Open Position: directeur d’études “Gnose et manichéisme,” EPHE (section Sciences religieuses)


Deadline: March 10

Details HERE (scroll down, DE n° 5184).

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

Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – The Prayer of Athanasius

You can download the document HERE.

Posted in Athanasius of Alexandria, Guest Post | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Note on the Word “Scriptorium” in Coptic Sources

If you are not yet familiar with Carrie Schroeder and Amir Zeldes’ “Coptic Scriptorium” you should visit the new website of this important Coptological project. The platform has recently received a lovely new design.

10615448_10152536511511621_8951231104159969868_nAs you can see in the photo above, the header of the website contains on the right-hand side the title of the project, “Coptic Scriptorium,” while on the opposite side features what is supposed to be the Coptic Sahidic word for “scriptorium,” PMA NTMNTSHAI. While this syntagm is grammatically correct, it has one problem: it is not attested in any original Coptic document. But did Coptic have a word or formula to designate the place within the monastery where the manuscripts were copied by the scribes? Crum does not mention such a term in his dictionary and I am not aware of any other study that would tackle the problem. However, I think there are at least two possible occurrences of some such syntagm in Coptic documents. As the sources are rather meager, the question deserves to be addressed here.

Until recently, I did not find the problem very relevant. I thought that the existence of Coptic monastic scriptoria is self-evident and I did not try to find out how the Copts actually called the place where the professional copyists produced books. However, some months ago I received a message from a Jerusalem-based colleague, who works on monastic scriptoria in late antique and early medieval eastern Mediterranean area. I understood that she intends to argue in a paper that there is no evidence whatsoever in Coptic, Syriac and Greek sources that ancient monasteries dedicated a special place for the manufacture of manuscripts. The codices were rather inscribed by monks in their private cells. Therefore, she found it interesting that in one of my articles I referred to a colophon of a Sahidic manuscript that would mention a scriptorium.

I confess that, although I was initially puzzled by the hypothesis that ancient monasteries did not have scriptoria, I began to pay more attention to it when I realized that the evidence is indeed poor. This does not mean, however, that I agree with my colleague. I do not know if scriptoria are mentioned in Greek and Syriac sources, but I am confident that the colophons of at least two Sahidic codices from the Monastery of Shenoute seem to contain references to such a place. Both of them are available in Arnold van Lantschoot, Recueil des colophons des manuscrits chrétiens d’Égypte, Bibliothèque du Muséon 1, Louvain 1929. Here they are:

  • Van Lantschoot, Colophons, 127-131 (= no. LXXVII). This colophon has survived on two fragments in the National Library in Paris, BnF Copte 1317, f. 35v and BnF Copte 1321, f. 66. The scribe of the manuscript was a certain Raphael, who says that he completed the transcription on Paone 12, 807 Diocletian Era, 486 Era of the Saracens (= June 6, 1091 CE), “while my brother, the deacon Matthew, was with me in the scriptorium” (TBIBLIOTHYKE [sic!] NTMNTGRAPHEUS), literally, “library of copyist-ship.” While it is true that the meaning of the phrase is not immediately obvious, I think we can be quite confident that Raphael refers to the place where the professional scribes carried their work.
  • Van Lantschoot, Colophons, 153-155 (= no. XCI). This is the colophon of IFAO 1 (CMCL siglum, MONB.XH), a White Monastery manuscript containing works of Shenoute. It can tentatively be dated on paleographical grounds to the late seventh-early eighth centuries CE. The scribe mentions that the transcription was completed while Apa Peter was in charge of “the house of the scribes” (PHI NNGALIOGRAPHOS [sic!]).

Now, I imagine that “the house of the scribes” designates, in a way or another, the scriptorium. We know that, just like in the Pachomian monasteries, the monks of the White Monastery were organized according to their crafts in separate houses led by a housemaster, in which they lived and probably also exercised their skills. The colophon of MONB.XH is of special importance as it supplies evidence that the scribes of the Monastery of Shenoute had their own house. In conclusion, “the house of the scribes” which features in the colophon of IFAO 1 designates the place where the scribes lived and which in all likelihood served also as scriptorium.

To the best of my knowledge, these are the only attestations in Coptic documents of what seems to be a scriptorium. The fact that the same place is designated differently in the two colophons is probably due to the fact that they are separated chronologically by approximately 400 years.

From this point on we can only speculate. It is possible that the BIBLIOTHYKE NTMNTGRAPHEUS is a more appropriate denominator of the scriptorium, being that special room in the “house of the scribes” where the professional copyists worked and probably kept the books used as models for the newly inscribed manuscripts.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

International Summer School “The Coptic Bible and Coptic Literature in the Digital Age” (Göttingen/Hamburg, July 20 – August 1, 2015)

Egyptian Christianity has left a wealth of textual and non-textual sources which are of great interest to a number of stakeholder groups, Coptic scholars, biblical scholars and church historians, scholars of Late Antiquity, Egyptologists, scholars of Islam and last but not least, the members of the Coptic Orthodox Church itself. Unfortunately, due to historical circumstances, the literary heritage of Egyptian Christianity, including the Bible in Coptic, has been fragmented and is still today inadequately researched. However, the recent progress in Digital Humanities methods and tools has introduced a paradigm shift into the field. A number of new digital projects have sprung up internationally, dedicated to various areas of the Coptic heritage.

K 9075 RectoVerso MONB.JUThe Institute for Egyptology and Coptic Studies at the University of Göttingen and the Corpus of Coptic Literary Manuscripts (CMCL) at the Hiob-Ludolf-Institute for Ethiopian Studies, University of Hamburg, will be offering a two-week summer school “The Coptic Bible and Coptic Literature in the Digital Age”. The summer school will focus on cataloguing and editing Coptic manuscripts – Biblical and literary – using both traditional scholarly techniques and new methods in the Digital Humanities (DH).

The Summer School is associated with two major projects, the ”Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament“ in Göttingen and the “Corpus of Coptic Literary Manuscripts (CMCL)” in Hamburg, and will profit from the expertise of the staff members as well as that of international experts.

Main instructors in Göttingen:

Prof. Nathalie Bosson (Coptic Bible, textual criticism)

Prof. Heike Behlmer (Coptic language, reception history of the Bible)

Dr. Frank Feder (Coptic Bible, textual criticism)

Prof. Ulrich B. Schmid (DH), Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities Staff

Main instructors in Hamburg:

Prof. Paola Buzi (Coptic manuscript studies, DH)

Prof. Tito Orlandi (Coptic literature, DH)

Dr. Alin Suciu (Coptic manuscript studies, Coptic literature)

The programme will include study visits to the Göttingen Greek Septuagint Project, the Coptic-Orthodox Monastery at Höxter (near Göttingen) and the Hamburg State and University Library.

The summer school is open to graduate students (B.A. completed), doctoral students and postdocs in the areas of Coptic Studies and Biblical Studies as well as Oriental Christianities, Church History, Egyptology, DH/Historical Linguistics and related fields. Previous knowledge of Coptic is desirable, however, Coptic language instruction will be offered during the entire summer school at both beginning/intermediate and advanced levels.

There are no tuition fees. Financial aid is available. Amounts will be depending on the outcome of a current funding application and will be announced as soon as possible.

Please direct your applications (cover letter, CV) by February 28, 2015 to: Dr Alin Suciu asuciu at uni-goettingen dot de. He will be happy to answer any questions you may have prior to this date.

Posted in Announcements, Bible | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – English Translation of the Coptic Sahidic version of the Apophthegmata Patrum

Here is Anthony Alcock’s English translation of the Coptic Sahidic version of the Apophthegmata Patrum. In 2008, I started to work for a Romanian edition of the Sahidic apophthegms. My edition together with the Greek and Latin parallels can be found here.

Dr. Alcock translated the text published by Marius Chaîne, Le manuscrit de la version copte en dialecte sahidique des “Apophthegmata Patrum” (Bibliothèque d’études coptes 6; Cairo: Imprimerie de l’IFAO, 1960). Chaîne edited and translated into French the apophthegms found in a 10th century fragmentary Sahidic manuscript from the Monastery of Apa Shenoute, Sohag.

Other leaves of the same parchment codex were published later in Alla Elanskaya, The Literary Coptic Manuscripts in the A. S. Pushkin State Fine Arts Museum in Moscow (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 18; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994). There is an additional fragment of this manuscript identified by Enzo Lucchesi in his article “Un petit complément au manuscrit de la version copte en dialecte sahidique des ‘Apophthegmata Patrum’, in U. Zanetti, E. Lucchesi (eds.), Aegyptus Christiana. Mélanges d’hagiographie égyptienne et orientale dédiés à la mémoire du P. Paul Devos Bollandiste (Cahiers d’orientalisme, 25; Geneva: P. Cramer, 2004) 163-164. I identified an unpublished fragment of the same codex of the apophthegms, which is kept in Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.

K 321 B Verso MONB.EG Apophthegmata PatrumFragments of another Sahidic codex of the Apophthegmata Patrum were published by Paul E. Kahle in his Bala’izah. Coptic Texts from Deir el-Bala’izah in Upper Egypt (London: Oxford University Press, 1954) vol. 1: 416-423. This is a papyrus manuscript which must be considerably older than the parchment codex from the Monastery of Shenoute.

Finally, I identified a fragment from a third manuscript of the apophthegms in Sahidic on this blog. This is University of Pennsylvania Museum, E 16395, a single parchment fragment written on two columns.

It would be nice to see all these fragments pieces together in a new edition of the Sahidic Apophthegmata Patrum.

Alin Suciu

Dr. Alcock’s translation:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Posted in Apophthegmata Patrum, Guest Post | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Positions Available in the Project “Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic-Sahidic Old Testament” (Göttingen Academy of Sciences)

Akademie Göttingen

The new project “Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic-Sahidic Old Testament” at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences has two positions available. Please find the advertisement (closing date: January 20, 2015) here: (German) (English)

You must click on the link which appears in the right-hand column.

Fg.IsaïeSohagcouvblancBelow is the description of the job in English:

 The Göttingen Academy of Sciences has two job openings for the long-term project

Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic-Sahidic Old Testament

These are two-year fixed term positions starting at the earliest possible date on or after February 1, 2015. An extension of the contract beyond the initial two-year term may be available. The project (planned completion date: December 31, 2036) is based in Göttingen. Both positions can be filled either full-time (100%) or part-time (50%) on the public service scale TV-L E 13. For a full-time appointment a completed Ph.D. is required.

The appointees will be responsible for the following tasks:

  • Collection and catalogisation of Coptic manuscripts of the Old Testament in an online database
  • Transcription and analysis of the manuscript texts to create a digital edition
  • Comparison and analysis of the textual tradition for the production of a critical edition of the individual books of the Coptic Old Testament
  • Translation of the Coptic text of the edition into English or German

Requirements are specifically:

  • Ph.D. or M.A. (or equivalent) in the areas of Coptic Studies, Theology/Religious Studies, Egyptology, Christian Oriental Studies, Byzantine Studies or related fields. Opportunities for training and the pursuit of further academic qualifications (e.g. a Ph.D.) are available.
  • A solid knowledge of Coptic language and literature and of the history and culture of Christian Egypt. Additional expertise and experience – especially in the areas of Philology/Editions and Manuscript Studies, Digital Humanities (digital editions, data analysis and visualisation), Corpus Linguistics, Biblical Studies / Religious Studies / Theology / Church History, Christian Near Eastern and Byzantine Studies, Arabic and Islamic Studies – are particularly welcome.

Candidates are expected to have:

  • Willingness and ability to quickly familiarise themselves with the textual culture and history of the Coptic Old Testament
  • Familiarity with modern databases and online research and the willingness and ability to be trained in the use of a variety of Digital Humanities tools and methods
  • Language skills (other than Coptic) in Ancient Greek and modern foreign languages (relevant for the project are a reading knowledge of German and French). Other language skills, in particular in Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Syriac or Ethiopic (Ge’ez), are helpful.
  • Excellent time management and good teamwork skills

The Göttingen Academy of Sciences is an equal opportunity employer. In case of identical qualifications applicants with disabilities will be considered on a preferential basis. A shared appointment will be considered.

Closing date: January 20, 2015

Please send your application (cover letter, CV, copies of relevant diplomas, publication list, if applicable) – in electronic form – to:

Institute for Egyptology and Coptic Studies, University of Göttingen (

Professor Heike Behlmer ( is available to answer any enquiries about the project.

Posted in Announcements, Bible, Old Testament | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Panel on Early Christian Literature Preserved in Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez)

conference2015I got the following announcement from Timothy B. Sailors.

As part of the 19th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, to be held from 24-28 August, 2015, at the University of Warsaw, Poland, a panel on ‘Early Christian Literature Preserved in Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez)’ is being organized by Timothy B. Sailors (Tübingen).

The description of the panel from the call for papers is as follows:

One of the more important sources for the study of early Christian literature are the versions of these writings preserved in Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez). This panel will provide the opportunity to focus upon the all too often under-appreciated Ge’ez versions of these works of literature originally composed in the first several Christian centuries. These include books that would come to be part of the Christian Bible, writings categorized among the so-called ‘Apostolic Fathers’ or ‘Apologists’ or ‘Church Fathers’ and so-called early Christian ‘Apocrypha’, consisting, for example, of apocalypses, acts of apostles and testaments. Moreover, many of the ancient church orders from this era are importantly preserved in Ge’ez versions, as are other writings of a monastic, didactic or legendary nature.

Some writings from this period are preserved exclusively in Ge’ez, while others are also extant – at least in part – in Greek or in other ancient translations or versions, and papers offered for this panel may examine the relation of the Ge’ez to these other witnesses.

Proposals are welcome too for contributions that investigate the historical, religious and cultural settings in which the Ge’ez versions of this literature were produced, transmitted and preserved. Papers may also give attention to the material evidence for these processes by examining codicological or palaeographical aspects of the manuscripts that contain this literature, or by considering extracts from these works in florilegia in Ge’ez. Of interest too might be the immediate literary context within the manuscript tradition, i.e., with which other writings is a work transmitted or combined? Panellists may also ask whether the content of the Ge’ez version itself presents any specific or unique philological, literary, historical or theological features to which one’s attention should be drawn.

The call for papers has been extended and is open until 15 December 2014. Paper proposals must be submitted via the official conference website.

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