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Retrospective, one year on ...

May 31, 2010

This is blog entry number 12 in a projected series of 30 monthly pieces leading to the publication of Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran in early 2012. The book may not be out by the beginning of that year, but it will be in the hands of the publishers and beyond collaborative contributions. We are an online community of 200 scholars, students and general readers, some so far just watching things unfold, and others inputting ideas, information, suggestions and corrections, usually by email, direct to me.

We are implementing most of the format suggestions brought forward from the conference in New York last year re Parts One, Two and Three, artwork and significant contributions by leading Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars. Laleh Bakhtiar got us off on the right foot with the decision to use God, chapter, verse, and Quran rather than Allah, surah, ayah and Qu’ran or Koran. I recently finished the four background chapters for Part One (Torah) and Ellen Frankel is working on her Preface to that section, hoping to finish it in June, while Marc Brettler now has everything he needs to get started on the Introduction to it.

I have now finished three chapters for the next part (Gospel), and should have a draft of the fourth ready for Henry Carrigan and David Bruce to begin work on their parts of Part Two this summer, finishing before year end. David has been monitoring my writing and contributing helpful suggestions about flow. Fifty six neophytes in Toronto spent the winter discussing Three Testament concepts. They included 20 Jewish, 20 Christian and 16 Muslim professors and students from York U and the University of Toronto, and members from the Danforth Jewish Circle, Bloor St. United Church and Noor Cultural Centre, many of whom have joined this online community. Several have already presented inputs, like Elizabeth Carman who has offered footnote references and direct connections with the Toronto Zoroastrian community.

From further afield, the response of Jewish scholars in Europe and Israel assisted in establishing the direct connection between Saoshyant, Messiah and Christ in reference to the Redeemer motif in Second Isaiah. Work continues in several centres in reference to traces of Zoroastrian Avestas being “confirmed, critiqued and amplified” in the Quran, in preparation for work to begin on Part Three this fall. Karen Arbour, who did the computerized graphs and charts for Forensic Scriptures, continues to input that material for graphic presentation in Part Three.

With respect to chapter content, key concepts to date are the Axial Age theory of Karl Jaspers, a late date for Zoroaster established through research by Mary Boyce, and the agreement between the Dalhi Lama and Marcus Borg about some kind of connection between Buddha and Jesus. The Axial Age theory, popularized by Karen Armstrong, posits that something happened in the seventh century BCE that triggered the prophetic reforms of Second Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other prophets at the same time as Buddha’s reforms of Hinduism and other religious dynamics and philosophical developments in the region. The late date for Zoroaster suggests that his monotheism was a borrowing from Israel, and that his flaring prophetic ministry was the trigger for the Axial Age. The connection between Buddha and Jesus was their common source in Zoroastrian Avesta Scriptures. Many such Scriptures have been lying unrecognized in the Quran in recent years until dug up by computer.

I laughed out loud when I re-read that last paragraph, summarizing in ten lines or less what we hope to establish in perhaps a thousand pages. The chapters may engage the public, but the scriptural texts stand on their own authority, and the scholarly prefaces and introductions validate the entire enterprise. For those joining the conversation for the first time, the opening paragraph of the prologue says it all.

Is Three Testaments the first Bible to include the Quran in place of maps, concordance, a study guide or the Dead Sea Scrolls? Or is this the first Quran to actually include the previously revealed scriptures that it purports to confirm, critique and amplify, instead of the usual copious footnotes about Hebrew and Christian Scriptures? The answers, of course, are “neither,” “both” and “more than either of these.”

Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown