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Saul, David, and Goliath in the Qurʾān (Q 2:246-251): Reading Taʾrīkh al-Ṭabarī with Al-Thaʿlabī and Al-Qurṭubī

  • Muslim-Christian Encounter
  • Abbr : MCE
  • 2021, 14(2), pp.195-246
  • DOI : 10.30532/mce.2021.14.2.195
  • Publisher : Torch Trinity Center for Islamic Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Christian Theology > Mission Theology
  • Received : August 9, 2021
  • Accepted : September 6, 2021
  • Published : September 30, 2021

Hannah S. An 1

1횃불트리니티신학대학원대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

Despite the Islamic concept of taḥrīf, which teaches that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have been altered or misinterpreted, some of the post-quranic scholars of the medieval Islamic world were known to have appropriated them rather liberally in their Qurʾān commentaries and historical narratives. This paper focuses on the celebrated works of the quranic scholars, such as al-Ṭabarī, al-Thaʿlabī, and al-Qurṭubī, to examine their engagement with the extra-quranic sources, specifically in their exploration of Saul, David, and Goliath (Q 2:246-251). Previous scholarship has treated al-Ṭabarī’s History of the Prophets and Kings and al-Thaʿlabī’s Lives of the Prophets quite independently, but no sufficient study has been done to shed light into gauging the remarkable nature of their appropriation of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament sources in bolstering their Islamic agenda. Along with comparing the historiographical exposition of al-Ṭabarī and al-Thaʿlabī, this study provides an additional comparative vantage point by probing into al-Qurṭubī’s quranic commentary, whose tendency is to minimize the incorporation of the extra-quranic material, albeit embracing al-Ṭabarī’s reports. The analysis of this inquiry yields that both al-Thaʿlabī and al-Qurṭubī subscribe to al-Ṭabarī’s History in their exegetical treatise, but markedly deviate from one another in their deployment of the Jewish and Christian material. However, this does not imply that these post-quranic scholars compromised their understanding of the Qurʾān in their zeal to extrapolate the interpretative lacunae by means of the Jewish and Christian traditions. Rather, a careful examination reveals that all these Muslim scholars strove to articulate the Islamic ideals through skillfully adapting extra-quranic data with due reverence for the Qurʾān—a revealing fact that the religious texts of the two monotheistic traditions served as a buttress to better define their Islamic legacy.

Citation status

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