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The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, 700 - 1700

An Anthology of Sources

Samuel Noble, Alexander Treiger

Publication Year: 2014

Arabic was among the first languages in which the Gospel was preached. The Book of Acts mentions Arabs as being present at the first Pentecost in Jerusalem, where they heard the Christian message in their native tongue. Christian literature in Arabic is at least 1,300 years old, the oldest surviving texts dating from the 8th century. Pre-modern Arab Christian literature embraces such diverse genres as Arabic translations of the Bible and the Church Fathers, biblical commentaries, lives of the saints, theological and polemical treatises, devotional poetry, philosophy, medicine, and history. Yet in the Western historiography of Christianity, the Arab Christian Middle East is treated only peripherally, if at all.

The first of its kind, this anthology makes accessible in English representative selections from major Arab Christian works written between the 8th and 18th centuries. The translations are idiomatic while preserving the character of the original. The popular assumption is that in the wake of the Islamic conquests, Christianity abandoned the Middle East to flourish elsewhere, leaving its original heartland devoid of an indigenous Christian presence. Until now, several of these important texts have remained unpublished or unavailable in English. Translated by leading scholars, these texts represent the major genres of Orthodox literature in Arabic. Noble and Treiger provide an introduction that helps form a comprehensive history of Christians within the Muslim world. The collection marks an important contribution to the history of medieval Christianity and the history of the medieval Near East.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book offers you a testimony of the faith of the Orthodox Church in the Arab world in the historical period between 700 and 1700. It weaves together an anthology of many previously unpublished works, unknown in Arabic and even more so in English. This is a good initiative by Samuel Noble and Dr. Alexander Treiger...

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pp. ix-2

This anthology has been four years in the making. We wish to thank all those who made it a reality. We are deeply grateful, first of all, to His Eminence Metropolitan Ephrem Kyriakos of Tripoli, al-Koura, and Dependencies, who gave his blessing to the project and wrote a foreword to the volume...

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Samuel Noble and Alexander Treiger

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pp. 3-39

The Middle East is the birthplace and the ancient heartland of Christianity, where the first Christian communities were founded by the apostles. On the eve of the Islamic conquests in the seventh century CE, Christians formed a majority or a plurality in most areas of the Middle East. They...

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Chapter 1. An Apology for the Christian Faith

Mark N. Swanson

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pp. 40-59

The library of the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai preserves, as Sinai ar. 154, a parchment codex usually dated to around the year 800— making it the oldest (reasonably well preserved) Arabic-language Christian book known to us today. The larger part of the codex is occupied with an...

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Chapter 2. Theodore Abu Qurra

John C. Lamoreaux

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pp. 60-89

In the south of modern-day Turkey, not far from the Syrian border, near the ancient city of Edessa, lies the town of Harran. It was there, we read in Genesis, that Abraham stopped while on his way from Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Canaan. There, too, Isaac and Jacob are said to have taken their wives...

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Chapter 3. The Disputation of the Monk Abraham of Tiberias

Krisztina Szilágyi

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pp. 90-111

The author of the Disputation of the Monk Abraham of Tiberias opens his story, set in Jerusalem, with the emir ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Hashimi marveling at the Christians: How can they be so learned, yet favor their ludicrous doctrines over Islam? To receive answers, he summons a few illustrious...

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Chapter 4. Hagiography

John C. Lamoreaux

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pp. 112-135

The Arab Christian tradition is rich with saints and with works devoted to them. Such works come in many forms. They may be calendars marking their festivals, services or homilies in their honor, accounts of their lives and records of their wisdom, stories of the discovery of their relics or of...

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Chapter 5. Agapius of Manbij

John C. Lamoreaux

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pp. 136-159

The Arab Orthodox produced a number of important historians. Their works are counted among the most valuable remains of Arab Christian literature. They provide important glimpses into matters seldom discussed in the often more voluminous historical works compiled by their contemporaries...

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Chapter 6. Sulayman al-Ghazzi

Samuel Noble

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pp. 160-170

As the author of the first collection of Christian religious poetry in Arabic, the early eleventh-century Palestinian bishop Sulayman al-Ghazzi (or Solomon of Gaza) holds a unique place in the history of Arab Christian literature. Although there appear to be no outside sources for his biography...

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Chapter 7. ʿAbdallah ibn al-Fadl al-Antaki

Samuel Noble

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pp. 171-187

In the year 969 the Byzantine army made its triumphal entry into the city of Antioch. Although Antioch had once been the third most important city in the Eastern Mediterranean, from the time of its capture by the Muslims in 637 it had declined into a relatively sleepy border city and military garrison...

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Chapter 8. The Noetic Paradise

Alexander Treiger

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pp. 188-200

The Noetic Paradise (or The Paradise of the Mind, in Arabic al-Firdaws al- ʿaqli) is an anonymous treatise on the spiritual life, unique among the texts included in this volume in that it was originally written in Greek and not in Arabic.1 Since the Greek original of this treatise is lost, it is only through...

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Chapter 9. Agathon of Homs

Alexander Treiger

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pp. 201-215

Agathon, bishop of Homs (Emesa) in Syria, was born in Antioch and was named Iliyya (Elias). His nickname, “Ibn al-Ashall,” means “son of a man with a withered hand,” so we can assume that his father acquired this disability at some point in his life.1 We do not know exactly when Agathon...

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Chapter 10. Paul of Antioch

Sidney H. Griffith

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pp. 216-235

Paul, a monk of Antioch, whose Letter to a Muslim Friend was well known among both Christian and Muslim scholars of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, was the scholarly, early thirteenth-century Arab Orthodox bishop of Sidon in today’s Lebanon. While almost nothing is known of his life...

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Chapter 11. Patriarch Macarius Ibn al-Zaʿim

Nikolaj Serikoff

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pp. 236-251

Macarius Ibn al-Zaʿim, an outstanding representative of Christian Arabic literature in the seventeenth century, was born around 1600 and died on June 12, 1672.1 He was elected patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on November 12, 1647, and kept this office until his death. To collect alms...

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Chapter 12. Paul of Aleppo

Ioana Feodorov

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pp. 252-276

Born in 1627, the fourth generation of Christian clerics in the al-Zaʿim family, Paul of Aleppo (Bulus Ibn al-Zaʿim al-Halabi) was an outstanding Arab Christian ecclesiastical writer. He was brought up in the Arab Orthodox spirit by his father Yuhanna Ibn al-Zaʿim, future metropolitan of Aleppo...


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pp. 277-338

A Bibliographical Guide to Arab Orthodox Christianity

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pp. 339-350

About the Contributors

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pp. 351-352


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pp. 353-375

E-ISBN-13: 9781609091552
E-ISBN-10: 1609091558
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875807010
Print-ISBN-10: 0875807011

Page Count: 385
Publication Year: 2014