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Today, many Orthodox churches in the Middle East use Arabic as the language of the Divine Liturgy, often mingled with Greek. When did this practice begin?

I assume that at the time of the Muslim invasions the only liturgical languages in use were Greek and Syriac, and I can't imagine that the Orthodox Christians at that time were too keen on immediately adopting the language of the conquerors. Nonetheless, this clearly happened eventually. How and when did this shift occur?

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JSB! Welcome to Christianity Beta. Personal welcome from one of the EUL users. :) –  Phonics The Hedgehog Apr 24 '12 at 21:37
    
Welcome, and interesting question. I'll be interested in comparing answers on this to the Reformation a timeline of when the RC church started allowing some non-Latin liturgy. –  Caleb Apr 28 '12 at 16:35
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The Syriac Orthodox still use Syriac as a liturgical language, even when the congregants speak Arabic or Turkish as their native language. I believe that the end of Byzantine rule had a great impact on the adoption of Arabic amongst the Arab Greek Orthodox. I'm not sure how this influenced other groups, such as the Uniate Melkites or Maronites (who also use Syriac). –  SigueSigueBen May 4 '12 at 20:30
    
One note, unlike many other faiths, Christianity has historically had no anti-vulgar bias. Local languages work just fine! (indeed, the Vulgate proves the point. ). It may end up being that the answer is "Arabic was pretty much used all along. ). It's mostly the RCC that insisted on Latin. –  Yuletide Geek May 5 '12 at 20:10
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@AffableGeek There is a history of battles over language use in the Armenian Church, for example, so you can not limit bias to just Roman Catholicism. Incidentally, Catholics of the non-Roman tradition use tongues other than Latin as their liturgical language. –  SigueSigueBen May 7 '12 at 22:19

2 Answers 2

Different communities adopted Arabc at various times. The earliest community to start using Arabic were the Greek Orthodox of Palestine, who started translating the liturgy and theological books into Arabic in the 8th century. For a more general history of Arab Christianity, I'd consult The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque by Sidney Griffith. For evidence of possible pre-Islamic use of Arabic as a Christian liturgical language, browse through the series Byzantium and the Arabs by Irfan Shahid.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE! I'm glad to see this question getting even a sliver of attention from somebody with knowledge in the area; these are great pointers. If you run across more details please be sure to come back and edit them in! Hope to see you around. BTW, have you checked out our faq? –  Caleb Sep 11 '12 at 19:56

This article states that Arabic was adopted as a language of liturgy by the Coptic church gradually in the 12th century. I don't have access to the reference to check it. Nor can I say whether the Coptic church was typical, but since the claim is that it was by action of the Pope of Alexandria it might well have been a transition happening throughout the Easters Orthodox churches.

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