Finger writin’ God

Speaking of the Islamic belief of Allah dictating his message to his messengers, and so in general every messenger of God was associated with his own book (e.g., Moses/Torah, David/Psalms, Jesus/Gospel, Muhammad/Koran), it might be a good time to address the issue of inspiration one more time. “He has sent down upon thee the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel aforetime, as guidance to the people, and He sent down the Salvation.” (3.3-4) Allah did not send his Son; he sent his Book.

And this is different from what the Christians understand about our Scriptures. We do believe that our Scripture is inspired, as the Moslems believe that their Scripture is, but our understanding of what does inspiration mean in practice is different. And hence it is important to clarify what does it mean by inspiration in the first place.

One thing for sure, inspiration (almost) never implies that the human author did not have any part or only have a passive contribution to the writings of Scripture. We believe that the human authors were actively involved in writing the Scriptures. They used all faculties of their mind when they did so. When Paul wrote his epistles, he wrote what he wanted to write. He was of full freedom when he wrote his epistles. Paul was not a mere scribe who wrote only what was dictated to him.

The exception that proves the rule was when Moses met God in Mount Sinai and God wrote the stipulations of the covenant on two tablets of stone. It was the closest thing that we had in our Scriptures which was perhaps similar to a passive understanding of inspiration, and perhaps with what the Moslems believe about it since they believe that the messengers only received the words while Allah dictated them:

“And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God… then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” (Exo 31.18, 32.15-16)

It is as clear as it could get. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God. If there’s such thing called the Word of God, this is it, as literal as it could get. While, ironically, this very writing of God was also the one which was immediately destroyed. Moses saw the Israelites dancing and the golden calf, became really angry, and threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them.

He would made the second set of the tablets, though, and this time Moses would be the one who wrote on the tablets, and not God (34.28).


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