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The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam (Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World) Paperback – October 27, 2015
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"[M]eticulous but eminently lucid."--Eric Ormsby, Literary Review
"Griffith offers an exhaustive yet engaging discussion of the history of translations of the Bible."--Choice
"This book by Sidney Griffith is of great value to whoever is interested in the complex issue of relationship between Hebrew-Christian Scriptures and Muslim ones. . . . Griffith depicts in a synthetic but very valuable way the relationship between respective Scriptures, mirror of relationships between respective communities."--Valentino Cottini, Islamochristiana
"Griffith's book is a welcome introduction to the field and is written in an accessible style, directed to a broad audience. . . . The Bible in Arabic will hopefully inspire much needed further research."--Ronny Vollandt, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations
"The Bible in Arabic is an important contribution not only as a corrective to inter-religious debate in the twenty-first century, but also because it succeeds it drawing the Bible into a dialectical tradition of exchange that has become severely hampered by dominant discourses on identity politics that fill the spectrum between cultural clash and calls for tolerance."--Rana Issa, SCTIW Review
"The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the People of the Book in the Language of Islam . . . marks a high point in the author's academic scholarship. This comprehensive exploration demonstrates his ability not only as a biblical scholar but also as an adroit historian of religion, able to apply an advanced hermeneutic approach to the primary sources."--S.M. Hadi Gerami, Al-Bayan
"There is no other book that offers so much on the general subject of the Bible in Arabic in so slim a volume and with so many potential avenues for future research. Enough work still remains for a host of scholars in preparing editions and studies of the texts touched on here and those still in manuscript, but Griffith's book will remain a worthy guide well into the execution of that forthcoming scholarly enterprise."--Adam Carter McCollum, Journal of the American Oriental Society
From the Back Cover
"This book opens up a new world. With consummate learning and characteristic intellectual courtesy, Sidney Griffith reveals an Arabic civilization of unexpected diversity, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians continued to debate, for a thousand years, the conflicting messages of their three, intricately intertwined scriptures. We emerge the richer for this generous vision of the religious texture of the medieval Middle East."--Peter Brown, author of Through the Eye of a Needle
"The Bible in Arabic represents the work of a scholar at the height of his powers. Griffith demonstrates widespread mastery of his subject: his expertise spans not only Christian Arabic translation and interpretation of the Bible, but also Jewish and Islamic Arabic literature as well. The result is a book that fills a conspicuous gap in our knowledge: it will surely become a standard in the field."--Stephen Davis, Yale University
"Sidney Griffith is the ideal scholar to take on this important topic. Starting in pre-Islamic Arabia, he traces the career of the Bible in the Arabic-speaking world. It is a fascinating tale, involving the early transformation of Biblical figures within the Qur'an, various Arabic translations of the Bible, and relations between Muslims, Jews, and Christians as reflected in what they had to say about each other's scriptures. Anyone interested in the historical roots of Islam's attitude to the West, as well as in this relatively neglected part of the Bible's own career, will find this book essential reading."--James Kugel, author of How to Read the Bible
"This outstanding book gives a detailed view of the critical role played by the first translations of the Bible into Arabic among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in the Arabic-speaking world of premodern times. A tour de force."--Meira Polliack, Tel Aviv University
Top customer reviews
This book has seven chapters. Each deals with a specific aspect of the topic of the Bible in Arabic.
I - The Bible in Pre-Islamic Arabia
II - The Bible in the Arabic Qur'an
III - The Earliest Translations of the Bible into Arabic
IV - Christian Translations of the Bible into Arabic
V - Jewish Translations of the Bible into Arabic
VI - Muslims and the Bible in Arabic
VII - Intertwined Scriptures
Griffith states in his introduction that the Arabic Bible has basically been ignored in scholarship but there is a growing interest in the topic. There are a massive number of manuscripts out there and translations were constantly being revised and compared so the origins of the first translations are unclear. What is certain is that (like English) there were multiple translations of the Bible, some dependant on previous translations and some not.
Griffith concludes that there must have been some translations of the Gospels in Pre-Islamic Arabia (pages 47-53) but he admits the evidence is scanty. There is plenty of undisputable evidence of Christian Arabic tribes so it is only natural they improvised translations of portions of the Bible into their language.
Chapter 2 is a bit strange. Griffith surveys how the Bible is used in the Qur'an. He states that the Qur'an presupposes a high level of knowledge of the Bible (or 'Biblical awareness' as he calls it, page 55). How exactly a supposedly pagan society in Mecca had so much knowledge of the Bible is never explained by Griffith. Without the subtext of the Biblical narrative the Qur'an is basically unintelligible.
An interesting fact I learned was if was the Karaites who first translated the Old Testament for Jews (page 159). Eventually the famous Sa'adyah Gaon (882-942) produced a definitive translation of the Pentateuch, Isaiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Lamentations, Esther and Daniel into Arabic based on the Massoretic Text.
One of the byproducts of the Bible in Arabic was that Muslims started to read the Bible and all sorts of disputes arose over the authenticity of the text. Muslims were eager to prove that Muhammad was predicted in the Bible but they were also eager to show that the Bible had been corrupted (pages 177-178). I found this discussion informative. I should note that Griffith is not trying to be polemical so he just states the facts. He is not trying to 'prove' the authenticity of the Bible even though, as a Catholic priest, he must believe that.
I do not have the print version, that is why I bought Kindle version!