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

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:

Islamic Law: A Long Work in Progress

This essay explains the slow but certain adaptation of Islamic law to a general audience:

David R. Vishanoff. “Islamic Law: A Long Work in Progress.” The Army Chaplaincy, Winter-Spring 2009, 65-68.

This article was originally accessible on the public websites of the Chief of Chaplains ( and the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS) (, but as of 2017 these web sites no longer exist and The Army Chaplaincy no longer appears to be in publication or available online, so I am making a pdf of the article available here.


My very first publication was an encyclopedia article on the early Muslim theologian Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Sayyar al-Nazzam (782–836), whose thought I encountered in writing my dissertation.

David R. Vishanoff. “Naẓẓām, al‑.” In The Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition, ed. Lindsay Jones, vol. 9, 6444-6446. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005.

The article can be accessed directly in the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Dissertation: Early Islamic Hermeneutics

My dissertation was completed in 2004 at Emory University under the guidance of my advisor Richard Martin, Gordon Newby, Devin Stewart, and Vernon Robbins. It has now been superseded by my much more comprehensive book The Formation of Islamic Hermeneutics, but a few scholars may still find value in the more extensive documentation the dissertation provides in some long footnotes.

David R. Vishanoff. “Early Islamic Hermeneutics: Language, Speech, and Meaning in Preclassical Legal Theory.” Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 2004.

Here is a pdf of the dissertation, which I believe still accurately reflects the formatting and layout of the original. A scanned copy of the original, made by University Microfilms International, is available through many libraries or directly from Proquest here.