The Voice, the Word, the Books: The Sacred Scripture of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims

F. E. Peters, Author . Princeton Univ $29.95 (292p) ISBN 978-0-691-13112-2

Peters, professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at NYU and author of The Children of Abraham , lucidly explains how Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities understand and interact with their sacred texts—the Tanakh, the Bible and the Qur'an. Unsurprisingly, he opens with discussions of authorship and canonization: who wrote the books, how did the sacred texts achieve their final form, and how do religious authorities discern what counts as "the Word of God"? He also takes up the question of translation, elucidating the theology that underlies the Islamic belief that "a translated Qur'an is not really a Qur'an." But the truly fascinating sections of the book investigate quirkier topics, such as the different religions' regulations about the conditions under which people are allowed to handle sacred books. One of the most interesting chapters addresses the relationship between art and text, examining how various scribes and calligraphers have illustrated holy books; Peters makes an intriguing claim about the Qur'an, suggesting that despite Islamic insistence that the meaning of the text lies solely in the words, "Qur'anic decoration"—geometric and floral imagery—may "add another layer of meaning." This is undoubtedly one of the best single volumes on the history of sacred text in the Abrahamic faiths, and many readers will find it an invaluable resource. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 292 pages - 978-0-7123-4943-7
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