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David Bertaina



When considering the content and polemical strategies of certain passages in the Qur'an, the history of the short-lived Tritheist movement merits further analysis. This Miaphysite Christian faction was accused of confessing a triple Godhead and denying a physical resurrection. In the half century prior to the emergence of the Qur'an, lively debates took place among Miaphysite Christians in Egypt, Syria-Palestine, and Arabia over Tritheism. Syriac speaking Arab Christian leaders accused the Tritheists of polytheism for denying God’s unity and of pagan unbelief for rejecting the resurrection of the original human body. This collection of anti-Tritheist literature makes critiques of positions not unlike several passages in the Qur'an, as both claim to be directed at polytheists and unbelievers, and both assume knowledge of biblical material and Syriac-speaking Christian texts. Biblically and theologically based critiques in the Qur'an appear to show familiarity with anti-Tritheist polemics. This article makes the case that particular verses in the Qur'an reflect knowledge of Miaphysite anti-Tritheist critiques of Tritheist positions on God and the resurrection, that certain passages were modeled after the polemical reduction of opponents’ positions found in anti-Tritheist literature, and that the content and method of anti-Tritheist literature was repurposed for alternative polemical uses. These features include anti-Tritheist claims that Tritheists were unbelievers, that they divided God’s unity, that they were pagans and polytheists, and that they denied the bodily resurrection. The Qur'an’s parallels with anti-Tritheist content and rhetorical method in certain cases suggests its production was part of the wider discussions taking place in the Middle East at the turn of the seventh century.


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