The Library of the Christian East

BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI), which I founded and for which I serve as editor-in-chief, contains four subseries:  The Islamic Translation Series, the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides, Eastern Christian Texts, and the Library of the Christian East.  The first three are all dual-language series, while the last is English-only.  (Sometimes, the original texts of works that we wish to translate have already been edited and published — and, being under copyright, would be relatively expensive to reprint — while a translation is still badly needed.)  These books are distributed by the University of Chicago Press, but are also available from the BYU Bookstore.

The current director of METI is my indispensable colleague Dr. D. Morgan Davis; in the two Christian series, METI relies for special help upon our colleague Dr. Kristian Heal. 

The first and, thus far, the only volume in our monolingual Library of the Christian East is a collection of essays by Theodore Abu Qurrah, translated and annotated by Dr. John Lamoreaux, of Southern Methodist University.

Abu Qurrah (d. ca. 820 CE) was the Chalcedonian bishop of Haran and one of the first Arab Christian theologians — indeed, one of the first significant Christian writers in the Arabic language. In numerous Arabic and Greek works, he defended his faith from the challenges of Islam and the opponents of the doctrinal formulae of the Council of Chalcedon, and in so doing re-articulated traditional Christian teaching using the language and concepts of Muslim theologians. His writings provide an important witness to Christian thought in the early Islamic world.

This volume offers for the first time an English translation of nearly the complete corpus of Theodore Abu Qurrah’s works, with extensive notes on the Arabic and Greek texts. The translations are accompanied by a comprehensive introduction to his life and work. 

Theodore Abu Qurrah is an accessible and valuable contribution to the history of Christian theology and of early Islamic and Byzantine thought.

I have to admit, though, that publishing this book made me a bit nervous.  I haven’t wanted METI to seem to stake out any particular theological position, let alone — since its primary focus has always been, and continues to be, on Islamic texts — an anti-Islamic one.  But several of Theodore Abu Qurrah’s essays are polemics against Islam.

Thus, I was greatly relieved when we were subsequently able to publish Qadi ‘Abd al-Jabbar’s Critique of Christian Origins, because it restored METI’s balance and neutrality. 

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