Skip to main content


Apocryphal Writings on Jesus, in Arabic

11/13/2003 - 7:00 PM PST

Advertisment

Interview With Professor Juan Pedro Monferrer

CORDOBA, Spain, NOV. 12, 2003 (Zenit) - Among the texts the early Church had to decide on were apocryphal writings in Arabic.

In this interview, Juan Pedro Monferrer, professor of Arabic language and literature at the University of Cordoba, explains what apocryphal Arabic writings are and why they are not part of the canonical writings accepted by the Church.

That they were not included in the canon can be attributed to their "conceited" character, says Monferrer, who has just published a work entitled "Arabic Christian Apocrypha."

In the Christian apocrypha the figure of Jesus appears "with changing features according to the work we refer to" and in them "acquires the double dimension of God and man at the same time," this expert says. These texts, he adds, show that Arabic is not the exclusive language of Islam.

Q: What are the Christian apocrypha?

Monferrer: The word "apocryphal" comes from the Greek "apocryphos," which means "hidden," "secret." The term identifies a vast gamut of writings of Jewish and Christian origin that, with but a few exceptions -- as is the case of the Book of Enoch in the Coptic Church -- did not become part of the canon of the sacred books of the Bible.

These works, composed in the manner of biblical books, are usually classified by critics as "Apocrypha of the Old Testament" and "Apocrypha of the New Testament."

Q: Do they exist also in Arabic?

Monferrer: Not just in Arabic. The languages in which these books have come to us are very varied: Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Georgian, Armenian, Coptic, etc. And also in Arabic, which has been the language of Christians of the Middle East since the sixth century, when Islam occupied the territories formerly belonging to Christian communities that lived under the Byzantine and Sassanid Persian empires.

Q: Why haven't they been included in the official canon of the Church?

Monferrer: Canon is, also, the Greek word that really means "rule" or "norm." The canon is the list, the catalogue of books, which is recognized by the authority of the Church as books that have been inspired and that constitute the norm of faith for believers. To be canonical, a book must be recognized as inspired.

The exclusion of any given work is the result of different factors. An essential element that must not be forgotten is that one of the peculiarities of the majority of these books is their "conceited" or exaggerated character.

Q: What aspects of Jesus Christ underlie these writings?

Monferrer: The fundamental element contributed by the "apocrypha of the New Testament" is the information they give which does not appear in the New Testament.

All that area of which we know nothing, or perhaps very little from the Gospels -- for example, the birth of Jesus, the journey and sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt; the 18 "hidden" years of Jesus, that is, from 12 to 30, prior to his public life -- is the material developed by the apocrypha, with the intention of making available to the Christian communities all that information they wanted on Jesus.

In this connection, the figure of Jesus, with changing features according to the work we refer to, acquires the double dimension of God and man at the same time, with a dynamic activity elaborated according to the pattern of the New Testament, yet going beyond, in an attempt to bring his figure closer to the audience to which the text was being addressed.

Q: Why is it so difficult to have this type of text reach the average reader?

Monferrer: It's really not difficult to have this type of text reach the average reader. What it does take is work, at times arduous, of finding manuscripts, study, editing and translating, which takes considerable time.

Q: Is your work difficult?

Monferrer: Yes ... I began to dedicate myself to the study of Eastern Christianity and, because of this, remained marginalized, outside the interests that are proper to Arabic studies in Spain.

Of course, I might have lost fame and even money, but every day I am happier for having followed this area of Eastern Christianity studies ..., an area that I hope other people will soon pursue, to be able to make more rapid progress in this realm of studies.

The Arabic language does not belong to Islam; it is the language of the diverse communities that lived in the East and, in the concrete case of Christianity, it has served to preserve extremely valuable jewels of the Early Christian tradition. It is surprising to see how close Jesus comes to us in Arabic which, after all, is a sister language of the Aramaic dialect that Jesus spoke.

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org  CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Jesus, Faith, Social Teachings, Arabic, Language

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment


Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 5:7-9
During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 31:2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 15-16, 20
turn your ear to me, make haste. Be for me a rock-fastness, a ... Read More

Gospel, John 19:25-27
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's ... Read More

Saint of the Day

September 15 Saint of the Day

St. Valerian
September 15: The massacre of the martyrs of Lyons with their bishop, St. ... Read More