Aquila and his Islamic doppelganger translate Hebrew scripture

By Douglas Galbi, the author of purple motes

Group identity interacts closely with the form and content of communication.  Consider Aquila, a Greek-speaking Roman from Pontus.  He probably was a relative of the second-century Roman Emperor Hadrian.  A Jewish biblical interpretive text (midrash) transmits a dialogue between Aquila and Hadrian:

Aquila once said to Hadrian the King: I wish to convert and become a Jew.

Hadrian said:  Do you really want to join this people?  How much have I humiliated it!  How many of them I have killed!  You would get mixed up with the very lowest of nations?  What do you see in them that makes you wish to become a proselyte?

Aquila said:  The least among them knows how the Holy One created the world, what was created on the first day and what was created on the second day, how long it is since the world was created and on what the world is founded.  Besides, their Torah is the truth.

Hadrian said:  Go and study their Torah, but do not be circumcised. [1]

Aquila learned Hebrew, studied the Torah, and got circumcised.  He became a proselyte to Judaism and conversed with leading Jewish sages……

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