On March 4, 2015, Professor Abdul M. Saadi (Baylor University) presented a lecture on 9th-century Syriac Exegete and Apologist Moshe Bar Kepha’s Commentary on Luke. The lecture was given at the Armstrong Browning Library- Cox Lecture Hall, Baylor University.
Moshe Bar Kepha, as a churchman, exegete and apologist, lived in the time and place of the most troubled center of the Abbasid Empire, witnessing the consequences of its policies upon the Christian communities. The most daring policy was the Islamization policy of Caliph al-Mutawakkel (d. 861), under which Christianity was not merely assailed as a false faith, but also as a social evil. In addition to paying Jizyah, this caliph further humiliated the Christians by imposing on them harsher rules which came to be known as “Omar Conditions” against Christians. It was in the context of enduring the Islamification policy and in the context of open/receptive relationships among Christians of different traditions that Moshe Bar Kepha ministered, taught, and wrote his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. In fact, he produced a masterpiece of inclusive (ecumenical) theological approach, and with apologetic tendency responding to Muslims.
Through examples from his Commentary, I will expose Bar Kepha’s position on various Christian theological topics, which he presented in a harmonious way, stressing the essential unity among all Christians. At the same time, by means of instructing his Christian community, he responded to Muslims’ challenge to the Christian faith.