Bible to Qur’ān
Dr. John C. Reeves
Office hours: TR 1:30-2:30; or by appointment
This course conducts a comparative exploration of the way shared characters and/or narrative scenarios are depicted in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures and in their respective interpretive traditions. After a brief exposure to the modern historical-critical method of reading and interpreting both Bible and Qur’ān, we will study the depictions of the ‘biblical’ characters found in the Qur’ān as well as reacquaint ourselves (if need be) with the ways these same characters are represented in the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Their respective similarities and differences will be isolated, analyzed, and juxtaposed in accordance with several taxonomic schemes. We will also explore the interpretive penumbra surrounding these characters as registered in apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, midrash, folktale, tafsīr, and ta’rīkh with an eye toward achieving a better understanding of the ‘mechanisms’ governing scriptural characterization within and across these particular religions. Figures of prominent interest include but will not necessarily be limited to Adam, Satan/Iblīs, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Careful attention will also be given to the cultural issues surrounding the generation and promulgation of competing character profiles within the scriptures of these kindred religions.
The following textbooks are required for this course:
Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Philadelphia & Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1985).
The Qur’an (trans. M. H. Shakir; Elmhurst, N.Y.: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 1999).
Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Bible (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1956).
J. K. Elliott (ed.), The Apocryphal Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
Brannon M. Wheeler, Prophets in the Quran (London & New York: Continuum, 2002).
Often supplementary readings will be assigned and/or distributed by the instructor as needed.
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 required to read the Qur’ān in its entirety.
b. Take-home written exercises. Twelve (12) written exercises 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. Their specific character is spelled out in more detail below. Deadlines for these exercises will be announced 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 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 expected 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. This essay will be delivered to the instructor on the date and at the time officially mandated for this course by the UNC Charlotte administration. We will then spend some time discussing the insights and conclusions generated in these essays. The final essay and the accompanying discussion 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 (grades for such quizzes are averaged with those of the take-home exercises). The instructor’s assessment of one’s attendance, class preparation, and informed oral contributions 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, 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; can creatively synthesize
81-90 B = some demonstrable proficiency in control of material & analysis
71-80 C = satisfactory performance of assignments; little or no analysis
61-70 D = inadequate and/or faulty understanding of material
0-60 F = unacceptable 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 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) All written exercises are due on the dates scheduled in the syllabus, or on the date announced by the instructor in class (often the next class meeting). ‘Late’ submissions bear the following penalties: one day late/one letter grade; two days late/two letter grades; three or more days late/F. Please note: these ‘days’ are calendar days, not class meeting days. For accounting purposes, letter grades bear the following values: A=95; B=85; C=75; D=65; F=30. An untyped paper or written exercise automatically receives the grade F, as do those typed submissions which violate the required parameters or which the instructor deems physically unacceptable and/or grammatically incomprehensible.
3) 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 the instructor does not distinguish ‘excused’ from ‘unexcused’ absences. Unsanctioned late arrivals and early departures will be tallied as absences.
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
1. Introduction: the historical-critical study of scriptures
a. applied to Jewish Bible
b. applied to Christian Bible
c. applied to Qur’ān
d. the problematic notion of ‘rewritten scripture’
Required: The Qur’ān (trans. Shakir), sūras 1-114 (i.e., entire); Wheeler, Prophets, 1-14; 362-71; Shalom Spiegel, “Introduction,” in Ginzberg, Legends, xi-xxxix. Elliott, Apocryphal Jesus, 1-5.
2. Introductory case studies; or, how to perform the written exercises
a. Antediluvian descendants of Adam
Required: Genesis 4:1-6:8; 1 Chronicles 1:1-3. Q 2:102; 5:27-32; 19:56-57; 21:85-86; Ya‘qūbī, Ta’rīkh (from Adam to Noah); Wheeler, Prophets, 36-48; Ginzberg, Legends, 54-65; John C. Reeves, “The Flowing Stream: Qur’ānic Interpretations and the Bible,” Religious Studies News—SBL Edition 2.9 (2001).
Required: Genesis 37:1-50:26; concordance search for rhetorical nuances; Q 6:84; 12:1-111; 40:34; Wheeler, Prophets, 127-45. Ginzberg, Legends, 194-265.
Required: Genesis 11:27-25:11; Joshua 24:2-3; Isaiah 41:8; Nehemiah 9:7; concordance search for rhetorical nuances; Q passages listed in index sub voce; Wheeler, Prophets, 83-108. Ginzberg, Legends, 86-147; EXERCISE ##1-3.
Required: Genesis 5:28-9:29; Isaiah 54:9; Ezekiel 14:14, 20; Q passages listed in index sub voce; Ya‘qūbī, Ta’rīkh (Noah); Wheeler, Prophets, 49-62. Ginzberg, Legends, 66-85; EXERCISE ##4-6.
Required: Exodus 1:1-24:18; 31:18-34:35; 40:1-38; Numbers 10:11-14:45; 16:1-17:26; 20:1-25:18; 27:12-23; Deut 31:1-34:12; concordance search for rhetorical nuances; Chronicles of Moses; Q passages listed in index sub voce; Wheeler, Prophets, 173-221; 222-37; 238-42; Ginzberg, Legends, 277-506; EXERCISE ##7-9.
Required: 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; Wheeler, Prophets, 291-96; 297-320; Elliott, Apocryphal Jesus, 9-113; EXERCISE ##10-12.
7. Concluding remarks and reflections
Template for the Written Exercises
Written exercises for this course adhere generally to the following template:
1. Preparation of a ‘narratological profile’ of the biblical character. This involves assembling the basic textual data by use of concordances or indices; isolating essential stories and actors associated with the character; identifying certain recurring patterns or motifs associated with the character; and attempting to ascertain the rhetorical function (if any) of that character in later biblical discourse.
2. Preparation of a ‘narratological profile’ of the qur’ānic character. Same as #1, but instead keyed to the Qur’ān’s presentation of the character. Simultaneously one is looking for and assessing whether there are ‘echoes’ or ‘overlaps’ between representations in biblical and qur’ānic discourse.
3. Using Wheeler, Ginzberg, and Elliott to sound and to map the literary and rhetorical ‘terrain’ between and around these characters. Do these ‘parascriptural’ traditions shed any light on the profiles generated respectively by Bible and Qur’ān? Do they prompt any refinement or reassessment?
The same template will be successively keyed to the figures of Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus as well as to the secondary characters and/or situations found in their respective narrative contexts.
Supplemental Bibliography for RELS 3000 Bible to Qur’an
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 and which are currently available at Atkins Library.
It is often helpful for the student to begin with appropriate articles in the standard Bible dictionaries. The latest and best is The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.; New York: Doubleday, 1992). Also 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 Encyclopaedia Judaica (16 vols.; Jerusalem: Keter, 1971) and the Encyclopaedia of Islam (2d ed.; 10 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1960- ). Unfortunately Atkins does not yet own the new Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān ( vols.; ed. Jane Dammen McAuliffe; Leiden: Brill, 2001- ), of which two volumes have appeared so far (encompassing letters A-J).
Traditional Commentaries to Qur’ān
M. Ayoub, The Qur’an and its Interpreters (2 vols.; Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984- ). Covers sūras 2-3 only.
Tabarī, The Commentary on the Qur’ān ( vols.; ed. W. Madelung and A. Jones; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987- ). Atkins owns only the first volume.
Modern Critical Introductions to Qur’ān and Qur’ānic Studies
Richard Bell, Introduction to the Qur’ān (Edinburgh: University Press, 1958).
Michael Cook, The Koran: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). Highly recommended.
W. Montgomery Watt (ed.), Bell’s Introduction to the Qur’ān (rev. ed.; Edinburgh: University Press, 1970).
Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha Resources
R. H. Charles (ed.), The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English (2 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913).
James H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1983-85).
______, The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, With A Supplement (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1981).
J. K. Elliott, (ed.), The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993). The unabridged version of your The Apocryphal Jesus.
Edgar Hennecke and Wilhelm Schneemelcher, (ed.), New Testament Apocrypha (2 vols.; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963-65).
M. R. James, (ed.), The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924). Elliott’s edition is an update of this classic collection.
H. F. D. Sparks (ed.), The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).
Dead Sea Scrolls Resources
Florentino García Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Scrolls in English (2d ed.; Leiden and Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill and Eerdmans, 1996).
Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (London and New York: Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 1998).
Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996).
Classical and Syro-Mesopotamian Gnostic Resources
Werner Foerster, Gnosis: A Selection of Gnostic Texts (2 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972). Volume 1 features patristic testimonies to classical gnosis; volume 2 has translations of Coptic and, more importantly, Mandaic sources.
Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987).
James M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English (3d rev. ed.; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988).
Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Traditions Pertaining to Biblical Figures and Events
Reuven Firestone, Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Story in Islamic Exegesis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990).
Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (7 vols.; Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1909-38). The fully annotated version of your Legends of the Bible, and a very useful resource for investigating the postbiblical development of biblical characters and events.
Tilman Nagel, “Kisas al-anbiyā’,” Encyclopaedia of Islam2 (Leiden: Brill, 1960- ), 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.
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.
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.
Haim Schwarzbaum, “Prolegomenon,” in Moses Gaster, The Chronicles of Jerahmeel (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1971), 1-124. A rich bibliographical resource.
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.
Eli Yassif, The Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999).