Fjordman’s latest essay has been posted at Dhimmi Watch. Some excerpts are below:
Hebrew had been dead as a spoken language for centuries already in Roman times, but it was the language of the Hebrew Bible, and a Jew such as Jesus of Nazareth would almost certainly have known some Hebrew. He would most likely also have been familiar with the languages of the two previous empires that had ruled the Levant, the Aramaic of the Persians (and the Assyrians) and the Greek of Alexander the Great’s empire. The one language he didn’t know was Latin. The extent to which he spoke these languages is disputed, but it’s likely that he knew something of all three. Jesus, who founded the religion which was to become Christianity, probably spoke at least some Greek. I’m pretty sure Muhammad did not.
Paul, the person who shaped Christianity more than anybody next to Jesus, was a Jew, but also a Roman citizen. Although the relationship between the Roman state and the adherents of the new religion was complex (some of the early Christians were executed by Roman authorities, including the founder himself), Christianity grew and eventually conquered the Roman Empire from within. Christianity was a Roman religion from the very beginning. It would be fair to say that it was born out of a Jewish conceptual universe, but was shaped in a Greco-Roman environment and baptized in a spring of Greek philosophy and Roman law.
When the American Founding Fathers in the eighteenth century discussed how the shape of their young Republic should be, they were influenced by, in addition to the English parliament and the French thinker Montesquieu (who was inspired by the British political system), descriptions of democratic Athens and the Roman Republic through Aristotle’s political texts and Cicero’s writings, among other things. None of these texts were ever available in Arabic, Persian or Turkish translations. Cicero was extremely influential in European thought from the Renaissance through the Scientific Revolution to the Enlightenment, yet totally ignored by Muslims. Roman law is secular and changeable, unlike sharia which is eternal and institutes a religious apartheid system. Roman law was used by Europeans, but not by Muslims. Of the Greek heritage, Muslims even during the so-called “golden age” were uninterested in the concept of democracy, men ruling themselves according to man-made laws.
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One of the reasons why Greek natural philosophy was so quickly assimilated into European universities during the Middle Ages, in sharp contrast to Islamic madrasas, was that the earliest Christian theologians were familiar with Greek philosophy and borrowed from its vocabulary and conceptual universe. For Muslims who came from the Arabian Peninsula, the Greco-Roman legacy was an alien intrusion which their cultural immune system failed to fully internalize and eventually rejected. This does not mean that they never borrowed from it when it suited them. They did; but it was never “theirs.” For Christianity it was one of its two parent cultures, the other being the Jewish spiritual legacy as contained in the Hebrew Bible. This had practical consequences, for instance in the positive Christian view of pictorial art, which came from the Greco-Roman parent culture. This was never shared by Muslims.
Art is never just “art.” It always reflects the world-view of a particular culture. Islamic art has usually been quite sterile. Muslims have created some miniature paintings, but never anything comparable to Western art or ancient Greek art for that matter, and virtually no sculptures. In contrast, the Greek artistic legacy left a major imprint on early Buddhist art and sculpture in the border regions of northern India, after Alexander the Great’s conquests. You could thus argue successfully that Westerners share a “Greek legacy” with Asian Buddhist-influenced cultures more than with Muslims. To me, the Islamic failure to fully internalize Greek science is indicated by their failure to internalize the Greek spirit as reflected in arts and politics.
Read the rest at Dhimmi Watch.