Inter-Confessional Church History: East Syrian Christian Identity and Islam in the Ecclesiastical History of Kitāb al-Maǧdal

In: Quaderni di Studi Arabi
Luke Yarbrough Associate Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California Los Angeles USA

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Kitāb al-Maǧdal is a large East Syrian theological treatise that was composed in Arabic, probably in the late tenth or early eleventh century CE. One section of the work is an ecclesiastical history of the Church of the East. This essay argues that close analysis of this section reveals that elite East Syrian identity in the period overlapped to a significant extent with contemporary Muslim identity, at the level of vocabulary and conceptions of revelation and communal history. In this sense, the work represents a kind of “inter-confessional” history writing. The essay aims to contribute to recent studies of Middle Eastern Christian identity and historiography, which have focused of Syriac sources and/or late antiquity rather than Arabic sources for the Islamic middle periods.

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