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The Jewish origins of Qur An 18:65-82? Reexamining Arent Jan Wensick's theory.

The story of moses and the anonymous "servant of God" in Q 18:65-82 has been the source of much commentary by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike. Muslim commentators generally follow the story attributed to Ubayy b. Ka b, transmitted by Ibn Abbas or Wahb b. Munabbih,(1) which identifies the unnamed "servant" as "al-Khidr," from whom Moses attempts to learn about God's justice.(2) This account describes how Moses, after claiming to be the most knowledgeable of people, is sent by God to find al-Khidr, who is supposed to have a greater and more esoteric knowledge than anyone else. Moses finds al-Khidr, after following a fish that escapes in an unusual fashion, and asks al-Khidr to teach him about God's justice. Moses then follows and watches al-Khidr as he makes a hole in a ship, kills a boy, and fixes the wall of some people who refused him hospitality.

Moses cannot fathom the justice of the actions until al-Khidr explains the unseen circumstances and reasons for what he has done. The story is usually understood as a vindication of God's justice and an indictment of the human claim to divine knowledge.

Western scholars, less concerned about the message than the origins of the Qur an, have attempted to identify the sources of this story. Probably the most interesting and influential explanation is found in the article by Arent Jan Wensinck on "al-Khadir," in the first and second editions of the Encyclopaedia of Islam. In this article, Wensinck argues that Q 18:65-82 is taken from the "Jewish legend" of Rabbi Joshua b. Levi and Elijah.(3) This explanation is followed by most subsequent scholarship on this story. Despite the erudition Wensinck's article exhibits, and the popularity it enjoys, there are a number of problems associated both with its dating of sources and its assumptions regarding the redaction of the Qur an and its relationship to the early commentaries.

A closer analysis of Wensinck's sources discloses that, although some elements are found in earlier non-Islamic sources, there is no evidence to make the theodicy story of Q 18:65-82 depend on a particular Jewish or Christian source. Wensinck's explanation and the subsequent scholarship do not make an adequate distinction between the story contained in Q 18:65-82 and the information provided in the Muslim commentaries on these verses. The evidence shows that the Jewish legend of Joshua and Elijah has more in common with these commentaries than with the Qur an itself, suggesting that the Jewish story is linked to Q 18:65-82 through the medium of the commentaries. This conclusion is further strengthened by the examination of related Moses theodicy stories which show the influence of the commentaries on other Jewish sources. The investigation of these issues does not indicate that the Qur an depends upon earlier late antique sources, but rather demonstrates how the commentaries make a purposeful attempt to associate the Qur an with certain late antique stories and thereby appropriate both the Qur an and these other sources to their own agenda.


According to Wensinck, the story at issue is derived from the "Jewish" story of Rabbi Joshua b. Levi and Elijah, published by Adolph Jellinek in 1873,(4) in which Rabbi Joshua b. Levi meets Elijah on the road and asks to follow and observe his actions. Elijah agrees on the condition that Joshua will not question his actions even though he will not understand the reasons for them. The two are given hospitality by a poor man who owns only one cow. Upon leaving, Elijah kills the cow, Joshua questions the act, and Elijah rebukes him for the question. The next day the two stop at the house of a rich man who gives them no hospitality. Upon leaving Elijah causes a collapsed wall at the rich man's house to be fixed. That evening the two come to a synagogue in which sit people on seats of gold and silver. The people give no hospitality to the two but in the morning Elijah asks God to make all the people there rulers. The next evening the two stop with some poor people who give them hospitality. In the morning Elijah asks God to make only one of them a ruler. Joshua, perplexed at these actions, finally questions Elijah again, who explains the justice in his actions. The cow is killed instead of the poor man's wife, who was supposed to die that day. If left unfixed, the collapsed wall would have revealed a treasure to the rich but undeserving man. In the case of the two groups of people, Elijah explains that a place with a single ruler is much better than one where everyone is a ruler.

Wensinck's claim is, in part, based on the supposition that the story in the Qur an is confused about the names of the characters. According to him, because there is no mention of Joshua b. Levi in Muslim sources, the author of the Qur an takes Joshua b. Levi from the previous story as Joshua b. Nun, the companion of Moses. It is important to note what Wensinck assumes here. First, the Qur an does not mention Joshua b. Nun as the companion of Moses, although this is often supplied by later commentators. Second, Wensinck assumes that the author of the Qur an, whom Wensinck identifies as Muhammad, borrowed this story, not too accurately at that, directly from a Jewish source. Whether Muhammad confused the story purposefully or out of ignorance is not specified by Wensinck. The most obvious problem with this explanation, however, is that it identifies Moses with Elijah, and does not account for the third character in the Qur an, the mysterious "servant of God."(5) A closer parallel between the two stories would have Moses identified with Joshua b. Levi and Elijah with the "servant of God," later identified by commentators as al-Khidr.

This theory concerning the confusion of the two Joshuas is related to a discussion found in some of the commentaries over the identity of "Moses" in Q 18:60-82. This discussion is found in Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's commentary.

Most of the scholars hold that the Moses mentioned in these verses is Moses b. Imran, master of the clear miracles, and master of the Torah. This is on the authority of Sa id b. Jubayr, who said to Ibn Abbas that Nawf [al-Bikali], son of the wife of Ka b, alleges that al-Khidr was not the companion of Moses b. Imran.

He was the companion of Moses b. Manasseh [Misha], son of Joseph, son of Jacob. It is said that be was a prophet before Moses b. Imran.

Ibn Abbas said the enemies of God lie. It is known that Joseph had two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh [Misha]. Ephraim bore Nun and Nun bore Joshua b. Nun. He is the companion of Moses, and he carried on his commission after his death.

As for the son of Manasseh, it is said that prophethood came to him before Moses b. Imran. The people of the Torah allege that he is the one who was searching to be taught this knowledge, and that al-Khidr is the one who broke the ship, killed the boy, and fixed the wall, Moses b. Manasseh being with him. This is the opinion of most of the Jews.(6)

This passage shows that there was some dispute between Jews and Muslims over the provenance of this theodicy story. There also seems to have been some confusion about the name of Joseph's first-born son Manasseh. The name "Misha" probably depends on a ketib-qir e in the Massoretic text of Judges 18:30, where the name Manasseh is written as "MSH" with the nun provided only as a superscript letter, allowing the name to be read as Moses [Moshe].(7) It is possible that, without the Massoretic apparatus, the name was read as Mishe to distinguish it from Moses. There are other reasons that Manasseh could be confused with Moses, but there is no apparent biblical or rabbinic precedent for Manasseh having a son named Moses. In any case, this story does not Support Wensinck's supposition that Joshua b. Nun and Joshua b. Levi were confused, but shows only that some sort of disagreement existed over the identity of the Moses of Q 18:60-82.(8)

In making his claim that Q 18:65-82 depends upon this story, Wensinck was following the earlier opinions of Y. L. Zunz,(9) Abraham Geiger,(10) and Israel Friedlander.(11) Neither these scholars nor Wensinck were aware that this story, given under the title Hibbur yafeh me-ha-yeshu a, is a Hebrew paraphrase of an earlier Arabic work attributed to the eleventh-century Nissim b. Shahin of Qayrawan.(12) In his introduction to the Hebrew text, Jellinek does repeat the earlier assertion made by Zunz that the story of Joshua b. Levi and Elijah is related to Q 18:65-82.(13) In discussing another Hebrew story about Joshua b. Levi and Elijah, the frame-story of which is similar to the Ibn Shahin story, Jellinek states that both stories seem to originate from an Arabic source, although he does not identify that source.(14) Jellinek also mentions that the story of Nathan b. Hanna found in the Hebrew paraphrase of Ibn Shahin is similar to a story found in the Arabian Nights.(15) Unfortunately, these suggestions about the possible Arabic origins of these Hebrew stories were not taken up by Wensinck and subsequent scholarship.

Even after the Arabic original was discovered, however, scholars have continued to maintain that the Qur an depended upon this story despite the fact that it is not attested in Jewish sources before this eleventh-century text. The claim for the originality of the Jewish story is epitomized by the argument of Julian Obermann, the editor of Ibn Shahin's Arabic text. According to Obermann, the existence of the story in the Qur an proves that Ibn Shahin derived his story from an earlier, but not extant, rabbinic source. Obermann argues, first, that the two stories are similar enough to suggest a genetic relationship but not so similar as to indicate that one borrowed from the other.(16) Second, "as a rule" the Qur an draws upon "early post-Biblical religious lore, most frequently of Jewish, less frequently of Christian, origin."(17) Third, since Ibn Shahin claims his book to be a collection of materials that have been transmitted by "our masters and the most excellent authorities from among our sages," it is unthinkable that he would have included an "apocryphal, oral tale."(18)

There are several points in Obermann's argument that need further attention. Ibn Shahin does not claim to have collected his stories from Jewish sages, but rather he writes that he has included stories about the sages.

You reminded me that the Gentiles [minim] have a book composed on the subject of relief after adversity and distress. Because of your esteem and favor, which are cherished by me, and your great worth, and owing to your desire for such a book because of misfortune, you have requested me to compose a book on this subject for you, dealing with the accounts of the most eminent and virtuous of our sages, so that you would need to read no other book.(19)

I will recount to you in this book of mine also such other sayings of the sages as I know of or have discovered in the way of traditions, tales, and anecdotes about those of them who were in distress and found relief, and were in anguish and were granted easement.(20)

In the earlier passage, Ibn Shahin indicates that he is writing a book along the lines of the Muslim genre of al-faraj ba d al-shiddah, but that his stories will feature Jewish rather than Islamic characters and themes.(21) This is not to say that Ibn Shahin largely borrows stories from other faraj works, but rather that the stories he had gathered would constitute a Jewish work of the same genre.

Likewise, it is important to note that while many of the stories in Ibn Shahin's work have rabbinic precedents, not all of them do. The Elijah and Joshua story is not unique in not seeming to have been based on an earlier rabbinic source. Seven of the stories, apart from the Joshua and Elijah story, have no clear rabbinic precedent.(22) Three more have Islamic parallels.(23) In two places, Ibn Shahin quotes passages with close parallels to verses from the Qur an.(24) The language of these stories without rabbinic parallels also supports the claim that they were borrowed from Arabic and Islamic rather than Jewish sources. It has been noted that the stories that have no rabbinic parallels are closer in language to classical Arabic than those derived from rabbinic sources in Hebrew or Aramaic.(25)

R is also unclear whether, today, one should accept Obermann's statement that the Qur n "as a rule" is dependent upon earlier Jewish and Christian sources. A more wide-ranging and discerning study, with particular attention to the dates of the so-called "sources" is needed before concluding that all Jewish or Christian sources, especially those posterior to the islamic sources they are supposed to have informed, are prior to and therefore influence, but are not influenced by, Islam. The claim that Q 18:65-82 depends upon the same rabbinic source as Ibn Shahin is also not the only way of explaining the similarities between the two stories. One other possibility is that both stories are versions of a more general myth or myths common in late antiquity. In 1959, Haim Schwarzbaum proposed a variant of this explanation, arguing that the story in the Qur an, upon which Ibn Shahin later depended, was a combination of themes or motifs popular in late antique stories.(26)

According to Schwarzbaum, there is no earlier Jewish or Christian story that parallels Q 18:65-82, but rather the Qur an pulls together the motif of the gnostic ascetic and that of the incomprehensibility of God's justice from several disparate sources. Schwarzbaum most closely identifies the story of the gnostic ascetic with stories current in monastic Christianity, especially those associated with the Christian versions of the so-called legend of the "hairy anchorite."(27) There are several elements here that parallel Q 18:65-82. First, the stories often involve a long journey through the desert to reach a gnostic ascetic, In some cases, the monk seeking the gnostic ascetic is guided by an angel or other supernatural force,(28) and the journey takes place through an unfamiliar wilderness to an otherwise unreachable location.(29) Second, the gnostic ascetic is often explicitly associated with Elijah.(30) He usually lives in a rock by a water source, and depends on nearby plants for sustenance.(31)

Schwarzbaum further identifies two specific elements from the stories associated with the gnostic ascetic that parallel Q 18:65-82. The first, found in the Life of Paul of Thebes, or the "first hermit," describes how Anthony, after having established himself as an ascetic, discovers that there is another ascetic more austere and more knowledgeable than he. He finds Paul living in a rock by a spring of clear water next to an ancient palm tree.(32) Schwarzbaum points out the parallel between Anthony and Moses, both seeking out someone more ascetic and more knowledgeable than they are. It is also important to notice that the description of Paul's location parallels the description of al-Khidr's location taken from the commentaries on Q 18:60-65.

The second element is found in the story of Abbas Serapion, taken from the cycle of stories associated with St. Mark the Athenian, about the three monks, Syrus, Isaias, and Paulus, who visit Anuph the confessor.(33) Schwarzbaum points out that this story parallels Q 18:71 because of the "boat" which figures as the means by which the three monks reach Anuph. According to Schwarzbaum, however, neither of these specific elements constitutes a direct precedent to Q 18:65-82. Rather, they represent more general motifs that were common in late antique Christianity.

Schwarzbaum is more specific about identifying a Jewish precedent in the Moses-Akiba story found in the Babylonian Talmud, Menahot 29b. In this brief account, Moses ascends to heaven and finds God affixing the taggin, or pen-strokes which resemble a crown added to the top of certain Hebrew letters, to the Torah. Moses asks why these taggin are necessary, to which God replies that in the future Akiba will find great significance in every little mark of the Torah. Moses is then sent to one of Akiba's teaching sessions and, sitting in the back rows, is not able to follow the arguments being presented. At one point a student asks Akiba how he knows what he knows to which he replies that it was given to Moses at Sinai. Note that the irony of Akiba's claim is underlined by the fact that Moses is not able to follow Akiba's arguments. Moses returns to God somewhat confused at the source of Akiba's teachings and challenges God as to why God would give the Torah to him rather than to Akiba. God responds by showing Moses Akiba's reward, which is his flesh being sold at the market. Moses does not understand how this fate matches Akiba's merits, but God refuses to explain himself. Schwarzbaum argues that this story, modified so as to replace God with a gnostic ascetic who is sought out for esoteric knowledge, is the immediate source of Q 18:65-82.

The idea that the story in the Qur an combines disparate elements from motifs current in late antiquity is promising, partly because it recognizes the relative originality of Q 18:65-82. Unfortunately, but perhaps because of his vast knowledge of folklore motifs, Schwarzbaum is too specific in identifying particular stories as the source for the story in the Qur an. On the one hand, it is not necessary to identify a supplicant seeking an oracle or seer in order to receive a word from a deity specifically with the "gnostic ascetic" of monastic Christianity. Nor would it seem necessary to attribute the originalities of the story in the Qur an to a garbled oral transmission or a confused recounting. Any number of stories from the ancient and late antique milieux involving these same elements could be adduced. The motif of a prophet, theurgist, or holy man seeking an immortal, often by ascending to heaven, in order to receive esoteric knowledge is one common in late antiquity.(34)

On the other hand, the connection Schwarzbaum makes between Q 18:65-82 and the Moses-Akiba story is misleading. Although Moses questions God's justice, the story does not involve three separate episodes or provide an explanation for the fate of Akiba.(35) Stories dealing with the more general theme of theodicy were also common in late antiquity. Nor is it certain that the theodicy theme of the Moses-Akiba story is to be emphasized over the other elements of the story, such as Moses' inability to understand Akiba's teachings and his acceptance that the teachings are supposed to have come from him at Sinai. First of all, God gives no apparent explanation for Akiba's demise, leaving the reader to suspect an ironic significance reflecting Moses' presumption.(36) Second, there are other variants of this story, mentioned by Schwarzbaum, which center on Moses' reluctance, but show him eventually accepting prophethood, based on God's showing him that later generations would cite halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai as their authority.(37) It is also important to note that the Moses-Akiba story in the Babylonian Talmud is told in the context of other stories explaining the taggin and may be strictly etiological.


More unfortunate for Schwarzhaum's account of Q 18:65-82 is his tendency to confuse the story in the Qur an with the explanations given by the early commentators for the Qur anic story. For example, it is not obvious from the Qur an that Moses is questioning God's justice, but rather the actions of the unnamed character. There is no indication of the reason for Moses seeking out this "servant of God" nor even that this meeting was intentional. Likewise, it is not clear from Q 18:65 that the "servant of God" Moses encounters is supposed to be divine or a divine representative. The elements are all provided by the various stories attributed to Muhammad or his followers in the early commentaries on these verses. This same conflation of the commentaries and the Qur an is evident in the works of Obermann and Wensinck. All three of these scholars interpret Q 18:65-82 in light of the early commentaries but fail to differentiate adequately between the story in the Qur an and what is read into it by the commentaries. The dependence, or reputed dependence, of the Qur an upon these other motifs is an issue separate from the association of the Qur an with these motifs in the commentaries.

It is important to recognize that the story in Q 18:6582 was such that the early Muslim commentators could and did see in it reflections of popular late antique motifs. To assume that the Qur an intended these associations would be to conflate the Qur an with its earliest interpreters, and implicates a number of literary and theological perspectives not always made explicit by those who make the assumption. Having recognized this, it is possible to see the early commentators as finding or making allusions to other sources of information outside of the Qur an to explain the information contained in the Qur an. In this respect, the association of the "servant of God" with al-Khidr could be seen as an attempt on the part of the commentators to appropriate both the Qur an and various non-Qur anic stories to their own purposes.

The character of al-Khidr first appears in statements attributed to the prophet. There is a long story that contextualizes the whole of Q 18:60-82, told by Ibn Abbas on the authority of Ubayy b. Ka b and mentioned in at least three places in al-Bukhari's Sahih. This story introduces a number of the elements that make Q 18:65-82 parallel other late antique stories: for example, the notion of Moses' pride and that al-Khidr was possessed of esoteric knowledge is mentioned at the beginning of the story.

Ubayy b, Ka b reported that the prophet said: Moses the prophet stood up and addressed the Israelites. He was asked: who is the most knowledgeable among the people? He said: I am the most knowledgeable.

God admonished him when he did not attribute knowledge to him. Then God revealed to him that: a servant of mine is at the meeting place of the two waters. He is more knowledgeable than you.

This account goes on to describe how Moses and Joshua b. Nun set out to find al-Khidr, at which point the events of Q 18:65-82 are recounted. The brief introduction to this story serves as the framework for the understanding and elaboration of Q 18:60-82 that is adopted in other commentaries. It introduces some of the main elements of the story that Schwarzbaum and Wensinck attribute to Q 18:60-82 and use to show the dependence of these verses on earlier Jewish and Christian sources.

For example, the notion that Q 18:65-82 is about theodicy is not clear from the Qur an itself. It is the story of Ubayy b. Ka b that indicates that the encounter between Moses and al-Khidr was supposed to be a lesson from God to Moses. The immediate pretext for Moses' being told by God to seek out al-Khidr is Moses' proud claim that he is the most knowledgeable of people. God sends Moses to al-Khidr not because Moses is wrong about being the most knowledgeable, but because Moses does not attribute his knowledge to God. This also makes al-Khidr a divine representative, and makes the strange acts associated with al-Khidr's behavior lessons taught to Moses by God on account of his false pride. Such an association between al-Khidr and God's unfathomable knowledge is illustrated in a section of the story given by Ubayy b. Ka b that is not found in Q 18:60-82. A conversation is supposed to have taken place between al-Khidr and Moses after they have boarded the ship which al-Khidr will eventually scuttle.

Moses said: God willing, you will find me patient and I will not disobey your command.

So the two of them set out walking along the bank of the water. They did not have a boat but a boat passed by them and they spoke to the crew asking to take them on board. The crew knew al-Khidr and took the two on board without charge.

A sparrow came and sat on the edge of the boat. It pecked once or two times at the water. Al-Khidr said: O Moses, my knowledge and your knowledge diminish the knowledge of God only to the extent that the pecking of this sparrow at the water [diminishes the water].(38)

The comparison of God's knowledge to the water and the combined knowledge of al-Khidr and Moses to a sparrow's beakful of water emphasizes that God's knowledge, which Moses claims as his own, is beyond human comprehension. Putting this comment into the mouth of al-Khidr adds, to the three already recorded in Q 18:66-82, another lesson to Moses, and is a further indication that the unusual episodes in these verses were understood to be proof that Moses' extraordinary position among men is due not to his own efforts, but to his being a prophet of God.

There is also another story, attributed to Ibn Abbas, that is found in the later, probably thirteenth-century work of al-Kisa i. In this account, Moses finds tablets of gold while he is walking along the edge of the water after having parted from al-Khidr. On the tablets, the following was written:

There is no god but God. Muhammad is the apostle of God. How strange it is that one who believes in fate and destiny could he angry or frivolous. How strange it is that one who knows he will die could rejoice. How strange it is that one who is certain of the transitoriness of this world and sees vicissitudes amongst its people could he tranquil at heart.(39)

The message itself is enigmatic, but seems to reinforce the idea that God determines our fate and that, regardless of human pretensions, what God determines happens. This message suggests that the episode was understood to be about theodicy. Moses' pride in the human origins of his knowledge is equated with his questioning of al-Khidr's unusual actions. Both are seen as challenges to the ultimate authority of God. The humiliation Moses experiences because of his ignorance of al-Khidr's reasons shows that Moses' own knowledge is not comparable to the divine knowledge that he was given by God.

Both of these stories tie the events of Q 18:65-82 to the theme of God's knowledge and, in particular, Moses' claim that he was the most knowledgeable of people. Although the notion that the encounter between Moses and al-Khidr concerns Moses' false pride is not found in Q 18:60-82, Moses' claim to challenge God's authority is consistent with a number of other stories that portray Moses as one who challenges God. For example, in the story of his commission as a prophet in Q 28:33, Moses refuses to go before Pharaoh because he is afraid the Egyptians will kill him because he had killed an Egyptian. In Q 28:34 and Q 20:25-32, Moses asks God to send his brother Aaron with him because he cannot appear alone before Pharaoh. The result of Moses' commission is that he becomes God's representative to Pharaoh. In the Ubayy b. Ka b story, Moses also acts like God, but in this case not with God's blessing, claiming his own knowledge to be equal to that of God. Moses, like Pharaoh in Q 28:4, makes himself rather than God great among people. God sends al-Khidr to show Moses signs, just as Moses was sent to Pharaoh, proving that it is not possible to challenge God as the real source of authority.

Given the information found in the Qur an, it is unnecessary to posit that the Ubayy b. Ka b story is dependent upon earlier late antique sources. The story of Moses' commission is also found in Exodus 3:1-4:17, as is the notion that Moses becomes "like God" to Pharaoh because of his commission. It is possible that there is a connection between the Ubayy b. Ka b story and the later rabbinic stories about Moses' hesitance to accept the commission. In some of the stories about Moses and Akiba cited by Schwarzbaum, Moses ascends to heaven at the time of his commission and accepts his prophethood only because he is given a vision of later generations citing him as an authority. It is important to note, however, that the story in the Babylonian Talmud does not link Moses' ascent to his commission. The redaction that links the ascent to Moses' reluctance and his final acceptance of the commission is difficult to date earlier than the thirteenth century. If it could be shown that the Moses-Akiba stories that link the ascent with the commission were earlier, this would not be evidence for the provenance of Q 18:60-82 but for the Ubayy b. Ka b story. Such evidence would suggest that Ubayy b. Ka b appropriated the Moses-Akiba stories to explain what is an otherwise enigmatic set of verses in the Qur an.

It is by using this Ubayy b. Ka b story that many of the early commentaries on Q 18:60-82 were able to further their own interpretive purposes. The commentaries elaborated certain elements in the Ubayy b. Ka b story to create links between Q 18:60-82 and other passages referring to the Moses story. In particular, the introduction of al-Khidr as a divine representative greater than Moses, and the theme of Moses' claim of divine knowledge, allowed the commentators to demonstrate that their expertise, or at least knowledge of the prophet's sunnah, was required to understand the Qur an. This is especially significant, given that the character of al-Khidr does not occur outside of the prophet's sunnah before the Ubayy b. Ka b story. Without the identification of the "servant of God" with a divine representative like al-Khidr, Q 18:65-82 would remain puzzling or enigmatic at best. That the al-Khidr character and Moses' false pride are crucial to the links the commentaries draw between this episode and other Qur anic passages suggests that the Ubayy b. Ka b story is not a garbled or confused borrowing but an appropriation and construction of an interpretation that makes Q 18:60-82 an integral part of the larger Moses story found in the Qur an.

The Ubayy b. Ka b story is not, strictly speaking, a theodicy story either, but rather it is about Moses' claim that his knowledge and high position among the Israelites is due to his own efforts. There is a closer parallel, found in the story of Moses' father-in-law counseling him against judging the Israelites by himself, in Exodus 18:17-27. In his commentary on these verses, Rashi states that the reprimand is for Moses having assumed God's place as leader of the Israelites.

(Moses sat . . . and the people stood.) He was sitting like a king and they all stood. The matter was reprehensible to Jethro because he [Moses] was demeaning the honor of Israel. He [Jethro] reproved him for this.(40)

The notion that Moses was playing the part of a king or tyrant makes Moses parallel to Pharaoh, himself posing as god over Egypt. This parallel is similar to the parallel drawn between Moses and Pharaoh on the basis of the Qur an in Ubayy b. Ka b's story. Note also that, in both Exodus 18:17 and the Ubayy b. Ka b story, the fact that Moses stood over the people is emphasized as a sign that he made himself out to be of a high position. It is possible, given the parallels between these two stories, that Ubayy b. Ka b's story of Moses exalting himself over the people preserves something of the episode of Exodus 18, which does not otherwise occur in the Qur an or commentaries.

Many of the early commentaries also use Ubayy b. Ka b's story to link Q 18:60-82 and the Midian episode in Q 28:21-28. This parallels the link established via the character of Jethro between Moses' sitting in judgment over Israel in Exodus 18 and the story of Moses' adjudication with the shepherds at the well of Midian in Exodus 2:15-21.(41) According to the commentaries on both Q 18:60-82 and Q 28:21-28, there are numerous parallels between the Moses and al-Khidr story and the Midian episode. For example, in both cases, Moses goes on a journey to a water source led by some sort of supernatural guide. The fish in the Ubayy b. Ka b story is a sign to Moses of the location of the meeting place of the two waters just as Moses is guided by an angel or a huge lion to the water of Midian.(42) In both stories, this journey is prompted by Moses committing a sin by playing the part of GOd, whether by taking the life of his enemy (Q 28:15) or by claiming prophetic knowledge as his own. Likewise, in both stories, Moses learns from his service to Jethro and al-Khidr lessons about leading his people.(43) In the service of Jethro, who is also identified as the prophet Shu ayb, Moses acquires his rod with which he is able to defeat Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt.(44) Following al-Khidr, Moses learns that, in leading the Israelites, he is to give ultimate authority to God rather than take it upon himself. Only with the rod, or with the laws of God from Sinai, is Moses in a position to lead the Israelites.

The identification of the servant of God with al-Khidr also enabled many of the commentators to link Q 18:6582 with verses 60-64 and 83-102 following. The link between verses 60-64 and 65-82 is made obvious from the Ubayy b. Ka b story. It has also been noted that the relationship of Moses and al-Khidr in the commentaries on Q 18:65-82 parallels the relationship of Alexander and both his cook and the wise man who leads him through the land of darkness in some versions of the so-called Alexander romance of Pseudo-Callisthenes.(45) In an episode found in certain recensions, the cook discovers the water of life and becomes immortal himself after a dead fish he was washing comes back to life and escapes.(46) Some of the commentaries on Q 18:60-65 and some of the recensions of the Alexander stories state that al-Khidr was the one who fell into the water of life.(47) Some versions of the Alexander stories mention that Alexander was led through the land of darkness in search of the water of life by an old wise man.(48) This guide is often identified with al-Khidr in Islamic exegetical sources and in certain recensions of the Alexander stories.(49)

A number of commentaries on Q 18:60-64 also preserve reports interpreting the mention of the fish and Moses' quest for the meeting place of the two waters as parallel to Alexander's quest for the water of life. For example, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi states that the loss of the fish in Q 18:61 and 63 refers to the resurrection of the fish when it touched the water of life, intended as a sign to Moses that he had reached the meeting place of the two waters.(50) In al-Razi, and in a report attributed to Ibn Abbas, it is stated that the fish carried by Joshua b. Nun was salted, which is a reference to the "salted fish" found in the Greek recensions of the Alexander stories.(51) The meeting place of the two waters is also identified as the water of life, which flows from a spring in the garden of Eden.(52) Although there is no evidence that the commentaries were aware of the Gilgamesh epic, the association of Q 18:60-65 with the Alexander stories also suggests a parallel between the al-Khidr character and the immortal Utnapishtim, to whom Gilgamesh travels to discuss the death of his friend Enkidu.(53) Utnapishtim is supposed to be found at the "head of the waters" located in Dilmun, the Sumerian equivalent to the garden of Eden.

The association of al-Khidr and Moses with the Alexander stories is also related to the stories of "Dhu al-Qarnayn" in Q 18:83-102. The commentaries on Q 18:83 identify Dhu al-Qarnayn with a number of different people. Of the various explanations, one of the more widespread is that Dhu al-Qarnayn is the person who traveled to the ends of the earth.

It is said that he is named Dhu al-Qarnayn because he reached the East and the West where the tip [qarn] of the sun rises and sets.(54)

This is important because many of the commentaries, on the basis of the association of Q 18:60-82 with the Alexander stories, identify the travels mentioned in Q 28:83-102 with the conquests of Alexander. The commentaries on Q 28:60, also influenced by the association of al-Khidr with Alexander's cook and the search for the water of life, state that the meeting place of the two waters to which Moses traveled was found at the ends of the earth.(55) By describing both Alexander and Moses as having traveled to the ends of the earth, the commentaries are able to make the epithet Dhu al-Qarnayn refer to both Alexander and Moses.

It has also been shown that the commentaries are able to use the character al-Khidr to appropriate both the Alexander stories and the stories associated with Enoch and related figures.(56) Both the cook, whose name is given as Andreas, and Enoch are referred to as Idris. In some commentaries, as discussed earlier, al-Khidr is portrayed as the cook in the Alexander stories who gains immortality. In other accounts, al-Khidr is described in terms that associate him with the rabbinic character Enoch and the sorts of figures associated with Enoch.(57) On the one hand, al-Khidr is said to be immortal.(58) This parallels the pseudepigraphical and rabbinic stories that take Genesis 5:22 as meaning that Enoch did not die, but ascended into heaven while still alive.(59) On the other hand, al-Khidr is supposed to be a representative of God, as in the Ubayy b. Ka b story, but also later, especially in sufi circles, as a wali or the naqib al-awliya.60) This aspect of al-Khidr as a kind of quasi-divine being parallels the functions attributed to Enoch in his role as Metatron, the figure who represents God in his interactions with human beings.(61) By conflating both Enoch and Andreas with Idris, and the Idris character with al-Khidr, the commentaries are able to incorporate into their understanding of Q 18:65-82 the stories associated with both the cook and Enoch.


The intertextual connections that the Ubayy b. Ka b story, and the character of al-Khidr, in particular, allow the commentaries on Q 18:65-82 to make with other stories in the Qur an indicates that the story was designed to interpret Q 18:60-82. It is probable that elements of the Ubayy b. Ka b story are derived from earlier stories, but it is also important to recognize how useful the story and the elaborations on it are for supporting a particular, cogent interpretation of certain Moses stories in the Qur an. The character of al-Khidr, although it later takes on the characteristics of an amalgamation of various figures, first appears in the Ubayy b. Ka b story. Also, the commentaries on Q 18:61 and 64 use the "fish" to link the Moses and al-Khidr story to the stories of Dhu al-Qarnayn (Q 18:83-102) and the Midian episode (Q 28:21-28). In both cases, especially given their later elaborations in the Ubayy b. Ka b story, the occurrence of these elements does not indicate a confusion of earlier sources and stories. Rather, the inclusion of these elements suggests the purposeful appropriation of earlier motifs that allow the commentaries to 'create a certain interpretive scheme.

Before Zunz, Geiger, and Obermann, both Jellinek and Israel Levi, unaware of Ibn Shahin's Arabic original from which the Hebrew version of the Joshua and Elijah story was translated, believed it to be related to Q 18:65-82.(62) It is unlikely that the Ibn Shahin story was derived directly from Q 18:65-82, for a number of reasons. Ibn Shahin's story makes no mention of the events in Q 18:60-64. The only unusual act that is done by both the servant of God and Elijah is to repair the wall so that the inhospitable man will not find the treasure buried there.(63) Also, Q 18:65-82 is ambiguous about the identity of the servant of God and whether Moses intended to meet this servant at the meeting place of the two waters. In this respect, Ibn Shahin's story seems to have more in common with the commentaries on Q 18:65-82 than with the verses themselves. Moses' intention to find al-Khidr and the conversation with God that prompts the meeting mentioned in the Ubayy b. Ka b story are close parallels to the opening of Ibn Shahin's story. A connection with the commentaries on Q 18:65-82 would also help to explain the absence of Moses and the use of Elijah in Ibn Shahin's story.

It is possible that the Ibn Shahin story depends upon the Qur an, not directly, but through the medium of commentaries on the Qur an. This theory would explain a number of details in the story, and solve some of the problems associated with Wensinck's theory. This possible link between the commentaries and Ibn Shahin's story is particularly evident from the association of al-Khidr and Elijah.(64) It is important to note that Q 18:65 does not single out the anonymous "servant of God" as immortal or as having esoteric knowledge. These characteristics are introduced into the story only in the Ubayy b. Ka b story, with the identification of the "servant of God" as al-Khidr, and the later elaborations of al-Khidr's associations with immortality, esoteric knowledge, and fertility. Rather than showing that Q 18:65-82 depends on the Joshua and Elijah story, the close association of al-Khidr and Elijah suggests that the Joshua and Elijah story ultimately depends on the Ubayy b. Ka b story.

The close association of al-Khidr and Elijah is a common feature of the stories associated with al-Khidr. For example, in al-Mas udi, al-Nawawi, and other sources, al-Khidr's real name is given as Bayla b. Malkan, which could be related to the Syriac name for Elijah [Iliya] if the single dot under the first letter was taken to be two dots.(65) Ibn Hajar also mentions a story, on the authority of an anonymous man who had been stationed in Jerusalem and Asqalan, that associates Elijah and al-Khidr. In this story, the man meets Elijah praying in a valley, and asks him if he is still receiving revelations from God.

I said: is God revealing [things] to you still today? He said: no, God sent Muhammad as the seal of the prophets. I said how many prophets are still alive? He said: four: myself and al-Khidr on the earth, Idris and Jesus [Isa] in heaven. I said: do you and al-Khidr meet? He said: yes, every year at Arafat. I said: what happens to you? He said: he takes from my knowledge and I take from his knowledge.(66)

Note that al-Khidr and Elijah are made parallel on account of both their immortality and their special esoteric knowledge. There are numerous other stories that attribute a prophetic knowledge to Elijah and al-Khidr that is beyond that of other prophets. In the Ubayy b. Ka b story, for example, al-Khidr's knowledge is greater than that of Moses. A similar notion is evident in the story of Elisha wanting to see Elijah depart from earth and acquire his powers in 2 Kings 2.

Likewise, both al-Khidr and Elijah are associated with fertility, and the life-giving water of rain, in particular. Reports in the commentaries on Q 18:60-82 state that al-Khidr's association with the color green is due to his ability to make the earth fertile. In a saying attributed to the prophet, al-Khidr's name is said to be due to the fact that he sat on a white skin and it became green.(67) Both al-Nawawi and al-Diyarbakri comment that the "skin" is symbolic of the earth, emphasizing al-Khidr's ability to make the earth fertile. It is also said that it will become green in every place that al-Khidr performs his prayers.(68) Elijah's association with fertility and rain is widespread in biblical and rabbinic literature. Elijah is able to make food increase in 1 Kings 17:14-16, raise the dead in 1 Kings 17:17-24, and cause it to rain in 1 Kings 18:41-45, all of which indicate his association with fertility.

It is unlikely that the association of al-Khidr and Elijah is the result of a confusion of the two characters, but rather that the character of al-Khidr was developed to appropriate the characteristics associated with Elijah in biblical and rabbinic stories. That the two characters were recognized as distinct is evident from early remarks preserved in al-Tabari.

Al-Khidr was the progeny of Persia while Elijah was an Israelite. The two meet every year during the annual festival season.(69)

It would be difficult to maintain that the Muslim scholars writing and reading these stories would not see as obvious the connections between al-Khidr and Elijah. The close similarities between the two names and the attributes of the two characters are indications not that the Islamic sources are confused, but that there was an effort to make the al-Khidr who emerged from the explanation of Q 18:60-82 closely parallel to Elijah. Given these connections, and the various other cases in which al-Khidr and Elijah are associated in early Islamic literature, it would be an obvious matter for Ibn Shahin to substitute Elijah for al-Khidr in his version of the story.

There is another possible connection in rabbinic sources of which Ibn Shahin could have been aware associating Elijah with both fertility and theodicy. In the Tehillim Midrash on Psalm 90:1, there is a discussion of the so-called shiggayon, the "impetuous" or "impulsive" speech of certain biblical characters, including David, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Moses.(70) Moses' prayer to God, mentioned in 90:1, is interpreted as a challenge to God's justice, comparable to challenges issued in the prayer of Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:1. The Tehillim Midrash on Psalm 7 also comments on Habakkuk's challenging God, stating that Habakkuk would not depart from a circle he drew on the ground until God answered his complaint and saved Israel. A similar episode is attributed to Honi ha-me aggel (the circle-drawer), who, in the Babylonian Talmud Ta anit 23a, will not depart from a circle he draws on the ground until God causes it to rain.(71) The character of Honi, as a rain-maker, is a close match to the character of Elijah, given his associations with rain production. It is possible that these stories reflect a connection, in rabbinic sources, between Elijah and Moses on the basis of the association of Elijah and Honi because of rain, and Honi and Habakkuk because of circle-drawing. This conflation of characters around the themes of fertility and theodicy could have provided some of the basis for Ibn Shahin's mention of Elijah in his story.(72)

Related to Ibn Shahin's choice of Elijah to play the part of the al-Khidr character is his use of Joshua b. Levi in the place of the Moses character. In this regard, it is relevant to refer to a theodicy story usually associated with Moses, which exists in a number of different versions. This story seems to represent a combination of the commentaries on Q 18:65-82 and a folktale about the interaction of three men and a purse. It is impossible to pinpoint the origins of the story of the three men and the purse, but there is scant evidence that the story originated in a Jewish source, as postulated by Louis Ginzberg. According to Ginzberg, the earliest reference to the story is found in the Derashot al ha-Torah of Joshua b. Shu ayb, written sometime during the fourteenth century.(73)

In the version of the story in Ibn Shu ayb, Moses is shown God's justice by observing the interactions of three men and a purse.(74) Moses first sees a man stop by a river and lose his purse. Next, a second man comes and takes the purse. The first man, the owner of the purse, returns, does not find his purse, but sees a third man nearby and demands his purse back. The man nearby claims he has not taken the money, so the owner of the purse kills him. Moses asks God what justice this represents and God explains that the man who found the purse had had it formerly stolen from him by the first man. The man who was killed had, at an earlier time, killed the father of the man who lost the purse by the river.(75)

Another version of this same story and a related story appear in a Jewish text translated by Moses Gaster.(76) The stories come from a collection of short tales compiled from a number of earlier sources sometime around the fourteenth century.(77) Scholars have noted, in particular, the dependence of this collection upon Joshua b. Shahin's work and the Midrash ha-gadol, which seems to have been compiled in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.(78) In the version of the story given in Gaster's text, it is an anonymous pious man, rather than Moses, who observes a man enter some water, say his prayers, and lose his purse. A second man finds the purse and leaves. A third man comes and enters the water; the first man returns and kills him over the purse he did not take. In a dream the pious man is told that the third man had murdered the father of the first man and that the first man had stolen the purse from the father of the second.(79) It is not specified that the information provided in the dream originated from God.

There is another story closely related to this in the same text. A poor man vows to stay at home and be sustained by God. One day he kills and eats a cow that enters his house. The owner of the cow appeals to King David, who allows his son Solomon to judge the matter. Solomon brings to life a man buried under a tree, who is the father of the poor man. His murder is supposed to have been instigated by the owner of the cow. The poor man then kills the rich man and inherits his property.(80) Note that, in this story, the killing of the cow parallels Elijah's killing of the cow of the hospitable man. Also, in this story, unfathomable justice is attributed to Solomon, rather than to God. This could be due to the many associations of Solomon with a special wisdom granted to him by God.

The story of the three men and the purse is found also in Arabic literature contemporaneous to if not earlier than the story in Ibn Shu ayb. For example, the story is found in the Alf layla wa layla.(81) Here, it is a certain prophet living on top of a mountain beneath which is a spring who observes the three men and the purse. First a horseman comes and drops his purse when drinking. Later a second man comes, finds the purse in which is money, and takes it. Finally a third man carrying a bundle of faggots comes to get a drink of water. The horseman returns looking for his purse, accosts the man with the faggots and kills him. Upon seeing this the prophet asks God about the justice of the episode. After warning the prophet not to question him, God explains that the father of the horseman had taken the gold in the purse from the father of the second man. The man with the faggots had killed the father of the horseman.(82)

A number of elements in this version of the story are significant for understanding later versions. Note that the prophet who is identified as Moses in Ibn Shu ayb is anonymous in the Alf layla wa layla version, like the pious man in the collection of stories edited by Gaster. It is possible that the story here is derived directly from Q 18:65-82, without the mention of Moses, or from commentaries on these verses. First, the prophet is on top of a mountain when he sees the episode of the three men and the purse. This could be taken as an allusion to Moses on Sinai, as it was in later versions of the story, such as that given by Ibn Shu ayb. Second, although the spring is probably an incidental part of the story, provided as the cause for the three men to stop at the foot of the mountain, it could be related to the "source of the waters" mentioned in Q 18:60-64 and the commentaries on these verses which connect it with the water of life in the Alexander stories.

This same story is also found in the Aja ib al-makhluqat of Zakariya b. al-Qazwini (1202-1283) and repeated in the Hayat al-hayawan of Muhammad b. Musa al-Damiri (1344-1405).(83) In this version, the prophet who sees a horseman come to a spring and leave a purse is identified as Moses The purse is taken by a shepherd and later a poor old man comes with a bundle of wood and lies down to rest. The horseman returns and kills the old man, whereupon Moses asks God about the justice of the act. God explains that the old man's father had killed the horseman's father, and the horseman owed the shepherd's father a debt equal to the amount in the purse.(84) It is significant that, in this version, Moses is identified as the observer of the apparent injustice, and it is God who explains the reasoning behind the actions of the men. It is possible that al-Qazwini's version is a combination of the story in the Alf layla wa layla and Q 18:65-82 or the commentaries on these verses The identification of the story involving the anonymous prophet with the story in Q 18:65-82 involving Moses would be natural given the circumstances of apparent injustice the main character observes in each story. It is also possible that both al-Qazwini's version and that in the Alf layla wa layla are the same story, derived from Q 18:65-82 or from commentaries on these verses, based on the Ubayy b. Ka b story. If this were the case, the version in the Alf layla wa layla could be seen simply to have omitted the name of the prophet Whatever the relationship between the sources, the version of al-Qazwini and al-Damiri does make a link between the story of the three men and the purse and Q 18:65-82 with the identification of the prophet as Moses.

There is one other example of this same story which exhibits not only the influence of Q 18:65-82, but more important, the commentaries' understanding of these verses. A Persian poem by Nur al-Din Abd al-Rahman Jami, discovered in Calcutta by E. B. Cowell, recounts the episode of the three men and the purse, but makes the first man, who loses the purse, to be like al-Khidr.(85) The poem, entitled "Sub-hat al-abrar" was written around 1482 in honor of the Sultan Husayn Bayqara.(86) In this version the person who takes the purse is a boy, and the man who is found when the owner returns is an old, blind man who is performing his ablutions in the nearby water. God explains to Moses that the boy had a father who built a house for the owner of the purse but was never paid before he died. The blind man had, when he was young, killed the owner of the purse's father. The language of the text, the blind man performing ablutions, and the mention of al-Khidr point to the Islamic origins of this story, despite earlier scholars' claims of Jewish origins.(87) Given Jami's close connection with the Naqshbandi order,(88) it is possible that he took his story from a sufi commentary on Q 18:65-82 or the Iskandarnamah.(89) It may also be significant that both Jami and Ibn Shu ayb were closely associated with different mystical circles of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and could have drawn their stories from a common source which had made the connection between the story of the three men and the purse and Q 18:65-82 Likewise, it is important to note that one of the other poems in the collection of seven (haft awrang), of which the "Sub-hat al-abrar" is a part, and dedicated to the same Sultan Husayn Bayqara, is entitled "Khirad-nama-yi Sikandari," and recounts portions of the Alexander story that occur in Q 18:83-102.

The similarity of the Islamic versions of this theodicy story both to that in Q 18:65-82 and to the Jewish versions, especially that of Ibn Shu ayb, suggests that its origins are to be found, at least in part, in the commentaries on Q 18:65-82. In particular, the identification of Moses with the person who observes the actions of the three men indicates a purposeful attempt to link this story with Q 18:65-82. This link first appears in al-Qazwini and al-Damiri. It is also not unlikely, given the large number of sources upon which both Ibn Shu ayb and al-Damiri drew, roughly at the same time, that they derived this story from related sources, possibly both from al-Qazwini.(90) The stories in the collection edited by Gaster could be derived either from Ibn Shu ayb or from the Arabic folktale itself, given that the observer of the three men is not identified as Moses but as an anonymous pious man.

The question of these theodicy stories associating Moses with the three men and the purse is related to the issue of why Ibn Shahin used Joshua b. Levi and not Moses as the observer of apparent injustices in his theodicy story. It could be that Ibn Shahin was not aware of the theodicy stories involving Moses, but this would make Ibn Shahin's story independent altogether of the Moses story in Q 18:65-82 and the commentaries on these verses. This would make it difficult to explain why other Jewish sources dependent on Ibn Shahin's story did not associate Joshua b. Levi with the story of the three men and the purse, given the close association of the story of the three men and Q 18:65-82 in later sources. It is also possible, assuming a link between the commentaries on Q 18:65-82 and the Joshua and Elijah story, that Ibn Shahin had other reasons for substituting Joshua b. Levi for Moses.

At the beginning of his book, Ibn Shahin does state that he eschews stories which deal with biblical characters and episodes.

I shall not fail to mention also events that have happened to the whole nation, and the distress in which they found themselves but were granted relief therefrom, except for whatsoever is already recorded, for example, in the Scroll of Esther or the Scroll of the Hasmonaeans, or in the rest of the twenty-four books [of the Hebrew Bible], about the afflictions and calamities which had befallen our forefathers and predecessors and from which they were relieved, for this already exists in recorded form. I will mention therefore only that which is known and familiar only to the few.(91)

This could be one reason for Ibn Shahin's substitution of Joshua for Moses. Another reason to avoid putting Moses into the role played by Joshua b. Levi could have to do with the arrogance attributed to Moses in the Ubayy b. Ka b story. Assuming Ibn Shahin did learn of this story through the medium of the commentaries on Q 18:65-82, it is important to note that in the Islamic versions Moses' meeting with al-Khidr is predicated upon Moses' arrogance as to his own knowledge. Beginning with Joshua's desire to meet Elijah allows Ibn Shahin to avoid the theme of Moses' arrogance, not common in rabbinic literature. Ibn Shu ayb's story of Moses observing the three men and the purse does not involve the suggestion, as does the Ubayy b. Ka b story, that Moses was presumptuous in his own knowledge.

More pertinent to Ibn Shahin's use of Joshua and Elijah are the precedents in rabbinic literature that describe Joshua b. Levi as having conversations with immortal beings both on earth and in heaven. In the Babylonian Talmud, for example, Joshua b. Levi recounts three things that were told to him by the angel of death.(92)

R. Joshua b. Levi said: three things were told me by the angel of death. Do not take your shirt from your attendant when dressing in the morning, and do not let water be poured on your hands by one who has not washed his own hands. Do not stand in front of women when they are returning from the presence of a dead person because I go leaping in front of them with my sword in my hand, and I have permission to harm.

If one should happen to meet them, what is his remedy? Let him turn aside four cubits. If there is a river, let him cross it. If there is another road, let him cross it. If there is a wall, let him stand behind it.

The first two things told to Joshua b. Levi by the angel of death fall within the scope of the discussion in this section of the Talmud regarding table manners. The third statement, that the angel of death walks before women returning from the presence of a corpse, seems unrelated to the first two but represents the sort of lore associated with Joshua b. Levi's conversations with the angel of death.

Along with the theme of ascent and speaking with an immortal being, there are several stories that associate Joshua b. Levi directly with Elijah. A story in the Babylonian Talmud describes Joshua b. Levi's ascent to heaven with the angel of death.(93) Another version is preserved in a later rabbinic source.(94) In this story, the angel of death is sent by God to Joshua b. Levi to do whatever he requests. Joshua b. Levi asks to be shown his place in the garden of Eden, and is taken there by the angel. On the way, Joshua b. Levi convinces the angel of death to give over his sword to him. When they arrive at the garden of Eden, Joshua b. Levi jumps over the wall and enters. The angel of death protests that no one is allowed to enter before they die, but Elijah appears and gives permission for Joshua b. Levi to enter. Once inside, Joshua b. Levi tours the garden of Eden and talks with certain people from the past.

Although this story does not involve a conversation between Joshua b. Levi and Elijah, it parallels Ibn Shahin's story and the other theodicy stories associated with Moses in a number of ways. The premise of this second Joshua b. Levi story is that he is granted a wish from God which is fulfilled by the angel of death. This is similar to the wish that Elijah grants after having been sent by God to Joshua b. Levi. Related to the circumstances of this meeting is the idea that Joshua b. Levi is able to accomplish what is considered impossible for most people, such as returning alive from a conversation with death. In the second story, Joshua b. Levi thinks he is able to outwit death by taking his sword, but is saved in the end only by the intervention of Elijah and God. Both motifs are also related to the theodicy stories associated with Moses, and especially the Alexander and Gilgamesh stories to which Q 18:65-82 is related in many of the commentaries. In these stories, the search for and the interaction with an immortal being is closely associated with discovering the justice of a death, especially at the hands of God or his representative. The immortal being, often a representative of God, is supposed to possess esoteric knowledge concerning death and immortality. Along these same lines, it is important to note that the desire of Joshua b. Levi to see the garden of Eden also parallels the stories associated with Q 18:60-82 that interpret Moses' quest for the meeting place of the two waters as a journey to the water of life flowing out of the garden of Eden at the ends of the earth.

In other late antique stories, Joshua b. Levi is often associated with certain figures who are known for ascending into heaven or obtaining some sort of esoteric knowledge. For example, it has been shown that elements of the stories about the journeys of Pythagoras have been incorporated into several of the stories about Joshua b. Levi.(95) These stories also preserve a connection between Joshua b. Levi and Moses. Given the notion of Moses' ascent and speaking with God, many elements from the Pythagoras stories are also incorporated into Hellenistic and late antique accounts of Moses.(96) That the character of Joshua b. Levi was sometimes interchanged with the character of Moses in these sorts of stories further provides a basis for substituting Joshua b. Levi for Moses in the theodicy stories. It should also be noted that there are Islamic stories that associate with Idris the same elements attributed to Joshua b. Levi, Moses, and Pythagoras. It is these sorts of parallels, making Joshua b. Levi the sort of character who is associated with journeys to the garden of Eden and ascents to heaven, that can help to explain Ibn Shahin's selection of Joshua b. Levi as the character in his theodicy story.


The available evidence shows that Q 18:65-82 is not dependent upon the Elijah and Joshua b. Levi story in Ibn Shahin. It remains an issue whether Ibn Shahin's story is dependent upon the commentaries on Q 18:6582, especially the Ubayy b. Ka b story and its later elaboration. Ibn Shahin's work is relatively late compared to the Qur an and the redaction of the Ubayy b. Ka b story, and it includes many parallels to earlier Islamic sources. The story of Elijah and Joshua b. Levi, in particular, reflects elements not found in Q 18:65-82 but prominent in the commentaries on these verses. Ibn Shahin's use of Elijah instead of al-Khidr can be explained by the close association of the two characters in Islamic sources. There is also the existence of the story of the the three men and the purse, associated with Moses and Q 18:65-82, which occurs in a number of rabbinic sources, suggesting that Ibn Shahin was aware of Moses' association with a theodicy story taken from Q 18:65-82. The use of Joshua b. Levi rather than Moses can also be explained by Ibn Shahin's avoiding stories dealing with biblical characters, and the many associations of Joshua b. Levi with heavenly ascent stories and conversations with immortal beings.

These findings show that it is important to recognize the distinction between the Qur an and its commentaries, especially the role of the commentaries in identifying and appropriating certain motifs for the understanding of the Qur an. By focusing on how the commentaries understand Q 18:65-82, it is possible to see how the Ubayy b. Ka b story and the later associations with the Alexander stories and Elijah allowed for a number of connections between different Moses stories in the Qur an. A closer examination shows that the commentaries were not necessarily interested in getting the "original" story straight, but rather in identifying certain motifs in the Qur an with which to disclose the "message" of Q 18:65-82. The recognition of the commentaries' role in the elaboration of Q 18:65-82 also helps to explain the links between the stories associated with the Qur an and those found in other extra-Qur anic sources, in Judaism or in Christianity. To understand the interrelationship of these stories it is necessary to acknowledge that the contents of the Qur an cannot be understood as a confusion of earlier sources but rather in the context of the commentaries' purposeful activity of interpretation.

1 On Wahb b. Munabbih and the traditions associated with his name, see R. G. Khoury, Wahb ibn Munabbih (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1972). Further biographical references can be found in Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967), 1: 305-7.

2 Some of the earliest references to this report are found in Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 414-29, tr. William Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 1-18.

3 See Wensinck, "al-Khadir," 902-3.

4 See Wensinck, "al-Khadir," 903. For the Hebrew text, see Adolph Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch (Vienna, 1873), 5: 133-35.

5 Wensinck states: "This identification may have resulted in a confusion of his master Elijah with Joshua b. Nun's master Moses. Musa thus represents Gilgamesh and Alexander in the first part of the Kur anic story and Elijah in the second" (p. 903).

6 Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-ghayb (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1980), 21: 143. This story seems to be an expansion of the frame story found in al-Bukhari, Sahih, 1:613 in which Sa id b. Jubayr says to Ibn Abbas that Nawf al-Bukali claims that Moses the companion of al-Khidr was not Moses the prophet of the Israelites. This frame story is expanded to include Nawf's claim that the Moses in this story was Moses b. Manasseh in al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 424. See the English translation in Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, 13. There is also a discussion of the identity of this Moses in al-Tha labi, Qisas al-anbiya (Beirut: al-Maktabah al-Thaqafiyah, n.d.), 126 and in Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil fi al-ta rikh, ed. C. Tornberg (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1867; reprint, Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1965), 1: 160. The story in al-Razi is repeated in Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur an al-azim (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1980), 3: 152.

7 This interesting occurrence is discussed in Gordon Newby, The Making of the Last Prophet: A Reconstruction of the Earliest Biography of Muhammad (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1989), 114-15. Newby identifies three different "Moseses" in the comments reported to have been collected by Ibn Ishaq.

8 Wensinck, "al-Khadir," 903, claims that this is also discussed in the commentary of al-Zamakhshari on Q 18:59, but there does not seem to be a discussion of the identity of Moses in al-Zamakhshari.

9 In his article, Wensinck mentions Y. L. Zunz, Gesammelte Vortrage, 10: 130. The discussion can also be found in Zunz, Die Gottsdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden, rev. and tr. H. Albeck, ha.Derashot be-Yisra el (Jerusalem, 1947).

10 See Abraham Geiger, Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judentum aufgenommen, 2d ed. (Leipzig, 1902).

11 For this view, see Israel Friedlander, Die Chadhirlegende and der Alexanderroman (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1913), 257. Similar observations are made in Friedlander, "Zur Geschichte der Chadhirlegende," Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft 13 (1910): 92-110 and Friedlander, "Alexanders Zug nach dem Lebensquell und die Chadhirlegende," Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft 13 (1910): 161-246.

12 The existence of the Arabic original of Ibn Shahin's al-Faraj ba d al-shiddah was first noted by Abraham Harkavy in Festschrift zum achtzigsten Geburtstage Moritz Steinschneiders (Leipzig, 1896). The manuscript discovered by Harkavy was obtained by the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, where it was further studied by Julian Obermann, "Ein Werk agadisch-islamischen Synkretismus" Zeitschrift fur Semitistik 5 (1927): 43-68.

The Arabic manuscript discovered by Harkavy was published by Obermann, Studies in Islam and Judaism: The Arabic Original of Ibn Shahin's Book of Comfort (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1933). A modern Hebrew translation relying on the Arabic text, various Hebrew versions, and five fragments from the Cairo Genizah was published by H. Z. Hirschberg, Hibbar yafeh me-ha-yeshu ah, Sifriyat Meqorot 15 (Jerusalem, 5714/1953). Shraga Abramson, Rub Nissim Ga on: Hamishah sefarim (Jerusalem, 1965) has consulted some forty manuscripts of the Arabic original and all the extant fragments. The various versions have been consulted for the English translation by William Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1977). The Joshua and Elijah story occurs on pp. 13-16.

13 See Jellinek, Bet ha-midrasch, 5: xxxvii. Also see Zunz, Gesammelte Vortrage, 10: 130; Zunz-Albeck, ha-Derashot be-Yisra el (Jerusalem, 1947).

14 See Jellinek, Bet ha-midrasch, 6: xxxii.

15 See Jellinek, Bet ha-midrasch, 5: xxxvi.

16 Obermann, "Two Elijah Stories in Judeo-Arabic Transmission," 400.

17 Obermann, "Two Elijah stories in Judeo-Arabic Transmission," 399-400. The idea that Muhammad wrote the Qur an, borrowing the stories from Jews and Christians, and did a poor job of getting the stories straight is common in the bulk of early Western scholarship both on the Qur an and on medieval rabbinic literature. This sort of perspective is epitomized in John Walker, Bible Characters in the Koran (Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1931).

18 Obermann, "Two Elijah Stories in Judeo-Arabic Transmission," 401. Note that this same position is reiterated in David H. Baneth's review of Obermann in Kiryat Sefer 11 (1935): 349-57, esp. p. 350.

19 Ibn Shahin, al-Faraj ba d al-shiddah, 1a. Translation taken from Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity, 3. Note that the Harkavy manuscript which Obermann edited begins at "owing to your desire. . . ." Brinner takes the rest of the text from a Hebrew version.

20 Ibn Shahin, al-Faraj ba d al-shiddah, 3a-3b. Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity, 6.

21 On this genre, see Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity, xxiv-xxix; and Alfred Wiener, "Die Farad, ba d as-Sidda-Literatur," Der Islam 4 (1913): 270-98, 387-420.

22 See Ibn Shahin, al-Faraj ba d al-shiddah, 38b-43b, 45b-48b, 85b-87b, 87b-91a, 102b-103b, 147a-150b, 153a-154b. See Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity, 48-52, 54-57, 96-98, 99-102, 116-17, 168-72, 175-76. The story on pp. 87b-91a and 99-102 is discussed in Obermann, "Two Elijah Stories in Judeo-Arabic Transmission," 401-4.

23 See Ibn Shahin, al-Faraj ba d al-shiddah, 79b-81a, 101b-102a, 111b-116b. See Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity, 90-91, 114-15, 127-31.

24 See Ibn Shahin, al-Faraj ba d al-shiddah, 145a, 145b. See Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity, 162, 163.

25 See M. Plessner, review of Hirschberg's modern Hebrew translation of Ibn Shahin's work, in Tarbiz 24 (Jerusalem, 1954): 469-72. This is discussed in Haim Schwarzbaum, "The Jewish and Moslem Versions of Some Theodicy Legends," Fabula 3 (1959): 119-69.

26 See Schwarzbaum, "The Jewish and Moslem Versions of Some Theodicy Legends," esp. 140-46.

27 For an overview of these stories, see C. A. Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 2 vols. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1925-26). Schwarzbaum also refers to two scholars who attribute the story in the Qur an to Christian rather than Jewish origins. See Sigmund Fraenkel's review of Noldeke's "Beitrage zur Geschichte des Alexanderroman," in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 45 (1891): 309-30 and J. Horovitz, Koranische Untersuchungen (Berlin, 1926), 43, 141.

28 An example of this divine guidance can be found in the fifth-century stories associated with Paphnutiana in the Peregrinatio Paphnutiana, preserved in Coptic, Greek, and Ethiopic recensions. For the Coptic version, see E. Amelineau, "Voyage d'un moine egyptien dans le desert," Recueil de travaux 6 (1885): 166-94. The Ethiopic version is published in E M. Esteves Pereira, Vida de Santo Abunafre (Lisbon, 1905). For an English summary of the story, see Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 2: 81-86.

29 An example of this long journey being accomplished in a miraculously short time can be found in the versions of the story of the life of Paul of Thebes, or the "first hermit" in the Historia Monachorum in Patrologia Latina, 21: 428-29. There is a variant in the Historia Lausiaca in Patrologia Graeca, 34: 1156-61. A Syriac version is translated into English in E. A. W. Budge, Paradise of the Fathers, 1: 372. For an English paraphrase, see Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 2:62-71. A discussion of the story exists in Richard Reitzenstein, Historia Monachorum und Historia Lausiaca: Eine Studie zur Geschichte des Monchtums and der fruhchristlichen Begriffe Gnostiker und Pneumatiker, Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, n.f., 7 (Gottingen, 1916), 90-92.

30 For an overview of these cases, see Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 1: 30, 52-55; 2: 66, 83, 87, 97, 99, 101, 114, 118-19. In several places, Williams discusses the possibility that the figure of the gnostic ascetic, or hairy anchorite, is based on Utnapishtim from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

31 For an example of this description of the gnostic ascetic's location and living conditions, see Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 2: 75, 85, 97, 97, 115. Often the location of the gnostic ascetic is seen as an oasis or garden resembling Eden in the wilderness of the desert. See, in particular, the description of the four ascetics' abode in the stories of Paphnutius, Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 2: 85.

32 See Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 2: 95-98.

33 See Williams, Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite, 2: 62-71.

34 On the ascent to heaven to receive a divine word in late antiquity, see H. Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy: Mysticism, Magic and Platonism in the Later Roman Empire (Cairo, 1956); A. F. Segal, "Heavenly Ascent in Hellenistic Judaism, Early Christianity, and Their Environment," ANRW 23.2 (Berlin, 1980): 1333-94; loan Culianu, "'L'Ascension de l'ame' dans les mysteres et hors des mysteres," in La Soteriologia dei Culti Orientali nell'Impero Romano, ed. Ugo Bianchi and M. J. Vermaseren (Leiden, 1982), 276-307; Ioan Culianu, Psychanodia I: A Survey of the Evidence Concerning the Ascension of the Soul and its Relevance (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1983); J. Kroll, Die Himmelfahrt der Seele in der Antike, Kolner Universitats-Reden 27 (Koln, 1931).

The issue of how broadly the ascent-to-heaven motif is spread in late antiquity, and its significance for the history of religions in general, is an issue still unresolved. On these questions, see W. Bousset, "Die Himmelsreise der Seele," Archiv far Religionswissenschaft 4 (1901); reprint (Darmstadt, 1971); C. Colpe, "Die 'Himmelsreise der Seele' als philosophie- und religionsgeschichtlisches Problem," in Festschrift J. Klein, ed. E. Fries (Gottingen, 1967), 85-104.

35 Schwarzbaum, "The Jewish and Moslem Versions of Some Theodicy Legends," 142-48, deals with the three episodes independently and attempts to give parallels for each of them from disparate sources. He acknowledges that none of the parallels are exact enough to suggest dependence.

36 This interpretation has been suggested by L. Ginzberg in ha-Goren 9 (1922): 61-68 and by Schwarzbaum, 145. It is also, apparently, considered by other rabbinic sources as is evident from the different versions of the story discussed in what follows.

37 For this story, see "Midrash otiot de Rabbi Akiba hashalem," in Bate midrashot, ed. S. A. Wertheimer (Jerusalem, 1953), 2: 388ff.; "Midrash alphabet shel Rabbi Akiba," in Bet ha-Midrasch, ed. Jellinek (Vienna, 1876), 3: 44; Yalqut Shime oni, on Shemot, 1: 173; Midrash ha-gadol shemot, ed. M. Margulies (Jerusalem, 1956), 67; Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, tr. Paul Radin (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1911), 2: 325-26. For Schwarzbaum's discussion of this episode, see his "The Jewish and Moslem Versions of Some Theodicy Legends," 140-41.

38 See al-Bukhari, 3: 92. This story is also found in al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 418 and 424. See the English translation in Brinner, The History oral-.Tabari: The Children of Israel, 7 and 13.

39 Al-Kisa i, Qisas al-anbiya, tr. W. M. Thackston, Jr., The Tales of the Prophets of al-Kisa i (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1973), 250.

40 This is taken from Chumash with Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth and Rashi's Commentary, tr. A.M. Silberman and M. Rosenbaum (Jerusalem: Silberman Family, 5745), 94.

41 In the Abot de Rabbi Nathan, Moses is said to have sat in judgment over the shepherds. This is also repeated in the Exodus Rabbah on Exodus 2:16.

42 For the story that Moses is guided by an angel on horseback with a spear, see al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 451; see the English translation in Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, 37. For the mention that Moses was guided by a huge lion, see al-Kisa i, Qisas al-anbiya, 221.

43 Philo states in his De vita Mosis, 1. XI. 60-63, that Moses learned how to lead the Israelites by being a shepherd. This is published in Philo, ed. and tr. F. H. Colson (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1959), 6: 306-9.

44 For examples of the many stories about Moses' acquisition of the rod, see al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 460-61. See the English translation of this story in Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, 45.

For the origins of the staff in the garden of Eden, see al-Tabari, Jami al-bayan fi tafsir al-Qur an, 20: 43, where Gabriel gets it from Adam in the garden of Eden and gives it to Moses. Al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf, 3: 319, states that the staff belonged to Adam in the garden of Eden and was the property of subsequent prophets until it arrived in the possession of Shu ayb. Al-Kisa i, Qisas al-anbiya, 222, mentions the prophets through whom the staff passed to Shu ayb and Moses. The idea that the staff came from the garden of Eden is also found in The Book of the Bee, attributed to a Bishop Solomon of Basrah (fl. 13th century), ed. and tr. E. A. W. Budge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1886), 50-51.

The story of Moses defeating the serpent with the staff is found in al-Zamakhshari, Kashshaf, and al-Kis i, Qisas al-anbiya, 222-23.

45 Israel Friedlander, Die Chadhirlegende und der Alexanderroman (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1913).

46 In the sermon on Alexander by Jacob of Serugh (d. 521), the cook jumps into the water to retrieve the fish and gains immortality. The cook had been told by Alexander that the fish would be a sign that he had found the water of life. For a discussion of Jacob of Serugh and his work, see Carl Brockelmann, Geschiehte der christlichen Literaturen des Orients (Leipzig, 1907), 25. A brief overview of the sermon in the context of the history of the Alexander stories can be found in Noldeke, "Beitrage zur Geschichte des Alexanderroman," 31-32. An English translation of the Syriac text was first published from a manuscript in the British Museum in E. A. W. Budge, The History of Alexander the Great: Being the Syriac Version, 163-200. The Syriac text with a German translation was published in Carl Hunnius, "Das syrische Alexanderlied," Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 60 (1906): 169-209. This last piece was also published separately as Das syrische Alexanderlied, ed. and tr. Carl Hunnius (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1906).

In the Greek recensions [Lambda], L, and [Gamma], the cook finds the spring of life by accident, but then takes some of the water in a silver vessel and gives some to Alexander's daughter. There is an English translation of this episode in The Greek Alexander Romance, tr. Richard Stoneman (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), 2: 40-41, 119-22. For the different recensions, see Adolf Ausfeld, Der griechisehe Alexanderroman (Leipzig, 1907). More recently, see Reinhold Merkelbach, Die Quellen des griechischen Alexanderromans, Zetemata Monographien zur klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 9 (Munchen: Verlag C. H. Beck, 1977), 201-11.

47 For example, this is related to Ikrimah from Ibn Abbas in al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 428. See the English translation in Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, 16.

48 This is found in the Greek recension L and in Jacob of Serugh's sermon.

49 Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah fi tamyiz al-sahabah (Cairo: Mustafa Muhammad, 1358 A.H.), 1: 430, claims, probably on the basis of the episode in an Arabic recension of the Alexander stories, that al-Khidr was the one who guided Dhu al-Qarnayn through the land of darkness. On the Arabic recensions of the Alexander stories, see Lidzbarski and Weymann, Die athiopische und arabische Ubersetzung des Pseudokallisthenes (Kirchain, 1901).

50 See Fakhr el-Din al-Rizi, Mafatih al-ghayb, 21: 146-47.

51 See Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-ghayb, 21: 144-46. The report attributed to Ibn Abbis is given in al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 424-28. See the English translation in Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, 13-16.

52 See Fakhr at-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-ghayb, 21: 146-47. That the water of life flows from the garden of Eden is also asserted in the Babylonian Talmud, Tamid 32b.

53 On the relationship of the epic of Gilgamesh to the Alexander stories, see Bruno Meissner, Alexander und Gilgamos (Leipzig: Eduard Pfeiffer, 1894). The most comprehensive treatment of the influence of Gilgamesh in world literature is Peter Jensen, Das Gilgamesch-Epos in der Weltliteratur, 2 vols. (Strassburg: Karl J. Trubner, 1906). There is some scattered information in A. Christensen, Les Types da premier homme et du premier roi dans l'histoire legendaire des iraniens, Archives d'etudes orientales 14.1-2 (Stockholm: P. A. Norstaedt and Sons, 1917, 1934).

54 Ibn Kathir, Tarsir al-Qur an al- azim, 3: 165.

55 For the traditions that place the meeting place of the two waters at the ends of the earth, see al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf, 2: 571, and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-ghayb, 21: 145. There is a related report in Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur an al-azim, The same report is given, without a chain of transmission, in al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf, 2: 571. There is a discussion in Wensinck about the supposed location of the water of life in the farthest location of the west, in his "The Ideas of the Western Semites Concerning the Navel of the Earth," passim.

56 G. Vajda, "Idris," Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v.; Friedlander, Die Chadirlegende und der Alexanderroman, s.v. Henoch and Idris; and Y. Marquet, "Sabeens et Ikhwan al-Safa," Stadia Islamica 24 (1966): 52-61.

57 It is important to note that Enoch or Idris in Islamic sources is a more complex character than the Enoch of rabbinic sources, who is largely associated with Metatron. The Islamic Enoch is also associated with inventing the arts of civilization, in many ways parallel to Marduk or Enkidu in Babylonian sources.

58 On this issue, see the overview of traditions in Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, 1: 423-28.

59 The stories associated with Enoch in the pseudepigrapha are usually identified as Enoch 1, 2, and 3. So-called first and second Enoch are thought to have been written sometime during the Hellenistic period, but are preserved only in later recensions. First Enoch is preserved in Ethiopic. Second Enoch is preserved in Old Church Slavonic with some fragments in Aramaic. Third Enoch, or Sefer ha-hekhalot, is a Gaonic-period work, probably written in Iraq, although later manuscripts incorporate more materials.

60 For some examples of this understanding of al-Khidr, see Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, 1: 442-47, and Husayn b. Muhammad al-Diyarbakri, Ta rikh al-khamis fi ahwal anfas nafis (Beirut: Mu assasat Sha ban, 1970), 1: 107.

61 On the tradition of the "angel of Yahweh" and its association with the second power in heaven, and Metatron in particular, see Alan Segal, The Two Powers in Heaven (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977); and Jarl Fossum, The Names of God and the Angel of the Lord (Tubingen: Mohr, 1985).

62 See Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch, 6: xxxii, and Israel Levi, Revue des etudes juives 8 (1887): 71. This position is also argued by Schwarzbaum, although it is unclear whether he thinks Ibn Shahin's story is based on Q 18:65-82 alone or as it is understood in the commentaries.

63 It should be noted that Schwarzbaum argues that Elijah's killing the cow of the hospitable man is a parallel to the servant of God killing the boy. He claims that the killing of the cow is derived from a Talmudic source that roughly parallels this scene.

64 There is a brief overview of the association between Khidr and Elijah in Bernhard Heller, "Chadhir und der Prophet Elijahu als wundertatige Baumeister," Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 81 (1937): 76-80.

65 This is noted by Wensinck, "al-Khadir," 904.

66 Ibn .Hajar, al-Isabah, 1: 439. A similar statement is attributed to an Ibn Shahin, on the basis of a weak chain of transmission, in Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, 1: 331.

67 This tradition is found in Muslim, Sahih (Beirut: Dar al-Ma rifah, 1994), 5: 135; al-Tabari, Jami al-bayan fi tafsir al-Qur an, 15: 168; al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-mulak, 429. See the English translation in Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, 17.

68 For this, see Abu Zakariya Yahya al-Nawawi, Tahdhib al-asma, ed. Wustenfeld (Gottingen: London Society for the Publication of Oriental Texts, 1842-47), 1: 228; al-Diyarbakri, Ta rikh al-khamis (Cairo, 1283), 1: 106; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-ghayb, 4: 336. These references are discussed in Wensinck, "al-Khadir," 905.

69 See al-Tabari, Ta rikh al-rusul wa al-muluk, 415. See the translation in Brinner, The History of al-Tabari: The Children of Israel, 3. This early report, with its mention of al-Khidr and Elijah meeting each year at the festival (mawsim), seems to be related to the later story with its elaboration that the two figures met each year during the pilgrimage.

70 See the translation by William G. Braude, The Midrash on Psalms (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1959), 1: 114-17; 2: 85-92.

71 There is also a discussion of this story by E. E. Urbach in Tarbiz 17 (1946): 7, and by G. B. Sarfatti in Tarbiz 26 (1957): 126-53.

72 It is difficult, however, to evaluate the provenance and date of the Tehillim Midrash. Zunz, in particular, in his Vortrage der Juden, 375, argues that the Midrash on Psalms 1-118 were redacted in the second half of the ninth century on the basis of references to historical events and dependence upon later texts. This is discussed further in the Hebrew translation of Zunz's work by Albeck. See Zunz and Albeck, ha-Derashot be-Yisra el (Jerusalem, 5707/1947), passim. This dating has been questioned by Buber in his introduction to his edition of the Tehillim Midrash and by Braude in his introduction. It is difficult, given the current state of scholarship on the midrash, to trace the contents back to the Talmudic rather than the Gaonic period, It is not impossible, however, that the motif of impetuous speech is influenced by Islamic traditions about Moses' pride and his association with theodicy stories in particular.

73 See L. Ginzberg, On Jewish Law and Lore (New York, 1955), 70. Schwarzbaum, "The Jewish and Moslem Versions of Some Theodicy Legends," discusses this in n. 141, pp. 145-46.

74 The story is paraphrased in L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 3: 135-36. The references to Ibn Shu ayb, along with a brief discussion of the origins of this story and its subsequent versions, are found in vol. 5, pp. 56-57. On the significance of Ibn Shu ayb in rabbinic Judaism, see G. Scholem in Kiryat Sefer 6 (1929-1930): 109-18 and Scholem in Tarbiz 24 (1954-1955): 294 ff.

75 See Ibn Shu ayb, Derashot Cal ha-Torah, 98c.

76 See Sefer ha-massiyot, tr. Moses Gaster, The Exempla of the Rabbis, 2d ed. (New York: KTAV, 1968).

77 Gaster himself argues, in the introduction (pp. 1-49), that the text dates to the fourth century. Since the publication of this work, a number of scholars have argued for its later redaction, primarily on the grounds that it borrowed from, rather than being the source for, a number of later rabbinic works. For an overview of these arguments, see the prolegomenon to The Exempla of the Rabbis, xxv-xxx, by William Braude.

The dating to the fourteenth century was first made by Israel Levi in his review of the first edition of the book in Revue des etudes juives 34 (1897): 153-55, He cites a number of reasons, such as the use of Babylonian rather than Palestinian Aramaic, and the use of the locution "in the west they say" found in the Babylonian Talmud to refer to sayings by Palestinian Amorim.

78 On the references to Ibn Shahin's work, supposedly [sections]148-49 in Gaster, see S. Abramson's edition of Ibn Shahin's work, 406-8. For a discussion of the dependence of Gaster's text on the Midrash ha-gadol, see Bernard Heller's review of the revised edition of Gaster in Revue des etudes juives 81 (1925): 3-5. Also see the introduction to the Midrash ha-gadol: Bereshit, by Mordecai Marguiles (Jerusalem, 5707/1947), 11.

79 See Gaster, The Exempla of the Rabbis, [section]432, pp. 168-69. Note that it is not indicated that God revealed this reasoning to the pious man, only that he received it in a dream.

80 See Gaster, The Exempla of the Rabbis, [section]353, pp. 130-31.

81 It is exceedingly difficult to date individual stories from the Thousand and One Nights. The printed Arabic editions, the so-called "vulgate" text or "Zotenberg's Egyptian recension" (Bulaq and Cairo), are based on a recension of the stories compiled in the eighteenth century. Scholars are divided on the history of the stories in this recension, but it is possible that some of the stories originated in pre-Islamic times, from Iranian or Indian sources. For an overview of the development of the stories, and the scholarship on this, see Duncan Black MacDonald, "The Earlier History of the Arabian Nights," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1924): 353-97; Nabia Abbot, "A Ninth-Century Fragment of the 'Thousand Nights': New Light on the Early History of the Arabian Nights," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 8 (1949): 129-64; E. Littman, "Alf layla wa layla," Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed., 1: 358-64.

82 An English translation of the story can be found in Edward Lane, The Arabian Nights' Entertainments, ed. E. Stanley Poole (New York: Hearst's International Library, 1914), 3: 322-23.

83 On these two versions of the story, and on the relationship of al-Damiri to al-Qazwini, see Joseph de Somogyi, Index des sources de la Hayat al-Hayawan de ad-Damiri, extrait du Journal asiatique 213 (Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1928) and de Somogyi, Biblical Figures in ad-Damiri's Hayat al-.Hayawan (Budapest: reprint from Jubilee volume Edward Mahler, 1937), 278. Al-Qazwini's work has been published separately as al-Qazwini, Aja ib al-makhluqat wa ghara ib al-mawjudat, 2d ed., ed. Faruq Sa d (Beirut: Dar al-Afaq al-Jadidah, 1977).

84 See al-Damiri, .Hayat al-hayawan al-kubra (Cairo: Maktabat Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1386). The section on sheep is on pp. 108-15. The story in question is found on p. 115.

85 See Hermann Brockhaus, "Gellert und Jami," Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 14 (1860): 706-10. The text is also published in E. B. Cowell, "On Certain Mediaeval Apologues," Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 1 (1860): 10-17.

86 This poem is part of Jami's famous Haft awrang, or "seven thrones." For further information on Jami's work, see C. Huart's article "Djami" in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, revised in the new edition by H. Masse. Also see the monograph by Ali Asghar Hikmat, Jami (Tehran, 1320).

87 See Brockhaus, "Gellert und Jami," 710.

88 Jami's spiritual guide was Sa d al-Din Muhammad al-Kashghari, a disciple and successor to Baha al-Din Naqshband, founder of the Naqshbandi order.

89 For an example of a commentary on the Iskandarnamah, see Hermann Ethe, "Alexanders Zug zum Lebensquell im Land der Finsternis," Sitzungsberichte der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Kl. (Munchen, 1871): 343-405.

90 On the sources of Ibn Shu ayb's sermons, see Carmi Horowitz, The Jewish Sermon in 14th Century Spain: The Derashot of R. Joshua ibn Shu eib (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1989).

91 Ibn Shahin, al-Faraj ba d al-shiddah, 3b. Translated in Brinner, An Elegant Composition Concerning Relief after Adversity, 6.

92 This story is found in Berakot, 51a. It is discussed in Zvi Kaplan, "Joshua b. Levi," Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing, 1972), 10: 283-84.

93 Found in Ketubot, 77b.

94 See the "Ma aseh de-rabbi Yehoshu'a ben Levi," in Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch, 2: 48-51.

95 See, for example, Isidore Levy, La Legende de Pythagore de Grece en Palestine (Paris: E. Champion, 1927), 154-65.

96 This is discussed at length in I. Levy, La Legende de Pythagore de Grece en Palestine, passim.
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Title Annotation:scholar
Author:Wheeler, Brannon M.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Date:Apr 1, 1998
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