Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Muslims: People of what Book?
I first encountered the phrase “People of the Book” as an undergraduate in the department of Religious Studies at CSUF. Technically, three of the five or six major religions of the world fit under that rubric. From its beginning, Islam has had a special relationship with Judaism and Christianity. Thus, Jews, Muslims and Christians are considered among religious scholars as the "People of the Book". Of course, from a Muslim’s perspective, Jews and Christians do not enjoy full rights in Muslim states. However, tradition dictates that as long as they pay a special tax (the jizya), their beliefs should be tolerated.
Disregarding taxes (render unto God), not all who claim to be “People of the Book” will be found in the Book of Life! In later Judaism and the New Testament the concept of the Book of Life is used of the life of the age to come. Specifically, in the New Testament the book of life is the roster of believers, e.g. Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 22:19, etc.
At the last judgment everyone not enrolled in the book of life is consigned to the fiery lake (Rev. 20:12, 15); this is the book of life of the slaughtered Lamb (Rev. 13:8; 21:27), in which the names of the elect have been inscribed ‘from the foundation of the world’ (17:8). The same idea is expressed in Lk. 10:20, ‘your names are written in heaven’; Acts 13:48, ‘as many as were ordained (i.e. inscribed) to eternal life believed’.
Blessed are the people of the book whose names are found written in the book of life!