The Iberian Christians under Muslim rule in Spain (dubbed 'Mozarabs') had different views and approaches regarding their overlords and the culture they brought. Some converted to Islam publicly. Others did not convert (or perhaps converted secretly) but worked with the Muslim authorities anyway while learning the Arabic language and taking on aspects of Arabic culture. Hence, we can say that both of these groups fulfilled the actual meaning of the term Mozarab: one who assimilates into/adopts Arabic language and culture. In contrast, the writings of Álvaro of Córdoba, a ninth century writer and poet, reflect a hardline Iberian Christian rejectionist position towards integration into the culture of the Muslim rulers. Álvaro was a staunch advocate of maintaining a separate Iberian Christian identity and upholding Latin as the high language of Iberian Christian society and culture. Thus, Álvaro's disposition was the opposite of a Mozarab in the actual meaning of the term, even as we conventionally call him a Mozarab writer since he was an Iberian Christian living under Muslim rule in Spain.
Given his position, Álvaro was unsurprisingly a strong opponent of Islam and conversion to the faith, considering it to be a dangerous heresy. Among Álvaro's preserved writings are letters he exchanged with certain people. Two of the letters feature a correspondence with an abbot called Speraindeus. In this post I feature the letter Álvaro wrote to Speraindeus (also transcribed in the form 'Speraindeo'). The letter, in short, is a request for Speraindeus to provide assistance in refuting the heretical assertions of Islam, such as the denial of the Trinity and the claim that Jesus was only human. Álvaro warns that the heresy is 'lacerating the church of God,' illustrating his alarm at conversions to Islam among the Iberian Christian population.
I have translated the letter below from the original Latin, with my endnotes and comments to provide context where necessary and illuminate on any points of interest.
The letter of Albarus[i] directed to Speraindeus the abbot
To the most delightful master and father in Christ the abbot Speraindeus, from the client Albarus.
The all-knowing and omnipotent God, amid[ii] these[iii] times into which we have come and hunger for the word of God that we are suffering from, has placed you[iv] for us with strong support[v] in order to break[vi] our fasting and mend our hearts with the feast of nourishment. But although I now know that you have been preoccupied with tribulations[vii] and[viii] oppressed with troubles, I beseech that you take up[ix] an apostolic dictum as an address of consolation.[x] For he says of the tribulations' perils he sustained: 'Perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in false brothers.'[xi] And after this he said in another place: 'We pride ourselves in the tribulations, knowing that the tribulation begets endurance, and endurance good character, and good character hope. But hope does not confound us.'[xii] And so, venerable father and best holy man[xiii] of all priests, do not refrain from the request on account of the crises of tribulations, but bestow what is sought to your client, for the favour is increased from there by giving and diminished by refusal. Indeed Moyses the lawgiver instructed me, as his speech was intoning: 'Ask your father and he will tell you; your elders, and they will explain to you.'[xiv] And as I consider you a spiritual father, so I seek to get spiritual help, especially as that heresy, which my[xv] ignorance introduced to you a long time ago, is lacerating the church of God and through deadly assertion drags[xvi] the crowd behind it to death, for according to the word of the apostle: 'The word of the heretics creeps up as a canker'[xvii] on the hearts of the humble, especially as the 'poison of snakes is under their lips.'[xviii] For this reason we urgently demand your help and props of support, so that the obscure and wicked power of the heresies may perish by divine inspiration and the clearest dogma[xix] of the bride of Christ[xx] may shine forth glowing through you. Indeed their points of opposition are those which have already been intimated to you by me.
But the very worst of these things, which should be cut by the blade of the truth, is the fact that they do not believe that God is three in Oneness[xxi] and one[xxii] in the Trinity, they deny the words of the prophets and they reject[xxiii] the dogma of the doctors.[xxiv] They say that they uphold the Gospel,[xxv] and that which has been written: 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'[xxvi]- certainly they misinterpret.[xxvii] They assert that Christ- God and[xxviii] Our Lord- was only human because of that which they read about him in the Gospel: 'But concerning that day and hour no one knows- neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son- except the Father alone.'[xxix] I demand with all pressure that the anile points of these heathens[...],[xxx] because they beget the fatal errors of those listening, of course for these people who are unskilled[xxxi] and cannot brandish the texts of the holy scripture. May you adorn further these two responses, as you have been accustomed to do in other matters, with the ornaments of scriptures and may you promulgate a suitable[xxxii] response for every talking point of the assertor, which we have brought forth to you. Thus may you receive with the saints in the eternal kingdoms a shining abode from the Lord. Amen.
[i] Owing to the b/v blurring that emerged, Álvaro's name appears as Albarus in the Latin.
[ii] The original Latin reads: hec in qua devenimus tempora et esuriem Verbi Dei quam patimur. This appears to be an accusative absolute phrase.
[iv] vos, the second person plural form, although the letter is addressed to one person (Speraindeus). The use of the plural form here indicates a mark of respect.
[v] Latin here: destina (first declension noun), a late word.
[vi] Latin here: civaret, for standard cibaret.
[vii] Note the spelling of tribulatjonibus for standard tribulationibus. The –io- and –ia- combinations are rendered in this text as –jo- and –ja- respectively.
[viii] Latin here: vel, which ordinarily had the meaning of 'or' but acquired the force of 'and' in later Latin writings. Compare with the Mozarabic Chronicle and the Anonymus Valesianus II as other examples.
[ix] Latin here: adsummatis, for standard assumatis.
[x] The full sentence: queso ut apostolicum dictum pro consolatjonis adsummatis eloquium. 'pro' (which takes the ablative in classical Latin) appears to be used with the accusative here. That is, 'pro consolatjonis eloquium'. The use of 'pro' with the accusative occurs elsewhere in late Latin.
[xi] 2 Corinthians 11:26.
[xii] Romans 5:3-5.
[xiii] Alternative reading for sacer here: sacerdos ('priest'). In that regard, the address would be to Speraindeus as the best priest of all priests.
[xiv] Deuteronomy 32:7.
[xv] The reading here could be 'mea' ('my') or 'ea' ('that'). I believe Álvaro's point here is that he had informed Speraindeus of the heresy of Islam a long time ago in prior correspondence but he has not had the means to refute it effectively until now.
[xvi] Latin here: trayt, for standard trahit.
[xvii] 2 Timothy 2:17.
[xviii] Psalm 140:3.
[xix] Latin docma, for standard dogma.
[xx] i.e. the Church.
[xxi] Latin here: hunitate, for standard unitate. The insertion of h where it should not be and removal of h where it should be is a common feature of the Latin literature of this era.
[xxii] Latin here: hunum for standard unum.
[xxiii] Latin here: reyciunt for reiciunt.
[xxiv] The doctors (teachers) of the Church.
[xxv] Islamic doctrine asserts that the Gospel is one of the revealed books of God, and that the Qur'an confirms and upholds the true message of the Gospel.
[xxvi] John 20:17.
[xxvii] Álvaro's point here is that the Muslims use John 20:17 to refute the Christian understanding of Jesus as God and the son of God. Here we have a hint of the nature of Muslim-Christian debates in Iberia at the time and the use of scripture to make polemical points.
[xxviii] Latin here: hac for standard ac. See also the notes on hunitate and hunum.
[xxix] Matthew 24:36.
[xxx] A gap in the original text here, though the sense is clear that Álvaro is asking Speraindeus to refute the errors of the Muslims.
[xxxi] The expected Latin form here would be inperiti (i.e. nominative plural instead of accusative plural). Is this an original grammatical error on the part of the author or an error in transmission?
[xxxii] Latin here: abtam for standard aptam.