AL-AS‘AD IBN AL-‘ASSAL (?-before 1259)
A Biblical scholar, theologian, scholar of Coptic. Al-As‘ad Abu al-Faraj Hibatallah ibn al-‘Assal was probably the eldest of the Awlad al-‘Assal. He was married, a skilled scribe, an avid collector of books, and a frequent traveler to Damascus; he may well have been a civil servant in the Ayyubid administration. The only sure dates that we possess for him concern two of his compositions. An early work, The Treatise on the Soul, was written in 1231.
Al-As‘ad’s masterwork was composed two decades later, in 1252-1253: a new Arabic translation of the Gospels, made after collating the various Coptic and Arabic translations in use by the different Christian communities of his day (including Arabic translations made from Greek and from Syriac), and supplied with an apparatus reporting readings or translations different from his own.
The resulting text is elegant and much superior to the standard Arabic translation of the Gospels from Coptic (the so-called Egyptian Vulgate), but was never accepted into general use. Despite the fact that al-As‘ad’s translation of the Gospels continues to attract attention and admiration, no critical edition of it has yet been published.
Al-As‘ad’s bibliography contains a number of other works, including a Coptic grammar, a work on the epact calculation (for working out the date of Easter), and poetic summaries of inheritance and marriage laws. He also assisted the monk Da’ud (the future patriarch Cyril III) ibn Laqlaq and Bulus al-Bushi in the composition of their Book of Confession.