Georg Graf

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Georg Graf (15 March 1875 – 18 September 1955) was a German Orientalist. He was one of the most important scholars of the study of the Christian orient, and his 5-volume Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur remains the basis of all subsequent work.


Georg Graf was born in Munzingen, Germany, in 1875.

He entered the seminary of Dillingen, where he learned Greek, Latin and Hebrew. During this period he also learned Syriac and Arabic privately. In 1902-1903 he finished his studies at Munich, learning ancient Egyptian, Coptic and modern Greek. He also learned Georgian. In 1903 he obtained a doctorate of philology with a study on Arabic Christian literature up to the 11th century.

His doctoral thesis was published in 1905. This brought him into contact with the journal al-Machriq, which had been founded by Louis Cheikhô, and for whom he showed a great regard all his life. In 1910 and 1911 he lived in Jerusalem and studied Christian literature in the monasteries there, with a short stay in Beirut.

In 1918 he obtained a doctorate of theology at the University of Freiburg with a work on Marqus Ibn al-Qunbar (Ein Reformversuch innerhalb der Koptischen Kirche im zwölften Jahrhundert), published in 1923. Further research visits to Egypt, Syria and Palestine followed. In 1930 he was named Honorary Professor for Christian Oriental literature at the theology faculty of the university of Munich. In 1946 he was appointed a papal chaplain. He died in Dillingen an der Donau in 1955.

His work is continued today by the Centre for Christian Arabic Literature and Research in Beirut CEDRAC.

Georg is a distant relative of tennis star Steffi Graf.


Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur[edit]

His most important work was the Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur (History of Christian Arabic Literature), sometimes abbreviated as GCAL. This appeared in 5 volumes (Vatican City 1944-53). It covers all Arabic Christian literature to the end of the 19th century.

In this work he sought to complement and complete the work of Carl Brockelmann, whose Geschichte der arabischen Literatur (History of Arabic Literature) had appeared in 1908-1912 but excluded Christian Arabic literature.

The five volumes comprise 2,384 pages.

  • Vol. 1 contains the translations into Arabic, including the bible.
  • Vol. 2 contains "Writers to the middle of the 15th century".
  • Vol. 3 contains "Writers from the middle of the 15th century to the end of the 19th century", and covers the Melchites and Maronites.
  • Vol. 4 continues volume 3 and includes Copts, Jacobites, Nestorians, and Armenians.
  • Vol. 5 is an index.

The work lists all literature produced in Arabic concerned with Christianity. Works by Arabic Christians on medicine, philosophy, or history are excluded, as also translations into Arabic of similar works.

Each entry begins with a brief overview of the author and his life followed by a detailed and exhaustive general bibliography. Then each of the author's works is described, with a bibliography of editions, translations and studies, and finally a list of manuscripts in which the work appears. The last section is essential as many of the works listed have never been published or translated.

Other works[edit]

Graf published altogether more than 270 books, articles and other publications on the Christian orient. Much of this was on Arabic works which had not been published at that date. He was a long-term contributor to the Arabic series of the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium and the journal Oriens Christianus.

A number of his works consist of Arabic texts and German translations of the works of Theodore Abu-Qurrah.


  • Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. Città del Vaticano, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, 1944-1953. 5 vols.
  • Die christlich-arabische Literatur: bis zur fränkischen Zeit (Ende des 11. Jahrhunderts); eine literarhistorische Skizze, Freiburg im Breisgau, Herder 1905. - X, 74 S. (Strassburger theologische Studien ; 7,1)
  • Catalogue de manuscrits arabes chrétiens conservés au Caire. Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1934.
  • Die arabischen Schriften des Theodor Abu Qurra, Bischofs von Harran (ca. 740-820 Forschungen zur christlichen Literatur- und Dogmengeschichte, Band X, Heft 3/4, Paderborn, 1910.
  • Des Theodor Abu Kurra Traktat uber den Schopfer und die wahre Religion, Beitrage zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters. Texte und Untersuchungen, Band XIV, Heft 1. Munster, Westphalia, 1913. Contains German translation.


  • Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz (1990). "Georg Graf". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 2. Hamm: Bautz. col. 282. ISBN 3-88309-032-8. 
  • Samir Khalil Samir: Georg Graf (1875-1955), sa bibliographie et son rôle dans le renouveau des études arabes chrétiennes, in: Oriens Christianus 84 (2000) 77-100.
  • A related title, which supplements the entries on Maronites, is Michael Breydey, Geschichte der syro-arabischen Literatur der Maroniten vom VII. bis XVI. Jahrhundert. Oplanden, Westdeutscher Verlag, 1985.

External links[edit]