20 June 2014

The Arabic Bible Before Islam

The Arabic Bible Before Islam (The Marginalia Review of Books, 10 June 2014)

Non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians, have spoken Arabic since before the revelation of the Qur’an. Was there an Arabic Bible before the rise of Islam? Or, did the appearance of the Arabic Qur’an shape the Arabic Bible? These are among the questions addressed in Sidney Griffith’s masterful book, The Bible in Arabic.

Although the confessional plurality of the medieval Islamic world has been the subject of significant scholarly investigation in recent years — e.g. the works of Thomas E. Burman, David Thomas, Mark Cohen, Samir Khalil Samir, Sarah Stroumsa, and Reuven Firestone) — the Arabic Bible has yet to receive its due share of attention. In The Bible in Arabic, Sidney Griffith guides us through the complexities of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim engagements with both the divine and each other as Jews and Christians came to articulate not just theology, but also their very scriptures, in the language of the Qur’an.