New Publication: ‘Christian Thought in the Medieval Islamicate World – ‘Abdīshō’ of Nisisbis and the Apologetic Tradition’ by Salam Rassi

Oxford Oriental Monographs
  • First book-length history of Syriac and Christian Arabic apologetic literature
  • First intellectual biography of an influential Syriac author
  • An in-depth analysis of the entangled worlds of medieval Christian and Islamic theology
  • A detailed study of a much-neglected period of social and intellectual history in the Middle East

Christian Thought in the Medieval Islamicate World: ʿAbdīshōʿ of Nisibis and the Apologetic Tradition is the first monograph-length study and intellectual biography of ʿAbdīshōʿ of Nisibis (d. 1318), bishop and polymath of the Church of the East. Focusing on his works of apologetic theology, it examines the intellectual strategies he employs to justify Christianity against Muslim (and to a lesser extent Jewish) criticisms. Better known to scholars of Syriac literature as a poet, jurist, and cataloguer, ʿAbdīshōʿ wrote a considerable number of works in the Arabic language, many of which have only recently come to light. He flourished at a time when Syriac Christian writers were becoming increasingly indebted to Islamic models of intellectual production. Yet many of his writings were composed during mounting religious tensions following the official conversion of the Ilkhanate to Islam in 1295. In the midst of these challenges, ʿAbdīshōʿ negotiates a centuries-long tradition of Syriac and Arabic apologetics to remind his readers of the verity of the Christian faith. His engagement with this tradition reveals how anti-Muslim apologetics had long shaped the articulation of Christian identity in the Middle East since the emergence of Islam. Through a selective process of encyclopaedism and systematisation, ʿAbdīshōʿ navigates a vast corpus of Syriac and Arabic apologetics to create a synthesis and theological canon that remains authoritative to this day.

Table of Contents

Introduction: ‘A Constant but not Frozen Tradition’
1:Authority, Compilation, and the Apologetic Tradition
2:The Life and Times of a ‘Most Obscure Syrian’
3:The One is Many and the Many Are One: ʿAbdīshōʿ’s Trinitarian Thought
4:Debating Natures and Persons: ʿAbdīshōʿ’s Contribution to Christology
5:Christian Practices, Islamic Contexts: Discourses on the Cross and Clapper
Conclusion: A Tapestry Woven from Many Cloths

Salam Rassi, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford, UK

Salam Rassi earned his D.Phil. in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford and has held teaching and research positions at Royal Holloway, the American University of Beirut, and the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library. His primary interest is medieval intellectual and social history with a focus on scholarly exchange between Christians and Muslims. He is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford.


Published by Ellie Wilson

Ellie Wilson holds a First Class Honours in the History of Art from the University of Bristol, with a particular focus on Medieval Florence. In 2020 she achieved a Distinction in her MA at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialised in the art and architecture of Medieval England under the supervision of Dr Tom Nickson. Her dissertation focussed on an alabaster altarpiece, and its relationship with the cult of St Thomas Becket in France and the Chartreuse de Vauvert. Her current research focusses on the artistic patronage of London’s Livery Companies immediately pre and post-Reformation. Ellie will begin a PhD at the University of York in Autumn 2021 with a WRoCAH studentship, under the supervision of Professor Tim Ayers and Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein.

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