Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Bible vs. The Koran

English: An Ilkhanid Koran with Persian transl...
English: An Ilkhanid Koran with Persian translation between the lines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I finished reading the Koran yesterday, and the Bible last month. Do I feel illuminated and filled with wonder after reading two of the great texts of the world's great religions ? Not hugely.  The Bible is an enormously long book, and for large parts it is also enormously dull.  There are long lists of genealogy, begat, begat, begat, which are tedious to read through, and the scrupulously detailed instructions for the construction of tabernacles are not scintillating reading either, although they are probably more reliable than the photo-copied sheets from Ikea that come with that table that has never looked quite right.

I was surprised by how little narrative there is in The Bible, I was rather expecting a flowing story taking me from Creation until after the death of Christ, and also by how short some of the better known sections of
The Bible are, Jonah and the whale flashes by in a page, and the entire Christ story is only a handful of pages, but repeated from different authors.

The Koran seems to rely largely on repetition, and if The Bible had less narrative than I would like, then The Koran has a vanishingly small amount, instead the Sura's are to the uninitiated a confusing welter of imprecations and vague guidance.  The clearest instructions in The Koran are those that pertain to women in society, how they should be treated as wives, what happens in terms of dowry and divorce and adultery, both books are very keen to point out the awful consequences of adultery.

Both books are fairly blood soaked.  The Old Testament reads like a history in which humans do nothing except wage war on each other, The Koran I found confusing, one Sura seems to say that the other people of the Book are all right so long as they keep themselves to themselves, other Sura's seem to indicate that it's all right to wage war on them.  Then there's the question of translation, with The Bible we have a standardised King James version, I don't know where my J M Rodwell translation of The Koran stands, is it a good and faithful translation of the Word ? I can't tell.

The course books for my winter study, A217 Introducing Religions, are due to be posted this Friday.  I thought it might be handy to be more aware of some of the texts we will be studying, but as with almost every other part of the study of humanities, the more you read, the more questions it raises.  Right or wrong answers there are none.  Onwards and upwards, or sideways, then.

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