Eric Ormsby

Found in Translation

The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the ‘People of the Book' in the Language of Islam

By

Princeton University Press 255pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

The biblical figures who throng the pages of the Koran appear at once long-familiar and oddly alien. Abraham, Moses and Pharaoh, Joseph and Jacob, Jesus and Mary have all taken on the aspect of expatriates, friends whom we once knew well but who have now come home indefinably transformed; they have picked up new accents and exotic mannerisms; they make puzzling pronouncements not heard before. True, Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) is still the ‘friend of God’, as in Jewish and Christian tradition, but Jesus is regularly described as the ‘son of Mary’, in tacit refutation of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, for, as an early Koranic verse has it, God ‘neither begets nor is begotten’. 

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