Monday, August 20, 2007

Jesus: Who's Son is He?

It is no secret that in Islam it is denied that Jesus is God's Son. But if He is not the Son of Allah, then who's Son is He according to the Quran?

Of course we know the Judeo-Christian Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God:
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.- 1Jn 4.15.
Neither is this a doctrine introduced in the New Testament Scriptures. Though Judaism does not teach that Jesus Christ is God's Son, the doctrine is nonetheless found in the Jewish Scriptures called the Tanakh, what Christians refer to as the Old Testament:
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.- Psa 2.7;
and, Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.-v.12.
Thus it is not inconceivable that the earliest Christians, who were Jewish believers in Jesus as the promised Messiah, would also believe that He was the Son of God.

What does the Quran teach on this matter?
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.- Q 112:1-4.
And, The Jews call Uzayr [Ezra] a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!- Q 9:30.
And, To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: how can He have a son when He hath no consort?- Q 6:101a.

Islam rejects the notion that God is "father", or can have a son because it implies in the Arabic mind either the idea of procreation, or temporal sequence. For one, the Moslems have an aversion to these ideas because the pagan Arabs of Mecca in pre-Islamic times worshiped whom they said were daughters of Allah: their names are even given in the Quran as Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat (Q 53:19-20). These goddesses with Allah (Il-Lah- the god) were the head of the Arabic pantheon whose center of worship was at Mecca.
Now Moslems believed that Mohamed sought to return people to the true monotheistic religion of ancient times. Etymologically this is true. And Mohamed in this regards was the ultimate iconoclast amongst his people. I will at this time give no weight to supposed evidence of archeology from Robert Morey as inconclusive, as he claims that Allah was a moon god worshiped in pre-islamic times. Etymological evidence suggests otherwise.
In all fairness and misconceptions aside, the Quranic narrative is correct in this regard. And we can understand as Christians why Islam, and the Quran in particular are opposed to the idea of God having a Son, or being a Father. Because in the Arabic culture there had to be a strong exodus from the idolatry and polytheism of Mohamed's day in which Allah was included. Even in Israel in ancient times the worship of Yahweh (Elohim) was mixed with that of other gods, and had to be reclaimed in its original monotheism by an arising prophet (Ezek 14.1-7; Zeph 1.4-5).

Before we answer the question, Who's Son is Christ according to the Quran, we will first answer the Islamic objection to the Father and Son of the Godhead.
First, it is a misconception on Islam's part to assume that the doctrine of God the Father, and God the Son are in any way akin to the concepts of the pagan nations among whom Christianity evangelized. We may now appreciate the fervor behind the backlash against idolatry and polytheism as Mohamed sought to distance his people from the idea of Allah having daughters, etc. But it is not in this sense that God is the Father of Jesus Christ:
1) Not in the sense of procreation. God did not come down as Zeus did, and impregnate a woman, and have offspring in this way.
No. But God in His Ultimate Unity is infinitely transcendent and unknowable beyond all duality (Dt 6.4; Ga 3.20; Acts 17.23). When He revealed Himself, it was as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This revelation is through the Logos, Who is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son. He who reveals is the Father, and He who is revealed is the Son, in Whom all deity and the cosmos, albeit in its preexistent state (Col 1.15-17; Heb 1.2-3), are known. This is the meaning of this text taken to a metaphysical/theological application: All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.- Mt 11.27. Therefore, not as an act of procreation with a consort, nor even yet exclusive to the incarnation through Mary (Ps 2.7; Heb 13.8), but as an eternal act of Self-Revelation, the Son is ever revealing the Father in His being revealed as the Logos, and the Father is ever revealing the Son in His being the Revealer, yet they with the divine Breath of Spirit are One in Essence.
2) Not in the sense of temporal sequence, as the texts referred to above (Ps 2.7; Heb 13.8) speak to the eternality of the Self-Revelation of deity. Beyond which God could not be known, nor could He have brought about creation with out introducing duality to Himself in relation to the Cosmos. Thus it was through His Self-Revelation that He could be known, and the Cosmos through Him. Though Essentially He remains One. Nor could we have known such an impersonal God if He forever remained hidden in His transcendent Oneness.

Now on to the question at hand: Whose Son is Jesus according to the Quran? To be sure, He is often called the Son of Mary (Q 19:34). But who was His Father in the Quran? Are we to assume that He was fatherless? God forbid.
No, but we read in the Quran, Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus. The son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah...She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a Plan, He but saith to it, 'Be', and it is!"- Q 3:45, 47.
And in this same context concerning Mary and her Son Jesus, the Quran again says, It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter., He only says to it, "Be", and it is.- Q 19:35.
I am not claiming that Islam teaches that Christ is not created, but in the texts above it doesn't seem to say this. What is does say is that a Plan, in this case, the Plan of the Messiah, is created.
Also, Christ is here called a word from Him, that is from Allah. And further, the Quran states, Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him- Q 4:171a. Though the text here denies the Sonship of Christ, and the very Trinity, nonetheless the language echoes (if not originates from) the gospel of John, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God...And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us- Jn 1.1-2, 14a.
The Quran, while denying that Jesus is God's Son, nevertheless does not attribute His being sired to human paternity. But the teaching is that Christ was, yes a Word, but also His Word, that is, a Word from Allah.

Is this "word" created? Is this breath from Allah created? If this is believed in Islam, then herein is a big difference, obviously. But conclusively, is He the Son of Mary? Yes. A Son of Allah? This is denied. Yet He has no human father. Instead it is affirmed that He is a word, yea, Allah's very word: to this the Christian Scriptures agree. But it is hinted at, at least, in the Quran that this word, or the Son of Mary was created, as a thing to whom Allah said, 'Be!', and it was. But I would counter this to say that He, as Allah's Word, is the very word 'Be!' And when He, the Logos is spoken to anything Allah wishes, it is.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Tri-unity in Kabbalah

A fascinating phenomena within esoteric Judaism, called Kabbalah, are the repeating themes of threes found within their mysticism. I will list these themes and then comment on the first tri-unity in comparison with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. But let me say right off that I'm not convinced that the early Kabbalists believed in, or were somehow crypto-Christians. It was Christians who utilized what they found in Kabbalah as similar to their own faith with which they either evangelized the Jews, or began the Christian Kabbalah movements.

The tri-unities within Kabbalah are:

1. Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur;
2. Keter, Chokmah, Binah;
3. Keter, Tifferet, Malkuth;
4. Pillar of mercy, pillar of severity, and the pillar of balance;
5. Mother letters Aleph, Mem, and Shin;
6. Chesed, Gebura, Tifferet;
7. Netzach, Hod, Yesod
(and there may be more for future discussion)

Commentary on the Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur:
These three Kabbalistic terms transliterate as Nothing, Infinite nothing, and Infinite Light. These are called the 3 veils of negative existence, (or the 13 veils if you count the Hebrew letters used in the 3 terms). They represent the levels of God before manifestation. This relates to the Essence of God "prior" to Him Birthing forth the Son, or Speaking forth the Logos. Though we know this Holy emanation occurs eternally. Thus the 3 veils of negative existence refer to the Non-manifest deity as yet being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, albeit "occultisized", hidden, unknown. This is Agnostos Theos spoken of in Acts 17.23.
1) Ain
Is the negative "Nothingness" that is the only way to describe the divine Essence as all affirmations are not possible. This is non-manifest deity in its most Hidden transcendent state. This is comparable to the Father insofar as the Father gives birth to the Son, or speaks forth the Logos, which He does for an eternity (Ps 2.7; Heb 13.8). In other words, like the Father as the Source. Yet it is not like the Father in that as the divine Essence beyond all activity, it is the Perfect Emptiness. As the Kabbalists explain it, it is the vacuum of pure spirit.
As God in His Inmost Essence is Pure Being, and the Absolute Self, He is non-delimited Being. To define Him is to restrict Him. This is not possible in that Ain-nothing is beyond all definition, or delimitation.
He is the Absolute Self, as Ain permutes in Hebrew to Ani- I. Thus the Essence of God is beyond all objectification.
2) Ain Soph is conceived of as the deity between transcendence to the revealed God called Yahweh. This is the non-manifest veil of nothingness, where there is a kind of contraction as in the Kabbalah of Isaac Luria (a.k.a. the Ari). This contraction the Ari called tsimtsum. Which is conceived that God in His infinite vastness contracted down to a single point of Light, to make room, as it were, for the Cosmos.
This contraction is a perfect correlation to the Son of God, as Scripture states of Him, But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men- Phil 2.7. The Greek word used for ...made himself of no reputation is kenosis which means to make empty, to empty, or to make void. This is most often applied to the Self-emptying of the Logos when He incarnated as a man (Jn 1.1, 14).
Yet applying the Scripture speaking to the eternity of the Son, the same yesterday, today, and forever.- Heb 13.8b, we know that there is a primordial kenosis of the Logos from eternity to eternity. How is this so? In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.- Gen 1.1. The Beginning is the Self-Revelation of deity as Father and Son (Jn 1.1-2). The Hebrew bereshit
is this word. The second word to follow in the Genesis text in Hebrew is bara, which is to create, but also to "cut out", to carve out. Thus meaning a negation. Creation is actually an act of negation. Thus when all things were seen pre-existently in the Logos, as with Him are all things (Jn 1.1-2; Mt 19.26), He emptied Himself- kenosis, as an act of denying nothingness from God. For the pre-existent things in them selves do not exist. And this is impossible with God, For with God shall nothing be impossible.- Lk 1.37. Because God is pure non-delimited Being, nothingness is an impossibility with Him. The things with Him in the Logos, as entities, are glories, and revelations of the Son. But as foreknown entities, non-existent in themselves there nothingness is an impossibility with God, hence they are negated from Him, which is a conceptual, if not actual kenosis. This kenotic dynamic within the God head is Ain Soph.
3) Ain Soph Aur
is the final veil of negative existence. This is the Infinite Light which is the point of Light (the point in the middle of the circle) at the final moment of the infinite contraction. This is that point of Light just prior to the first positive, or affirmative emanation of deity called Keter-crown. Ain Soph Aur is that final veil of non-manifest deity just prior to the phrase, Let there be light- Gen 1:3a.
The 10 Sephirot emanate from Ain Soph Aur- the limitless light, from Keter to Malkuth. The 10 Sephirot have been compared to YHWH- Yahweh, the Holy Tetragramaton. As Christians we see theologically that Yahweh is identical to the Godhead in His Oneness of Essence, and His Threeness of Persons. But we can see that as the 10 Sephirot are the modes in which not only does God bring about the Cosmos, but also how He relates to creation. So too, the name YHWH did not appear in Scripture until it was in relation to the Cosmos, These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD [YHWH] God made the earth and the heavens- Gen 2:4. Thus this Holy Name is associated with the cosmos as the 10 Sephirot are said to be.
It is in this sense that the Holy Spirit can be represented by Ain Soph Aur. Why? Because as the Breath sent forth from the Father and the Son, He carries with Him not only all the cosmos, but all the glories of the Glory Jesus Christ, all logoi of the Logos.
Scripture states, Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.-Ps 104.30. He goes forth as an out breath of the Father and the Son. Yet this is still as a veil of negative existence. Earlier we saw that creation (distinct from the formative and making aspects of existentiation- Is 43.7) is a negation. Hence when each entity is denied as other than God, they are thus individuated. But this too is prior to affirmative existence. All that need be said now is, Let there be light- Gen 1.3a., which begins the 10 m'amerot- commands of existentiation that result in our coming into being in the Cosmos.
Scripture also says, He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine and shall show it unto you.- Jn 16.14-15; and, But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.- 2Cor 3.18.
Thus we see that the three negative existences of deity as elucidated within the esoteric tradition of Judaism, Kabbalah, are comparable to the Godhead in His emanations and manifestations from a negative, or non-manifest aspect. We may say that deity prior to being manifest toward the Cosmos as He truly is being YHWH, there were yet inward movements of unknowableness within the very Godhead Himself. These things are truly inscrutable from our weak human attempts at explaination. Yet as Paul the apostle preached, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.- Acts 17.23b.