At age 25 he married a wealthy 40 year old widow. This allowed him financial independence. When he reached age 40 he related that a spirit called him to be an “‘apostle” and “‘prophet.” Neither of these terms are a part of any Arabian religion. He learned them from his days working with caravans.

After his death his writings were compiled as the Koran. The works are not arranged in any chronological or subject order.

At the time Muhammad received his initial visitation there were over 300 gods being worshiped in Mecca by pilgrims who came there each year to pray at the Kailaba. There was a small building there housing a black meteorite and effigies of the various gods. He chose one of these gods, Allah, the moon god as the object of his devotion. That is the reason the crescent is the symbol of Islam.

The Koran is divided into Suras, meaning chapters. Conscientious Muslims and non-Muslims are divided over the complex and occasionally conflicting passages. There are many peace loving Muslims. The religion is described as “the peaceful religion of Islam.” The multiple global acts of violence by Muslims advocating a holy war defy this description. These base their conduct on such passages as Sura 9:29 which commands Muslims to fight against Jews and Christians until their either submit to Allah or else agree to pay a special tax.

Sura 2: 65,66 and Sura 5:60 contain references to Jews as “apes and swine to be despised and rejected.”

In contrast to the “Golden Rule” which advocates doing unto others as you would have them do unto you Sura 2:194 sanctions revenge: “If anyone transgresses … against you, transgress likewise against them.”

Many not reared in the Islamic culture are confused by stories of suicide murderers being motivated by what awaits them in Paradise. The following is not an opinion it is merely a summary of Suras 52: 17-14, 55:54-56; and 78:32-34. Therein Paradise is depicted as a place of pleasure consisting of gluttonous feasts and endless sex orgies. One way to reach Paradise is to die fighting for Allah (Sura 3: 157).

Persons who would like to read for themselves some of these Suras will find a fully indexed copy of the Koran which can be searched by words and phrases at:

This has been written in response to persons who have asked for insight into what the Koran actually teaches. In our pluralistic culture tolerance is broadly advocated. I know our Muslim friends will be patient with those seeking to learn the teachings of the Koran.

The French Mentality

What’s with the French that they are so anti-America? One of their major problems is their selective memory.

The French head of state, Jenri Phillippe Petan arranged an armistice with Germany in 1940, and began accommodating the Nazis. On June 5, Germany attacked France. They overran the alleged impenetrable Maginot Line of the French and entered Paris on June 14. Germany easily conquered France.

American and allied forces landed on the beach at Normandy, June 6, 1944. Many Americans know of the battle at Normandy but have failed to realize it was in France. The Americans entered Paris August 25, and thus virtually achieved the liberation of the nation from German occupancy.

In less than ten years General Charles De Gaulle, French head of state, ordered all American troops out of France. A Georgian, Dean Rusk, was then our Secretary of State. He went to France and asked De Gaulle, “Does that order pertain only to American troops stationed in France or does it include those buried in French soil?”

The French have forgotten who befriended them and gave their nation new life.

A second reason for French reluctance is their current internal situation. Arab armies moved out of the Arabian Peninsula and engaged in conquests of a large part of Europe in the late 1500’s. In the late 1600’s they were turned back and driven out of Austria. Thus, the Moslem conquest of Eastern Europe ended. It resumed when in the 1980’s Muslim leaders urged their followers to move to Europe, principally France and Germany. The influx has been so dramatic that some French cities, such as Marseille, are now seventy-five percent Muslim. The Muslim milieu is now playing into the French and German conduct. They know that dissident Muslims within their countries inclined toward terrorism could cause them great internal difficulty.

Another root of the French mentality can be traced to the writing of Francois Marie Arouet (1694-1778), known as Voltaire. His social philosophy and atheistic assault on spiritual values dramatically transformed the French culture. If a people have a collective conscience that of modern France was changed by Voltaire.

These factors combined with the economic entanglement between France, Germany, Belgium, and Iraq give answer to what is going on in the UN.

Here is an aside. When the Austrian king turned back the Muslim Turks in defeat it was a momentous event. It ended the Muslim encroachment into Eastern Europe. In celebrant of the event the king’s chef created a special pastry to commemorate the victory. He shaped it like the symbol of Islam, the crescent, and called it the croissant. It was designed to be devoured to symbolize the “devouring” of their foes by the Austrian army.

The French didn’t even give us the croissant. Now to add insult to injury. They didn’t give us French fries either. They came from Belgium.

We can only hope there will be a change of heart among certain European leaders before it is too late for them. Not from our standpoint, but that of their enemy they are as reluctant to admit as was Petan.

Free Speech And The Chicks

The Dixie Chicks spoke out critically of President Bush on the event of Operation Free Iraq. They followed it with the yo-yo statement regarding opposing the war and supporting the troops. What? That is like saying you support the means but not the end.

Supporters of the Chicks parrot their right to freedom of speech. That is not a question much less the question. They absolutely have the right to freedom of speech. In part, for that reason our military personnel were in Iraq.

Meanwhile a Congressman made comments regarding certain sexual behavior of which he disapproved. There have been demands for his resignation from committee posts and even from congress. While not agreeing with his statement can one defend his freedom of speech without being consider personally un-PC?

Freedom of speech is a wonderful distinctive birthed by our forefathers. It is a right to be cherished. However, there is a closely associated factor. That is, responsible speech. Say what ever you want but don’t cry and complain when others exercise their freedom of speech to express disapproval. Those disapproving are under no obligation to vote for or buy the CDs of those with whom they disagree.

If a person is going to make a statement they should be willing to defend it or apologize for it. In either case they should accept the consequences.

It is said that many people spend 90% of their time looking for someone to blame. It is such a chronic trait that it has spawned a book entitled, “I’m Not My Fault.”
The Chicks offered as a feeble excuse that they were in a foreign country. That is all the more reason the statement was out of line. The foreign country was England where their Prime Minister was under heavy criticism for aligning with President Bush in the war effort. It was an indirect criticism of Tony Blair. They got two birds with one stone.

Linked with freedom and responsibility is the consequence. There is a price to be paid for free speech. Showing the courage of convictions can be exacting. Our founding fathers were free to speak out against oppression. Having done so they showed the courage to stand by their convictions. It cost most of them dearly. The congressman and the Chicks having exercised their free speech should expect response.

This once more illustrates there is a difference in talent and wisdom. The Chicks by today’s standards are considered musically talented. That does not make them all knowing or all wise. It does make then all the more accountable because of the scope of their influence. To spin off an old axiom: “If you can’t stand the feedback stay away from the microphone.”

Freedom of speech is having the right to speak. Wisdom is knowing the right thing about which to speak, where, and when.

There is also a line in our law which says, “You have the right to remain silent….” That too is a freedom. It is at times a responsibility.

Scripture says, “Speak the truth in love.” There are times love prompts silence. The Chicks didn’t show our President any love or respect. Neither did they show our troops any support.