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The Religious Identity of the Arabic Language and the Affair of the Lead Books of the Sacromonte of Granada

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This article deals, in the first place, with the religious identity of the Arabic language as defined by the ongoing debate, in 16th-17th century Spain, about its identification with Islam. Many new Christians of Muslim origin (Moriscos) tried to break this identification in an effort to salvage part of their culture, and specially the language, by separating it from Islam. I will argue that the Morisco forgery known as the Lead Books of the Sacromonte in Granada—an Arabic Evangile dictated by the Virgin Mary to Arabic disciples who came to Spain with the Apostle Saint James—was part of this effort. When the Lead Books were taken to the Vatican to be informed, they were studied by Maronite scholars who decided that they were written in “Muslim Arabic” and therefore could not be authentic Christian texts. The Maronites were engaged in creating and consolidating their own version of Christian Arabic to define and legitimise their own position inside the Roman world. The second part of the essay adresses the theological considerations and the defence of different cultural identities which are implied in these different versions of Arabic.

Affiliations: 1: CSIC (Madrid)


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