October 8th, 2009
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Double entendres rule!
I had a raisin d’etre for breakfast this morning. Yum Yum….BTW why would anyone want 72 dried grapes, I mean that last thing you would want in a run down third world cesspool is incontinence. Not to mention how disgusting your left hand would get….
Considering you’re “there” for all eternity, 72 of anything seems a mere mint on the pillow in the hotel of Allah.
Virgins versus raisins: Mo heard it through the grapevine. http://www.jesusandmo.net/2009/10/08/dried/
72 dried grapes?!?!?!?!? Im in!!!
Has anyone discussed how such a conceptual shift could occur? For more than a millennium, folks have been understanding the phrase to refer to virgins — but an almost indistinguishable phrase means raisins.
What’s the conceptual world where the distance between dried-up fruit and virgin is so thin? Doesn’t it suggest that in the days of yore, virgins were not highly valued? Wouldn’t everyone prefer a nice, juicy, fresh grape to a dried up old raisin?
What about this for an explanation. If you consider that a virgin would tend to be shy and frightened and not disposed to enjoy herself during the supposed activity once the martyr arrives, might she not be likened to something of little worth? Then multiply that by 72 and it might seem that Allah doesn’t actually want martyrs as he’s trying so hard to put them off… This line of thinking, of course, only holds water if one supposes that the men of Mohamed’s time were considerate and thoughtful rather than aggressive with a tendency to rape.
It’s a similar thing with the old “Camel through an eye of a needle” quote. Camel is also a mistranslation, and the passage should read “It is easier to pass a rope through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven”. Which makes a lot more sense all round, really.
It’s truly extraordinary how tiny mistranslations such as these – which would have no effect on society if they were made for another bronze age (but non religious) text (such as, say, the Iliad) – cause such ripples because they are thought to be the word of god. You couldn’t make it up…
Oh – and this reminds me of the Shazia Mirza joke:
“I wanted to be a good girl, but I felt I had to go out and lose my virginity because I didn’t want to have to shag suicide bombers for eternity…”
Between simple translation errors, intentional changes over the years by committees with agendas to validate by the “sacred” texts – never mind that the stories in these texts were lifted from earlier religions stories – makes you wonder that anyone can claim with a straight face that these books are the unaltered word of a diety – seems to me that a diety should be able to provide a book of instructions that the text updates itself to whatever the current language is.
There’s apparently a group now in the US that’s decided that the buybull is too liberal and is making a conservative version.
Even if it was a mistranslation of a syriac word, it would still prove the Quran wrong, since it elsewhere states that it is written in “pure arabic language”. So what is a translation of a syriac word doing in there?
There are many foreign words in the “pure arabic” text of the Quran anyway.
I suffer under lexophilia. Suffering relieved. (see also http://blog.gadodia.net/define-lexophilia/ )
72 raisins..! It’s simultaneously the funniest and most tragic piece of learning ever.
Hahahahah! 😉 This could really stop All The Acts Of Terrorism! http://www.jesusandmo.net/2009/10/08/dried/
FWIW, I think that camel/rope thing is a myth, it does actually mean a camel – apparently it was a pre-existing phrase. Or at least, so Stephen Fry tells me. And Thou Shalt Not Question Stephen Fry.
Did you not know that it wrong to in-sult an a-dherent of Islam?
Damn – I’d hate to be the victim of an urban myth! I hope Our Lord of the QI is wrong in this case. But I’ll be happy to be corrected.
The case for the defence goes thusly: the Greek New Testament was translated first into Latin. The silly Roman translator mixed up the short and long ‘e’ sounds in Greek, turning “Kamilos” (rope) into “Kamelos” (camel). All subsequent translations of the New Testament were then made from the Latin, so the mistake perpetuated.
The similarity of the two words (just one letter different), plus the fact that they are near homophones when spoken, suggests to me that this is perfectly reasonable, especially when one considers that the analogy of “a rope through the eye of a needle” makes sense, but that of “a camel…” doesn’t.
But I would be interested to hear more about this, if there’s an opposing case.
Jesus and Mo dried – http://www.jesusandmo.net/2009/10/08/dried/
Does pure Arabic or Syriac specify that virgin is human + female only? Or
martyr = human + male?
Cool beans. ^_^
First, just want to say that I love Jesus & Mo. But I have to take issue with this one.
It’s not a mistranslation. The Islamic term “hur al ayn” means white eyed or pure eyed virgins. This is supported, amply so, by very clear hadiths (sayings of Muhammad that make up the secondary, larger source of Islam and are much more important in the formulation of Shariah laws than the Quran is) that say, over and over again, how men — not just martyrs — will receive a large supply of really hawt virgin women in paradise. And righteous women, well, they’ll be revirginized and either married, eternally, to their husband from life or married to a martyr. Be sure to sign up today, ladies!
The bit about “martyrs get 72 virgins” isn’t even in the Quran. It comes from a hadith contained in the collection of Tirmizi (Tirmidhi). The Quran just says that there are hur al ayn in paradise. The religion may be screwed up and all that, but I think we can credit the Arabs with knowing their own language, particularly since the Quran is in Qurayshi Arabic, not another dialect like Syriac.
Ayn in Arabic means eye, and the word for grape (aynab) has the same root, but they’re not the same word. You can look at another Semitic language, Hebrew, and see some similarities in the words ‘hewr’ and ‘ayin’, pale and eye.
That is the Islamic teaching, and we can criticize it on its own terms without resorting to tactics like saying the Arab scholars didn’t know their own language, but thankfully, modern European scholars do. In fact, criticizing Islam using its own proper sources, translated, if one doesn’t know the languages, by the same scholars that Muslims rely upon, is one of the most amusing things one can do in the pursuit of intellectual honesty.
Rope/camel: We’d only need ask a Greek orthodox, then. They use the original new testament.
I’ve heard (too early for me to bother checking the net) that the eye of the needle refers to a location, where caravans would have had to pass through natural arch, a hole in the rock face, only just big enough to let through camels.
The image, even if distorted one way or another, still stands as one of the most appaling contradiction between the supposed words of the supposed god and the life of his very real priests.
@Ex Muslim – This is why I even bother to come to this site at all. It’s not the crazy humor but the learned folks who teach us the truth. You can’t get this stuff if Sunday school you know…
I understand that Muslim culture is pretty different from US culture. I just can’t wrap my brain around a supposed Paradise that groups a woman in with 71 others and re-virginizes her then marries her off to a “martyr” for all eternity. How does that sound like Paradise?
No more housework or tending to some man’s desires sounds much more like Paradise to me. Or perhaps it’s a male-centric paradise?
Oh, wait! I get it now! It’s IS a male-centric paradise where women are just objects. Okay. Yeah.
I’m so glad I’m an Atheist.
what I wonder then is when Islamic countries execute a person for being gay – that makes them a martyr – so does a murdered gay or lesbian get 72 virgins too? and presumably, they’d be gay virgins?
I just knew this subject would come up as soon as I read the comic.
The rope/needle mistranslation thing is pretty definitely wrong. The Straight Dope covered it rather thoroughly in two articles here:
In fact, the second link points out that in historical manuscript research, it’s usually the more bizarre translation that’s likely to be correct, because later translators are more likely to attempt to “correct” odd-sounding phrases than go the other way around and insert odd words by mistake.
Which, come to think of it, appears to be exactly why the phrase is under debate today. It’s also why I personally don’t give much credence to the Syrian “raisin” hypothesis either.
Whether the mistranslation is real or not, the comic was funny. 🙂
Thanks for the insight, ex-Muslim. I did not know any of that.
(That was funny!)
It’s endlessly fascinating how many intelligent people down the centuries have split hairs over the meaning of texts like this.
It does matter in a practical sense of course, because there are people daft enough to take them as the word of god, and acting upon that, try to impose something on those around them. But you can also argue that it doesn’t matter, in the sense that they are no more the divinely inspired word of god than (say) the comments on this page are. So who cares? If it says something good, fine. If not, we look elsewhere.
Anyone know if there was some particular reason for the number 72? Maybe it was the biggest number they’d heard of! 71 would be one every five days for a year but that’s maybe too complicated an idea for the seventh century. Ah I know, the 72nd one was for leap years.
Best one yet! and that ain’t sour grapes.
72 raisins? Nope. Cmon freethinkers. Thats clearly not what is offered! The idea that its a mistranslation is based on very very very weak evidence. Almost as weak as Mo’s nights journey being based on any sort of fact.
The Rasins are virgins, anf they are dark eyed. Like a collection of My Chemical Romance fans.
Hey! Eternity with Gothgurls? Sign me up Mohammed!
In case you wondered about my arithmetic, though I was right that the Islamic calendar has 355 days, as far as I can tell there isn’t a notion of leap year. The month and year endings still depend on actual observations at Mecca by a dedicated team of busybodies, who I presume are also civil servants.
PS: I have at least 72 raisins in my kitchen. Is it a sign? Should I count them?
There’s a difference between “virgins” and “female virgins”…
Most amusing, but the obvious flaw to these cartoons is that Christianity & Islam are not and never have been ‘in bed’ with each other. Hope everyone understands this, I think the author does but not sure about the commenters?
Not sure about the differences between it and the islamic calendar, but the Iranian calendar does have a (quite complicated sounding) leap year system, and is apparently more accurate than the Gregorian one: http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/IranianCalendar.html
Last time I went to heaven I ended up with 72 camels. I’ve still got the hump.
@Crusader Rabid: True, Christianity and Islam may not be in bed together, but in a sense they are both part of a religious culture which seeks to deny people the right to think and act rationally. That is why sites such as this are so important. On the raisin/virgin debate, I tend to agree with Stephen Turner when he says that “It does matter in a practical sense of course, because there are people daft enough to take them as the word of god, and acting upon that, try to impose something on those around them…they are no more the divinely inspired word of god than (say) the comments on this page are.” Couldn’t have said it better.
I feel bad for laughing at this pun.
Yes, obviously, the religious are irrational and cult-like, and will try to shove their religion down your throat.
Like “US” pointed out… Does it specify “female” virgins? I have an image of a dead martyr confronting 72 other dead -male-virgin- martyrs.
And it’s more efficient too. No need to waste good female virgins. It’s like a gift that keeps giving. ;o)
They must be virgins too, because only a male virgin would be horny enough to kill himself (and others) to get laid.
Another of my long held beliefs shot to hell (so to speak).
I had always thought that the “camel / eye of the needle” thing was an obscure reference to the difficulty a priest might have with a young altar boy.
If you get my drift, that is……..
@Altair IV and others
Very interesting stuff, and thanks for the links. I should point out that my interest in is this is actually far more to do with my field (linguistics) than religion, so I appreciate that everyone else might become bored to death by the detail of this. However, it’s all very curious, and I did a bit more digging in my old semitic books. So, just from a purely academic point of view, I’ve drawn the following conclusions:
1) Kamelos/Kamilos (Greek) are very similar words, and easily transcribed incorrectly. Straight Dope’s assertion that the bizarre translation is more likely to be correct has *some* merit, but I think it’s a stretch to suggest either (a) that it’s a rule (e.g. my grandmother’s maiden name went from ‘Grimes’ to ‘Crimes’ because of a misspelling on her birth certificate – you would’ve thought *someone* would’ve noticed…), or (b) a conjecture that can be considered to be ‘evidence’ one way or another.
2) Written (Classical) Greek rarely came out perfect anyway. Place three ancient versions of the Odyssey side by side, and you’ll see a fair amount of variety between them – both in words used and in spelling. This is most notable for the vowel sounds (such as the short and long Greek “e”).
3) Intriguingly, the Aramaic words for camel and rope are identical (Gamla). As the New Testament, albeit written in Greek, was based on events affecting Aramaic speakers (whether real events or not), it is widely assumed that much of the ‘source’ material (whether true or fictitious) came from Aramaic speakers. So perhaps a mis-translation came about between the Aramaic and the Greek, rather than the Greek and the Latin.
4) The usual explanation that the phrase means ‘taking a camel through the Eye of the Needle (where the Eye of the Needle was a gate in Jerusalem) has no written or archeological evidence to support it. No such gate appears to have existed.
Beyond all that, I think we probably can’t say for sure. We’ll probably never know, unless new sources come to light. So I think it remains one of those wonderful historical, linguistic mysteries that makes looking back in time so fascinating (at least to me!)
The New Testament might be a load of superstitious garbage in terms of its content, but as a piece of ancient literature it’s an outstanding and fascinating piece of work. Please don’t all shout at me for saying that. To twist the old saying about guns a little: it’s not books that do damage, it’s how people use them. If only we could delight in the Bible, Qu’oran and other old texts for what they were – a window into the beliefs and lives of our ancestors – rather than as a tool for oppression, brain-washing and spreading nonsense. I hope one day that we’ll get there, and that my children or grandchildren will one day study the religious texts alongside Homer and Virgil, and be taught to have the same critical eye for all of them.
This suggests a really ripe Monty-Python-esque skit. The jihadi, still emitting smoke, arrives at the gate of Paradise to collect his reward. Imagine his disappointment when he gets 72 raisins. Imagine the gate-keeper’s indignation when he finds out what the jihadi was expecting 72 of. Just what kind of establishment do you think we are running here, young man?
Hilarious #Jesusandmo!!! On virgins: http://www.jesusandmo.net/2009/10/08/dried/
Maybe it was both female virgins and raisins – sultanas!
MyCatIsGod, can I please have your babies?
ps Your cat isn’t god, I have 3 cats and they each are god.
@Mycatisdog 🙂 I agree with your opinion about the religious texts. I only came to see the true beauty of the Gospels when I could read them in the original with my elementary knowledge of Ancient Greek. The obscure parts became much clearer, too. Sometimes I ask myself the question: how many believers would there be in the world if everyone knew what the religious texts really say…
BTW that’s also what current theologians should be trying to do: show the people of today the beliefs of the people of the past, and possibly try to learn from their mistakes. Nihil novum sub sole.
Sorry for using Latin. Can’t help myself.
Maybe the raisins are virgins, having previously not known by man.
I always thought it was meant literally and was supposed to be read in a heavily sarcastic tone; a biblical ‘yo mamma’s so fat’ put-down.
Surely just the once would fulfil her obligation?
And finally, it was my understanding that the promised reward was meant to be 72 raisins of crystal clarity, which were a rare and valuable fruit in the day, unlike virgin females who were more a throwaway commodity.
And while I’m still so delighted with the sophistication of comments here generally, may I add my obol’s worth?
Colt and foal.
And by far the most egregious, in terms of almost universal acceptance : parthenos and almah.
Back to your regular programming…