A historic discovery, made by a hawk-eyed French scholar last week, has been hailed as “extraordinary” by academics and theologians alike. Dr Eléonore Cellard managed to identify the shadowy outlines of passages from the Bible behind an eighth-century manuscript of the Qur’an.
What does this mean? Well, we’re not too sure exactly – but it’s the only time that this has happened. That is, it’s the only time that a Christian text has made its way into an Islamic holy text. So, for the first time, we can see that there is at least some shared history between these two great religions.
“This is a very important discovery for the history of the Qur’an and early Islam. We have here a witness of cultural interactions between different religious communities,” said Cellard, who works at College de France.
“It’s quite extraordinary,” said Romain Pingannaud, a specialist at iconic auction house Christie’s. “Once you know it’s there, you can only see it, it becomes so obvious. We missed it at the beginning. It’s fascinating, particularly because it’s the only example where you have an Arabic text on top of a non-Arabic text.”
He added: “And what’s even more fascinating is it is on top of passages from the Old Testament … It shows the contact between communities in the first centuries of Islam; it’s very relevant.”
Christie’s is now offering fragments of the historic text in an upcoming auction – the ‘guide price’ is £80,000 to £120,000. According to them, it’s one of a kind. The price tag is, therefore, unsurprising; this is an important discovery – for both Islam and Christianity. For the first time, we have tangible evidence that these religions have more in common than some parts of society would have us believe.