Theodore Abū Qurra, a Chalcedonian bishop in late eighth- and early ninth-century Harran, attempts to defend Christianity rationally against the new intellectual power of Islam. However, in his classification of the world’s religions, he places non-Chalcedonian Christians in a strange category called “heresy.” They are both within Christianity and without, sitting precariously on the border between Theodore’s Christianity, the “one true religion,” and its false counterparts. Nevertheless, Theodore reserves some of his harshest rhetoric for these heretics, viewing them as a sickness infecting the Church; he even implies that it is acceptable for the emperor to persecute them, though he elsewhere writes that Christianity is never spread by power or force. This paper addresses this odd term, “heresy,” and its ability to destabilize Theodore’s neat classification of religions. Perhaps this destabilization itself leads to his harsh attacks, as he seeks for stability in a world newly destabilized by the advent of Islam.
This article focuses on a particular translator with some prominence in early eleventh-century Antioch: Ibrāhīm, son of Yūḥannā, an imperial bureaucrat and scribe. A native of Antioch, Ibrāhīm survived the transition from the Muslim rule of the Ḥamdānids to the Byzantine resurgence in Syria, attaining great success within the imperial apparatus of the new rulers. He translated many patristic and medieval works from Greek into Arabic and was likely involved in the imperial project to translate the Constantinopolitan liturgy into Syriac for use in Antioch and its dependencies. We know little about his life apart from autobiographical statements in his one extant original composition, the Life of Christopher, but the available information gives us a rare glimpse into the life of a scholar from this border metropolis at the historical turning point of the tenth and eleventh centuries.