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Juan of Segovia’s Translation of the Qur’ān

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Abstract

John of Segovia (1393-1458) is together with Nicolaus Cusanus one of the most important theologians of the 15th century. His struggle for peace and consensus during the council of Basel culminated in his engagement for interreligious communication in the last years of his life. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, he prepared a new approach towards the Islam. Not crusade, but interreligious communication based on thorough knowledge of the religion of the other should result in peace, either through converting the other or at least convincing him to stop warfare. Therefore John of Segovia initiated a new translation of the Qur'an into Spanish, which he himself translated into Latin. This article outlines the history of this famous project and illustrates its main characteristics with examples taken from fragments of this first polyglot translation of the Qur'an.
Juan of Segovia’s Translation of the Qur’an
La traducción del Corán de Juan de Segovia
Ulli Roth
Universität Freiburg, Alemania
John of Segovia (d. 1458) occupies a unique place among the well-
known late medieval theologians who studied Islam with great atten-
tion and care, transcending the horizons of their time. In more radical
ways than his contemporaries, John demanded an end of military con-
frontations with Muslims and that the West should abandon crusading.
AL-QANTARA
XXXV 2, julio-diciembre 2014
pp. 555-578
ISSN 0211-3589
doi: 10.3989/alqantara.2014.019
John of Segovia (1393-1458) is together with
Nicolaus Cusanus one of the most important
theologians of the 15th century. His struggle
for peace and consensus during the council of
Basel culminated in his engagement for inter-
religious communication in the last years of
his life. After the fall of Constantinople in
1453, he prepared a new approach towards the
Islam. Not crusade, but interreligious commu-
nication based on thorough knowledge of the
religion of the other should result in peace,
either through converting the other or at least
convincing him to stop warfare. Therefore
John of Segovia initiated a new translation of
the Qurninto Spanish, which he himself
translated into Latin. This article outlines the
history of this famous project and illustrates
its main characteristics with examples taken
from fragments of this first polyglot transla-
tion of the Qurn.
Key words: John of Segovia; 15th Century;
Latin translation; Qur’n; Theologians; Cru-
sade; Yça Gidelli; Council of Basel; Robert of
Ketton; Interreligious communication.
Junto a Nicolás de Cusa, Juan de Segovia
(1393-1458) fue uno de los teólogos más im-
portantes del siglo XV. Sus esfuerzos por lle-
gar a una paz y a un consenso durante el
concilio de Basilea culminaron con un com-
promiso de comunicación interreligiosa en los
últimos años de su vida. Después de la caída
de Constantinopla en el año 1453, preparó un
nuevo acercamiento hacia el Islam. Ya no se
trataba de una cruzada, sino de realizar una co-
municación entre religiones basada en un
conocimiento profundo de la religión del otro,
lo que creía que resultaría en una paz a través
de la conversión del otro o, al menos, a través
del convencimiento de que dejaría la guerra.
Juan de Segovia comenzó así la tarea de tra-
ducir de nuevo el Corán al castellano, que él
mismo había traducido al latín. Este artículo
muestra la historia de este famoso proyecto
ilustrando sus características más llamativas
con ejemplos tomados de esta primera traduc-
ción políglota del Corán.
Palabras clave: Juan de Segovia; siglo XV;
traducciónes latinas; Corán; teología; Cru-
zada; Yça Gidelli; Concilio de Basilea; Ro-
bert de Ketton; comunicación interreligiosa.
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Among all those who were satisfied with a smattering of superficial
and biased knowledge, John distinguished himself by striving for years
to obtain sound information about the scriptural basis of Islam, the
Qur’n. The Castilian and subsequent Latin translations of the Qur’n
which he initiated and ultimately concluded are a milestone in the his-
tory of Christian-Muslim encounters. This project did not remain un-
acknowledged in later years. Enea Silvio Piccolomini wrote about it in
his widely diffused De Europa.1Raffaele Maffei (Volterranus) and
Theodor Bibliander transmitted this report, albeit with inaccuracies, to
Ludovico Marracci.2None of these witnesses, however, was able to
recognize the exceptional features of this translation of the Qurn in
the historical context in which it was produced. This was a multi-lin-
gual Qurn in which the Arabic original and the Castilian and Latin
translations were juxtaposed on facing pages. It was only in the six-
teenth century that another such polyglot text was fashioned. John’s
aim had never been to produce a multi-lingual Qur’n, but rather a re-
liable translation for contemporary scholars. The language of this trans-
lation had to be Latin, the lingua franca of Western Christians. The
Castilian version was only an intermediary which was necessary since
the man John commissioned with the translation from Arabic did not
know any Latin. The Arabic original was included alongside these
translations since John specifically requested that a reliable source for
the Qur’n should be preserved. According to his own words, he con-
sulted the Arabic text regularly when working on his Latin translation.
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1Piccolomini, De Europa, cap. 42, p. 175: “Ioannes Segobiensis, homo hispanus
moribus et doctrina illustris, qui cum summos theologie preceptores doctrina equaret, ab
Amedeo, dum se papam dixit, cardinalatus eminentiam acceperat, et deinde unioni con-
sentiens a Nicolao pontifice maximo cardinalatus dimisso titulo cesariensi ecclesie pre-
fectus fuerat, in altissimis reconditus montibus, parvo monasteriolo contentus, vocatis ex
Hispania legis arabice magistris librum, quem vocant Alchoranum et in quo Maumethis
pseudoprophete non tam mysteria quam deliramenta continentur, in nostram linguam de
novo conuertit et ineptias eius veris ac vivis rationibus et argumentis explosit.”
2See Marracci, Alcorani Textus Universus, Praefatio p. 8: “Celeberrimus quoque Theo -
logus Joannes Segoviensis, posteà Romana purpura decoratus, in Concilio Constantiensi
Alcoranum à se interpretatum, nonnisi notis adornatum, & (ut scribit Volaterranus) va-
lidissimis confutationibus munitum, publici juris fecit, & et per omnium manus ire permisit:
atque utinam ad nostras etiam devenisse.” Quoted according to Glei, “Arabismus latine
personatus. Die Koranübersetzung von Ludovico Marracci (1698) und die Funktion des
Lateinischen,” p. 99, which includes a list of witnesses. Almost all statements concerning
the translation are, however, only in part accurate or even false, such as the reference to
the publication (see below).
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This suggests that the Arabic original of this trilingual manuscript was
meant to serve as a source of information for future studies as well.
Segovia reasoned that future scholars would be best served if they knew
all three languages and were able to trace back the translation from
Latin into Spanish and finally to Arabic and to understand the original
text on the basis of the two translations.3Segovia’s sensitivity for the
peculiarities of the Arabic language deserves attentions since it brings
to mind the new ambitions of the humanists. John of Segovia, however,
displayed a rather sober attitude and was mostly concerned with ren-
dering the correct meaning. In his case, nothing points to a concern
with the mystical interpretation of Arabic or any other Oriental lan-
guage, for that matter, as was the case with Reuchlin’s interest in He-
brew. Likewise, he did not seek to identify an original wisdom as did
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and other authors inspired by the Kab-
balah4or to develop the ideal of a classical style, as did Erasmus. Mar-
ginal comments and excerpts in his handwriting confirm that he had
studied too classical literature such as Cicero’s De officiis, but his at-
tention was focused on the text’s contents. In his philosophical works
too he appears to us as a theologian rather than as a rhetorician. His at-
titude reflects the close connection between philological and polemics
which are inspired by dogma, ‘the oscillation between polemic and
philology’,5which Thomas Burman identified as the general feature of
the study of the Qur’n in the Christian West.
Sources
Although the manuscript of the trilingual Qur’n John of Segovia
had bequeathed to the University of Salamanca remains lost we know
a fair bit about his translation project. A small number of sources allow
insights into this exceptional enterprise. The most important source is
the preface to the translation itself. This Praefatio in translationem may
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3See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V195r; ed. Martínez Gázquez, “El
prólogo de Juan de Segobia al Corán (Qur’n) trilingüe (1456),” p. 409 ll. 540-542): “[...]
translationem ipsam Latinam, rubeis literis, in medio linearum Hyspani ydeomatis scribi
feci, ut per illud trium peritis linguarum innotescat quid secta Mahumedonis contineat [...].”
4For this important feature of Quranic studies in the early modern West see Burman,
Reading the Qur’an in Latin Christendom, 1140-1560, p. 194f.
5Burman, Reading the Qur’an, p. 186.
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have been written in 1456 after the translation work was completed.6
John of Segovia sets out his motivation for the translation, but he also
provides a detailed account of the genesis of this project as well as a
description of the distinctive features of his own, new Latin translation.
Although he includes quotations from that translation in the Praefatio,
their number is small. The preface thus hardly conveys a direct impres-
sion of the actual translation although it provides us with a credible
representation of the historical context as well as Segovia’s intention
and view of himself.
Independent confirmation for John’s account of the origins of the
translation project can be found in a letter sent to him by Yça Gidelli
and dated 24 April 1454, i.e., even before the two men had even met
for the first time. This letter also provides further insights into the his-
torical circumstances of this enterprise.7While it almost goes without
saying that this letter does not contain any information about the actual
text of the translation, a letter which John of Segovia sent in 1458,
shortly before he died, to an otherwise unknown friend contains a quo-
tation from surah 9:71.8The deed of 1457 in which John bequeathed
his library to the University of Salamanca also includes two short cita-
tions. The document describes the manuscript containing the trilingual
Qur’n which was donated to Salamanca. While it includes neither the
incipit nor the explicit, it does cite the first and last lines of the first
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6The Praefatio in translationem is preserved in two manuscripts. The most important
testimony is ms Biblioteca Vaticana, cod. lat. 2923 (abbreviated in what follows as V), fol.
186r-196r, which was completed under Segovia’s supervision in May 1458 shortly before
he died. The second manuscript is ms Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, 9350, fol. 107r-121v,
which formed part of the property of Nicolás Antonio according to Hernández Montes,
“Obras de Juan de Segovia,” p. 339. See the edition by Martínez Gázquez, “El prólogo”
and the detailed analysis by Scotto, “‘De Pe a Pa’. Il Corano trilingue di Juan de Segovia
(1456) e la conversione pacifica dei Musulmani.” The dating of the Praefatio is based on
the fact that it was written 29 years after Segovia’s second sojourn in Rome in 1427/8, cf.
the quotation in note 16.
7Segovia had Gidelli’s letter Epistola ad Johannem de Segovia included in the man-
uscript Biblioteca Vaticana, cod. lat. 2923, fol. 178v-180r as part of the compilation which
was meant to inform Enea Silvio Piccolomini about Segovia’s attitude concerning dealings
with Islam. See the transcription of the letter in Cabanelas Rodríguez, Juan de Segovia y
el problema islámico, pp. 273-277, and the analysis and English translation in Wiegers,
Islamic Literature in Spanish and Aljamiado. Yça of Segovia (fl. 1450), his Antecedents
and Successors, esp. pp. 230-235.
8See the transcription of John of Segovia’s letter in Epistula ad amicum ignotum
(18.4.1458, Vfol. 196v-198r) in Cabanelas Rodríguez, Juan de Segovia y el problema is-
lámico, pp. 337-341.
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and last pages, both of which include a short passage of the new trans-
lation. In addition to these fragments which have attracted some atten-
tion among scholars,9we have a few shorter passages as well as a
longer quotation from surah 5:110-115 which are contained in marginal
notes, written by John himself, in ms Sevilla, Biblioteca Colombina,
7-6-14.10 Apparently, Segovia had initially expected that this new trans-
lation of the Qur’n would allow him to revise his voluminous treatise
De gladio divini spiritus in corda mittendo Sarracenorum. For this pur-
pose, he revised the first page and added the correct new translation in
a later passage of some importance where the text he had previously
consulted had misled him. The author soon abandoned this ambitious
revision though. A comprehensive review would have required an enor-
mous amount of time and energy. In the final year of his life, he had
neither since he was determined to complete other projects as well even
though his illness made him increasingly weak. Nevertheless, the sur-
vival of at least a few more fragments of the translation is owed to this
earlier attempt to revise his treatise.
Since the Latin translation for all intents and purposes can be con-
sidered lost, scholars have long harbored the hope that the Castilian
translation may have survived. A number of historical reports sustained
this expectation. Segovia mentions that upon his departure, his transla-
tor Yça Gidelli intended to take his Castilian translation with him. He
needed a scribe to produce another complete copy of the translation for
himself before Gidelli returned home, apparently carrying his Castilian
version of the Qur’n.11 In addition to that, there is one complete Span-
ish translation of the Qurn among a number of translations of the text
into Aljamiado: the ms Toledo, Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha 235.
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9See Wiegers, Islamic Literature, pp. 112-114, and López-Morillas, El Corán de To-
ledo. Edición y estudio del manuscrito 235 de la biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha,
pp. 33-35.
10 These have been edited and analyzed alongside all other fragments of the translation
of the Qur’n in Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren der lateinischen Koranübersetzung des Juan
de Segovia – alte Probleme und ein neuer Fund,” and Roth and Glei, “Eine weitere Spur
der lateinischen Koranübersetzung des Juan de Segovia.”
11 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (Vfol. 190v; ed. Martínez Gázquez,
p. 402, ll. 279-284): “Ipso autem magistro, qui uxorem nouiter nuptam dimiserat, ad re-
cessum hinc festinante et secum translationem per eum scriptam reportare uolente, quoniam
ille qui iuxta Arabicum in alia columpna translationem in uulgari Hispanico scribebat,
litera grossa et formata, non ualebat eque cito complere opus, ut copia maneret, alium
scriptorem fuit habere necesse.”
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Although written only in 1606, the manuscript presents itself as the
copy of a much older original. Based on the small fragments mentioned
above scholars suggested a connection between Gidelli’s translation
and the translation in the Toledo manuscript. The many differences be-
tween the Spanish Qur’n and the Latin fragments which stem from
Segovia’s translation though do not allow us to affirm with any certainty
a direct relationship between these two versions.12 The long fragment
contained in the manuscript of De gladio divini spiritus even demon-
strates clearly that Segovia’s translation and the Toledo manuscript are
not immediately related.13 Except for a few traces, the exceptional work
which consumed so much of John’s and Yça’s time and effort appears
to be forever lost. Whatever few fragments have survived, however, be-
tray a project which surpassed the achievements of the time. Alongside
Segovia’s theological approach to the encounter with Islam it can be
related to our present century and contemporary efforts for religious
dia logue. It is for this reason that Segovia’s work and the ideas of his
correspondent Nicholas of Cusa are still appreciated today.
The prehistory
Segovia’s interest in Islam dates back at least to the early phase of
his teaching career as a professor at the University of Salamanca.14 He
addressed Muhammad’s doctrine, among others, in two lectures which
he held in 1426 and 1427.15 His views reflect the stereotypes which
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12 See Wiegers, Islamic Literature, pp. 108-114; critical responses have been presented,
among others, by López-Morillas, El Corán de Toledo, pp. 31-43, and López-Morillas,
“Secret Muslims, Hidden Manuscripts: Spanish Translations of the Qurn from the Fif-
teenth to the Seventeenth Centuries,” pp. 111-112.
13 See the conclusion by Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 153, and Roth and Glei, “Eine
weitere Spur,” p. 228.
14 Segovia’s engagement with Islam has been the subject of many academic publica-
tions. See especially Cabanelas Rodríguez, Juan de Segovia y el problema islámico; Wolf,
Juan de Segovia and the Fight for Peace. Christians and Muslims in the Fifteenth Century;
Madrigal Terrazas, El pensamiento eclesial de Juan de Segovia (1393-1458). La gracia
en el tiempo, pp. 72-94; Scotto, “Via pacis et doctrine. Le Epistole sull’ Islam di Juan de
Segovia, pp. II-CXXXVIII, and my introduction in John of Segovia, De gladio divini spi-
ritus in corda mittendo Sarracenorum, pp. XXX-LXXXIII.
15 See Scotto, “Inseguire l’islam tra memoria e teologia. Spigolature su Juan de Segovia
intorno al 1427,” and Madrigal Terrazas, El pensamiento eclesial de Juan de Segovia, p.
43-69 and 227-225 with a transcription of the second lecture from 1427.
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were common among medieval Christians. According to this view,
Islam was a false doctrine which gained followers only by means of
violence and the promise of sensual delights. It appears that at this
point, John of Segovia did not possess any more profound knowledge
of Islam. He had not even seen a Latin translation of the Qur’n despite
the fact that he was a Spaniard active at a Spanish university. Therefore,
when the patriarch of Constantinople requested a copy of the Qur’n
from John in Rome in 1427/28, he could only offer to send a written
enquiry to Spain to obtain it.16 He and his circle had access neither to
the Latin translation by Robert of Ketton nor to that by Mark of Toledo.
He gained access to Robert’s translation only in 1437 and immediately
commissioned a copy of this rare book.
Even before this, however, John was keen on establishing contacts
with Muslims and gathering directly information about their faith. His
first such encounter took place in Cordoba in July 1431, but was un-
satisfactory since he could not find anybody who was willing to discuss
religious matters with him. The Muslims had been afraid of being
charged with spreading a doctrine considered a dangerous heresy by
Christians in Christian territories. Furthermore, none of the visitors had
been sufficiently educated in religious affairs to engage in a debate with
a professor of theology.
Later in the same year, another encounter was more successful. In
October 1431, John met a Moorish envoy in Medina del Campo and
engaged him in a conversation which lasted for several days and in
which he had the opportunity to expound on the Christian belief in the
Trinity. Even though his Muslim interlocutor received these explana-
tions well he did not convert to Christianity. Segovia, however, learned
a lesson from this encounter which led to a more ambitious theoretical
project. Christians were clearly capable of presenting their faith to Mus-
lims in a rational manner, even their belief in the Trinity, and it was
possible to inform Muslims about their wrong impressions in that res -
pect. This encounter had a lasting effect on Segovia although the focus
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16 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V188v; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p.
399, ll. 162-168): “Sunt etenim, ut memorari michi uideor, XXIX anni quod, Rome con-
stitutus, rogatus fui a Patriarcha Constantinopolitano, quoniam in Ytalia haberi nescirem,
in Hispaniam me scribere pro illo habendo. Et ex tunc multorum percepi relatione, idque
ipse agnoui, quod paucissimi Christianorum librum ipsum tenent quodque in paucissimis
reperitur librariis, de quarum una, in Germania, librum incathenatum habui, anno XXXVII
copiarique feci.”
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of his activities shifted and in the course of fifteen years of efforts at
the Council of Basle, he turned into one of the most important leaders
of the church of his time.
Even before this interest in Islam was corroborated in a different way
during the Council of Basle, it was a matter close to John’s heart. At this
time, he believed that the basis on which a religious dialogue should
take place is reason rather than the textual authorities, i.e., Scripture.
Due to the negotiations with orthodox Christians concerning church
union, the Turkish threat in the East became an important topic at the
Council of Basle 1431-1449, including during its relocation to Ferrara
and Florence. Islam as an independent theological challenge was hardly
addressed. A number of theologians who attended the council, however,
now became interested in Islam as well. Islam, which they regarded as
a Christian heresy, related well to the efforts of the council to overcome
the division of Christendom and to achieve world peace in general.17
John Stoijković of Ragusa OP (1390/5-1443) who served as the
council’s legate in 1435-1437 in Constantinople was a particularly im-
portant figure in this context. In the letters which he sent from the
Byzantine capital and which were read out aloud publicly in Basle he
expressed confidence regarding the possibility to overcome Islam. Re-
turning from his journey, he carried an Arabic Qur’n which has been
preserved (ms Basle, Universitätsbibliothek, A III 19) as well as a copy
of Robert of Ketton’s Latin translation of the Qur’n. Segovia had this
manuscript brought to Aiton in order to compare it to his own copy.18
In 1437, he had had the opportunity to commission a copy made in the
library of a monastery which remains unidentified. Furthermore, when
Nicholas of Cusa was sent in 1437 to Constantinople, he agreed to
John’s plea to leave his copy of the Collectio Toletana with him. From
1437 onwards, John had thus two copies of Robert of Ketton’s trans-
lation in his possession and, according to his own statement, began to
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17 See the short compilation in Hamann, “Der Koran als ekklesiologische Autorität bei
Heymericus de Campo († 1460),” and Hamann, Das Siegel der Ewigkeit. Universalwis-
senschaft und Konziliarismus bei Heymericus de Campo, pp. 37-42. The extent to which
the Islamic religion was the subject of discussions at the Council of Basle has not yet been
sufficiently explored.
18 Concerning these two manuscripts, see Bobzin, Der Koran im Zeitalter der Refor-
mation. Studien zur Frühgeschichte der Arabistik und Islamkunde in Europa, although the
author errs in his assumption that John of Segovia obtained access to the Arabic manu-
script.
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read the Qur’n.19 It was probably also in this period that he started to
compile his collection of quotations Errores legis Mahumeti. In this
text, Segovia assembled several wrong doctrines preached by Muham-
mad from the Qurn and presented them in a systematic manner.20
From 1450 onwards, he certainly had detailed knowledge of the Latin
translation of the Qur’n. His substantial Liber de magna auctoritate
which was completed in 1453 after several years contains a fairly de-
tailed discussion of the law of the Saracens which includes a number
of quotations from the Qur’n.21
It is therefore hardly surprising that when the news of the fall of
Constantinople reached John of Segovia in 1453, he was immediately
able to integrate his thoughts about a peaceful and argumentative defeat
of Islam into the rich and overflowing treatise De gladio divini spiritus
in corda mittendo Sarracenorum which he began to write in the summer
of 1453. The text contains hundreds of quotations from and references
to the Qur’n. Apart from a few later marginal additions, all of these
stem from Robert of Ketton’s translation. Segovia believed that none of
the authors he was familiar with who had discussed Muhammad’s doc-
trines had paid proper attention to the Qur’n as the basis of the religion,
but rather presented wrong accusations. He, however, declared that he
wanted to escape this lack of fairness, honesty and diplomacy. Other-
wise, such attacks against Islam could too easily be rendered moot if it
turned out that the Christian accusations were made up.22 This attitude
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19 Cf. John of Segovia, Epistula ad Nicolaum de Cusa (V 6v; ed. Scotto, p. 8): “Etenim
cum vestra concessione librum ipsum Alchoran habuerim anno XXXVII° sepeque in eo
legeram et errores excerperam [...].”
20 See the analysis and edition of this text in Bündgens et. al, “Die Errores legis Ma-
humeti des Johannes von Segovia.” Segovia may have assembled a version of this collec-
tion of Errores in the appendix of one of the Qur’n manuscripts, as suggested in the
description of the manuscripts in Donatio n. 112 (ed. Hernández Montes, Biblioteca de
Juan de Segovia. Edición y comentario de su escritura de donación, p. 112).
21 See John of Segovia, Liber de magna auctoritate episcoporum in Concilio generali,
ed. de Kegel, p. 223-224. 377-383. 496.
22 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V189r; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p.
399, ll. 183-190): “Quocirca, intendere cupientibus ad Sarracenorum conuersionem in
sacramenta catholice fidei per uiam pacis et doctrine [...] admodum reuera utile, quin et
necesse uidetur ut ueram habeant notitam quid lex dicat eorum, quod ex dicta translatione
non habetur.” Furthermore John of Segovia, De gladio divini spiritus, Praef. 259-263 (ed.
Roth, p. 22): “Sed tamen auctores, quantum apparet ex scriptis ipsorum, non viderint li-
brum Alqurani, multa namque illi imponunt non vera. Quod maxime officit circa disputa-
tiones catholicae fidei adversariis vera credere renuentibus, dum vident, quod falsum illis
imponitur testimonium.”
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reflects John’s personal integrity and sincerity which had generated great
respect for him at the Council both among members of his own party
and among his opponents. It is also the result of an experience which
had grown during years of scholarly and diplomatic service which man-
ifested itself in the love for the truth. According to John, only accurate
knowledge of Islam would allow Christians to overcome this religion
through the ‘path of peace and doctrine’ (via pacis et doctrinae).
While working on De gladio divini spiritus, it was precisely at this
critical point that Segovia had now doubts.23 He began to read again
through the Qur’n in pursuit of an explanation why Islam had been
so successful and was able to gain increasing numbers of followers.
He turned to this issue only in the final third of De gladio divini spiritus
(Considerationes 29-33), probably only in the autumn of 1453 or even
later. Initially, John’s doubts concerning Robert of Ketton’s translation
were primarily nourished by internal features. His suspicion was in-
spired by Robert’s style and procedure as well as the structure of the
book. Furthermore, he received a notice from Spain which informed
him that the translation did not correspond with the original, either be-
cause somebody had compared select verses with the Arabic original
or, more probably, tried to match the Latin with the Spanish translation.
His informant, however, does not seem to have had access to a com-
plete translation of the Qur’n. For this reason, John decided to ask for
the translation which John of Ragusa had bequeathed to the Domini-
cans in Basle to be sent to him in Aiton. He then discovered that the
manuscript contained merely a copy of Ketton’s translation of the
Qur’n albeit in a more reliable version than his own copy. At the same
time, he tried repeatedly to obtain a Spanish translation from Castile,
but to no avail. The endeavor ended with an even greater disappoint-
ment when he received an anti-Islamic treatise by Pedro Pascual instead
of a more reliable translation of the Qur’n.24
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23 For the following see especially John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V
189v; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 400, ll. 212-221): “Ad prosecutionem uero considera-
tionum primi libri [sc. De gladio divini spiritus], uidere solito attentius cepi librum Alchu-
rani iuxta dictam translationem [sc. Roberti Kettenensis] […]. Quo uero amplius
inspiciebam prefate translationis stilum procedendique modum et ordinem ac substantialia
libri, eo magis suspicio se ingerebat non esse ueram, quod ipse agnoui accepto ex Hyspania
testimonio, uisis ibidem certis, quas mandaueram, Alchurani membranas.”
24 Cf. John of Segovia, Epistula ad Johannem Cabilonensem episcopum (18.12.1455;
V184r; ed. Cabanelas Rodríguez, Juan de Segovia y el problema islámico, p. 326): “[…]
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Finally, however, John succeeded with his ceaseless efforts to ob-
tain such a more reliable translation of the Qur’n, for which he was
even prepared to initiate and support an entirely new project. It ap-
pears that the Castilian king’s influence may have been crucial for
this enterprise since he commanded that the faqihYça Gidelli left
Segovia for Savoy in the company of another Muslim.25 Segovia had
thus gained access to an actual Muslim and even to an important re-
ligious scholar. Within four months of hard work, Gidelli produced a
copy of the Qurn as well as a Spanish translation and taught John
of Segovia the fundamentals of the Qurn and its structure as well
as the basics of Arabic script, grammar and language.26 When Gidelli
left in the spring of 1456 to return to Spain and left Segovia on his
own, the work on the Latin translation had not even started. Even
though Gidelli had brought with him a few books and composed
shorter treatises about the Qurn and the doctrines of the Islamic re-
ligion, these hardly provided any substantial help with the actual text
of the Qur’n. John, however, now had a bilingual copy of the Qur’n
at his disposal which he expanded to the famous trilingual Qurn by
adding his own Latin translation of the Spanish translation. The final
result must have been a substantial volume which included in addition
to the translations the Praefatio in translationem as well as, at the
end, a Summarium psalmorum omnium, a short summary of all the
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notificationem michi grati illud vero est, cum ex multis suspecta michi foret interpretatio
libri Alchoran quem latine scriptum penes me habeo a XVIII iam annis, persepe in Castelle
mandavi pro interpretatione in vulgari hyspanico ut de vera continentia haberem notitiam.
Aliquando autem destinatus est michi pro libro Alchoran liber unus, invectivam in eum
magis quam eius designans tenorem, et quamplurima illi falso imponens.” The text is edited
in Pseudo Pedro Pascual, Sobre la se[c]ta mahometana, ed. by Fernando González Muñoz.
25 For this cf. John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V190r; ed. Martínez Gáz-
quez, p. 401 ll. 236-245) and Scotto, “De Pe a Pa,” p. 535f. Concerning Yça Gidelli see
especially Wiegers, Islamic Literature.
26 Segovia offers a very detailed description of Gidelli’s method, see his Praefatio in
translationem (V189v; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 400, ll. 269-273): “Spatio igitur designato
trium mensium, uno, Alchuranum scripsit, alio axuclauit, et alio, interpretatus est in uulgari
Hyspanico, translationem etiam ipsam propria describens manu, permaxime quidem, uti
monstrauit, labore, singulo namque dierum cathedra sedebat per horas, ad minus XII, die
excepto festiuitatis Sarracenorum quo natiuitas colitur sui Prophete.” The description is
meticulous and Segovia is usually reliable. The date 12 Rabi I, on which Sunnis celebrated
Muhammad’s birthday in the year 860 AH indeed corresponds to 19.2.1456 AD, which
falls exactly into the range mentioned by Segovia.
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suwar composed by Yça Gidelli.27 Yet, John hesitated repeatedly to
make this work as well as his treatise De gladio divini spiritus avai -
lable to a wider readership since he hoped to improve it even further.28
Such revisions though would have required the help of external ex-
perts which despite repeated efforts he did not succeed in securing.
This may explain why the trilingual Qurn has been preserved in a
single manuscript only which John of Segovia bequeathed to the Uni-
versity of Salamanca29where its traces disappear. It is only the above-
mentioned fragments which provide insights into the text as well as
the preface which Segovia had added to the manuscript Vatican 2923
which contains texts about Islam and was meant for Enea Silvio Pic-
colomini.
Basic features and examples of the new translation of the Qur’an
Segovia was convinced that the only solution for the growing Mus-
lim threat was by way of peace and doctrine (via pacis et doctrinae).
He believed that a military response would never result in a durable
success. As long as Muslims thought and believed that Christianity
repre sented heretical ideas such as the Trinity they would put up even
greater opposition against this false doctrine in a violent confrontation.
Apart from its failure to produce success, the path of war (via belli)
also provided the worst possible impression of Christianity since it con-
tradicted the model of Jesus and the early church. Muslims would only
abandon their efforts to push back Christianity if they were either per-
suaded of the religion’s truth in a peaceful manner of if their false im-
pressions were at least corrected. Such an intellectual encounter should
not take the verbal form of war either, but rather be inspired by the love
for peace and the truth. Segovia criticized for this reason anti-Islamic
polemics which proceeded without this love for the truth and operated
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27 See John of Segovia, Donatio n. 87 (ed. Hernández Montes, Biblioteca de Juan de
Segovia, p. 108, ll. 1-11): “Liber Alcurani, per sarracenos deputatus uelut sit diuina lex,
ne latere quicquam ex ea possit, interpretatus nouissime ipsius Johannis labore magnisque
impensis; triplici quoque lingua descriptus est ipse Alcuranus: arabicis uidelicet, yspanis
et latinis litteris, in magno uolumine de marca majori […].”
28 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V195rv; ed. Martínez Gázquez,
p. 408f. ll. 529-537).
29 Cf. Scotto, “De Pe a Pa,” p. 565, who also rejects speculations that the trilingual
Qur’n ended up in the Vatican library.
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with false accusations and misinformation. Even though Segovia him-
self was hardly hesitant in attacking Muhammad he always tried to pro-
vide evidence and used the Qurn as the lex Sarracenorum as his
source.
Segovia realized that the style, structure and main contents of Ket-
ton’s translation of the Qur’n did not reflect such an ideal of love for
the truth.30 He may have noticed the distinctive style of Ketton’s trans-
lation, but someone may have also pointed out the fact that the unusual
number of 123 suwar did not correspond to the Quranic tradition.31
Robert of Ketton’s own preface may have provided further reasons for
suspicion since the translator explained that he had neither left out nor
changed anything, except in order to enhance the clarity of the transla-
tion.32John must also have been put off by the large number of mar-
ginal comments in the manuscript, which were often very polemical.
Furthermore, some of these notes suggested that Ketton’s translation
did not always correspond to the Arabic original.33
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30 See note 23 above. Subsequent to the collaboration with Gidelli, he listed system-
atically all the shortcomings of Ketton’s translation; see his Praefatio in translationem (V
192v-193v; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 405 ll. 386-431), i.e. the division and numbering of
the suwar, the omitted titles of suwar, changes of contents, rearrangements, explanations
or omissions. Segovia claims that Yça Gidelli avoided all of these in his translation (V
193v; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 406 ll. 438-441). Most of these accusations are only partly
justified and result from Robert of Ketton’s desire to produce a comprehensible and valu-
able translation. See Cecini, Alcoranus latinus. Eine sprachliche und kulturwissenschaft-
liche Analyse der Koranübersetzungen von Robert von Ketton und Marcus von Toledo.
31 Robert of Ketton followed in some way the subdivision of his Arabic original, which
obviously had a Maghrebian origin, see the detailed analysis by Castells Criballés, “Alguns
aspectes formals de la traducció llatina de l’Alcorà de Robert de Ketton (c. 1141-1143) i la
seva relació amb el text original àrab.” The Arabic Qur’n of Segovia’s translation must
have had a Maghrebian origin, too, as can be deduced from the division of the Qur’n into
four parts (suwar 1-6, 7-18, 19-37 and 38-114), which Segovia learned from Gidelli, cf.
Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 113, and John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V
192v; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 404 ll. 354-371). This is the same division as in the Qur’n
of ms Toledo 235 (cf. López-Morillas, El Corán de Toledo, pp. 40 and 135f.) and nearly
the same division as documented by Castells Criballés, “Alguns aspectes formals,” p. 82,
for the modern Maghrebian tradition (suwar 1-6, 7-18, 19-35 and 36-114).
32 Cf. Robert of Ketton, Praefatio (ed. Bibliander, Machumetis Saracenorum princi-
pis, eiusque successorum vitae, doctrina, ac ipse Alcoran, p. 7, l. 4): “nil excerpens, nil
sensibiliter, nisi propter intelligentiam tantum alterans.” Segovia was familiar with the
preface and cited it in John of Segovia, De gladio divini spiritus, Praefatio ll. 272-274
(ed. Roth, p. 24).
33 For this see my introduction in John of Segovia, De gladio divini spiritus, p.
LXXVIII.
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The ambition of John’s own translation was thus clearly set. It had
to be authentic by being as literal and complete as possible and to avoid
any false assumption or association. This could ultimately only be ac-
complished by or in collaboration with a Muslim in order to render
moot any accusation of falsification and to secure a reliable translation.
Segovia believed that he needed to cooperate with a Muslim expert not
only because of his own linguistic shortcomings, but also because of
the nature of the project. His aim was that the translation should corres -
pond to the Arabic text and the Arabic wording and avoid any additions,
explanations or omissions.34 By way of summary, Gidelli explained
that he had translated the text “De Pe a Pa,” which Segovia rendered
into Latin as de uerbo ad uerbum” with the meaning of exhaus-
tively.”35Segovia followed the same principle when he translated the
text without the Muslim scholar’s help from Castilian into Latin. Some
examples from his translation which will be discussed below illustrate
the consequences of John’s love for the truth and scrupulous proce-
dure.
According to his own statement in the preface to the trilingual
Qur’n, John aimed at imitating the Arabic wording of the original as
much as possible. He was even prepared to ignore rules of the Latin
language. Gidelli accepted the necessity of occasional additions or
changes in his Castilian translation in order to allow for a better under-
standing, whereas John developed a tendency to maintain the Arabic
expression even if this led to grammatical or other puzzles. In such
cases, he went back to the Arabic text.36 He removed some of Gidelli’s
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34 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V190r; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p.
401 ll. 246-251): “Unde oportuit et aliis postpositis uni intendere cure, quatenus magister
ipse [sc. Iça Gidelli], opus, ad quod accesserat uocatus, impleret, translationem facturus
libri Alchurani Arabico ydeomati et textui conformem, absque glosis, limitationibus, ex-
positionibus quoque insertis textui, sed et quasdam breues certe admodum rarasque in mar-
ginibus addidit pro quorumdam uocabulorum annotatione.”
35 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V193v; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p.
406 ll. 434-435); cf. Gidelli, Epistola ad Johannem de Segovia (V178v; ed. Cabanelas,
Juan de Segovia y el problema islámico, p. 273), and the discussion in Scotto, “De Pe a
Pa,” p. 538f. note 87.
36 Segovia owned two Arabic copies of the Qur’n, the copy which belonged to Yça
Gidelli and a copy purchased in Granada, and he noticed the different spellings; see his
Praefatio in translationem (V194rv; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 407 ll. 474-477): “[..] signa
tamen habent quibus ipsorum appareat diuersitas casuum; et huiusmodi casuum designa-
tiones reperi attentius obseruatas in uno libro Alchurani empto michi antiquissimo certe
et, ut dicitur, in regno scriptum Granate, quam in nouo penes me edito.”
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additions and included in his Latin translation Castilian expressions
which had been derived from Arabic.37 He did not intend to follow the
regular rules of grammar.38 Again according to his own statement, he
produced clauses without verbs which apparently were meant to cor-
respond to the common Arabic nominal sentences that don’t contain a
verb. Furthermore, he invented artificial words such as “sussuus” for
the third-person plural possessive pronoun which is identical in Latin
with the third person singular.39 Despite these efforts, Segovia did not
believe that this work had reached the quality required for publication.40
He also had to admit that he himself could not revise his own Latin
translation yet again, even though he understood Arabic better at the
end than he had at the beginning.41 He noticed, amongst other things,
that Gidelli had chosen different ways of rendering one and the same
Arabic expression although he was unable to ascertain the reasons for
these decisions. Apart from not having the necessary language skills,
he did not have access to the exegetical works which Gidelli had con-
sulted while working on his translation.
How much of the radical attitude which Segovia had claimed for
his Latin translation can we actually find in the surviving fragments?42
The majority of these fragments are fairly short and cannot be identified
with the corresponding Quranic verses with certainty. Fragments which
can be correlated with the Arabic text contain parts of surah 2:4. 193;
5:110-115; 8:65-66; 9:29. 71; 58:11 as well as 112:3. The most promi-
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37 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V194r; ed. Martínez Gázquez,
p. 407 ll. 461-470).
38 See Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 117f.; concerning Segovia’s principle “minime
dubitaui uerberare Priscianum,” see his Praefatio in translationem (V193v; ed. Martínez
Gázquez, p. 406 ll. 444f.).
39 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V194r and 195r; ed. Martínez
Gázquez, p. 406 ll. 453-460 and p. 408 ll. 513-519).
40 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V195v; ed. Martínez Gázquez,
p. 408 l. 532-p. 409 l. 537): “Etenim, quo percipio, ut plene Alchuranus intelligatur, utrius-
que lingue et Arabice peritum requirit, qualem, uita comite, spero me habiturum. Et usque
plenior lingue ipsius absit mihi notitia, alia non cogente necessitate uel utilitate suadente,
translationem non intendo communicare, nisi unde sentiam ad perfectum inchoati operis
auxilium euenire posse.”
41 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V195r; ed. Martínez Gázquez,
p. 408 ll. 519-525).
42 For a detailed analysis see the two publications by Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,”
and Roth and Glei, “Eine weitere Spur”; cf. also Burman, Reading the Qur’an, p. 182-
185.
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nent features of Segovia’s translation in these passages are literal ness
and precision. Sometimes, the nature of the original used by Gidelli is
not obvious: it remains unclear whether he himself did not produce a
close and accurate translation of a passage or whether he was following
the interpretation of a commentary. We can nevertheless establish that
the surviving fragments of Segovia’s Latin translation are fairly read-
able and seek to follow the Arabic text rather closely. Further confir-
mation of this quality emerges from a comparison with the translation
by Robert of Ketton which Segovia endeavored to surpass. The frag-
ment from surah 8:65-66 renders the text as follows:
ya’ayyuhal-nabiyyu harridi l-mu’minina ,alal-qitali in yakun minkum ,isruna
sabiruna yaghlibu mi’ataini [...] wa-in yakun minkum alfun yaghlibu alfaini […]
wallahu ma,a l-sabirina.
Iam ecce propheta imperare credentibus super mactancia guerre Et si fuerint XX
sufferentes, vincetis ij. Et si fuerint de vobis mille vincent duo millia Et deus una
cum sufferentibus.43
The divergences from the Arabic text are limited to the usage of the
infinitive form imperare instead of the imperative, an omitted de vobis
following the first fuerint and vincetis instead of vincent. These differ-
ences may be due to the manuscript on which Gidelli based his trans-
lation, which may have had variants in the punctuation which survived
in his version, or they may have been due to an inaccurate copying of
the Spanish translation or of Segovia’s Latin translation, or in fact his
own reproduction of quotations in his preface to the trilingual Qur’n,
or mistakes made by the scribe of ms Vatican 2923 which is indeed not
always reliable. Given the complex nature of these transmissions it is
impossible to reach definite conclusions here. It is, however, fairly easy
to compare this passage to the translation by Robert of Ketton. This
exercise reveals interesting insights. He renders the passage as follows:
Tu nuncie [...] tuis pugnam persuade. Tui namque uiginti sustinentes et indurantes,
ducentos alios superabunt [...] et uos mille, caeterorum duo milia, Deo praeside
indurantium sustentamine.44
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43 Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 126.
44 Latin translation of the Qur’n by Robert of Ketton (ed. Bibliander, p. 62 ll. 9-11).
The edition by Bibliander is based on a single manuscript which John of Ragusa brought
back from his journey as a legate to Constantinople and which John of Segovia had bor-
rowed and sent from Basle to Aiton in southern France. José Martínez Gázquez (Barcelona)
is preparing a critical edition.
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This quotation illustrates that Robert focused on the meaning of
the text rather than intended to render its precise wording. Segovia’s
translation follows the Arabic text word by word and even maintains
precisely the sequence of the words, whereas Robert of Ketton reduces
the number of verbs in order to avoid unnecessary repetitions. Fur-
thermore, he added words in order to enhance the smooth flow of the
text (namque) or in order to disambiguate references (alios; caetero-
rum). Segovia translates simple phrases such as “God is with those
who are steadfast” faithfully and utilizes the same expressions as in
the preceding passage (sufferentes/sufferentibus). Reproducing the
Arabic nominal clause which does not contain a verb, he practices ex-
actly what he described in the preface to his translation.45 Robert of
Ketton, by contrast, created an unusual wording which ignores the
grammatical structure of the simple Arabic sentence and follows Latin
habits with an ablative construction. In this way, Robert already es-
tablishes a certain line of interpretation (praeses; sustentamen),
whereas Segovia leaves it open what exactly it means that God is
“with” those who are steadfast. Likewise, the expression indurantes
reveals different styles of translation. Both words, sufferentes and in-
durantes, are good choices. Segovia selected a phrase which exists in
Spanish too which suggests that he may have followed Gidelli’s trans-
lation. Robert had translated the word when it first occurred with the
longer expression sustinentes et indurantes. This reflects a common
practice of medieval translators who sometimes used two words in
their translation in order to render more accurately the range of mean-
ings of a single word in the original text. Later in his translation, how-
ever, Robert uses only one of these words. Some more examples seem
to indicate that Segovia sometimes even borrowed from the Spanish
vocabulary of Gidelli in his Latin translation. He himself admits freely
that in the beginning he translated according to (conformiter) the
Spanish translation, but later tried to imitate more the Arabic original.46
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45 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V195r; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p.
408 ll. 516-519): “[...] sed in processu malui Latinam interpretationem Arabico quam Hys-
panico loquendi modo fieri conformem, positis nominatiuis absolutis quoque absque uerbo
[...].”
46 See John of Segovia, Praefatio in translationem (V194r; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p.
407 ll. 461-470): “Aliis etiam aut nouitatibus aut incongruitatibus usus fui, Latina uerba,
quamuis alia suppeterent, iuxta Hyspanum ydeoma componens, propterea quod reperii in
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This is primarily said about grammatical structures, but could hold
true for the vocabulary, too.47
A similar contrast between Segovia’s and Robert’s translations is
obvious in the translations of surah 9:29:
qatilu lladina layu’minuna bi-llahi wa-labi-l-yawmi l-akhiri
occidite ergo illos qui non credunt in deo et in die postremo.48
Robert of Ketton renders this as follows:
Non credentes in deum, dieique futurae [...] expugnate.49
In this case too, we can see that Segovia’s translation follows the
Arabic text closely, imitating its structure. This is obvious in the posi-
tion of the imperative in the sentence, but especially in the grammatical
construction. The order of the words and the grammatical features of
Robert of Ketton’s translation, on the other hand, reveal his ambition
to produce an eloquent Latin construction (final position of the impera -
tive, participial construction with credentes instead of a subordinate
clause) and to acknowledge the Latin conventions of the theologians
(credere in + accusative to render belief in God as opposed to credere
+ dative to render belief in Judgment Day). In these cases, Segovia uses
a phrase which is very uncommon among contemporary theologians
and which he does not use himself in any of the texts he composed at
the time: credere in + accusative in order to render the Arabic ,amana
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Alchurano multa uocabula que pro uulgari habet Hyspanum ydeoma [...]. Demum, cum
ab initio precipue inspicerem ydeoma Hyspanum in quo magister ille [sc. Gidelli] Ara-
bicum uerterat, illi conformiter interpretabar, at in successu operis, uel presagiens stili for-
mam, in Arabico agnito quod ob defectum grammatice interpretatio ipsa quedam addiderat,
ut potui, Arabicum magis quam Hyspanum seruare uolui loquendi modum.”
47 See surah 5:110 bi-idni: “cum licencia mea” (Segovia) and “con mi liçençia”
(Qur’n of ms Toledo 235), but “meo velle” (Robert of Ketton); or surah 5:113 mina l-
sahidina: “ex testificantibus” (Segovia) and “de los atestiguantes” (Qurn of ms Toledo
235), but “cum nostro testimonio”; cf. Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” pp. 130f., 140, 144,
and López-Morillas, El Corán de Toledo, p. 213. Another example in three Aljamiado
translations taken from surah 5:117 (cf. López-Morillas, El Corán de Toledo, p. 38) proves
that the choice of “testigo” in surah 5:117 was common in Aljamiado translations of the
Qur’n and not specific for the Qur’n of ms Toledo 235. Thus Segovia’s constant choice
of “testificare” and its cognates for the root s-h-d (cf. Roth and Glei, “Eine weitere Spur,”
p. 225) could reflect this common tradition, transmitted by Gidelli.
48 Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 127.
49 Latin translation of the Qur’n by Robert of Ketton (ed. Bibliander, p. 63 ll. 42-44).
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bi- + genitive.50 Due to his declared principle to distinguish the different
Arabic cases and to always render them in the same way in Latin,51
Segovia produces a translation which sounds very unusual for a the-
ologian. In the Apostles’ Creed and theological interpretations since
Augustine, scholars made a clear distinction between the personal be-
lief in God (credere in Deum) and Latin constructions which referred
to beliefs in subordinate truths (credere ecclesiam, vitam aeternam with
accusative). Segovia, however, imitated the Arabic expression. He vio -
lates the rules of Latin grammar by rendering credere in with an abla-
tive and does not respond to the expectations of a reader familiar with
theological conventions by failing to distinguish belief in God and be-
lief in Judgment Day – a distinction not made in German or English
either. In one instance, he even uses the phrase credere cum + ablative
which is contrary to any Latin rules.52
Further evidence for this significant difference between Segovia’s
and Robert of Kettons translations can be gleaned from the longer frag-
ment in ms Seville, Biblioteca Colombina, 7-6-14. In this case, how-
ever, such radical violations of the conventions of Latin grammar and
structure are less prominent. The following example from surah 5:110
may serve as an illustration:
idqala llahu ya,isabna maryama dkur ni,mati,alaika wa-,alawalidatika id
ayyadtuka bi-ruhi l-qudusi tukallimu l-nasa fi-l-mahdi wa-kahlan wa-id,allamtuka
l-kitaba wa-l-hikmata wa-t-tawrata wa-l-injila wa-idtakhluqu mina l-tini ka-
hay’ati l-tairi bi-idnifa-tanfukhu fihafa-takunu tairan bi-idniwa-tubri’u l-akmaha
wa-l-abrasa bi-idniwa-idtukhriju l-mawtabi-idni.
573
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50 In early Latin confessional texts as well as in interpretations until the period of the
church fathers we can find credere in + ablative, often alternating with credere in + accu-
sative. This expression starts to disappear in theological writing of the high and late Middle
Ages, although it can be found in isolated cases.
51 Segovia’s own statement reveals his insufficient knowledge in this respect. See his
Praefatio in translationem (V194r; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 406 ll. 450-452): “Quantum
ad casus, in participiis tres, in nominibus duos, datiuum et ablatiuum; terminationes dis-
tinctas masculini et femini generis nouiter imponens, illas ydeomate Arabico expressante.”
The term “dative,” which Segovia translates according to a different statement as accusative,
probably refers to the accusative in Arabic; he probably interpreted the genitive as ablative
and translated it accordingly as in the example above, cf. his Praefatio in translationem
(194r; ed. Martínez Gázquez, p. 406 l. 448): “[...] et pro datiuo ponens accusatiuum [...].”
52 For surah 2:4 see the translation “et illis qui c[r]edunt cum eo quod misi tibi” in
Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 128, which suggests that Segovia revised and corrected
constructions when he decided to follow the Arabic wording in a more radical manner, cf.
147f.
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Quando dicet deus Iam Jesu fili [ex filii corr.] marie nomina gratiam meam super
te et super matrem tuam quando te vigoravi cum spiritu sancto alloquebaris gentem
in infancia et maioritate et quando docui te scripturam et iudicia et tabulas et Euan-
gelia et quando creabas ex luto quomodo similitudinem auium cum licencia mea
et sufflabas in eo et erat auis cum licencia mea et sanabas cecos et leprosos cum
licencia mea et quando extrahebas mortuos cum licencia.53
Robert of Ketton, by contrast, ignores the formal device of direct
speech and summarizes the contents. Furthermore, he changes the se-
quence of the statements:
Deus Iesum Mariae filium affatus, cui tribuit animam mundam atque benedictam,
qua iuuenes et infantulos affatus est, et formis uolatilium luteis a se factis insufflans
uolatum praebuit. Caecum natum, atque leprosum curauit: Mortuos resuscitauit:
quem item librum, et sapientiam, ne non Euangelium et testamentum docuit [...].
According to Arabic commentaries, the passage which is rendered
as in infancia et maioritate establishes that Jesus had spoken to the
people from his crib as well as later as an adult. Segovia’s translation
allows for such a reading, whereas Robert of Ketton identifies the ex-
pression as a description of those who are spoken to and who are des -
cribed accordingly as small children and young adults. While numerous
Arabic commentaries interpret the expression cum spiritu sancto as an
allusion to the angel Gabriel, Robert of Ketton suggests a very different
meaning, whereas Segovia’s translation is again fairly neutral. The lat-
ter thus does more justice to the main theme of the Quranic verse by
rendering more faithfully the repeated emphasis on God’s sovereignty
(cum licencia mea). In Robert of Ketton’s translation, by contrast, the
miraculous acts of Jesus become the focus of the passage since the nu-
merous references to divine acts are collapsed into a single tribuit. A
conspicuous choice is Segovia’s rendering of hikma as iudicia. This
may reflect Gidelli’s interpretation of the Arabic text which privileges
the notion ‘to judge’ as the root meaning of hikma. Some Muslim com-
mentaries too read hikma here as a reference to the knowledge of clear
and right distinctions, such as the difference between what is allowed
and what is forbidden. The plural iudicia would account for such an
interpretation. While the word selected by Robert of Ketton, sapientia,
appears to be a suitable choice, the interpretation of Muslim commen-
tators differs from the connotations of this term for Christians who as-
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53 Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 129f.
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sociate sapientia with sapida scientia, i.e., knowledge which is also
experience or knowledge of things divine.
These examples essentially corroborate the accuracy of Segovia’s
statement. When compared to the Arabic text, his translation of
Gidelli’s Castilian version appears to be fairly literal and in most cases
accurate. It follows the Arabic text in the word order and sometimes
even in grammatical constructions. The radical changes imposed on
Latin grammar and word choice, which Segovia referred to, however,
are barely recognizable in the fragments which have come down to us.
Apart from the phrases credere in + accusative and credere cum + ab-
lative, which have been discussed above, there is only one verb which
is used in transitive form even though Latin conventions dictate intran-
sitive usage: a passage from surah 5:114 is “descendet super nos men-
sam unam de celo.”54 There is one instance only in which, according
to the Arabic model, a singular predicate is followed by a plural subject,
whereas other passages which could have been constructed in the same
way, are rendered according to the rules of Latin grammar.55 Generally
speaking, however, Segovia describes his method accurately and one
can only imagine what kind of text he produced on the basis of the
work of the Muslim translator and adding to that. His insufficient
knowledge of Arabic only allowed him limited access to the Qur’n in
its original language and he was not able to study or take otherwise
into consideration the Arabic commentaries on the Qur’n. These short-
comings should not distract from the fact that Segovia and his project
constituted an example ahead of its time in the long tradition of Chris-
tian responses to Islam.56 In this respect, he can still inspire us to over-
come the intellectual limitations of contemporary intra- and interfaith
thought and activity.
575
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54 Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 131 and the discussion in p. 145f. Another example
of descendere used in the transitive way can be found in this book concerning surah 5:115:
“dixit deus ego descendam eam super vos.”
55 See Roth and Glei, “Die Spuren,” p. 130 and the discussion in p. 143 concerning
surah 5:112 idqala l-hawariyuna: “Quando dixi apostoli.”
56 Burman, Reading the Qur’an, p. 196: “There are obvious ways, in which his edition
was more primitive than either Egidio’s or Marracci’s [...]. But that he was as preoccupied
with polemic as he was with philology – in this like both Robert of Ketton and Ludovico
Marracci as well – reminds us of the deep continuities in how Latin intellectuals engaged
in Qur’n throughout the whole period from 1140 to 1560.”
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Recibido: 18/05/2014
Aceptado: 23/06/2014
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Article
El objetivo de este estudio es demostrar la estrecha relación que media entre dos de los manuscritos que actualmente se conservan de la traducción latina del Corán de Robert de Ketton (1142-1143), y la figura de Juan de Segobia (1390/5-1458), quien desde 1437 había estudiado esta versión del Corán hasta que él mismo, con la colaboración de un alfaquí hispano, elaboró una nueva traducción. Tras exponer las noticias que Juan de Segobia ofrece sobre los ejemplares del Corán latino que poseyó, se esboza una ordenación general de la tradición manuscrita del Alchoran de Robert de Ketton, que se divide en dos familias, α (la de los códices más antiguos) y β (la de los más recientes, derivados de un manuscrito traído en 1437 desde Constantinopla a Basilea por Johannes de Ragusio). La comparación entre la redacción que ofrece un grupo de manuscritos de la familia α (muy en particular, la del códice Paris BNF lat. 3393) con las variantes presentes en los códices de la familia β y en la propia edición de Theodor Bibliander (1543) permite concluir que el códice Paris BNF lat. 3669 es una copia de un manuscrito supervisado por Juan de Segobia, donde se ofrecía una redacción del Alchoran de Robert de Ketton revisada a partir de las variantes del códice de Johannes de Ragusio.
Article
This article examines the history of the translation of the Qur’an into Latin. The main attention was paid to the study of the transformation of the approach to the translation of the Qur’an into Latin. During the long historical period (XII–XVII centuries) its basic principles remained unchanged, but the ways of their practical application were significantly changed. The study shows that the combination of polemical and research components forms the basis of the translation approach developed in the translation of Robert of Ketton and Corpus Tholetanum (c. 1143), a collection of works on Islam, created in Toledo under the guidance of Peter the Venerable. These leading components of the translation approach constitute the basis of all other translations of the Qur’an into Latin. However, since Mark of Toledo’s translation (c. 1210) the structural characteristics of these components greatly change. In addition, the correlation between them also changes: while in the twelfth century the polemical component significantly shaped certain translation decisions, by the seventeenth century it was definitively detached from the translation itself. This transformation prepared the ground for the modern scientific approach to the translation of the Qur’an.
Article
This essay studies the translations of the Qur’ān into Romance languages in anti-Islamic treatises written by Christians in the Iberian Peninsula in the sixteenth century. It compares three such works (here called Antialcoranes or ‘anti-Qur’āns’) that contain citations of the Qur’ān in Arabic, either in Arabic script or in transliteration, or both. These include the Confusión o confutación de la secta Mahomética y del Alcorán (1515) of Juan Andrés, the Lumbre de fe contra la secta mahometana y el alcorán (1521) by Martín de Figuerola and the Confutación del alcorán y secta mahometana (1555) by Lope de Obregón. It also considers glosses found in the Latin Qur’ān made at the behest of the Italian cardinal Egidio (Giles) da Viterbo (1518). We argue that these works merit detailed study, along with more studied Latin translations, as part of a history of the translation of the Qur’ān in the early modern period.
Article
Juan de Segovia (d. 1458), theologian, translator of the Qur’an, and lifelong advocate for the forging of peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims, was one of Europe's leading intellectuals. Today, however, few scholars are familiar with this important fifteenth-century figure. In this well-documented study, Anne Marie Wolf presents a clear, chronological narrative that follows the thought and career of Segovia, who taught at the University of Salamanca, represented the university at the Council of Basel (1431–1449), and spent his final years arguing vigorously that Europe should eschew war with the ascendant Ottoman Turks and instead strive to convert them peacefully to Christianity. What could make a prominent thinker, especially one who moved in circles of power, depart so markedly from the dominant views of his day and advance arguments that he knew would subject him to criticism and even ridicule? Although some historians have suggested that the multifaith heritage of his native Spain accounts for his unconventional belief that peaceful dialogue with Muslims was possible, Wolf argues that other aspects of his life and thought were equally important, especially his approach to the Bible and his experience at the Council of Basel, where his defense of conciliarism in the face of opposition contributed to his ability to defend an unpopular position and where his insistence on conversion through peaceful means was bolstered by discussions about the proper way to deal with the Hussites. Ultimately Wolf demonstrates that Segovia's thought on Islam and the proper Christian stance toward the Muslim world was consistent with his approach to other endeavors and with cultural and intellectual movements at play throughout his career.
Article
After the teaching experience at the University of Salamanca and his long-lasting involvement as member of the conciliar party during the Council of Basel, Juan de Segovia (1393-1458) spent the last 8 years of his life retired at Aiton in Savoy. As soon as he received the news of the fall of Constantinople, he began to deal intensively with Turkish and Islamic issues, writing well-informed treaties on Islam as well as long Epistole addressed to renowned European ecclesiastical figures (Nicholas of Cusa, Jean Germain, Enea Silvio Piccolomini). In 1455-1456 he also promoted an innovative trilingual edition of the Qur'an (Arabic, Castilian, Latin), now unfortunately lost, compiled together with Iç a Gidelli, a learned faqīh belonging to the Islamic aljama of Segovia. In order to translate the lex Mahumeti and to compare the Christian-Islamic calendars, Iça brought some commentaries on the Qur'an (tafsīr) and at least four Islamic texts with him to Savoy. Two of these last four texts, a guide to Islamic doctrine and a compendium on the meanings of the suras, joined the Christian books in the Castilian theologian's library in Aiton and were later described in his donatio inter vivos (1457). Drawing from the surviving Latin Praefatio of the trilingual Qur'an, this essay extensively investigates the 4-month direct interaction that took place between a Christian and an Islamic scholar. A comprehensive examination of the available sources, supported by that brought to light by the critical editions of new texts (recently published or forthcoming), allowed for both a chronological reconstruction of the inter-cultural experience, as well as hopefully shedding some light on the meaning that its Christian witness gave to it. Especially with regards to this second consideration, in spite of recent linguistic and philological studies, there are still many questions to be answered. Why would a theologian belonging to the late medieval University wish so strongly - and manage - to compile a translation of the Qur'an that was as faithful as possible to the Arabic text? Perhaps it is no coincidence that within this Mediterranean context, which was largely Christian or re-christianized, Juan de Segovia's contemporaries did not walk the same path.
Article
Most of what we know about attitudes toward Islam in the medieval and early modern West has been based on polemical treatises against Islam written by Christian scholars preoccupied with defending their own faith and attacking the doctrines of others. Christian readings of the Qur'an have in consequence typically been depicted as tedious and one-dimensional exercises in anti-Islamic hostility. In Reading the Qur'an in Latin Christendom, 1140-1560, Thomas E. Burman looks instead to a different set of sources: the Latin translations of the Qur'an made by European scholars and the manuscripts and early printed books in which these translations circulated. Using these largely unexplored materials, Burman argues that the reading of the Qur'an in Western Europe was much more complex. While their reading efforts were certainly often focused on attacking Islam, scholars of the period turned out to be equally interested in a whole range of grammatical, lexical, and interpretive problems presented by the text. Indeed, these two approaches were interconnected: attacking the Qur'an often required sophisticated explorations of difficult Arabic grammatical problems. Furthermore, while most readers explicitly denounced the Qur'an as a fraud, translations of the book are sometimes inserted into the standard manuscript format of Christian Bibles and other prestigious Latin texts (small, centered blocks of text surrounded by commentary) or in manuscripts embellished with beautiful decorated initials and elegant calligraphy for the pleasure of wealthy collectors. Addressing Christian-Muslim relations generally, as well as the histories of reading and the book, Burman offers a much fuller picture of how Europeans read the sacred text of Islam than we have previously had.
Article
En el marc de la història de la transmissió escrita de l¿Alcorà (al-Qu'ran), l'article fa referència a l'evolució de la forma i l'estructura del text en relació amb l'oralitat del missatge original, a l'existència de diferents tradicions textuals en el si de la comunitat islàmica i al seu reflex en les traduccions. L'atenció se centra, sobretot, en la primera traducció sencera coneguda de l'Alcorà al llatí, realitzada per Robert de Ketton (ca. 1141-1143) a la Vall de l'Ebre, i se'n destaca el valor documental com a testimoni contemporani d'una tradició magribina i andalusina de tractament del text. Within the framework of the history of the written transmission of the Qur'an, this paper refers to the evolution of some formal aspects of the text in relation to the original oral message as well as to the existence of different textual traditions inside the Islamic community and their reflection in several translations. Special attention is devoted to the first known Latin translation of the Qur'an, achieved by Robert of Ketton (ca. 1141-1143) in the Ebro Valley of the Iberian Peninsula, and points out its documental value as a witness of a contemporary textual tradition in al-Andalus and the Maghrib.
Die Spuren and the discussion in p. 145f. Another example of descendere used in the transitive way can be found in this book concerning surah 5:115: "dixit deus ego descendam eam super vos
  • Glei Roth
Roth and Glei, "Die Spuren," p. 131 and the discussion in p. 145f. Another example of descendere used in the transitive way can be found in this book concerning surah 5:115: "dixit deus ego descendam eam super vos." 55
Die Spuren," p. 130 and the discussion in p. 143 concerning surah 5:112 id qala l-hawariyuna: "Quando dixi apostoli
  • See Roth
See Roth and Glei, "Die Spuren," p. 130 and the discussion in p. 143 concerning surah 5:112 id qala l-hawariyuna: "Quando dixi apostoli." 56
De gladio divini spiritus in corda mittendo Sarracenorum
  • Segovia John
John of Segovia, De gladio divini spiritus in corda mittendo Sarracenorum, Ulli Roth (edition und deutsche Übersetzung mit Einleitung und Erläuterungen), Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2012, Corpus Islamochristianum, Series latina 7, 2 Bände.