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Monday, October 24, 2016

Christianity and Islam: Nicholas of Cusa's goof

Dante's Limbo; or, The fathers of our culture (see further)

In 1461, just few years after the conquest of Constantinople by the hands of the Turks in 1453, Catholic Cardinal and philosopher Nicholas of Cusa (from Kues, now Bernkastel in Germany) wrote a book called Cribratio Alkorani, "Sifting the Quran." By carefully -- or allegedly so -- examining the holy book of Muslims, he dug for its "true" message and tried to show that it led to the orthodox faith in Jesus Christ.

The attempt was obviously doomed to fail. Not only and not mainly because the Latin translation of the Quran he used included some misunderstandings, but especially because of his very approach: the Cribratio Alkorani examines the text in the abstract, without any actual contact with the people who followed its teachings. Nicholas of Cusa, moreover, as a disciple of Greek philosophy, proves unable to handle the often paradoxical, nonlinear Middle-Eastern way of thinking and telling. -- Only his metabolized faith prevents him from noticing that the Hebrew Bible, the so-called "Old Testament," is built like that too.

The most interesting parts in the Cribratio concern the history of the knowledge of the Quran in the Western world, as well as the descriptions of the assorted religious market in the 7th century. The book has been recently published in Italian, Lettura dialettica del Corano, Rome: Città Nuova, 2011, very well translated and edited by Prof. Maria Rosaria Matrella.