The Early Greek Translation of the Qur’an: Aim and Orientation (Christian Høgel)

Join us for a lecture by Christian Høgel (Odense / Uppsala) on
Wednesday 23 March, at 16:15, in Humanistiska teatern, Engelska parken, Uppsala,
organized by Greek and Byzantine Studies and the Retracing Connections research programme.

The early Greek translation (before 870 CE) of the Qur’an is known to us through 82 quotations in a treatise written by Niketas Byzantios in Constantinople (around 870 CE). Niketas quoted the Qur’an in Greek, sometimes extensive passages, in order to support his polemical arguments that included a variety of more or less true views of early Islam. The nature of his treatise, in addition to problems of text transmission, led many scholars to disregard the quotations and to see the translation as incompetent. But the translation is in fact produced by a person (not Niketas) who knew both Arabic and Greek very well, and who was even acquainted with some early Muslim discussions of how to interpret the Qur’an. We do not know who this person was or where he/she worked, but we can follow some of the working procedures, get an idea of the choices made and insight into an early reader of the Qur’an, who should be included as an early witness for the interpretation of the text. The translation also testifies to the importance of making the Qur’an available to Greek readers at an early stage and in general to cultural exchanges between Arabic and Greek in the centuries of wars and conflicts. And as a word-by-word translation it clearly reflects a need to get close to the Arabic original, both in terms of words and meaning.

The lecture will discuss several examples; no knowledge of Arabic or Greek is needed in order to follow!

For questions, please contact Ingela Nilsson.