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Reader comment on item: Is Allah God? - Continued
in response to reader comment: Another trick, but not tricky enough

Submitted by zzazzeefrazzee (United States), Mar 20, 2008 at 14:05

"IF the first translation of the Bible into Arabic occured, say, 90 A.D. instead of the 9th century A.D., "Allah" could not have been used for the mono-theistic God of the Bible, as "Allah" (in all it's glory) was used by poly-theistic religion to pay tribute to whichever "god" you at the time most venerated."

First off, see Pre-Islamic Monotheism in Arabia Hamilton A. R. Gibb
The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Oct., 1962), pp. 269-280.

Secondly, the religion as practiced in Mecca was not at all universal among all Arabs.

Yes, the earliest complete Arabic translation of the Bible is the Mt. Sinai Arabic Codex 151. That said, there are a number of sources that indicate that other versions existed. One commonly referred to was that of Hunayn ibn Ishaq, a brilliant Christian man of either Arab or Assyrian origin who translated many important Greek and Syriac texts into Arabic in Baghdad.

It is said that he was originally from Hira, an important, majority Christian city just outside of Baghdad. Ruled by the Lakhmids since the 3rd century, they were home to many churches, and pre-islamic Arabic poets (who refer to "Allah"). This city had long been a part of the Persian Sassanian Empire. The main rivals of the Lakhmids were the Ghassanids, vassals of the Byzantines who are thought to have emigrated North from the city of Ma'rib in Yemen to southern Syria.

To what extent these cultures used early Arabic in their liturgy is still being discovered. There is not only the hostility of Muslim rulers to consider, but also that of outside forces such as the Mongols. Of course, the current situation is not exactly helping these efforts.

As an aside, if you have studied the bible in the "original" Greek, you must know something about the earliest Christian Codices? The absolute oldest that has been identified (Codex Sinaiticus) dates to the 4th century. Vaticanus a short time after that, and Alexandrinus a century later.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Testament_codices
http://www.csntm.org/Manuscripts.aspx
http://books.google.com/books?id=qsYOAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Our+Bible+and+the+Ancient+Manuscripts:#PPA147,M1

In your own studies, have you considered the variant orthography of these texts? Uncertain readings? Or the inclusion of books that are not considered "canonical" by some Christians today?
When compared to these early codices, the Mt. Sinai manuscript is not all that much newer.

I am fascinated by the history of manuscripts; their production, reproduction, interpretation, and codicology. As such, I in no way harbor the view that these manuscripts are the indelible word of God, as there are far too many variations to consider. Rather it is those who argue who stubbornly adhere to the absolutist position of "biblical literalism" who could stand to learn more about the history of the region and their inhabitants that they so eager to condemn.

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