Christian Askeland Finds the “Smoking Gun”

Over at Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, Christian Askeland writes that photos of the Gospel of John fragment, allegedly purchased together with the Gospel of Jesus Wife papyrus, are available here (click on “read the full report”)

Christian remarks that

The shocker here is this.  The fragment contains exactly the same hand, exactly the same ink and has been written with the same writing instrument.  One would assume that it were part of the same writing event, be it modern or ancient. … Actually, if you are a Coptic nerd, there apparently is a bigger shocker…  The text is in Lycopolitan and apparently is a(n exact?) reproduction from the famous Cambridge Qau codex, edited by Herbert Thompson.  What is so shocking about that?  Essentially all specialists believe that Lycopolitan and the other minor dialects died out during or before the sixth century.  Indeed, the forger tried to offer two manuscripts both in Lycopolitan, but made two crucial mistakes.  First, the NHC gospel of Thomas is not a pure Lycopolitan text, but the Qau codex is.  That is we have two clearly different subdialect of Lycopolitan, which agree exactly with published texts.  Second, this GJohn fragment has been 14C dated to the seventh to ninth centuries, a period from which Lycopolitan is totally unknown.

I analyzed myself the parallel with Thompson’s edition of the Gospel of John in the Lycopolitan dialect of Coptic and the result can be seen in the photo below.

Untitled-11It is obvious that the modern forger (now we can confidently use this word) copied from Thompson’s edition, folowing the same line division. Congratulations to Christian for finally finding the “smoking gun.” Although to many of us the forgery has always been obvious, now we can finally say ‘Case closed”!

P.S. I repeat here, just for the sake of clarity: genuine blank papyrus fragments have been purchased and used for these blatant forgeries.

Posted in Apocrypha | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gǝʿǝz version of Stephen of Thebes’ Sermo asceticus

My current projects include the editio princeps of the Gǝʿǝz version of Stephen of Thebes’ Sermo asceticus, which is preserved in an unicum, namely EMML 4493, ff. 103r-105r (dated 1528 CE). This author is one of the most mysterious Egyptian ascetical writers, because our sources seem to lack any biographical information about him. Although Stephen of Thebes remains shrouded in mystery, the numerous versions of his writings attest to the wide diffusion this ascetic writer once enjoyed.

The first who attempted a reconstruction of the ascetic corpus attributed to Stephen was Jean Darrouzès in 1961.[1] Darrouzès remarked that the Greek manuscripts attribute to Stephen three writings: the Sermo asceticus, a Diataxis and a series of brief monastic Entolai. It has already been remarked that the Diataxis is nothing else than a compilation from Logoi 3 and 4 of Abba Isaiah of Scetis.[2] For his part, William Veder pointed out that the Old Slavonic tradition does not feature the Sermo asceticus but, besides the Diataxis and the Entolai, attributes to Stephen a brief work titled On the All-Night Vigils (о бъдѣнхъ вьсенощьнꙑхъ).[3] A homily on penitence (incipit: قال اسمعوا ما اقول لكم يا اخوتى واولادى الاحبا الشعب المسيحى المحاضرين فى هذة البيعة المقدسة نصرانى يخالف وصايا اللة ويمشى فى طريق الشيطان ليس هو نصرانى) and another one on Daniel and Moses[4] are attributed to Stephen in Arabic.

Thus, the following works have been preserved in various languages under Stephen of Thebes’ name:

  1. Sermo asceticus (Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Gǝʿǝz, Georgian)
  2. Diataxis (Greek, Slavonic)
  3. Entolai (Greek, Slavonic)
  4. On the All-Night Vigils (Slavonic only)
  5. Sermon on Penitence (Arabic only)
  6. Sermon on Daniel and Moses (Arabic only)

Undoubtedly, the most important of these writings is the Sermo asceticus. Between 1964 and 1970, three versions of this text appeared. Thus, Jean-Marie Sauget published in 1964 the Arabic version.[5] Five years later, Édouard des Places edited the original Greek text of the Sermo asceticus.[6] Finally, Gérard Garitte edited the Georgian text of the same sermon in 1970.[7]

Portions of a fragmentary Sahidic version have been published by Tito Orlandi, but they have been wrongly attributed to Paul of Tamma.[8] Only later Enzo Lucchesi has identified correctly the text and attributed the fragments in question to their real author.[9]

There are other Coptic Sahidic fragments of this text. They will all be mentioned in my forthcoming article. Until then, here is an excerpt from the draft version of the edition and translation of the Gǝʿǝz version, which has previously been unknown.

If you don’t see properly the Ethiopic text, you probably must install THESE FONTS on your computer. Or, alternatively, you can download the text HERE as PDF.


Stephanus Thebanus, Sermo asceticus – versio aethiopica

በስመ፡ አበ፡ ወወልድ፡ ወመንፈስ፡ ቅዱስ፡ ፩አምላክ። ንወጥን፡ በረድኤተ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ወንጽሕፍ፡ ሐዳጠ፡ እመብዙኅ፡ እምቃለተ፡ አቡነ፡ ብዙ.፡ እስጢፋኖስ፡ ዘሀገረ፡ ተባይሲ፡ በእንተ፡ ሥርዓተ፡ ምንኵስና፡ ወመድኀኒተ፡ ነፍስ፡ ዶሠቲ፡ ወበረካቲ፡ ተሀሉ፡ ምስለ፡ ገብሩ፡ ለዓለመ፡ ዓለም፡ አሜን።

In the name of the Father, athe Son and the Holy Spirit, one God. We begin through the help of the Lord to write the words of Father Éstifanos of the Land of Täbaysi on the order of the monastic life. May the Redeemer of the soul be with his servant forever and ever, amen.

1. ወይእዘኒ፡ ወልድየ፡ መቅድመ፡ ኵሉ፡ ግብር፡ ክሐድ፡ ዓለመ፡ ወርሐቅ፡ እምሀግርከ፡ ወእምኣዝማዲከ፡ ወእምነ፡ ኵሉ፡ ግብር፡ ዘይመጽእ፡ ላዕሌከ፡ ትካዘ፡ ዝንቱ፡ ዓለም፡ ከመ፡ ትርእይ፡ ግብረ፡ ዘኅቡእ።

Now, my son, above all matters, renounce the world and stay away from your homeland and relatives (Gen 12:1), and from all matters that will come upon you, the troubles of this world, in order to see the hidden things.

2. ወቅላእ፡ ግላ፡ እምልብከ፡ ወርሐቅ፡ እምተዐውር፡ ወርስዓት፡ ከመ፡ ትርእይ፡ ዝኢየስተርኢ፡ ኩን።

Remove the veil from your heart, and stay away from negligence and godlessness in order to see the invisible (2. Cor 3:12-18).

3. ዓቃቢሃ፡ ለልብከ፡ ከመ፡ ታእመር፡ ዘየኀድር፡ ውስቴትከ፡ እስመ፡ ዐቂበ፡ ልብሰ፡ ለፍጹማን፡ ይእቲ፡ እለ፡ ይፈልጡ፡ እኩየ፡ እምነ፡ ሠናይ።

Continue reading

Posted in Patristics, Stephen of Thebes | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Shenoute, De bonis et malis operibus

Download the document HERE.

Posted in Guest Post, Shenoute of Atripe | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Coptic Faces

Over at Manuscripts and Microfilm blog, I’ve read a nice post about a Greek manuscript in Istanbul (Patriarchate Library, Panagia Kamariotissa, ms. 5 – 10th century; contains homilies of John Chrysostom), in which the blogger “found a delightful illustrated note left by a monk called Ignatios from the early 17th century.”

Then follows the photos of the illustrated note. The author remarks:

“The best thing about Ignatios’ note is probably the accompanying portrait in which a bearded man (a monk, likely) stretches out his left hand at the text. Ignatios (or perhaps someone else) did two little test drawings of a face and a hand. I think it’s not unfair to say that the faces turned out a little better than the hands. :)

You should definitely check out the portrait made by this 17th century Greek maestro. It’s truly a masterpiece. But other grandi maestri preceded Ignatios by many hundreds of years (600 or 700). Below are only two examples which I found in Coptic (Sahidic) manuscripts. I admit, the choices are purely personal.

f7.highresI read on the web many conspiratorial theories according to which Coptic manuscripts speak about the existence of UFOs. Above is the evidence that these theories are correct.

I.1.b.655 verso Lantschoot no. LVIII

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Radiocarbon Dating of Codex Glazier

During a recent meeting, Stephen Emmel drew my attention to an article published by John Lawrence Sharpe in the proceedings of the International Conference on Conservation and Restoration of Archive and Library Materials, Erice, April 22nd-29th 1996.[1]


In his paper, Sharpe studied the binding of certain Coptic codices. However, what is interesting is that he managed to convince William M. Voelkle, curator and head of the Department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, to accept the radiocarbon testing of a piece from the binding of the Glazier Codex (Acts 1:1-15:3 in the Middle-Egyptian dialect of Coptic). As far as I am aware, the results of the testing have passed unnoticed by Coptologists and scholars interested in biblical manuscripts. Here is the passage in which Sharpe explains the experiment:

“In consultation with W. Voelkle of the Pierpont Morgan Library, a piece of the wrapping band of Morgan G.67 approximately 17mm.2 and .25mm thick was selected for analysis. A piece of the wrapping band was chosen because of all the possible replacements, the most likely would have been the leather of the bands – those elements which would be represented by those pieces which are least likely to have been replaced. So the terminus post quam for the latest binding would be represented by those pieces which are least likely to have survived and most likely to have been replaced. So on the 18th of April 1994, a piece of the leather wrapping band was sent to the Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule in Zürich (Institute of Partial Physics) for analysis for the AMS 14C dating. On the 19th of May 1994, the report for the piece of leather was returned from Dr. Georges Bonani with the following report: from Lab. No. ETH-12270, a sample of leather produced the AMS 14C Age [y BP] of 1’565 ± 45 with the results of δ13C[o/oo] of – 23.6 ± 1.1 with the calibrated Age [BC/AD] of AD 420-598 […]” (p. 383 n. 13)

Of course, all one can sensibly say after the radiocarbon testing is that the latest possible date for codex Glazier’s binding is 598 CE. However, as the manuscript is in a very good state of preservation, I find unlikely that the binding has ever needed to be replaced. Being the case that Codex Glazier is similar, especially in terms of format, to certain manuscripts from the Monastery of Apa Jeremias at Saqqara (which can be dated ca. 600 CE), I would opt for a late 6th century dating.

[1] J.L. Sharpe, “The Earliest Bindings with Wooden Board Covers: The Coptic Contribution to Binding Construction.” In: Erice 96, International Conference on Conservation and Restoration of Archive and Library Materials, Erice (Italy), CCSEM, 22nd-29th April 1996: Pre-prints, edited by Piero Colaizzi and Daniela Costanini, 2:381-400. 2 vols. Rome: Istituto centrale per la patologia del libro 1996.

Posted in Bible, New Testament | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Apocryphization”: Theological Debates in Biblical Disguise. 8 May, 2014, King’s College London

On May 8, 2014, I will attend a workshop organized by Peter Toth and Ioannis Papadogiannakis at King’s College, London. Here is the announcement.

“Apocryphization”: Theological Debates in Biblical Disguise

8 May, 2014, King’s College London 

This workshop focuses on a hitherto under-studied form of Christian erotapokritic literature which, keeping the format of alternating questions and answers, shifts the scene from the context of a historical event or a school discussion into a biblical scenario with biblical discussants. We aim to explore the origins and techniques of this literary phenomenon by analyzing the doctrinal stance of the various pseudo-biblical scenes in order to understand why and how they expand the original narratives and create new, “apocryphal” scenes and motifs. It is the purpose of the workshop to get closer not only to outlining the rationale in the background of these dialogues, but also to understand the origin of the very concept of “apocryphicity” too.

Confirmed Speakers 

Sebastian Brock (University of Oxford) Averil Cameron (University of Oxford) Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann (University of Zürich) Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe (King’s College, London) Yannis Papadogiannakis (King’s College, London) Alin Suciu (University of Hamburg) Peter Toth (King’s College, London)

Organisers: Peter Toth ( and Ioannis Papadogiannakis (
The workshop is free and open to all. However, due to a limited number of places, registration is required. register by sending an email to Peter Toth: For more information on the programme and the practicalities, visit our website.
Download the flyer of the workshop HERE.
Posted in Announcements, Apocrypha | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Letters of Shenoute

The following is a translation of letters 1-13 in J.Leipoldt (ed.) Sinuthii archimandritae vita et opera omnia CSCO 2nd series IV (1931). A Latin translation was made by Hans Wiesmann in the same series and also published in 1931. A notice about Leipoldt’s publication of Shenoute texts can now be found in S. Emmel Shenoute’s Literary Corpus (2004) pp. 914-923 (abbreviated here to SLC). Like many of the texts edited by Leipoldt the Coptic text has no title, and this has been supplied by the editor. I have left the terms hêgemôn, dux, comes (leading civil and/or military officials) and scholastici (bureaucrats) untranslated. The several people mentioned in the texts bearing these titles seem to be unknown from sources other than Shenoute’s texts.



Posted in Guest Post, Shenoute of Atripe | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment