Parallelism: Satan and His Refusal to Prostrate
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The Qur'anic story that Satan was expelled from Heaven for defying Allah’s command that the angels prostrate to Adam has an antecedent in a pre-Islamic Jewish tale which itself was an elaboration of a Rabbinic exegesis. The Quran is closest to the Syriac Christian versions from which it takes numerous details. The Bible does not contain this tale.
[Allah] said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?" [Satan] said, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay." [Allah] said, "Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased. [Satan] said, "Reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected." [Allah] said, "Indeed, you are of those reprieved." [Satan] said, "Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You]."[Allah] said, "Get out of Paradise, reproached and expelled. Whoever follows you among them - I will surely fill Hell with you, all together."
This story recurs several times in the Qur'an, for instance:
Regarding Quran 7:11-12, Gabriel Said Reynolds in his 2018 academic commentary on the Quran comments that the story of angels prostrating before Adam, which is not in the Bible, emerged from Rabbinic speculation on Psalms 8:4-6 ("what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet"). He cites as an example the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 38b:
The story of Satan refusing to prostate/worship (sajada) Adam is found in the apocryphal ‘Life of Adam and Eve’, a first to fourth century Jewish Hellenistic work. Some authorities date it to the first century CE based on the absence of the Christian concept of original sin and the influence of the story on the Ebionites.
“The devil replied, ‘Adam, what dost thou tell me? It is for thy sake that I have been hurled from that place. When thou wast formed, I was hurled out of the presence of God and banished from the company of angels. When God blew into thee the breath of life and thy face and likeness was made in the image of God, Michael also brought thee and made (us) worship thee in the sight of God; and God the Lord spake: “Here is Adam. I have made him in our image and likeness.”
“‘And Michael went out and called all the angels saying: “Worship the image of God as the Lord hath commanded.”
“‘And Michael himself worshipped first; then he called me and said: “Worship the image of God the Lord.” And I answered, “I have no (need) to worship Adam.” And since Michael kept urging me to worship, I said to him, “Why dost thou urge me? I will not worship an inferior and younger being (than I). I am his senior in the Creation, before he was made was I already made. It is his duty to worship me.”
“‘When the angels, who were under me, heard this, they refused to worship him. And Michael saith, “Worship the image of God, but if thou wilt not worship him, the Lord God will be wroth with thee.” And I said, “If He be wroth with me, I will set my seat above the stars of heaven and will be like the Highest.”
“‘And God the Lord was wroth with me and banished me and my angels from our glory; and on thy account were we expelled from our abodes into this world and hurled n the earth. And straightway we were overcome with grief, since we had been spoiled of so great glory. And we were grieved when we saw thee in such joy and luxury. And with guile I cheated thy wife and caused thee to be expelled through her (doing) from thy joy and luxury, as I have been driven out of my glory.’“When Adam heard the devil say this, he cried out and wept and spake: ‘O Lord my God, my life is in thy hands. Banish this Adversary far from me, who seeketh to destroy my soul, and give me his glory which he himself hath lost.’ And at that moment, the devil vanished before him. But Adam endured in his penance, standing for forty days (on end) in the water of Jordan.”
Reynolds notes that Satan's desire to plot against Adam in the above passage is because he was cast out for refusing to worship him. Reynolds cites a parallel in Quran 2:34-36, though a stronger parallel is Quran 7:13-18 (especially v. 16 where Satan expresses his motivation).
Regarding Quran 7:23-25 where Adam pleads for forgiveness and mercy, Reynolds comments on another parallel with this apocryphal work: "The idea that God forgave Adam is found in the Life of Adam and Eve". He cites Life of Adam and Eve Armenian version, trans. Anderson and Stone, 28:2-4. Note that in Quran 2:37 and Quran 20:122 it is clearer that Allah forgives Adam after his plea.
28.3 God said to Adam, 'You cannot take of it in your lifetime, because I have given an order to the Seraphs to guard it round about with weapons because of you, lest you should eat more of it and become immortal and say, 'Behold, I shall not die"; and you will be boastful of it and be victorious in the war which the enemy has made with you.
Another important set of parallels is found in the Cave of treasures, dating to the sixth century CE. It was written in Syriac by Christians from earlier Jewish sources and contains another version of the prostration story which is even closer to the Quranic version. The sequence of events in the Quran and many details are as found in this work.
Reynolds observes: "In the Syriac Christian work Cave of Treasures - as in the Qurʾān (v. 12) - the angels prostrate before Adam, but the devil refuses to do so, with the explanation that he is made from fire while Adam is made from dirt". Reynolds here cites "Cave of Treasures [Oc.], 2:12-13, 22-25, and 3:1-2". Reynolds notes in one of his other books that this "marks a distinct development in the narrative of the devil's rebellion. According to the Life of Adam and Eve, the devil's excuse for not worshipping Adam is that he was created first. In the Cave of Treasures, however, the devil's excuse is that he was created from fire, while Adam was created from dirt. It is this tradition that is reflected in the Qurʾān: 'I am better than he is. You created me from fire. You created him from clay.' (Q 7.12; cf. 15.33; 17.61; 38.76)."|
Witztum (crediting Beck) notes that Quran 7:13-18 has the same sequence of events as Cave of Treasures 3:3-9, with Adam and his mate placed in the garden and told not to approach the tree immediately after Iblis is banished.).
Regarding Quran 7:19-22 where Adam and Eve eat from the tree, Reynolds notes that "Syriac texts including Cave of treasures and Ephrem's Hymns on Paradise (following Rev 12:9), and unlike most Jewish texts, puts Satan there" (in Jewish tradition, Satan is not identified with the serpent in Genesis). Furthermore, "Like the Qurʾān , the 'Oriental' version of the Cave of Treasures makes no mention of the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' but rather connects the sin of Adam and Eve with the 'tree of life'. It does so to make a parallel between the one tree of life and the one cross of salvation (Cave of Treasures [Or], 4:2-5; on this see Witztum, Syriac Milieu, 81-83[...]"
According to Reynolds, Allah's command to "Go down" in the Quranic verses "reflects the cosmological vistas of Syriac Christian sources in which paradise is on top of a cosmic mountain, above the earth, and thus has God cry out 'Go down'." See also Tommaso Tesei's article Some Cosmological Notions from Late Antiquity in Q 18:60–65 for a probably more accurate interpretation of the cosmography, such that Syriac authors like Ephrem, who refers to paradise as being at a great height, had in mind that paradise was beyond the world-encircling ocean, and was the source of the great rivers on earth, as reflected also in for example Quran 88:10 and the common Quranic phrase "gardens from beneath which the rivers flow".
The Qur'anic story of Satan refusing to worship or prostate before Adam has distinct antecedents in pre-Islamic Jewish and Christian sources including elements that were added in stages over the centuries. It would appear that this post-biblical legend has been extensively incorporated into the Islamic scriptures, without an apparent understanding of its origin.
- ↑ Gabriel Said Reynolds, "The Quran and Bible: Text and Commentary", New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2018 pp. 251-2
- ↑ Encyclopædia Britannica - biblical literature britannica.com
- ↑ Gabriel Said Reynolds (2018) The Qurʾān and Bible: Text and Commentary pp. 38-39
- ↑ Joseph Witztum says it has been dated to the fifth or sixth century: Joseph Witztum (2011) The Syriac milieu of the Quran: The recasting of Biblical narratives, PhD Thesis, Princeton University, pp. 80-81
- ↑ In a detailed analysis, Sergey Minov concludes that "the most likely date for this work's composition is the span of time between the middle of the sixth century and the first decades of the seventh century." Minov, S. (2017) Date and Provenance of the Syriac Cave of Treasures: A Reappraisal Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 20:1 (2017), 129-229.
- ↑ Gabriel Said Reynolds, "The Qurʾān and its Biblical subtext", London and New York: Routledge, 2010, p.51, ISBN 9780415524247
- ↑ Gabriel Said Reynolds, "The Qurʾān and its Biblical subtext", p.50
- ↑ Joseph Witztum, Syriac Millieu p. 81
- ↑ Joseph Witztum, Syriac Millieu pp. 88-93
- ↑ Gabriel Said Reynolds (2018) The Qurʾān and Bible: Text and Commentary pp. 254-5
- ↑ Gabriel Said Reynolds (2018) The Qurʾān and Bible: Text and Commentary p. 256
- ↑ Tommaso Tesei (2015) Some Cosmological Notions from Late Antiquity in Q 18:60–65: The Quran in Light of Its Cultural Context Journal of the American Oriental Society 135.1