A Lost Coptic Fragment from a Sermon on Penitence by Severian of Gabala (CPG 4186)

In a recent post, I identified a series of papyrus fragments from the Coptic version of the Asceticon of Abba Isaiah. The fragments formerly belonged to the library of the University of Louvain, but they disappeared forever in a fire which destroyed the library during the bombings in WW2. Luckily, all the Louvain fragments were published by Louis Théophile Lefort shortly before their physical disappearance. The Belgian Coptologist in this way granted us access to documents which today are lost.

Here I should like to introduce another of the papyrus fragments in Louvain, which have remained unidentified until now.

Under no. 48, Lefort published an unidentified papyrus fragment which he tentatively dated to the 6th or 7th century.[1] In fact, the text can be identified as a portion from a homily on penitence by Severian of Gabala (CPG 4186). Like all the other sermons of Severian, the Greek manuscript tradition transmitted this text under the name of John Chrysostom. It is thus no wonder that the homily can be found in different modern editions of Golden Mouth’s works. For example, in Montfaucon’s edition, which was taken over by Migne in his Patrologia Graeca, the text was printed as the seventh homily on penitence by John Chrysostom (cf. PG 49, coll. 323-336).

However, the attribution of this sermon to Severian was defended on good grounds by Charles Martin.[2] He pointed out that some Patristic catenae are quoting the text under the name of its real author: Severian of Gabala. Besides, it should be remarked that the style of the document does not conform to that of John Chrysostom, but rather contains many features proper to Severian.

The Coptic text published by Lefort corresponds literally to Migne PG 49, col. 325, lines 15-25. However, as the pagination of the Louvain fragment is lost and Lefort was not able to identify its content, he mixed up the recto/verso faces.

Here is Lefort’s edition of the Coptic and the parallel text extracted from Migne’s Patrologia Graeca vol. 49, col. 325:


[1] L. Th. Lefort, Les manuscrits coptes de l’Université de Louvain 1: Textes littéraires (Louvain: Bibliothèque de l’Université, 1940) 134-135.

[2] Ch. Martin, “Une homélie De Poenitentia de Sévérien de Gabala,” Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 26 (1930) 331-343.

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About Alin Suciu

I am a researcher at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. I write mostly on Coptic literature, Patristics, and apocryphal texts.
This entry was posted in John Chrysostom, Patristics, Severian of Gabala and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Lost Coptic Fragment from a Sermon on Penitence by Severian of Gabala (CPG 4186)

  1. rpearse says:

    Excellent! And well-spotted. What a pity that Severian’s works do not exist in English!

  2. Pingback: An Old Testament Pseudepigraphon in Coptic: Yet Another Manuscript from the Sahidic Version of the Testament of Isaac | Alin Suciu

  3. Pingback: A Coptic fragment of Severian of Gabala on Penitence via Alin Suciu at Roger Pearse

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