Saturday, 27 December 2008

Bible stories in the Qur’an

Patrick Comerford and Kieran O’Mahony at the Bedell Boyle Lecture in the Milltown Institute, Dublin

Patrick Comerford

The National Bible Society of Ireland has published my lecture in the Bedell Boyle Lecture series in a new booklet: Reflections of the Bible in the Qur’an: a Comparison of Scriptural traditions in Christianity and Islam.

This new publication points out that Muslims respect Jews, Christians and Muslims as “People of the Book,” sharing a common scriptural tradition, based on the Torah (tawrat) or first five books of the Bible, the Psalms (zabur) and the Gospels (injil). The Qur’an includes many Biblical stories, with numerous parallels of the Gospel stories in the Qur’an.

This publication also explores the place of Jesus in later Islamic traditions, including the hadith, apocalyptic and Arabic literary traditions, and Sufi poetry, and examines both the Muslim view of the Bible and the attitude towards the Bible found in the Qur’an and in Islamic teachings.

The annual Bedell Boyle lecture honours Bishop William Bedell (1571-1642), who translated the Old Testament into Irish and Robert Boyle (1626-1691), who published Bibles for Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This year’s lecturer was Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. In previous years, the lecturers have included John Dexter, Trevor Sargent TD, Dr Peter Harbison, Bishop Harold Miller, Dr Margaret Daly-Denton, Abbot Christopher Dillon and Bishop Donal Murray.

The lecture in the Milltown Institute on 15 November 2006 was chaired and introduced by the Augustinian Biblical scholar and former President of the National Bible Society of Ireland, the Revd Dr Kieran O’Mahony.

In his introduction to this new publication, Professor O’Mahony, writes:

“In these days of closer social contacts between Muslims and Christians, a sympathetic reading of each other’s scriptures and traditions is all the more needed. The Rev. Patrick Comerford’s eirenic presentation of Muslim teaching on Jesus and other biblical figures makes an ideal and highly-informative opening up for the non-Muslim. The members of the National Bible Society of Ireland are grateful to Patrick Comerford for making his experience and research so accessible to all.

“Probably it will be a surprise for many Western readers to discover just how much of the biblical tradition, both Jewish and Christian, is to be found in the Qur’an. The Abrahamic faiths are related, Eirenic though it may be, this study does not shirk the contrasts of opinion between Christian and Muslim teaching in the person of Jesus. Such honesty is a mark of respect and a prerequisite for genuine dialogue. Nevertheless, I think the author would be pleased if his readers were moved to take up and read the Qur’an for themselves. Perhaps that suggestion may seem surprising in a publication of the National Bible Society of Ireland. Nevertheless, our own experience of being led to holiness by our Holy Book may help us appreciate sympathetically our Muslim brothers and sisters are also led to holiness by their Holy Book.”

Reflections of the Bible in the Qur’an: a Comparison of Scriptural traditions in Christianity and Islam by Patrick Comerford is available from the National Bible Society of Ireland, 41 Dawson Street, Dublin 2 (ISBN 0954867238).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological College, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.