Communicating the Word
Revelation, Translation, and Interpretation in Christianity and Islam
Publication Year: 2011
In his concluding reflections, Archbishop Rowan Williams draws attention to a fundamental point emerging from these fascinating contributions: “Islam and Christianity alike give a high valuation to the conviction that God speaks to us. Grasping what that does and does not mean . . . is challenging theological work.”
Published by: Georgetown University Press
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Many thanks are once again due to John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, for generous support of the seventh Building Bridges seminar in Rome and also of the publication of this record of that seminar. Thanks also to Richard Brown and the staff of Georgetown University Press for their commitment to the Building Bridges process. It is a pleasure to work with them. ...
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Beginning in January 2002, the series of Building Bridges seminars, convened and chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has covered a wide range of themes at the heart of Muslim-Christian dialogue. This book offers a record of the seventh seminar, held from May 6–8, 2008, at Villa Palazzola, near Rome, formerly a Cistercian monastery and now owned by the Venerable ...
Part I: Particularity, Universality, and Finality in Revelation
1.1 Particularity and Universality in the Qur’ān
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The specific question I address here is whether Islam, as a particular religion arising in seventh-century Arabia with all its particular doctrines, ethics, laws, rituals, and various other aspects, is conceived by its revelatory source, namely the Qur’ān, to be applicable to and binding on all humanity, or whether it is thought to be the necessary way of attaining salvation and truth ...
1.2 Particularity, Universality, and Finality: Insights from the Gospel of John
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That impressive array of abstract nouns in our section title—three -ities and one -ation—certainly puts us at high risk of falling into a morass of philosophical abstraction! Yet these words touch on some of the central issues and most concrete claims of our respective faiths. They are the vocabulary of confident and uncompromising faith, and so they often raise the thorniest of ...
1.3 Revelation in Israel: Deuteronomy 7:1–11; Isaiah 49:1–6
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1When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you—2and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant ...
1.4 Revelation in Israel: Qur’ān 2:47–57; 5:44–48
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47Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you and favoured you over other people. 48Guard yourselves from a Day when no soul will stand in place of another, no intercession will be accepted from it, nor any ransom; nor will they be helped. 49Remember when We saved you from Pharaoh’s people, who subjected you to terrible torment, slaughtering your sons and sparing only your women—this was a great trial from your ...
1.5 Revelation in Christ: 1 John 1:1–4; Matthew 28:16–20; John 16:12–15
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1We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly ...
1.6 Revelation in the Qur’ān: Qur’ān 6:91–92; 25:32; 21:107; 38:87; 33:40
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91They did not estimate God with a true estimation, when they said that God had not revealed anything to humans. Say: ‘‘Who then revealed the Book which Moses brought as a light and guidance to humankind, which they render as mere sheets of paper, and of which they expose part and conceal much? [But] you were taught what you and your fathers did not know.’’ Say: ‘‘[It is] God’’; then leave them to engage in their frivolous ...
Part II: Translating the Word?
2.1 Translating the Qur’ān
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The Qur’ān was revealed at a particular time in a particular locality and in a particular language but it states that its message was intended to be universal, for all places and times (25:1; 34:28). However, two factors have made the process of communicating the message to non-Arabs complex: first, the conviction on the part of the faithful that the text is the divine word, that God ...
2.2 Translation and the Incarnate Word: Scripture and the Frontier of Languages
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The case for Bible translation rests squarely on the primacy of divine encounter rather than on claims of cultural advantage. There was longstanding resistance to the principle of vernacular Bible translation because it was feared that would open the scripture to corruption and to unauthorized access, including access by the untutored masses. Opponents argued that ...
2.3 The Body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 11:23–27 and 12:12–13, 27
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23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’’ 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’’ 26For as often as ...
2.4 An Arabic Qur’ān: Qur’ān 12:1–2; 14:4; 16:103; 26:192–99; 46:12
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192Truly, this Qur’an has been sent down by the Lord of the Worlds: 193the Trustworthy Spirit brought it down 194to your heart [Prophet], so that you could bring warning 195in a clear Arabic tongue. 196This was foretold in the scriptures of earlier religions. 197Is it not proof enough for them that the learned men of the Children of Israel have recognized it? 198If We had sent it down to someone who was not an Arab, 199and he had recited it to ...
2.5 The Divine and Human Origins of the Bible: Exodus 32:15–16; Jeremiah 1:9; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; Luke 1:1–4; 1 Corinthians 7:10–13; Mark 5:41
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15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. 16The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. ...
2.6 The Self-Perception and the Originality of the Qur’ān: Qur’ān 2:23–24; 3:44; 10:15; 69:38–47
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23If you have doubts about the revelation We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a single sura like it—enlist whatever supporters you have other than God—if you truly [think you can]. 24If you cannot do this—and you never will—then beware of the Fire prepared for the disbelievers, whose fuel is men and stones. [Verse 23, ‘‘whatever supporters’’: literally ‘‘whatever witnesses.’’ Razi interprets this as ...
Part III: Methods and Authority in Interpretation
3.1 Authority in Interpretation: A Survey of the History of Christianity
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This passage is a very interesting reminder of the human need for interpretation and of the need of religious communities for authoritative resolution of the conflicting interpretations that arise within them. In what follows I offer a brief overview of these themes in the history of Christianity. First, however, we begin with some general observations about authority. ...
3.2 Authority in Qur’ānic Interpretation and Interpretive Communities
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Any discussion about authority in interpretation within the Islamic tradition begins with the centrality of God’s word. God’s word is not just another text but the direct speech of God (kalām Allāh). Indeed, the speech of God, addressing the Prophet, began with the word iqra’—‘‘Recite!’’ (Qur’ān 96:1). God’s word guides, advises, commands, prohibits, instructs, urges, rules, ...
3.3 Reading Scripture in the Light of Christ: Matthew 12:1–8; Luke 24:44–49
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1At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.’’ 3He said to them, ‘‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it ...
3.4 Interpreting the Qur’ān: Qur’ān 3:7; 2:106; 16:101; 31:20
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It is He who has sent this Scripture down to you [Prophet]. Some of its verses are definite in meaning—these are the cornerstone of the Scripture—and others are ambiguous. The perverse at heart eagerly pursue the ambiguities in their attempt to make trouble and to pinpoint a specific meaning—only God knows the true meaning—while those firmly grounded in knowledge say, ‘‘We believe in it: it is all from our Lord’’—only ...
3.5 The Use of Scripture in Generous Love
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Whenever as Christians we meet with people of different faiths and beliefs, we do so in the name and the strength of the one God who is Lord of all. Addressing the pagan Athenians, the apostle declares that this God is the One in whom all human beings live, move and have their being; he is the One of whom all can say: ‘He is not far from every one of us’. 1 We cannot measure the infinity ...
3.6 The Use of Scripture in A Common Word
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Whilst Islam and Christianity are obviously different religions—and whilst there is no minimising some of their formal differences—it is clear that the Two Greatest Commandments are an area of common ground and a link between the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament. What prefaces the Two Commandments in the Torah and the New Testament, and what they arise out of, is the ...
Conversations in Rome
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This book consists chiefly of edited versions of papers delivered at the Building Bridges seminar in Rome in May 2008. But there was naturally much more to the seminar than these papers: above all, there was conversation, and plenty of it. There were a number of plenary sessions at which the papers were discussed or the proceedings of a whole day were mulled over. Rather ...
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Islam, Christianity, and Judaism share a commitment to testing their claims and practice in the light of a sacred text believed to be inspired by God. While other faiths have sacred books, the Abrahamic faiths are distinct in looking to a single narrative that unifies the texts they study. But that apparently simple correlation proves to be a lot more complex when examined closely. For ...
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Page Count: 204
Publication Year: 2011