Angelika Neuwirth succinctly explains, “The Qur’ān is communicated to listeners whose education already comprises biblical and post-biblical lore, whose nascent scripture therefore should provide answers to the questions raised in biblical exegesis—a scripture providing commentary on a vast amount of earlier theological legacies.” Angelika Neuwirth, “Two Faces of the Qur’ān: Qur’ān and Musḥaf,” Oral Tradition
25, no. 1 (2010): 16.
2 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 3461.
3 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 4485.
For a good overview of the various attitudes towards isrāʾīliyyāt
in Qur’anic commentaries and early narrations, see Ismail Albayrak, “Qur’anic Narrative and Israiliyyat in Western Scholarship and in Classical Exegesis” (PhD diss., University of Leeds, 2000), 114–131. A useful list of the most authentic narrations on the topic that reflect this ambivalenc is found in Wan Mohd Fazrul Azdi Wan Razali, Ahmad Yunus Mohd Noor, and Jaffary Awang, “The Fourth Source: Isrā’īliyyāt and the Use of the Bible in Muslim Scholarship,” in Reading the Bible in Islamic Context
, ed. Daniel J. Crowther, Shirin Shafaie, Ida Glaser, and Shabbir Akhtar (London: Routledge, 2017), 110.
A complete survey is provided in John Reeves and Annette Yoshiko Reed, Enoch from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, Volume I: Sources From Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 219–53.
Abraham Geiger, Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judentume aufgenommen?
(Bonn: F. Baaden, 1833); the English translation is Judaism and Islam: A Prize Essay
, trans. F. M. Young (Vepery: M.D.C.S.P.C.K. Press, 1896).
Holger Zellentin, “Trialogical Anthropology: The Qur’an on Adam and Iblīs in View of Rabbinic and Christian Discourse,” 100 passim, in New Approaches to Human Dignity in the Context of Qur’anic Anthropology: The Quest for Humanity
, ed. Rüdiger Braun and Hüseyin I. Çeçek (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017), 61–131.
Sidney Griffith, “Christian Lore and the Arabic Qur’an: The ‘Companions of the Cave’ in Surat al-Kahf and in Syriac Christian Tradition,” in The Qur’an in Its Historical Context
(Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), 116.
Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx, The Qur’an in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qur’anic Milieu
(Leiden: Brill, 2009), 13.
ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Thaʿālibī, Jawāhir al-ḥisān fī tafsīr al-Qur’an
(Beirut: al-Maktabah al-‘Aṣrīyah, 1997), 5:48.
Sergey Minov, “Date and Provenance of the Syriac Cave of Treasures
: A Reappraisal,” ed. George Anton Kiraz, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies
20 (December 3, 2018): 129
For references and translations of all relevant passages, see Zellentin, “Trialogical Anthropology,” 78–81.
Hermann L. Strack and Günter Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash
, trans. Markus Bockmuehl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 279–80. While Genesis Rabbah
predates the Cave of Treasures
, there is still good reason to believe it is responding to the sources that lie behind the Adam-Jesus typology in the bowing of the angels narrative. See Zellentin, “Trialogical Anthropology,” 84.
Zellentin, “Trialogical Anthropology,” 103.
See Zellentin, “Trialogical Anthropology,” 95–129.
Biblical pseudepigrapha refers to ancient Jewish writings that fall outside the traditional Jewish biblical canon.
The “Second Temple” period traditionally refers to the time between the reconstruction of the Jewish temple in the 515 BCE and its eventual destruction in 70 CE. This period of time is often associated with the development of the biblical canon and the birth of Christianity.
Late Antiquity typically refers to the time period 200–800 CE and is commonly known as the era during which Judaism and Christianity took on their recognizable forms and the era within which Islam was established as a world religion.
In other words, Protestant notions of “sola scriptura
” should not be applied to Second Temple or Late Antique Judaisms and Christianities. See Annette Yoshiko Reed, “Pseudepigraphy, Authorship, and the Reception of ‘the Bible’ in Late Antiquity
,” in The Reception and Interpretation of the Bible in Late Antiquity: Proceedings of the Montréal Colloquium in Honour of Charles Kannengiesser
, ed. Lorenzo DiTommaso and Lucian Turcescu (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 467–90.
For a discussion on the place of the oral Torah in rabbinic Judaism, see Martin Sicker, An Introduction to Judaic Thought and Rabbinic Literature
(Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007).
Readers may consult John Walton’s study on the topic for a careful overview. See John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
For example, the author of the epistle of Jude directly quotes a prophecy found in the noncanonical book of Enoch (Jude 1:14). Cory Anderson convincingly argues that it is very likely that the author(s) of Jude and their audience believed that the noncanonical Book of Enoch was authoritative. See Cory D. Anderson, “Jude’s Use of the Pseudepigraphal Book of 1 Enoch,” in A Journal of Mormon Thought
36, no. 2 (2003): 19.
For a useful discussion on the nature of historical evidence, see Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen, ed., Philosophy of History: Twenty-First-Century Perspectives
(London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), 44–65.
That is not to say that the proposed dating of ancient texts cannot be challenged vis-à-vis the historical method itself. As shall be shown later, some of the proposed intertexts for the Qur’an are in fact likely to be post-Qur’anic in origin and, therefore, derived from the Qur’an itself.
This point was also made by some classical Muslim scholars. For example, Fakhr al-Dīn Al-Rāzī (d. 1209) writes, “It would not be possible to say that the Prophet forged [the Revelation], for he [was not known to] read scripture, nor did anyone teach him, nor did he mix with men of learning.” See Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafatīḥ al-ghayb
(Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1981), 12:111.
26 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 3442.
27 Saḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 3445.
See Menahem Kister et al., “Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity,” in Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah
113 (Brill, 2015), vii.
Andrei Orlov and Gabriele Boccaccini, eds., “‘Better Watch Your Back, Adam’: Another Adam and Eve Tradition in Second Temple Judaism,” in New Perspectives on 2 Enoch
, ed. Jason Zurawski (Brill, 2012), 273–82, https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004230149_016
Sergey Minov, “Satan’s Refusal to Worship Adam: A Jewish Motif and Its Reception in Syriac Christian Tradition,” in Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity
, ed. Menahem Kister et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 233, https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004299139_011
Andrei A. Orlov, “The Sacerdotal Traditions of 2 Enoch and the Date of the Text,” in New Perspectives on 2 Enoch
(Leiden: Brill, 2012), 103–16.
For this and further arguments for a pre-Christian origin of the veneration of Adam story, see Crispin Fletcher Louis, Jesus Monotheism, Volume 1, Christological Origins: The Emerging Consensus and Beyond
(Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015), 263.
Crispin Fletcher-Louis, “A Divine and Angelic Humanity in the DSS,” in All the Glory of Adam
(Leiden: Brill, 2002), 88–135.
Eileen M. Schuller, “4Q380 and 4Q381: Non-Canonical Psalms from Qumran,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls
(Leiden: Brill, 1992).
See Minov, “Satan’s Refusal to Worship Adam,” 247–48.
This section is adapted from a paper delivered by Sharif Randhawa at the 2019 International Qur’anic Studies Association Annual Meeting: “‘Immortality and Kingdom That Never Fades’?: Adam, Satan, and the Forbidden Tree in the Qur’an.”
The notion of taḥrīf
is ultimately found in its simplest form in Qur’an 2:79, 5:13–14, and other related verses. In addition, the Qur’an’s conscious departure from biblical stories is in itself evidence for the corruption of previous scripture for some Western scholars. See for example Geneviève Gobillot, “Qur’an and Torah: The Foundations of Intertextuality,” in A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations
(Prineton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 611–27.
Geiger, Judaism and Islam
The Qur’an does not describe the tree as either a “tree of knowledge of good and evil” or as a “tree of life,” but simply as “this/that tree” (hādhihi/tilka ʾsh-shajarah
) (2:35; 7:19, 20).
In the Genesis account, God places additional measures around the tree of life after Adam eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This is purely to prevent Adam from becoming immortal, just like he had gained knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:22–24), giving the impression that God in the Bible did not intend Adam to gain moral knowledge in the first place.
An important supplement to Geiger’s argument was put forward by Joseph Witztum, who proposes that the Qur’an’s “garbling” of the Genesis account came about because, in his opinion, the Qur’an’s alleged author had heard about the story of the fall of Adam from the Syriac Cave of Treasures
, rather than from the book of Genesis. In this Syriac text, the identity of the tree that Eve took from is somewhat ambiguous. First, we read that God planted the tree of life (ʾīlāna d-ḥaye
) in the middle of the Garden (Cave of Treasures
4:2), which is an allegory for Jesus’ cross. Later we see that Eve hears about “the tree” (ʾīlāna
) from Satan and eats from it (Cave of Treasures
4:14) and hence disobeys God. Since we are told nothing about the nature of this tree, Witztum concludes that “a reader without familiarity with Genesis could well assume that the forbidden tree is the Tree of Life.” Aside from overlooking why the Qur’an would depart from the biblical story in such a manner, there are other issues with Witztum’s posited garbling scenario. His identification of Qur’an’s forbidden tree with the tree of life in the Cave of Treasures
is ironically dependent on certain biblical details, such as the notion that the tree of life does in fact confer immortality or angelhood, rather than simply being an allegory for Jesus’ cross. If, for argument’s sake, the alleged human author of the Qur’an relied on the Cave of Treasures
to produce the Qur’anic account, we would also have to assume that he had other sources informing him of these specific biblical details concerning the forbidden tree, yet these same sources did not inform him exactly which tree was forbidden. One is left with an almost comical situation where the Qur’an’s author chances upon very specific, disconnected details about the story of Adam from canonical and apocryphal sources and somehow pieces them together to formulate a coherent narrative, which, by pure coincidence, functions as a specific corrective to the corresponding biblical account. For Witztum’s argument, refer to Joseph Witztum, The Syriac Milieu of the Qur’an: The Recasting of Biblical Narratives
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2011), 81–82. The present references to the Cave of Treasures
, including verse numbers, are based on the eastern recension of the text published by Su-Min Ri. See Su-Min Ri, La Caverne Des Trésors: Les Deux Recensions Syriaques, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium
(Leuven: Peeters, 1987).
Witztum, “Syriac Milieu of the Qur’an,” 188–239.
Pseudo-Narsai belongs to the genre of ancient biblical commentary that exemplifies the phenomenon of narrative expansion, a “characteristic feature” of many premodern Jewish and Christian texts that predominantly discuss biblical stories and themes. This technique involves introducing details to biblical stories that are not explicitly found within the canonical texts themselves but, in the minds of later Jewish or Christian authors, may have been implied by the specific wording of biblical stories or are otherwise a natural addition to them. On the technique of biblical narrative expansion, see James L. Kugel, In Potiphar’s House: The Interpretive Life of Biblical Texts
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 4. Kugel introduces the scope of this phenomenon and provides many examples specific to rabbinic exegesis. Kugel’s observations are further developed specifically in relation to Syriac Christian literature by Kristian Heal. See Kristian Heal, “Reworking the Biblical Text in the Dramatic Dialogue Poems on the Old Testament Patriarch Joseph,” in The Peshitta: Its Use in Literature and Liturgy
(Brill, 2007), 87–98.
Excerpt translated from the Syriac edition in Paul Bedjan, “Homiliae Mar-Narsetis in Joseph,” in Liber Superiorum Seu Historia Monastica
(Paris: Harrassowitz, 1901), 527.
For example, in the Bible, God reassures Moses when he expresses self-doubt (Exodus 3:11–12) and similarly responds to King Hezekiah’s call of distress in the face of an Assyrian invasion (2 Kings 19). In the Qur’an, God’s responsiveness to and consolation of His servants is a central feature of His relationship with humanity. For instance, He comforts Mary through the words of Jesus in her womb (Qur’an 19:23–26) and also Moses’ mother in her fear for Moses’ life (Qur’an 28:7–13). For an excellent comparative study of how God reassures and responds to believers in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Jewish or Christian tradition, see Usman Sheikh, God’s Responsiveness in the Qur’ān: An Intra and Intertextual Analysis
(Oxford: Oxford University, 2021).
This form of explanation is also applicable to the few other points of agreement between Pseudo-Narsai and the Qur’an in their respective versions of the Joseph story. For example, in the Bible, Jacob reacts to his son Joseph’s dream with apparent incredulity (Genesis 37:10), but both Pseudo-Narsai and the Qur’an (12:6) portray Jacob as reacting positively to Joseph’s dream. See Bedjan, “Homiliae Mar-Narsetis in Joseph,” 522–523. Such a departure from the biblical narrative is not unusual, given that Jacob himself is a prophet and would have understood that his son’s dream had some significance. However, as with the case of God’s revelation to Joseph in the well, the Qur’an differs from Pseudo-Narsai when it comes to the specifics of this episode, implying that Jacob did not know the precise meaning of his son’s dream until after it was fulfilled (Qur’an 12:100). This is in contrast to both Genesis and Pseudo-Narsai, where Jacob immediately interprets the dream, understanding it to mean that he and his sons would eventually bow to Joseph in the future (see Genesis 37:10 and Bedjan, “Homiliae Mar-Narsetis in Joseph,” 523, respectively). Overall, it should be stressed that the Qur’an and the Homilies of Joseph
often disagree on details, and commonalities between them are usually because the core story of Joseph’s life is ultimately also found in the Bible, which may partly comprise previous revelation from a Muslim perspective.
By the 7th century, Jews had long developed a vast tradition of rabbinic law deriving from the written Torah (i.e., the Pentateuch) as represented in the Talmud. Moreover, unlike Protestant Christians today, many Christian groups of Late Antiquity adhered to some form of legal or ritual practice as evidenced by certain documents that survive from that era. These include the Didascalia Apostolorum
and the Clementine Homilies
, whose laws sometimes bear similarities with the Qur’an’s own injunctions. See Holger Michael Zellentin, The Qur’ān’s Legal Culture: The Didascalia Apostolorum as a Point of Departure
(Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013).
Some manuscripts omit “from Israel,” and therefore do not restrict the maxim to the Israelites only, in agreement with the Qur’an. This omission seems truer to the evidence presented in the Mishnah, as Abel’s offspring are not limited to the Israelites.
Translation taken from H. Danby, “The Mishnah: Translated From The Hebrew With Introduction And Brief Explanatory Notes, 1933,” Sanhedrin
4, no. 5 (n.d.): 388.
50 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 7352.
51 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 4483. ʿUmar’s statement that God “agreed” with him is particularly interesting here.
52 Sunan al-Nasāʾī
, no. 3773. Al-Albānī and al-Wādiʿī both graded this hadith as authentic (saḥīh
); however, Ibn Kathīr expressed that scholars disagreed over its isnād
53 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 3397. This hadith is well attested and has many versions.
One may still argue that 5:32 is intended to be an explicit decree from the Torah, as opposed to alluding to a derived ruling, due to the similar usage of katabnā
in 5:45, which contains a near-verbatim allusion to the Lex Talionis (the law of retribution) in Deut 19:21. However, although the law of retribution is explicitly stated to be ‘in’ (fīhā)
the Torah, no such explicit statement is made in 5:32, nor does the preceding context seem to require it (unlike 5:45). Nonetheless, even if the analogy between 5:32 and 5:45 were valid, it is still possible that “decree” in both instances is meant to reflect correct interpretation of scripture rather than the mere literal meaning. If one considers the allusion to Deuteronomy in verse 5:45, it is apparent that the Qur’an’s prescription intentionally reaches beyond the mere meaning of the text – for example, while this ayah
prescribes forgiveness as the better option, Deut 19:21 forbids any leniency, at least at face value (w-lō tākhōs
). Despite this, Rabbinic law encourages forgiveness even in some criminal cases due to scriptural reasons. Both 5:32 and 5:45 could thus be said to reflect rulings derived by
scripture rather than verbatim references. See Solomon Schimmel, “Interpersonal Forgiveness and Repentance in Judaism,” in Forgiveness in Context: Theology and Psychology in Creative Dialogue (London & New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 16–18.
See Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qur’an al- Aʿzīm
(Riyadh: Dār Ṭayba, 1999), v. 5:32.
Alternatively, a second approach might be to accept the grammatical argument made in the Talmud as valid, in light of the Qur’anic statement that God has conferred on every community its own law and methodology (5:48). The Talmudic argument might therefore be considered a sound deduction within the framework of interpretive norms inherited by the Jews of Late Antiquity, even if it may seem arbitrary to those outside this tradition. For the rabbinic mode of scriptural exegesis, in which peculiar features of the biblical text are exploited to reveal a deeper message far surpassing its plain meaning, see Irving Jacobs, The Midrashic Process: Tradition and Interpretation in Rabbinic Judaism
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 1–21.
Finally, a third option would be to allow that the Talmudic passage preserves a genuine vestige of a pre-Qur’anic revelation, and that the grammatical argument from Genesis 4:10 is merely a post hoc effort to anchor the message of the revelation in the biblical text. In this case, we have an example of the Qur’an's agreement with texts containing pre-Qur’anic revelation as discussed in Category 1, rather than an example of the Qur’an’s validation of legal verdicts brought about by an interpretive process. Interestingly, since rabbinic Jews of Late Antiquity viewed the Talmud as the outcome of the oral Torah that God revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai in addition to the written Torah, they too would have viewed the Talmudic dictum as part of God’s revelation to Israel. For an excellent overview of Rabbinic models of Talmud as revelation, see Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, “The Orality of Rabbinic Writing,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 38–57.
See Aleksandra Szalc, “In Search of Water of Life: The Alexander Romance and Indian Mythology,” in The Alexander Romance in Persia and the East
, ed. Richard Stoneman, Kyle Erickson, and Ian Netton (Groningen: Barkhuis, 2012), 327.
The main evidence for this date is an Armenian translation belonging to the early sixth century that seems to show awareness of the β recension. Benjamin Garstad, “Dionysiac and Christian Elements in the Lysos Episode in the Greek Alexander Romance (β Rec.),” Dumbarton Oaks Papers
, 2022, 72. For further discussion on the dating of the Armenian translation, see Albert Mugrdich Wolohojian, The Romance of Alexander the Great: By Pseudo-Callisthenes
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 10.
For an overview of the various recensions of the Romance, see Krzysztof Nawotka, The Alexander Romance by Ps.-Callisthenes: A Historical Commentary
(Leiden: Brill, 2017), 30–33.
Translations from Greek to English for this episode are taken from Brad L. Cook, “A Watery Folktale in the Alexander Romance: Alexander’s Byzantine Neraΐda,” Syllecta Classica
1, no. 20 (2009).
Brannon M. Wheeler, “Moses or Alexander? Early Islamic Exegesis of Qur’an 18:60–65,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies
57, no. 3 (July 1998): 191–215, https://doi.org/10.1086/468638
. In a narration of a well-attested hadith that expands on Qur’an 18:60–65, the narrator Sufyān b. ʿUyayna mentions the claim that in the vicinity of the rock was a “spring of life” whose water would revive anything dead that it touched. However, this is merely an addition that Sufyān attributes to an undisclosed narrator (fī ḥadīthin ghayri ʿAmr
) (Sahīḥ al-Bukhārī
, no. 4727) or to anonymous “people” (yazʿumu nāsun
, no. 3149); it is not attributed to the Prophet ﷺ himself.
The earliest identified manuscript containing the β tradition is Parisinus Supplementus 690, dated to the eleventh century on the basis of paleographic evidence. This manuscript only contains a small portion of the Alexander Romance that does not include the episode of Alexander and the water of life. The earliest manuscripts that do attest to this story date between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The most authoritative of these is Parisinus Graecus 1685, dated to the fifteenth century. For a brief overview of the dating of the primary manuscripts of the β tradition, see Alexander Mikhaylov, “Entgrenzung und Begrenzung Alexanders des Großen: äußere Grenzen im griechischen Alexanderroman, dem Schāhnāmeh und in der altrussischen Aleksandrija
” (Kiel: Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, 2015), 11 and Cook, “A Watery Folktale,” 109. Outside the Alexander Romance, the other relevant texts that contain variants of the episode, namely Tamid 32b and the Syriac Song of Alexander
, similarly lack manuscripts that date prior to the Qur’an.
Some examples of Qur’anic influences on proposed intertexts are explored in further detail in the following sections (see Categories 6 and 7).
There is some speculation in tafsīr
as to where exactly this meeting of the two seas, majmaʿ al-baḥrayn
, is located. Al-Zamakhsharī (d. 1143) lists most of the common opinions, citing the location of the junction being somewhere between the ‘seas of Persia and Rome’, or in Africa or Tangier, while Ibn ʿĀshūr (d. 1973) reasonably suggests the Jordan River. See al-Zamakhsharī, Al-Kashshāf ʻan Ḥaqāʼiq Ghawāmiḍ al-Tanzīl (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī, n.d.), v. 18:60-65
and Ibn ʿĀshūr, Tafsīr Al-Taḥrīr Wa-al-Tanwīr (Tunis: al-Dār al-Tūnusiyah li-l-nashr, 1984), v. 18:60-65.
The specific location of this junction is ultimately irrelevant, and the only important point here is that all hints in the Qur’an indicate that this junction clearly refers to a mundane geographical location, as opposed to a mythical spring of life. This is what prompted many mufassirūn
to suggest familiar locations. It should be noted that although some mufassirūn,
such as Ibn Kathīr (d. 1373), do suggest the meeting of the two seas to be the place of the ‘spring of life’ (ʿayn al-ḥayāh
), they do not equate the junction with the spring of life itself, and are furthermore informed by isrāʾīliyyāt
that ultimately rely on Syriac sources. See Brannon M. Wheeler, “Moses or Alexander? Early Islamic Exegesis of Qurʾān 18:60-65,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 57, no. 3 (July 1998): 191–215, https://doi.org/10.1086/468638.
In any case, there is no credible evidence that supports the presence of this spring in the Qur’anic story. See also footnote 67 below.
Tomasso Tesei, “Some Cosmological Notions from Late Antiquity in Q 18:60–65: The Qur’an in Light of Its Cultural Context,” Journal of the American Oriental Society
135, no. 1 (2015): 23, https://doi.org/10.7817/jameroriesoci.135.1.19
See Mohammad Ali Tabataba’i and Saida Mirsadri, “The Qur’anic Cosmology, as an Identity in Itself,” Arabica
, 2016, 213.
None of the characters in the Qur’anic story are said to obtain eternal life. The Qur’an itself asserts that God has not given any human being lasting or eternal life (21:34). While the Islamic tradition contains legends of the sage al-Khidr’s immortality, their authenticity has been criticized by some Muslim scholars. See al-Manār al-munīf fī al-ṣaḥīḥ wa-al-ḍaʿīf
, ed. Abd al-Fatāh Abū Ghuddah (N.d.: Maktab al-Matbūʿāt al-Islāmiyyah, 1970), 67.
See Brannon M. Wheeler, Moses in the Qur’an and Islamic Exegesis
(New York: Routledge, 2002), 13. It is true that Moses’s assistant characterizes the escape of the fish as “strange” or “marvelous” (ʿajaban
), just as the Qur’an suggests that its audience found the story of the Seven Sleepers to be “a marvel (ʿajaban
) among God’s signs” (18:9). However, although the Sleepers awaken from a miraculously long slumber, they serve only as a sign of resurrection, not as an example of literal resurrection itself. In a similar way, the escape of the fish could be an allusion to renewal of life in the face of a seemingly inevitable death without necessarily being an example of a miraculous resurrection. Moreover, the confession of Moses’ assistant that at the location of the rock he forgot the fish and witnessed it take a marvelous path into the sea suggests not that the fish came to life, but that in a moment of inattention, the fish escaped from his supervision. This seems to be the most straightforward reading of the Qur’an.
As we hope to demonstrate in future articles, this is representative of a more general pattern when it comes to the Qur’an’s intertextual engagements with the cosmology and narratives found in Late Antique texts. Qur’an 18:63. See Mustansir Mir’s interpretation of this Qur’anic passage in his article “Humor in the Qur’an,” The Muslim World
81, no. 3– 4 (October 1991): 179–93.
Some may still argue that the overlap of certain motifs, such as the presence of a fish as a sign for the protagonist, is too striking to be coincidental. There are several ways to respond to this. First, it is entirely possible that an ancient historical or revealed tradition on Moses’ life influenced the Alexander Romance. Interestingly, a variation of the Alexander story is also present in the mishnah tractate Tamid
, which some scholars have dated to as early as the first century. See Ori Amitay, “Alexander in Bavli Tamid: In Search for a Meaning,” The Alexander Romance in Persia and East
(Groningen: Barkhuis Publishing, 2012), 349–65. For comments on dating, see Peter L. Trudinger, “The Tamid Service,” in The Psalms of the Tamid Service
(Leiden: Brill, 2004), 12–51. Second, it is possible that pre-Rabbinic Jews had a memory of the original account involving Moses, which then evolved into a story about Alexander and subsequently spread to the Christian world. This example could therefore at least partially be reduced to a case of the Qur’an’s agreement and correction of texts containing pre-Qur’anic revelation (see Category 1). Nonetheless, after considering how the Qur’an differs from the Romance account, we maintain that the few exact parallels between the two stories are not too striking to warrant further explanation. Stories that have developed independently across cultures sometimes feature similar motifs, even though the communities that they belong to are isolated by time and geographical boundaries. Third, it is entirely possible that God prescribed the mundane event of a fish’s escape from being eaten as a sign for Moses, and that some centuries later, a fictitious story featuring a fish coming to life as an identifier for a miraculous life-giving spring independently developed. After all, scholars have noted that fish have often been associated with renewal of life or rebirth across many cultures. See Patricia A. Morley, “Fish Symbolism in Chapter Seven of Finnegans Wake: The Hidden Defence of Shem the Penman,” James Joyce Quarterly
6, no. 3 (1969): 268–69. For a general resource on cross-cultural repetition of motifs in storytelling, see also L. L. Stookey, Thematic Guide to World Mythology
(Connecticut.: Greenwood Press, 2004).
This is how the episode is adapted in the Syriac Song of Alexander
, ascribed to the Syriac poet-theologian Jacob of Serugh (d. 521 CE) but now dated to the early seventh century by an anonymous author (see Kevin Van Bladel, “The Alexander Legend in the Qur’an 18: 83–102,” in The Qur’an in Its Historical Context
(Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), 188. Though the work was most likely composed soon after the revelation of the Qur’anic story, it probably reflects earlier adaptations of the Alexander Romance among Syriac Christians.
Given that Qur’anic revelation preceded the authorship of many of its alleged sources (see footnote 73 below), Ismail Albayrak writes that “there is a need for general common sense and objectivity amongst academics in order for the foundations of mutual interaction in verbal and textual literature to be established... many Jewish and Christian groups continued their lives under Muslim rule, and it is an undeniable fact that most of these groups had to change both their way of speaking and their religious language due to the influence of Islam.” Ismail Albayrak, “Reading the Bible in the Light of Muslim Sources: From Isrāʾīliyyāt to Islāmiyyāt,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations
23, no. 2 (April 2012): 113–127, https://doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2012.655062
Shari Lowin aptly notes that some scholars wrongly view even post-Islamic texts as potentially having influenced the Qur’an, simply assuming that the text contains pre-Islamic traditions. As Lowin and a number of other scholars have shown, in many cases, it was in fact Islamic tradition that influenced Jewish or Christian scholarship in the post-Qur’anic era. As one example, Joseph Witztum has argued that the incident of the raven teaching Cain how to bury his brother is an originally Qur’anic tradition that later influenced midrashic and Christian texts. See Witztum, “Syriac Milieu of the Qur’an,” 115–122. For further examples of the symbiotic relationship between Islamic tradition and post-Qur’anic Judaism, see Shari L. Lowin, The Making of a Forefather: Abraham in Islamic and Jewish Exegetical Narratives
(Leiden: Brill, 2006).
The Aramaic word targum
) literally means “translation” or “interpretation”; however, the specific sense of the term refers to an ancient body of Aramaic commentaries written by Jewish authors that heavily expanded or explained the Hebrew Bible. See John Bowker, The Targums and Rabbinic Literature: An Introduction to Jewish Interpretations of Scripture
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1969). Targum Sheni is thus related to the biblical book of Esther in a manner consistent with its genre of literature and has been dated to anywhere between the fourth and eleventh centuries CE. For a summary of the various (admittedly somewhat obsolete) opinions on the dating of Targum Sheni, readers should consult Bernard Grossfeld, The Two Targums of Esther: Translated, with Apparatus and Notes
, vol. 18, The Aramaic Bible
(Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991). In consideration of the more recent evidence that shall be presented in this paper, we will tentatively suggest that this text was either entirely authored in the post-Qur’anic era, or still fluid during this time.
Translation reproduced from Paulus Cassel, An Explanatory Commentary on Esther: With Four Appendices Consisting of the Second Targum Translated from the Aramaic with Notes: Mithra: The Winged Bulls of Persepolis: And Zoroaster
(T. and T. Clark, 1888), 275–76.
See for example, Gabriel Said Reynolds, The Qur’an and the Bible: Text and Commentary
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018), 586.
This was first noted by M. S. M. Saifullah. et al., “On the Sources of the Story of Cain and Abel in the Qur’an,” Islamic Awareness, 2006, https://www.islamicawareness.org/Qur’an/sources/bbcanda
For a useful list of early manuscripts, readers should refer to: “Concise List of Arabic Manuscripts of the Qur’an Attributable to the First Century Hijra,” Islamic Awareness, 2019, https://www.islamic-awareness.org/Qur’an/text/mss/hijazi.html
John Moschus, The Spiritual Meadow
, trans. John Wortley (Pratum Spirituale) (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1992), 221. Readers wishing to read the complete story as found in The Spiritual Meadow
may consult this translation.
Reynolds, Qur’an and the Bible
, 465. See also, Roger Paret, “Un Parallèle Byzantin à Coran, XVIII, 59-81,” Revue Des Études Byzantines
26, no. 1 (1968): 137–159.
Following Elpidio Mioni’s classifications, the primary manuscript witnesses include the twelfth-century Florentine codex (Laurentianus Plut. X.3), the Paris codex (Parisinus gr. 1596) from the eleventh century, the Venice codex (Marcianus gr. II.21) dated to the mid-tenth century, and, finally, the Turin codex (Taurinensis Graecus B-II-10), which is dated to the twelfth century, although it contains two folios from the tenth century.
Philip Pattenden noted in 1975 that the Florentine manuscript “remains for the present the most authoritative.” Philip Pattenden, “The Text of the Pratum Spirituale,” The Journal of Theological Studies
XXVI, no. 1 (April 1, 1975): 38– 54, https://doi.org/10.1093/jts/XXVI.1.38
. It does not seem much has changed since Pattenden’s remarks many decades ago, considering that no critical edition of the Spiritual Meadow has yet to surface. See Phil Booth, Crisis of Empire: Doctrine and Dissent at the End of Late Antiquity
, vol. 52 (University of California Press, 2017), 91.
Booth, Crisis of Empire
. Other scholars also express uncertainty as to whether these stories really do go back to Moschus. See for example, Moschus, Spiritual Meadow
Pattenden, “Text of the Pratum Spirituale,” 40–41.
Moschus, Spiritual Meadow
As Brenda Ihssen notes, one can only conclude that the “text that remains is not as John composed it.” See Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, John Moschos’ Spiritual Meadow
(Burlington: Ashgate, 2014), 14.
codices that contain Q18:65–82 including M a VI 165 and Arabe 328f. See “Concise List of Arabic Manuscripts of the Qur’an Attributable to the First Century Hijra.”
Strack and Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash
” is a standard unit of measure used in rabbinic law. The earliest mention of this term is found in Genesis 18:6, where Abraham is said to have ordered his wife Sarah to take “three seʾah
of flour” to prepare food for his visitors.
According to the biblical narrative, human beings after the time of the Great Flood are exclusively descendents of Noah. The “Noahide Laws” in Jewish tradition refers to God’s commands to the sons of Noah, and therefore all non-Jews by implication. These laws generally encompass basic prohibitions around disbelief in God, harming other humans (e.g., murder or robbery), sexual immorality, and eating from live animals. See David Novak and Matthew Lagrone, The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism: The Idea of Noahide Law, 2nd ed, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Oxford ; Portland, OR: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2011), 11–35.
Translation from Haggai Mazuz, “Tracing Possible Jewish Influence on a Common Islamic Commentary on Deuteronomy 33:2,” The Journal of Jewish Studies
67, no. 2 (2016): 291–304.
93 Avōt d-Rabbi Natan
, or “the [chapter of the] Fathers according to rabbi Nathan,” is an expansion of an earlier tractate of the Mishnah titled “Pirkê ʾAvōt
” (“the chapter of the Fathers”).
Jacob Neusner, “Rabbinic Narrative: A Documentary Perspective, Volume Three: Forms, Types and Distribution of Narratives in Song of Songs Rabbah and Lamentations Rabbah and a Reprise of Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan Text A,” in Rabbinic Narrative: A Documentary Perspective
, vol. 3 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 269.
This intertextual engagement was presented by Shari Lowin at the 2019 International Qur’anic Studies ʾ Association (IQSA) annual meeting. For the abstract of Lowin’s presentation, see International Qur’anic Studies Association
, “Annual Meeting Program Book and Annual Report,” 2019, 32. While the motif of the seas as ink does occur elsewhere in rabbinic literature, it is only in the context of describing the rabbinic sages where one encounters it in connection with the theme of knowledge.
96 Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī
, no. 3140. Al-Albāni graded this narration saḥīḥ
, as did al-Wādiʿī and Ibn Daqīq al-ʿĪd.
Note that the Hebrew “sh” consonant is often interchangeable with the Arabic sīn
, thus samiʿnā
The Qur’an builds a fairly complex argument in many verses related to Abraham’s religion and belief, distancing him from both Judaism and Christianity. It responds to Jewish insistence that the patriarchs kept the Mosaic law while simultaneously rebutting any Christian belief that Jesus was somehow recognized by Abraham prior to his earthly career. See Neal Robinson, “Sūrat Āl ʿImrān and Those with the Greatest Claim to Abraham,” Journal of Qur’anic Studies
6, no. 2 (2004): 7–8. For further insights on how the Qur’an responds to Jewish claims that the patriarchs—including Abraham—kept the Torah before its revelation, see Zellentin, Qur’ān’s Legal Culture
The possibility of this interlinguistic engagement seems to have been first noted by Mun’im Sirry. Refer to Mun’im Sirry, New Trends in Qur’anic Studies: Text, Context, and Interpretation
(Atlanta, Georgia: Lockwood Press, 2019), 353, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/j.ctvd1c8h4
Many such examples are provided by Raʾūf Abū Saʿda, Min iʿjāz al-Qur’an fī aʿjamī al-Qur’an
(Cairo: Dār al-Hilāl, 1994); translated into English as Raouf Abou Seida, The Onomastic Miracle in the Koran
(Riyadh: Al-Maiman Publishing House, 2011). Although not all of the examples documented by Abū Saʿda are particularly convincing, there are enough plausible examples provided to indicate that this is a frequent trend in the Qurʾan.
A positive case for the Qur’an’s divine origins on the basis of its intertextuality shall be presented thoroughly in a future essay.