Preaching Christianity in the Muslim Ilkhanate

Preaching Christianity in the Muslim Ilkhanate: On the manuscripts of Persian Bibles from fourteenth-century Tabriz

Lecture by Andrew Peacock

Given online by the Institute of Iranian Studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on February 7, 2023

Abstract: The study of nomads’ manuscript cultures has understandably and rightly focused on the vast range of material related to Islam in one way or another. Yet even after conversion to Islam, the Ilkhanate remained a profoundly multi-religious society, both owing to the presence of substantial non-Muslim indigenous populations in areas such as Anatolia, and the Mongols’ tolerance of the presence of western missionaries in the Ilkhanate, in particular the archbishopric of Sultaniyya.


For the activities of these missionaries we are normally reliant entirely on the evidence of Latin sources, but the current paper tries to offer a new perspective by examining two Bible translations or arrangements into Persian that can be proved to have originated in this milieu, currently held in manuscript collections in Istanbul. They offer new insights both as to the role of local Christians in supporting the missionaries’ conversion efforts, and into the transmission of the Bible in Persian.

Andrew Peacock is a Professor at the University of St. Andrews.

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Top Image: Torat Mosheh, the earliest dated Judeo-Persian translation of the Pentateuch. Iran, 1319 (BL Or.5446, ff. 102-3)