The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque

The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam

Sidney H. Griffith
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rpv5
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  • Book Info
    The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque
    Book Description:

    Amid so much twenty-first-century talk of a "Christian-Muslim divide"--and the attendant controversy in some Western countries over policies toward minority Muslim communities--a historical fact has gone unnoticed: for more than four hundred years beginning in the mid-seventh century, some 50 percent of the world's Christians lived and worshipped under Muslim rule. Just who were the Christians in the Arabic-speaking milieu of Mohammed and the Qur'an?

    The Church in the Shadow of the Mosqueis the first book-length discussion in English of the cultural and intellectual life of such Christians indigenous to the Islamic world. Sidney Griffith offers an engaging overview of their initial reactions to the religious challenges they faced, the development of a new mode of presenting Christian doctrine as liturgical texts in their own languages gave way to Arabic, the Christian role in the philosophical life of early Baghdad, and the maturing of distinctive Oriental Christian denominations in this context.

    Offering a fuller understanding of the rise of Islam in its early years from the perspective of contemporary non-Muslims, this book reminds us that there is much to learn from the works of people who seriously engaged Muslims in their own world so long ago.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3402-0
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xv)
  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-5)

    The story of the christians who are at home in the world of Islam has seldom been told in terms that highlight how their intellectual culture and even their denominational identities came to be expressed in the Arabic idiom of the Islamic culture of which they were for centuries an integral part. In the heyday of the classical world of Arabo-Islamic civilization in the Middle East, from the middle of the eighth century to the middle of the thirteenth century, Arabic-speaking Christians not only made major contributions to Islamic culture, but they also wrote philosophical and theological texts of their...

  7. I “PEOPLE OF THE GOSPEL,” “PEOPLE OF THE BOOK”: CHRISTIANS AND CHRISTIANITY IN THE WORLD OF ISLAM
    (pp. 6-22)

    Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians were no doubt in the audience to whom the Qur’ān first addressed the word of God in “a clear Arabic tongue” (16:103 and 26:105), as the Qur’ān itself says of its message. Indeed, on its own terms the Qur’ān presumes the precedence of the Torah and the Gospel in the consciousness of its audience, and insists that in reference to the earlier divine revelations it is itself “a corroborating scripture in Arabic language to warn wrong doers and to announce good news to those who do well.” (46:12) In the Qur’ān the voice of God even...

  8. II APOCALYPSE AND THE ARABS: THE FIRST CHRISTIAN RESPONSES TO THE CHALLENGE OF ISLAM
    (pp. 23-44)

    The first notices in texts written by Christians in the Roman and Persian territories neighboring Arabia that refer to incursions of marauding Arabs in the years immediately following the death of Muḥammad in the year 632 show little or no awareness that these raids were part of the larger military campaign that would in due course be recognized as the Islamic conquest. Rather, the writers of the few texts from the seventh century we have in hand that refer to these events seem initially to have considered the depredations we now recognize as constituting the first phase of the conquest...

  9. III CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY IN ARABIC: A NEW DEVELOPMENT IN CHURCH LIFE
    (pp. 45-74)

    By the end of the eighth century, Christian thinkers who lived among the Muslims were already doing theology with the challenges of Islam uppermost in their minds. One of the earliest and most interesting of them was the long-lived Patriarch Timothy I (727/8–823), who served as catholicos/patriarch of the Church of the East for the last forty-three years (780–823) of his life.¹ Patriarch Timothy’s transfer of his see from its traditional location in Seleucia/Ctesiphon, the erstwhile capital of the Persian emperors, to Baghdad, the seat of the Muslim caliphs since the city’s foundation in 767, symbolically expressed the...

  10. IV THE SHAPE OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY IN ARABIC: THE GENRES AND STRATEGIES OF CHRISTIAN DISCOURSE IN THE WORLD OF ISLAM
    (pp. 75-105)

    One can discern a theological development in the works of the Christian authors who wrote in Arabic in the early Islamic period. This development comes into view in the ways in which these writers articulated their Christian doctrines in parallel, almost in tandem, with the evolving patterns of Islamic religious thought in the same period. The same might be said of many of the works of the contemporary Jewish writers whom we have mentioned. In this context, Christians sought to defend the reasonableness of their distinctive doctrines in terms of the same religious idiom as that employed by their Muslim...

  11. V CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY IN BAGHDAD AND BEYOND: A MAJOR PARTNER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CLASSICAL ISLAMIC INTELLECTUAL CULTURE
    (pp. 106-128)

    While the Christian theologians who wrote in Arabic in the early Islamic period, whose works have been our concern up to this point, were for the most part associated with monasteries and other ecclesiastical institutions, many of them, along with other Christian intellectuals in the caliphate prior to the time of the Crusades, also played a role in the burgeoning intellectual life in the caliph’s own capital city of Baghdad and beyond. Some were physicians, some were philosophers, and some were logicians, mathematicians, copyists, or translators. Some were also Christian apologists and theologians, as we have seen. All of them...

  12. VI WHAT HAS BAGHDAD TO DO WITH CONSTANTINOPLE OR ROME?: ORIENTAL CHRISTIAN SELF-DEFINITION IN THE WORLD OF ISLAM
    (pp. 129-155)

    Church historians have normally told the story of the schisms in the Christian community resulting from the decisions of the councils of Ephesus in 431 and Chalcedon in 451 as having come about gradually, roughly during the century that elapsed between the time of the council of Chalcedon and the council of Constantinople II in 553. The latter council in particular gave definitive force to the policy of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. 527–65) to enforce Chalcedonian orthodoxy throughout the Roman Empire. It is a story told almost exclusively from the point of view of Roman imperial orthodoxy,...

  13. VII BETWEEN THE CRESCENT AND THE CROSS: CONVIVENCIA, THE CLASH OF THEOLOGIES, AND INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
    (pp. 156-180)

    When the Christians living in the territories that came under Islamic rule during the first century after the death of the prophet Muḥammad (ca. 570–632) eventually adopted the Arabic language, beginning for some of them as early as the second half of the eighth century, although they took up Arabic for their own purposes, they also by that very fact opened a public channel of communication with the Muslims about religion and culture. The ensuing conversation was both indirect and direct. It was indirect in the sense that Christian theology, and apologetics in Arabic addressed primarily to Christians, was...

  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 181-212)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 213-220)