Please join us at the upcoming PIMS Guest Seminar, featuring our visiting scholar Dennis Halft, OP.
Missionaries as Cultural Intermediaries: The Arrival of Medieval Arabic Bible Translations in Safavid Persia and their Reception by Muslim Scholars
In recent years, the Muslim reception of the Bible has attracted increasing scholarly attention. However, research on the biblical sources used by Twelver Shiite authors in Safavid Persia during the seventeenth century has been largely neglected. This paper will show that medieval Arabic translations of the Scriptures made by Eastern Christians from Greek, Syriac, and Coptic Vorlagen became available to Muslim scholars in Iran through the influence of Catholic missionaries. The following dissemination of manuscript as well as printed copies of the Gospels and other individual biblical books gave rise to the composition of fresh anti-Christian polemics, authored by well-known Twelver Shiite savants such as Sayyid Ahmad Alavi and Zahir al-Din Tafrishi. The polemical works are extant in different New/Modern Persian and Arabic manuscripts and recensions.
A comparison between the scriptural passages adduced in the Muslim polemical works and the Arabic translations of the Bible brought along by the missionaries shows that Arabic versions of the Scriptures were important sources for interreligious encounters and cross-cultural intellectual exchanges. There is evidence that the availability and accessibility of Arabic Bible translations led to a new phase of Muslim-Christian history in Safavid Persia. This paper will examine the ways in which scriptural reasoning was increasingly used as a polemical argument against Christianity.
Wednesday, 6 April 2016 ♦ 4:10 p.m.
Seminar Room A, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
59 Queen’s Park Crescent East, Toronto