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Introducing an Arabic Commentary on the Apocalypse: Ibn Kātib Qaysar on Revelation*

  • Stephen J. Davis (a1)

Ibn Kātib Qayṣar's long-neglected Commentary on the Apocalypse of John is a veritable treasure trove for those interested not only in the early transmission of the biblical text and its history of interpretation, but also in the way ancient definitions of prophecy and vision were reconceived in Arabic Christian theology. Written in Cairo by a thirteenth-century Egyptian author, it is one of only two large-scale medieval commentaries on Revelation produced in the Arabic language. The other such commentary was composed by a fellow Copt, Būlus al-Būshī, who was a near contemporary of Ibn Kātib Qayṣar. Together, these two works provide a compelling witness to the currency of this apocalyptic biblical text among Christians living in Islamic Egypt.

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1 Sundberg Albert C. Jr., “Canon Muratori: A Fourth-Century List,” Harvard Theological Review 66 (1973) 1–41, esp. 21–26; Metzger Bruce M., The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987) 209–28.

2 Dionysius of Alexandria, On Promises, preserved in Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia ecclesiastica 7.25.4. On Dionysius's allegorical interpretation of Revelation as a counter to more literal, so-called “bodily” readings of the text, see Davis Stephen J., “Biblical Interpretation and Alexandrian Episcopal Authority in the Early Christian Fayoum,” in Christianity and Monasticism in the Fayoum Oasis (ed. Gabra Gawdat; Cairo: American University of Cairo Press, 2005) 45–61.

3 Eusebius of Caesarea, Hist. eccl. 3.25.1–5.

4 Gregory of Nazianzus, Carmen; Sundberg, “Canon Muratori,” 23.

5 Amphilochius of Iconium, Iambi ad Seleucum 316–18; Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, 212–13.

6 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses illuminandorum 4.36; Constitutiones apostolorum 7.47.85. On the absence of the Apocalypse of John in the Peshitta, see Sundberg, “Canon Muratori,” 24–25. In contrast to the Syriac Peshitta, the Ethiopian (Ge‘ez) version of the Bible includes the book of Revelation; see Josef Hofmann, Die äthiopische Übersetzung der Johannes-Apokalypse (2 vols.; CSCO 281–282; Aethiopici 55–56; Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1967); idem, Die äthiopische Johannes-Apokalypse, kritisch untersucht (CSCO 297; Subsidia 33; Louvain, Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1969).

7 Pierre Prigent and Ralph Stehly, eds., “Les fragments du De Apocalypsi d'Hippolyte,Theologische Zeitschrift 29 (1973) 313–33.

8 Dulaey Martine, ed., Sur l'Apocalypse: suivi du fragment chronologique et de la construction du monde (SC 423; Paris: Cerf, 1997).

9 Babcock William S., ed., Tyconius: The Book of Rules (Texts and Translations 39; Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1989); see also Bue Francesco Lo, Turin Fragments of Tyconius' Commentary on Revelation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963); and Bright Pamela, The Book of Rules of Tyconius: Its Purpose and Inner Logic (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988).

10 Adams Arthur W., ed., Commentarium libri quinque in Apocalypsim Joannis Evangelistae (CSEL 92; Turnhout: Brepols, 1985).

11 Gryson Roger, ed., Commentaria minora in Apocalypsin Johannis: Variorum auctorum (CCSL 107; Turnhout: Brepols, 2003) 33–97.

12 Gryson , ed., Bedae presbyteri expositio apocalypseos (CCSL 121a; Turnhout: Brepols, 2001).

13 This list of early medieval commentators includes the late-eighth-century writers Beatus of Liébana, Ambrosius Autpertus, and (Ps.-) Alcuin of York; the ninth- and tenth-century writers Haimo of Auxerre, and Adso; and the twelfth-century writers Bruno of Segi, Rupert of Deutz, Richard of St. Victor, and Joachim of Fiore. On the reception and interpretation of Revelation in the early and medieval Latin West, see Georg Kretschmar, Die Offenbarung des Johannes: Die Geschichte ihrer Auslegung im 1. Jahrtausend (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1985) 116–60. On the relation of Christian iconography to this exegetical tradition, see Christe Yves, L'Apocalypse de Jean: Sens et développements de ses visions synthétiques (Paris: Picard, 1996) 53–193.

14 Dyobouniotes Constantin I. and von Harnack Adolf, eds., Der Scholien-Kommentar des Origenes zur Apokalypse Johannis (Texte und Untersuchungen 38.3; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1911) 21–44; Turner C. H., “The Text of the Newly Discovered Scholia of Origen on the Apocalypse,” Journal of Theological Studies 13 (1912) 386–97; idem, “Origen, Scholia in Apocalypsi,” 25 (1923) 1 16. Dyobouniotes, one of the original editors, had doubts about the authenticity of these scholia, and these doubts have been sustained in more recent scholarship: see, e.g., Charles W. Lowry, “Did Origen Style the Son a κτίσμα?” Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1938) 39–42; and Michał Wojciechowski, Pseudo-Orygenes, Uwagi do Apokalipsy (= Pseudo-Origen, Scholia on the Apocalypse (Mała Biblioteka Ojców Kościoła 4, Wydawnictwo ,,M”; Kraków, 2005).

15 The Complete Commentary of Oecumenius on the Apocalypse (ed. Hoskier H. C.; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1928) 29–50; for an English translation, see Commentary on the Apocalypse (trans. John N. Suggit; Fathers of the Church 112; Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2006) 19–203.

16 Studien zur Geschichte des griechischen Apokalypse-Textes (ed. Josef Schmid; 2 vols.; Mūnchener theologische studien 1; Munich: Karl Zink, 1955) 1:1–268 (Andreas); 1:207–458 (Arethas).

17 Dionysius bar Salibi In Apocalypsim, Actus et Epistulas Catholicas (ed. Jaroslav Sedláček, ed.; CSCO 53; Scriptores Syri 18; Louvain: Secrétariat CorpusSCO, 1909) 3–29 (Syriac text); ibid. (CSCO 60; Scriptores Syri 20; Louvain: Secrétariat CorpusSCO, 1910) 1–22 (Latin translation); see also (cited October 16, 2007). On Dionysius's life and writings, including a discussion of his various works of biblical commentary, see also Stephen Desmond Ryan, Dionysius Bar Salibi's Factual and Spiritual Commentary on Psalms 73–82 (Cahiers de la Revue Biblique 57; Paris: J. Gabalda et Cie, 2004) ch. 1–2; reviewed by Lucas Van Rompay, in Hugoye 8.1 (2005).

18 On Būlus al-Būshī's life, see Samir Khalil Samir, Traité de Paul de Bûš sur l'unité et la trinité l'incarnation, et la vérité du Christianisme (Maqālah fī al-tathlīth w-al-tajassud wa-Ṣiḥḥatal-Masīḥīyah) (Patrimoine Arabe Chrétien 4; Zouk Mikhail: al-Turath al ʿArabi al-Masihi, 1983) v–viii, 15–27; and Aziz S. Atiya, “Būlus al-Būshī,” Coptic Encyclopedia 2:423–24.

19 An uncritical edition of Būlus al-Būshī's eight homilies was published by Manqariūs Awād Allah, in Maqālāt al-Anbā Būlus al-Būshī (Cairo: al-Maṭbaʿah al-tujārīyah al-ḥadīthah, 1972). In the past decade, Arab scholars have produced critical editions of two of these sermons: 1) Homily on the Annunciation (“L'Homélie de l'Annonciation de Būlus al-Būšī, ” ed. Nagi Edelby; Parole de l'Orient 22 [1997] 503–65); and 2) Homily on Pentecost (ed. Joseph Moris Faltas; al-Rūḥ al-qudus: Maymar ʿaīd al-ʿanṣarah lil-usquf Būlus al-Būshī [Cairo: Mu'assasat al-Qadīs Anṭūnīyūs, 2006]).

20 Samir, Traité de Paul de Būš, 129–258.

21 My analysis of Būlus al-Būshī's text is primarily based on Arabic MS Sbath 1014 (thirteenth century C.E.), one of the two earliest extant copies of this text (see Vat. ar. 459, dated 1294 C.E.). As a check on that text, I have also consulted Arabic MS Or. 1329 (1671 C.E.) in the British Library (formerly Brit. Mus. Ar. Suppl. 16). Where readings in the British Library manuscript differ significantly from the earlier Sbath version, I call attention to this fact in the footnotes. On Būlus al-Būshī's commentary and its textual record, see also Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur (= GCAL) (4 vols.; Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1947) 2:358–59.

22 Shawqi Talia, “Bulus al-Bushi's Arabic Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John: An English Translation and Commentary” (Ph.D. diss., The Catholic University of America, 1987).

23 His full name was Abū Isḥāq ʿAlam al-Ri'āsa Ibrāhīm Ibn al-Shaykh Abū al-Ṭanā Ibn al-Shaykh Ṣafī al-Dawla Abū al-Faḍā'il.

24 In addition to his Commentary on the Apocalypse, Ibn Kātib also wrote commentaries on the Pauline and Catholic epistles (Graf, GCAL 2:384–86). According to al-Wajīh al-Qalyūbī, he also produced an Arabic translation of the Catholic epistles (Graf, GCAL 2:387).

25 His treatise on confession and his epitome of Yaḥya Ibn ʿAdī are no longer extant, but are referred to and quoted by a thirteenth-century contemporary of the author, Abū Isḥāq Ibn al-ʿAssāl (Graf, GCAL, 2:386–87).

26 For a discussion of date and authorship, a brief summary of the work's contents, and an annotated bibliography listing known manuscripts, editions, and relevant studies published up to the middle of the twentieth century, see Graf, GCAL, 2:380–84. Ibn Kātib Qayṣar provides evidence for the date of composition himself in his comments on Revelation 17:10, when he identifies his time of writing as “year 983 of Diocletian, year 1271 of the incarnation, and year 6772 of the world” (Georg Graf, “Die koptische Gelehrtenfamilie der Aulād al-ʿAssāl und ihr Schrifttum,” Orientalia, n.s. 1 [1932] 51; Girgis [Jirjis] Fīlūthā'us ʿAwaḍ, “Introduction” [in Arabic], to in Arabic [ed. al-Qummuṣ Armāniyūs Ḥabashī Shattā al-Birmāwī; Cairo, 1939; repr. Maktabat al-Maḥabbah, 1994] 22). However, a problem is caused by the fact that these dates given by Ibn Kātib Qayṣar actually stand in conflict with one another: “year 983 of Diocletian” is equivalent to year 1266/7 after Christ, while “year 1271 of the incarnation” would be year 987 according to the Coptic martyrological calendar reckoned from the beginning of Diocletian's reign. It is Graf's judgment (one with which I concur) that the date given first (983 A.M., = 1266/7 C.E.) is the more reliable, since it follows the common Coptic dating system used in Ibn Kātib Qayṣar's day.

27 Par. ar. 67 (thirteenth century C.E.). This Paris manuscript, the original beginning of which is unfortunately lost, served as the basis for the first modern summary of the work, published by Heinrich Ewald, in Abhandlungen zur orientalischen und biblischen Literatur (Göttingen: Dieterich, 1832) 1–11.

28 Arabic MS Cairo 666 (= Copt. Patr. 243): published in Murqus Simaika, Catalogue of the Coptic and Arabic Manuscripts in the Coptic Museum, the Patriarchate, the Principal Churches of Cairo and Alexandria and the Monasteries of Egypt (2 vols.; Cairo: Government Press, 1942) 2:101 (call no. theol. 58). The first folio and some folia at the end of this manuscript were restored in 1612 C.E.

The Coptic Patriarchate collection also contains another manuscript of Ibn Kātib Qayṣar's work, Arabic MS Cairo 608 (= Copt. Patr. 243), which dates to the nineteenth century but is copied from the same fourteenth century prototypes: see Simaika, Catalogue, 100–1 (call. no. theol. 57). A fourth copy of the commentary has been documented in Syria (Aleppo 54; Ibrāhīm Ḥarfūsh, “Die Bibliothek der Maroniten in Ḥaleb,” Mashriq 17 [1914] 96). This Aleppo manuscript has been mistakenly transmitted under the name of Ibn al-ʿAssāl (Graf, “Die koptische Gelehrtenfamilie,” 50). In the case of the Paris manuscript, the original title and identification of the author were lost when the first three folia went missing. At some later date, these missing pages were replaced with new leaves, which contain two separate (and spurious) authorial attributions—one gives credit to Hippolytus of Rome and Būlus al-Būshī (f. 2a), the other to John Chrysostom (f. 2b); see Graf, “Die koptische Gelehrtenfamilie,” 49–50; idem, GCAL 2:384; and Ewald, Abhandlungen, 2.

The first (and oldest) Cairo manuscript mentioned above (Arabic MS Cairo 666) was the text published by al-Qummuṣ Armāniyūs Ḥabashī Shattā al-Birmāwī: Tafsīr Sifr al-Ru'yā li-l-Qadīs Yūḥannā al-Lahūtī l-Ibn Kātib Qayṣar (Cairo, 1939; repr. 1994) (henceforth, Birmāwî 1994), and it is on this edition that I base my own study. Unfortunately, I have not been able to check the reissue of his edition against the Cairo manuscript which he transcribed. In utilizing uncritical editions of Arabic Christian texts published in Egypt, one must always beware of changes (both intentional and unintentional) allowed in the process of republishing and reprinting those texts. One such example of intentional editorial “correction” occurs in chapter 18, section 88, of Ibn Kātib Qayṣar's commentary (on Revelation 17:10: Birmāwī 1994, 337), where a recent Egyptian editor has sought to reconcile the conflicting dates provided by the author by changing the Coptic year from 983 to 987, even while the original 1939 introduction published with the 1994 printing retains the authentic reference to 983 (Birmāwā 1994, 22; see also my discussion of dating above in note 26). Despite such hazards, it has been necessary for the time being to rely on the version of the text that is currently available and in print, and to confirm textual details in relation to other, earlier studies as much as possible. However, this situation underscores the need for a critical edition that would serve as a more definitive basis for future scholarly work.

29 The end of Kātib Qayṣar's commentary is found on page 402 of Birmāwā's edition; the appended section of Būlus al-Būshī's work follows on 403–24.

30 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1; 3.12 (Birmāwā 1994, 30–31, 57–58).

31 Ibid., 4.15; 13.62 (Birmāwā 1994, 75, 261–62).

32 Ibid., 2.11–4.17 (Birmāwā 1994, 52–95).

33 Ibid., 18.88 (Birmāwā 1994, 335–37).

34 While Maimonides (1138–1204 C.E.) was born in Spain, he spent the latter half of his life in Fusṭāṭ (a district adjacent to Old Cairo), where he wrote most of his works.

35 On Ibn Kātib Qayṣar's citations of these Arabic Christian authors, see Graf, GCAL 2:383. On the identity of Bishr ibn al-Sirrī, see Sebastian Brock, “A Neglected Witness to the East Syriac New Testament Commentary Tradition, Sinai Arabic ms 151,” in Studies on the Christian Arabic Heritage in Honour of Prof. Dr. Samir Khalil Samir S. I. on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday (ed. R. Ebied and Herman Teule; Eastern Christian Studies 5; Leuven: Peeters, 2004) 205–15, esp. 213–15.

36 For studies of Arabic Christian apologetics under early Islam, especially the literature produced in Syria and Iraq which later thirteenth-century Copto-Arabic theologians utilized in developing their own apologetic discourse, see Rachid Haddad, La Trinité divine chez les théologiens arabes (750–1050) (Beauchesne religions 15; Paris: Beauchesne, 1985); Christian Arabic Apologetics During the Abbasid Period, 750–1258 (ed. Samir Khalil Samir and J⊘rgen S. Nielsen; Leiden: Brill, 1994); and the numerous articles written by Sidney H. Griffith, including those collected in The Beginnings of Christian Theology in Arabic: Muslim-Christian Encounters in the Early Islamic Period (Variorum Collected Studies Series; Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002); and his more recent, “Answering the Call of the Minaret: Christian Apologetics in the World of Islam,” in Redefining Christian Identity: Cultural Interaction in the Middle East since the Rise of Islam (ed. J. J. van Ginkel, H. L. Murre-van der Berg, Theo Martin van Lint; Leuven: Peeters, 2005) 91–126.

37 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 13.64 (Birmāwā 1994, 373–75).

38 Ibid. (Birmāwā 1994, 374).

39 Sbath 1014, f. 77a. The scribe completes the sentence in the margin, where he writes the Coptic word inline-graphic along with its Arabic “translation,” Muḥammad. In the British Library manuscript, Or. 1329 (f. 41a), the entire phrase, “his name is Mametios ” is written in Coptic as follows: inline-graphic. Immediately below, the scribe has assigned each letter in the name its numerical value: 40 + 1 + 40 + 5 + 300 + 10 + 70 + 200 (= 666).

Throughout the rest of this article, for the sake of consistency, I use the Anglicized name of Muhammad rather than the technical transliterated form, Muḥammad (with the Arabic letter ḥā' indicated by means of a sublinear dot).

40 John of Nikiu, Chronicle 121.10; The Chronicle of John (c. 690 A. D.) Coptic Bishop of Nikiu (trans. R. H. Charles; Text and Translation Society 3; London: William & Norgate, 1916) 75–76. While it was probably originally composed in Coptic and/or Greek, John of Nikiu's Chronicle only survives in an Ethiopic version based directly on an Arabic Vorlage (ed. Hermann Zotenberg, “La Chronique de Jean de Nikioû,” Notices et Extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale 24 [1883] 125–605). This Ethiopic text serves as the basis for Charles's English translation.

41 Ps.-Athanasius, Apocalypse 9.9: Francisco Javier Martinez, “Eastern Christian Apocalyptic in the Early Muslim Period: Pseudo-Methodius and Pseudo-Athanasius,” (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 1985) 247–590, esp. 529–31. Robert Hoyland argues that the name of the beast in this apocalypse also refers to Muhammad; see his book, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam (Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam; Princeton: Darwin Press, 1998) 283–85; cf. Tito Orlandi, “Un testo copto sulla dominazione araba in Egitto,” in Acts of the Second International Congress of Coptic Studies (ed. T. Orlandi and F. Wisse; Rome: C.I.M., 1985) 225–34. This work is preserved primarily in Arabic (Graf, GCAL 1:277–79), but some fragments of the original Coptic also survive: see Bernd Witte, “Der koptische Text von M 602 f. 52–f. 77 der Pierpont Morgan Library—wirklich eine Schrift des Athanasius?” Orientalia Christiana 78 (1994) 123–30; and Harald Suermann, “Koptische arabische Apokalypsen,” in Studies on the Christian Arabic Heritage, 25–44, esp. 26–30.

42 Samuel Muawwad called my attention to Ibn al-Rāhib's relevance for this study; he is currently preparing an edition of Ibn al-Rāhib's Kitäb al-Tawärīkh, which is scheduled to be published by Peeters in the CSCO series.

43 London, British Library (GB-BL), Or. 1337, f. 2b; Berlin, Staatsbibliothek (DE-BS), Or. fol. 434, 3.

44 London, British Library, Or. 1337, f. 12b. In the London manuscript of this work cited here, the late eighteenth-century scribe has mistaken the final Coptic sigma (inline-graphic) in the name for an epsilon (inline-graphic). In the Berlin manuscript cited above (Or. fol. 434, 24), a different nineteenth-century scribe records the same passage, but leaves an open space where he was supposed to have written the word Mametios This omission is perhaps due to the difficulty he had in working with the Coptic language (this despite the fact that he successfully copied the same word earlier in his manuscript). For more information on the life and work of Ibn al-Rāhib, see Adel Y. Sidarus, Ibn ar-Rāhibs Leben und Werk: Ein koptisch-arabischer Enzyklopādist des 7./13. Jahrhunderts (Islamkundliche Untersuchungen 36; Freiburg: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1975); and Johannes den Heijer, “Coptic Historiography in the Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Early Mamluk Periods,” Medieval Encounters 2 (1996) 67–98, esp. 83–88.

45 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 13.64 (Birmāwā 1994, 274).

46 Ibid., Preface (Birmāwā 1994, 29).

47 Ibid., 1.1 (Birmāwā 1994, 30).

50 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1 (Birmāwā 1994, 30–31).

51 Ibid. (Birmāwā 1994, 31).

53 Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio 1.3.2 and 1.3.8–10: Macrobe: Commentaire au Songe de Scipion (ed. Mireille Armisen-Marchetti; Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2001) 1:10, 1:12–13; Steven F. Kruger, Dreaming in the Middle Ages (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 14; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) 21–23.

54 Steven F. Kruger, Dreaming in the Middle Ages, 58–69; Lamoreaux John C., The Early Muslim Tradition of Dream Interpretation (Albany: SUNY Press, 2002) 84; see also my discussion below in the third part of this article.

55 Artemidorus, Onir. 1.2 (Artemidori Daldiani onirocriticon libri V [ed. Roger A. Pack; Leipzig: Teubner, 1963] 9–10); Miller Patricia Cox, Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994) 50. Gregory of Nyssa seems to have shared this perspective; according to him, “there are (only) a few who are judged worthy of divine communication,” and “there are some, not all, who participate by means of their dreams in some diviner manifestation” (De hom. op. 13.12).

56 This work has been edited by Toufic Fahd, Artemidorus: Le livre des songes (Damascus: Institut français de Damas, 1964); for a discussion, see Lamoreaux, Early Muslim Tradition, 47–49.

57 For a detailed discussion of Islamic and Islamicate oneirocritical traditions from the seventh to the eleventh century, see Lamoreaux, Early Muslim Tradition, passim; see also Green Nile, “The Religious and Cultural Roles of Dreams and Visions in Islam,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 3d series, 13 (2003) 287–313. For an example of a Byzantine Greek manual that draws on both Artemidorus and Arabic dream science, see Achmetis oneirocriticon (ed. Francis Drexl; Leipzig: Teubner, 1925); Steven M. Oberhelman, Oneirocriticon of Achmet: A Medieval Greek and Arabic Treatise on the Interpretation of Dreams (Lubbock: Texas Tech University, 1991); and Maria Mavroudi, A Byzantine Book on Dream Interpretation: The Oneirocriticon of Achmet and Its Arabic Sources (Leiden: Brill, 2002).

58 Plato, Timaeus 71 E. Athanasius of Alexandria (Contra gentes 31.38–44) writes: “When the body is still, at rest and sleeping, a man is in inner movement—he contemplates (θεορεῖν) what is outside himself, he traverses foreign lands, he meets friends, and often through them (the dreams) he divines (μαντευόμενος) and learns in advance his daily actions. What else could this be but a rational soul (ψυχή λογική)?” For a helpful discussion of these sources, see Miller, Dreams in Late Antiquity, 39–40 (quotation of Athanasius, 40).

59 Gregory of Nyssa, De hominis opificio 13.9 (PG 44.169A–D, at D); Miller, Dreams in Late Antiquity, 47–48.

60 On Greek and Latin terminology related to dreams and visions, along with a brief review of scholarship, see Weber Gregor, Kaiser, Trāume und Visionen in Prinzipat und Spātantike (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2000) 32–34. John S. Hanson (“Dreams and Visions in the Graeco-Roman World and Early Christianity,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2.23.2 [1980] 1395–1427) also emphasizes the “fairly loose application of a variety of terms that can mean ‘dream' or ‘vision’ or both” in the Graeco-Roman world, and the “lack of consistent discrimination between waking and sleeping in connection with any particular term” (1408). He concludes that “the rather rigid modern distinction between the terms dream (a sleeping phenomenon) and vision (a waking phenomenon) is not paralleled in antiquity” (1409). Karola Zibelius-Chen (“Kategorien und Rolle des Traumes in Ägypten,” Studien zur altāgyptischen Kultur 15 [1988] 277–93) has made a similar observation with respect to ancient Egyptian culture, where the etymology of the word for “dream” (rswt) derives from the verbal root meaning “to be awake” (rs); in this context, he notes that “the Egyptians do not divide conceptually, nor likewise in terms of content, between dream and vision” (282). This blurring of definitional categories in antiquity is also noted by Bernhard Heininger, Paulus als Visionār. Eine religionsgeschichtliche Studie (Herdersbiblische Studien 9; Freiburg: Herder, 1996) 43.

61 Andreas of Caesarea, Apoc. 1.1; Arethas of Caesarea, Apoc. (PG 106.501A); see also Elias V. Oiconomou, “Authorities and Citizens in John's Book of Revelation,” available online at (cited 16 October 2007).

62 Vis. 1.1.3; see also 5.1.1. In other instances, he experienced visions “while (he) slept” (Vis. 2.4.1; 3.1.2). Over against Robin Lane Fox (Pagans and Christians, 382–89) and J. Reiling (Hermas and Christian Prophecy, 157 n. 6) who characterize the former instances as either a trance-like state or somnambulism, Patricia Cox Miller argues for the status of all of these visions as full-fledged dreams: see Dreams in Late Antiquity, 133; and “ ‘A Dubious Twilight’: Reflections on Dreams in Patristic Literature,” Church History 55 (1986) 153–64, esp. 158. However, her conflation of these episodes seems motivated in part by her desire to gather all instances of ὅρασις (“vision”) under the oneirocritical category of dreams experienced in sleep.

63 Vie et miracles de Sainte Thècle (ed. Gilbert Dagron; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1978) 408 (Miracle 46.5); Leontius of Neapolis, “Life of Saint John the Almsgiver” in Leontios' von Neapolis Leben des heiligen Johannes des Barmherzigen, Erzbischofs von Alexandrien (ed. Heinrich Gelzer; Freiburg: J. C. B. Mohr, 1893) 15–16. Gilbert Dagron discusses both of these works in the context of arguing for the equivocality of the conventional opposition suggested by the terms ὄναρ (a vision experienced in sleep) and ὕπαρ (a vision experienced while awake); see his article, “Rêver de Dieu et parler de soi: Le rêve et son interpretation d'après les sources byzantines,” in I sogni ne medioevo (ed. Tullio Gregory; Lessico Intellettuale Europeo 35; Rome: Edizioni dell' Ateneo, 1985) 42 n. 21.

64 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1 (Birmāwā 1994, 29).

65 George Horner, The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Northern Dialect (= CoptNT-North) (4 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905; repr. Osnabrūck: Otto Zeller, 1969) 4:444.

66 Nestle-Aland , Novum Testamentum Graece (27th rev. ed.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2001) 632.

67 For a study of issues related to the Arabic translation of the Bohairic biblical text, see Graf Georg, “Arabische Übersetzungen der Apokalypse,” Biblica 10 (1929) 170–94.

68 This verse is unfortunately not available for comparison in the Sahidic version, where the extant text begins with the last word of Revelation 1:3; see George Horner, The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect (= CoptNT-South) (7 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924; repr. Osnabrūck: Otto Zeller, 1969) 7:258.

69 Sbath Arabic MS 1014, f. 1b; cf. British Library, Or. 1329, f. 4a.

70 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1 (Birmāwā 1994, 32).

71 Ibid. (Birmāwā 1994, 32–33).

72 In the Alexandrian-Egyptian tradition, see, for example, Origen of Alexandria, Princ. 1.8.4; Athanasius of Alexandria, Orationes contra Arianos 3.25, 51; and Shenoute, When the Word Says, f. 2va–b (New York, Pierpont Morgan M664A[6]): published in Catalogue of Coptic Manuscripts in the Pierpont Morgan Library (ed. Leo Depuydt; Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts 4; Oriental Series 1; Leuven: Peeters, 1993) 145; and (Ann Arbor, Michigan 158, 20d): published in Coptic Manuscripts from the White Monastery: Works of Shenute (ed. and trans. Dwight W. Young; Österreichische Nationalbibliothek; Vienna: Verlag Brūder Hollinek, 1993) 162.41–49 and 167.228.

73 See the following examples from Alexandrian Greek and Coptic sources: Athanasius, Ep. virg. 191–203; Vit. Ant. 7; David Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995) 55, 169, 188, 250–51, 259; Jerome, Vit. Paul. 1; and the anonymously authored Life of St. Onnophrius 11 (Journeying into God: Seven Monastic Lives [trans. Tim Vivian; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996] 177). For a recent study of ascetic interpretations of John the Baptist's diet in the writings of late antique and early medieval Christian authors, see James A. Kelhoffer, The Diet of John the Baptist: “Locusts and Wild Honey” in Synoptic and Patristic Interpretation (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 176; Tūbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005) 134–93. J. Massyngberde Ford has put forward the hypothesis that chapters 4–11 in Revelation actually derive from a revelation originally given to John the Baptist; see Revelation (The Anchor Bible 38; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975) esp. 30–37, 50–53, 69–183. However, it is important to point out here that Ibn Kātib Qayṣar's identification of the visionary in Revelation with John the Baptist is manifestly not based on modern historical critical arguments, but rather on specific onomastic and thematic connections he was interested in developing within his thirteenth-century ecclesiastical context.

74 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1 (Birmāwā 1994, 33).

75 Ibid. The author also cites the witness of (Ps.-)Dionysius of Alexandria in support of this view, noting that “Dionysius adds a fifth virtue—namely, participation in the priesthood.”

76 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 2.11 (Birmāwā 1994, 52–53).

77 Ibid., 1.3 (Birmāwā 1994, 34). Since Ibn Kātib Qayṣaridentifies Ephesus as the first bishopric (ra's al-kursā, “primary seat”) prior to Constantine's establishment of Constantinople (Commentary on the Apocalypse 2.11; Birmāwā 1994, 52–53), he accordingly views John as filling the role of archbishop and the bishops of the other cities as his followers or “disciples.”

78 Ibid., 1.8 (Birmāwā 1994, 48).

79 See, e.g., Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.10 (on Rev 1:20); 2.11 (on Rev 2:1); passim (Birmāwā 1994, 51, 52 passim).

80 Ibid., 3.11–14; 4.15–17 (Birmāwā 1994, 52–53, 56–57, 60, 65–66, 71–72, 80, 86–87).

81 Ibid., 3.12 (Birmāwā 1994, 57–59).

82 For a discussion of Sijistānī and Dīnawarī, see Lamoreaux, Early Muslim Tradition, 34–37, 59–62. My comparison of Ibn Kātib Qayṣar's understanding of “revelatory vision” with Muslim theories about dreams is indebted to Lamoreaux's important work, which has opened up the study of this previously neglected corpus of Islamic literature.

83 For a discussion of Ibn Qutaybah's dream manual, see Lamoreaux, Early Muslim Tradition, 27–34. The manual, entitled ʿIbārat al-ru'yā, or Taʿbār al-ru'yā in Arabic, is preserved in two manuscripts—a complete version at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Yahuda ms. ar. 196), and an incomplete copy at the Language, History, and Geography Faculty of Ankara University in Turkey (Is. Saib Sincer I, 4501.2, ff. 180a–217b). The section of text referred to above, found near the beginning of the Jerusalem manuscript (Yahuda, ms. ar. 196, fol. 2a), is cited and translated by Lamoreaux (28); however, my choice of English equivalents for the terms, al-waḥy and al-nubūwah, diverges from his translation.

84 Al-Ḥasan ibn al-Bahlūl, Kitāb al-dalā'il li al-Ḥasan ibn al-Bahlūl (ed. Yūsuf Ḥabbā; Kuwait: Manshūrāt maʿhad al-makhṭūṭāt al-ʿarabāyah, 1987) 384; Lamoreaux, Early Muslim Tradition, 83, 154–65 (esp. 157).

85 According to the ninth-century al-Bukhārā (= Muḥammad ibn Ismaʿāl al-Bukhārā, al-Jāmiʿ al-Ṣaḥāḥ [ed. Aḥmad Muḥammad Shākir; 9 vols.; Beirut: Dār al-Jāl, n.d.] 9.37): “The beginning of the inspired revelation (al-waḥy al-ru'yā) received by God's messenger took place in his sleep (al-nawm).” This reference corresponds to Kitāb al-taʿbār (Book 91.1) in the edition edited by M. Ludolf Krehl (4 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1862) 4.347; the same text is also available online at (cited Oct 16, 2007). For an example of the interpretation of this text in medieval Egypt, see Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānā, Fatḥ al-Bārā (13 vols. plus index; Cairo: Maktabat al-Salafāyah, 1986) 12.368. The pejorative associations connected with the term ḥulm arose out of Muslim interpretations of the Qur'anic text; see esp. Suras 21.5 and 52.32. For a discussion of these aḥādāth and tafāsār traditions, see Lamoreaux, Early Muslim Tradition, 109–17.

86 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1 (Birmāwā 1994, 30).

87 Ṣaḥāḥ al-Bukhārā 9.43–44.

88 Ibn Kātib Qayṣar, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.1 (Birmāwā 1994, 31).

90 Here I borrow the phrase that is repeated seven times throughout the second and third chapters of Revelation, once for each of the messages sent to the seven churches of Asia (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

* I want to express my thanks to the following persons for their help during my preparation of this article for publication: to Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark Swanson, Samuel Moawad, and the anonymous readers for the Harvard Theological Review for providing valuable feedback on issues related to biblical scholarship, the history of interpretation, and the Arabic Christian literary and theological heritage; to Samir Khalil Samir and Nagi Edelby for allowing me to acquire a photocopy of Arabic MS Sbath 1014 during a January 2005 visit to the Centre de documentation et de recherches arabes chrétiennes (CEDRAC) at the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut; and finally, to the staff at the British Library for allowing me access to their collection for a week of research on Arabic MS Or. 1329 in August 2006.

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