THE COW: An Unbeliever's Journey Through The Quran's Longest Chapter (with a few side trips, to complete the picture)

19/11/2014

Introduction

Filed under: Uncategorized — th3cow @ 14:55

This blog contains a book I have written in 2009, with the same title.

The summary below the chapter list of the book. It should give you a pretty good idea of what it is about

You may also navigate your way in the book by directly accessing the Pages on the right sidebar of the acreen

The Opening: A story with Two Punch lines / This Religion is Marvellous

The Source: Why “The Cow” / Keeping it in Perspective / The Quran Reading Experience / A Perfect Book – The Final True Message / Quran Translations / The Traditions and the Traditionists / References

The Journey Begins: We Have Three Cows / The Quran’s Mysterious Letters

Believers and Deniers: This Book / Blessing the Believers / Damning the Deniers / You Have No Choice in the Matter / Hell must be Filled with Men and Jinn

Hypocrites: Corrupters and Mischief Makers / Satanic, Seducing Jews

Islamic Hell: / The Seven Gates of Hell / The Tortures of Hell / Muhammad’s Eye Witness Report of Hell

Belief and Doubt and Their Rewards: A challenge to the Doubters / The Rewards of Paradise / Defending Allah’s Use of Parables

Allah the Creator: Creating the Heavens and the Earths / Creating Adam and his Wife / Legends of Mortals Become the Word of Allah

The Devil and His Hosts: Satan, Devil, Lucifer, Iblis / Satan, the Seducer of Man / The Jinn Community / Satan V. Muhammad

Children of Israel! (and Apes and Pigs): Be Very Afraid / Ungrateful Jews / You Are the Chosen People, But… / The Furqan / Say “Hittat” / Water From the Rock, Good Food, and Anti-Semitic Slur / The Turning of Jews into Apes and Pigs

And Now the Cow: The Biblical narratives / The Quranic Account / The Hardening of the Hearts

Muhammad’s Jews – From Prosperity to Extinction: Israel’s Children / Jewish Origins in Arabia / The Himyarite Kingdom / The ‘Aws and Khazraj Settle in Medina / The Expulsion of the Qaynooqa’ / The Expulsion of the Nadhir / The Massacre of the Quraytha / Yathrib is no More / The Last of the Quraytha / The Destruction of Khaybar

Textual Corruption: The Allegation / The Tah’rif doctrine / The Implausibility of Tah’rif / A warning to all Corrupters and Hypocrites

More Reproaching: Lecturing the Jews of Medina / The Prophet Killers / Back to the Golden Calf

Who Will Inherit the Hereafter?: The Jews Should Commit Mass Suicide / Another False Accusation / Heaven Belongs to all of Humanity / Quranic Application

Even More Reproaching: The Enemies of the Angel Gabriel / Some More Repetition and Obscurity / Delivery Overshadowing Contents / The Believers Must Use Appropriate Vocabulary

On Abrogation, Inconsistency and Discrepancy: Improvements and Corrections / The Mother of the Book / Abrogation Example / Much Discrepancy and Incoherence

Preaching to the Believers: Be Not Like the People of the Book / Jews and Christians Argue, and Allah Will Decide / Muslims Banned from Allah’s Sanctuary in Mecca / The Unbelievers Demand Proof

Down the Pseudo-Biblical Memory Lane: The Trials of Ibrahim / Ibrahim and Son Renovate the Ka’bah / Ibrahim Submits and Enjoin Same on his Sons / Muhammad Wins Immunity and Allah’s Support / The Baptism of Allah

The Messiah, ‘Isa, Son of Maryam: Two Different Marys / The Conception and Nativity of ‘Isa / ‘Isa the Miracle Maker / ‘Isa Departs this World / The Jews Have Their “Son of God” Too

The Qiblah: Changing the Direction of Prayer / Justifying the Change

Muhammad is the Chosen One: Rabbis, Monks and Soothsayers Have Known All Along / Searching the Scriptures for Proof / The Soothsayers Heard it From the Jinn

Further Preaching to the Believers: A Prophet From Your Midst / It is Good to Suffer and Die in the Cause of Allah / Divine Approval for Pilgrimage Rites / Curses on the Deniers and Those Who Conceal / Allah’s Clear Signs Ignored by Evil Doers / Your Forefathers Had No Sense / A Dose of Hell Fire and Chastisement / Religious Instruction

Islamic Fasting and Holy Months: Fasting on Ramadhan and Other Times / Fasting Instructions / Calendric Issues

A Touch of Jihad: Rules of Engagement / Fighting is Obligatory / Jihad is Forever (But it Need Not Be)

The Hajj: The Pilgrimage / It is All About the Hereafter / Present Day Hajj Customs

Submit and You Will Be Saved: The Believers Must Guard Against the Deceivers / Islam Means Submission / Ask the Children of Israel

Marriage and Divorce and Other Matters: On Charity and Vice / Laws Regarding Marriage / Oaths and Vows / How to Treat Women / The Laws of Divorce / Perform Regular Prayers and Provide for Your Widow

More Mixed Up Bible Stories: Various Matters / The First King of the Jews / The Divine Presence /The Exploits of Talut and Dawood / Favourite Messengers

On Submission and Compulsion: No Compulsion in Religion / Violations of the No Compulsion Verse

Theological Discourse and Signs: Ibrahim and Namrud / The Man Who Died for One Hundred Years / Ibrahim Asks Allah for Signs

A Few Parables, Charity and Financial Jihad: Spending in the Way of Allah, and Being There / Giving Alms / Muhammad Wins More Immunity / Believers Support the Jihad Troops with Their Money

Financial Matters: The Prohibition of Usury / Contract Law

The Last Two Verses: Amen / Confirming Muhammad’s Mission / Allah Makes it Easy to Observe Islam

Mankind: Is There Hope? / In Conclusion / Islamic Reform / No More Jihad? / Mutual, Respectful Co-existence

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19/03/2010

Chapter 33: The Last Two Verses: Part 3 – Allah Makes it Easy to Observe Islam


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Allah Makes it Easy to Observe Islam


2:286 is the last verse of this long surah. And it is a verse of glad tidings for the Believers and ominous news for the rest. In this verse Allah makes light the burden of observance of the new religion, and seems to not expect anyone to exert himself beyond his capacity:
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“Allah never burdens a soul beyond its capacity to suffer. To its credit is what it earns, and against it is what it commits. ‘Our Lord, do not lay a heavy burden on us as you have on those before us. Our Lord, burden us not with a load that we cannot carry. And pardon us, and forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our Protector. And help us defeat the Deniers.”
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The Quran tells the Believers that they are at war with the Deniers. They are at war with any one who does not accept Muhammad and his god. And they are instructed to pray to this god, and to plead with him to grant them victory in this war.
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“Those before us” are the Jews. “The burden” is the burden of the commandments imposed on the Jews. The idea that Muhammad’s mission is to lighten the burden of commandments and remove many restrictions, such as the dietary laws, imposed on the Jews by Allah as punishment of their many transgressions, is a recurring motif on the Quran. See for example 5:6 and 7:157.
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This motif is a popular one in Friday sermons, in many mosques, where Imams and preachers tell the Believers what sinners and transgressors the Jews are, and how they justly earned the wrath of Allah. All they have to do is quote these Quranic passages, and tell their audience that this message comes from Allah, and Muhammad plucked it with his own hands from under Allah’s Throne. The Islamists will do the rest.
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I am assuming that Allah knows each person’s capacity to suffer the burden of religion. But it is much simpler that that: Allah, as we saw before in this surah, also pre-determines the capacity of each person, so it looks like this thing is well under control.
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I guess the constitution of all Believers, as designed by Allah, enables them to suffer the performance of the obligatory 5 daily prayers and prostrations a day, as a minimum.
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It is understandable that Islam, and Christianity before it, or indeed any new proposed religion that uses Judaism as its foundation, would not contemplate adopting its full set of commandments. In Islam, this burden is considered chastisement by Allah on the Jews for their transgressions.
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In Judaism, however, the multiplicity of commandments is a blessing by God on his Chosen People.

18/03/2010

Chapter 33: The Last Two Verses: Part 2 – Confirming Muhammad’s Mission


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Confirming Muhammad’s Mission


2:285 “The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers, they all believe in Allah and His angels, and in His Books and His Messengers. They say, ‘we make no division between any one of His Messengers.’ They say, ‘We hear, and obey. Forgive us Our Lord, and unto you is the path.’”
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This is an interesting verse: it is not clear who is saying these things, because it mentions Muhammad, the Believers, and Allah in the third person. It seems that someone outside of Islam is speaking here.
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Since the Quran is the word of Allah, it could be that Allah is talking about himself in the third person. Or it could also be the angel Gabriel making another one of his observations.
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There is, in our verse, one small matter of disparity between Allah and his Believers: They are taught to say that they hold all Messengers equal (see also 2:136), however Allah specifically said in verse 2:253 that he prefers some Messenger to others, citing ‘Isa (Jesus) as one example.
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But I won’t hold it against the Believers. Besides, it is possible that verse 2:253 is abrogated by our verse, although in this surah, the physical order of the verses does not necessarily match their chronological order.

16/03/2010

Chapter 33: The Last Two Verses: Part 1 – Amen


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Amen


Since the last two verses of our surah stand alone, I decided to dedicate a separate chapter to them.
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These two verses are also called “the verses of the throne”, as it is an Islamic tradition that Muhammad received these verses from a treasure trove beneath the Throne of Allah, and no Prophet before Muhammad was given them, or ever reached the Throne.
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Another tradition claims that whenever Muhammad completed reciting this surah, he would say “Ameen” (Amen). I don’t know what Muhammad said after reciting other surahs, or which other surahs he concluded with “Ameen.”

14/03/2010

Chapter 32: Financial Matters: Part 2 – Contract Law


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Contract Law


2:282 is the longest verse in the Quran. It deals with loan contracts. Here is a summary, which includes 2:283 as well, since it covers the same topic:
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When you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, get a scribe to write it down with fairness, as Allah has taught him.
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The borrower should dictate the terms of the agreement with care and without omitting anything.
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If the borrower is senseless or weak, let his guardian dictate with fairness.
Call in two male witnesses to witness the contract.
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If there are not two men, then use as witnesses one man and two women of your choice.
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Two women are needed so that if one errs, the other may remind her.
The witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned to give testimony.
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Document any loan whether it is small or large, with the time of its falling due, as this is more equitable in the sight of Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and removes doubt.
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Ready merchandise may be exchanged without a written contract, but witnesses are required.
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It is a transgression against Allah to harm or harass scribe and witnesses.
If a scribe cannot be found (you are on a journey), then a security should change hands.
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If an object is given on trust, the trustee must return the object faithfully.
It is forbidden to conceal not evidence. Whoever conceals evidence, his heart is sinful.
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This is pretty straightforward. In addition, the Believers must be aware that notwithstanding any of the foregoing, Allah knows what they do.
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2:284 “To Allah belongs all that is in the heavers and earth. Whether you make manifest what is in your hearts or hide it, Allah will call you to account for it. He will forgive whom He will, and chastise whom He will. Allah is powerful over everything.”
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Things have been going so well up to this point… Here again, Allah tells you that it is all in vain, because he will forgive whom he will and punish whom he will, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
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So what is the point of all this religion stuff?

Chapter 32: Financial Matters: Part 1 – The Prohibition of Usury


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This chapter, covering verses 275 to 284, contains some good, charitable and practical financial instruction.
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The Prohibition of Usury


2:275 prohibits the devouring of usury, that is, charging if interest (“Ribba”, meaning “increase”). It is also called to devour usury, as in the biblical prohibition (e.g. Leviticus 25:36 “Take thou no interest of him or increase; but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.”).
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The Hebrew word for “interest” in this verse comes from a root that means bite: the charging of interest is likened to a snake bite: you don’t feel it at first, but in the end it hurting a lot, or even kills you.
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While the prohibition of taking interest from your neighbour or family member who is down on his luck makes a lot of sense, financial institutions whose income is derived from interest cannot comply.
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This gave rise to legal bypasses which redefines loans as business transaction in a very complicated way.
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2:276-279 reiterate: Allah will erase usury and bring prosperity to the charitable. He does not love ungrateful sinners. He loves doers of good, regular prayers, and those who pay the poor-tax. The Believers should fear Allah and not collect interest on existing loans, if they really believe.
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Those who don’t – Allah and His Messenger declare war on them. They had better accept their principal without the interest, not exploiting and not exploited.
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2:280-281 encourage the Believers to go easy on a debtor who is in difficulties, and grant him respite till a time of ease, or better still, remit the debt as charity. When they are returned to Allah they will be paid in full. This is noble, and in line with the other two monotheistic religions.

10/03/2010

Chapter 31: A Few Parables, Charity and Financial Jihad: Part 4 – Believers Support the Jihad Troops with Their Money


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Believers Support the Jihad Troops with Their Money


The fundraising drive that began in 2:261, asking people to spend, promising them Allah’s reward in the next world, is gathering momentum here, and becoming more specific as to the preferred use of the funds.
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2:273 is a continuation of the previous verse, telling us that charity given for a good cause it charity for the benefit of those who have been busy with Jihad, but have not earned enough to sustain them.
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They are too proud to beg, so the ignorant deem them rich. But the Believers know them by their mark. Whatever charity the Believers give these people, Allah will acknowledge.
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Why are they poor if they are engaged in fighting in the cause of Allah? Are they not receiving a share of the spoils? Why doesn’t Muhammad, the man they are fighting for, care for them? He takes 20% of the spoils. Perhaps it alludes to a temporary situation, between raids, where no plunder was coming in?
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There are quite a few verses like this one in the Quran. See 8:60 for example, which urges the Believers to spend in the way of Allah, and Allah will guarantee a good reward. This is the Financial Jihad. Those who materially (financially) support the fighters will receive a good reward from Allah.
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Islamic terrorism (Jihad) cannot run on indignation and rage alone. It needs money, a great deal of money. And there is enough money in the Islamic world, and there are enough individuals, states and many Islamic charitable organisations that are eager to fund this sacred cause.
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And many of us involuntarily contribute to this cause, every time we pay for fuel at the service station.
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The other aspect of Jihad, which requires no less financial resources, is the Islamic propaganda, the “Da’wah”. It has had a more lasting effect than the terrors of military Jihad, and had a number of strategic successes, in perpetuating myths such as the “Religion of Peace”, and the “Palestinian People”.
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2:274 ends the section, repeating what was said before regarding Allah’s reward, that is, repayment in kind, and no fear or grief for charity given by night and by day, secretly and openly.

09/03/2010

Chapter 31: A Few Parables, Charity and Financial Jihad: Part 3 – Muhammad Wins More Immunity


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Muhammad Wins More Immunity


2:272 “It is not incumbent on you to guide them in the right way, but Allah guides aright whom He pleases. And whatever good thing you spend, it is to your own good, and do not spend but to seek Allah’s face. And whatever good things you spend shall be paid back to you in full, and you shall not be exploited.”
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The first sentence reaffirms the Islamic doctrine expressed in the Quran frequently, that only Allah has the power to make people follow the true path. So while Muhammad may preach as much as he wants, or as much as he is instructed to by Allah, the outcome in terms of number of souls procured depends on Allah’s will, and Allah’s will alone.
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In the first sentence, Allah is speaking to Muhammad. The rest is Allah or Muhammad speaking to the Believers. I do not see any link between the two parts of this verse, which express two different and unrelated ideas, but that’s not new.

08/03/2010

Chapter 31: A Few Parables, Charity and Financial Jihad: Part 2 – Giving Alms


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Giving Alms


2:267 is another positively encouraging statement in favour of spending Allah’s bounty benevolently and not wickedly.
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2:268 “Satan promises you poverty, and bids you unto indecency, but Allah promises you His pardon and His bounty. And Allah is bountiful.”
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If Satan promise poverty, that would not lure people. It would make more sense if the verse said “Satan’s promises will lead you to poverty”. But I am not going to re-write the Quran.
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These verses end with statements to the effect that Allah is rich and self sufficient. This is a repeated claim in the Quran, to counter the (falsely alleged) claim by the Jews that Muslims believe Allah is poor and in need of a loan from men.
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2:269 tells us that wisdom is bestowed on people at Allah’s pleasure, and the fortunate ones who receive the wisdom of Allah are also the recipients of great good and abundance, and only men of heart remember this.
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2:270-271 “And whatever alms you give or vow you vow, Allah knows it, and the unjust shall have no helpers. If you give to charity openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you. And this will do away with some of your evil deeds. And Allah is aware of what you do.”
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The Quran prefers the believers to give anonymously. Why, it does not tell us. Charity, as a good deed, cancels out evil deeds, so that in the Day of Reckoning, it comes in handy.
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This idea of a balance sheet of good versus evil deeds is common in spiritual religions.

07/03/2010

Chapter 31: A Few Parables, Charity and Financial Jihad: Part 1 – Spending in the Way of Allah, and “Being There”


Spending in the Way of Allah, and “Being There”


2:261 “The parable of those who spend their property in the way of Allah is as the parable of a grain growing seven ears, a hundred grains in every ear. And Allah multiplies for whom He pleases; and Allah is ample-giving, knowing.”
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This is a nice parable. I probably don’t need to look for a biblical equivalent, as no biblical personality is alluded to here.
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Perhaps it is based on Genesis 26:12 “And Isaac sowed in that land, and found in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him.” And the seven ears could come from the famous Pharaoh’s dream, deciphered by Joseph, the one with the multi-coloured dream coat.
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The next two verses (2:262-263) praise those who give charity in the way of Allah, then follow up the recipients with kind speech and forgiveness, not with reproach or injury.
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2:264 provides a parable to illuminate the ideas put forward in the previous two verses: A man who follows his charity with reproach and injury makes it worthless, like a smooth rock with earth on it, where heavy rain falls upon it and leaves it bare. So too these people shall not be able to gain anything of what they have earned. And just in case you forgot: “Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.”
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2:265-266 “And the parable of those who spend their property to seek the pleasure of Allah and for the certainty of their souls is as the parable of a garden on an elevated ground, upon which heavy rain falls so it brings forth its fruit twofold but if heavy rain does not fall upon it, then dew. And Allah sees what you do. Does one of you like that he should have a garden of palms and vines with streams flowing beneath it; he has in it all kinds of fruits; and old age has overtaken him and he has weak offspring, when a whirlwind with fire in it smites it so it becomes blasted? Thus Allah makes the signs clear to you, that you may pay attention.”
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This longwinded parable sounds like something that Chaunce the Gardener would say. Only he would probably sound more coherent. 2:266 may have been influenced by the story of biblical Job.

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