Monday, January 04, 2016

Exegetical neutrality

The Maverick Philosopher agrees that the Quran contains tokens of 'Moses' (or its Arabic equivalent). He is still not sure whether those tokens refer to Moses or not. I suggested the following questions.

1. Do the OT and NT also contain tokens of 'Moses' (or Hebrew or Greek or Latin equivalent)?

2. Do the OT tokens of ‘Moses’ refer to Moses?

3. Does a ‘yes’ answer to the question immediately above, where I use the name ‘Moses’ also answer the question of whether I can refer to Moses?

4. Do the NT tokens of ‘Moses’ refer to Moses?

5. Some passages in the Quran (not all) that use tokens of ‘Moses’ are clearly quotations from the OT. If we agree that the OT passages refer to Moses, do we also agree that the quoted passages in the Quran also refer to him?

6. If we don’t agree that the quoted passages using ‘Moses’ refer to Moses, what happens if a Muslim printer publishes a copy of the OT? Does the reference failure result from identity or religious beliefs of the person printing or copying all or part of the OT? What happens if a Muslim printer publishes an annotated edition of the Quran which copies (as footnotes) the OT passages verbatim? I.e. does the reference of ‘Moses’ in an OT passage depend on its printed location?

7. If we agree that the passages in the Quran which quote the OT ‘Moses’ passages do refer to Moses, what about the passages which are not obvious quotes. Do they also refer to Moses, or not?

8. If we answer ‘no’ to the question immediately above, what about such passages which are not quotations from OT, but which use pronouns such as ‘he’ to refer back to passages which are quotations? If we agree that in the quotation passages the tokens of ‘Moses’ refer to Moses, is any subsequent pronominal back-reference also a reference to Moses?

This Wikipedia article is useful in matching Biblical and Quranic texts. Note that it gives the Arabic as well as the Romanised names. Thus ‘Moses’ corresponds to the Arabic موسى. So in translating the Arabic name to the Romanised one, do we translate the reference as well? I.e. do we assume that ‘Moses’ always refers to one mentioned in the Old Testament, and that the translation of موسى as ‘Moses’ guarantees that the Quran refers to Moses? Imagine an Arabic-English dictionary which as well as translating nouns, adjectives and verbs, also translates proper names, so that ‘Moses’ is given as the meaning for موسى. Or has the translator violated the principal of exegetical neutrality in assuming sameness of reference?

In any case, Wikipedia appears to violate the principle. E.g. it says “Islam believes that God thoroughly forgave Adam and Eve their transgression when they begged His mercy”. Presumably the names have their standard reference?

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