The Syriac tradition played an important role in shaping pre- and early Islamic concepts of Christianity. In this article, Anton Baumstark argues that a few Arabic citations of the Bible reflect reliance on Old Syriac translations rather than the Peshitta.
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It is likely that through the missionary efforts of the branches of the Syriac tradition, Syriac speaking Christians were the primary representation of Christianity among both pre-Islamic Arabs and Muslims in the early Islamic period. Thus, it is not surprising to find instances in which Syriac traditions shaped particular concepts of Christianity within Arabic and Islamic traditions. In the present article, Anton Baumstark argues that some biblical citations found in Arabic sources demonstrate an Arabic translation not from Greek or even from the Syriac Peshitta, but rather from the Old Syriac tradition. Baumstark focuses on the translation history of a passage from the birth narrative in Matthew (1:18-21), and concludes that the unique features of this passage in the Old Syriac tradition are preserved in an Arabic citation, but not in other traditions. Baumstark concludes with a comparison of the text of the Psalm citation found in the Quran (Sura 21:105) with the Syriac and Greek texts.