A friend John T has sent me the following in response to the whole 'Allah' debate
So where did the name Allah come from? Prior to the rise of Islam and for some time afterwards, Aramaic was widely used among Jews and Christians in the Ancient Near East and many Aramaic words were borrowed into Arabic. The usual term for God in Aramaic was Alâh(â). It is the term that Jesus would have used. It is used as the term for God in the books of Ezra and Daniel, in the Jewish translations of the Bible (the Targums), in the Talmud and in the Aramaic Bible used by many Middle-Eastern Christians today. When Judaism spread across Arabia, it brought many Aramaic names and terms, including Alâh(â). When Christianity followed, the Christians used Aramaic Scripture and liturgy in most of Arabia and Mesopotamia. As a result the Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians introduced many Aramaic words and names into Arabic. In a research paper entitled “Who was ‘Allah’ before Islam?”, I present evidence from pre-Islamic inscriptions and manuscripts to show that Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians were using Allah as the name of God in the centuries prior to the rise of Islam.
(This is being published by William Carey Library in Rethinking our Assumptions About Muslims.
A prepublication version is available.
It should be noted that Muslim scholars do not like to admit that the Arabic of the Qur’an has loanwords, and they suggest that the name Allah is derived from the expression al ’ilah, meaning “the God,” with the article of uniqueness. The word ’ilah is related to the Biblical Hebrew words ’eloh and ’elohim, meaning “God,” as well as to the Biblical Aramaic words elâh and alâhâ, so regardless of the derivation, the word is related to the Biblical terms for God. The prophet of Islam claimed to preach a continuation of the message of the Jewish prophets and the Messiah Jesus, so it stands to reason that he would use the same names that Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians were using. Evidence for this is found in the Qur’an itself. For example, it cites the claim of Christians that Jesus is Allah. This claim is rejected in the Qur’an, which says, “In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary” (Sura 5:17, Yusuf Ali translation). The very next verse in the Qur’an criticizes Jews and Christians for claiming that they are “sons of Allah” (Sura 5:18). So in addition to other historical evidence for the pre-Islamic use of Allah by Christians, the Qur’an itself reflects a situation in which Christians were already using Allah as the name of God.
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