Other Peoples’ Scriptures: The Use of Sacred Texts across Religious Boundaries

In 2011 the Comparative Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion hosted a memorable panel on “Other Peoples’ Scriptures: The Use of Sacred Texts across Religious Boundaries,” which I organized, and to which I offered a response:

David R. Vishanoff. “Other Peoples’ Scriptures: The Use of Sacred Texts across Religious Boundaries.” Response to papers delivered at the American Academy of Religion, San Francisco, November 21, 2011.

Here is a pdf of my prepared response.

Two of those papers were published in Numen 61.4 (2014) as a special issue on the theme of Other Peoples’ Scriptures, for which I wrote an introduction.


The Formation of Islamic Hermeneutics

This monograph started out as my dissertation at Emory University, but doubled in size and was revised several times before it was finally published. It reconstructs the history of the 8th- to 11th-century development of the linguistic and hermeneutical aspects of Sunni legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh).

The Formation of Islamic Hermeneutics: How Sunni Legal Theorists Imagined a Revealed Law. American Oriental Series, ed. Stephanie W. Jamison, no. 93. New Haven, Connecticut: American Oriental Society, 2011.

You can order a copy here from ISD, or from any number of online booksellers. Many thanks to the American Oriental Society for keeping the cost quite reasonable: $52.50, cloth, 344 pages, ISBN 9780940490314. The American Oriental Series used to be distributed by Eisenbraun’s, which then became an imprint of Penn State University Press, but it is now being distributed by ISD, a distribution company in Bristol, CT, that focuses exclusively on scholarly and specialist books.

I have created a color timeline (pdf) that maps out the individuals and movements studied in the book, on a continuum from those whose hermeneutic emphasizes the clarity of language to those who emphasize its ambiguity.

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.

Volume 3 of this massive reference work is available from Brill here; my brief article is individually available from Brill here.

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.