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Why Muslims don't get Christian Hermeneutics

I was in the audience for a debate between a Christian and a Muslim about whether or not God was a Trinity yesterday.  It has given me heaps to reflect on, it was a fascinating event to witness on many levels.  Hopefully this is the first of a series of reflections coming out of that event.  One fascinating insight, that I perhaps should have forseen but didn't, was how much of the debate boiled down to hermeneutics (how you interpret scripture).

Muslim Scripture
One human author
Untranslated - Arabic
A religious textbook
Intended to found a religion

Christian Scripture
40 human authors (or there abouts)
Translated from original languages - Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek
An eclectic library of documents loosely arranged in a narrative sequence
A library collected by religious groups (Jews and Christians) who found those texts representative of their already established religions

Without an articulation of these essential differences between our very conceptions of what constitutes scripture Muslims and Christians will find it impossible to meaningfully discuss the issues that arise from those scriptures.  That said, I could not fault my Muslim cousins for their hermeneutics yesterday because there are plenty of (misguided) Christians who treat the Bible as if it were the Q'ran.  At least the Muslim has the excuse that the Bible is not his or her holy scriptures!


  1. A friend studying Classical Arabic (language of the Q'ran) under an esteemed Arabic scholar explained to me that for a good grasp of the Q'ran you really need an intimate knowledge of the Hadith (supplementary narrative material), the life of the Prophet (informed by the Hadith as well as other texts) and the times in which it is written. What is common between the two is the need for scholarship for understanding..sadly in both Christian and Muslim cultures it is not always the best and brightest who take up theology. Would love to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury, Catholic and Orthodox Popes and the Grand Imam debate the same topics!


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