The dissertation of Manolis Ulbricht (postdoctoral researcher) examines a Greek translation of the Qur’an from the 8th/9th century A.D. in comparison to the original Arabic text and scrutinizes their differences in order to better understand the early relations between Christians and Muslims. This translation by an anonymous author, despite being generally very accurate, contains some textually subtle, albeit theologically important differences when viewed alongside today’s known Arabic text. These differences, taken from the oldest translation of the Qur’an, seem to be the result of a Christian hermeneutical reading of the text.
The translation has been transmitted through a polemical work of Nicetas of Byzantium (9th century A.D.), where it is included in a fragmented state as a codex unicus (Vat. Gr. 681). Nicetas was living in the imperial capital, Constantinople, in a period defined by thriving military and intellectual activities, as well as a climate of intercultural exchange with the Muslim ʿAbbāsid caliphate. In his «Ἀνατροπὴ τοῦ Κορανίου» (“Refutation of the Qur’an”) Nicetas quotes and paraphrases from the Greek translation of the Qur’an, which was clearly completed and accessible at this point in time (but is now unfortunately lost) in order to systemically prove the heresy of Islam.
In the dissertation, all the Qur’anic fragments are extracted from Nicetas’ polemical text, critically edited, translated and then briefly compared with the Arabic text in order to then examine both text versions in a philological-theological commentary and to historically (in line with the concept of Geistesgeschichte) arrange the research results. Based on this analysis, it was not only possible to draw certain conclusions concerning the unknown translator and his understanding of the Qur’an, but on the very history of the text. Furthermore, the dissertation also carefully treats Nicetas’ selective and manipulative use of the Greek translation in his “Refutation of the Qur’an,” seeing as he was one of the most influential polemicists. Nicetas’ reception not only endured in the Byzantine sphere until the 13th century, but his influence on the western image of Islam is even comprehensible in Latin Europe up to the modern period.
This is an interdisciplinary research project which is related to Byzantine and Qur’anic studies, Christian and Muslim theology, as well as Greek and Arabic philology. For the first time, Nicetas of Byzantine and the translation of the Qur’an (8/9th A.D.) being transmitted through him will be comprehensively studied, the material will be systematically edited, and then examined within the context of his time. Here, we are dealing with an early form of inter-religious dialogue and the critical and scientific treatment of this dialogue offers a platform for ongoing questions in today’s society.
Parallel to the printed version of the edition (S. 187–558) the entire transcription of the Manuscript Vat. gr. 681 is being displayed following TEI-XML-Standards (p5- guideline) and based on xslt it is being made web-compatible (xXTML – refer to Projektbeschreibung zur Erstellung einer digitalen Edition des Coranus Graecum). The website, which was created with CSS, is available as a Beta-Version and was first officially presented to the academic community on 14.07.2015.