The author talks much about Q and the Gospels, but what I found of greater interest - perhaps because it was new to me - were his thoughts on the Quran. I decided to copy some of it to see what you think and to hopefully find out what Muslims have to say about their own scriptures concerning these matters.
So what do you think of this?
The author writes:
In our bondage to written texts, we must constantly remind ourselves that, when it comes to the Quran, there can be no question of an "original." The original of the Quran is the recitation or performance that Muhammad chose to have his followers memorize, and which is very unlikely to have been its first utterance. Thus, the "original" of our Quran is the finished sura that either Muhammad or someone else had edited and that had then become fixed by social memorization. In neither instance is there any concern to preserve what we might think of as the original revelation in the sense of the first (and only) words to issue from the Prophet's mouth on a given subject. As we have seen, that notion, though theologically a cornerstone of belief - the Quran is God's unchanging Word - defies every convention of oral poetry and performance. Our Quran, like the Iliad, is a fixed product standing at the end of a complex and fluid process. (pg.134)
After taking a closer look at the Quran:
We note a marked change in the suras after we have arranged them in something approximating their chronological order. The revelations delivered at Medina are quite different from the earlier Meccan ones. The high emotion, richly affective images, the rhymes and powerful rhythms of the Meccan poetry have all yielded at Medina to something that is not only longer but far more didactic and prosaic. The high poetic style of the Meccan suras disappears, along with their insistent rhymes and assonances. The oaths, the bold imagery, and the intense fervor of the early poems - we may even call them songs, as we have seen - have yielded to a flatter diction and a lower and more level emotional pitch.
The author realizes the suras were written to different audiences. In Mecca Muhammad was writing to encourage people to leave idolatry and become Muslims, whereas in Medina new rules were needed for the growing ummah. But the author suggests also that maybe Muhammad found a scribe in Medina as the suras there seem more like they were dictated. "The Prophet could no longer recite in the earlier bardic style but now had to pronounce, and slowly and clearly enough for an unskilled scribe to catch and record it." (pg. 135)
Earlier in the book the author had noted that "the Quran shows an ongoing awareness of audience reaction. There are ... on-the-spot explanations - introduced by "What will make you understand...?" - that are obviously cued by audience reaction (101:9-11), or in these instances, perhaps a lack of it. There are direct answers to both questions and criticisms (2:135, etc.). And there was, finally, the charge that the 'revelations' were somewhat too improvised, that Muhammad was in effect making it up as he went along, with one eye steadily fixed on the main chance (21:5, 52:33). No,he recited only what - and when - he had received from God (10:15-16). Not all of these responses had necessarily to occur in the original performance, however, since these performances were certainly, and in the case of the Quran, necessarily, repeated, and there was an opportunity for the poet, or the prophet, to make adjustments." (pg. 76)
What do you think of what F.E. Peters wrote about the Quran? How do you explain the differing style of the earlier suras compared to the later ones? Do you think the idea of Muhammad editing the text by his supervising the memorization of the words has any truth to it? Do you agree that Muhammad made adjustments depending on audience reaction? What do you think about Muhammad perhaps having a scribe in Medina thus the style of the Quran changed because the words could now be written down instead of merely memorized by the followers (which would require shorter, more rhyming suras)? Any thoughts on anything else mentioned in this post or from your own understanding?