Ahmad Al-Jallad is a philologist, epigraphist, and historian of language. His work focuses on the religions, languages and writing systems of pre-Islamic Arabia and the ancient Near East.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIV, October 16 – 17, 2021
Christianity in pre-Islamic Arabia – a view from the epigraphic record
The traditional image of pre-Islamic Arabia derives from polemical descriptions and folklore in Islamic-era Arabic sources. These reports emphasize the polytheistic beliefs of the Peninsula’s inhabitants and their general isolation from the outside world until the Arab conquests of the mid-7th c. The 21st century has witnessed a boom in Arabian epigraphy, and the results of this activity have begun to challenge the traditional narrative. Rather than being a sea of paganism, nearly all texts discovered so far with religious content post-dating the 4th c. CE appear to be monotheistic and mostly Christian. This talk will present these new finds – published and unpublished – to a general audience and attempt to sketch a history of Christianity’s diffusion across Arabia, beginning in the 4th c. until the rise of Islam.