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The holy book of islam, containing what are considered by the Muslims the revelations made by God to the Prophet muh:ammad over the approximately 20 years of his apostolate. The English term is derived from the Arabic word qur'ān (from the root qr ', to recite aloud, read), which would seem to have been borrowed from Syriac qiryānā, having the specifically religious sense of a recitation or reading of Scripture. The term is used in the work itself alongside a number of other terms [e.g., way,

tanzīl, revelation; dhikr, dhikra, tadhkira, calling to mind; furqān, that which separates good from evil (but in Syriac, "salvation"), etc.] to designate the revelation of God's word, both in the interior experience of Muammad and as the expressed form and content of this experience as it was spoken by him and heard by the believers. It is termed "an Arabic Qurān " (12.2; 20.112;39.29; 41.2; 43.2), being a revelation "in the Arabic language" (46.11) as opposed to non-Arabic revelations made to other prophets, viz, those of the Jews and Christians (cf. 16.105 and 41.44).

Arrangement. The Qurān, in its present form, is divided into 114 units or chapters called sūras (Arabic pl. suwar ), which, varying in length from two lines to almost 700, are arranged in an order of decreasing length. The opening sūra (Fātiat al-kitāb ), which is unique in being nothing more than a short prayer, stands outside this order as do the last two, which are imprecations against enchantment and evil spirits. In the earliest texts, following a practice no doubt already begun in the lifetime of the Prophet, the sūras were separated only by the basmala, i.e., the formula "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful," standing at the head of each sūra. The formula, however, certainly did not form a part of the earliest revelations but was added consistently throughout only later; and its absence at the beginning of sūra 9 would indicate that sūras 8 and 9 were originally taken to be a single unit. The earliest manuscripts contain simply a blank space between sūras, into which commonly used titles, taken generally from some distinctive element in the sūra, were later added, e.g., 2 is known as The Cow (cf., 2.63); 57, Iron (cf. 57.25); 50, Qâf (from the initial at the beginning); 87, The Most High (87.1). In contrast to the basmala the titles are in no way considered part of the text; they have fluctuated, and particular sūras may have more than one, e.g., 68 = al-Qalam or Nūn, 17 = 'asrà or banī Isrâīl, while 9 has been known by many names, the most common of which are al-Tawba and al-Barāa.

The individual sūras are divided into verses called āyāt, "signs" or "tokens" (sing. 'āya ), a term used in the revelation itself (e.g., 10.1; 12.1; 13.1, "These are the āyāt "). These verses do not necessarily coincide with sentence units, but rather form rhetorical pauses marked by a rhyming assonance called fāila, in contradistinction to the strict rhyme of poetry, which is called qāfiya. There is considerable variability in the strictness of the rhyme and the number of successive verses over which a single assonance may be maintained; also the length of the verses themselves varies from a single word to many lines. In the latest-written portions of the book, particularly in the legal sections, the lines are quite long with no discernible cadence and a very weak rhyme (most commonly-ūn,-īn,-īm); in contrast, some of the earlier sūras manifest a kind of saj' or cadenced, rhymed prose somewhat similar to that used in the oracular sayings and incantations of the ancient Arabian diviners (kāhin, pl. kahana ), something which induced the pagan hearers of Muammad to call his utterances "the speech of a kāhin " (cf. 69.42 and 52.29).

Manner of Compilation. The present order of the sūras in no way reflects the chronological sequence of their composition or of the promulgation of their parts, but on the contrary roughly reverses it, the longest ones being for the most part from the Medinan period and the shortest from the earliest. Again, with a few exceptions, chiefly among the shortest, almost none of the sūras in their present form represent integral, primitive units of the revelation. Some sūras show a simple juxtaposition of two or more originally independent pieces of varying length, while frequently single verses have been introduced to qualify or expand the original text. In some cases incomplete fragments would seem simply to have been inserted into an original unit with little regard for its contextual or grammatical integration; but one must always be circumspect in making any such judgment in view of the "disjointed" appearance of much of Arabic literature on the one hand, and of prophetic literature in general. Though in some instances the parts of a particular sūra are from quite different periods of Muammad's career, the majority are made up of elements generally more or less contemporary. Often the combination of originally independent elements is by simple juxtaposition; and though the process of combination could hardly have been as haphazard as some scholars have assumed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine what principles and method underlay the process. Whatever these may have been, the grouping must have taken place very early, and been almost, if not entirely, completed during the lifetime of the Prophet, since there is no tradition whatsoever indicating any order of verses within the sūras other than that of the present received text. Certain kinds of systematic arrangement of material would seem to have been consciously avoided; legal ordinances and admonitions, for example, rather than being grouped into a kind of unified code, are to be found in a number of separate sūras, and in each case are combined with homiletic and dogmatic elements, as if to maintain them always within the matrix of the religious and spiritual context that ultimately grounds their meaning. This is most notable in sūra 2, which forms a kind of constitution of the Muslim community at Medina; or in sūra 24, where precepts regarding adultery are juxtaposed with a magnificent passage on God as the light of the world (see also sūras 33, 58, and 65). In other cases there is to be found an intentional arrangement of homiletic material with "historical" narrative and descriptions of the last day.

Historical Setting. Although the Qurān, especially in the Meccan sūras, contains few unambiguous references to the historical events in the life of Muammad, the islamic traditions (adĪth), Arabic adīt, furnish us with abundant if not always reliable information concerning the circumstances surrounding the revelation of particular verses and groups of verses. The most important sources are the Commentary of al-abarī and the works on the "occasions of the revelation" (asbāb al-nuzūl ). Combining this information with a study of the style and content of various sections of the Qurān itself, it is possible to establish a general chronology of the sūras, i.e., to assign them to roughly designated periods of the Prophet's career. To a great extent the parts belonging to the Medinan period are distinguishable by their style and content, the whole historical context of the revelation having altered with the hijra. Here, too, our information concerning the history of the Muslim community becomes much more clear, and the relative chronology of many of the Medinan sūras can be established with some confidence. On the contrary, our information on the detail of the Prophet's career at Mecca is anything but clear; for the sūras of this period, the most accurate classification that can be discerned is that given by T. Nöldeke, following the pioneer work of G. Weil and grouping them into three rough periods, early, middle, and late. Exact dates simply cannot be established.

Before the Hijra. According to the tradition the first revelation consisted in v. 15 of sūra 96 or v. 17 of 74, while the last revealed was sūra 9 and precisely, according to some sources, 9.120 (the whole sūra contains 130v.). The earliest sūras manifest an abrupt and highly elliptical style, set forth in short, heavily cadenced, rhymed verses, the effect being one of terrible intensity and a remarkable rhetorical power. They contain calls to ritual purity before God, increasingly detailed arguments for God's creative omnipotence, and vivid portrayals of the day of judgment; later one finds increasing threats against the pagans coupled with historical examples of the experience of past prophets and God's punishment of the people who refused to heed their call. In the following period we find the same themes reiterated with an increasing emphasis on the absolute unicity of God (al-tawīd ) and the necessity for good works (al-āliāt ), but the intensity of the style and the weight and variability of the rhyme is rather decreased as the descriptions of heaven and hell and of the last day, as well as the accounts of the prophets of the past, become more elaborated. Further, one begins to find here sūras built in a loose tripartite form that is continued into the following period. Such sūras open and close with a kind of homiletic exhortation or dogmatic exposition; in between, they offer some historical examples of God's judgment, in this world and the next, of those who refuse His commands and the words of His emissaries. Some few sūras may well originally have had this form, others have been so constructed out of smaller independent units. In the third period the same themes continue, set forth ever more explicitly. The theological content becomes denser as it is more expressly elaborated.

Medinan Period. In this period many former themes are continued, such as the attacks against idolatry and polytheism, warnings of the Last Judgment, the proclamation of God's unity and omnipotence. Yet there is a considerable shift in their overall appearance and structure; a number of new elements, reflecting the completely new circumstances of the Prophet and his followers, are introduced. Here one begins to find rather long sections containing legal precepts and regulations concerning diverse aspects of the social and moral life of the community. Then too, numerous passages reflect the conflicts with the non-Muslim inhabitants of Medina, the conflicts with the Jews, and the battles with and the final victory over the Quraysh and the Meccan opposition. The sūras of this period, which vary greatly in length, often seem to have little internal structure; the style varies from the lengthy, prosaic verses of the legal and narrative passages to echoes of the preceding period in passages of dogmatic and homiletic content.

Transmission of the Qurān. Though primary reliance had always to be upon memory, because the early Arabic orthography was grossly inadequate, there can be little doubt that various portions of the Qurān were reduced to writing quite early.

To the Death of Muammad. Tradition has it that some revelations were written down immediately on whatever materials were available, palm leaves, sherds, scraps of leather, shoulder blades of large animals, and the like. We are told according to one tradition that the sister of the future caliph 'Umar, on the eve of his conversion, in about the year 616, possessed a copy of sūra 20 (albeit we cannot know how much of the present sūra such a copy may have contained). Later, after the establishment of the Muslim community in Medina, Muammad seems to have dictated various portions of the book to his secretaries, the most important of whom were Zayd ibn Thābit and Ubay ibn Ka'b. Though the particular story may well be of doubtful authenticity, we hear also of his supervising Zayd ibn Thābit in the ordering and revision of certain portions of the work. Concerning the state of the text at the time of Muammad's death, we can be certain only that a universally accepted order of the verses within the sūras was definitively established. In the case of some of the shorter and earlier sūras this may have come about through their liturgical recitation by the prophet; but in the case of the longer ones, 2 through 5 for example, it is difficult to conceive how a definitive order could have been set and have gained recognition other than by their having somehow received written form under the direction of the Prophet. Exactly how the arranging was done remains, however, altogether uncertain, and any attempted solution must be conjectural. At the death of the Prophet there existed no official, authoritative recension of the entire corpus of the revelation. There did exist a number of private collections of leaves (uuf ) containing more or less extensive portions of the book, as well as several collections that were complete. In all these, as in the present recension, the order of the sūras, however many the individual collection may have contained, was already one of decreasing length.

Received Text of the Qurān. According to tradition, following the death of a number of Qurān readers in the battle of Aqrabā, Zayd ibn Thābit at the behest of 'Umar (or according to another, less reliable tradition, of Abū Bakr) set about to make a complete written compilation of the revelation. This he accomplished working from such fragmentary materials as were available to him in writing and from recitation by those who had memorized other parts of the book. The exact circumstances surrounding the original draft of Zayd ibn Thābit are quite obscure, but it is certain that it did not constitute an official text, for at the death of 'Umar the leaves passed into the possession of his daughter afa. We know also of other complete collections alongside that of Zayd; some of them enjoyed considerable prestige, most importantly those of Abdallāh ibn Masūd, Ubay ibn Ka'b, Abū Mūsā al-'Asharī, and Miqdād ibn 'Amr, whose readings were long followed at Kūfa, Damascus, Bara, and Homs, respectively. Other complete recensions are attributed to Alī ibn Abī ālib and Ibn Abbās. Finally during the reign of 'Uthmān, the need for a universally authoritative text that would forestall the growing disputes regarding various readings of the Book became more urgent and accordingly, in about a.h. 3035, the Caliph established a commission to produce an official text. This commission, composed of Zayd ibn Thābit, Abdallāh ibn al-Zubayr, Saīd ibn al-A, and Abdarramān ibn al-ārith, then procured Zayd's original compilation from afa bint 'Umar and used it as the basis for their work. Upon the completion of the work, according to tradition, a number of copies were made, of which one was kept at Medina, while the others were sent to Damascus, Bara, and Kūfa along with the Caliph's orders to destroy all other copies. Whatever may be the truth of this account, the official recension almost immediately gained wide acceptance, despite the determined opposition of Abdallāh ibn Masūd, who regarded Zayd ibn Thābit as a kind of upstart.

Variant Recensions. Though no copies of the early recensions have been preserved, some were yet in circulation as late as the 10th Christian century; their readings are widely cited in the commentaries, and they are described in a number of sources. Besides a number of variations in individual verses, the recensions of Ubay and Ibn Masūd differ from the received text in the order of the sūras. The general principle of decreasing length is followed in all, but would seem most strict in that of Ibn Masūd, whereas in that of Zayd ibn Thābit, the received text, there would seem to have been some attempt to maintain the integrity of certain groups that may have formed individual blocks of sūras in the partial collections from which he worked. This would be particularly true if we assume that the sūras beginning M (4046), 'LR (1015), 'LM (23, 2932), H and S (M ) (20.2628) belonged originally to individual collections designated by the initials; no. 32, for example, is notably shorter than 33. Again, the recension of Ibn Masūd lacked the initial sūra (al-Fātia ) as well as the last two and combined, probably, 8 and 9 into a single unit, giving a total of 110 sūras. That of Ubay, on the other hand, contained, following sūra 103 of the present recension, two short sūras, no longer considered canonical, entitled respectively Sūrat al-[symbol omitted]al and Sūrat al-afd (text in Nöldeke 2, 3435), and may have combined into a single unit sūras 105106 or sūras 9394.

Teaching of the Qurān. The Prophet is not held to be the author of the Qurān, but only an emissary and witness who gives warning and announces good news (7.5960; 48.8; 73.5; et passim ); the words of the Qurān are fully distinct from Muammad's own words (75.1618; 53.35; 69.4446; 16.1517; 87.6; 73.5), for the revelation forces itself upon his consciousness from without, coming unexpectedly upon him (17.8889; 42.52).

Modes of Divine Revelation. The divine message is revealed to Muammad by an angel (2.91) or the Spirit of God (44.2) on "The Night of Power" (97), which traditionally is said to have been in the last 10 days of ramaĀn (cf. 2.181). It is a "mighty Scripture" (41.41), completely overpowering (59.21), which was sent down by God as something preexisting (11.1; 20.99; 27.6; 3.5) in a celestial archetype (50.4; 56.77; 80.1113), "the well-kept Tablet" (85.21) that is the core of the Scripture (43.3) and embodies God's eternal knowledge and judğment of all things (cf. 10.62; 27.77; 34.3), the total content of which is too great to be contained in any material document (18.108). Ultimately God's universal dominion is manifested in all things, and even the simplest processes of nature are signs or tokens (āyāt ) of His unity and creative power (passim ). "In whatever direction you turn, there is the face of God " (2.115), "who created each thing and fixed its measure" (25.2; 5.120) and "who is closer to man than his own jugular vein"(50.15). He manifests His signs within the immediacy of consciousness and in the horizons of the created world (41.53; 51.2021), showing Himself in the simple alternation of night and day (36.37; etc.), and in the growth of man from conception to senility and death (8.57;16.72; 40.69; etc.). In all things there is an allusion ('ibra ) to God's Being (32.21; 16.68) for "those who can see" (24.44), "who will reflect and understand" (45.4, 12; 16.1113; etc.), and will "perhaps show gratitude and be guided aright" (16.1315; etc.). His signs are effective for those who have opened themselves to Him in faith (45.23; 79.26; 10.6; etc.), but this opening ('išrā ) and receptivity to God's grace is ultimately worked by God (cf. 6.125127; 39.23; 94.13; 76.2930; 74.5355; etc.). Even when Abraham is said, in a famous passage (6.7580), to have concluded from the observation of natural phenomena that God is One and Almighty, the text notes that "Thus we showed Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, that he might become one of those who have the certitude [of faith]."

Historical Revelation and the Qurān. As a gratuitous act of mercy (rama, ni'ma ) toward the human race (21.84; 45.19; 11.30, 66; 28.46; 29.50; 38.42) God sends His emissaries (rusul ) and prophets (anbiyā, nabiyyīn ) to humanity with the Scripture, wherein His signs are set forth explicitly and unequivocally (11.1; 10.38; 41.1; but cf. also 3.5) as a guidance (hudā), admonition, and healing (10.58; 17.74)a calling to mind (dhikr, 20.99;74.34; etc.) of His omnipotence, a warning of impending judgment and doom (6.19; 37.69; etc.) and promise of beatitude (39.19; etc.), a call to worship God alone (57.25;29.2; 6.102; etc.) and to live according to the norms of justice and morality demanded and decreed by Him. The signs (āyāt ) of the Scripture are the signs par excellence, for it is through them that all other signs are brought to man's attention and made intelligible. Recited by God's emissaries (45.24; etc.), they are self-expressing in that they address themselves immediately to the understanding of the hearer in the clear form of articulate language. As opposed to the worldly and self-centered human inclinations (al-ahwā' ), which tend to lead them away from God (10.37; 28.50; 47.15; etc.), the revelation is given from God Himself and is taught by Him (53.35; 7.60;47.16; etc.). In the acceptance of the revelation as the teaching of God lies the only true knowledge (ilm, cf.30.56; 34.6; 29.48; etc.) as opposed to merely human opinion (ann, cf. 53.39; 49.12; 10.37, 67; 4.156158; etc.); it is the Divine Truth (aqq, 13.1; 10.94; etc.), which destroys the vanity of untruth (17.83; 8.68; etc.), being the manifestation of God who is the ultimate truth (10.33; 22.6, 61; etc.); it is the light that God gives to whom He will (42.52) wherein and whereby men should be guided (6.91; 57.9; etc.) to God, the source, who is "the light of the heavens and the earth" (24.35); wherefore the true believers, when they hear these signs fall prostrate and glorify God (7.108; 32.15; etc.). In the Qurān, God Himself reveals Himself, the unknowable and transcendent (al-ġayb ), in His attributes and names (asmāuhu al-usnā ) and thereby, since He is the maker of all creation and the ground of all being, He makes manifest to the believer the true nature (aqq ) of created existence. This notion of the Qurān as the supreme self-manifestation of God to His creatures is extremely important to the dogma of the miraculous inimitability (al-ijāz ) of the Qurān and for the development, among the orthodox theologians, of the thesis that it is uncreated (see kalĀm) as well as for an understanding of the place of the book in Muslim piety.

Man's Response to Revelation. According to the Qurān, man's response to God's words ought to be immediate, for God has created him and given him all his powers of perception and understanding (32.8; 16.80;67.23; 76.2), and at the very foundation of his being lies an innate testimony that God is his Lord (7.171). Through the Prophet He calls men to submit themselves completely to Himself, worshiping Him alone and living according to His law. Men, however, are all too frequently distracted by their engagement in the pursuit of the goods of the world (10.7; 77.1617; 30.6; 6.69; 45.34; etc.), being seduced by their competition in "the ornaments of this life" (57.38; 64.15; 58.18; etc.). They are by nature anxious and grasping (70.1921; cf. also 41.4951;11.1213; 30.3335; 42.50; etc.) and do not look beyond their material existence (45.2223). The Qurān recognizes the importance of a number of sociological factors that blind men to God's messagegroup solidarity, tradition, etc. (7.27, 68; 9.23; 43.2130; etc.)and the obstinate pride in social position that characterizes those who refuse God's signs (7.7375; 40.24; 74.1623; 71.6;63.5; 46.19; 16.25), in contrast to the attitude of the Godfearing (16.71; 21.19; etc.), who are willing to abandon these things (59.22).

Sanctions and Determinism. The insensibility to God's signs and the preaching of His word (al-kalām; cf.2.70; 9.6; 7.141) appears as a kind of spiritual blindness (7.187; 8.22; 2.9; 9.126), realized in a conscious obstinacy and refusal to perceive (see 71.6); and men's perseverance in this refusal to accept God's guidance is ultimately ratified and made permanent by God who so seals their hearts (10.75; 63.3) that, regardless of what the Prophet may say or do, they will never believe (36.9; 7.192; 6.25;17.4549; 10.4344; 18.55; 39.43; 30.51; 43.39). It is as if there were an impediment in their hearing (41.4, 44;31.6) and a veil between them and the Prophet (17.47). God grants His mercy and guidance to whom He will (24.45; 76.30; 81.2729; 6.125;39.2324) and none can mislead him whom God guides aright (39.38). If He wished, all men would believe (6.107; 32.13), for all creatures are under God's immediate providence (11.59). He refuses, however, to guide the unjust and the sinful and those who refuse Him (9.37, 110; 28.50; 46.9;16.109; 39.5; 40.29; etc.). In many passages the Qurān is deterministic: "There is no guide for those whom God leads astray, but He lets them go, to wander lost in their excess" (7.176177; cf. also 2.14; 16.110; 6.39; 16.39;14.4; 13.33; 18.16; 38.24; etc.). On the other hand, the Qurān insists at the same time that God does not wrong men, but, rather, that they wrong themselves (16.35, 119;10.45; 18.47; etc.); He does not punish them until they themselves have done evil (8.55; etc.), each person receiving ultimately in heaven or hell the rewards of what he has done (passim ), for this life is a test of their goodness and justice (67.1; 18.6; 16.94; 21.36; 6.165; etc.). God demands of no one more than that of which he is capable (2.233; 6.153; 7.40), for He is "merciful and forgiving" (passim ). In the final analysis the Qurān does not try to solve the mystery of God's justice; what may be its final statement on the subject is put into the mouth of Jesus: "You know what is in my soul, but I do not know what is in Yours. You, indeed, have complete knowledge of the hidden . If You punish them,they are Your servants; and if you forgive them,You are the Almighty, the All-wise ; to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and what is in them; over all things He is Mighty" (5.116118).

Muammad, the Prophets, and Jesus. The Qurān contains many accounts, often extremely elliptical, of those whom God sent with His message in the past. With few exceptions [viz, Idrīs, âli, Šuayb, Dhû 1-Kifl] all those mentioned are Biblical, though the accounts given show a greater affinity frequently to haggadic and other noncanonical sources than to the Bible itself. According to the Qurān, the revelation given to Muammad continues a long tradition (3.2; etc.) and has the same content as the "Leaves of Abraham and Moses" (87.19); as he is a Prophet to the Gentiles (nabī 'ummī ), God has laid upon him the same injunction as upon "Abraham, Moses, and Jesus" (42.11), though he is, nevertheless, the "seal of the prophets" (33.40), Abraham is the highest example of the purest Islamic faith (37.8182; 16.124; 22.77; etc.) and a model for all believers (60.4); he was the founder of the faith, the chosen friend of God (4.124), "neither Jew nor Christian" but Muslim and anīf (3.60;2.134; 16.121; etc.), who founded the sanctuary at Mecca (22.27; 2.118120; etc.). Moses also, whose encounter with Pharaoh is frequently recalled, was given the Scripture (al-Kitâb, 2.53, etc.), i.e., the Torah (al-Tawrāt ), which is considered a single revelation, one book; he belonged to the same faith (42.13). Later John the Baptist (Yayā ibn Zakarīyā), whose miraculous birth is recounted in sūras 3 (v. 3840) and 19 (v. 13), preached the unity of God (6.83) to the Israelites. To Jesus, the Messiah (al-Masī, Īsâ ibn Maryam ) was revealed the Gospel (al-Injīl ), likewise considered as a single book of revelation (3.43). Jesus, like Adam, was created directly by God's command (3.52) and is called the "word of God" (3.45), i.e., His creative word "which was cast into Mary" (4.169; see also 3.59; 66.12), who was purified and chosen above all women (3.37). He is called "The Spirit of God" (4.169) and "a sign for the human race and an act of mercy from" God (19.21). Though giving Him a place of preeminence and proximity to God in this world and the next (3.40), the Qurān nevertheless denies categorically that He is God (5.19, 7677) or the Son of God (9.30; 19.3536); both notions Muammad considered idolatrous. In this way the Trinity, which is taken to be made up of God, Jesus, and Mary (4.169170), is denounced as a tritheism; rather Jesus is simply a servant of God (abd ), an emissary (rasūl ), and prophet (nabī; 5.116118; 19.31), with whom God has made the same pact as with His other prophets, Muammad, Noah, Abraham, and Moses (33.7).

Bibliography: The two principal English translations are: m. w. pickthall, tr., The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (London 1930). a. j. arberry, tr. and ed., The Koran Interpreted, 2 v. (New York 1955). Principal studies include: k. cragg, The Event of the Quran; Islam in its Scripture (London 1971). a. t. welch, ed., Studies in Quran and Tafsir (Chico, CA 1979). f. rahman, Major Themes of the Quran (Minneapolis 1980). a. rippin, ed., Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Quran (Oxford/New York 1988). h. gÄtje, ed. The Quran and Its Exegesis: Selected Texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Rockport, Maine 1996). m. a. a. haleem, Understanding the Quran: Themes and Style (London/New York 1999). a. rippin, The Quran: Formative Interpretation (Brookfield, VT 1999). m.a. cook, The Koran, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford/New York 2000). a. wessels, Understanding the Quran (London 2000). j. d. mcauliffe and b. walfish, With Reverence for the Word: Medieval Scriptural Exegesis in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York 2002).

[r. m. frank/eds.]