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David Bertaina

Abstract

Over the course of the early medieval period, Shī‘ī authors collected historical reports of conversations with Christians and included them in their compilations. Beginning as legendary accounts transmitted via oral tradition, the reports and stories of imams were later compiled in “historical” collections as a way to promote the Shī‘ī historiographical tradition. Utilizing motifs from the Qur’an as well as their own interpretive traditions, medieval Shī‘ī writers collected, adapted, and/or composed these encounters in order to connect past leaders with the historical vision of their community. The texts were also a method for shaping Shī‘ī communal identity within the religiously plural society of the early Islamic Middle East. This article uses examples from some dialogues with Christian participants to illustrate these key features. Some texts promoted Shī‘ī historical claims about the imams by producing hagiographical memories of the past for contemporary communities. Other reports utilized polemical strategies of biblical polemics and dialectical reasoning to construct Islamic historiographies of Christianity. It appears that most Shī‘ī historical reports about Christian figures were not interested in contrasting Shī‘ī faith with Christianity, but sought rather to highlight Shī‘ī concepts of prophetic succession, legitimate authority, and authentic community against Sunnī historical views. While this feature appears to be the consensus among the reports, some dialogues may reflect real religious encounters. In sum, the historical reports made use of Christian figures and beliefs as a vehicle for Shī‘ī historical and theological projects in the medieval Middle East.

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David Bertaina

Abstract

Elias of Nisibis (d. 1046) was a well-known bishop and theologian of the Church of the East who engaged in several discussions with the local vizier Abū al-Qāsim al-Maghribī (d. 1027). This chapter focuses on their interpretation of monotheism in the Qurʾān, and whether it could be applied to Christianity. Granting authority to the Qurʾān and using Islamic commentaries for his arguments, Elias claimed that the Muslim scripture promised Christians were monotheists and would be granted salvation. The text’s significance lies in its demonstration of the flourishing Islamo-Christian engagement found under eleventh-century Marwānid rule, the Christian use of Islamic sources, the accommodation of medieval Islamic interpretive frameworks to Christian readings of the Qurʾān, and the impact of Arabic-speaking Christianity on Islamic civilization.

Heirs of the Apostles

Studies on Arabic Christianity in Honor of Sidney H. Griffith

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Edited by David Bertaina, Sandra Toenies Keating, Mark N. Swanson and Alexander Treiger

Heirs of the Apostles offers a panoramic survey of Arabic-speaking Christians—descendants of the Christian communities established in the Middle East by the apostles—and their history, religion, and culture in the early Islamic and medieval periods. The subjects range from Arabic translations of the Bible, to the status of Christians in the Muslim-governed lands, Muslim-Christian polemic, and Christian-Muslim and Christian-Jewish relations. The volume is offered as a Festschrift to Sidney H. Griffith, the doyen of Christian Arabic Studies in North America, on his eightieth birthday.

Contributors are: David Bertaina, Elie Dannaoui, Stephen Davis, Nathan P. Gibson, Cornelia Horn, Sandra Toenies Keating, Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala, Johannes Pahlitzsch, Andrew Platt, Thomas W. Ricks, Barbara Roggema, Harald Suermann, Mark N. Swanson, Shawqi Talia, Jack Tannous, David Thomas, Jennifer Tobkin, Alexander Treiger, Ronny Vollandt, Clare Wilde, and Jason Zaborowski.

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Edited by David Bertaina, Sandra Toenies Keating, Mark N. Swanson and Alexander Treiger

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Edited by David Bertaina, Sandra Toenies Keating, Mark N. Swanson and Alexander Treiger

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Edited by David Bertaina, Sandra Toenies Keating, Mark N. Swanson and Alexander Treiger

Series:

Edited by David Bertaina, Sandra Toenies Keating, Mark N. Swanson and Alexander Treiger

Series:

Edited by David Bertaina, Sandra Toenies Keating, Mark N. Swanson and Alexander Treiger