Hard Questions

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A Muslim listening to an early church father 2

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by Rasheed,

I am still reading the works of Clement of Rome, still listening to his beautiful words.

Another citation from his epistle, has a remarkable similarity to the description of Muslims in the Quran. Clement quotes the scripture:

And in another place [the Scripture] saith, “Behold, the Lord taketh unto Himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man takes the first-fruits of his threshing-floor; and from that nation shall come forth the Most Holy.”

Now this quotation can not be found in the Bible today, but it is echoed in the Quran chapter 2:

[Quran 2:143] Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses over mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness over you.

The Arabic word for middle is [wasat], which has the following meanings:

1- Just. 2- Of high standing. 3- Middle in rank or location.

Since the scriptures quoted was addressed to the children of Israel, it is only reasonable to assume that the “nation” referred to here is different people from the Israelites themselves.

The Israelites had received many prophets and messengers from God, the passage “and from that nation shall come the “most Holy” is a strong indication that:

  1. It is from a nation other than themselves that this promised prophet will emerge.
  2. That this prophet will be the most Holy of all other prophets.

Clement’s interpretation of the passage gives the impression that he considered himself part of this chosen nation, he was a gentile and therefore, he too interpreted “that nation” to be outside Israel. He wrote, immediately after the passage:

Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness

It is clear that Clement interpreted the Most Holy to be Jesus, and the nation to be Jesus followers; but the original verse can equally apply to prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the Most High, in which case, the ‘nation’ would be Muslims, the followers of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.

I do not know for sure if, why or when this passage disappeared from the Bible, and I came across an attempt to interpret the passage as a combination of more than one verse from different Books from the Bible: (Numbers 18:27) plus (2 Chronicles 31:14), but the passage cited in the epistle is markedly different in construction and meaning, and the epistle gives the impression that it is quoting a single passage from the scriptures.

Written by Rasheed Gadir

December 1, 2007 at 1:36 am

One Response

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  1. My hunch is Clement is loosely quoting some Scripture we’re not able to pinpoint exactly. You may be right that he is drawing on a number of verses. Neither the Numbers nor 2 Chronicles verses you cite fit well. The idea that Jesus is the “Holy One” and Christians are the new “Chosen People” is certainly present in the Christian “New Testament”. It sounds like Muslims hold similar beliefs about Mohammed and Islam. Still, I wouldn’t stretch Clement’s remarks to give weight to either claim.

    pistolpete

    December 11, 2007 at 2:15 pm


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