The Middle East: Ancient History Part 1, Background
Every fall people flock to corn mazes and hay mazes that spring up throughout the countryside. Famers create these mazes by cutting labyrinthine paths in corn that stands taller than a man, or by constructing labyrinthine walls of hay bales higher than a man.
Upon entering the maze no one can see where they have been, where they are, or where they’re going. Navigating one’s way out of such mazes is challenging and time-consuming. While in these mazes, do we know where we are? Kind of, but not really.
However, if we had an accurate map of the maze and an accurate record of where we’ve been, we could know exactlywhere we are and where we’re going. We could even plan and reliably follow a route to get out of the maze.
It is the same with history. If we want to know what the future might hold – though we cannot see the future clearly – it is necessary to know where we started, where we’ve been, and where we are. We can then make some reasonable projections of the future based on that knowledge. However, the more accurately and the farther out into the future we wish to make our projections, the farther back in time we must look to maintain reasonable accuracy of prediction.
This situation is illustrated in Fig. 1. Assume we are attempting to predict some event in the future. As can be seen, small errors in near past measurements extrapolated far out into the future will generally result in large potential error swings in our prediction. The same small error in distant past measurements will generally result in a much smaller potential error swings in our prediction. Clearly, the more precisely we know the past, especially the distant past, the more precisely we can predict the future.
Therefore, if we want to understand the Middle East situation today and make reliable projections into the future, we must first understand its ancient history as well as recent history. Furthermore, we have seen that the Middle East conflict takes place in two realms: Spiritual Realm and Worldly Realm. Unless we accurately understand the root causes of the conflict in both realms, we will certainly fail in projecting the future accurately.
Both sides of the conflict hold to deep spiritual beliefs. Both sides agree that these beliefs are incompatible with each other and are mutually exclusive.
The Arabs subscribe to the Qur’an; the Jews to the Old Testament of The Bible, and Christians to the entire Bible comprising both The Old Testament and New Testament. The primary spiritual conflict is between the Muslim followers of the Qur’an, and the Jewish and Christian followers of The Bible. The Islamic web site “Spreading the Truth of Islam” makes the following statement:
Both Christian and Jewish traditions are remarkably similar yet importantly different to the Qur’an.
The Bible was first; its source is the inspiration of YHWH, the Lord God of Israel. The Qur’an did not exist even orally until approximately 550 years after the Bible was completed. The Qur’an’s source is the angel Gabriel’s recitations to Muhammad.
A cursory comparison of The Bible with the Qur’an reveals striking similarities in content. Many of the same names appear in similar stories in both books. Closer examination, however, highlights significant, irreconcilable conflicts in the detail. The implications of these conflicting details are so substantial as to call into question the very core, the essence, the validity and the truth of one or the other belief as well as the very identity of any individual holding to the belief.
Adam and Eve
For example, both The Bible and the Qur’an claim that Adam and Eve were created by a supernatural god from dirt – dust according to The Bible and various kinds of clay according to the Qur’an. While that particular difference in the story may not be crucial, it is illustrative of a situation where several additional important details of the story do conflict irreconcilably.
Now consider also the subsequent account of man’s fall. In the Biblical account of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are summarily banished from the Garden of Eden in shame for disobeying God by eating forbidden fruit. The Qur’an contains a similar anecdote, but the setting of the Islamic version is Paradise (not the Garden of Eden on Earth), and the command is to not even go near the forbidden tree (no additional details of the command are provided – how near is near?). These differences in detail are important but most likely still not significant enough to affect lives today. However other subsequent differences are significant enough to affect lives today.
In the Biblical account, God curses the man, woman, the land, and the serpent. He also ignominiously banishes the man and woman from His Garden. In the Qur’an, Allah forgives Adam and Eve’s disobedience because the command was merely a “teaching moment.” Finally, not only is the couple forgiven by Allah, but they (and their already existing descendants) are ushered out from Paradise to Earth in glory– not banished in shame as in The Bible!
While these differences may seem minor, the consequences are huge. Specifically, the Biblical account ascribes the existence of all evil, suffering, sickness, and death in the world solely to man’s disobedience to God (man’s sin). The Biblical God is sinless, but all men have inherited Adam’s disobedient (sinful) nature and have a propensity to sin. According to Islam that perspective is untrue; Allah is the source of both good and evil – therefore he is capriciously unpredictable – but man is born sinless.
Every human being is responsible for his or her actions and is born pure and free from sin.
In the Biblical view God is good, man is bad. In the Islamic view, Allah is bad (or neutral at best), man is good. This difference between the two views has significant spiritual, social, and political impact. In the Biblical view, man needs a supernatural savior because man’s inherently evil nature (sin) is beyond repair. In the Muslim view, there is no need for a savior because Allah himself is the source of all good and evil, and man is inherently good. One who believes the Biblical view will interpret and project history quite differently from one who believes the Muslim view. One who believes the Biblical view will construct a society quite differently from one who believes the Muslim view. To complicate matters even more, both the Bible and the Qur’an teach the need to proselytize the world to their world-view: The Bible commands this to be done in love with respect for the individual’s free will to reject the message, while the Qur’an commands use of the sword if necessary.
So, is it possible to discern whether one view is right and the other wrong? It is, indeed. We don’t have to look very far. Simply consider the following:
Every parent knows that we don’t have to teach children to be disobedient, to misbehave, and to be bad; we have to teach them to be obedient, to behave, and to be good. Even a toddler naturally disobeys, lies, steals, covets, and hits! A parent must teach that toddler to be good – to not disobey, lie, steal, covet, and hit. Disobedience, lying, stealing, coveting, and hitting are sinful behaviors by God’s standards. Nevertheless we naturally gravitate toward such behavior, and all behavior contrary to God’s standards is sinful. Therefore every parent must teach a child not to sin! That being the case, the Biblical view that we are born with an inherently sinful nature – a natural tendency to disobey, lie, steal, and hit – is the correct view, contrary to the teaching of the Qur’an.
A similar pattern of inaccuracy, inconsistency, and corrupted plagiarism from the Bible is repeated throughout the Qur’an innumerable times. Comparably distorted and embellished repetitions appear in the stories of key Biblical figures such as Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus.
Muslims claim that the Qur’anic versions of these stories are the accurate and truthful versions. They claim that The Bible had been corrupted over the ages and is unreliable – but provide no specific details regarding what, where, or how such corruption occurred.
By contrast, archeological findings have uncovered a plethora of ancient original Biblical manuscripts that predate the birth of Muhammad by centuries, yet are virtually identical to today’s modern versions. These findings clearly refute the claim of corruption.
Additionally, meticulous procedures are known to have been employed to maintain the integrity of The Bible. These procedures provide confidence that the integrity of the original material has been carefully maintained over generations.
Lastly, we have seen that the source of the Bible is trustworthy; whereas the source of the Qur’an is not. Therefore the remainder of this essay and all future essays will reconstruct the spiritual history of the Middle East based solely on the Biblical perspective to.
Why not Peaceful Coexistence?
Still, merely the fact that the Bible and Qur’an represent two irreconcilable world-views should not automatically cause the observed physical conflict. After all, it is not uncommon for people of different faiths to peacefully coexist in other parts of the world. Therefore something else must be at the root cause of this spiritual conflict. I would propose two reasons why peaceful coexistence is impossible:
- The Qur’an demands conversion of all non-believers (infidels) to Islam with the sword if peaceful methods fail. All non-believers (especially people of the book – Jews and Christians) must convert or be killed through war (jihad). Peaceful coexistence simply is not an available option!
- As we have seen in Battlefield of the Gods, the Middle East conflict is the physical manifestation of a raging spiritual battle that has existed since the beginning of time. Not until that spiritual battle is resolved will peace be established – especially in The Middle East.
In the next post we will examine the spiritual roots of that conflict from a Biblical perspective, starting before creation because
All is not as it looks
 The Bible actually was written over many centuries by 40 different authors under Divine inspiration. Moses is estimated to have written the first five books, the Pentateuch, 1,350 ± 100 B.C. The most recent book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was written about 460 B.C., and the last book of the New Testament was written in 94 A.D., approximately 60 years after the death of Christ Jesus.
 Muslims generally agree that the Quran we see today was canonized by Uthman ibn Affan around 655 A.D., approximately 30 years after Muhammad’s death.
 If Allah is the source of both good and evil, then Allah cannot be all good. If Allah is not all good, then he must be evil. An omnipotent being who is evil – even if just partially evil – is no more than an unpredictable, terrifying monster. So why would Allah, who is evil, create man to be inherently good? Would Allah not create man in his own likeness? Is man better than his creator? This situation presents several irreconcilable inherent internal theological inconsistencies, but truth cannot be internally inconsistent. The Islamic view, therefore, cannot be true.
 See The Verse of the Sword (Sur 9:5). Some of the other verses that promote violent and forcible persecution of infidels are Sur 9:29, 2:216, 2:190-193, 2:256-257.
 For example, the following strict meticulous process was followed when creating duplicate copies of Scripture: A reader would read to a number of scribes who would write down what was being read. The copies were carefully checked. If errors were found in the “copied” documents, the defective scroll would be destroyed – not merely corrected.
 A comprehensive comparison of The Bible with the Quran is outside the scope of this essay. Numerous comparisons are available on line or in books from both perspectives. Pages 103-120 of one such book, “The Compact Guide to World Religions” by Dean C. Halverson provide a good executive summary of the differences from a Christian perspective. One web site provides a comprehensive, dispassionate comparison with many citations, as does Wikipedia. Another web page describes some of the techniques Islamists use to attack the credibility of The Bible. The Pen, an Islamic publication, illustrates some of these techniques – especially misinterpretation and misrepresentation – as it attempts to disprove the accuracy of The Bible.