Fundamentalists generally view historical narratives in their scriptures as actual, factual retellings of events, true to life in regard to detail. Such a view of sacred history results in the elevation of historical narrative into sacrosanct holy cows. Despite archeological and historical evidences to the contrary, these enshrined cows remain aloof—immune to the touch of skeptical inquiry.
The primary fundamentalists that I have in mind are Muslim fundamentalists. Oh, how quickly and gleefully the Christian fundamentalist will delight in my criticisms, but reader beware: the same criticisms applied to the Quran constitute the opposite end of the same two edged sword when applied to the Bible.
The quranic portraits of biblical history betray its sources. While the traditional biblical narratives might form a foundation to a given quranic retelling, the Quran is also quick to incorporate folk and apocryphal sources as well. For example, the Quran draws from midrashic traditions when it tells of the holding of Mt. Sinai over the heads of the Children of Israel or of Abraham being a stargazer. Similarly, apocryphal sources constitute likely analogues and sources for the pericopes of Jesus making birds out of clay (compare to the Gospel of Thomas) and the deliverance of Abraham (compare to the Book of Jubilees).
When evaluated beneath the lens of historical accuracy, such narratives are found to be obviously non-historical and mythological. Most of the sacred history incorporated into the Quran is myth, not history. Does this make the Quran any less of an inspired book? My answer is no.
The Quran’s purpose was not the retelling of accurate history. Incorporation of mythic material from the faith traditions of Judaism (e.g., the Exodus from Egypt, the kingdom of Solomon) and Christianity (e.g., the virgin birth) serve not as a stamp or seal of historical reliability but rather as a means of rooting the infantile faith community of Islam into the ever-evolving complex of Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic religion.
The Bible is mythical as well. Most assuredly the 7-day creation story, the misunderstood Eden epic, the Flood of Noah, the tower of Babel, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the Sinai theophany, the kingdoms of David and Solomon, the virgin birth, and the Easter tomb are the stuff of myth. It shocks me that so many today still accept these narratives as literal history. And, in so far as the intent of these stories was to retell accurate history, thus far these books are mundane and uninspired. Yet, I find inspiration and the veiled face of Ultimate Reality in these narratives.
Frustrated with the mundanity of the Bible and the Quran, I could readily reject belief in God. Disappointed with biblical law and quranic jurisprudence, I am ready to give up. Having given up on reconciling science with scriptures, I consider further attempts a waste of breath. But, I choose to hold on with the hope that underlying inspiration will one day enlighten me. For the record, I am considering Universal Sufism…albeit, as a Christian agnostic who meditates on the Hebrew Bible and the Quran.