Photographs of White Monastery Fragments on Gallica Website

It was a nice surprise to discover a few days ago that the National Library in Paris put up on the Gallica website photographs of some of the Sahidic parchment fragments in their possession. More precisely, they have uploaded until now good quality reproductions of BnF Copte 161(6), fol. 36-44. It’s not much yet but it’s a start.

I suspect that the fragments included in BnF Copte 161(6) were donated to the library in Paris by the papyrologist Seymour de Ricci. It appears that they came from the Monastery of Apa Shenoute (aka the White Monastery) in Upper Egypt.

As most of the fragment available at Gallica have not been identified until now, here are some hints that may be helpful:


fol. 36 = Life of Shenoute attributed to Besa (BHO 1074-1078; clavis coptica 0461). I identified this fragment in an article to be published in the Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum;


fol. 37 = Ps.-Theodosius of Alexandria, Homily on the Archangel Michael (CPG 7152; clavis coptica 0387);

fol. 38 = Ps.-Athanasius of Alexandria, Homily on the Archangel Michael (CPG 2191; clavis coptica 0048). This fragment was identified in F. Morard, “Les recueils coptes d’Actes apocryphes des apôtres. Un example: le codex R,” Augustinianum 23 (1983) 73-82, at 80 n. 13;


fol. 39 = sayings of the philosophers. Similar fragments in W. Till, “Griechische Philosophen bei den Kopten,” in MIFAO 67 (1934-1937) 165-175. This fragment came from a codex (MONB.BE) which contains sayings of the Greek philosophers and of the Fathers, but also homilies, letters, ascetic works etc.;

fol. 40 = New Testament. 2 Peter 1:19-2:6;


fol. 41 = It is not easy to decide if these fragments belong to the Encomium on Pisenthius by Moses of Keft (clavis coptica 0238) or to that of John the Presbyter on the same saint (clavis coptica 0187), because the largest fragment corresponds to both of them (the two encomia are parallel almost word for word at this point). However, my guess is that they came from the encomium of Moses of Keft. This text is fully preserved in a Bohairic manuscript in Vatican. In 2005, a Polish archaeological team discovered at Sheikh Abd el-Gurna in Western Thebes a codex which contains the Sahidic version of the text. The edition is prepared by Renate Dekker (Leiden University). If my guess concerning the identification of the fragments above is correct, I hope that Renate will integrate the Paris material in her edition.

The largest fragment parallels the Bohairic text of the encomium of Moses of Keft published in E. Revillout, “Vie de S. Pesunthius, évêque de Coptos,” Revue égyptologyque 10 (1902) 165-168, at 166b-167a, and also that of John the Presbyter published in E.A. Wallis Budge, Coptic Apocrypha in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1913) 75-126, at 79-80. Furthermore, an Arabic text on Pisenthius published by De Lacy O’Leary also contains the episode on the verso of the largest Sahidic fragment:

“And when the brother entered he asked a blessing from both of them, and he  drew back and was unable to look directly upon the face of Elias because of  the rays of light radiating from his countenance, for he shone like the lightning, as it is written, “The righteous shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father’.” Then the holy father Pisentius was angry with the brother saying: “This is not the good manners of monasticism and the ways of the brethren, to enter without permission” (transl. De Lacy O’Leary in Patrologia Orientalis 22 (1930) 341.

fol. 42 = Fragment of Proverbs 2:21-3:5 and scribal note. Subscription in Greek: “of the monastery of our holy Father Abba Shenoute the Archimandrite”;


fol. 43-44 = Liturgical fragments. Typika.


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 Bible, Encomium on Pisenthius, New Testament, Shenoute of Atripe and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Photographs of White Monastery Fragments on Gallica Website

  1. ascyltos says:

    Any comments regarding the funny face on fol. 42? Is it the scribe’s self-portrait?

  2. Diane says:

    Alin ~ a technical question, hypothetical if you prefer. I’m interested in mapping uses of the blank ‘paragraph space’ over time. What is the earliest occurrence of which you know in extant Coptic writings? Or to put it another way, what is the earliest date that the presence of a blank paragraph space would not surprise you? So far, for the Mediterranean world, the evidence seems to show dissemination from the region of the Dead Sea (c. 1stC AD), but first about the tenth century, in works of the Masoretic and especially Tiberian Masoretic tradition. Would you agree?

  3. Pingback: Photographs of White Monastery Fragments on Gallica Website | Fran B. ANAYA (Spanish Linguist/Translator) @Frantranslation

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