Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Timothy I, Apology for Christianity (1928) pp.v-vii, 1-15





Reprinted from the "Bulletin of the John Rylands Library," Volume 12, 1928




The present volume is the second of the series of the "Woodbrooke Studies" which I have drawn from texts contained in MSS. of my own collection.

I have followed with interest the reviews of the first volume of the "Studies" which have appeared in the leading theological and Oriental journals of Europe and America, especially those printed in Germany. I wish here to express my thanks for the appreciative remarks of all the scholars who have discoursed on the theme, and to assure them that I have taken notice of their words of friendly criticism concerning the form and arrangement of the "Studies" whenever I have felt justified in doing so, with a view to further improvement.

In answer to inquiries, I may here state: (a) that the photographic reproductions appearing in the "Studies" are executed at Bournville, Birmingham; (b) that my collection of MSS. on Christian literature in Syriac, Garshuni, Arabic and Ethiopic has been given in trust by Mr. Edward Cadbury to the Woodbrooke Settlement, Selly Oak, Birmingham, the name of which appears on the title-page of the "Studies."

A word of thanks is due to the Aberdeen University Press and to the Arabic and Syriac compositors for the satisfactory way in which they have performed a difficult task

It is a pleasing duty to express my gratitude to my venerable friend for the vigour of his two Introductions and the virility of his inimitable style.1


John Rylands Library, 
1st August, 1928.

1 His curious slip to the effect that Luke was the recorder of the dream of Pilate's wife instead of Matthew has been corrected in the present volume.




Timothy's Apology for Christianity.....1-162
Preface and Translation.......11-90
Facsimiles of Mingana Syr. 17......91-162



Fasc. 3.

The Apology of Timothy the Patriarch before the Caliph Mahdi.


IN the year 781 a.d. in the reign of Mahdi, the third of the Abbassid Caliphs at Bagdad, there occurred a two-days' debate between the Catholicos or Patriarch of the East Syrian Church (who was also the recognised head of all Eastern Christians) and the Caliph himself, as being the spiritual and temporal head of the Mohammedan religion. It was a time when Islam was in the freshness of its new faith and animated by the glory of those sweeping triumphs by which the Most Holy (blessed is He!) appeared to have attested the call to belief and the associated call to arms of his new prophet and messenger. With the final consolidation of the new faith and the necessary canonisation of its great document (one book this time, not four), there had come also the dawn of a new civilisation, of which Mohammed himself had never dreamed, and the splendour of Bagdad, founded by Mahdi's predecessor, Mansur, had, to some extent, retrieved the age-long ruins of its neighbour, Babylon the Great. We are close to the days of the prime of Haroun al Raschid, who is, in fact, second son and ultimately the successor of the Caliph with whom the Patriarch Timothy held his debate, and he is actually engaged on a military expedition on behalf of his father for the further conquest of the unsubdued West, at the time when the discussion was taking place. What is more important for us to realise is, not that we |2 are near to the romantic days of Al Raschid, but that we are very close indeed to the days of Mohammed himself. Less than 150 years have elapsed since the death of the prophet; and it is not only in a historical sense that we are aware of contiguity with the first of the Commanders of the Faithful; in a literary sense we are even nearer still to the Islamic beginnings, for we have no earlier documentary evidence than the one before us of the relations between what is commonly regarded as decadent Christianity and dominant and minatory Islam. The period to which we refer is almost a tabula rasa for the history of Islam itself. So Dr. Mingana is directly contributing to Mohammedan history. Nor will the document, which is here published for the first time, be undervalued by either Christian or Moslem, if we find, on reading it, that Christianity, at least in Mesopotamia, was not so decadent as has been commonly assumed, nor Islam so blighted by intolerance, at least in Bagdad, as it has been in later days and under less generous rulers. So we may read the debate with an open mind, whether we are Moslems or Christians, and we shall at least be able to admit from either side, if we take sides with the Patriarch or with the Caliph, that the Christian religion is not a mere collection of traditions flanked and buttressed by obsolete practices and rituals, and that the Islamic doctrine, which has next to nothing to apologise for in the shape of obscure rituals, was, in the time of the early Abbassid Caliphs, undivorced from reason, and not requiring, either first or last, the sacrifice of the intellect. As we read the report of the conference, we shall be surprised to find how keen the two antagonists are to appreciate one another's arguments: the Patriarch praises the Caliph, endorsing from time to time his theology, and we feel the sincerity of his commendations, which outrun any possible cloak of hypocrisy; and the Caliph on his side is so touched by the piety and the eloquence of his antagonist that he breaks out into an appeal which, if done into Latin, would be, 'O cum talis sis, utinam noster esses.'

"If you accepted Mohammed as a prophet," said the Caliph, "your words would be beautiful and their meanings fine."

On the other side the Patriarch carries the language of conciliation so far as to startle a modern Christian reader; he does not, like Tennyson's Mogul Emperor, say,

"I stagger at the Koran and the sword;" |3 

he uses the Kuran as a text-book in the debate, and, to a certain extent, allows the sword as a lawful instrument of propaganda, provided, of course, that it is used, like the Old Testament uses it, in the suppression of idolatry. "Who will not," says Timothy, "praise, honour, and exalt the one who not only fought for God in words, but showed also his zeal for him in the sword? as Moses did with the Children of Israel when he saw that they had fashioned a golden calf, and when he killed all those who were worshipping it . . ." from which it appears that Timothy would have made an excellent Puritan, and a great preacher of the Old Testament among the Ironsides; but we must not anticipate the general arguments of the new book, in the desire to assure our readers that they will not find a more temperate and judicious use of controversial weapons and methods than are disclosed in the document before us. One further preliminary caution may be given to those who read the book from the standpoint of what is called Orthodox Christianity. Do not be deterred from estimating the work rightly by a preliminary objection to the Christian representative (for he was the official representative of all the churches), as a Nestorian. It may, we think, safely be said that there is very little in Timothy's presentation of Christian doctrine which is not altogether in accord with Catholic definitions. Once indeed he deals a heavy blow at the Jacobite Syrians and the Greeks for their Patripassian theology, but this objection to a dying or a suffering God may be taken in an orthodox sense. We must not, of course, expect to find him betraying acquaintance with beliefs which are accretions to the Faith on the part of Western and mediaeval Christianity such as, for example, the Assumption of the Virgin, of which he clearly knows nothing; his Mariolatry indeed is moderate enough; if, however, the modern reader does not ask too much from the Patriarch's noble confession of faith, he will find as much as he has a right to ask or to expect. And now let us turn to our Apology, and see what it tells us with regard to the opinions of the Moslems on the one hand, and the Christian believer on the other. A few words on Christian Apologetic in general will serve to introduce the matter.

Apology or the Defence of the Faith is inherent in the Christian religion, from its first publication and (we may safely say) to the very end of its possible existence as a religion. Our Lord Himself announced that Apology was a prime function of His believers and |4 followers. You shall be brought before Sanhedrin and beaten in Synagogues, yes! and before kings and rulers shall ye be set for my sake, to give your testimony to them. In this way Jesus describes what we may call a progressive Apologetic, an expanding defence; the judges change, the defence will change to match the court. It is a court of Jews to begin with, a court of world-rulers later on. Notice the vision of Jesus in the matter of Apology, and His implied assertion of His own central position in any legal proceedings against you for my sake. And as He is in the dock, and eternally numbered with the transgressors, His followers will be entrusted with two privileges; either they will be standing in the dock with Him and He with them, or they will be allowed to act as Counsel for His defence; He does not propose to pass either Jewish or Pagan courts without a proper Apologia.

Naturally the manner of the defence will vary, according to the constitution of the Court, and the code of laws which has been infringed. We shall, however, find that in Christian Apologia there is almost always a reminiscence of the fact that the first Court which sat to judge the Christian believer was a Jewish Sanhedrin. They had their own lictors, before ever Roman fasces were seen, and their "forty stripes save one" were the primal condemnation which developed into the "Non licet vos esse" of imperial power. It is important to keep this in mind because we shall see in the document before us abundant traces that the Testimony which Jesus foretold was, to begin with, a Testimony against the Jews, and that it was developed along this line, even though the Jewish advocates had ceased to appear, and the Jews themselves had come to be dismissed with contempt by the Christian Orator. One cannot understand Christian apologetic apart from the relation of Christianity to Judaism. We shall return to this point presently.

We were speaking of the Christian advocate under the name of the Orator, but we shall need to remind ourselves that this is just what Jesus warned his disciples not to be. They were not to premeditate, nor prepare set speeches; their position was to be on the one hand a prepared and preferred Silence, plus what we may without irreverence call the Luck of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit itself should tell them, at the very time of the inquisition, what they ought to say, as well as what they were to abstain from preparing to say. No doubt in the |5 first ages, and often in later ages, saints and martyrs have followed the counsel of their Master: it was, however, a counsel of perfection, which soon gave way to what seemed to be a more reasonable manner of affirming or confirming Christian truth; and so we have philosophers with documents, which they throw at the heads of princes, without waiting for the arrest which they may feel sure will not very long be deferred. Where there is no Court to which they may be handed over, they will make use of literature, especially in the form of Dialogue, and say in book-form the things which they would like to say in a full and open Court. Justin Martyr, for instance, does not really vary his theme in passing from his Apology to his Dialogue with Trypho. Either document will show the same arguments and the same proof-texts. The Apology was never recited, and some people say that the Dialogue, considered as a discourse between real persons, never occurred. We are not disposed to concede this; only we are bearing in mind that Apology tends to a literary form, and that Justin's case shows it to be derived from an anti-Judaic matrix, even when the anti-Judaic argument may be flanked by, or even set aside in favour of, a more philosophical presentation. Aristides also is a true philosopher; you can see his Stoic dress the minute he rises to speak; while Justin is a Platonist, and tries to handle the philosophical argument for the Being of God; but the dress fits him awkwardly, and he is not really happy until he pulls out from under his robe the Book of the Prophets of Israel.

These preliminary considerations will help us to understand the position which Timothy is going to take up before the Caliph. He will take part in a philosophical and theological argument, more because the Caliph presses him into it than because he loves it; but he knows that the common ground of their agreement does not lie in the Moslem philosophy, however much they may overlap Christian thought, but in the common use of sacred books as a court of appeal; and he is sensible that his friendly antagonist agrees with him in this and is much nearer to him than any Chief Rabbi of a hundred Sanhedrins could be. Each of the debaters has enlarged his library of references: both accept the Torah; both accept the Gospel (only the Caliph puts in a caveat against possible corruptions either of Torah or Gospel, in a sense that would be unfavourable to Islam); and what is more strange, both accept in some sense the Kuran, or at least the |6 Christian debater is willing to use the Kuran in cases where its testimony coincides with that of the Law and the Prophets. Hie area of reference, extended in this way, and even when qualified by limitations, is a wider area than could be marked out if the Caliph had been, let us say, a Prince of Judaism. In that sense Christian and Moslem are nearer together than either could be in a debate with Judaistic controversialists. Indeed, the reader, who for the first time turns these pages, will say, we did not believe they could be so near together. Moreover it is not merely an artificial approximation, caused on the one hand by the courtesy and grace of a prince, who has the very life of his opponent contingent upon a word that he might say, but is too good a Moslem to say, and on the other hand evoked by the courage of the Patriarch, and the clearness of his utterance. The two are at one in a number of fundamental points, and this underlying unity so well expressed and so generously admitted on both sides, is what gives the document something more than a passing value. As we have said, the Jews are outside the arena of debate; at least it seems so. It is, however, only seeming. One cannot keep the Jews out of either Christian or Moslem tradition and apologetic

In this connection I may, perhaps, be allowed to recall something which I wrote some years since in review of a tract which my dear friend, Mrs. Gibson, had written on what she called The Triune Nature of God.

The discourse which Mrs. Gibson published was an Arabic treatise which she had transcribed from an early MS. in the Library of the Convent of St Kathrine on Mount Sinai. It was edited by her 1 under the title "On the Triune Nature of God" and was evidently intended as a piece of propaganda, either in the conversion by a Christian writer of his Moslem neighbours, or as an Apology for Christian doctrine in the same quarter. It was a valuable contribution to our history of early Moslem and Christian relations; for the date, if rightly assigned, is very nearly as early as the text of Timothy upon which we are engaged. I took exception, however, to the title, which I asserted should have been Contra Muhammedanos, as it was not limited to an exposition of the Doctrine of the Trinity, but covered a wider ground of debate between Moslems and Christians; and I went |7 on to point out in the pages of the American Journal of Theology 2 that the writer, whom Mrs. Gibson had unearthed, had made use of the very same Scriptural arguments in dealing with Moslems that his predecessors had been in the habit of using against the Jews. In fact he had for the most part transcribed and followed the lost book of Testimonies against the Jews, with the slight modification that was made necessary by the change in the persons addressed from Jews to Moslems.

My reason for referring to the matter here lies in the fact that Timothy has done the very same thing. One has only to take up such a book as Cyprian's Testimonies, with its proofs that the Jews have fallen from grace, that new worship and a new covenant have been called for, followed by the series of Biblical proofs on the nature of the Messiah, to satisfy ourselves completely that we are sailing on the same stream of Christian thought as Justin and Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian. Look, for instance, at the following statements of Timothy:

"O our victorious King, the changes that were to take place in the law given through Moses, God has clearly predicted previously through the prophets whom we have mentioned. God said thus through the prophet Jeremiah, and showed the dissolution of the Law of Moses and the setting up of the Gospel, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant, etc'"

Here Timothy is following closely the method of Cyprian's first book of Testimonies. He goes on to tell the Caliph that

"We have received concerning Christ numerous and distinct testmonies from the Torah and the prophets." "The Jews did not accept Jesus in spite of the fact that the Torah and the prophets were full of testimonies about Him." These he proceeds torepeat, in the same way as Justin and Cyprian repeat them, only adding to the Christian corpus of Testimonies such corroboration as he can extract from the pages of the Kuran, of which he has evidently been a careful student. When he is challenged to say whether the title Servant of God is not more proper for Christ than the title Son of God, he replies: |8 

"He has indeed been called not only a servant, on account of his service, but a stone, the door, the way, and a lamb. He was called a stone, not because He was a stone by nature, but because of the truth of His teaching, etc." 

Here we recognise one of the lost titles of Christ, to which a whole section was assigned in the primitive Book of Testimonies, but which passed out of currency at an early date, except where the Testimonies of the Prophets conserved it. We do not think that any one will read the Patriarch's biblical arguments carefully without seeing that they are based upon a previous collection of prophecies. These prophecies were collected for use against the Jews to whom the appeal to Law and Prophets was in order; but it must never be forgotten that the Law and the Prophets are equally a Court of Appeal for the Moslems. The only question that can arise is whether the Law and the Prophets and the Testimonies that they contain have been transmitted to us in an exact and incorrupt text The challenge as to purity of transmission is made by the Caliph in the usual Moslem form; we were surprised to find it so early; the text of both Old and New Testament and the contained Testimonies has been, he says, falsified by the omission of the name of Muhammad as the Prophet of God. The Patriarch is seen at great advantage in his argument that the concurrence of Jewish and Christian teachers in the text that they use contradicts the possibility of corruption; they cannot have agreed to falsify texts about Muhammad of whom the early writers have never heard. Let the uncorrupt copies be produced; since they cannot all have been destroyed; and since they cannot be found, it is safe to say that they never existed. There has been no corruption.

Of the general trend of the argument we may say that the debate very nearly resolves into a concession on one side that "I would be persuaded to be a Moslem if it were possible." Could concession go further than the admission that Muhammad walked in the steps of the prophets, whether we call him the Prophet or not: or the statement that if I had found in the Gospel a prophecy concerning the coming of Muhammad, I would have left the Gospel for the Kuran, as I have left the Torah and the Prophets for the Gospel? All of this is consistent with "sweet reasonableness." The defect of the Kuran is the lack of evidence for the Kuran, in Timothy's judgment. He makes no concession that is not consistent with orthodox Christian |9 belief; on the other hand, when he moves outside religion into statecraft, and calls those who oppose in the West the new militarism of the East by the name of "murderers" deserving "fire and hell," he goes further than either a serious Christian or a sober-minded Moslem could follow him.3 Was it a crime to defend Constantinople against Bagdad, and would it be no crime but the highest virtue to defend Bagdad against Byzantium? "Murderers" was a two-edged epithet; either side could use it; neither side should do so.

Setting aside these instances of extreme political concession and inconsistency, which at least may add to our constant wonder how such tractable and submissive people as the Patriarch represents could ever be chosen as subjects for massacre and extermination, we turn with admiration to the dignity and the courteousness of the Caliph's attitude in debate. If he is pressed into a position in which he has nothing to reply, or where nothing further can be said with advantage, he introduces a new subject, or repeats a former statement. Sometimes, as when the Patriarch, having used up material illustrations of the Doctrine of the Trinity, such as the favourite one (there is no better) of the Sun and its Light and its Heat, makes a noble confession that all such similitudes are insufficient for the exposition of the Nature of God, the Caliph observes (with a twinkle in his eye) that " You will not go very far with God in your bodily comparisons and similitudes." Which, indeed, the Patriarch had admitted in advance, and was ready to concede and repeat, only with the explanation that the creature, discoursing on the nature of the Creator, must necessarily use the materials for discourse that Creation supplies. So they continue their two-days' discourse, agreeing where they can, as on the Virgin Birth of Jesus and the sinlessness of His character (which the Caliph holds it is blasphemy to deny), and differing where they must, as on the Unity or Trinity of God, and on the question whether either God or Christ really died on the Cross.

In the end the Patriarch comes back to the use of similitudes, this time to one that is not transcendental in its interpretation, the Parable, as we may call it, of the Lost Pearl, in a darkened house, on a fog-ridden day. Jesus Himself had played with the Quest for such a Pearl in the Gospel; but this time the Pearl is not overseas; it has |10 been dropped on the floor of the house; many are searching for it, many think they have found it, one grasping a stone, another a bit of glass or the like, while one only holds the recovered jewel. Who shall say in whose hands the treasure lies? The day shall declare it When the fog lifts we shall know. We have it, says the Caliph, with a Eureka of his own which has the very ring of reality. Amen, says the Patriarch, may we all be found in possession of it, when the Day of judgment, of illuminated and undeceived Judgment arrives. The Patriarch, however, was too good a Christian to allow it to be thought that all faiths, including the one which he represented, stood an equal chance till the Last Day. He alters his similitude of the Pearl to prevent misapprehension of the Divine Revelation, as a figure of which the Pearl has been introduced. The Pearl which everyone is groping after in the darkened room and in the fog-laden atmosphere has a luminosity of its own. One can find it in the dark, without waiting for the 'awful rose of Dawn' at the end of the world, in which both Moslem and Christian believe. He indicates some of the ways in which this soft radiance of the Truth discloses itself; for God does not leave Himself without witness; there are in all times signs and wonders, words and works of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. And so the assembly dissolves, the two noble champions withdraw from the arena, the Patriarch first praying for his Majesty and his heirs a kingdom that shall not be moved.

Rendel Harris.




Prefatory Note.

I GIVE in the following pages the text and the translation— accompanied by a critical apparatus—of an official Apology of Christianity. The writer of the Apology is the celebrated Nestorian Patriarch Timothy I. (a.D. 780-823), and the man to whom it was delivered by word of mouth is no less than Mahdi, the third `Abbassid Caliph (a.D. 775-785). There is reason to believe that it was delivered in this way towards the end of a.D. 781 or at the latest 782. See below, p. 84. The Apology is mentioned by `Abdisho` of Nisibin in his Catalogue under the title "Discussion with Mahdi." Assemani, Bib. Orient., iii. 162.

The Apology is in the form of a private theological discussion between Timothy and Mahdi. It is not necessary to suppose that every word in it was uttered verbatim, but there are strong reasons for believing that it contains as faithful an analysis as could possibly be made under the circumstances of the questions and answers of the Caliph and the Patriarch. We may also state with some confidence that the Patriarch's intention having mainly been to show to his correspondent and co-religionists in general the nature and the extent of his answers to the Caliph's questions, he may have neglected to record all the words of the latter and contented himself with mentioning only the gist of his objections. This colloquy was naturally conducted in Arabic, but we have it now before us in the Syriac style of one of the most illustrious ecclesiastical dignitaries that have ever honoured a high Patriarchal See of any Church either Eastern or Western.4

It is naturally somewhat difficult to ascertain the duration of the time that must have elapsed between the two days of the oral discussion of the two friendly antagonists, and the days in which that oral discussion was first written down in its present form by the Christian protagonist. |12 From the nature of some phrases used in the text I am inclined to believe that that time could not have been very considerable, and I consider that a.d. 783 constitutes the lowest limit to which we might ascribe it with safety, since the author uses in this connection the words "before these days " (p. 16).

I have in my footnotes compared Timothy's Apology under Mahdi in the eighth century with two other Apologies of the ninth century: that of `Abd al-Masih b. Ishak al-Kindi, and that of `Ali b. Rabban at-Tabari. Kindi's Apology—to which I refer by the word Risalah —is in favour of Christianity and was written under the Caliph Ma'mun (a.D. 813-833),5 and that of Ibn Rabban is entitled Kitab ad-Din wad-Daulah, is in favour of Islam, and was written under the Caliph Mutawakkil (a.d. 847-861).6

I may here note that I believe that Kindi's Apology mentioned by the Muslim Biruni 7 and the Christian Nestorian `Abdisho' of Nisibin 8 is a genuine and authentic work. His adversary, who Biruni tells us was `Abdallah b. Isma`il al-Hashimi, informs us 9 that he had frequent discussions with the Patriarch Timothy, the author of the present Apology. The Apology itself makes mention of contemporary events that took place in the time of the author, such as the insurrection of Atabag al-Khurrami,10 and counts two hundred years from the time in which the Prophet lived down to the time in which it was written.11 Kindi himself being decidedly a Nestorian could not possibly be confused wtth any other author of a hostile community from the beginning of the ninth to the end of the tenth century, such as the Jacobite Yahya b. `Adi who died in A.D. 974. Kindi 12 quotes the Nestorian hymn, "Blessed be the one who created the light," 13 explains the "sleep" of Lazarus through the Nestorian exegesis,14 and clearly shows in many passages his adhesion to the Nestorian Christological belief in the mystery of the Incarnation.15 No Jacobite author could possibly have done this.

Further, no other milieu was so favourable for the writing of a |13 book of such an aggressive tone as that created by the Caliph Ma'mun,16 and no author could have spoken in such a way of himself, of his adversary and of Islam in general except a man of a true and noble Arabian extraction as Kindi, on his own showing,17 was.

As to the distinction between sifat dhat and sifat fi`l they are adaptations to Arabic and Islamic philosophy of the previously known Syriac terms of dilaita dakhyana and dilaita de-sa`orutha. Even the present Apology of Timothy alludes to this distinction. I cannot, therefore, see why a Christian Arab author writing about a.d. 820 should not have made use of this philosophical notion which was at home in Christian circles of his time, and in my judgment the argument taken from the use of these two terms in favour of a later date for the Christian Apology 18 is scientifically unwarranted by the Nestorian philosophical studies of the time.

It has also been urged that another detail might suggest that the Christian Apology was not composed by Kindi but by an author of the tenth century, and that is the allusion that it makes to the fact that the name of Muhammad is believed by the Muslims to be incribed on the base of the throne of God.19 It has been said 20 that since Tabari who died in A.D. 923 refuted an opinion similar to this held by the Hanbali Barbahari, the Apology could not be ascribed to about A.D. 820. But is it not probable that such a belief was held also by some Muslims in A.D. 820? What proof have we that it was the Hanbali Barbahari who was the first man to hold and enunciate such a belief? After a careful study of the subject I have come to—in my judgment—the only probable conclusion: that from internal and external evidence Kindi's Apology for Christianity is genuine and authentic in spite of some variants exhibited by the different Arabic and Garshuni MSS. that contain it. The contrary opinion is, I believe, a mistake which should be at once corrected.

To return to our present Apology: I may state with some confidence that the Patriarch Timothy was well acquainted with the contents of the Kur'an, but his knowledge does not seem to have been acquired at first-hand; it was rather derived from some Christians of his own community. It is also very doubtful whether he was aware of the existence of a Syriac translation of the Islamic Book. The |14 phrase "I heard" and the Kur'anic Arabic words that he uses in this connection suggest that he was dependent upon an Arabic and not a Syriac text of the Kur'an.

The most important verses of the Kur'an which he quotes in a Syriac translation are iii. 48; iv. 156; iv. 159; iv. 170; xix. 17; xix. 34; xxi. 91; and xc. 1-3. He is also aware of the existence of the mysterious letters found at the beginning of some Surahs. The usefulness of these quotations for the criticism of the text of the Kur'an is emphasised in my foot-notes, but it will not be here out of place to put side by side the Syriac text of the Kur'an as quoted by Barsalibi —a text which I edited and translated in 1925 21—and by Timothy. If both texts are identical there would be strong reasons for believing that the Jacobite Barsalibi and the Nestorian Timothy were quoting from a text lying before them. On the whole, however, the balance is in favour of the opinion that Timothy's text is not Barsalibi's text.

Barsalibi.                                                        Timothy.

[Syriac omitted]


The only old MS. that contains the present Apology is the one preserved in the Monastery of our Lady, near Alkosh,22 which may be ascribed to about the thirteenth Christian century. From it are transcribed Seert 65,23 Vatican 81,24 Mardin 50,25 and Mingana 17. Apart from Seert 65 which might have been ascribed to the eighteenth century all the other MSS. were copied in the nineteenth century, and if we have a faithful copy of the MS. of the Monastery of our Lady we have practically all the other MSS.

For my present edition I give all Mingana 17 in facsimile. It was transcribed some thirty years ago by the very able copyist, the priest Abraham Shikwana of Alkosh, from the above MS. of the Monastery of our Lady, and in my last journey to the East (in 1925) I collated it myself with the original MS. The reader has therefore every reason to rely on the accuracy of the text of the Apology. In some passages my translation slightly deviates from the text for the sake of clearness. The editorial plural is sometimes maintained.

In an article in the J.R.A.S. (1920, p. 481) on Ibn Rabban's Apology for Islam I drew attention to the fact that religious controversies between Muslims and Christians had not undergone any appreciable change since the 9th century; the same remark holds good with regard to Timothy's and Kindi's Apologies for Christianity.

[Footnotes moved to the end and renumbered]

1. 1 In the seventh volume of Studia Sinaitica.

2. 1 For January, 1901.

3. 1 Was he perhaps affected by the fanaticism of certain persecuting Byzantine Emperors?

4. 1 On his remarkable zeal in the spread of Christianity in Central Asia see my Early Spread of Christianity in Central Asia, 1925, pp. 12-17, 30, 74-76. See also my Early Spread of Christianity in India, 1926, pp. 34 and 64.

5. 1 I use in my references the Arabic text published in Cairo in 1912 by the Nile Mission Press.

6. 2 My references are to my own edition and translation of the work in 1922-1923. 

7. 3 Athar, p. 205 (edit Sachau).

8. 4 Catalogue in Assemani Bibl. Orient., iii. 213.

9. 5 Risalah, p. 8.

10. 6 Ibid., p. 53.

11. 7 Ibid., p. 65.

12. 8 Ibid., p. 105.

13. 9 In Bedjan's Breviarium Chaldaicum, i, ii, and iii, p. 47.

14. 10 Risalah, p. 63. 

15. 11 See ibid., pp. 124-125, etc.

16. 1 Risalah, p. 134. 

17. 2 Ibid., pp. 98 and 135.

18. 3 Encyclopedia of Islam, ii. 1021.

19. 4 In Risalah, pp. 55-56. 

20. 5 Encyclopaedia of Islam, ii. 1021.

21. 1 An Ancient Syriac Translation of the Kuran.

22. 1 No. 90(7°) in A. Scher's catalogue in J.A., 1906, p. 57. The reference to No. 96 in Baumstark's Gesch. d. Syr. Lit, p. 217, is a misprint.

23. 2 In Scher's catalogue. In my last journey to the East in 1925 I was informed on the spot that this MS. was among those which had been destroyed by Kurds in the world war of 1914-1918.

24. 3 In J.A., 1909, p. 263 and in Zeit. f. Assyr., ix., p. 363.

25. 4 In Revue des Bibliotheques, 1908, p. 80. No special mention, however, is made of the Apology in the Catalogue.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts