Theodore Abu Qurrah
He was born around 750 in the city of Edessa, in northern Mesopotamia, and was the Chalcedonian or Melkite bishop of the nearby city of Harran between 795 and 812. According to a late (and hostile) source, he was removed from his see by the Melkite bishop of Antioch, Theodoret (795–812), because of his heretical Christology, although this is unlikely: between 813 and 817 he debated with the Monophysites of Armenia at the court of Ashot Msakeri.
He has traditionally been thought to have been a monk at the monastery of Mar Saba (the monastery where, earlier, John of Damascus had lived), but this has been shown to be due to a confusion with Theodore of Edessa.
He died between 820 and 825.
Abū Qurrah was among the earliest Christian authors to use Arabic alongside Abu-Ra'itah of Tikrit, Ammar al-Basri and Abdulmasih al-Kindi. Some of his works were translated into Greek, and so circulated in Byzantium. He wrote thirty treatises in Syriac, but none of these have yet been identified. His writings provide an important witness to Christian thought in the early Islamic world. A number of them were edited with German translations by Georg Graf and have now been translated into English by John C. Lamoreaux.
Abū Qurrah argued for the rightness of his faith against the habitual challenges of Islam, Judaism and those Christians who did not accept the doctrinal formulations of the Council of Chalcedon, and in doing so re-articulated traditional Christian teachings at times using the language and concepts of Islamic theologians: he has been described by Sidney H. Griffith as a Christian mutakallim. He attracted the attention of at least one Muslim Mu'tazilite mutakallim, Isa ibn Sabih al-Murdar (died 840), who is recorded (by the biobibliographical writer, Ibn al-Nadim, who died in 995) as having written a refutation of Abū Qurrah. The subjects covered were, in the main, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Sacraments, as well as the practices of facing east in prayer (rather than towards Jerusalem or Mecca), and the veneration of the cross and other images.
In his On the Existence of God and the True Religion, he used a thought experiment in which he imagined himself having grown up away from civilization (on a mountain) and descending to 'the cities' to inquire after the truth of religion: an attempt to provide a philosophical argument in support of Chalcedonian Christianity from first principles.
- Some works in J.-P. Migne, Patrologia graeca, 97
- I. Arendzen, Theodori Abu Kurra De cultu imaginum libellus e codice arabico (Bonn, 1897)
- C. Bacha, Les oeuvres arabes de Théodore Aboucara (Beyrout, 1904)
- C. Bacha, Un traité des oeuvres arabes de Théodore Abou-Kurra (Tripoli [Syria] – Rome, 1905)
- G. Graf, Die arabischen Schriften des Theodor Abu Qurra, Bischofs von Harran (c. 740–820), in Forschungen zur christlichen Literatur- und Dogmengeschichte, X Band, 3/4 Heft (Paderborn, 1910)
- L. Cheikho, 'Mimar li Tadurus Abi Qurrah fi Wugud al-Haliq wa d-Din al-Qawim', al-Machriq, 15 (1912), pp. 757–74, 825–842
- G. Graf, Des Theodor Abu Kurra Traktat uber den Schopfer und die wahre Religion (Munster, 1913)
- I. Dick, 'Deux écrits inédits de Théodore Abuqurra', Le Muséon, 72 (1959), pp. 53–67
- S. H. Griffith, 'Some Unpublished Arabic Sayings Attributed to Theodore Abu Qurrah', Le Muséon, 92 (1979), pp. 29–35
- I. Dick, Théodore Abuqurra. Traité de l'existence du Créateur et de la vraie religion / Maymar fi wujud al-Kaliq qa-l-din al-qawim li-Thawudhurus Abi Qurra (Jounieh, 1982)
- S. K. Samir, 'Kitab "Jami' wujuh al-iman" wa-mujadalat Abi Qurra 'an salb al-Masih', Al-masarra, 70 )1984), 411–27
- I. Dick, Théodore Abuqurra. Traité du culte des icônes / Maymar fi ikram al-ayqunat li-Thawudhurus Abi Qurra (Jounieh, 1986)
- S. H. Griffith, 'Theodore Abû Qurrah's Arabic tract on the Christian practice of venerating images', Journal of the American Oriental Society, 105 (1985)
- R. Glei and A. Khoury, Johannaes Damaskenos und Theodor Abu Qurra. Schriften zum Islam (Wurzburg, 1995), pp. 86–127, 148–49, 150–53
- Yuliyan Velikov, The Word about the Image. Theodore Abū Qurrah and St Cyril the Philosopher and the Defence of the Holy Icons in the Ninth Century, Veliko Turnovo University Press (2009) (in Bulgarian)
- David Bertaina, "An Arabic account of Theodore Abu Qurra in debate at the court of Caliph al-Ma'mun: A study in early Christian and Muslim literary dialogues", Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 2007.
Works available online
- Greek works with Latin Translation, from Migne, Patrologia graeca, vol. 97 (and 94) (Paris, 1865)
- English: Debate of Theodore Abu Qurra at the court of al-Ma'mun (Arabic text and English translation) par David Bertaina, 2007
- German: G. Graf, Die arabischen Schriften des Theodor Abû Qurra
- French: A treatise on the veneration of images and Demonstration of the Faith of the Church through the two Testaments and the Councils
- Russian: G. Sablukov, Translation of 15 Theodore Abu Qurrah's Greek Works about islam, Missioner 6 (1879), and Dialogue with a Muslim
- J. C. Lamoreaux, 'Theodore Abū Qurra', in Bibliographical History of Christian-Muslim Relations (Brill, 2009), p. 408.
- John C. Lamoreaux, 'The Biography of Theodore Abū Qurrah Revisited', Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 56 (2002), pp. 25–40. For the identification with Mar Sabas, see Ignace Dick, 'Un continuateur arabe de Saint Jean Damascène: Théodore Abuqurra, évêque melkite de Harran', Proche Orient Chrétien, 12 (1962).
- For those works that have survived solely in Greek, see J.P. Migne, Patrologia cursus completus, series graeca, vol. 97, coll. 1461–1610.
- On the manuscripts of Theodore Abū Qurrah's works, see J. Nasrallah, 'Dialogue Islamo-Chrétien à propos de publications récentes', Revue des Etudes Islamiques 46 (1978), pp. 126–32; Graf, GCAL, II, pp. 7–26; and the list in J. C. Lamoureaux, 'Theodore Abū Qurra', in Bibliographical History of Christian-Muslim Relations (Brill, 2009), p. 417-60.
- Theodore Abū Qurrah, translated by John C. Lamoreaux, Middle Eastern Texts Initiative: The Library of the Christian East, 1 (Brigham Young University Press, 2005)
- S.H. Griffith, 'Theodore Abū Qurrah's Arabic Tract on the Christian Practice of Venerating Images', Journal of the American Oriental Society 105:1 (1985), pp. 53–73, at p. 53. See also Juan Pedro Monferrer Sala, ‘Una muestra de kalam cristiano: Abu Qurra en la sección novena del Kitab muyadalat ma’ al-mutakallimin al-muslimin fi maylis al-Jalifa al-Ma’mun’, in Las raíces de la cultura europea : ensayos en homenaje al profesor Joaquín Lomba, edd. Elvira Burgos Díaz, José Solana Dueso & Pedro Luis Blasco Aznar (Institución Fernando el Católico, 2004)
- I. Krackovskij, 'Theodore Abū Qurrah in the Muslim Writers of the Ninth-Tenth Centuries', Christianskij Vostok, 4 (1915), p. 306; I. Dick, 'Un continuateur arabe de Saint Jean Damascène: Théodore Abuqurra, évêque melkite de Harran', Proche Orient Chrétien, 12 (1962), p. 328.
- Sydney H. Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the world of Islam (Princeton University Press, 2008), p. 107; J. C. Lamoureaux, 'Theodore Abū Qurra', in Bibliographical History of Christian-Muslim Relations (Brill, 2009), p. 408.
- Wolfgang Schwaigert (1996). "Theodore Abu Qurrah". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 11. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 964–966. ISBN 3-88309-064-6.
- John C. Lamoureaux, 'The Biography of Theodore Abu Qurrah Revisited', in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 56
- John C. Lamoreaux, Theodore Abu Qurrah and John the Deacon , Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 42 (2001), 361–386
- Guy Monnot, 'Abu Qurra et la pluralité des religions', Revue de l'histoire des religions, 208 (1991), pp. 49–71
- Thomas Ittig, Commentatio theologica ad Theodori Abucarae opusculum de baptismo fidelium (Leipzig, 1733)