This course conducts a comparative exploration of the way shared themes, characters, and narrative scenarios are depicted in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures and in their respective interpretive traditions. After a brief exposure to fundamental aspects of the modern hermeneutical strategies for reading and interpreting both Bible and Qur’ān, we will closely study a select series of themes, characters, and stories which Qur’ān and Bible indisputably share. We will isolate, juxtapose, and analyze their respective similarities and differences in accordance with several taxonomic schemes. We will also foray into the interpretive penumbra surrounding these themes, characters, and stories as they are simultaneously registered in apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, midrash, folktale, tafsīr, and ta’rīkh with an eye toward achieving a better understanding of the ‘mechanisms’ governing scriptural movement within and across religious communities affiliated with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Figures of prominent interest include but will not necessarily be limited to God, Satan/Iblīs, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus. Careful attention will also be given to the cultural issues surrounding the generation and promulgation of competing profiles within the scriptures of these kindred religions.
Warning: In this class you may hear or read ideas which may disturb, shock, dismay, or outrage you, and you will be compelled to think using methodological paradigms which you may deem troubling, wrong-headed, blasphemous, or even sacrilegious. If you think you might be uncomfortable in this situation, then this is definitely not the class for you. On the other hand, if you think you can suspend your uncritical attachments to certain notions about scriptures, their meaning, and the circumstances surrounding their production and distribution, then you will undoubtedly learn a great deal about the historical and cultural matrices betwixt which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam arose and flourished.
Web links to Bibles, Qur’āns, and many of the texts we will read are available on the course website. Other texts will be distributed by the instructor either in class or electronically as needed. In addition, the following textbook is required for this course:
M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an, A New Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
a. Readings. The nature of this course entails a significant amount of close reading and reflection. Students are responsible for anticipating and completing the required reading assignments (outlined below) in a timely manner. Every student is expected to read substantial portions of Bible, Qur’ān, and the other assigned readings in their entirety.
b. Take-home written exercises. An indeterminate number of written exercises (usually one or two per week; optimally one per class) will be prepared and submitted for in-class discussion and out-of-class evaluation. These exercises vary in length from a minimum of one (1) to a maximum of five (5) typewritten or electronically printed pages. All of these exercises will be announced and explained by the instructor during the course of or at the conclusion of a class meeting. The instructor’s evaluation of the student’s collective written exercise performance (using a scale √+ = A-; √ = C+; √- = D) will comprise 75% of the course grade.
c. Final take-home essay. Instead of an in-class three-hour examination, you will prepare a final essay wherein you will be asked to synthesize some of the major issues and themes discussed in class and in the required readings, and to demonstrate your knowledge of the specific source materials and facts which pertain to those issues and themes. Once its topic is assigned (on the final class meeting day), this essay will be delivered to the instructor before the date and time officially mandated for the final examination of this course by the UNC Charlotte administration. The final take-home essay is worth 15% of the course grade.
d. Individual involvement. Almost perfect attendance (see below) is an essential requirement for this course. Each class meeting builds upon the knowledge gained during previous meetings. Moreover, in-class discussion and analysis comprises a significant portion of every class meeting. Preparation for every class usually involves the completion of a series of assigned readings and/or written assignment(s). Students are expected to contribute in an informed manner to the public analysis and discussion of any assigned topic, and the instructor reserves the right to administer occasional unannounced ‘pop-quizzes’ should he deem the situation so warrants. The instructor’s assessment of one’s attendance, class preparation, informed oral contributions, and quizzes will constitute 10% of the final course grade.
e. Zakhor (Remember!): Mastery of the assigned readings and diligent class attendance are necessary prerequisites for the successful completion of this course. Each student is responsible for all lectures, class discussions, hand-outs, assignments, and announcements, whether or not he/she is present when they occur.
a. The grading scale used in this course is as follows:
91-100 A = demonstrable mastery of material—outstanding performance
81-90 B = some demonstrable proficiency in control of material & analysis
71-80 C = satisfactory performance of assignments
61-70 D = inadequate and/or faulty understanding of material
0-60 F = unacceptable college-level work
b. One of the requirements of this course is to complete the work of the course on time. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for late work—an illness or other emergency. ‘Emergency,’ however, does not include your social involvements, travel plans, job schedule, disk and/or printer failures, the state of your love life, your obligations to other courses, or general malaise over the state of the world. The world has been in a mess as long as anyone can remember, and most of the world’s work is done by people whose lives are a mass of futility and discontent. If you haven’t learned yet, you had better learn now to work under the conditions of the world as it is. Therefore:
1) All missed quizzes or unsubmitted homework exercises will be averaged as a 0 in the computation of the course grade. There is no such thing as a ‘make-up pop quiz.’ No exceptions will be considered or granted.
2) For accounting purposes, letter grades bear the following values: A=95; A-=92; B=85; C+=78; C=75; D=65; F=30. An untyped paper or written exercise automatically receives the grade F, as do those typed submissions which violate any required parameters or which the instructor deems physically unacceptable and/or grammatically incomprehensible.
3) Homework exercises are due on the date announced by the instructor in class. Since we will normally discuss these exercises together in class on that date, it would clearly be unfair to those who submitted their work on time for me to accept ‘late’ work from those who were privy to our in-class discussion. Hence I will not accept ‘late’ homework submissions (even from those of you who may be physically absent during our discussion); however, ‘early’ submissions (i.e., before the start of the class in which they are due) are always welcome and will receive full credit.
4) Since your diligent physical participation is critical for the success of this course, attendance at class meetings will be monitored by the instructor. One or two absences are somewhat understandable; three (3) is the limit of tolerability. Each successive absence lowers the Individual Involvement component of your assessment by one letter grade; seven (7) or more earns an automatic F in that component. Please note that—with the exception of religious holidays—the instructor does not distinguish ‘excused’ from ‘unexcused’ absences. Unsanctioned late arrivals and early departures will be tallied as absences.
5) Policy regarding Audits: the instructor expects auditors (whether formally enrolled as such or not) to meet the same attendance, preparation, and oral participation standards as those students who are taking the course for credit. The instructor does not expect auditors to submit any written assignments.
c. Assistance and solicitation of criticism is your right as a member of the class. It is not a privilege to be granted or withheld. Do not hesitate to request it nor wait too late in the course for it to be of help.
ROUGH COURSE OUTLINE
- Introduction: the historical-critical study of scriptures
a. applied to Jewish Bible
b. applied to Christian Bible
c. applied to Qur’ān
d. the ‘Abrahamic idiom’
Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an, ix-xliii.
John C. Reeves, “Con-‘text’-ualizing Bible in/and/with Qur’an,” Mizan (December 2015).
- Issues surrounding divine singularity/plurality
Gen 1:26; 3:22; 11:5-7; Exod 20:3; Deut 6:4; 32:8-9 (LXX, Qumran); Isa 6:8; 45:5-8; Ps 82:1-8.
Q 2:163; 6:19ff.; 16:51; 17:22, 39; 18:14; 23:117; 25:68; 26:213; 28:88; 50:26; 51:51; 112:1-3.
Jub. 1:1-2:1; Q 4:163; 97:2.
- Antediluvian themes, scenes, and characters
Gen 1:1-6:8; Num 13:33; Pss 29:1, 10; 89:7; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; 1 Chron 1:1-3.
Ya‘qūbī, Ta’rīkh (from Adam through Lamak).
Cosmogony: Q 7:54; 10:3; 11:7; 21:30-33; 25:58-59; 32:4; 50:38; 57:4; cf. 41:9-12.
Creating humans: Q 15:26-28; 16:4; 18:37; 23:12-16; 40:67-68.
Adam and his wife: Q 2:30-39; 7:11-27; 15:26-50; 17:61-65; 18:50-51; 20:115-26; 38:67-88.
Their children: Q 5:27-32.
Enoch/Idrīs: Q 19:56-57; 21:85-86.
Hārūt wa-Mārūt: Q 2:101-102.
Gen 5:28-9:29; 11:1-9; Isa 54:9; Ezek 14:14, 20.
Q passages listed in index sub voce.
Ya‘qūbī, Ta’rīkh (Noah).
Gen 11:27-25:11; Josh 24:2-3; Isa 41:8; Neh 9:7.
Q passages listed in index sub voce.
Exod 1:1-24:18; 31:18-34:35; 40:1-38; Num 10:11-14:45; 16:1-17:26; 20:1-25:18; 27:12-23; Deut 31:1-34:12. Note also Pss 78:10-22, 42-54; 106:6-25.
Q passages listed in index sub voce.
Jub. 34:10-19; 39:2-40:13; 41:22; 42:1-46:8.
Q 6:84; 12:1-111; 40:34.
- Jesus/‘Īsā b. Maryam
Matthew 1-28; Mark 1-16; Luke 1-24; John 1-21.
Q passages listed in index sub voce; also Q 3:35-41; 6:85; 19:2-15; 21:89-90.
- Concluding remarks and reflections
SUPPLEMENTAL BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR RELS 2000
In response to student requests for recommendations regarding useful and enlightening discussions of certain topics, themes, and personalities that are presented in class and/or readings, I offer the following suggestions for further study at the student’s leisure. I confine myself to materials which I myself have used with profit. Please note that some of these may not be currently available at Atkins Library.
It is often helpful for the student to begin with appropriate articles in the standard Bible dictionaries. The most up to date are The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.; ed. Katherine Doob Sakenfeld; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006-09) and The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.; New York: Doubleday, 1992). Dated but still reliable are The Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible (4 vols.) and its Supplementary Volume (ed. George A. Buttrick; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962 & 1976), and the Harper’s Bible Dictionary (ed. Paul J. Achtemeier; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985). Highly recommended are the relevant articles in the new Encyclopaedia Judaica (22 vols.; Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA/Thomson Gale, 2007), the new The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Third Edition (Leiden: Brill, 2007- ) as well as its predecessor EI2 = Encyclopaedia of Islam (2d ed.; 11 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1954-2002), the Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān (6 vols.; ed. Jane Dammen McAuliffe; Leiden: Brill, 2001-06), and The Qur’ān: An Encyclopedia (ed. Oliver Leaman; London and New York: Routledge, 2006).
Important scholarly journals wherein critical articles devoted to the study of Qur’ān and its interpretation can be found include Arabica, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Journal of Qur’anic Studies, Journal of Semitic Studies, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association, Muslim World, and Studia Islamica.
Modern Critical Introductions to Qur’ān and Qur’ānic Studies
Carol Bakhos and Michael Cook, eds., Islam and Its Past: Jahiliyya, Late Antiquity, and the Qur’an (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Richard Bell, Introduction to the Qur’ān (Edinburgh: University Press, 1958).
Farid Esack, The Qur’an: A Short Introduction (Oxford: Oneworld, 2002).
G. R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef, eds., Approaches to the Qur’ān (London & New York: Routledge, 1993).
Jane Dammen McAuliffe, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’ān (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, and Michael Marx, eds., The Qur’ān in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qur’ānic Milieu (Leiden: Brill, 2011).
Theodor Nöldeke, et al., The History of the Qur’ān (trans. Wolfgang H. Bein; Leiden: Brill, 2013).
Gabriel Said Reynolds, ed., The Qur’ān in its Historical Context (London and New York: Routledge, 2008).
______, ed., New Perspectives on the Qur’ān: The Qur’ān in its Historical Context 2 (London and New York: Routledge, 2011).
Andrew Rippin, ed., Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur’ān (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).
______, ed., The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’ān (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006).
______, ed., The Qur’ān: Formative Interpretation (Brookland, Vt.: Ashgate, 1999).
John Wansbrough, Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation (Oxford, 1977; repr., Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2004).
______, The Sectarian Milieu: Content and Composition of Islamic Salvation History (Oxford, 1978; repr., Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2006).
W. Montgomery Watt (ed.), Bell’s Introduction to the Qur’ān (rev. ed.; Edinburgh: University Press, 1970).
Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Traditions Pertaining to Biblical Figures and Events
Camilla Adang, Muslim Writers on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible: From Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm (Leiden: Brill, 1996).
Ismail Albayrak, “Reading the Bible in the Light of Muslim Sources: From Isrā’īliyyāt to Islāmiyyāt,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 23 (2012): 113-27.
Philip S. Alexander, “Jewish Tradition in Early Islam: The Case of Enoch/Idrīs,” in G. R. Hawting, et al., eds., Studies in Islamic and Middle Eastern Texts and Traditions in Memory of Norman Calder (JSSSup 12; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 11-29.
Khalil Athamina, “Abraham in Islamic Perspective: Reflections on the Development of Monotheism in Pre-Islamic Arabia,” Der Islam 81 (2004): 184-205.
Carol Bakhos, The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014).
______, Ishmael on the Border: Rabbinic Portrayals of the First Arab (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006).
Shosh Ben-Ari, “The Stories about Abraham in Islam: A Geographical Approach,” Arabica 54 (2007): 526-53.
Marc S. Bernstein, Stories of Joseph: Narrative Migrations Between Judaism and Islam (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2006).
Leigh N. B. Chipman, “Adam and the Angels: An Examination of Mythic Elements in Islamic Sources,” Arabica 49 (2002): 429-55.
______, “Mythic Aspects of the Process of Adam’s Creation in Judaism and Islam,” Studia Islamica 93 (2001): 5-25.
Reuven Firestone, “Comparative Studies in Bible and Qur’ān: A Fresh Look at Genesis 22 in Light of Sura 37,” in Benjamin H. Hary, et al., eds., Judaism and Islam: Boundaries, Communication and Interaction: Studies in Honor of William M. Brinner (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 169-84.
______, Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Story in Islamic Exegesis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990).
Abraham Geiger, Judaism and Islam (trans. F. M. Young; Madras, 1898; repr., New York: Ktav, 1970).
Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (7 vols.; Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1909-38). A very useful resource for investigating the postbiblical development of biblical characters and events.
S. D. Goitein, “Muhammad’s Inspiration by Judaism,” Journal of Jewish Studies 9 (1958): 149-62.
Shalom Goldman, The Wiles of Women/The Wiles of Men: Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife in Ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, and Islamic Folklore (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).
David J. Halperin, “The Hidden Made Manifest: Muslim Traditions and the ‘Latent Content’ of Biblical and Rabbinic Stories,” in David P. Wright, et al., eds., Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 581-94.
James L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).
Jacob Lassner, “The Covenant of the Prophets: Muslim Texts, Jewish Subtexts,” AJS Review 15 (1990): 207-38.
Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Intertwined Worlds: Medieval Islam and Bible Criticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
Shari L. Lowin, The Making of a Forefather: Abraham in Islamic and Jewish Exegetical Narratives (Leiden: Brill, 2006).
Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Barry D. Walfish, and Joseph W. Goering, eds., With Reverence for the Word: Medieval Scriptural Exegesis in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Erica Martin, “The Literary Presentation of Noah in the Qur’ān,” in Michael E. Stone, Aryeh Amihay, and Vered Hillel, eds., Noah and His Book(s) (SBLEJL 28; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010), 253-75.
Tilman Nagel, “Ḳiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’,” EI2 5:180-81.
Gordon D. Newby, The Making of the Last Prophet: A Reconstruction of the Earliest Biography of Muhammad (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1989). A plausible attempt to reconstruct the lost initial portion of the Sīra or ‘Life of Muhammad’; it reportedly collected and recounted traditions about the careers of Muhammad’s predecessors.
Scott B. Noegel and Brannon M. Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002).
Moshe Perlmann, The History of al-Tabarī, Volume IV: The Ancient Kingdoms (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987). Pages 112-25 deal with Jesus.
Michael E. Pregill, “The Hebrew Bible and the Quran: The Problem of the Jewish ‘Influence’ on Islam,” Religion Compass 1 (2007): 643-59.
______, “Isrā’īliyyāt, Myth, and Pseudepigraphy: Wahb b. Munabbih and the Early Islamic Versions of the Fall of Adam and Eve,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 34 (2008): 215-84.
John C. Reeves, ed., Bible and Qur’ān: Essays in Scriptural Intertextuality (Atlanta/Leiden: Society of Biblical Literature/Brill, 2003).
______, “Problematizing the Bible … Then and Now,” Jewish Quarterly Review 100 (2010): 139-52.
______, “Resurgent Myth: On the Vitality of the Watchers Traditions in the Near East of Late Antiquity,” in Angela Kim Harkins, Kelley Coblentz Bautch, and John C. Endres, S.J., eds., The Fallen Angels Traditions: Second Temple Developments and Reception History (CBQMS 53; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2014), 94-115.
______, “Some Explorations of the Intertwining of Bible and Qur’ān,” in idem, ed., Bible and Qur’ān, 43-60.
______, “Some Parascriptural Dimensions of the ‘Tale of Hārūt wa-Mārūt,’” Journal of the American Oriental Society 135 (2015): 817-42.
John C. 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).
Gabriel Said Reynolds, “Moses, Son of Pharaoh: A Study of Qur’ān 26 and Its Exegesis,” in Georges Tamer, et al. eds., Exegetical Crossroads: Understanding Scripture in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Pre-Modern Orient (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2018), 289-301.
______, The Qur’ān and Its Biblical Subtext (London & New York: Routledge, 2010).
Andrew Rippen, “Interpreting the Bible through the Qur’ān,” in G. R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef, eds., Approaches to the Qur’ān (London & New York: Routledge, 1993), 249-59.
Franz Rosenthal, The History of al-Tabarī, Volume I: General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989). Stops with the introduction of Noah; Atkins unfortunately does not own Volume II or Volume III (translated by William M. Brinner) which contain the intervening biblical characters.
Uri Rubin, “Traditions in Transformation: The Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Calf in Biblical and Islamic Historiography,” Oriens 36 (2001): 196-214.
Sabine Schmidtke, “The Muslim Reception of Biblical Materials: Ibn Qutayba and his A‘lām al-nubuwwa,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 22 (2011): 249-74.
Aviva Schussman, “The Prophet Ezekiel in Islamic Literature: Jewish Traces and Islamic Adaptations,” in Michael E. Stone and Theodore A. Bergren, eds., Biblical Figures Outside the Bible (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1998), 316-39.
Haim Schwarzbaum, “Prolegomenon,” in Moses Gaster, The Chronicles of Jerahmeel (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1971), 1-124. A rich bibliographical resource.
D. A. Spellberg, “Writing the Unwritten Life of the Islamic Eve: Menstruation and the Demonization of Motherhood,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 28 (1996): 305-24.
Georges Vajda, “Isrā’īliyyāt,” EI2 4:211.
Marilyn R. Waldman, “New Approaches to ‘Biblical’ Materials in the Qur’ān,” Muslim World 75 (1985): 1-16.
Brannon M. Wheeler, Mecca and Eden: Ritual, Relics, and Territory in Islam (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2006).
______, Moses in the Quran and Islamic Exegesis (London & New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002).
______, Prophets in the Quran (London & New York: Continuum, 2002).
Joseph Witztum, “The Foundations of the House (Q 2:127),” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 72 (2009): 25-40.
Eli Yassif, The Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999).