August 20, 2023

Thomas Alexander - The Origins of Islam


"It has to be asserted here that one who thinks he has the true history of the Christian religion, but does not know what is here revealed for the first time, is sadly in error! What happened to Christianity and in Christianity in those two direful centuries, the third and fourth, is not only an essential part of the whole story of Christian history; it is in fact the indispensable key to any right understanding of the entire history. It is a daring venture to assert that the full truth about Christianity's rise and spread has never yet been told, and that a given work makes that disclosure for the first time. This work risks that venture. It is the key to the last two thousand years of world history." - Alvin Boyd Kuhn, from his preface to, "Shadow of the Third Century: A Revaluation of Christianity" (1949).

An excerpt from, "Muhammad as a Christological Honorific Title" (Interview with Karl-Heinz Ohlig),, April 25, 2008:

You advocate the thesis that Islam was not conceived as an independent religion. What proof do you have for this claim?

Ohlig: According to the evidence of Christian literature under Arab rule from the 7th and 8th centuries, as well as from Arab coinage and inscriptions from this period, such as that on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the new rulers adhered to a Syrian-Persian form of Christianity that rejected the decisions of the Council of Nicaea. Instead, it regarded Jesus as the messenger, the prophet, the servant of God, but not the physical son of God, who is a strictly unitary being not "adjoined" to any person. The fathers of the Church, for instance, regarded John of Damascus (d. around 750) as a heretic, because his Greek understanding of Christianity did not correspond to their views. There is no mention of a new, independent religion of the Arabs before the 9th century.

You have also engaged in historical-critical research with respect to the Prophet Mohammed. What can be said about his person?

Ohlig: It has been established that the earliest coinage with the motto MHMT appeared in eastern Mesopotamia around 660, made their way westward, and there bilingual coins were stamped with MHMT in the center and muhammad in Arabic script at the edge. These coins bear a Christian iconography, i.e. always with crosses, so that the name muhammad is clearly to be understood as a predicate of Jesus, as in the Sanctus of the mass ("praise be to he that comes...").

​​Here, muhammad means "revered" and "praiseworthy" or "He who is revered" and "He who is praised." This also corresponds to the inscribed text on the Dome of the Rock, where the title muhammad refers to the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of Mary, and the servant of God. It also fits in with the polemics of John of Damascus against statements he considered heretical.

Later, it seems as if this Christological predicate lost its reference, so that it appears in the Koran as a frequently mentioned, nameless prophet, which could then be historicized into the form of an Arab prophet. The earliest source of this historicization is to be found in writings of John of Damascus, who speaks of the pseudo-prophet Mamed. Only later could the wealth of stories of this Mohammed fill out the historical deficit.

Video Title: The Origins of Islam - 1.3 The Koran: The Proto-Koran. Source: Thomas Alexander. Date Published: February 1, 2022. Description: 

In this episode, I'm looking at the Proto-Koran as it has been unlocked through the methodology of Christoph Luxenberg: What kind of book is it, what was it all about and why was it written?

Video Title: The Origins of Islam - 1.4 The Koran: The Writers of the Koran. Source: Thomas Alexander. Date Published: February 8, 2022. Description:
In this episode, I'm looking at the writers of the Proto-Koran. Based on the influences established in the previous video and the Syro-Aramaic reading by Christoph Luxenberg, I try to narrow down who these people were, what they believed in, where they were located and when they were active.