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Arabic Bible

An Annotated Bibliography of Lost texts,  Mss. and Printed editions of the Arabic Bible partly based on George Graf, Geschichte der Christlichen Arablischen Literatur (Vatican City: 5 vols., 1944>) and  Darlow and Moule (1903-11).

Stephen N. Lambden

Revised, updated version now in progress - October 10th 2014


The pre-Islamic Arabic Bible and certain other biblically related materials, seem to have been largely orally transmitted. It is difficult, as Beeston remarks,  to know  what to make of the Alexandrian biblical scholar  Origen’s (d. 256 CE)  reference to his having consulted existing “Chaldean [= Syriac] and Arabic”  Bible versions in  framing his largely lost polyglot Bible, the Hexapla.  (CHAL 1:22). Note also his Dialogue with Heraclides c. 245) (trans. Daly, 1992:57-78; also Eusebius, HE VI, 33; Spencer Trimingham, 1979[90]:55ff). Only minor importance is now given to this and related issues of the Arabic Bible by twentieth century Islamicists and biblical scholars.  Little trace seems to remain of Arabic Bibles or biblical books dating to the `Umayyad period of emergent Islam after the death of `Ali ibn Abi Talib (41/661) up till the `Abbasid revolution (132/750).  Little trace remains of a number of  allegedly complete, very early pre-9th cent. CE Bible translations mentioned in Arabic sources (Polliack,1997:3ff).  Arabic Bibles or biblical books dating to the `Umayyad period of emergent Islam remain to be be disovered or reconstituted.

There likewise seems no remaining trace of Bible translations  made during  the `Abbasid period though it is doubtful that such translations existed. They include the following:

Aḥmad ibn `Abd-Allāh b. Salām (fl. c. 800 CE?) Fictitious - Lost (?).

The Fihrist  ("Bibliographical Index')  (c. 938 CE) of Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad bin Ishāq al-Warraq,  al-Nadīm (d. c. 995[8]) records  that a protégée of Harūn al-Rashīd named Aḥmad ibn `Abd-Allāh ibn Salām (fl. c. 800 CE?) asserted that he had “translated.. the ṣuḥuf  (`[primordial] Abrahamic scriptures’), the Tawrāt  (Torah-Hebrew Bible), the  Injīl  (Gospels-New Testament), and the books of the prophets and disciples (kutub al-anbiyā’ wa  talāmidha)  from Hebrew, Greek and [the] Sabian [language] (al-Ṣābiyya = the Syriac, or Mandaic language] which are in the languages of the people of each book, into the Arabic language, letter by letter” (Fihrist, 37, cf. Dodge 1:42, 2:945). This assertion may not have any reliable historical basis.

حنين بن إسحاق العبادي

Ḥunayn ibn ’Isḥāq al-‘Ibādī = Latin as Johannitius (born al-Hira c. 809-c. 873 CE), Nestorian Christian translator into Arabic.

 A Bible/ New Testament translation was allegedly made by this  Nestorian Christian translator (from Syriac and or Greek), Ḥunayn b. Ishāq (d. c. 873 CE). It was apparently known to al-Mas`udi (d. 345/956) (see al-Mas`ūdī, Kitab al-Tanbīh wa'l-Ishrāf, ed. M de Goeje 1893-4, 112); refer Ahmad Shboul, al-Mas`udi and his World (London: Ithaca Press), 1979 pp.98, 288, etc.


Extant Arabic Biblical, Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical Texts and Associated Traditions.

Late 8th cent. CE

Greek majuscule text and Arabic translation of Psalm 78:20-61

Violet, Bruno.

  • 1901 Ein zweisprachiges Psalmfragment aus Damascus, Berichtigter Sonderabzug aus Orientalistiche Literaturzeitung (=OLZ) 1901 (Berlin 1902)  cols. 384-403; 425-441; 475-488.

Polliack, Meira,

  • 1997 . The Karaite Tradition of Arabic Bible Translation (Leiden: E.J. Brill), 1997, p. 4.

Ninth Cent. 867 CE

Mt. Sinai Arabic Codex 151.

Staal, Harvey.

1997 . The Karaite Tradition of Arabic Bible Translation (Leiden: E.J. Brill), 1997, p. 4.

Bibical and biblically related Pre-900 CE manuscripts

There are a vast number of biblical and biblically related mss. in Arabic, Garshuni and other languages dating to the pre- and post-Islamic era. Only a few diverse examples can be listed here.

Gospel of Peter [I]- Kitab al-Magāll ("Book of the Rolls") Pre-10th cent CE.

Gospel(s) of Peter - Kitab al-Majāl / Magāll ("Book of the Rolls"), the 6th book of Clement of Rome (= Archbishop of Rome from c. 88-99 CE also considered the 4th Pope after Anacletus) who transmitted revelations from Peter. This complex work is extant in more than 20 lengthy Karshuni (Syriac in Arabic script) mss. of between 100-200 folios. It is believed to be a revelation of Jesus to Peter the Apostle transmitted to Clement of Rome; a  pseudepigraphal item of pseudo-Clementine literature extant in more than twenty Karshuni (Arabic in Syriac script) manuscripts and fragments :

Margaret Dunlop Gibson, ed. and trans. 

  • Apocrypha Arabica (=Studia Sinaitica VIII), London : C. J. Clay and Sons/Cambridge, 1901. This book can be downloaded in Google Books and has recently (2007) been reprinted in a PBk edition by Kessinger Publishing (ISBN-10: 1432544462 ISBN-13: 978-1432544461). It includes the Gospel of Peter - Kitab al-Magāll.

Mingana, Alphonse (ed. and Trans.)

  • The Apocalypse of Peter'  in Woodbrooke Studies (Christian Documents in Syriac, Arabic and Garshuni...) III in  Bulletin of the John Rylands Library  vols. 13-14 (1929-1930)
  • The Apocalypse of Peter' in Woodbrooke Studies (Christian Documents in Syriac, Arabic and Garshuni...)  III Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons Ltd., 1931  pp. 93-449/ pp.351-2

Thomas, David (ed.)

  •  The Bible in Arab Christianity (= Conference Proceedings of the 5th Mingana Symposium on Arabic Christianity and Islam in 2005 at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre).  Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2007. 421pp. * This volume includes two important essays directly relating to the Gospel of Peter - Kitab al-Magāl :
  • Emmanouela Grypeou : `The re-written Bible in Arabic : the paradise story and its exegesis in the Arabic Apocalypse of Peter' pp.113-129.
  • Barbara Roggema : `Biblical exegesis and interreligious polemics in the Arabic Apocalypse of Peter - The Book of the Rolls' pp.131-150.

Pre-950 CE Manuscripts

Saadya Gaon's Tafsir

On the Arabic translation of the Torah prior to Saadya Gaon's Tafsir see: 

Blau, J.

  • "On a Fragment of the Oldest Judaeo-Arabic Bible Translation Extant ," in Genizah Research after Ninety Years : The Case of Judaeo-Arabic, eds . J. Blau and S. Reif (Cambridge. 1992) pp. 31-39.

 Tobi. Y.

  • Seridei Targum 'Aravi la-Torah Qodem le-Ta fsir Rav Saadiah Gaon," Mesorot 7 (1993), 87- 127:

  • "Targum 'Aravi - Yehudi 'Ammami Nosaf la-Torah," in Meḥqarim be-Lashon ha-`Ivrit ube- Leshonet ha -Yehudim le- Shelomo Morag. ed. M. Bar -Asher (Jerusalem, 1996). pp. 481- 501.

 Polliack, L

  • Arabic Bible Translations  in the Cairo Genizah Collection,"  Jewish Studies in a New Europe,  Copenhagen.  1996, pp. 610-644.

The Testament of Adam  Pre 10th cent CE.

Bezold, C,

  • 'Das arabisch-äthiopische Testamentum Adami', in C. Bezold, ed., Orientalische Studien Theodor Nöldeke zum siebzigsten Geburtstag (2. März 1906) gewidmet, 2 vols, Gieszen, 1906, vol. II, pp. 893-912.

The Testament of Solomon.

On the Arabic see Graf, GAL., I:210, No. 49 `Prophetlegenden'.

  • Mss. Vat. Ar. 448 (17th cent CE ) fols. 39r-54r

  • See Charlesworth, CMR., 197,201; DiTommaso 2001:896...

Harding, J and Loveday, A,

  • 1999 `Dating the Testament of Solomon' Add URL.

The Vitae Prophetarum-Lives of the Prophets

Extant in six Greek recensions (De Tomasso, 2001:755).

On the Arabic see Graf, GAL., I:212.No. 49 `Prophetlegenden'.

  • Mss.  see Vat. Ar. 171 fol. 93vff.

Guidi, I

  • `Un fragment arabe d'onomastique biblique' in Revue Biblique (Ns) 1(1904), p.75ff.

Lofgren, O

  • `An Arabic version of the Vitae Prophetarum' in Orientalia Suecana 25-6 (1976-7), 77-105.

10th cent CE. 

The Arabic Samaritan Pentateuch

  • Add

The Judaeo-Arabic Tafsīr of Saadya Gaon (882-942 CE).

 The earliest extant, complete translation of the Hebrew Bible is the Judaeo-Arabic Tafsīr   ("Exposition") of the Jew Saadya Gaon (d. 942).

Derenbourg, J (ed.)

  • Tafsir al-Turiya [sic.] bi'l-`Arabiyya. Paris, 1893. Vol. 1 in an unfinished collection of Saadya's work entitled Tafasir ...  This is apparently based on the Constantinople edition (see below).

  • Tafsir Saadya Gaon:  Derenbourg J. et. al.  (eds) , 1893-1899. Oeuvres complḍes de R. Saadya ben Yosef al-Fayyoumi  I-II, Version arabe du pentateuque, Paris. Rep. Hildersheim & New York, 1979.


  • `Saadiah: Saadiah Gaon's Translation of he Hebrew Bible' in Encyclopedia Judaica 14:553.

Robertson, E.

  • "The Relationship of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch to that of Saadya." in Saadya Studiesi: In Commeration of the One Thousandth Anniversary of  the Death  of R. Saadva Gaon, ed. E. I. J. Rosenthal. Manchester. 1943.

Zucker, Moses.

  •  "Rav Saadya Gaon's Translation of the Torah: Exegesis, Halakha, and Polemics in R. Saadya's Translation of the Pentateuch Text". and Studies in Memory of Dr. Michael Higger. New York: Feldheim, 1959.

Yhvdh Rtshbi = Yehuda Ratzaby

  • A Dictionary of Judaeo-Arabic in R. Saadya's Tafsir. (155 pp. ) Hebrew. 1985. Hardcover. ISBN 965 226 055 X

Freidenreich, David M.

  •  "The Use of Islamic Sources in Saadiah Gaon's Tafsir of the Torah". Jewish Quarterly Review 93, no. 3-4 (2003): 353-95.

Pre-10-11th cent CE. 

The Arabic text of the Apocalypse of Baruch in Sinai Arab. Ms. Nr. 589.

The Middle  (Christian) Arabic, predominantly late Kūfī  text of this Sinai ms., is of uncertain date and is apparently a copy of an older pre-11th cent. CE Arabic translation.

"In 1974 Dr. W. Baars discovered that the Arabic Manuscript of Mount Sinai nr. 589 of the handlist of Aziz Suryal Atiya contained, among other writings, an Arabic version of the Apocalypse of Baruch, until that time only known in a Syriac translation..." (Leemhuis 1986:1).

See further

Apocalypse de Baruch, Tome I, in: Sources Chrétiennes 144, Paris 1969, p. 32-56.

Sj. van Koningsveld, P.

  • An Arabic Manuscript of the Apocalypse of Baruch. in : The Journal for the Study of Judaism VI, 1974/5, p. 205-207,

Stone,  M.E.

  • A New Manuscript of the Syro-Arabic Version of the Fourth Book of Ezra, in: idem VIII, 1976/7, p. 183-184.
    P. Bogáért.

 F. Leemhuis · A. F. J. Klijn · G. J. H. Van  Gelder,

  • The Arabic text of the Apocalypse of Baruch edited and translated with a parallel translation of the Syriac Text. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1986. ISBN = 9004076085

11th-12th Cent. CE

Arabic texts of the Book of Judges (Various mss.)

Knutsson, B.,

  • Studies in the Text and Language of Three Syriac-Arabic Versions of the Book of Judicum, with special reference to the Middle Arabic Elements: Introductions-Linguistic Notes-Texts, Leiden 1974.

11th-12th Cent. CE or earlier...

دياطاسارون الذي جمعه طظيانوس من الميشرين الأربعة

The Arabic Diatessaron of Tatian (c. 120-173 CE).

The  Arabic translation (from the Greek or Syriac?) of the Diatesssaron (c. 170s CE?) of Tatian (d.  173 CE) by the Nestorian Christian physician, philosopher and commentator on the Greek  classics, `Abu'l-Faraj `Abd-Allāh al-Iraqī =  Ibn al-Ṭayyib (d. 435/1043). See EI2 vol. III: 955.

For details of the mss. of the Arabic diatessaron see Graf, GAL 1: 150-5 No. 34.3; Peterson 1994:448-451. Major mss. include: [1] Rome Vatican Arab 14 XII/XIII. [2] Rome Vatican Arab Borg. arab. 250 XIV. [3] Cairo Coptic Patriarchate Ms. 67. [4] Oxford Bodleian Arab e 163   1806. [5] Aleppo Paul Sbath No. 1020   1791. [6] Beirut  Jesuit Library No. 429   1332

The Arabic version of the Diatesssaron (Greek: “From Four,” or “Out of Four”), is a New Testament Gospel Harmony going back to the Christian apologist and ultimately encratitic ascetic Tatian (d. c. 173 CE). The Arabic translation  is extant in around seven mss. dating from the 11th/12th  centuries CE until  the 19th century. There may well be earlier lost Arabic translations of the Diatessaron... A few  Islamicists and biblical or Semitic scholars have associated the Greek- Syriac-Arabic diatessaron with the Injil (Gospel[s]) of the Qur'an... 

Translations :

Ciasca, P. Agostino (ed.), "scriptor" at the Vatican Library. 1888.

  • 1888 +Rep. Rome 1914+1934. Tatiani Evengeliorum Harmoniae Arabice / Nunc primum ex duplici codice edidit et translatione latina Augustinius Ciasca

  • = دياطاسارون الذي جمعه طظيانوس من الميشرين الأربعة

  • Diatessaron, which Titianus Compiled from the Four Gospels =   [Latin title] Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmonicae, Arabice.

In "two parts-the text, covering a little over 209 very clearly printed Arabic pages, and a Latin half, comprising a scholarly introduction (pp. v.-xv.), a Latin translation (pp. 1-99), and a table showing the order in which the passages taken from the gospels occur in the text." The editor is P. Agostino Ciasca, a well-known Orientalist..

Hill, J. Hamlyn 1894 [+1910] English trans. based on the Latin of Ciacasa

  • The Earliest Life of Christ ever compiled from the Four Gospels being the Diatessaron of Tatian literally translated from the Diatassaron of Tatian, Edinburgh 1894 + Abridges ed. 1900.

Hogg, Hoppe W.1910

Preuschen, Erwin (d.1920) ., 

  • 1918 Untersuchungen zum Diatessaron Tatians, Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse Jahrgang 1918, 15. Abhandlung, Heidelberg,  1918

Preuschen, Erwin + August Pott, (eds.) 1926

  • Tatian's Diatessaron  aus dem  Arabischen ubersetzt, eds. Preuschen, Erwin + A. Pott, Heidelberg, 1926 -- the posthumously published German trans.

Marmardji, A.-S.,  1935

  • Diatessaron de Tauen. Texte arabe établi, traduit en français, collationé avec les anciennes versions syriaques, suivi d'un évangéliaire diatessarique syriaque et accompagné de quatre planches hors texte. Beirut 1935. Important edition based on a new Beirut mss.

Peters, Curt 1939

  • Das Diatessaron Tatians  (Orientalia Christiana Analecta) 123, Rome:  1939 (pp.19-29,207).

Higgins, A.J.B.  1944-5

  • Ph.D thesis

  • Add

See also URLs:

Nanne Pieter Joosse

  • The Sermon on the Mount in the Arabic Diatessaron    Amsterdam 1997. This important thesis contains an excellent summary of research upon the Arabic diatessaron and details of the extant mss.
  • ADD in Oriens christianus (Oriens christ.)  vol. 83, (1999)  pp. 72-129.