Intertwined Worlds

Intertwined Worlds: Medieval Islam and Bible Criticism

Hava Lazarus-Yafeh
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 196
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    Intertwined Worlds
    Book Description:

    Exploring the lively polemics among Jews, Christians, and Muslims during the Middle Ages, Hava Lazarus-Yafeh analyzes Muslim critical attitudes toward the Bible, some of which share common features with both pre-Islamic and early modern European Bible criticism. Unlike Jews and Christians, Muslims did not accept the text of the Bible as divine word, believing that it had been tampered with or falsified. This belief, she maintains, led to a critical approach to the Bible, which scrutinized its text as well as its ways of transmission. In their approach Muslim authors drew on pre-Islamic pagan, Gnostic, and other sectarian writings as well as on Rabbinic and Christian sources. Elements of this criticism may have later influenced Western thinkers and helped shape early modern Bible scholarship. Nevertheless, Muslims also took the Bible to predict the coming of Muhammad and the rise of Islam. They seem to have used mainly oral Arabic translations of the Hebrew Bible and recorded some lost Jewish interpretations. In tracing the connections between pagan, Islamic, and modern Bible criticism, Lazarus-Yafeh demonstrates the importance of Muslim mediation between the ancient world and Europe in a hitherto unknown field.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6273-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    The first centuries of the Christian era in the Near East were marked by intensive, unique religious creativity, seldom if ever matched in the history of mankind. Christianity developed from Judaeo-Christian circles into a full-fledged system, subdividing into different denominations and giving birth to an unprecedented flourishing of theological activity, preserved, for example, in the extensive Patristic literature. At the same time, older, well-established Judaism cultivated and started to collect, at least partially, its vast body of Oral Law, the Bible having been canonized centuries before. Now the redaction of the Mishna (c. 200 C.E.) and Tosefta (c. 400 C.E...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Muslim Arguments against the Bible
    (pp. 19-49)

    Muslim authors used four somewhat contradictory and overlapping arguments against the Bible:Tahrīf(falsification),Naskh(abrogation), lack ofTāwatur(lack of reliable transmission), and Bible exegesis. Only the first two of these have been studied in some detail, though more from the theological point of view. Only three of the four arguments are based direcdy on Qur’anic charges, whereas the most scholarly developed argument—the lack ofTawātur—has no clear Qur’anic basis. Yet even the three arguments that are based on Qur’anic charges are expressed therein only generally, and became highly developed and demonstrated in detail only with later...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Ezra-‘Uzayr: The Metamorphosis of a Polemical Motif
    (pp. 50-74)

    As we have seen, Ezra the Scribe plays an important role both in Muslim medieval polemics against the Bible and in pre-Islamic and modern Bible criticism. In the first context, his role is usually negative; he is the deliberate falsifier of the text. In the second context, especially among modern European Bible critics, he came to be regarded positively as the canonizer and conservator of the Biblical text. Ezra’s different roles often interchange, however; Islamic literature has also preserved the positive image of Ezra as the loyal restorer of the lost Biblical text, whereas modern European Bible criticism has also...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Muslim Bible Exegesis: The Prediction of Muhammad and Islam
    (pp. 75-110)

    Muslim bible exegesis has been mentioned above as one of the Muslim arguments against the Bible. According to Muslim authors, several verses in the Bible, if rightly understood, predict the coming of Muhammad and the rise of Islam as God’s true and last revelation to mankind (see Chapter Two). The assumption underlying this argument was that the verses thus expounded stem from the original true Scriptures, having miraculously escaped falsification. A possible reason for this escape was their vague and implicit message, which (according to Muslim authors) had to be rediscovered through special hermeneutical efforts. Several scholars have mentioned this...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Muslim Authors and the Problematics of Arabic Translations of the Bible
    (pp. 111-129)

    The history of the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic has yet to be written, even though many scholars have dealt over the years with different aspects of this subject, and have analyzed repeatedly the same bits of information found in Arabic literature with regard to translations of the Bible from Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, Coptic, or Latin into Arabic.¹ Here I wish only to draw attention to some neglected aspects of this history, which might be of some importance for further studies in this field, and to help discard some unverified assumptions held in it, such as the description...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Conclusion: From Late Antiquity to the Beginnings of Modern Bible Criticism
    (pp. 130-142)

    In this small book, I have surveyed the attitudes of Muslim medieval authors toward the Hebrew Bible, their knowledge of it, and the use they made of it. I have tried to show that they developed a kind of Bible criticism very close in nature and detail both to earlier pre-Islamic Bible criticism and to the beginnings of later scholarly European Bible criticism. In all three cases, this critical literature could flourish because the text of the Hebrew Bible was not considered holy by the authors. There may be more here than phenomenological similarity, however.

    If we look from a...

  11. Appendix: Jewish Knowledge of, and Attitudes toward, the Qur’an
    (pp. 143-160)
  12. List of Biblical Verses Cited
    (pp. 161-164)
  13. List of Qur’anic Verses Cited
    (pp. 165-166)
  14. Index
    (pp. 167-178)