Join the Conversation

Hello friends

August 21, 2009

Following “September 11,” Noah’s Other Son was an attempt to probe sensitively into the actual spiritual links between members of “the dysfunctional family of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah.” Since that book was so well received, it's sequel, Forensic Scriptures, attempted to "push the envelope" into a populist expression of scholarship shared between professional academics and both students and lay people of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith communities. The final book in this trilogy, Three Testaments, is anticipated in 2012 as the culmination of this shared pilgrimage, involving readers of this interactive blog, among others.

At the Forensic Scriptures launch conference in New York there was a promise to engage Trinidad students, previous Harvard classmates and conference participants in an ongoing conversation. This first entry is an invitation for you to join the conversation with perhaps occasional comments as the research and collaboration continue.

The first feedback reaction from the conference addressed to me by email a day or so later came from Carol Meyers and I quote it as not only first but as also perhaps the most incisive in her conclusion:

“Wow - what an amazing weekend! Many thanks to you for including me in the Forensics Scriptures conference, which was surely an enlightening and interesting experience for all. It was truly moving as well as informative to hear the thoughts and ideas of people from such different perspectives - all seeking to make our shared beliefs clear and our differing beliefs understood and respected.”

Right on the heels of Carol’s comment came similar reactions from Mahmoud Ayoub, Fred Weidmann, Raheel Raza and Laleh Bakhtiar, followed by others since then.

Only 1000 copies of Forensic Scriptures were printed for the work in Trinidad, the launch in New York and preliminary sales. We are certain to be sold out by the end of this month, so Cascade Books has been rushing a second printing, (practically a second edition) to be available by June 10 and to be the centerpiece of the “Canadian Launch” at the University of Toronto Multifaith Centre at 1:00 pm on Oct. 31. Some of you may be there as our circle expands.

Before we get into preliminary thoughts about Three Testaments, our work together for the next couple years, let me conclude this posting by quoting an addendum that goes onto page 53 in the second printing / edition of Forensic Scriptures, inspired by and researched in response to the “turning over of some rocks” by the panel on Saturday evening at the conference. Enjoy this and next month I will post the first material for your consideration following initial discussions relating to Three Testaments as presented at the breakfast plenary on Sunday morning at the recent conference..

The template provided by Muhammad’s household will be more carefully examined later, but we know enough now to show us what we should be looking for in the ancient cultures of what we now call the Middle East.

The paradigm of women writers in royal circles or leadership households actually goes back as far as the daughter of Sargon I, who ruled Mesopotamia 2270–2215 BCE. Sargon appointed members of his family, both male and female, to important posts, and in Enheduanna he initiated a tradition of appointing royal princesses as poets laureate, known as the En Priestesses. Penelope Weadock's article on The Giparu at Ur in Iraq vol. 37, p.101-137 (1975), lists the names of these En Priestesses over a 500 year period. Enheduanna called on the divinity, Inanna, for help in Ninmesara, her most famous poem. Ninmesara was regarded as sacred scripture and 500 years after her death, during the Babylonian era, it was used as a text copied by students in scribal schools. In A Sumarian Reader (1999), Annette Zgoll used over 100 clay tablet copies to create her translation of Ninmesara, illustrating how popular the poem once was. Enheduanna was the first author in the world to write in the first person and her work also displays the concept of a personal relationship with the divine, expressed in the feminine, as in the following prayer:

I am yours! It will always be so!

May your heart cool off for me in compassionate understanding.

I have experienced your great displeasure.

My Lady God, I will proclaim your greatness and your glory in all lands!

Your ways and your great deeds I will always praise!

Now, with new eyes, we notice many places in the Bible where the writers may have been women, and where, because of the anonymity of even royal women in the Biblical era, the writer likely was a woman. Even according to the Bible, Jezebel could write, as could Esther, while neither royal husband seems particularly literate, and upon finding the scroll in the temple, Josiah’s officials turn to neither priest nor scribe to authenticate its contents, but to the prophetess, Huldah, literary advisor to the court.

Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown