To retranslate a masterpiece of an eminent author from a foreign version if he left other writings in his own language would not be very difficult. For thus the translator could study the mind, the technicalities, and the expressions in his works, and do his best to retranslate the book into its original language. But how far he would be successful is a question which only able translators can decide and determine. Similarly, if there were at least a couple of epistles or writings of St. Luke in the Hebrew, his Gospel could with comparatively less difficulty be translated into that tongue than it can now be done. But unfortunately even such is not the case. For nothing is extant of the ancient writings in the language of Jesus from which St. Luke translated the angelic hymn; nor has he himself left us another book in a Semitic dialect.
To make myself better understood, and in order to make the English readers better appreciate the extreme importance of this point, I venture to challenge the best scholar in English and French literature to retranslate from a French edition the dramatic work of Shakespeare into English without seeing the original English text, and to show the grace and the elegance of the original as well.
The great Muslim philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna) wrote in the Arabic, and some of his works were afterwards retranslated from the Latin into the Arabic because the originals were lost. Are these reproductions the exact texts of that Muslim Aristotle? Certainly not!
In the previous article in this series, on "Eiriny," we discussed this translational point to a certain extent; and we had no difficulty in finding its equivalent Hebrew word "Shalom," because both are identical in the Septuagint and Hebrew texts. But the Greek compound word "Eudokia" does not occur, to the best of my knowledge, in the Septuagint Version, and it is extremely difficult to find out its equivalent or synonymous term in the original. St. Barnabas does not mention in his Gospel this angelic hymn and the story of the Shepherds of Bethlehem; nor do the other Synoptics or the Epistles in the New Testament.
The modern Greeks frequently adopt "Eudokia" and "Eudoxia" for their feminine proper nouns; and both these nouns are composed of two elements; "eu" and "dokeo," from the later being derived "doxa" which means "glory" or "praise" and so on.
In order to discover the original Semitic word in the song that the pious Shepherds heard and related, and which the evangelist Luke has formulated into "Eudokia," we are compelled to examine and trace it right from its Greek root and derivation. But before doing so, it is necessary to criticize and expose the erroneous versions which have eclipsed the true meanings of Eudokia and concealed its prophetical bearing upon Ahmad or Muhammad.
There are two principal versions of the New Testament from the Greek text, one being in the so-called "Syriac" language, and the other in the Latin. Both bear the same significant title of "Simplex" or "Simple," which both the "Pshittha" and the "Vulgate" signify. There is much new material of information about these two famous ancient versions which must embarrass the most erudite Christian historians and the most dogmatic theologians. But for the present it may suffice to say that the Aramaic (1) Version, called the Pshittha, is older than the Latin Vulgate. It is common knowledge that the Church of Rome for the first four centuries had no Scriptures or Liturgy in the Latin but in the Greek. Before the Nicene Council in 325 A.C., the Canon of the books of the New Testament was not completed, or rather established. There were dozens of Gospels and Epistles bearing the names of different Apostles and other companions of Jesus, which were held by various Christian communities as sacred, but they were rejected by the Nicene Council as spurious. As the seat or center of the Syriac language and learning was Orhai, i.e. Edessa, and never Antioch, it was here that the books of the New Testament were translated from the Greek, after the notorious Assembly of Nicea.
------------Footnote (1). The Pshittha Version of the Old Testament never uses the words "Syria" and "Syriac," but "Aram" and "Aramaic." ------------- end of footnote
A profound examination and study of the early Christian literature and history will show that the first preachers of the Gospel were Jews who spoke Aramaic or the old Syriac language. Whether this "Gospel" was a written document, or an unwritten doctrine or religion taught and propagated orally, is a question for itself and lies outside the sphere of our present subject. But one thing is certain and does really fall within the periphery of our subject - namely, the early Christians conducted their religious services in the Aramaic language. That was the common language spoken by the Jews, the Syrians, the Phoenicians, the Chaldeans, and the Assyrians. Now it is but clear that the Christians belonging to the Aramaic-speaking nationalities would certainly prefer to read and pray in their own language, and consequently various Gospels, Epistles, prayer-books, and liturgies were written in the Syriac. Even the Armenians, before the invention of their alphabet in the fifth century, had adopted the Syriac characters.
On the other hand, the proselytes from the non-Semitic "Gentiles" to the "new way" read the Old Testament in its Greek Version of the "Seventy." As a matter of course, the scholars of the Greek philosophy and the ex-ministers of the Greek mythology, once converted to the new faith and with the Septuagint before them, could have no difficulty in the production of a "New Testament" as a completion or a continuation of the old one.
How the simple Gospel of the Nazarene Messenger of Allah became a source of two mighty currents of the Semitic and the Hellenic thought; and how the Greek polytheistic thought finally overpowered the monotheistic Semitic creed under the most tyrannical Greco-Latin Emperors, and under the most intolerant and superstitious Trinitarian Bishops of Byzantium and Rome, are points of extreme moment for a profound study by the Muslim savants.
Then there are the questions of the unity of faith, of doctrine, and of the revealed text. For more than three centuries the Christian Church had no New Testament as we see it in its present shape. None of the Semitic or Greek Churches, nor did Antioch, Edessa, Byzantium, and Rome possess all the books of the New Testament, nor even the four Gospels before the Nicene Council. And I wonder what was or could be the belief of those Christians who were only in possession of the Gospel of St. Luke, or of St. Mark, or of St. John, concerning the dogmas of the Eucharist, Baptism, the Trinity, the miraculous conception of Christ, and of dozens of other dogmas and doctrines! The Syriac Version of the Pshittha does not contain the so-called "Essential" or "Institutional Words," now extant in St. Luke (xxii. 17, 18, 19). The last twelve verses of the sixteenth chapter of the Second Gospel are not to be found in the old Greek manuscripts. The so-called "Lord's prayer" (Matt. vi. 9; Luke xi. 2) is unknown to the authors of the Second and Fourth Gospels. In fact, many important teachings contained in one Gospel were unknown to the Churches which did not possess it. Consequently there could possibly be no uniformity of worship, discipline, authority, belief, commandments, and law in the Early Church, just as there is none now. All that we can gather from the literature of the New Testament is that the Christians in the Apostolical age had the Jewish Scriptures for their Bible, with a Gospel containing the true revelation made to Jesus, and that its substance was precisely the same as announced in this Seraphic Canticle - namely, ISLAM and AHMADIYEH. The special mission assigned by Allah to His Prophet Jesus was to revert or convert the Jews from their perversion and erroneous belief in a Davidic Messiah, and to convince them that the Kingdom of God upon earth which they were anticipating was not to come through a Messiah of the Davidic dynasty, but of the family of Ishmael whose name was AHMAD, the true equivalent of which name the Greek Gospels have preserved in the forms "Eudoxos" and "Periclytos" and not "Paraclete" as the Churches have shaped it. It goes without saying that the "Periclyte" will form one of the principal topics in this series of articles. But whatever be the signification of the "Paraclete" (John xiv. 16, 26; xv. 26, and xvi. 7) or its true etymological orthography, there still remains the shining truth that Jesus left behind him and unfinished religion to be completed and perfected by what John (ubi supra) and Luke (xxiv. 49) describe as "Spirit." This "Spirit" is not a god, a third of the three in a trinity of gods, but the holy Spirit of Ahmad, which existed like the Spirits of other Prophets in Paradise (cf. the Gospel of Barnabas). If the Spirit of Jesus, on the testimony of an Apostle, John (xvii. 5, etc.), existed before he became a man, the Muslim, too, are perfectly justified in believing in the existence of the Spirit of Prophet Muhammad on the testimony of another Apostle, Barnabas! And why not? As this point will be discussed in the course of the succeeding articles, for the present all I want to ask the Christian Churches is this: Did all the Christian Churches in Asia, Africa, and Europe possess the Fourth Gospel before the Nicene Council? If the answer is in the affirmative, pray, bring your proofs; if it is in the negative, then it must be admitted that a large portion of the Christians knew nothing about St. John's "Paraclete," a corrupt word which does not mean either a "comforter" or "mediator" or anything at all! These are certainly very serious and grave charges against Christianity.
But to turn to the point. The Pshittha had translated the Greek word "Eudokia" (the Greeks read the word "Ivdokia," or rather pronounce it "Ivthokia") as "Sobhra Tabha" (pronounced "Sovra Tava"), which signifies "good hope," or "good anticipation;" whereas the Latin Vulgate, on the other hand, renders "Eudokia" as "Bona Voluntas," or "good will."
I fearlessly challenge all the Greek scholars, if they dare, to contradict me when I declare that the translators of the Syriac and Latin Versions have made a serious error in their interpretation of "Eudokia." Nevertheless, I must confess that I cannot conscientiously blame those translators of having deliberately distorted the meaning of this Greek term; for I admit that both the Versions have a slight foundation to justify their respective translations. But even so, it must be remarked that they have thereby missed the prophetical sense and the true meaning of the Semitic vocabulary when they converted it into the Greek word "Eudokia."
The exact and literal equivalent of "good hope" in the Greek language is not "eudokia," but "eu elpis, or rather "euelpistia." This exposition of "evelpistia" (the proper Greek pronunciation) is enough to silence the Pshittha. The precise and the exact corresponding term to the Latin "bona voluntas," or "good will," in the Greek tongue is certainly not "eudokia," but "euthelyma." And this short but decisive explanation again is a sufficient reprimand to the priests of the Vatican, of Phanar (Constantinople), and of Canterbury, who chant the "Gloria in Excelsis" when they celebrate Mass or administer other sacraments.
1. THE ETYMOLOGY AND SIGNIFICATION OF "EUDOKIA"
Now let us proceed to give the true meaning of "Eudokia."
The adjectival prefix "eu" signifies "good, well, more, and most," as in "eudokimeo" - "to be esteemed, approved, loved," and "to acquire glory"; "eudokimos" - "very esteemed, most renowned and glorious"; "eudoxos" - "most celebrated and glorious"; "eudoxia" - "celebrity, renown." The Greek substantive "doxa," used in the compound nouns "orthodox," "doxology," and so on, is derived from the verb "dokeo." Every student of English literature knows that "doxa" signifies "glory, honor, renown." There are numerous phrases in the classical Greek authors where "doxa" is used to signify "glory": "Peri doxis makheshai" - "to fight for glory." The famous Athenian orator Demosthenes "preferred glory to a tranquil life," "glory equal to that of the gods." I am cognizant of the fact that "doxa" is, although seldom, used to signify (a) opinion, belief; (b) dogma, principle, doctrine; and (c) anticipation or hope. But all the same, its general and comprehensive sense is "glory." In fact, the first portion of the Canticle begins with: "Doxa [Glory] be to Allah in the highest."
In the Dictionnaire Grec-Francais (published in 1846 in Paris by R. C. Alexandre) the word "eudokia" is rendered "bienveillence, tendresse, volunte, bon plaisir," etc.; and the author gives "dokeo" as the root of "doxa," with its various significations I have mentioned above.
The Greeks of Constantinople, among whose teachers I have had several acquaintances, while unanimously understanding by "eudokia" the meaning of "delight, loveliness, pleasantness, and desire," also admit that it does signify "celebrity, renown, and honorability" in its original sense as well.
2. THE ETYMOLOGY OF THE HEBREW FORMS OF MaHMaD AND HiMDaH, AND THEIR SIGNIFICATIONS
I am convinced that the only way to understand the sense and the spirit of the Bible is to study it from an Islamic point of view. It is only then that the real nature of the Divine Revelation can be understood, appreciated, and loved. It is only then, too, that the spurious, the false, and the heterogeneous elements interpolated in it can be discovered in their blackest features and eliminated. And it is from this point of view that I welcome this Greek word "eudokia," which in its true and literal signification admirably corresponds to the Hebrew "Mahmad, Mahamod, Himdah," and "Hemed" so frequently used in the Old Testament.
(a) Hamad. This verb, which is constituted of three essential consonants hmd, and common to all the Semitic dialects, everywhere in the Sacred Writ of the Hebrews signifies: "to covet, fall in love, long for, take pleasure and delight in," and "to desire ardently." Those who know Arabic will naturally understand the comprehensive sense of the word Shahwat, which is rendered in English as "lust, cupidity, ardent desire, and appetite." Well, this is the precise sense and signification of the verb "hamad" in the Hebrew Scriptures. One of the commands in the famous Decalogue of the Torah (Arabic "Taurat") or the Law contains this clause: "Lo tahmod ish reikha" - "Thou shalt not covet the wife of thy neighbor" (Exod. xx. 17.)
(b) Hemed. The substantive in the masculine gender, and "Himdah" in the feminine, signifies: "lust, desire, pleasantness, delight, object of longing and of desire, loveliness" (Hag. ii. 7; Jerem. xxv. 34, etc.).
(c) MaHMaD, MaHaMoD (Lam. i. 7, 10; ii. 4, etc.). These participles forms are also derivatives from the verb "hamad" and mean: "most covetable, delightful, pleasant, delicious, charming, precious, beloved."
That the Arabic form MuHaMmaD and the Hebrew MaHMaD and MaHaMoD are derived from one and the same verb or root, and that they, notwithstanding the slight orthographic difference between the forms, have one common origin and signification, there cannot be a jot or iota of doubt. I have given the meanings of the Hebrew forms as the Jews and the lexicographers have understood them.
(d) It will therefore be observed that the Greek word "eudokia" must be a literal representation of the Hebrew substantive HiMDah, and that both signify: "delight, pleasantness, good pleasure (bon plaisir), desire, loveliness, preciousness," and some other synonymous words.
Now it would follow from the above that the corresponding equivalent to the Hebrew "Mahamod" can be none other than "eudoxos" which was the object of desire and longing, the most delightful, pleasant, and coveted, and the most precious, approved, loved, and esteemed.
That among all the sons of Adam the name Muhammad should be given for the first time alone to the son of 'Abdullah and Amina in the town of Mecca, is a unique miracle in the history of religions. There could be no artificial device, attempt, or forgery in this respect. His parents and relatives were people of "fitr" uprighteous but knew nothing of the prohecies in the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures concerning a great Prophet who was promised to come to restore and establish the religion of Islam. Their choice of the name Muhammad or Ahmad could not be explained away as a coincidence or an accidental event. It was surely providential and inspired.
Whether the Arabian poets and men of letters had preserved the archaic signification of the Hebrew passive participle of the pi'el form of the verb hamad, or not, I have no means to prove one way or another. But the Arabic passive participle of the pi'el conjugation of the verb hammida is Muhammad, and that of the Hebrew himmid Mahmad or Mahamod. The affinity between the similarity and the identity of the two forms is unquestionable.
I have faithfully reproduced the significations of the Hebrew forms as given by the lexicographers and translators. But the intrinsical or spiritual sense of "Himdah" and "Mahamod" is: "praise and praiseworthy, celebrity and celebrated, glory and glorious." For among the created beings and things, what can be "more glorious, honorable, illustrious, and praised than that which is most coveted and desired." It is in this practical sense that the Qur'an uses the word hamdu from which Ahmad and Muhammad are derivations, and hamdu is the same word as the Hebrew hemed. The glory of Prophet Muhammad surpasses that of any other creatures, as illustrated by Daniel (vii.), and in the oracle of Allah: "Law la ka lama Khalaqna 'l-Aflaka" - "Were it not for thee, were is not for thee (O beloved Muhammad), We would not have created the worlds" (or heavens ). But the highest honor and glory granted by Allah to His most esteemed Messenger was that he was commissioned to establish and to perfect the true religion of Allah, under the name of "Islam," which, like the name of Prophet Muhammad, has so very many consolating and salubrious significations; "peace, security, safety, tranquillity, salvation," and "the Good" in opposition to "the Evil"; besides those of submission and resignation to the Will of Allah. The vision by which the pious Shepherds were honored on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ was timely and opportune. For a great Missioner of Allah, a holy Evangelist of Islam was born. As Jesus was the Herald of the Kingdom of Allah, so was his Gospel an Introduction to the Qur'an. The advent of Jesus was the beginning of a new era in the history of religion and morals. He himself was not the "Mahamod" who was to come afterwards to destroy the Evil One and his Kingdom of Idolatry in the Promised Lands. The "Fourth Beast," the mighty Roman Power, was still growing and expanding its conquests. Jerusalem, with its gorgeous temple and priesthood, was to be destroyed by that Beast. Jesus "came to his own people; but that people received him not." And those among the Jews who received him were made "children of the Kingdom," but the rest dispersed in the world. Then followed the ten terrible persecutions under the pagan Roman Emperors which were to crown thousands with the diadem of martyrdom; and Constantine the Great and his successors were allowed to trample upon the true believers in the Oneness of Allah. And then it was that Prophet Muhammad - not a god or son of a god, but "the glorious, the coveted, the most illustrious Son of Man, the perfect Bar nasha" - was to come and destroy the Beast.