Announcing METI’s new Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature

03.10.2014 | Morgan Davis

On behalf of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, I am pleased to announce the addition of an important new series to our Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI). The series, to be called the Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature (LJAL), will publish works written by Jewish authors living within the Islamic world of the Middle Ages. At the invitation of James T. Robinson, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and David Sklare, of the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem, an international team of scholars has come together to advise on the selection and review of texts to appear in this series, which will feature the same dual-language format as other METI publications like the Islamic Translation Series and Eastern Christian Texts. The bilingual format makes primary texts and expert translations simultaneously available to experts, students, and general readers alike. Texts will be selected from across the entire range of genres represented in Judeo-Arabic literature, including philosophy, theology, Biblical interpretation, history, and many other genres.

The new webpage for the Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature gives a brief prospectus for the project and information about the renowned scholars who have agreed to serve as academic advisors. As announced in the series prospectus, each volume in this series will feature parallel text and English translation, as well as an introduction, full annotation, and glossary. In cases where there has never been a scholarly edition of the Judeo-Arabic text, one will be created and paired with the English translation. However, a transcription into Arabic characters will also be provided in order to ensure the widest possible scholarly access to the text. Where the Judeo-Arabic version has already been published in an adequate edition, priority will be given to pairing an Arabic letter transcription with the English translation. Each title will appear under the Brigham Young University Press imprint and will be distributed worldwide by the University of Chicago Press.

A short list of titles in preparation has also been announced on the LJAL website. These include works by Dawud al-Muqammas, a seminal Jewish thinker of the early Middle Ages, and Rabbi Saadia Gaon, one of the most influential figures in Judeo-Arabic literature.

In addition, I am also pleased to announce that we have just reached an agreement with the University of Chicago Press to publish a new Arabic letters transcription by Professor Robinson of the Munk/Joel edition of Moses Maimonides’s magisterial Guide of the Perplexed, side by side with the English translation of Shlomo Pines, which, after fifty years in print, is still unrivaled for its clarity and accuracy. The METI edition of the Guide will be available in the spring of 2016 (if not before). The series will thus launch with one of its very first titles being the single most influential work ever penned in Judeo-Arabic.

The Middle Eastern Texts Initiative is an ambitious academic project, requiring the dedicated effort of many talented scholars and editors. But it is more than a scholar’s project. Everything METI undertakes—simultaneously publishing the primary texts of many religious and philosophical traditions—is designed “to deepen understanding and nurture discipleship among Latter-day Saints and to promote mutual respect and goodwill among people of all faiths.” These are ideals to which the Institute’s namesake, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, was profoundly committed, and to which we remain equally committed today. The addition of the Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature to the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative will open new windows for readers into a world where Jewish thinkers worked productively within an Islamic context for many centuries, mingling in the marketplace with Christians and Muslims of many stripes. The cooperative effort of METI, once again involving scholars of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim backgrounds, offers the hope that people of goodwill can match, in modern times as well as ancient, their daily actions with the peaceable teachings of their various faith traditions.

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D. Morgan Davis has been affiliated with the Maxwell Institute’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative since its launch in 1993 and became the project’s director in 2010. He holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Brigham Young University, an MA in history from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD (2005) in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Utah.