Christian Arabic Biblical Commentaries in the Manuscript Library at the Monastery of the Syrians (Wādī al-Naṭrūn, Egypt)

Since 2013, I have directed a project to catalogue the Coptic and Arabic manuscripts in the library at the Monastery of the Syrians in Wadi al-Natrun, Egypt. At current count, these manuscripts number over 1000, but they have never been catalogued publicly before. In this paper, I will be reporting on the 48 Arabic manuscripts containing biblical commentaries and what the contents of this corpus tell us about archival practice and biblical exegesis in this Coptic Orthodox monastic setting. Based on this textual record, I will make observations about which biblical books drew the most attention for interpreters of the Arabic text, and I will also address patterns of authorial attribution for the surviving commentaries in the collection. While most are transmitted without attribution or in the form of florilegia drawn from multiple authors, eleven contain freestanding works attributed to named commentators. Most prominent among them are two well-known figures: the late ancient Greek theologian John Chrysostom and the medieval Christian Arabic writer and polymath Ibn al-Ṭayyib. Accordingly, I will conclude my paper with a case study of three particular manuscripts containing Ibn al-Ṭayyib’s Gospel commentaries, focusing on their importance not only for the study of Christian Arabic literature, but also for local and translocal material histories of manuscript production, transmission, and reception.