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The Weight in the Word

Prophethood: Biblical and Quranic

Kenneth Cragg was first in Jerusalem in 1939, and subsequently became deeply involved in areas of faith between Semitic religions under the stress of current politics. He later pursued doctoral studies in Oxford where he first graduated and became ‘Prizeman’in Theology and Moral Philosophy, and where he is now an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College. He was a Bishop in the Anglican Jurisdiction in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Middle East, and played ecclesiastical roles in Africa and India. A Certain Sympathy of Scriptures is a companion book to his Readings in the Qur’an (1988; 1999), and more broadly to his Faiths in Their Pronouns: Websites of Identity (2002). Other works by Bishop Cragg, and published by Sussex Academic Press, include: With God in Human Trust – Christian Faith and Contemporary Humanism; and The Education of Christian Faith.

Biblical ethics and eloquence reached a pinnacle with the great “writing” Prophets. Prophethood has also been central to Islam. Muhammad, its final messenger, is coupled with Allah in the Islamic faith, through confession or Shahadah. Is it proper, or feasible, to bring these two realms together, separated as they are by more than ten centuries? Many in each community of faith would disapprove. Yet there are clear common denominators – the central role of personality; the mystery of language and inspiration; the bearing of circumstance and situation; and, through all these, the incidence of suffering.

Among the Biblical Prophets, a basic descriptive for their vocation and meaning is the sense of “burden”. The title of the book is taken from Surah 73.5 of the Qur'an where Muhammad understands that he is to undergo the onset of a “a heavy saying”, or a "weighty word”. Exploration of this mutual theme leads to common features. While the “weight" Qur'an-wise is the obligation to give divine words perfect reproduction; for the Biblical Prophets the onus is more inherently personal, and is reflected in the essential loneliness of vocation. The Weight in the Word attempts to explore an alignment of Prophethood in the Bible and in Islam in one denominator, against the odds of mutual alienation. In the Qur'an, “God and Messenger” represent the dual unity of creed and command; for Christian theology, via Messiah crucified, the theology of Prophethood is found in knowing “the Weight in the Word” by the wounds in the soul, and “the Word made flesh”.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-902210-27-8
Hardback Price: £45.00 / $65.00
Release Date: October 1999
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-903900-26-0
Paperback Price: £22.50 / $29.95
Release Date: April 2015
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



I Messengers with Burdens
II The Casting, The Saying, The Weighting
III Prophetic Personality
IV Prophethood and Language
V Prophet and Situation
VI Prophethood and Conscience
VII Prophethood in Suffering
VIII Prophethood and God
IX Ongoing Finality

Index of Themes
Index of Names and Terms
Scriptural Citations

Departing from conventional studies of Hebrew prophecy and prophets and of Islam and Muhammad, Gragg sees a single tradition of prophecy linking the two, not as a foreseeing of the future, but as a critique of present society. He discusses various pertinent topics: messengers with burdens; the casting, the saying, the weighting; prophetic personality; prophethood and language; prophet and situation; prophethood and conscience; prophethood in suffering; prophethood and God, and ongoing finality.

This is a profound and courageous attempt to compare and contrast Islamic ideas of prophecy, as found uniquely in Muhammad, with the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible. It challenges Muslims, Jews, and Christians to understand their own traditions better and to be open to learn from each other. It rests on prolonged reflection about the character of the three Abrahamic religions.
John Barton, Oriel & Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, Oriel College, Oxford

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