The Qur’an & the Bible
Gabriel Said Reynolds
London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Alan and Clare Amos
Gabriel Said Reynolds is Professor of Islamic Studies and Theology at the University of Notre Dame, USA. In The Qur’an & the Bible, he provides the text of a translation of the Qur’an and accompanying commentary linking these to biblical passages. The Qur’an translation is by Ali Quli Qarai who has worked as a consultant at the Centre for Translation of the Qur’an, Qum, Iran, since 1994. The translation makes the text of the Qur’an accessible to those looking for a version in clear and contemporary English.
Reynolds, himself a Roman Catholic Christian with a Middle Eastern family background, bypasses issues of revelation and of authorship in his commentary by using the phrase regularly: ‘the Qur’an says’. This is a useful way through what could otherwise be a minefield. He approaches the Qur’an, however, with the convictions of a Western orientalist, though he wishes so far as possible to avoid unnecessary controversy. He writes in the introduction: ‘the Qur’an seems to know the Bible as it was read and transmitted orally by Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity, with the diversity of interpretations which had developed by that time and which had informed their reading of the scripture’ (p.14f).
Reynolds’ book is a very useful resource for the student of the Qur’an who is interested in the parallelsto be found in the Bible and in Jewish and Christian tradition. He makes good use of Christian sources in Syriac, which adds an important dimension to his work. However, it has to be said that the bulk of this volume of 1008 pages consists of the Qur’anic text, though this is interspersed with commentary. The size of the font used for the Qur’anic translation means that the book is physically weightier than might be considered necessary – but is in line with the format often used in books published by Yale University.
This is a useful book for the student rather than a book full of scholarly technical detail. Those looking for originality may be disappointed. However, the book concludes with very useful select bibliography, an index to subjects which appear in the Qur’an linked to the surahs and their verses, and an index of citations of biblical verses. The book appears at a time when it is more and more important that Christian scholars have an accurate idea about the contents and the possible interpretations of the Qur’an, as well as the links with Judaism and Christianity. Reynolds proves to be a helpful guide.
Featured in Bible Lands, Summer 2019