Seir is a reference to Jesus ?!

The basis of our discussion is the verse:

And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. (Deuteronomy 33:2)

In his "explanation" to this verse in section 6.10, al-Kadhi makes the following statements:

Sinai is a reference to Moses (pbuh). It is an obvious reference to mount Sinai where Moses (pbuh) received his revelation (Exodus 19:20).

Seir is a reference to Jesus (pbuh). It is usually associated with the chain of mountains West and South of the Dead Sea extending through Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus (pbuh). It was later extended to include the mountains on the East side as well (Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J., p. 783). [...] Prophet Moses (pbuh) never in his lifetime entered Palestine, and thus, this could not be a reference to him.

As we have already seen in section 6.4, Paran is a reference to the city of Makkah [...] the birthplace of Mohammed (pbuh).

We have shown in another article that al-Kadhi's attempt to place Bethlehem, the birth village of Jesus, on Mt. Seir is a deplorable distortion of what McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible actually states. However, there is more. The dictionary entry by McKenzie also contains an exegetical remark on Deut. 33:2, the verse that al-Kadhi seeks to interpret, stating

Yahweh twice comes from Seir in a theophany (Dt 33:2; Jgs 5:4); this probably means merely the S, the region of the theophanies of Sinai and Kadesh-barnea.

McKenzie is praised as a reputable source by al-Khadi and quoted by him in sections (twice),,, 6.5, 6.8, and 6.10.

Al-Kadhi refers to McKenzie's entry on Seir and there is no doubt that he was well aware of the correct interpretation of this verse from this dictionary entry as well as from our[1] email exchanges and newsgroup discussions on this and similar passages which took place before the first edition of his book was published (e.g. the discussion on Hab. 3:3). It is interesting to observe that he does not even discuss why he rejects the standard interpretation as if he fears to even mention the interpretation of this verse held by the vast majority of Jewish and Christian scholars. Its very existence might distract the reader from his own attempt to presents Deut. 33:2 as a prophecy about Muhammad as if this were the only way to understand this text.

McKenzie makes it very clear that this passage has nothing to do with a sequence of prophets - Moses, Jesus, Muhammad - but that it refers to theophanies, i.e. Yahweh Himself appearing to his people.

Implicit in al-Kadhi's entire argument in this section is a hidden assumption most clearly revealed when he states,

Prophet Moses (pbuh) never in his lifetime entered Palestine, and thus, this could not be a reference to him.

None of these places (Sinai, Seir, Paran) are references to the coming of prophets. The premise that they are has never been established by al-Kadhi. The verse clearly and unambiguously tells those who would listen that "The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ..." and men of integrity will not exchange the name of God (Yahweh) with names of men.

However, we find in this verse an event quite foreign to Muslim thought (even though it is alluded to in the Qur'an as well). The Bible reports of a good number of theophanies, where God manifested Himself visibly among his people, sometimes seen only by one and sometimes by many.

Christian Bible commentators have traditionally interpreted these theophanies as pre-incarnate appearances of the second person of the Trinity. In this respect, though not in the way al-Kadhi intended it, we do indeed find a reference to Jesus in this verse as the one who "rose up from Seir unto them" at the time of Moses. However, this reference is to Him as the God who reveals Himself to man; it is a reference to his deity, not a reference to his humanity.

The study of the theophanies in the Bible is an important topic, but we do not want to duplicate in this response what is available elsewhere. The reader is refered to the theophany articles on the discussion of the Biblical evidence for the Trinitarian nature of God.

[1] our = Misha'al al-Kadhi and Jochen Katz

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