Cam Lindley Cross
University of Chicago, March 8 (2011)
When Peter the Venerable commissioned Robert of Ketton to translate the Qur’an in 1142 CE, under the title Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete, it was with done for the express purpose of refuting Islamic doctrine and winning Muslims over to Christianity.Like many church officials of his day and for generations to come, Peter saw the Qur’an as a satanic perversion of the Bible, intended to sow discord among the Chris- tians and spread heresy throughout the land; similarly, many contemporaneous vitae Mahometi viewed Muhammad as a former Christian who had “renounced his faith and preached a heresy derived from Christianity.” Some centuries later, Martin Luther similarly believed that “the mission of Islam was to bring about the total destruction of Christianity,” even if it did display some admirable characteristics that could be emulated by reforming Christians.
Part of the reason for these anxieties, old and new alike, can certainly be attributed to the many similarities that exist between the two faiths, and the corresponding ease of conversion from one to the other—especially in light of the Reformation, in which many of the complaints raised against the Catholic Church mirrored sentiments found in the Qur’an. From the Catholic perspective, Europe was imploding on itself, the northern Protestant nations eager to ally themselves with the Ottoman Empire against their fellow Christians; Elizabeth I even wrote in a letter that her religion was closer to Islam than Catholicism. Both Protestants and Catholics claimed the Turks were God’s punishment for the other side’s excesses and heresies, and meanwhile the Ottomans seemed poised to overrun all Europe, defeating the Venetians at Lepanto in 1499, seizing Budapest in 1526, and laying siege to Vienna in 1532.