Two very extraordinary events have been recorded by two Evangelists in connection with the birth of Prophet Jesus Christ (upon whom be peace and the blessings of Allah). The Evangelist Mattai (Matthew) has left to us an account of the wonderful pilgrimage of the Magi, who were guided by a star from Persia to the manger at Bethlehem, where the new-born Jesus, whom they "worshipped" and presented with rich gifts of gold, myrrh, and incense, was lying. The condensed material in this historical event or fictitious story of the "Wise Men" from the East is in itself a plausible legend consisting of more than half a dozen miracles, which the Christian Church alone has been able to create and to believe in. The Church has preserved the very names of the Magi, who, headed by the King Caspar, were "inspired by God," and knew that the little Babe of Bethlehem was God, Lamb, and King, and therefore they offered him incense as to a deity, myrrh for his burial as a sacrifice, and gold for his royal treasury! That the Zoroastrian magicians, or the astrologian Chaldees, through the astral divination and guidance, traversed all that distance to Jerusalem, and there lost the sight of the star; that the Jewish reigning sovereign Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem shook and trembled at the news of the birth of a new king; that only an incoherent passage in the writings of the Prophet Micah (v. 2) could solve the problem of the locality where the nativity had taken place; and finally that the astrologers were informed by God in a dream not to return to Herod, are indeed some wonderful miracles which only the Christian superstition can swallow. The royal retinue of the pilgrims proceeds to Bethlehem only at a few miles' distance from Jerusalem, and, lo! the old guiding star again appears and leads them on until it stops exactly above the spot where the infant was born. The prodigious rapidity with which the long journey from Persia to Bethlehem was completed while the babe was still in the stable (Luke ii. 4-7) shows the importance of the miracle.
Another miracle connected with the birth of Christ is the fact, or the fiction, that after all those demonstrations at the Court of Herod and in the educated classes at Jerusalem, nobody knew the address of the Holy Family; and that this mystifying ignorance cost the massacre by Herod of hundreds of infants at Bethlehem and its suburbs. The last but not the least miracle insinuated in this narrative is the fulfillment of another prophecy from Jeremiah (xxxi. 15), where Rachel is represented as weeping and lamenting over the slaughter of the Ephraimites at Ramah and not at Bethlehem, and this, too, some seven hundred years ago, when the descendants of Rachel were deported into Assyria while she herself was dead long before Jacob her husband descended into Egypt! St. Matthew, who alone among all the ancient archivists and historians knows this event, does not tell us what the impressions of King Caspar and his astrologers after their visit of pilgrimage to the manger of Bethlehem were. Were they convinced that the son of Mary was a king, or were they not? If they were persuaded that Jesus was a king, why then did Persia persecute Christianity until it was converted to Islam in the seventh century? Is it not true that the Persians received no light and information about Jesus of Nazareth from their magicians, but only from the Muslim army sent by Hazrat Omar, the second caliph?
It is not my intention to deny altogether the truth of the visit of some Eastern Magi to the crypt of Jesus, but simply to show the avidity or the ambition of the Church to exaggerate simple events in the life of Jesus Christ and to exhibit in them some supernatural characteristics.
The other equally wonderful event which concerns our present discourse is recorded by the Evangelist Luke (ii. 1-20). Some shepherds were watching their flocks in a field near Bethlehem on the very night when Jesus was born in a manger. An angel announces the birth of the "Savior Lord," and suddenly a host of angels appear in the sky and sing aloud the following hymn:
Glory be to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, And among men good will. [Verse 14.]
This famous angelic anthem, known as Gloria in excelsis deo, and sung in all the sacerdotalist churches during their celebration of the sacraments, is, unfortunately, only a vague translation from the Greek text, which cannot be considered at all reliable or truth worthy because it does not show us the original words in the language in which the angels chanted and which the Hebrew shepherds understood. That the heavenly hosts sang their joyous song in the language of the shepherds, and that that language was not Greek but the vernacular Hebrew - or rather the Aramaic - is an admitted truth. All the scriptural names of Allah, angels, heaven, prophets, etc., are revealed to us in the Semitic tongues (Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic); and to imagine that the celestial hosts sang in Greek to the ignorant Jewish shepherds in the suburbs of Bethlehem would be equivalent to the belief that such an angelic army, in the firmament above the mountains of Kurdistan, sang a similar hymn in Japanese for the digestion, or puzzle, of some Kurdish herdsmen!
The appearance of an angel to the humble shepherds of Bethlehem and the annunciation of the birth of a great Prophet that very night, and the hearing of the angelic Hallelujah (Allilujah) by them alone and not by the haughty priests and the scribes, is one of the innumerable miracles recorded in the history of the people of Israel. There is nothing in the story which might be considered to be such a contradictory nature as to expose the narrative to incredi- bility. An angel can appear to a prophet or to a holy worshiper of God and communicate to him a message from Allah in the presence of other people, yet be quite imperceptible to them. The good shepherds had good hearts and good faith, therefore they were worthy of the divine favor. So from a religious point of view there is nothing incompatible or incredible in this wonderful event as recorded by St. Luke. The author of this narrative exhibits precision of diction, he is discreet and cautious in his statements, and throughout his Gospel he uses a very good Greek style. Considering the fact that he wrote his book long after the death of all the Apostles, and that he had "very carefully" examined numer- ous works concerning Jesus and his Gospel, it seems very probable that he was aware of the legend of the Magi and abstained altogether from including it in his own book (l).
------------ Footnote (1) Readers are advised to very carefully read the preface, or the introductory passage, at the beginning of St. Luke's Gospel. ------------ end of footnote
It is precisely stated in the first four verses with which the third Gospel opens that the Apostles, whom he calls "the eyewitnesses and the ministers of the Word," had not written themselves any account about the Master and his teachings, but only by way of tradition had delivered them orally to their followers or successors. It is also clearly stated that the sources to which St. Luke had recourse for the composition of his Gospel were various "stories" composed by persons who had heard them narrated by the Apostles and others who were the eyewitnesses of those events and doctrines, and that the author very attentively examined them all and chose only such as he considered true or trust- worthy. Moreover, it is quite evident from the confession of St. Luke himself, as it may be easily deducted from his preface, that he claims no direct revelation made to himself, nor does he attribute any inspiratory character to his book. It may, too, be safely assumed that the first and the fourth Gospels were either not written when Luke compiled his own narrative, or that he had not seen them; for he could not have ventured to counterpoise or contradict the Gospels written by the two Apostles, Matthew and John.
These brief observations, which can be multiplied, must convince every impartial reader that the so-called "Four Gospels" do not exhibit the necessary features which are indispensable for any Scripture claiming a divine inspiration.
The Churches have believed that the author of the third Gospel is the Physician Luke (Col. iv. 14) who accompanied St. Paul in his missionary journeys and was with him a prisoner at Rome (2 Tim. iv. 11; Philem. 24, etc.). However, this is not the place to discuss the question of the authorship of the book, nor its other important peculiarities. Suffice it to say that St. Luke has recorded some beautiful parables and teachings of the Holy Master, such as the parable of the Good Samaritan (x. 25-37); the Avaricious Rich Man (xii. 15-21); the Self-righteous Pharisee and the Publican (xiii. 9-18); the Perseverance in Prayer (xi. 1-13); the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son (xv); the Dives and Lazarus (xvi. 19-31); the Mite of the Poor Widow (xxi); the Wicked Husbandman (xx 9-16); the Unjust Judge (xviii. 1-8); the Conversion of Zacchaeus (xix 1-10); and several others. But the most important among all the contents of the third Gospel is the angelic hymn, which forms the topic of our present study and contemplation.
This hymn, like all the contents of the New Testament, is presented to us not in the original language in which it was sung, but only in its Greek version; and God alone knows the source from which our Evangelist copied, translated, or simply narrated it from hearsay.
Is it possible that Prophet Jesus or his Apostles did not leave a real and authentic Gospel in the language in which it was revealed? If there were such a true Gospel, what became of it? Who lost it? Was it destroyed? And by whom and when? Was it ever translated into Greek or into another foreign language? Why has not the Church preserved to us the original text of the real Gospel, or its translation? If the answer to these questions is in the negative, then we venture to ask another series of questions of equal importance; namely, why did these Jewish Apostles and Evangelists write not in their own language but all of them in the Greek language? Where did the fisherman Shimon Kipha (Simon Peter), Yohannan (John), Ya'qub (James), and the publican Mattai (Matthew) learn the Greek language in order to write a series of holy Scriptures"? If you say the "Holy Ghost taught them," you simply make yourselves ridiculous. The Holy Ghost is not a teacher of grammar and languages. It would require another Revelation to expound the reason or wisdom why the Holy Ghost should make a revelation in the Jewish language to an Israelite in Nazareth, then cause it to be destroyed, and finally teach half a dozen Jews the Greek tongue and inspire each one to write in his own style and way a portion of the same Revelation!
If it is argued that the Gospels and the Epistles were written for the benefit of the Jews of Dispersion, who knew the Greek language, we venture to inquire: What benefit at all did those Jews of the Dispersion derive from the New Testament; and why a copy of it should not have been made for the Jews of Palestine in their own language, considering the fact that Jerusalem was the center of the new Faith, and James, the "brother of the Lord" (Gal. i. 19), was the President or Head of the Church and residing there (Acts xv.; Gal.ii. 11-l5, etc.).
It would be a desperately hopeless effort to find a single parable, oracle, or any revealed message of Jesus Christ in his own language. The Synod of Nicea must be for ever held criminally responsible as the sole cause of this irreparable loss of the Sacred Gospel in its original Aramaic text.
The reason why I so pertinently insist on the indispensable necessity of the intact preservation of the revealed message of Allah is obvious; it is because only such a document can be considered as reliable and valid. A translation, no matter how faithfully and ably it may have been made, can never maintain the exact force and the real sense as contained in the original words and expressions. Every version is always liable to be disputed and criticized. These four Gospels, for instance, are not even a translation, but the very original text in the Greek language; and the worst of it is that they are badly corrupted by later interpolations.
Now, we have before us a sacred song, undoubtedly sung in a Semitic dialect, but as it is, presented to us in a Greek version. Naturally we are very curious to know its words in the original language in which it was sung. Here I draw the serious attention of the reader to the exact equivalent Semitic term rendered into the Greek language "eudokia" and translated into English "good will". The hymn is composed of three clauses. The subject of the first clause is Allaha (in Aramaic), rendered "Theos" in Greek. The subject of the second clause is Shlama (in Aramaic), and translated "Eiriny" into Greek. And the subject of the third clause is eudokia in Greek, and rendered "Bona voluntas" by the Vulgate and "Sobhra Tabha" (pronounced sovra tava) by the Pshittha (al-Basit).
Both these versions, which have been followed by all other versions, have failed to convey the exact meaning and the sense of the word "eudokia," and consequently the second and the third clauses remain meaningless and even senseless, if not altogether untrue. Disappointed as we may be for not having the exact words of this heavenly anthem in their original forms, yet we need not despair in our endeavor to find out and discover the true sense contained in it.
We shall therefore proceed to find out the true etymological significations of the Greek words "Eiriny" and "Eudokia," and the real sense and interpretation of the Angelical Doxology.
The Christian interpretation of the terms "Eiriny" and "Eudokia" is wrong and utterly untenable.
According to the interpretation of this hymn by all the Christian Churches and sects, the faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, in the redemption from sin and hell-fire through his death upon the Cross, and in holding a continual communication with the Holy Ghost, brings "peace" and tranquillity to the heart, and makes the believers entertain towards each other "good will," benevolence, and mutual love. This interpretation, thus far, is commonly accepted by the Sacramentarian and the Evangelical groups. But they do not stop at these three principal points, and very discreetly too; for thus far no general peace, no reconciliation, no concord and union, no good will and mutual love is felt among them. Then they part with each other and try other means to ascertain this "peace" and this "good will." The Sacrament- arians insist on the belief in seven sacraments and many dogmas which neither common sense nor the simple doctrine of Jesus could tolerate. The Church, having been cleansed by the blood of the Redeemer through the mysteriously sancti- fied waters of Baptism, has become the Bride of the Lamb and his body; the Church, being herself the body of the Lamb, feeds upon his body in the mysteriously hallowed bread and wine, and transubstantiated into the real flesh and blood of the Bridegroom. The Bride - Church - has particular devotions to the "sacred hearts" of Jesus, of Mary, and of St. Joseph; to the fourteen stages or mansions of the Crucifixion; to the statues and images of hundreds and hundreds of saints and martyrs; to thousands of authentic or fictitious bones and relics of the same; and adoration to the consecrated wafer exactly as to God the Almighty! Still there is no peace; all sins, grave or otherwise, must be confessed to the priest; and it is the absolution that the sinner obtains from that "spiritual father" that produces peace and tranquillity in his heart, and fills it with good will!!!
If we turn to the evangelical group of diverse creeds and tenets, we shall find them endeavoring to procure an internal peace by praying directly to the three persons of the deity individually - now to Jesus, now to the Spirit, then to the Father - with closed eyes, but with oratorical gestures and movements; by reading the Bible, and by other practices private or in public; and then they believe that they are filled with the Holy Spirit and are at peace! But I assure the reader that all these "penitent" Christians, who through their real or artificial devotions pretend to have obtained "peace," and to have possessed "good will" towards their neighbors, instead of becoming docile, meek, and peaceful like their pretended Master, become extremely bigoted and intolerant. Whether an orthodox or a heterodox, when a Christian comes out from the church where he has "shared" the "Lord's Communion" which they call the "Institution of the Eucharist,(1)" they become so hypocritically fanatical and unsocial as to prefer to meet a dog rather than a Muslim or a Jew, because these do not believe in the Trinity and in the "Lord's Supper." I know it. I used to be of the same sentiments when I was a Catholic priest. The more I thought myself spiritual, holy, and sinless, the more I hated the heretics, especially the non- believers in the Trinity.
------------- Footnote (1) I forgot to mention above that St. Luke, according to the ancient Pshittha Version, does not contain verses 17-19 of chapter xxii; nor are these so-called "essential words" existing in the Liturgy of the Nestorians. ------------- end of footnote
When the Christians, especially their priests and pastors, become fervent and zealous in their peculiar devotions and practices, they become exceedingly excited, furious, and offensive towards their religious adversaries! Show me a single Catholic, Schismatic, or a heretical Saint after the Nicene Council, who was not a tyrant, either in his writings, or preachings, or in his deeds against those whom he considered "heretics." The Roman Inquisition is an immortal witness to the fulfillment of this Angelical hymn of "Peace upon earth and good will among men"!
It is apparent that the true peace cannot be acquired by artificial means. There are only three means that can pro- cure the true and perfect peace; namely, a firm belief in the absolute Oneness of Allah; a complete submission and resignation to His Holy Will; and frequent meditation and contemplation on Him. He who has recourse to these three means is a real and practical Muslim, and the peace that he acquires thereby is true and unartificial. He becomes to- lerant, honest, just, and compassionate; but at the same time quite equipped to fight heart and soul in defense of all that appertains to the Glory of Allah and to his own honor when threatened or attacked. It is obvious that the acquisition of this perfect peace is accomplished by an inward faith and an inflexible submission to the Creator, and not by outward ostentatious practices and rituals. These latter will benefit us only when the faith is genuine, and the submission voluntary and unconditional.
But surely the angels did not sing in honor of private or individual peace, which is, after all, limited to a comparatively small number of pious men; nor did they do so in praise of an imaginary universal peace, which would mean a total disarmament of nations and a cessation of wars and hostilities. No; neither of these two specific peaces was the object of this melody. The spiritual peace is a tranquillity of heart and conscience granted by Allah as a grace and blessing only to those few believers who have made great progress in piety and spiritual life, and love Him, above all, and sacrifice every other love for His.
It was neither a social nor political peace for the people of Israel; for the history of the last twenty centuries shows the very contrary. The angels could not, therefore, sing and announce a peace which could never be realized or accomplished. We are forced, then, in face of the subsequent historical facts on the one hand, and by the importance of the occasion, as well as the quarter from which this remark- able announcement was made, on the other, to conclude that this "peace upon earth" was none other than the approaching establishment of the Kingdom of Allah upon earth, which is Islam. The Greek word "Eiriny" stands for the Semitic "Shalom," "Shlama," and "Islam." That is all!
The very mention of "a multitude of heavenly hosts" gives the hymn a martial or triumphal character. It is indeed a singular indication of joy on the part of the armies belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven, in favor of their future allies belonging to the Kingdom of God on earth, of which the newly born Babe of Bethlehem was the greatest Evangelist and Herald.
On various occasions, in the course of these articles, we have explained that Shalom, in its concrete and practical sense, has the signification of the religion that is good, sound, safe, salutary, and the way of peace, in opposition to the religion that is evil, bad, harmful, destructive, and the way that conducts towards misery and perdition. It was in this sense that Allah, in His Message through the prophecy of Isaiah (xiv.) to Cyrus, used the word Shalom, as synonymous with good in opposition to evil. This is precisely the literal, etymological, moral, and practical interpretation of Islam as the true religion, the powerful Kingdom of Allah on earth, with its permanent and sound laws and directions inscribed in the Holy Qur'an.
Beyond Islam, which literally signifies "making peace," any other interpretation or imaginary peace is irrelevant with the sense in which "Eiriny" is used in this triumphal angelic anthem. It was in this Islamic sense of the word that Jesus Christ, in his grand sermon on the Mount, said: "Blessed are the Muslims (literally, "the peacemakers"); for they shall be called the children of God" (1) (Matt. v. 9). And it was precisely the imaginary peace which Prophet Jesus Christ repudiated when he exclaimed: "Think not that I came to establish peace upon earth; I did not come to set peace but a sword" (Matt. x. 34-6); or, as Luke declares: "I came to set fire on the earth . . . Do you think that I came to establish peace? I tell you, no; but divisions . . . " (Luke xii. 49-53).
------------ Footnote (1) The expression "children of God" will be treated later on. ------------ end of footnote
Unless "Eiriny" be understood in the sense of the Religion of Islam, these two crucial and contradictory statements of Jesus must remain a riddle, if not an irretrievable injury which the Christian Church has committed in having accepted these Gospels as the "inspired Word of God."