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Robert de Ketton, traditore: Manifestations of anti-Islamic Radicalism in the First Latin Translation of the Qur’an

From the book The Latin Qur’an, 1143–1500

  • Óscar de la Cruz Palma


The first time the foundational texts of Islam (in this case the Qurʾan) were translated, with the goal of providing the Latin world with direct access to its supposedly erroneous doctrines, was a cultural watershed moment. This distinction notwithstanding, Robert of Ketton brought to bear a series of prejudices in his translation of the Qurʾan that resulted in an exaggeratedly anti-Christian text that sometimes diverges - as the Arabic commentaries demonstrate - from the text’s original meaning. For example, some precepts that originally targeted Jewish customs were made in the Latin translation to look like Islamic condemnations of Christian customs. In this way, the Qurʾan that was introduced into Latin Christendom was riddled with incorrect content, and this content was still circulating in the humanist period by virtue of the success of Bibliander’s printed recension (1543).

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