"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Bible in Arabic

Sidney Griffith, arguably North America's leading scholar on Syriac Christianity and on its relations with Islam, whom I had the honor of meeting last fall as he chaired a panel I was on at the Association for the Middle East and Africa's annual conference in Washington, DC, is the author of the invaluable book The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam (Princeton UP, 2007).

At the end of this month he has another book coming out that looks to be equally fascinating and learned: The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam (Princeton UP, 2013), 248pp.

About this book (whose introduction in a PDF is here) the publisher tells us:
From the first centuries of Islam to well into the Middle Ages, Jews and Christians produced hundreds of manuscripts containing portions of the Bible in Arabic. Until recently, however, these translations remained largely neglected by Biblical scholars and historians. In telling the story of the Bible in Arabic, this book casts light on a crucial transition in the cultural and religious life of Jews and Christians in Arabic-speaking lands.
In pre-Islamic times, Jewish and Christian scriptures circulated orally in the Arabic-speaking milieu. After the rise of Islam--and the Qur'an's appearance as a scripture in its own right--Jews and Christians translated the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament into Arabic for their own use and as a response to the Qur'an's retelling of Biblical narratives. From the ninth century onward, a steady stream of Jewish and Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament crossed communal borders to influence the Islamic world. The Bible in Arabic offers a new frame of reference for the pivotal place of Arabic Bible translations in the religious and cultural interactions between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

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