“Critique of Christian Origins”

Among the more recent volumes produced by Brigham Young University’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI), of which I’m the founder and editor in chief, is  Qadi ‘Abd al-Jabbar’s Critique of Christian Origins, in a parallel English-Arabic text edited, translated, and annotated by Gabriel Said Reynolds (University of Notre Dame) and Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. (University of St. Joseph, Beirut).

In his Critique of Christian Origins, ‘Abd al-Jabbar develops what might be considered the first Islamic history of Christianity, analyzing the Bible, church rituals, and Christian miracle accounts in the process. Unlike Muslim scholars before him, ‘Abd al-Jabbar criticizes Christianity not only theologically, but also on historical grounds.

He argues that the schemes of secular and religious leaders led to the suppression of the originally Islamic religion of Jesus and to the creation of Christianity in its place. The Critique of Christian Origins contains a wealth of information on the ideological contours of ‘Abd al-Jabbar’s time, including perspectives on Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and several sects within Islam itself, in addition to Christianity.

‘Abd al-Jabbar — commonly referred to in Islamic sources as Qadi al-Qudat, due to his position as chief justice in Rayy, Iran (near today’s Tehran) — was the leading Muslim intellectual of the late 4th/10th century. As a judge in the unstable and highly sectarian environment of Buyid Rayy, ‘Abd al-Jabbar gained a large following of disciples but also became deeply involved in its political intrigues.

When his mentor, the Vizier Ibn ‘Abbad, died, the Buyid Emir Fakhr al-Dawla removed ‘Abd al-Jabbar from his post as judge and imprisoned him, extorting an exorbitant ransom. ‘Abd al-Jabbar never regained his political position, but he continued to write and to receive disciples until his death at an advanced age in 415/1025. Well-known for his rationalist theological works, ‘Abd al-Jabbar has yet to be fully recognized for his extraordinary and influential writings on Christianity.

This edition, which includes a fully vocalized Arabic edition of the text and a complete English translation, accompanied by detailed explanatory notes, a glossary, a bibliography, and three indexes, makes this important work readily accessible to students and specialists alike.

It can be purchased through the Brigham Young University bookstore or through the University of Chicago Press, which distributes all METI books.

 


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