Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Plural of Majesty: Allah is Neither Plural Nor Majestic; or, How Modern Muslims Have One-Upped Muhammad

Silence and Propaganda Are the Best Policy

In a lengthy paper entitled Let Us Make Man: A Trinitarian Interpretation of Genesis 1:26 (and Related Passages), I argued, in a long train of others before and since, on prima facie, exegetical, systematic and historical grounds that the plural pronouns used by Yahweh, the one true God, in places like Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, are only properly understood in light of the rich Trinitarianism of Biblical revelation rather than in terms of any kind of impoverished or sterile unitarianism (not to mention polytheism). Space was also devoted in the paper to refuting some of the more popular alternative approaches, including the old canard that the phenomenon found in these passages are only instances of some kind of literary plural or figure of speech – such as the plural of majesty, the plural of respect, the plural of deliberation, and the editorial “we”.

To date, no Muslim has refuted the kind of positive evidence I (and others) have provided, apparently going with the motto that silence on this score is the best policy, and no Muslim has thought it meet to address the problems with the alternative views that I (and others) have enumerated, but for all that Muslim dawagandists have not stopped repeating the idea that a literary plural – specifically, the plural of majesty – is in view, a tactic that amounts to nothing more than propaganda.1 In light of this, it seems to me that it is high time to once again explain the problem this view has, and add to the list of problems certain considerations that show that this way of explaining the passages is illicit, given what Muslim sources themselves tell us, and incongruous, given the Islamic view of God.

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