A new book aims to introduce the Qur’an from a historical-critical perspective. I doubt anyone would argue with the first part—the principle of considering a book within a historical frame—but “critical” can set some folks off. It might help to get over an initial barrier if we thought not about being critical but more along the lines of employing critique.
In the publisher’s catalog listing for the new book I noticed a few chapter titles in particular:
4 Literary coherence and secondary revision: The very idea of examining literary coherence is potentially bothersome to those who discount the human element in their sacred texts—and the suggestion of revision or even developmental phases in the production of said texts, potentially offensive.
6 Intertextuality: The intertextuality notion deals with the relationship between/among different texts (potentially including non-sacred and chronologically distant ones), as well as others written for altogether different purposes. Intertextual relationships include both direct and indirect quotations, references, and less explicit “echoes.”
Part Three: The idea of a “diachronic survey” indicates that it examines through time, taking development into consideration, as opposed to gauging things based on a “snapshot” at one point in time. I note sub-references to both the “Meccan surahs” and the “Medinan surahs.” I would have to look up what a surah is, but I have a passing acquaintance with the idea that Muhummad’s ideologies shifted from his early years in Mecca to his later ones in Medina. See the last part of this post for one key change.
The quotation below is from Larry Hurtado, whose blog was the source for my information. This is worth sharing on its own merits—for the sake of Christians who care, or at least say they care, about the biblical text.
“No doubt, the book will receive objections from Muslims who imagine the Qur’an to be a miracle, not a historical phenomenon, just as fundamentalist Christians demur from a critical approach to biblical texts. But, as Sinai notes, an awareness of the historically-conditioned nature of a sacred text doesn’t mean that it’s no longer sacred or meaningful for faith.” – Dr. Larry Hurtado, https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/a-historical-critical-introduction-to-the-quran/
Postlude: I once heard of a book titled Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. I paid little attention at the time, thinking it was little more than a curiosity being shared by a skeptical Episcopalian. Regardless of certain theologically and socially liberal agendas that the book’s author would appear to support, I focus now on the relationship suggested by the title. I was not a Fundamentalist even then, and I surely am not now, so it’s not as though I feel the title threatens to wrest something away from me. The idea of freeing the Bible from certain agendas resonates even more these days than it did a couple decades ago. I wish this or that fundamentalist view of scripture were seen as a particular type of conservative stance, and not the only viable type.
It would be a good thing if Christian and Muslim adherents alike came to consider the human elements in the production of sacred texts.