Theodore Abu Qurrah

Theodore Abū Qurrah (Greek: Θεόδωρος Ἀβουκάρας, Theodoros Aboukaras, Arabic: تواضروس أبو قرة‎, Tawaďros Abū-Qurrah; c. 750, – c. 825[1]) was a 9th-century Syrian Bishop and theologian[2] who lived in the early Islamic period.


Theodore was born around 750 in the city of Edessa (Şanlıurfa), in northern Mesopotamia (Urfa, Turkey), and was the Chalcedonian Bishop of the nearby city of Harran until some point during the archbishopric of Theodoret of Antioch (795–812). Michael the Syrian, who disapproved of Theodore, later claimed that the archbishop had deposed Theodore for heresy,[3] although this is unlikely. Between 813 and 817 he debated with the Monophysites of Armenia at the court of Ashot Msakeri.[4]

Around 814 Theodore visited Alexandria. On his way, he sojourned at Sinai where, for one Abū 'l-Tufayl, he wrote the Book of Master and Disciple (now ascribed to "Thaddeus of Edessa").[3] He died between 820 and 825.


Abū Qurrah was among the earliest Christian authors to use Arabic alongside Abu-Ra'itah of Tikrit, Ammar al-Basri and Abdulmasih al-Kindi. Some of his works were translated into Greek, and so circulated in Byzantium.[5] He wrote thirty treatises in Syriac, but none of these have yet been identified.[6] His writings provide an important witness to Christian thought in the early Islamic world. A number of them were edited with German translations by Georg Graf and have now been translated into English by John C. Lamoreaux.[7]

Abū Qurrah argued for the rightness of his faith against the habitual challenges of Islam, Judaism and those Christians who did not accept the doctrinal formulations of the Council of Chalcedon, and in doing so re-articulated traditional Christian teachings at times using the language and concepts of Islamic theologians: he has been described by Sidney H. Griffith as a Christian mutakallim.[8] He attracted the attention of at least one Muslim Mu'tazilite mutakallim, Isa ibn Sabih al-Murdar (died 840), who is recorded (by the biobibliographical writer, Ibn al-Nadim, who died in 995) as having written a refutation of Abū Qurrah.[9] The subjects covered were, in the main, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Sacraments, as well as the practices of facing east in prayer (rather than towards Jerusalem or Mecca), and the veneration of the cross and other images.

In Abū Qurrah's Questions of Priest Musa, in the course of its first two discourses ("On the Existence of God and the True Religion")[3] he used a thought experiment in which he imagined himself having grown up away from civilization (on a mountain) and descending to 'the cities' to inquire after the truth of religion: an attempt to provide a philosophical argument in support of Chalcedonian Christianity from first principles.

Theodore also translated the pseudo-Aristotelian De virtutibus animae into Arabic from Greek for Tahir ibn Husayn at some point, perhaps around 816.[10]

Published worksEdit

  • Some works in J.-P. Migne, Patrologia graeca, 97
  • I. Arendzen, Theodori Abu Kurra De cultu imaginum libellus e codice arabico (Bonn, 1897)
  • C. Bacha, Les oeuvres arabes de Théodore Aboucara (Beyrout, 1904)
  • C. Bacha, Un traité des oeuvres arabes de Théodore Abou-Kurra (Tripoli [Syria] – Rome, 1905)
  • G. Graf, Die arabischen Schriften des Theodor Abu Qurra, Bischofs von Harran (c. 740–820), in Forschungen zur christlichen Literatur- und Dogmengeschichte, X Band, 3/4 Heft (Paderborn, 1910)
  • L. Cheikho, 'Mimar li Tadurus Abi Qurrah fi Wugud al-Haliq wa d-Din al-Qawim', al-Machriq, 15 (1912), pp. 757–74, 825–842
  • G. Graf, Des Theodor Abu Kurra Traktat uber den Schopfer und die wahre Religion (Munster, 1913)
  • I. Dick, 'Deux écrits inédits de Théodore Abuqurra', Le Muséon, 72 (1959), pp. 53–67
  • S. H. Griffith, 'Some Unpublished Arabic Sayings Attributed to Theodore Abu Qurrah', Le Muséon, 92 (1979), pp. 29–35
  • I. Dick, Théodore Abuqurra. Traité de l'existence du Créateur et de la vraie religion / Maymar fi wujud al-Kaliq qa-l-din al-qawim li-Thawudhurus Abi Qurra (Jounieh, 1982)
  • S. K. Samir, 'Kitab "Jami' wujuh al-iman" wa-mujadalat Abi Qurra 'an salb al-Masih', Al-masarra, 70 )1984), 411–27
  • I. Dick, Théodore Abuqurra. Traité du culte des icônes / Maymar fi ikram al-ayqunat li-Thawudhurus Abi Qurra (Jounieh, 1986)
  • S. H. Griffith, 'Theodore Abû Qurrah's Arabic tract on the Christian practice of venerating images', Journal of the American Oriental Society, 105 (1985)
  • R. Glei and A. Khoury, Johannaes Damaskenos und Theodor Abu Qurra. Schriften zum Islam (Wurzburg, 1995), pp. 86–127, 148–49, 150–53
  • Teodoro Abū Qurrah, La difesa delle icone. Trattato sulla venerazione delle immagini, introduzione, traduzione, note ed indici a cura di Paola Pizzo (1995), 192p. ISBN 9788816403840
  • Yuliyan Velikov, The Word about the Image. Theodore Abū Qurrah and St Cyril the Philosopher and the Defence of the Holy Icons in the Ninth Century, Veliko Turnovo University Press (2009) (in Bulgarian)
  • David Bertaina, "An Arabic account of Theodore Abu Qurra in debate at the court of Caliph al-Ma'mun: A study in early Christian and Muslim literary dialogues", Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 2007.
  • John C. Lamoreaux, Theodore Abu Qurrah. "English translation of nearly the complete corpus of Theodore Abu Qurrah’s works, with extensive notes on the Arabic and Greek texts."[11], Brigham Young University, 2006. ISBN 978-0934893008

Works available onlineEdit





  1. ^ "Theōdūrus Abū Qurrah | Syrian bishop". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
  2. ^ "Theōdūrus Abū Qurrah | Syrian bishop". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
  3. ^ a b c Alexander Treiger (2016). "New Works by Theodore Abū Qurra Preserved under the name of Thaddeus of Edessa". Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. 68: 1–51. doi:10.2143/JECS.68.1.3164936.
  4. ^ J. C. Lamoreaux (2009). "Theodore Abū Qurra". Bibliographical History of Christian-Muslim Relations. Brill., p. 408.
  5. ^ For those works that have survived solely in Greek, see J.P. Migne, Patrologia cursus completus, series graeca, vol. 97, coll. 1461–1610.
  6. ^ On the manuscripts of Theodore Abū Qurrah's works, see J. Nasrallah, 'Dialogue Islamo-Chrétien à propos de publications récentes', Revue des Etudes Islamiques 46 (1978), pp. 126–32; Graf, GCAL, II, pp. 7–26; and the list in J. C. Lamoureaux, 'Theodore Abū Qurra', in Bibliographical History of Christian-Muslim Relations (Brill, 2009), p. 417-60.
  7. ^ Theodore Abū Qurrah, translated by John C. Lamoreaux, Middle Eastern Texts Initiative: The Library of the Christian East, 1 (Brigham Young University Press, 2005)
  8. ^ S.H. Griffith, 'Theodore Abū Qurrah's Arabic Tract on the Christian Practice of Venerating Images', Journal of the American Oriental Society 105:1 (1985), pp. 53–73, at p. 53. See also Juan Pedro Monferrer Sala, ‘Una muestra de kalam cristiano: Abu Qurra en la sección novena del Kitab muyadalat ma’ al-mutakallimin al-muslimin fi maylis al-Jalifa al-Ma’mun’, in Las raíces de la cultura europea : ensayos en homenaje al profesor Joaquín Lomba, edd. Elvira Burgos Díaz, José Solana Dueso & Pedro Luis Blasco Aznar (Institución Fernando el Católico, 2004)
  9. ^ I. Krackovskij, 'Theodore Abū Qurrah in the Muslim Writers of the Ninth-Tenth Centuries', Christianskij Vostok, 4 (1915), p. 306; I. Dick, 'Un continuateur arabe de Saint Jean Damascène: Théodore Abuqurra, évêque melkite de Harran', Proche Orient Chrétien, 12 (1962), p. 328.
  10. ^ Sydney H. Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the world of Islam (Princeton University Press, 2008), p. 107; J. C. Lamoureaux, 'Theodore Abū Qurra', in Bibliographical History of Christian-Muslim Relations (Brill, 2009), p. 408.
  11. ^ Theodore Abu Qurrah.

External linksEdit