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Prof. Shoemaker and the Kathisma Church and early Islam

Reader comment on item: A Prophet Has Appeared

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Oct 17, 2021 at 10:42

Dr. Pipes,

You wrote: Shoemaker, a professor of religious studies at the University of Oregon, has written several path-breaking books on early Islam;

Here is another outstanding work by Shoemaker about the Kathisma Church and early Islam

This is from an old post of mine. And here is a link:


And here is a summary of this great work:

1. This church was discovered in 1997 and the resemblance to the Dome of the Rock is striking

2. This church is about the story of the flight of the holy family to Egypt and also about the birth of Jesus. In a Palestinian tradition he was born at the site of the Kathisma or the holy family stopped at the location of the church during their flight to Egypt

This also very well explains why would Abd al-Malik build a similar structure on top of the Temple Mount and it makes you wonder that the site is about the Nativity or the flight of the holy family to Egypt too and not about a flight by the prophet of Islam

3. The mosaic in the church is about Mary and the palm tree as source of food for her and the little stream of water the same story one would find in the Qur'an (19:24) about the Nativity story and what is most striking is that the church was converted to a mosque in the 8th century and the mosaic was left untouched which makes one suspect that the this church had great significance for the emerging Islam

4. Shoemaker believes that the Kathisma church and its related traditions present the only known precedent for the Quranic account of Jesus Nativity"

5. Then he wrote: The probability that the Quranic account of the Nativity developed under the influence of specific local Palestinian Christian traditions confirms the recognition of Wansbrough and others that the content of the Quranic text almost certainly continued to develop well after the death of death of Muhammad

I can also argue that such tradition might have made it to the Qur'an during Muhammad 's life time (but this would mean that we have to move the area where Muhammad had lived from al-Hijaz to Palestine or it could predated Muhammad by a long time from Palestinian Christian sources)

6. So where can we find such tradition of Jesus' nativity also the flight of the holy family to Egypt and the palm tree and the stream of water? Shoemaker provides two Christian literary sources: Latin Gospel of Ps-Matthew (Shoemaker proves that although this source is European but it was based on the circulating traditions in Palestine in the 3rd to 5th centuries) and The Protevangelium of James

7. This also means that such Quranic account of the Nativity could not have been composed ex-nihilo

Outstanding work.


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