SYRIAC EXEGESIS AND ANTI-ISLAMIC APOLOGETICS
Gerrit J. Reinink
In the early eighth century a high Arab functionary belonging to the notables in the entourage of the emir Maslama stayed for ten days in the monastery of Bet Hale in Iraq to recover from an illness. During his stay there the Arab notable came to be on familiar terms with a monk of the same monastery, and both men fell into a lively conversation on the Christian Scriptures and the Qurʾan. One of the topics which came up for discussion was the biblical narrative Gen 22: the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. The form and function of this story in the discussion between the Arab and the monk are the subject of the present paper; but first of all a few introductory remarks need to be made on the author, date, milieu and the genre of the work which preserves the account of this discussion.
The (still unpublished) work is preserved in two East Syrian manuscripts:2 Diyarbakir 95, of the early eighteenth century,3 and Mardin 82, written in 1890.4 Though these manuscripts are of a rather late date, we may be fairly sure that the work represents one of the earliest specimens of East Syrian apologetic discourse in response to Islam.5
1 H.J.W. Drijvers and the present writer are preparing the publication of this
work in the series CSCO in Leuven.
2 Cf. P. Jager, 'Intended Edition of a Disputation between a Monk of the
Monastery of Bet Ḥale and one of the Ṭayoye', in: H.J.W. Drijvers, R. Lavenant,
C. Molenberg & GJ. Reinink (eds), IV Symposium Syriacum 1984 (Orientalia Christiana
Analecta 229), Roma 1987, 401–402.
3 A. Scher, 'Notice sur les manuscrits syriaques et arabes conservés à l'archevêché
chaldéen de Diarbékir', Journal Asiatique 10/10 (1907) 395–398; A. Desreumaux,
Répertoire des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits syriaques, Paris 1991, 130. In the
following we quote the work as Disputation according to the folios of this manuscript
(Diyarbakir 95, item 35, fol. 1r–8v).
4 A. Scher, 'Notice dus les manuscrits syriaques et arabes conservés dans la bib-
liothèque de l'évêché chaldéen de Mardin', Revue des Bibliothèques 18 (1908) 87;
Desreumaux, Répertoire, 182. This manuscript is not accessible to us.
5 Cf. S.H. Griffith, 'Disputes with Muslims in Syriac Christian Texts: from