Tag Archives: Muslim Biblical Studies

Why Do the Nations Rage? A Muslim Rewriting of Psalm 2

This article examines an intriguing Muslim version of Psalm 2, and concludes that although it may have been written in response to the Crusaders’ conquest of Jerusalem, it is not so much anti-Christian polemic as an internal polemic against worldly Muslims. It stems from a paper titled “A Muslim Rewriting of Psalm 2: Interreligious Resistance and Intrareligious Critique,” which I presented at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Diego in 2007, as part of a memorable panel on “Muslim Biblical Studies.” Most of the papers from that panel were published in a thematic issue of Comparative Islamic Studies. The published article is:

David R. Vishanoff. “Why Do the Nations Rage? Boundaries of Canon and Community in a Muslim’s Rewriting of Psalm 2.” Comparative Islamic Studies 6 (2010 [2012]): 151–179.

Permanent link to the published article (Version of Record): DOI 10.1558/cis.v6i1-2.151

For those without access to the journal, here is the pre-press Accepted Manuscript as a pdf.

And here is the abstract:

Numerous Arabic manuscripts of the “Psalms of David” contain not the Biblical Psalms but Muslim compositions in the form of exhortations addressed by God to David. One rewritten version of Psalm 2 manipulates the form and content of the Biblical Psalms so as to highlight a conflict between the Christian and Muslim communities, and the incompatibility of their scriptural canons. Yet it also embraces the imagined idea of the Psalms of David, and incorporates elements of the Quran, ḥadīth, Islamic sermons, and Tales of the Prophets so as to highlight a division that cuts through both the Muslim and Christian communities, separating worldly believers from those who, like the shared figure of David, repent and pursue a life of otherworldly piety. This illustrates how sacred texts can serve as symbols of religious communities, especially in situations of conflict, and how apparently interreligious arguments can turn out to be intrareligious disputes. It shows how the content, form, and imagined identity of someone else’s sacred text can be used to manipulate the boundaries of textual canons and religious communities, and it demonstrates the need for both interreligious and intrareligious frames of reference in the comparative enterprise.

Reference article on the Islamic ‘Psalms of David’

Drawing on my research for two full-length articles on the Islamic Psalms of David (a collection of divine sayings composed in Qur’anic style by Muslim authors and presented as the Zabur of the Prophet David), I contributed the following reference article to a monumental reference work led by David Thomas:

David R. Vishanoff. “Islamic ‘Psalms of David’.” In Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, Volume 3 (1050-1200), ed. David Thomas and Alex Mallett, 724-730. Leiden: Brill, 2011.

This reference work is available from Brill.

A more more detailed survey of these Islamic psalms may be found in my article “An Imagined Book Gets a New Text: Psalms of the Muslim David.”

An Imagined Book Gets a New Text: Psalms of the Muslim David

This article maps out the relationships between several very different versions of the Islamic Psalms–a set of pious psalms composed by Muslims in the style of the Qur’an and presented as the Zabur revealed to the Prophet David. It is based on papers presented at the Sixth Woodbrooke-Mingana Symposium on Arab Christianity and Islam in 2009 and at the American Oriental Society in 2010. My map of the various recensions and the families of manuscripts that represent them continues to evolve, and I have updated it slightly in oral presentations such as “An Early Recension of the Islamic Psalms of David,” but this article remains, as of 2017, the most complete published discussion of the different versions.

David R. Vishanoff. “An Imagined Book Gets a New Text: Psalms of the Muslim David.” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 22 (2011): 85-99.

The Version of Record (VoR) is published at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2011.543597

For those without access to the journal, here is a pdf of the pre-press Accepted Manuscript.

And here is the abstract:

Numerous Arabic manuscripts of the ‘Psalms of David’ contain not the biblical Psalms but Muslim compositions in the form of exhortations addressed by God to David. A survey of five manuscripts reveals that all such texts studied to date can be traced to two early source collections, whose contents were rewritten and expanded by three medieval authors and numerous copyists to produce four distinct texts in seven different recensions. These texts intersect with several types of literature: rewritten Bible, interreligious polemic, sermons, wisdom literature, divine sayings, law, Tales of the Prophets, and ‘dialogues with God’ (munājāt). They should be regarded not as polemical rewritings of the Bible, but as rewritten Qur’an, in which each author employs the idea of David and his Psalms to lend the authority of revelation to his own message.

Review of Walid A. Saleh, In Defense of the Bible

Walid Saleh, of the University of Toronto, published a critical edition of a treatise written by the Qur’an commentator al-Biqāʿī (d. 885/1480) to defend himself against critics who assailed him for his reliance on the Bible in interpreting the Qur’an. Here is my review of the edition:

David R. Vishanoff. Review of Walid A. Saleh, In Defense of the Bible: A Critical Edition and an Introduction to al-Biqāʿī’s Bible Treatise (Leiden: Brill, 2008). Journal of the American Oriental Society 129 (2009 [2010]): 323–325.

Permanent link to the published review (Version of Record) on JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40593824

Psalms of the Muslim David: Rewritten Bible or Rewritten Qurʾān?

At the American Oriental Society meeting in 2010 I broke from my habit of presenting progress on my Islamic legal hermeneutics project, and presented an introduction to a curious text I had recently begun to study: a complete rewriting, by Muslims authors and in a Qur’anic style, of the “Psalms of David”:

David R. Vishanoff. “Psalms of the Muslim David: Rewritten Bible or Rewritten Qurʾān?” American Oriental Society, St. Louis, March 14, 2010.

I will not post the presentation here, since it has been entirely superseded by subsequent publications, especially my article “An Imagined Book Gets a New Text: Psalms of the Muslim David.”