Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Late Middle Ages

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Late Middle Ages

Article excerpt

Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Late Middle Ages. Edited by Ian Christopher Levy, Rita George-Tvrtkovic, and Donald Duclow. (Leiden: Brill. 2014. Pp. xx, 256. euro115,00. ISBN 978-90-04-27475-4.)

Nicholas of Cusa was an important and influential fifteenth-century theologian, an erudite humanist, and a key member of the conciliar movement. He also wrote two works dealing with Islam: in De pace fidei, composed in the wake of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453), he imagines a debate among sages of different religions, a dialogue between the world's wise men who can agree to the essential unity of their creeds and accept a diversity of practice. His Cribratio Alchorani (Sifting the Qur'an, 1461) is a close reading of the Qur'an in an attempt to find in the Muslim holy text the confirmation of Christian truth while explaining away its rejection of such essential Christian doctrines as the Incarnation or Resurrection. Together, these two unusual works make Nicholas into a rare and thoughtful voice in fifteenth-century Latin writings about Islam.

This volume assesses the importance of Nicholas's engagement with Islam and places it in various contexts, through fifteen essays written by specialists in Christian and Islamic theology and philosophy. With the notable exception of Thomas Burman (author of the excellent preface), none of the authors is a specialist of Christian-Muslim relations, and several of the authors are unfamiliar with key works in the field: Tamara Albertini, for example, is unaware of important recent work on one of the two Muslim authors she examines, Ihn Hazm; several authors who refer to Robert Ketton's twelfth-century translation of the Quran are also unfamiliar with recent scholarship in the field. …

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