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 (Untitled) apology for the Christian faith

(214 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
A brief apology for Christianity Ibn al-Qusṭāl Date: Uncertain; possibly late 12th century Original Language: Arabic Description MS Paris Ar. 72 preserves a brief apologetic text attributed to Abū Yāsir; it occupies parts of just three folios in this unique copy. Samir’s description of the text (‘Bibliographie’, p. 229) shows a quick succession of topics: a religion is accepted by faith rather than by reason; the inadequacy of Muslim scholars’ claims to ‘know’ the Jewish and Christian sharīʿa; the refutation of qur’anic claims about Christ (in which key texts such as Q 4…

 Title unknown

(1,024 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Source of 'The History of the patriarchs of Alexandria, Lives 56-65' Michael of Damrū Date: Completed 20 May 1051 Original Language: Coptic Description The Coptic text of the Lives of the 56th-65th patriarchs by Michael of Damrū was among the sources found in the late 11th century by the Alexandrian deacon Mawhūb ibn Manṣūr ibn Mufarrij (q.v.) and his collaborators as part of their project of compiling an Arabic-language history of the Coptic Orthodox patriarchs (see den Heijer, Mawhūb); the copy of Bishop Michael’s text was found at the Monastery of St Macarius. No fragm…

 Al-jawhara l-nafīsa fī ʿulūm al-kanīsa

(1,439 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Al-jawhara l-nafīsaThe precious jewel, on the ecclesiastical sciences, The precious jewel Ibn Sabbāʿ Date: Possibly 1340 Original Language: Arabic Description Al-jawhara l-nafīsa is usually described as a theological-liturgical ‘encyclopedia’ because of the range of topics covered in its (originally) 113 chapters, which occupy 386 pages (along with the critical apparatus) in Mistrīḥ’s edition. The work opens with statements about the unity and trinity of God (chs 1-2), and goes on to re-narrate the biblical story (with apocryphal elements, e.g. from The cave of treasures) from…

Marqus ibn Zurʿa

(811 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Marqus (Mark III) ibn Zurʿa Date of Birth: Early 12th century Place of Birth: Unknown; possibly Miṣr (Old Cairo) Date of Death: 1 January 1189 Place of Death: Unknown; presumably Miṣr Biography Abū l-Faraj ibn Abū Asʿad, known as Ibn Zurʿa, was a member of the class of Coptic bureaucratic administrators (he was a kātib or ‘secretary’) and, according to the patriarchal history attributed to Yūsāb of Fuwwa, he served in the Fatimid administration as mustawfī dīwān al-khāṣṣ, chief accountant in the special bureau. We know almost nothing of his early life; while his family w…

The disputation of Jirjī the monk

(265 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Disciple of Jirjī l-rāhib Date of Birth: Unknown; possibly later 12th century Place of Birth: Unknown Date of Death: Unknown; after 1217 Place of Death: Possibly the Monastery of Mār Simʿān al-Baḥrī, near Antioch Biography A colophon to the debate text treated below states that the one who described the debate was tilmīdh al-rāhib Jirjī, a ‘disciple’ of the monk Jirjī, the hero of the debate. The author was therefore (if this statement is to be believed) a Melkite monk of the Monastery of Mār Simʿān al-Baḥrī, near Antioch, and a disciple of the mon…

Abū l-Faḍl ʿAlī ibn Rabban al-Naṣrānī

(163 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Biography According to the (now inaccessible) manuscript of his refutation of Islam, Abū l-Faḍl ʿAlī ibn Rabban al-Naṣrānī (‘the Christian’) served as secretary to the great East-Syrian (‘Nestorian’) Catholicos Timothy (q.v.), who was in office from 780 to 823. His name ‘Ibn Rabban’ (‘son of our master’) indicates that his father was a recognized teacher of the community. Landron ( Chrétiens et musulmans en Irak, p. 60) has considered the possibility of identifying him with the well-known convert to Islam and Muslim apologist ʿAlī ibn Rabban al-Ṭabarī (q.v.)…

Isḥāq ibn Ḥunayn

(801 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Abū Yaʿqūb Isḥāq ibn Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq al-ʿIbādī Date of Birth: About 830 Place of Birth: Possibly Baghdad Date of Death: 910-11 Place of Death: Baghdad Biography Isḥāq ibn Ḥunayn was the son of the great East Syrian (‘Nestorian’) Christian translator Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (q.v.). He was trained by his father as a physician and translator, and worked with him (and his cousin Ḥubaysh) on translations from Greek into Arabic, especially of medical and philosophical texts. Ibn al-Nadīm considered Isḥāq to be a greater master of Ara…

 Asfār al-asrār; Risālat al-burhān wa-l-irshād ilā l-maḥabba, thamarat al-dīn wa-l-iʿtiqād

(1,432 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
'The books of the secrets; Demonstration and guidance to love, fruit of religion and belief' Ṣalībā ibn Yūḥannā Date: 1332 Original Language: Arabic Description In response to a request from friends, the priest Ṣalībā ibn Yūḥannā wrote an epistle ( risāla), which he described as being ‘from the sincere, loving Easterners ( mashāriqa, members of the Church of the East) to their Western brethren’. In it Ṣalībā stresses their fundamental unity in the Christian faith; recounts how the faith of the Church of the East was tested by persecution under th…

 Maqāla/Risāla fī l-ittiḥād

(817 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Treatise on the Union [of divinity and humanity in Christ] Naẓīf ibn Yumn Date: After June 979 Original Language: Arabic Description Naẓīf ibn Yumn was invited to participate in a majlis in the presence of the Melkite patriarch and the emir ʿAḍud al-Dawla (r. 979-83), where he was asked to explain the Christological doctrines of the major Christian communities. Afterwards he wrote an account of his presentation, which al-Muʾtaman ibn al-ʿAssāl (who reproduced an extract from it) referred to simply as Maqāla fī l-ittiḥād, a ‘Treatise on the Union [of divinity and humanity in Ch…

 Sīrat al-qiddīs Anbā Furayj (Ruways)

(1,207 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
'The Life of the saint Anbā Furayj (Ruways)'; 'The Life and miracles of Anbā Ruways (Furayj, Tegi)' The Life and Miracles of Anbā Ruways Date: Soon after 18 October 1404 Original Language: Arabic Description The Life and Miracles of Anbā Ruways is a fairly extensive work (61 folios in Paris Ar. 282) which, like the Lives of Barṣawmā al-ʿUryān (q.v.) and Marqus al-Anṭūnī (q.v.), makes use of the literary form of a Life (= sīra) proper, followed by a collection of miracle stories from the saint’s life. Its full title, as given in the Paris manuscript, is: Sīrat abīnā al-ab al-qiddīs al-ṭūbānī…

 Untitled ḥawāshī (notes) to a copy of Tanqīḥ al-abḥāth li-l-milal al-thalāth by Saʿd ibn Manṣūr ibn Kammūna

(761 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
- Ibn al-Maḥrūma Date: Approximately 1333 Original Language: Arabic Description In the year 1280, the distinguished Jewish philosopher and scientist of Baghdad Saʿd ibn Manṣūr ibn Kammūna wrote a treatise on the three ‘Abrahamic’ faiths entitled Tanqīḥ al-abḥāth li-l-milal al-thalāth, ‘Examination of the inquiries into the three faiths’ (B. Roggema’s translation). The work consists of an introductory essay on prophetology, followed by examinations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in turn. About half a century later, the Christian scholar and scribe Ibn al-Maḥrū…

Yuḥannis, Yuʾannis, Yūḥannā ‘John the Deacon’ is a convenient appellation

(487 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
John the Deacon Date of Birth: Early 8th c. Place of Birth: Egypt, perhaps in Giza Date of Death: Late 8th c. (after 767) Place of Death: Egypt, precise location unknown Biography The author of the principal source for Lives 43-46 of The History of the patriarchs of Alexandria (covering the years 704-67) was a certain Yuḥannis (= John, in the Arabic text also written Yuʾannis or Yūḥannā), a Coptic Orthodox monk and deacon. He was the spiritual son of Bishop Moses (Muwīsīs) of Wasīm in Giza, and loyal servant and companion of Michael (Khāʾīl) I, the 46th patriarch (743-67). John had the trus…

Unknown series of redactors

(270 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
The Arabic Sibylline prophecy Date of Birth: 8th c. Place of Birth: Unknown Date of Death: 8th-9th c. Place of Death: Unknown Biography Nothing is known of the anonymous redactors of a sequence of 8th- and early 9th-century recensions of an ongoing Arabic Christian apocalyptic tradition, recently entitled The Arabic Sibylline prophecy (Ebied and Young, ‘Newly-discovered version’), other than what can be deduced from the texts themselves and the date and provenance of their manuscript witnesses. The oldest manuscript witnesses are found at the Mo…

Author unknown

(183 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
The Arabic letter of Leo III to ʿUmar II Date of Birth: Unknown, perhaps early 8th c. Place of Birth: Unknown Date of Death: Unknown, perhaps late 8th c. Place of Death: Unknown, perhaps Palestine or Sinai Biography Nothing is known of the actual author of an Arabic text purporting to be a letter of the Byzantine Emperor Leo III (r. 717-41) to the Umayyad Caliph ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (r. 717-20), other than what can be gathered from the contents of the text itself and the manuscript in which it is fragmentarily preserved (Sinai ar…

 Sīrat Anbā Abraʾām al-Fānī

(672 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
The Life of Abraʾām al-Fānī The Life of the hegumenos Abraʾām al-Fānī Date: Not long after 1396 Original Language: Arabic Description The Life of Abraʾām (Ibrāhīm) al-Fānī, which occupies 28 folios in the copy consulted here, tells the story of a pious monk who lived in troubled times. (Its full title is Sīrat al-ab al-mukarram wa-l-qiddīs al-ʿaẓīm al-kāmil bi-kulli maʿānī wa-l-faḍāʾil al-īghūmānus Anbā Abraʾām al-Fānī, hādhā lladhī akmala jihādahu l-ḥasan wa-ntaqala ilā l-rabb wa-tanayyaḥa fī l-yawm al-tāsiʿ min shahr Hātūr sanat 1113 li-l-shuhadāʾ al-aṭhār, ‘The Life of the …

Ibn al-Ṣuqāʿī

(534 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Al-Muwaffaq Faḍlallāḥ ibn Abī l-Fakhr ibn al-Ṣuqāʿī al-kātib al-Naṣrānī Date of Birth: Shortly after 1228 Place of Birth: Unknown Date of Death: 1325-26 Place of Death: al-Arza, outside Damascus Biography Al-Muwaffaq Faḍlallāḥ ibn Abī l-Fakhr ibn al-Ṣuqāʿī was a Christian who had a successful career as a financial administrator ( kātib) under the Mamluks. He served in the dīwān al-murtajaʿ  (bureau of reclamation) and in the dīwān al-mawārīth (bureau of inheritances); we know that he occupied the latter post in 1287. In an age when many Christian financial admi…

Kitāb al-īḍāḥ

(204 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Unknown author Date of Birth: Unknown; perhaps early 11th century Place of Birth: Unknown; presumably Egypt Date of Death: Unknown; perhaps late 11th century Place of Death: Unknown; presumably Egypt Biography Kitāb al-īḍāḥ, ‘The elucidation’, is usually attributed to the great 10th-century Coptic Orthodox theologian and apologist Sāwīrus ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (q.v.) in the manuscript tradition – at least that of Egyptian provenance.  If, as the present author believes, the attribution to Sāwīrus must be rejected for reasons of style and content, there is little…

 Mujādalat al-rāhib al-qiddīs Ibrāhīm al-Ṭabarānī maʿa l-amīr ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Ṣāliḥ al-Hāshimī

(1,652 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Mujādalat Ibrāhīm al-ṬabarānīThe Disputation of the saintly monk Ibrāhīm al-Ṭabarānī with the emir ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Ṣāliḥ al-Hāshimī, The Disputation of Ibrāhīm al-Ṭabarānī Unknown Date: After c. 820, probably later 9th c. Original Language: Arabic Description The text recounts a religious disputation ( mujādala) that took place in Jerusalem over the course of an unspecified number of days between the monk Ibrāhīm al-Ṭabarānī and a series of interlocutors at the court of the emir ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Ṣāli…

Abū l-Faraj Yaḥyā ibn Saʿīd ibn Yaḥyā

(763 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
Biography This entry introduces the author of three apologetic treatises, as reported in Sbath, Fihris, Supplement, p. 10: Abū l-Faraj Yaḥyā ibn Saʿīd ibn Yaḥyā al-ṭabīb al-Malakī al-Anṭākī, ‘the Melkite physician of Antioch’. This figure has been convincingly identified with the Yaḥyā ibn Saʿīd ibn Yaḥyā to whom Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa devotes an entry ( ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ, ed. Müller, i, p. 239): a fine physician of Antioch who the renowned Christian physician Ibn Buṭlān knew personally and about whom he wrote (in 1063) with the greatest respect for his piety and scholarship fī zamāninā, ‘in our…

Uncertain; Yūḥannā (John) ?

(490 words)

Author(s): N. Swanson, Mark
John the Writer Date of Birth: c. 820 Place of Birth: Egypt Date of Death: After 866 Place of Death: Egypt Biography The author of the principal source for Lives 47-55 of The History of the patriarchs of Alexandria (covering the years 767-880) was a Coptic Orthodox monk and a former disciple of the hermit Amūna, who around the year 840 had taught him to write and prophesied that he would be the author of the next section of The History of the patriarchs (Evetts, PO 10, pp. 531-32). A little later, he became spiritual son and scribe to Patriarch Yūsāb I (the 52nd patriarch, 831-49), whom he attend…
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