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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2013

Naomi Aradi*
The Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, The Faculty of Humanities, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


The concept of tawḥīd (unity of God) is a central issue in Kalām theological treatises. The discussion devoted to this concept follows a typical structure, a fact that has been recognized by scholars in the past. Shlomo Pines points to the similarity between the Kalām model of discussion and the structure of John Damascene's (d. 750) De Fide Orthodoxa. Pines suggested that it may indicate the profound impact of Christian theology on Muʿtazilite Kalām. Ulrich Rudolph adds two important pieces of evidence to the discussion: He analyzes Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī al-Samarqandī's (d. 944) Kitāb al-Tawḥīd and the Jacobite Moses bar-Kepha's (d. 903) introduction to his Hexaemeron, and argues that the structural and conceptual affinity between them actually indicates an opposite direction of influence than the one suggested by Pines. According to Rudolph, the similarity of the two treatises shows they were written as an imitation of an older Muʿtazilite book, which constituted a prototype for the discussion on the concept of tawḥīd. This paper will challenge Rudolph's thesis in two ways, first by questioning his arguments concerning the sources of the Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, and second by suggesting an alternative assumption, which will strengthen Pines's theory regarding the development of the Kalām model of discussion. Through a comparative structural analysis of the works of Māturīdī and bar-Kepha, together with some fragments of earlier Jewish and Christian commentaries on Genesis, will rise the possibility that this model of discussion existed first in the Christian exegetical treatises assigned to Genesis and had already developed before it appeared in the Kalām works.


La notion de tawḥīd (unité divine) est un thème central dans les traités théologiques du Kalām. Or, la discussion de cette notion présente une structure caractérisée, comme l'ont déjà noté plusieurs spécialistes. En effet, Shlomo Pines a relevé la similarité entre ce modèle de discussion dans le Kalām et la structure du De Fide Orthodoxa de Jean Damascène (m. 750), proposant d'y voir un indice de l'influence profonde de la théologie chrétienne sur le Kalām muʿtazilite. Ulrich Rudolph a versé au dossier deux pièces importantes : en analysant le Kitāb al-Tawḥīd d'Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī al-Samarqandī (m. 944) et l'Introduction de l'Hexaméron du Jacobite Moïse bar-Kepha (m. 903), il soutient que l'affinité structurelle et conceptuelle entre ces textes indique en fait une influence exercée en sens inverse à celui proposé par Pines. Selon Rudolph, la similarité des deux traités montre qu'ils ont été écrits sur le modèle d'un ouvrage muʿtazilite plus ancien ayant constitué le prototype des discussions sur la notion de tawḥīd. Cet article met en question la thèse de Rudolph de deux façons, tout d'abord en réexaminant ses arguments à propos des sources du Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, et ensuite en proposant une explication alternative, qui confirme la théorie de Pines sur l'histoire du modèle de discussion du Kalām. Par une analyse comparant, au plan de leurs structures, les ouvrages de Māturīdī et de bar-Kepha à des passages de commentaires plus anciens, juifs ou chrétiens, sur la Genèse, on formulera l'hypothèse que ce modèle de discussion a existé d'abord dans les traités exégétiques chrétiens relatifs à la Genèse, et s'est déjà développé avant de se présenter dans les ouvrages du Kalām.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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1 The period between the eighth century and the twelfth century is considered the Golden Age of the world of Islam. On the Golden Age of Islam from a social and economic point of view, see: Lombard, Maurice, The Golden Age of Islam, translated by Spencer, Joan (Princeton, 2004)Google Scholar. Regarding the cultural and conceptual aspect of the Islamic Golden Age, see: Kraemer, Joel L., Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: the Cultural Revival during the Buyid Age (Leiden, 1986), pp. 130Google Scholar. About science in the Golden Period of Islam, see Qadir, Chaudhry A., Philosophy and Science in the Islamic World (London and New York, 1988), pp. 104–21Google Scholar. Concerning the spread and transition of ideas through interreligious encounters during this period, see: Stroumsa, Sarah, “The muslim context of medieval Jewish philosophy,” in Nadler, Steven and Rudavsky, Tamar (eds.), The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: From Antiquity through the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, 2009)Google Scholar. See also Lazarus-Yafeh, Hava (ed.), The Majlis: Interreligious Encounters in Medieval Islam (Wiesbaden, 1999)Google Scholar on the majālis as an example of “encounters among theologians, monks, philosophers, mystics, freethinkers and heretics of different religions and sects” (p. 8).

2 See, for example, the perception of Wolfson, Harry Austryn, The Philosophy of the Kalām (Cambridge, MA and London, 1976)Google Scholar (henceforth: Wolfson, Kalām).

3 Pines, Shlomo, “Some traits of Christian theological writing in relation to Moslem Kalām and to Jewish thought,” Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 5 (Jerusalem, 1976), pp. 105–25Google Scholar (reprinted in The Collected Works of Shlomo Pines, 3: Studies in the History of Arabic Philosophy, ed. Stroumsa, Sarah [Jerusalem, 1996], vol. 3, pp. 7999Google Scholar (henceforth: Pines).

4 Ibid., pp. 116–17.

5 See Madelumg, Wilferd, “al-Māturīdī,” EI2, vol. 6, pp. 846–7Google Scholar.

6 Rudolph, Ulrich, Al-Māturīdī und die sunnitische Theologie in Samarkand (Leiden, 1997)Google Scholar (henceforth: Rudolph, Māturīdī), pp. 240–1, 251–2.

7 The Muʿtazila appears in the book explicitly in the context of four main issues:

  1. 1)

    1) The creation of the world from nothing – the Muʿtazilite belief in the relative existence of nonexistent things which may come into existence (shay'iyyat al-maʿdūm) is compared, regarding this subject, to the belief in eternity, i.e. the Dahriyya and its different streams. Abū Manṣūr Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Maḥmūd al-Māturīdī al-Samarqandī, Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, ed. Kholeif, Fatḥallah (Beirut, 1970)Google Scholar, (henceforth: Kitāb al-Tawḥīd), p. 16, lines 7–13 (concerning the creation of the bodies); pp. 86–92 (comparison to the different beliefs in eternity); p. 120, lines 5–12 (within a list of various beliefs that deny the unity of God); p. 127, lines 17–20 (comparison to Ibn Shabīb who believes that the bodies are created from nothing, lines 15–17); p. 139, lines 11–13 (the Muʿtazilite belief in “ibqāʾ bi-lā baqāʾ” as opposed to Ibn Shabīb's proof of the creation of the bodies based on the dependence of the body on motion and rest).

  2. 2)

    2) The attributes of essence and action – al-Kaʿbī is announced in this matter as representing the Muʿtazilite views. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 49, lines 16–18; p. 54, line 19–p. 55, line 2; p. 57, lines 6–9. Concerning the divine attributes, the Muʿtazila is mentioned also in the context of the idea that God is a creator in essence, p. 97, lines 8–9 (within the presentation of various views concerning the question “Why did God create the world?” the Muʿtazilis answer that this is the most appropriate act, while Māturīdī denies the very question because in his opinion God is a creator in His essence).

  3. 3)

    3) The power of God – within the problems raised by Ibn Shabīb. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 131, lines 11–15 (as a reply to the question “Can God do anything?” Ibn Shabīb – named here as “the owner of the book” – agrees with the Muʿtazila that there are actions that are within the realm of the creatures' ability only, or that others than God have the ability to do them); p. 132, lines 4–10 [regarding the question “Can God create one like him?” Māturīdī mentions the Muʿtazilite view that God has the ability to lie and be foolish and evil. He argues that this view allows the possibility that God will create like Him. (If He who is wise can be ignorant, then it is possible that He who has been created will be ancient) – As opposed to the opinion of Ibn Shabīb, who denies this question on p. 131, lines 16–22]; p. 133, lines 1–4 (Concerning the same question: The Muʿtazilite assumption that God was not a creator and became one again allows Him to create like Him); lines 9–16 (In the context of the question “Did God have the ability to create before he created?”: The Muʿtazilite belief in free will is presented as contradicting Ibn Shabīb's opinion that God is able in his essence – because the combination of these two beliefs implies that God creates the actions of creatures while they have the ability to create their own actions).

    Here and regarding the first issue (the two last references on the issue of the creation from nothing) it appears that, contrary to Rudolph's theory (see below), Ibn Shabīb's views do not always necessarily match those of the Muʿtazila. Therefore, it is not clear for certain, I think, whether Māturīdī regarded Ibn Shabīb as representative of the Muʿtazila.

  4. 4)

    4) The view that it is impossible for God to be the source of evil. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 92, lines 14–20; p. 169, line 12–p. 170, line 3 (the Muʿtazila in comparison with the Thanāwiyya).

8 On al-Kaʿbī, see van Ess, Josef, “Abū l-Qāsem al-Balkī al-Kaʿbī,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, pp. 359–62Google Scholar; and el-Omari, Racha, “Abū l-Qāsim al-Balkhī al-Kaʿbī's Doctrine of the Imama,” in Adang, Camilla, Schmidtke, Sabine, Sklare, David (eds.), A Common Rationality: Muʿtazilism in Islam and Judaism (Würzburg, 2007), pp. 3957Google Scholar.

9 He is mentioned in one line also regarding the proof of the creation of the world. The saying that everything that is not a body is incident is ascribed to him there. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 16, lines 17–18.

10 About him see TG, vol. 4, pp. 147–60; vol. 6, pp. 377–92; Nyberg, Henrik Samuel, “al-Nadjdjār,” EI2, vol. 7, pp. 866–8Google Scholar.

11 See TG, vol. 6, pp. 382–3.

12 See TG, vol. 6, pp. 390–1. He is referred later as one who believed that God was in no place and now is described as being everywhere. Thus, Māturīdī considers him as one of the deniers of unity. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 120, lines 13–15. See TG, p. 378.

13 On Ibn Shabīb see TG, vol. 4, pp. 124–31; vol. 6, pp. 338–57; Pessagno, Jerome Meric, “The reconstruction of the thought of Muḥammad Ibn Shabīb,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 104, no. 3 (1984): 445–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 For analysis of specific relevant paragraphs see Pessagno, pp. 448–51; TG, vol. 6, pp. 338–43, 352.

15 See Pessagno, pp. 451–2; TG, vol. 6, pp. 344–8.

16 See Pessagno, p. 452; TG, vol. 6, pp. 343–4.

17 See Pessagno, pp. 451–3; TG, vol. 6, pp. 349–51.

Al-Naẓẓām (d. 836/845) also appears in these pages (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 150, lines 9–11; p. 152, lines 8–18; p. 155, line 12–p. 156, line 13). However, since he was Ibn Shabīb's teacher, it is reasonable to assume that the latter was the source by which his saying arrived to Māturīdī. About al-Naẓẓām, see van Ess, Josef, “Abū Esḥāq Ebrāhīm b. Sayyār b. Hāne' al-Naẓẓām,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, pp. 275–80Google Scholar; and TG, vol. 3, pp. 296–418; vol. 6, pp. 1–204.

A fairly short remark under Ibn Shabīb's name in the chapter dealing with Christianity raised the possibility that Jesus was named the son of God not in the corporeal sense – i.e. he was actually born from him – but as an honorable title, like Muḥammad's wives were called mothers, and as one person says to another “Ho, my son,” Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 210, lines 18–19. Rudolph concludes from this short remark that Ibn Shabīb is also the source of this chapter. Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 249, 253.

18 About him see Kraus, Paul, “Ibn al-Rāwandī,” EI2, vol. 3, pp. 905–6Google Scholar; TG, vol. 4, pp. 295–349; vol. 6, pp. 433–90; and van Ess, Josef, “Ibn ar-Rēwandī, or the making of an image,” al-Abhāth, 27 (1978/9): 526Google Scholar.

19 See Watt, William Montgomery, “Abū ʿĪsā Moḥammad b. Hārūn al-Warrāq,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 1, pp. 325–6Google Scholar; TG, vol. 4, pp. 289–94; vol. 6, pp. 430–3.

20 For analysis of specific relevant paragraphs see Josef van Ess, ibid., pp. 16–21; TG, vol. 6, pp. 460–4, 466–7, 470–82; see also Stroumsa, Sarah, Freethinkers of Medieval Islam: Ibn al-Rāwandī, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī and their Impact on Islamic Thought (Leiden, 1999)Google Scholar (henceforth: Stroumsa, Freethinkers), pp. 37–86, 148–55.

There are few other names mentioned in the book:

  1. 1)

    1) Jahm Ibn Ṣafwān (d. 745) – the denial of God's attributes (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 66, lines 10–12; p. 102, lines 8–10; p. 103, line 11). See TG, vol. 2, pp. 493–508; vol. 5, pp. 212–23; Watt, William Montgomery, “Djahm b. Ṣafwān,” EI2, vol. 2, p. 388Google Scholar.

  2. 2)

    2) Muḥammad Ibn ʿĪsa al-Burghūth (d. 854/855) – believed that God was in no place and now is described as being everywhere. Thus, he is regarded as one of the deniers of unity together with al-Najjār (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 120, lines 13–15). See TG, vol. 4, pp. 162–5; vol. 6, pp. 392–6. For an analysis of the specific paragraph, see vol. 6, p. 378.

  3. 3)

    3) Jaʿfar Ibn Ḥarb (d. 850) – a dialogue with a dualist (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 169, line 4–11). On Jaʿfar Ibn Ḥarb, see TG, vol. 3, pp. 68–77; vol. 6, pp. 288–300; Nader, Albert N., “Djaʿfar b. Ḥarb,” EI2, vol. 2, p. 373aGoogle Scholar. For an analysis of the specific paragraph, see TG, vol. 6, p. 291.

  4. 4)

    4) Abū Zayd – the suitability of the time and the place to Muḥammad's arrival and the need for prophecy in situations like these (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 205, line 1–15).

    Still, these names appear in rather short passages, and it is hard to consider them as real sources for the question to which they are mentioned. Rudolph also suggests the possibility that Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad al-Nasafī, the Ismāʿīlī Neo-Platonist, was the source of the discussion with the deniers of the divine attributes (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 93, line 3–p. 96, line 16), though his name is not mentioned at all in Kitāb al-Tawḥīd. This is because, according to Rudolph, the Ismāʿīli doctrine is described there accurately. See Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 187, 250.

21 Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 178–9. In this, Rudolph follows van Ess – see his review of Fatḥallah Kholeif's edition of Kitāb al-Tawḥīd in Oriens 27–28 (1981): 556–65, p. 559.

22 Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 176–8.

23 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, pp. 50–1.

24 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, pp. 37–86 (chapter two).

25 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, pp. 50–1.

26 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, p. 70.

27 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, p. 72.

28 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, p. 75.

29 Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 248–9.

30 Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 249–50.

31 Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 252–4.

32 Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 246–54.

33 On al-Muqammaṣ see Stroumsa, Sarah, “From the earliest known Judaeo-Arabic commentary on Genesis,” JSAI, 27 (2002): 375–95Google Scholar, (henceforth: Stroumsa, Commentary); ead., Soul-searching at the dawn of Jewish philosophy: a hitherto lost fragment of al-Muqammaṣ's Twenty Chapters,” Ginzei Qedem, vol. 3 (2007): 137–61Google Scholar; ead., Dāwūd Ibn Marwān al-Muqammiṣ's Twenty Chapters (ʿIshrūn Maqāla), (Leiden, 1989)Google Scholar, (henceforth: ʿIshrūn Maqāla), pp. 13–42.

34 About him see Bacher, Wilhelm, “Saʿadia b. Joseph (Saʿīd al-Fayyūmī),” The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. X (New York and London 1905), pp. 579–86Google Scholar; and Polliack, Meira, The Karaite Tradition of Arabic Bible Translation: A Linguistic and Exegetical Study of Karaite Translations of the Pentateuch from the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries C.E. (Leiden, 1997), pp. 7790Google Scholar (henceforth: Polliack).

35 Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 242–5. On Moses Bar Kepha see Oussani, Gabriel, “Bar-Kepha, Moses,” The Original Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 296Google Scholar.

36 About him see O'Connor, John B., “John Damascene, Saint,” The Original Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 8, pp. 459–61Google Scholar.

37 Pines, pp. 114–18. It should be noted that Pines has found one point of divergence between the De Fide Orthodoxa and the Kalām treatises: in the De Fide there is “a disquisition on the creation and the created beings, which, inter alia, refers to topics pertaining to Greek science.” There is no parallel to this disquisition in the Kalām treatises. Yet, there is also no parallel to this disquisition in the Oratio Catechetica Magna. Pines, p. 116.

38 See Rudolph, Ulrich, “Christliche Bibelexegese und Muʿtazilitische Theologie: Der Fall des Moses bar Kepha,” Oriens, 34 (1994), pp. 299313CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

39 About him see Broyde, Isaac, “Kirkisānī, Abū Yūsuf Yaʿkūb al-,” The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. VII (New York and London 1904), pp. 509–10Google Scholar; and Polliack, pp. 63–77.

40 On Yefet ben ʿEli see Polliack, pp. 37–45.

41 It should be noted here that the second half of Māturīdī's book deals with the issue of free will (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 215 onward). As Pines had shown, this subject was discussed at length in the Kalām treatises (see page 2 above). Since it is absent from bar-Kepha's introduction I did not refer to this subject here. However, a further investigation of the Kalām model of discussion should no doubt take it into consideration.

42 taqsīm/ qisma = “argumentation by establishing a contrast,” syllogism proceeding from an exclusive disjunction in which the truth is derived from the mutual exclusion of two (or more) contradictory statements. See van Ess, Josef, “The logical structure of Islamic theology,” in von Grunebaum, Gustave Edmund (ed.), Logic in Classical Islamic Culture (Wiesbaden, 1970), pp. 2150, p. 40Google Scholar.

ilzām = “forcing the adversary to accept the inadmissibility of his doctrine or argument by itself, or by the results that “necessarily” follow from it.” See Ben-Shammai, Haggai, “Kalām in medieval Jewish philosophy,” in Frank, Daniel H. and Leaman, Oliver (eds.), History of Jewish Philosophy, (London, 2003), pp. 115148Google Scholar, p. 138, n. 36.

muʿāraḍa = “turning the opponent's argument against him.” See ʿIshrūn Maqāla, p. 119, n. 59.

Māturīdī uses these three procedures very often. See for example: Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 70, lines 1–9 (taqsīm / qisma). I thank an anonymous reader for calling my attention to this example.

43 Bar-Kepha mentions the following ways: true faith; divine revelation; observation through the senses; inherent observing capacity; commandment given by God; strict examination and research; and true report. Schlimme, Lorenz, Der Hexaemeronkommentar des Moses bar Kepha: Einleitung, Übersetzung und Untersuchungen (Wiesbaden, 1977)Google Scholar, vol. 1 (henceforth: Bar-Kepha), p. 92 (chapter 1); Māturīdī first establishes the necessity of religious knowledge and the need of rational consideration which will verify faith. He also explains that faith is necessary for uniting the creatures. Then he discusses the three elements of religious knowledge: testimony of the senses; tradition; and rational consideration. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 3, line 7–p. 11, line 4.

44 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 7, lines 7–13; p. 8, lines 9–13; and again in p. 25, line 17–p. 27, line 17.

45 Saʿadya arranges the foundations of religious knowledge within three categories: (1) rational understanding (ha-muskal – the known by the intellect) – based on: deduction; immediate recognition; knowledge; things which are free of any doubt; things which are free of any contradiction. (2) Pentateuch (ha-katuv – the written). (3) the oral tradition (ha-mequbal – the received).

46 Zucker, Moshe M. (ed.), Rav Saʿadya Gaon's Commentaries on Genesis (New York, 1984) [Hebrew and Arabic] (henceforth: Zucker), pp. 425Google Scholar, 166–205; Hirschfeld, Hartwig, Qirqisānī Studies, Jews' College Publications no. 6 (London, 1918)Google Scholar (henceforth: Hirschfeld). See especially pp. 40–2. See also Haggai Ben-Shammai, The Doctrines of Religious Thought of Abū Yaʿqūb al-Qirqisānī and Yefet ben ʿEli (Ph.D. dissertation, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1977) [in Hebrew] (henceforth: Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī), vol. 1, pp. 4, 8, 25–7, 183–4.

47 Bar-Kepha, pp. 92–5 (chapter 2).

48 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 11, line 6–p. 17, line 4.

49 At least two of the fragments, ascribed by Ben-Shammai to Qirqisānī's interpretation of Genesis 1:1 – fragment 2 (Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 2, appendix 1, p. 19) and fragment 29 (Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 2, appendix 1, p. 60) – fit, as we will see below, with part of the model presented by bar-Kepha and Māturīdī. It appears, therefore, that it is better to ascribe them to Qirqisānī's introduction to his commentary on Genesis, although Qirqisānī may have borrowed from this model in a different manner. The rest of the fragments ascribed to the interpretation of Genesis 1:1, on the other hand, fit the Christian exegesis of that verse, as they are dealing with the description of the world and its creation.

50 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 174–5Google Scholar; vol. 2, pp. 20–1.

51 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 175–6; and see note 338 there on the possibility that the source of the idea was in John Philoponus's writings.

52 Bar-Kepha, pp. 95–9.

53 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 17, line 6–p. 19, line 5.

54 Since this argument already appears in ʿIshrūn Maqāla (see Stroumsa, Sarah, Dāwūd Ibn Marwān al Muqammiṣ and his ʿIshrūn Maqāla, Ph.D. dissertation (Jerusalem, 1983), pp. 97100Google Scholar [Hebrew]), and because Qirqisānī says explicitly that he used Muqammaṣ's commentary (see Hirschfeld, p. 40), it may be assumed that Qirqisānī also follows al-Muqammaṣ in his argument here.

55 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 180–2.

56 Bar-Kepha, pp. 99–102 (chapter 3); Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 19, line 8–p. 23, line 7. They both mention also the properties of the number one as an affirmation that God is one.

57 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 191–2Google Scholar. It should be mentioned that some of the unity proofs, which appear during the Kalām period, were apparently constructed and designed within the context of the debate of Christian and pagan theologians with the dualists already by the second and third century. See Sarah Stroumsa and Stroumsa, Gedaliahu G., “Aspects of anti-manichaean polemics in Late Antiquity and under early Islam,” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 81, no. 1 (1988): 3758CrossRefGoogle Scholar. (Henceforth: Stroumsa, “Manichaean”).

58 Bar-Kepha, pp. 103–6 (chapters 4–5).

59 Bar-Kepha, pp. 106–8 (chapter 6).

60 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 23, line 8–p. 24, line 16.

61 Therefore, he argues that there is no other way but to describe God by using terms that are taken from the visible reality, though he stresses that this description means that God is described by a certain attribute not in the same sense as the creatures are described by the same attribute. Māturīdī strengthens his argument that the visible reality testifies to the invisible one by showing that the belief in the preexistence of the world as well as the Manichaean and the dualistic beliefs are based on interpretations of the visible reality. Yet he explains how the visible reality actually refutes these beliefs and confirms that the world was created out of nothing. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 24, line 17–p. 25, line 16; p. 27, line 20–p. 37, line 19.

62 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 38, line 3–p. 39, line 18 (a discussion on the perception of God as a “body”).

63 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 77, line 14–p. 85, line 19.

64 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 207–8Google Scholar, 210–11.

65 Bar-Kepha, pp. 108–10 (chapter 7).

66 The distinction between the attributes of essence and the attributes of action in connection with God was created out of the intention to eliminate the implication of any likeness between God and other beings from the predications of God. See Wolfson, Kalām, pp. 205–34. According to this distinction, terms predicated of God should express either actions or negation:

  1. 1)

    1) “To act is a property which belongs to God alone, for man's power to act freely is a gift to man by God, whence to describe God as acting does not imply a likeness between Him and created beings” (ibid., p. 219).

  2. 2)

    2) “Any term predicated of Him as property is to be taken as signifying His very essence… Inasmuch as God's essence is unknowable, the property predicated of Him cannot have a positive meaning” (Thus, God is knowing = He is knowing “in virtue of himself not in virtue of knowledge”) (ibid., pp. 227–8).

67 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 49, line 16–p. 53, line 11. Māturīdī refers here negatively to two different versions of the distinction between the two kinds of attributes: (1) attributes that enable condition-changing and those which do not enable any changing; (2) attributes that bear ability and those which do not. The two distinctions presented here are in the words of al-Kaʿbī. See van Ess, “Abū l-Qāsem al-Balḳī al-Kaʿbī,” p. 362.

68 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 104, line 8–p. 105, line 7 (within a chapter dealing with the description of God as a “thing” and a “body”).

69 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 67, line 11–p. 77, line 11; p. 105, line 7–p. 106, line 18.

70 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, p. 237. In other words, Qirqisānī adopts the distinction method of al-Kaʿbī the Muʿtasilite.

71 Bar-Kepha, pp. 110–18 (chapter 8).

72 See Wolfson, Kalām, pp. 112–234.

73 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 39, line 20–p. 44, line 9 (Māturīdī discusses the issue of God's attributes in general within a chapter on the description of God as a “thing”).

74 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 44, line 3–p. 49, line 13; p. 60, line 3–p. 65, line 5.

75 Zucker, pp. 21–3, 196–210.

76 Ben-Shammai, for instance, suggests a different order for the first pages of the introduction: Ben-Shammai, Haggai, “New and old: Saʿadya's two introductions to his translation of the Pentateuch,” Tarbiz, 69, vol. 2 (2000): pp. 199210Google Scholar, pp. 206–7, note 42 [Hebrew].

77 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 231–3.

78 Bar-Kepha, pp. 118–21 (chapter 9).

79 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 53, line 12–p. 59, line 22. Māturīdī outlines this view while denying al-Kaʿbī's belief that the word is created. The question “how it possible is that God speaks to people, if his word is supreme and exalted over theirs?” is raised here implicitly. This question is also mentioned in Qirqisānī's introduction to his long commentary on the Pentateuch, where he explains the anthropomorphic expressions in the Pentateuch. See Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 256–357; Hirschfeld, p. 46, lines 6–21. This perhaps is further evidence of the connection of this introduction to the model of discussion on the concept of tawḥīd.

80 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 49, lines 6–11.

81 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 65, line 8–p. 67, line 8.

82 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 55, lines 3–10 (as part of the arguments against al-Kaʿbī's belief that the attributes of God are created and separate from Him); p. 60, line 3–p. 67, line 8; Zucker, pp. 21–3, 196–210; Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 231–3Google Scholar.

83 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 93, line 3–p. 96, line 16.

84 Zucker, pp. 21–3, 196–210.

85 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 231–3Google Scholar.

86 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 67Google Scholar.

87 Stroumsa, Sarah, “Yefet ben ʿEli's Commentary on Genesis 1:1–5,” in Ben-Shammai, Haggai, et al (eds.), Judaeo-Arabic Manuscripts in the Firkovitch Collections: A Sample Catalogue, Text and Studies (Jerusalem, 2000), vol. 2Google Scholar (Yefet ben ʿEli al-Baṣrī – Commentary on Genesis), p. 144, note 4.

88 Ibid., pp. 142–4.

89 Bar-Kepha, pp. 122–3 (chapter 10).

90 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 237–9Google Scholar.

91 Bar-Kepha, pp. 124–32 (chapter 12); Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 111, line 22–p. 113, line 18; p. 118, line 16–p. 123, line 11.

92 According to the belief in prime matter described by bar-Kepha, the world was created from the prime matter by God. Bar-Kepha, pp. 132–7 (chapter 13). Māturīdī presents a slightly different belief in which the world was created from the prime matter without God's help. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 147, line 4–p. 152, line 3. He then mentions the Sumaniyya (who believe that the weight of earth testify to the eternity of the world; ibid., p. 152, line 6–p. 153, line 5); and the Sophism (the skeptics, those who reject the religious truth; ibid., p. 153, line 8–p. 156, line 22) and refutes their arguments.

93 Māturīdī talks about the belief in the creation of the world from four elements, and also about the belief in the creation of the world from unknown number of elements, and the belief in the stars. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, 116, line 23–p. 118, line 13; p. 141, line 9–p.147, line 3. Bar-Kepha discusses the Bardaisan belief in the creation of the world from five elements. Bar-Kepha, pp. 137–40 (chapter 14); pp. 174–6 (chapters 45–46). Chapters 45–46 appear in Schlimme's edition in the prophecy section. In these chapters bar-Kepha speaks about the creation of the world by the elements. It might be a copying or editing mistake; perhaps the original place of this part was after the discussion of the Bardaisan belief in the creation of the world from five elements (chapter 14). Rudolph suggests an analogy between chapter 40 (dealing with the question “Why did God create the world?” which comes after the explanation as to why Moses did not speak of the reason for the creation of the world) and chapter 46 (dealing with the question “where does the matter of the four elements come from?”) in bar-Kepha's work and p. 215, line 6–p. 221, line 5 in Kitāb al-Tawḥīd. This part in Māturīdī's book deals with God's actions and, according to Rudolph, it is a transition section between the first and the second part of the composition, a kind of summary of the first half, which was dedicated to God. In his opinion, chapters 40 and 46 (and therefore all the sections between them) of bar-Kepha also constitute a repetition of the part dealing with God. See Rudolph, Māturīdī, pp. 245, 253. This idea is possible, yet since between chapters 40 and 46 of bar-Kepha there is a section that deals with the law and its translations, and the section that comes after chapter 46 deals with the interpretations of the law and the book of Genesis, it seems to me more likely to assume that chapters 40 and 46 (and also chapter 45, which deals with the creation of the elements according to the Greek and Syrian teachers) of bar-Kepha are not in their original place but were inserted mistakenly between the chapters dedicated to the law and its translation and interpretation.

94 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 113, line 19–p. 116, line 22; p. 157, line 3–p.176, line 5; Bar-Kepha, pp. 141–2 (chapter 15). Bar-Kepha argues against the Manichaeism. Māturīdī discusses four dualistic beliefs (Thanāwiyya): Manāniyya (Manichaeism, who believe the world was created from the merging of the light above and the darkness below; p. 157, line 3–p. 163, line 10), Dayṣāniyya (who believe the light has the attributes of life while the darkness has the attributes of the absence of life; p. 163, line 12–p. 170, line 22), Marqiyūniyya (Marcionism, who believe that man was between the light above and the darkness below and then he merged with both of them; p.171, line 2–p. 172, line 11), and Zoroastrianism (al-majūs, who believe that Iblīs, the source of all evil in the world was created from a thought of God; p. 172, line 13–p. 176, line 5).

95 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 111, line 13–p. 121, line 4.

96 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 121, line 5–p. 123, line 11.

97 Some of the arguments that appeared during the Kalām period within the debates against these beliefs, and which were raised by both bar-Kepha and Māturīdī, were already developed in the second and third century. See Stroumsa, Manichaean; and note 57 above.

98 Bar-Kepha, pp. 143–4 (chapter 16).

99 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 123, line 12–p. 124, line 3; p. 137, line 21–p. 141, line 7. In this context Māturīdī discusses the question: If it is impossible that the world was as it is from eternity by itself, why is it possible that it is as it is by another? ibid., p. 124, lines 3–6.

100 Bar-Kepha, pp. 144–7 (chapters 17–21).

101 Bar-Kepha, pp. 148–55 (chapters 22–30). Bar-Kepha mentions here the Sophism (p. 148). He answers the question “How was the world created?” by discussing a series of questions:

  • How did God create the world so quick out of nothing? (ibid., pp. 149–50, chapter 23).

  • Why did God create the creation so that it is changing and temporal? (ibid., p. 151, chapter 24).

  • Why did God create the world in time, even though He is an infinite essence? (ibid., p. 152, chapter 25).

  • Did God create the creation as much as His power was able to? (ibid., pp. 152–3, chapter 26).

  • Did God have the recognition and power only while he was creating the creation or were they eternal before? (ibid., pp. 153–4, chapter 27).

  • Did God create the creation in it or outside of it?

  • Did God create the creation in time? (The text of the discussion on these two questions did not survive, see: ibid., p. 154, chapter 28–29).

  • Were the creatures perceived in God's recognition as eternal or not? (ibid., p. 155, chapter 30).

102 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 124, line 22–p. 127, line 4; p. 127, lines 15–20; p. 128, line 12–p. 133, line 22. Māturīdī deals with the question “how was the world created?” by presenting his answers to the following questions:

  • Why God did not create before? (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 124, line 22–p. 125, line 1; lines 3–6; 17–18). Bar-Kepha raises this question when he discusses the belief in the eternity of the world)

  • If God is the most worthy in terms of designing and wisdom, why He did not create the world wisely and in the proper order? (Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 125, lines 1–2; 7–16).

  • Why is it not possible that God did not cease to create the things? (ibid., p. 125, lines 19–24).

  • What is He? (ibid., p. 126, lines 1–8).

  • Where is He? (ibid., p. 126, lines 9–14).

  • Is denying the comparison between God and the creation does not in fact mean a comparison? (ibid., p. 126, line 15–p. 127, line 4).

  • Was the world created from a thing or from nothing? (p. 127, lines 15–20).

  • If God did not cease to be knower, hearer, seer, why is it not possible that he will not cease to be a creator? (ibid., p. 128, line 16–p. 131, line 1).

  • Is God capable of anything? (ibid., p. 131, lines 1–15).

  • Is God capable of creating one like Him? (ibid., p. 131, line 16–p. 133, line 4).

  • Was God capable of creating the things before He has created them? (ibid., p. 133, lines 5–22).

103 Bar-Kepha, pp. 164–6 (chapter 40). On the original placement of this chapter, see note 93 above.

104 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 124, lines 3–21; p. 127, lines 5–14; line 21–p. 128, line 11. And again when answering the question: “Why did God create the things even though he had no benefit from their creation?” Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 134, line 1–p. 137, line 19. Māturīdī already discussed this question in the previous chapter, devoted to God's attributes, when he stressed that God is a creator in His essence: If God is not a creator in His essence, it means that He creates for a benefit and that He needs His act. At the same time it is not possible that God creates in vain without wisdom, hence Māturīdī deduces the necessity of command and prohibition that will prevent the destruction of the creation. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 96, line 21– p. 101, line 18.

105 ʿIshrūn Maqāla, pp. 23–24.

106 Stroumsa, Commentary, pp. 382–3, 390–1, 393–5.

107 ʿIshrūn Maqāla, pp. 23–24.

108 I thank an anonymous reader for his remark on that.

109 Stroumsa, Commentary, p. 384. Qirqisānī had already testified to the connection of al-Muqammaṣ with the Christian exegesis. According to his testimony, al-Muqammaṣ's commentary is an elaboration of Syrian commentaries on Genesis. See Hirschfeld, p. 40.

110 Zucker, pp. 26, 207.

111 Ben-Shammai, Qirqisānī, vol. 1, pp. 181–2.

112 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, pp. 21–36 (chapter 1).

113 Bar-Kepha, pp. 155–7 (chapter 31).

114 Bar-Kepha, pp. 157–60 (chapters 32–33).

115 Bar-Kepha, pp. 160–4 (chapters 34–39).

116 Bar-Kepha, pp. 166–73 (chapters 41–44); pp. 177–82 (chapters 47–50).

117 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 176, line 8–p. 190, line 15; p. 196, line 16–p. 202, line 8.

118 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 190, line 15–p. 196, line 15; p. 202, line 11–p. 215, line 3.

119 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, pp. 33–5.

120 While trying to prove that God is composed of three hypostases, bar-Kepha says that it had been proven elsewhere that there is a true Christianity, and that the belief of Christianity means that God is noticeable by three holy bodies. He also says that Christianity had been determined by what was announced by the apostles, “who did not have sword or wealth or the other matters.” This sentence describes the miraculous spreading of Christianity, which was used as one of the proofs of the religion's veracity. It may be a reference of the writer to Islam and its propagators. Yet it is not a real proof that bar-Kepha was influenced by Muslim theology, just an evidence of his awareness of Islam and his responding to it. See Bar-Kepha, p. 114 (chapter 8), lines 119–32.

121 Thomson, Robert W. (ed.), The Syriac Version of the Hexaemeron by Basil of Caesarea (Lovanii, 1995), vol. 2 (henceforth: Basil), pp. 115Google Scholar.

122 The Christian population in the Islamic empire included mostly Aramic/Syriac speakers. Even before the rise of Islam the enthusiasm for classical Greek science, philosophy, and literature had spread among the Syriac-speaking Christians, first in northern Syria, and then elsewhere. In studying the works of Greek thinkers, as well as Greek scriptural and theological texts, the Syriac-speaking Christians would translate them into Syriac. Greek gradually disappeared from daily use in the Christian communities under Islamic territory, and Syriac became the main cultural and writing language, the instrument whereby Greek thought was achieved. The Syriac-speaking Christians played a fundamental role in the translation movement during the early ʿAbbāsid period, and the Syriac translations of Greek texts served as an intermediate phase in the Greek-to-Arabic translation project. See Griffith, Sidney H., The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam (Princeton and Oxford, 2008), pp. 1213, 108–19, 171–5Google Scholar. Gutas, Dimitri, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ʿAbbāsid Society (2nd–4th/8th–10th Centuries) (London and New York, 1998), pp. 24, 20–2, 136–7Google Scholar. Maurice Lombard, The Golden Age of Islam, ibid., p. 91. In light of these circumstances it is reasonable to assume that most of the people in the world of Islam during the period of Kalām did not read Greek. Thus, Greek works such as Basil's were accessible mainly through their Syriac translation or through their Arabic translation, which was usually an adaptation of the Syriac one.

123 Basil, paragraph 1, pp. 1–2; paragraph 5, pp. 6–7.

124 Basil, paragraph 6, pp. 7–8.

125 Basil, paragraph 7, p. 8, lines 32–39. Compare: Bar-Kepha, p. 95 (2). Later, at the end of his chapter about the belief in the eternity of the world, bar-Kepha cites explicitly from this paragraph in Basil's Hexaemeron, as a proof that the world is created and that its creator can be identify from it and in it (See Basil, paragraph 7, p. 8, lines 21–39; Bar-Kepha, pp. 131–2, lines 225–241). This evidence indicates the direct connection between bar-Kepha's Hexaemeron and Basil's.

126 Basil, paragraphs 8–9, pp. 10–12. Compare: Bar-Kepha, p. 96.

127 Basil, paragraph 11, pp. 14–15.

128 Hayward, Robert (ed.), Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis (Oxford, 1995)Google Scholar, pp. 30, 100. Jerome ascribes this perception to a lost Greek work, The Dispute between Jason and Papiscus; to Tertullian in the book against Praxeas; and to Hilary's commentary on Psalms Ps. 2. Hayward, the editor, enumerates additional names of Greek Fathers who presented a similar perception concerning Genesis 1:1; among them he mentions Theophilus, Irenaeus, Origen, and others. See Hayward's list of references: ibid., p. 100, note 2.

129 On the use of Hebrew words in the early Christian Fathers, see Lahey, Lawrence, “Hebrew and Aramaic in the dialogue of Timothy and Aquila,” in Horbury, William (ed.), Hebrew Study from Ezra to Ben-Yehuda, (Edinburgh, 1999), pp. 106–21Google Scholar. For specific reference to the use of the Hebrew word “baben” (בבן) in relation to Gen. 1:1, see ibid., p. 120, note 88.

130 Hayward (ed.), Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis, p. 100.

131 About him see Saltet, Louis, “Jerome, Saint,” The Original Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 8, pp. 341–3Google Scholar.

132 Ibid., p. 30.

133 Ibid., p. 100. See John 1:1–3, 10; Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:13–20. On the functions of the Son (or the Logos) and of the Holy Spirit in the creation of the world according to Philo and the Christian Fathers, see Wolfson, Harry Austryn, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers (Cambridge, MA, 1964), pp. 247–56Google Scholar.

134 On him see Places, Édouard Des, “Ephrem the Syrian, St.,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd edn, vol. 5, pp. 277–8Google Scholar.

135 Matthews, Edward G. Jr. (ed.), The Armenian Commentary on Genesis Attributed to Ephrem the Syrian (Lovanii, 1998) (henceforth: Ephrem), pp. 67Google Scholar. See note 36 there concerning Dionysius.

136 Ibid., p. 14–15.

137 Basil, p. 2, line 39–p. 3, line 2.

138 Basil, paragraph 2, pp. 3–4.

139 Basil, p. 4, line 37–p. 5, lines 4, 12–13.

140 Basil, paragraph 4, p. 5.

141 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 143, line 14–p. 146, line 15.

142 Basil, p. 7, line 28.

143 Basil, p. 8, lines 3–4.

144 Basil, p. 9, lines 3–9.

145 Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, p. 152, line 6–p. 153, line 5.

146 Basil, paragraph 10, pp. 12–13.

147 Stroumsa, Freethinkers, pp. 22–25.

148 Ephrem, pp. 1–3. For the possibility that this text is actually affected by a much later work – the Scholia of Jacob of Edessa (708) – see Mathews, Edward G. Jr., “The Armenian Commentary on Genesis Attributed to Ephrem the Syrian,” in Frishman, J. and Van Rompay, L. (eds.), The Book of Genesis in Jewish and Oriental Christian Interpretation: a Collection of Essays, Traditio Exegetica Graeca 5 (Louvain, 1997), pp. 143–61Google Scholar. See especially p. 157 there, on a passage in the Scholia similar to Ephrem's interpretation of Genesis 1:1.

149 Basil, paragraph 1, pp. 1–2.

150 I wish to express my gratitude to Michael E. Pregill for generously putting his unpublished lecture paper at my disposal. The lecture was delivered under the title: “Ahab, Bar Kokhba, Muhammad, and the Lying Spirit: Prophetic Discourse Before and After the Rise of Islam” during the Middle East Studies Association 2006 Meeting: “Quran and Hadith: New Perspectives,” November 21, 2006.

* This paper could not have been written without the munificent guiding of Sarah Stroumsa, who was my supervisor in writing my M.A. thesis and encouraged me to publish its main outlines here. With her wise, helpful comments and suggestions she enlightened my first steps in the realm of research. I am most grateful to her for that. I also wish to express my gratitude to Michael E. Pregill for generously allowing me to read his unpublished lecture paper and to refer to it here. My deep thanks to Gad Freudenthal and Miriam Goldstein who also encouraged me to publish this article and helped me greatly with their good advices and remarks.

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