FORM CRITICISM OR A ROLLING CORPUS: THE METHODOLOGY OF JOHN WANSBROUGH THROUGH THE LENS OF BIBLICAL STUDIES

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Michael Graves

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Abstract

John Wansbrough’s scholarship on the Qur??n has had a significant impact

on Qur??nic Studies over the last forty years. His ideas continue to stimulate

research into historical and literary dimensions of the Qur??n, even though

assessments vary greatly regarding the plausibility of some of his major ideas,

and his subtle arguments can be difficult to follow. This essay clarifies and

evaluates Wansbrough’s thinking about the composition of the Qur??n by

elucidating the models from Biblical Studies that he appropriated. Detailed

treatment is given to biblical form criticism and Wansbrough’s application of

this method to the qur??nic accounts of the prophet Shu?ayb. It is suggested

that Wansbrough’s form-critical research yielded positive insights into the

Qur??n, but also left certain questions unanswered. It is then proposed that

another model taken from Biblical Studies, the idea of a “rolling corpus”

as developed in research on the book of Jeremiah, can sharpen and refine

Wansbrough’s conclusions.

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