Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros35Dossier – Les interactions entre ...Questioning the Reliability of th...

Dossier – Les interactions entre šīʿites imāmites et chrétiens

Questioning the Reliability of the Evangelists

An 18th-Century Persian Translation of the Four Gospels by Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Ḫātūnābādī
Ali B. Langroudi
p. 161-174

Résumés

Dans leurs ouvrages anti-chrétiens, les polémistes musulmans ont accordé une attention particulière à la paternité des quatre évangélistes sur les évangiles. Cette attention a atteint son apogée lorsque Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064), s’appuyant sur une approche multidimensionnelle, a critiqué la qualité de leur travail. La critique musulmane a conduit à la création de toute une nouvelle littérature quand le mullā en chef de l’Iran safavide, Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Ḫātūnābādī (m. 1127/1714), a traduit et commenté les évangiles en persan. Ḫātūnābādī a en particulier élaboré un argument polémique concernant le « manque de fiabilité » du travail des évangélistes. Il s’est interrogé sur la force de leur foi, à partir de quelques versets de l’évangile. Il a soutenu que la fiabilité des récits des évangélistes était douteuse parce qu’ils n’étaient pas bien enracinés dans leur foi. Ḫātūnābādī considérait les évangiles comme des textes fabriqués de toutes pièces qui attestent du « manque de fiabilité » de leurs auteurs.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1A less studied aspect of Christian-Muslim polemical literature is the topic of the role of the four evangelists. How did the Muslim polemicists see the ‘authors’ of the Gospels? How did this polemical topic evolve over time? The aim of the present article is to answer these questions partially, by reviewing Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Ḫātūnābādī’s (d. 1127/1715) Persian translation of the four Gospels and his polemical commentary on them.

Early Islamic Views of the Evangelists

  • 1 Reynolds, “On the Qurʾanic Accusation”, p. 192‒195.
  • 2 Q V, 46 presents al-Inǧīl, “the Gospel” (in singular), as the book that was bestowed on Jesus by Go (...)
  • 3 Among the most famous Muslim authors of the early Islamic period are Aḥmad b. Isḥāq al-Yaʿqūbī (d (...)
  • 4 The polemical works of al-Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm al-Rassī (d. 246/860) and Ibn Ḥazm are significant e (...)

2The textual variations between the four Gospels have been a notable topic for Muslim historians and theologians as well as polemicists from the early Islamic time onwards. For them, the variations echoed what the Qurʾān claimed about the “alteration of the earlier Scriptures”.1 Subsequently, the Muslim scholars drew attention to the role of the evangelists as authors of the Gospels.2 They saw the evangelists in a variety of perspectives as the ones who narrated the life of Jesus in different ways, who delivered the message of God which was later neglected by the Christians, and who tried to deceive people with their own false writings.3 In particular, the Muslim polemicists saw every evangelist as someone who wrote his Gospel based on his earthly intellect and understanding. For Muslim scholars, that was the reason why the Gospels were incompatible with each other.4

  • 5 See Urvoy, “Le sens”, p. 486.

3Among the early Muslim polemicists, it was the Andalusian theologian Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī b. Ḥazm (d. 456/1064), the author of the polemical work al-Fial fī al-milal wa-l-ahwāʾ wa-l-nial, who regarded the Christian canonical books as representing the faulty intervention of various human factors and aspects in the transmission of the divine message. Ibn Ḥazm was especially critical of the process of transmission of the Scriptures from God to man in its Christian version.5 Regarding the human factors involved in the transmission of the New Testament, he surveyed a variety of effective elements such as the language of the authors of the canonical books, the procedure of the translations, the role of the evangelists, and the influence of the councils of the Church.

  • 6 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 2‒9.
  • 7 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 3.
  • 8 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 6‒9.
  • 9 Ibn Ḥazm gave the apostles pejorative titles: “Matthew the Taxman” (Mattā al-šurī), “John the Rec (...)
  • 10 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 6.
  • 11 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 6.

4Ibn Ḥazm constructed his critique based on a historico-linguistic analysis of the biblical texts.6 Apropos to the historical aspect of his work, Ibn Ḥazm focused on the differences between the date of writing of the books of the New Testament, especially the Gospels as the biographies of Jesus that were written some decades after Jesus’ time.7 He paid attention to the existent literature about the life of the apostles and their disciples which helped him to introduce the four evangelists to his readers within a historiographical context. He saw the evangelists as people who composed four reports of the life of Jesus that were not only irreconcilable, but also deprived Jesus of his true portrayal as an observer of the Torah and a promoter of the Mosaic law.8 He accused the evangelists of intentionally deceiving people.9 Furthermore, the era of the Emperor Constantine was seen by Ibn Ḥazm as a time of transformation for Christianity from nontrinitarian Arianism to the age of the Church Fathers, who promoted the doctrine of the Trinity. Ibn Ḥazm summarizes pre-Constantinian Arianism as the belief in “Christ the servant and the creature of God”.10 This belief changed during the reign of the Emperor, according to Ibn Ḥazm, when Christ was identified as God and Son of God, and when the people confused the divine with the human.11

  • 12 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 2. Regarding the translations of the New Testament in a variety of (...)
  • 13 Ibn Ḥazm’s conclusion regarding the role of the evangelists is incapsulated in his comment on Matt (...)

5Concerning the linguistic aspect of his polemic, Ibn Ḥazm referred to the abundantly circulating translations of the New Testament, which were translated into a variety of languages.12 On the one hand, he assumed that the four Gospels were originally written in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Syriac. On the other hand, he criticized the grammatical and the semantic inadequacy of the language of the Arabic translations. For Ibn Ḥazm, all these issues were good reasons to suppose Christianity in its entirety as a totally human-made construction of religious beliefs and doctrines.13

Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Ḫātūnābādī

  • 14 An edition of Ḫātūnābādī’s translation and commentary has been published by R. Ǧaʿfariyān (see Ḫātū (...)
  • 15 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 4.
  • 16 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 229‒231.
  • 17 Was Ḫātūnābādī familiar with Ibn Ḥazm’s polemical literature? It seems that the answer is negative (...)

6The analysis of the role of the evangelists in Muslim polemical treatises developed into a new polemical literature when the chief mullā of the Safavid court, Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Ḫātūnābādī, translated the four Gospels from Arabic into Persian at the end of the 17th century.14 Ḫātūnābādī’s translation, entitled Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl-i arbaʿa, was not just a simple translation of the four Gospels as the title suggests, but a commented one including an introduction about the purpose of the translation, namely the persecution of Christians.15 Ḫātūnābādī’s multidimensional comments concern a variety of topics such as the Arabic language of his Vorlage, the history of the Gospels, and the analysis of the verses. The historical passages of the book, as well as the role of the councils and synods in the arrangement of the Gospels, helped Ḫātūnābādī to state that the Christian Scriptures were a human composition rather than divine revelation.16 Not surprisingly, Ḫātūnābādī repeated the qurʾānic accusation of the falsification of the Gospel. In a further step, however, he objected to the process of transmission of the four Gospels. His work reflected Ibn Ḥazm’s arguments of the alteration of the Scripture and the role of the evangelists in a variety of aspects.17

  • 18 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 5. Ḫātūnābādī’s writing style is significantly different from Ibn (...)
  • 19 The translation of biblical verses throughout this study follows the New International Version (NIV (...)
  • 20 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 240.

7Ḫātūnābādī’s polemical work is not as offensive as those of some of his predecessors. Ḫātūnābādī saw himself as someone who was writing for the benefit of “[everyone who is] a seeker of truth and maturation”.18 Nevertheless, Ḫātūnābādī’s arguments are not that new. He is more innovative in translating the Gospels and in the arrangement of his polemical comments alongside his translation. He was apparently the first Muslim who translated all four Gospels into Persian. He did not just translate the verses that were the target of his polemical criticism. Nor are his comments on the verses just critical comments. Many of his comments contain additional information for the Muslim readers of his translation. For instance, he specifies some geographical names mentioned in the Gospels, such as Nineveh in Matthew 12:41, which he identified as the city of Mosul. In a few other cases, he tried to make the purpose of some verses clearer, such as Matthew 9:37‒38: “Then he (Jesus) said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’.”19 Ḫātūnābādī associates these verses with the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24‒30, and interprets Matthew 9:37‒38 as the necessity for the active presence of the disciples.20

  • 21 Ometto, “Khatun Abadi”, p. 69.

8Researchers speak of two different natures of Ḫātūnābādī’s work. The translation of the Gospels is considered to have been rendered with accuracy and neutrality, while the commentary is seen as the determined attempt of an accusatory mullā, who is looking for a pretext against Christians.21 This conclusion about Ḫātūnābādī’s work is not wrong, but it is rather incomplete. Ḫātūnābādī did not limit himself to merely Muslim accusations against Christianity. To some extent, he tried to be objective in his critical comments, as he was in his translation. In other words, Ḫātūnābādī, in some cases, approached the Gospels as narrative accounts, rather than sacred Christian Scriptures. These accounts, for Ḫātūnābādī, were not just four biographies of Jesus, but also the records of some information about the narrators.

  • 22 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 230, 245.

9An example in this regard is the question of reliability of the four evangelists from Ḫātūnābādī’s point of view. Ḫātūnābādī questions their competence to undertake such an enterprise. He focuses on the evangelists’ faith, based on the contents of the Gospels. He points out the verses in which Jesus blamed the weakness of his disciples’ faith. The question of reliability is expressed in his work as a negative view on iʿtimād bi qawl-i šāgardān, “to rely on the quotation of the disciples”.22 Subsequently, he views the Gospels as a testimony of their own unreliable content.

The (Un-)Reliability of the Evangelists

  • 23 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 230.

10Ḫātūnābādī finds the evangelists’ accounts unreliable. His perception of their unreliability is not based on qurʾānic accusations against Christianity. In Ḫātūnābādī’s assumption, the evangelists’ accounts about Jesus are not reliable, because they were not sufficiently solid in their faith. He considers ‘faith’ as a crucial prerequisite for the authors of the message of the great messenger of God. He writes at the beginning of his commentary:23

Obviously, there is no evidence to prove that the authors of the Gospels understood the real meaning of what they heard from Jesus. One would rely on their account, if one could consider them as righteous persons. Contrariwise, there are several statements from Christ in the Gospels, which imply the misunderstanding and lack of faith and absence of reflection and shortage of contemplation of the disciples.

11Regarding the faith of the evangelists, Ḫātūnābādī wrote similar comments on the verses, in which Jesus was critical of the disciples. Some verses of Matthew, followed by Ḫātūnābādī’s comments, are selected here:

He (Jesus) replied [to the disciples], ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ […] The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’ (Matthew 8:26‒27).

‘Are you still so dull?’ Jesus asked them (the disciples) (Matthew 15:16).

Aware of their (the disciples’) discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember […] how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?’ (Matthew 16:8‒11).

‘You unbelieving and perverse generation’, Jesus replied [to the disciples], ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? […] Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move’ (Matthew 17:17‒20).

  • 24 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 240.

12One of the comments about these verses in Ḫātūnābādī’s words: “… and thirdly, even neglecting that [i.e. that the evangelists recorded the life of Jesus differently], it is achievable from a variety of passages of the Gospels that Jesus was attributing ignorance and misunderstanding and imprudence to the disciples.24 Based on such an argument, Ḫātūnābādī deduced that the four evangelists should not be considered as legitimate writers of the Scripture.

  • 25 Peter is called in Ḫātūnābādī’s commentary “head of the apostles” (raʾs al-awāriyyῑn). This title, (...)
  • 26 Ḫātūnābādī respectively presented Mark and Luke as the disciples of Peter and Paul. He also mention (...)

13Ḫātūnābādī in his argument was not just referring to the evangelists Matthew and John, who were among the twelve disciples, but to Luke and Mark as well. He saw all apostles and disciples as one body represented by the apostle Simon Peter (Pers. Šamʿūn afā). Peter, from Ḫātūnābādī’s point of view, was, on the one hand, “head of the apostles” and, on the other hand, a symbol of all who were around Jesus, but did not understand his ministry.25 In this way, even Mark and Luke did not understand Jesus, because Peter did not.26 He commented on the verses that question Peter’s faith. It says in Matthew:

But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith’, he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ (Matthew 14:30‒31).

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’ (Matthew 16:22‒23).

‘Truly I tell you’, Jesus answered [Peter], ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times’ (Matthew 26:34).

  • 27 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 245.
  • 28 Ḫātūnābādī, presenting Peter as the one who leads Jesus’ followers after his ascension, mentioned t (...)

14Ḫātūnābādī formulated his comment on Matthew 16:22‒23 in this way: “Jesus in this passage named Peter, who is the head of the apostles, Satan, and attributed wrong thoughts to him. That is a clear reason for the unreliability of the words of the disciples.”27 The above-mentioned verses were significant for Ḫātūnābādī’s purpose in order to not only demonize Peter as “head of the apostles”, but also point out the influence of “such a person” on the work of the evangelists.28 He attempted to demonstrate with his comments that “the best apostle” was ironically the worst one.

  • 29 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 231.

15Furthermore, Ḫātūnābādī included one of his accusatory verbal debates in his commentary. He relates that he discussed with a clergyman about the reliability of the evangelists. According to Ḫātūnābādī, the clergyman argues that those verses picked out by Ḫātūnābādī do not demonstrate the unreliability of the evangelists, since they composed the Gospels many years after the mentioned incidents, and they became solid in their faith after experiencing Jesus’ resurrection. The clergyman continues that the Gospels were not human words but divine, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Ḫātūnābādī finds the explanations of the clergyman unconvincing, writing: 29

… the corruption of these [explanations] is evident, because if these [Gospels] were according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the divine confirmation, there should be no contradiction and no dissension [among them]. In lack of sufficient evidence regarding the receiving of the Holy Spirit and its inspiration, and the righteous divine confirmation by them (the evangelists), the already mentioned clergyman offered no reason to prove his claims, except what is written in the Gospels. Obviously, what is written in the Gospels is not proof for whoever rejects their (the Gospels’) veracity.

  • 30 Ḫātūnābādī is not precise in his statement, where he qualifies the arguments of the clergyman as be (...)

16On the one hand, the answer of the clergyman to Ḫātūnābādī’s critique, as far as transmitted by Ḫātūnābādī, defends the disciples’ faith, at least at the time of their authorship. On the other hand, it brings the inspiration of the Holy Spirit into play. Ḫātūnābādī apparently considered the answers of the clergyman as religiously oriented responses which did not correspond to his type of argument. At first, he rejected the second argument of the clergyman, stating that the evangelists could not have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, because their accounts of the life of Jesus differed. But afterwards, Ḫātūnābādī did not turn back to the topic of the impact of Jesus’ resurrection on the faith of the disciples, which the clergyman had mentioned. He generally rejected all statements of the clergyman, labeling them to be based on the content of the Gospels.30

  • 31 See Van Gorder, Christianity in Persia, p. 62.
  • 32 See Savory, Iran under the Safavids, p. 251.

17Did the clergyman reply to the criticism of the chief mullā of the Safavid court? There is no trace in Ḫātūnābādī’s translation and commentary. Did the other Christian intellectuals react to Ḫātūnābādī’s accusations? Apparently, they did not. The time and place, early 18th-century Iran, was not very suitable for religious debates, especially against the influential mullās. The last years of the reign of Sulṭān Ḥusayn (r. 1105/1694‒1135/1722) are marked by intolerance against religious minorities.31 The mullās of the court are presented by scholars as being more interested in the restrictions against the minorities than the Shah.32

Conclusion

  • 33 Ḫātūnābādī’s conditional statement can be formulated as an ‘if p, then q, then r’ structure. Ḫātūnā (...)

18Muslim polemicists of the early Islamic period pointed out the textual variations between the four Gospels. These variations were particularly highlighted by Ibn Ḥazm, who used them as a ‘proof’ of the evangelists’ ‘failure’ in writing the Gospels out of divine inspiration. The issue received new attention when Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Ḫātūnābādī examined the role of the evangelists, not only by comparing the four Gospels with each other, but also by analyzing each Gospel separately. He saw each Gospel as evidence for the unreliability of its author as well as its content. In his commented translation, Ḫātūnābādī questioned the reliability of the evangelists in a self-defined ‘logic conditional statement’.33

19In stating so, Ḫātūnābādī defines a direct relation between the quality of the faith of the evangelists and the quality of their authorship. Claiming that Jesus distrusted his disciples concerning their faith, Ḫātūnābādī therefore concludes that the readers of the Gospels should not trust the evangelists. Adding the answers of a Christian clergyman to his question of the evangelists’ faith and then rejecting the answers of the clergyman, Ḫātūnābādī presents his own point of view as the only reasonable way to question the authenticity of the Gospels through the evangelists.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Primary Sources

Ḫātūnābādī (d. 1127/1714), Muḥammad Bāqir, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl-i arbaʿa: Tarǧama, taʿlīqāt va tawżīāt, Rasūl Ǧaʿfariyān (ed.), Tihrān, Nuqṭa, 1375/[1996]; 2nd edition Tihrān, Nuqṭa, 1384/2005.

Ibn Ḫaldūn (d. 808/1406), ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muḥammad, Tārī Ibn aldūn, 8 vols., Suhayl Zakkār & Ḫalīl Šaḥāda (eds.), Bayrūt, al-Fikr, 1421/2000.

Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064), Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī, al-Fial fī al-milal wa-l-ahwāʾ wa-l-nial, vol. 2, al-Qāhira, M.ʿA. Ṣabīḥ, 1348/1929‒1930.

Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064), Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī, al-Fial fī al-milal wa-l-ahwāʾ wa-l-nial, vol. 2, Bayrūt, Dār al-Ǧῑl, 1416/1996.

al-Šahrastānī (d. 548/1153), Tāǧ al-Dīn, al-Milal wa-l-nial, Aḥmad Fahīmī Muḥammad (ed.), Bayrūt, al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1413/1992.

Secondary Sources

Accad, Martin, “The Gospels in the Muslim Discourse of the Ninth to the Fourteenth Centuries: An Exegetical Inventorial Table”, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 14, 2003, p. 67‒91 (I), p. 205‒220 (II), p. 337‒352 (III), p. 459‒479 (IV).

Ansari, Hassan, “Ibn Ḥazm selon certains savants shīʿites”, in Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro, & Sabine Schmidtke (eds.), Ibn azm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker, (Handbook of Oriental Studies, 103), Leiden, Brill, 2013, p. 645‒661.

Ansari, Hassan, “Ibn Ḥazm va tašayyuʿ ” (1396/[2017]), <http://ansari.kateban.com/post/3369>, accessed on March 20, 2019.

Beaumont, Mark I., “Early Muslim Interpretation of the Gospels”, Transformation 22, 2005, p. 20‒27.

Halft, Dennis, ‘The Arabic Vulgate in Safavid Persia: Arabic Printing of the Gospels, Catholic Missionaries, and the Rise of Shīʿī Anti-Christian Polemics’, PhD dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin, 2016, <https://refubium.fu-berlin.de/handle/fub188/1332>, accessed on February 24, 2019.

Ometto, Franco, “Khatun Abadi: The Ayatollah Who Translated the Gospels”, Islamochristiana 28, 2002, p. 55‒72.

Reynolds, Gabriel S., “On the Qurʾanic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (tarīf) and Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 130, 2010, p. 189‒202.

Savory, Roger, Iran under the Safavids, Cambridge [Eng.], Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Thomas, David, “The Bible in Early Muslim Anti-Christian Polemic”, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 7, 1996, p. 29‒38.

Urvoy, Dominique, “Le sens de la polémique anti-biblique chez Ibn Ḥazm”, in Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro & Sabine Schmidtke (eds.), Ibn azm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker, (Handbook of Oriental Studies, 103), Leiden, Brill, 2013, p. 485‒496.

Van Gorder, A. Christian, Christianity in Persia and the Status of Non-Muslims in Iran, Lanham, Lexington, 2010.

Haut de page

Notes

1 Reynolds, “On the Qurʾanic Accusation”, p. 192‒195.

2 Q V, 46 presents al-Inǧīl, “the Gospel” (in singular), as the book that was bestowed on Jesus by God. There is no place for the ‘evangelists’ in the Qurʾān. No human being in the Qurʾān is presented as the writer, composer or scribe of the Gospel(s).

3 Among the most famous Muslim authors of the early Islamic period are Aḥmad b. Isḥāq al-Yaʿqūbī (d. 284/897‒898), Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Bābawayh al-Qummī (“Šayḫ al-Ṣadūq”, d. 381/991), and Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī b. Ḥazm (d. 456/1064), who noticed the role of the evangelists in the formation of the Christian beliefs. Regarding former research about the topic, see Beaumont, “Early Muslim Interpretation”, p. 22‒27; and Accad, “The Gospels”, p. 67‒73.

4 The polemical works of al-Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm al-Rassī (d. 246/860) and Ibn Ḥazm are significant examples in this regard. See Thomas, “The Bible”, p. 29‒38.

5 See Urvoy, “Le sens”, p. 486.

6 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 2‒9.

7 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 3.

8 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 6‒9.

9 Ibn Ḥazm gave the apostles pejorative titles: “Matthew the Taxman” (Mattā al-šurī), “John the Reckless” (Yuannā al-mustaiff), “Mark the Apostate” (Mārquš al-murtadd), “Luke the Heretic” (Lūqā al-zindīq), “Peter the Damned” (ira al-laʿīn), and “Paul the Deceiver” (Būlus al-muwaswis) or “Paul the Conspirator” (Būlus al-madsūs). The titles were motivated in different ways. Matthew’s title was chosen according to his business as a tax collector, mentioned in Matthew 9:9, which he ran before his apostleship. John’s title probably derived from his authorship of the Book of Revelation, viewed by Ibn Ḥazm as a collection of superstitions (see al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 4). In Mark’s and Luke’s cases, their titles were in a kind of verbal harmony with their names. In Peter’s case, it probably came from Matthew 16:23 (“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’”). Finally, Paul’s title was created in order to be rhymed with his name. (The source of the second reading of the title attributed to Paul, Būlus al-madsūs, is Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, the Bayrūt edition, 1996, p. 50). Later in his book, Ibn Ḥazm attributed some other titles to the apostles, replacing Peter with Judas and Jacob (see idem, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 20).

10 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 6.

11 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 6.

12 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 2. Regarding the translations of the New Testament in a variety of languages, Ibn Ḥazm probably intended to show that this diversity had caused the deviation of the contents of the available copies of the New Testament from the original one.

13 Ibn Ḥazm’s conclusion regarding the role of the evangelists is incapsulated in his comment on Matthew 11:27 (“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”): “… [if we take it right] it would mean that the disciples and Christians do not know God at all and, of course, do not know Christ. They had a wrong understanding of God the Almighty and the Son. And whoever is ignorant of God, and does not know him is a heretic. So, they all are heretics, and their predecessors and their successors” (Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 28). For further observation, see Urvoy, “Le sens”, p. 492‒493.

14 An edition of Ḫātūnābādī’s translation and commentary has been published by R. Ǧaʿfariyān (see Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl). D. Halft developed a study of Ḫātūnābādī’s commented translation of the Gospels in his PhD dissertation (see Halft, ‘The Arabic Vulgate’). Some significant information about Ḫātūnābādī’s translation, its origins, and copies can be found on p. 166‒171.

15 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 4.

16 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 229‒231.

17 Was Ḫātūnābādī familiar with Ibn Ḥazm’s polemical literature? It seems that the answer is negative. H. Ansari stated in an article that there is no trace of the attention of Šīʿī scholars regarding Ibn Ḥazm’s works before the Safavid era (see Ansari, “Ibn Ḥazm selon certains savants”, p. 645). In the Persian summary of the same article that was published some years later, Ansari modified the date to the “middle of the Safavid era” (see Ansari, “Ibn Ḥazm va tašayyuʿ ”). Despite this dating, there is no place for Ḫātūnābādī’s familiarity with Ibn Ḥazm in Ansari’s research. The article indicates the first Šīʿī readings of Ibn Ḥazm’s works among the Persian scholars, such as Qāḍī Nūrullāh Marʿašī (d. 1019/1610‒1611) and Ḥazīn-i Lāhīǧī (d. 1180/1766), not in Persia but in India. Having said this, it seems that Ḫātūnābādī was not unaware of existing anti-Christian polemical literature in general (see Ometto, “Khatun Abadi”, p. 69‒72). Still, further research is required to reveal the sources that inspired the chief mullā. Apart from the similarities between Ḫātūnābādī’s and Ibn Ḥazm’s arguments, there are some resemblances between their approaches and styles, such as distinguishing Jesus of the Qurʾān and Jesus of the Gospels with his name in Arabic and Aramaic, respectively as ʿĪsā and Yasūʿ.

18 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 5. Ḫātūnābādī’s writing style is significantly different from Ibn Ḥazm’s one. He tried to be fair, reasonable, and well-advised in his writing.

19 The translation of biblical verses throughout this study follows the New International Version (NIV).

20 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 240.

21 Ometto, “Khatun Abadi”, p. 69.

22 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 230, 245.

23 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 230.

24 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 240.

25 Peter is called in Ḫātūnābādī’s commentary “head of the apostles” (raʾs al-awāriyyῑn). This title, however, was not Ḫātūnābādī’s innovation. Al-Šahrastānī (d. 548/1153) presented Peter as “the superior disciple” (see his al-Milal wa-l-niḥal, p. 246). Ibn Ḫaldūn (d. 808/1406) presented Peter as “head of the apostles” (raʾs al-awāriyyῑn) as well, claiming that Peter wrote his Gospel in ‘Roman’ (Latin) and attributed it to Mark, his disciple (see his Tārῑ, vol. 8, p. 239). The latter claim was mentioned by Ibn Ḥazm, too (see his al-Fiṣal, vol. 2, p. 3).

26 Ḫātūnābādī respectively presented Mark and Luke as the disciples of Peter and Paul. He also mentioned that Mark and Luke wrote their Gospels some decades after Jesus’ ministry (see his Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 299). This note could probably support his idea of unreliability of the Gospels, showing that two evangelists did not even know Jesus in person.

27 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 245.

28 Ḫātūnābādī, presenting Peter as the one who leads Jesus’ followers after his ascension, mentioned that either Peter nominated Mark to write his Gospel or he himself wrote it but attributed it to Mark (see Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 256).

29 Ḫātūnābādī, Tarǧama-yi Anāǧīl, p. 231.

30 Ḫātūnābādī is not precise in his statement, where he qualifies the arguments of the clergyman as being exclusively based on the content of the Gospels. Actually, nowhere in the Gospels is it explicitly written that the resurrection solidified the faith of the disciples, or that the contents of the Gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps he was confusing the Gospels with the Acts or some other Christian material.

31 See Van Gorder, Christianity in Persia, p. 62.

32 See Savory, Iran under the Safavids, p. 251.

33 Ḫātūnābādī’s conditional statement can be formulated as an ‘if p, then q, then r’ structure. Ḫātūnābādī’s hypothesis, the proposition ‘p’, is that the apostles, including the evangelists, were men of little faith, as Jesus stated. Hence, proposition ‘q’ is that they could not comprehend Jesus’ ministry. As a result, the proposition ‘r’ is that their account of Jesus’ message is not reliable at all.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Ali B. Langroudi, « Questioning the Reliability of the Evangelists »MIDÉO, 35 | 2020, 161-174.

Référence électronique

Ali B. Langroudi, « Questioning the Reliability of the Evangelists »MIDÉO [En ligne], 35 | 2020, mis en ligne le 29 octobre 2020, consulté le 04 juillet 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mideo/5227

Haut de page

Auteur

Ali B. Langroudi

University of Göttingen

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Institut Dominicain d'Études Orientales

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search