Arabic Versions of The New Testament

Christianity was established in Arabia well before the rise of Islam, but evidence is lacking of any attempt to translate the Bible into Arabic in the pre-Islamic era. The first complete Arabic Bible is attributed to Hunayn b. Ishãq (ninth century), but it is not extant. Parts of the New Testament were translated before then; the Mt. Sinai monastery has provided a manuscript of the gospels dating from perhaps as early as the eighth century (as well as a tenth-century MS of some of Paul's epistles). The great majority of Arabic New Testament MSS are late, however, few of them antedating the sixteenth century. The lateness of the MSS limits their usefulness for NT textual criticism; moreover they are of very mixed ancestry, some of the material being translated, not from Greek, but from Syriac, Latin, and Coptic sources. The two surviving Arabic recensions of Tatian's Diatessaron are of greater importance. The first printed Arabic NT appears in the Paris Polyglot (1629-45). The Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge first published an Arabic NT in 1727, the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1816. More recently, translations have been produced under both Roman Catholic and Protestant auspices. Some parts of the NT are also available in certain of the Arabic colloquials.

See Polyglot Bibles.

G. Graf, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, i (1944), pp. 88- 101, 139-85; J. Henninger, “Arabische Bibelübersetzungen,” Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 17 (1961), pp. 201-223; P.P. Saydon, “Arabic versions,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, ii, pp. 461f.