Theodore Abu Qurrah (ca. 755-830) was one of the most eloquent iconophiles in the generation following John of Damascus and among the first Orthodox theologians to write in Arabic. A skilled controversialist, he took up his pen against Nestorians and Monophysites as well as Jews and Moslems in defense of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy, and reproved the ''many Christians who are abandoning prostration to the icon of Christ our God'' because ''anti-Christians are reprimanding them for their prostration...and they sneer at them.'' Though Theodore was not original in his argumentation, wholly incorporating and extending the thought of his master John of Damascus, his treatise does reveal the plight of a Christian community within the Caliphate facing more open hostility, creating increased pressure for Christians to hide those aspects of their faith that provoked the irritation of their Moslem overlords and non-Christian neighbors. For Theodore, veneration of icons was so essential an element of Christian practice that abandoning it was tantamount to abandoning other mysteries of the faith such as the Eucharist, baptism, chrismation and the veneration of the Cross. Though unknown in English translation till now (this is the premier volume in a series published by Peeters-Louvain called Eastern Christian Texts in Translation), Theodore's importance in his own time beckons us to a fuller awareness of the community of great iconophile theologians of the eighth and ninth centuries.
An Eighth Day View:
Theodore Abu Qurrah (c.750-c.825) was an intellectual heir of St. John of Damascus. Both became monks of Mar Sabas monastery in the Judean desert. Whereas John of Damascus was prominent among the generations of Greek writers in the Holy Land in early Islamic times, Theodore Abu Qurrah was the first Orthodox scholar whose name we know regularly to write Christian theology in Arabic. He spoke and wrote the Arabic language at a time when it was just becoming the cultural language of classical Islamic civilization, as well as the lingua sacra of the Qu'ran and of the new world religion. He was among the first Christians to exploit the apologetic potential of the new Arabic medium of public discourse. Abu Qurrah's Arabic tract in defense of the veneration of the holy icons was a response to the problem of the public veneration of the symbols of Christianity in an Islamic environment in which the caliph's policies since the time of 'Abd al-Malik (685-705) had been to claim the public space for Islam. In this treatise one finds arguments once expounded by earlier Greek writers, now deployed to meet the needs of a new generation of Arabic-speaking Christians, who were more evidently in contact and debate with Muslims.