Final Examination of Clare Elena Wilde
For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
April 6, 2011 at 2:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125
Sidney Griffith, Ph.D.
Produce your proof if you are truthful (Q 2:11) The Qur’an in Christian Arabic Texts (750-1258 C.E.)
Normative Islamic tradition has come to understand the Qur’an as the inimitable and uncreated word of God. And, unlike Moses’ Tawrat or Jesus’ Injil, which were corrupted by later generations of Jews and Christians, the message that Muhammad received is believed to have been preserved, in the form in which he received it, in the Uthmanic codex of the Arabic Qur’an (literally, ‘recitation’). This dissertation explores the various ways in which Arabophone Christians who came to live in Muslim-ruled territories employed the Qur’an in their apologetic agendas. Did the Qur’an shape Christian theology? And, might contemporary students of the Qur’an mine early Christian Arabic discussions thereof in order the better to understand the history of the reception, if not the transmission, of the Qur’an?
Three Christian Arabic texts that date to the Abbasid caliphate were examined for their use of qur’anic passages, which were divided into four categories and compared with Islamic exegetical tradition thereon: passages that Islamic tradition and the Christian authors understand as referencing Christians and/or Christianity; passages that the Christian authors, but not Islamic tradition, understand as containing Christian themes; passages that Islamic tradition and the Christian authors read as referencing Jews and/or Judaism; passages that neither the Christian authors nor Islamic tradition read as referencing Judeo-Christian themes. Both because this investigation did not entail an exhaustive examination of the entire manuscript tradition of each of the texts (except for that of the unique manuscript, Sinai Ar. 434), and as the authors did not claim verbatim qur’anic quotation, this research sheds light more on the history of Christian-Muslim interactions and approaches to the Qur’an, rather than the qur’anic text. Christian preservation of qur’anic passages are, generally, not so much a reliable indicator of the contents of the Qur’an, as Christian theological (or socio-political) (re)readings thereof. This thesis concludes that Christian interpretation of passages from the first three categories are helpful in understanding trends within the Christian communities, including certain Muslim-Christian dynamics; Christian Arab usage and preservation of passages in the last category may have a place in historical and/or form criticism of the text of the Qur’an.