Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Martyrdom of Lacaron (clavis coptica 0284; BHO 559)

Dr. Anthony Alcock’s latest translation is the Bohairic martyrdom of St. Lacaron, one of the Coptic soldier saints.

Download the translation HERE.

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Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Shenoute, De eis qui e monasterio discesserunt

Dr. Anthony Alcock’s latest translation from Coptic can be downloaded HERE.

I.1.b.707 recto Shenoute- De eis qui e monasterio discesserunt

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Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Apophthegmata Patrum (Part 4)

Download the document HERE.


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


Deadline: March 10

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

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Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – The Prayer of Athanasius

You can download the document HERE.

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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.

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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.

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