The Bible in Qurʾanic language

Manuscript Sinai Arabic 310 as a case study 1

Authored by: Vevian F. Zaki

The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Translation

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138958043
eBook ISBN: 9781315661346
Adobe ISBN:


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After the spread of Islam in the Middle East, Christians, Muslims and Jews shared the Arabic language in their daily life and, more importantly, used it as the language of their Scriptures. Christian communities translated the Bible from Greek, Syriac, Latin and Coptic into Arabic and some of these translations used the distinctive Arabic language of the Qurʾan. The sporadic practice of employing Qurʾanic terminology in Arabic Bible translations is striking, although barely studied. This chapter provides insights into this translation practice and seeks to understand the Arabic-speaking Christians’ attitude to and acceptance of these translations. Manuscript Sinai, Ar. 310 offers an example of a Christian Arabic translation using Qurʾanic language. This tenth-century manuscript, which contains the Pauline Epistles in Arabic, translated from the Syriac Vorlage, is exegetical in the sense that it adds some contextual extensions to the translation and rephrases parts of Syriac text. Although, the extensive use of Qurʾanic terminology in this manuscript might indicate an implied Muslim reader, this chapter proposes that this translation was prepared for a Christian reader, and that it was composed in Qurʾanic language for apologetic reasons. This chapter surveys the Qurʾanic language utilized in the text of Ms. Sinai, Ar. 310 through the analysis of Qurʾanic quotations, allusions and, to a lesser extent, Qurʾanic rhyme and tone. Then, the chapter discusses the reasons behind a possible Christian reader, despite the use of Qurʾanic language. This is done through the discussion of two key issues in the translation: the rendering of doctrines related to Christology and the contextual translation of other doctrines. The text of Manuscript Sinai, Ar. 310 provides the Christian reader with a Bible in language familiar to Muslims, a Bible that makes no compromise in the Christian doctrines yet emphasizes that Christians can speak the same language of Muslims.

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