The incipit of Ps.-Theophilus of Alexandria’s Sermon on the Cross and the Good Thief on a Sahidic Paper Fragment from Ṭihnā al-Ǧabal

I returned from the 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies, which took place July 25-30 in Claremont, California, with many books and off-prints from colleagues and friends.

Among these, there is also a recent catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the collection of the Jesuits in Cairo, which I received from Mr. Nabil Farouk Fayez.[1] I have also contributed to this catalogue with the edition and translation of a late Sahidic monastic letter (no. 46), which I prepared together with Fr. Philippe Luisier from Rome.

The catalogue comprises mostly Bohairic and Arabic manuscripts, but there are also a few Sahidic among them. One item caught my eye in particular: under no. 41 (inventory number 520/4. Ms Copt. B 18), Fayez and Masson have described an incomplete Sahidic paper leaf from Ṭihnā al-Ǧabal, which they have tentatively dated to the 18th-19th centuries. I am not sure what arguments they had in mind, but this dating seems to me difficult to accept, as it is almost impossible to imagine that Copts still copied Sahidic manuscripts at such a late date. If I were to venture a guess, I would rather suggest a 12th or 13th century CE dating.

FullSizeRenderGiven that the annunciation is mentioned, the piece seems to be either a hymn to the Virgin Mary, or to the archangel Gabriel. As the text begins with a capital alpha, it may belong to an acrostic hymn. On the upper right margin of the recto, there is a brief scribal note which reads, “Apa Theophilus the Archbishop: The Sun of Justice.” One may recognize here the incipit of a sermon on the Cross and the Good Thief (CPG 2622; clavis coptica 0395), which has survived under the name of Theophilus of Alexandria. This patristic text is preserved exclusively in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic. I edited this version a few years ago according to the four manuscripts currently known in the journal Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum.[2] Here is the beginning of this work according to my translation: “The Sun of Justice has appeared from out of the Eastern places, lightening those who are in the darkness and the shadow of death.”

Although the length of the text is insignificant, I think this brief scribal note shows us that Ps.-Theophilus’s sermon on the Cross and the Thief circulated in Sahidic until very late.

[1] N.F. Fayez – J. Masson, S.J. “Catalogue des manuscrits coptes des Pères jésuites au Caire,” Bulletin de la Société de la Société d’archéologie copte 54 (2015) 59-150.

[2] A. Suciu, “Ps.-Theophili Alexandrini Sermo de Cruce et Latrone. Edition of Pierpont Morgan M595 with Parallels and Translation,” Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum – Journal of Ancient Christianity 16 (2012) 181-225.

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An Unusual Sahidic Lectionary Manuscript

Under the siglum sa 297L, Schmitz and Mink’s list of the Sahidic New Testament manuscripts mentions a number of fragments from a lectionary which belonged the Monastery of Shenoute, i.e. the White Monastery. Schüssler’s Biblia Coptica designates the same manuscript as 818L. Although the script has variously been dated to the 9th or 10th century, I would rather opt, on paleographical grounds, for a late-seventh, early-eighth century dating.

Here are the known fragments of this codex:

London, British Library, Or. 3578B, f. 21

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Copte 129(21), f. 5-8

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Copte 132(3), f. 180

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Copte 133(1), 51, 51a-b

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, K 9648

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, K 9673b

And a few random photos of some of the fragments (sorry for their bad quality):

220 no sigla9201 no sigla9045Although scholars have sometimes quoted this lectionary, I think no one has remarked until now that it represents something of an oddity: as far as I am aware, it is the only Sahidic manuscript which has three columns of text on a page.

There are Greek manuscripts written in three columns (Vaticanus) or even four (Sinaiticus). I know that this is typical also for Syriac, Armenian, and some Ethiopic manuscripts. However, sa 297L stands out as the only example of a Coptic manuscript with more than two columns per page.

I am not sure why the scribe decided to organize the page in this way. Does it have something to do with the exemplar he used? In any case, this is certainly something strange enough to be worth noting.

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The Vossen Collection of Coptic Manuscripts

On June 21, 2016, Tom Vossen, an ancient coins dealer based in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, sent me photographs of five Coptic manuscript fragments which are in his possession. Vossen said that he purchased the fragments ten years ago from a British coins dealer at a coin fair in Trier.

I introduce here the five Vossen fragments in order to make this collection known to a wider public. For future editors of Coptic texts it is good to know that these manuscripts exist.

Upon examination, it appeared that all five fragments, designated by their owner as m1-m5, are parchment. They are written in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, the literary language of Upper Egypt in the first Christian millennium. However, paleographical features suggest that all fragments came from manuscripts which were produced in the scriptorium of Touton, situated in Middle Egypt, in the Fayyum oasis.

There is no indication that these fragments belonged to the famous library of the Monastery of Shenoute, or the White Monastery, near Sohag, our most important source of Sahidic manuscripts. None of them connects paleographically and codicologically with any of the known manuscripts from the Monastery of Shenoute.

The fragments can be attributed to three different codices.

  1. m1-m2

m1a m1bm2a m2b

These two fragments belonged to the same manuscript. They feature an encomium on the martyr Theodore the General, attributed to Theodore of Antioch (clavis coptica 0381). This text was published according to a Bohairic manuscript in the Vatican by Eric Otto Winstedt,[1] and republished by Giuseppe Balestri and Henri Hyvernat in their collection of Coptic acts of the martyrs.[2]

A fragment kept today in the Vatican (Vat copt. 111, f. 119)[3] and several others which are in the Rijksmuseum in Leiden (F1976/4.5-8) belonged to the same codex as Vossen’s fragments. Interestingly, m1 attaches to one of the Leiden fragments.

299The Rijksmuseum in Leiden purchased the fragments in 1976 from the Dutch antiquity dealer Karl Johannes Möger. Were the Vossen fragments also handled at a certain point by Möger? We do not know.

2. m3

m3bm3aThis fragment is too small to allow identification, or at least I have not been able to do so.

2. m4-m5

m4a m4b m5a m5bThese two fragments, which belonged to the same manuscript, offer portions of an apocryphal text on the apostles (clavis coptica 0067), attributed to a fictitious author called Bachios of Maiuma, who is said to be a disciple of Cyril of Jerusalem. The text is known to survive in two other Sahidic manuscripts from the Monastery of Shenoute, both fragmentary (MONB.DH and another codex which has not received a CMCL siglum). The text has been published by Françoise Morard in a volume of essays dedicated to François Bovon.[4]

The Vossen fragment m5 reveals some different readings compared to the text edited by Morard. Furthermore, fragment m4 offers a completely new portion of the text, which does not have a parallel in the other two manuscripts.


[1] E.O. Winstedt, Coptic texts on Saint Theodore, the general, St. Theodore the Eastern, Chamoul and Justus, London, Williams & Norgate, 1910, pp. 1-72.

[2] G. Balestri and H. Hyvernat, Acta Martyrum vol. 2, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1924, pp. 90-156.

[3] N.B.: This is not one of the Borgia fragments from the Monastery of Shenoute, but it was integrated to the Vatican collection much later, in 1974; see. D. V. Proverbio, “Additamentum Sinuthianum. Nuovi frammenti dal Monastero Bianco in un codice copto della Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,” Rendiconti Accad. Lincei, Sc. Morali, s. 9, vol. 12, (Rome 2001) pp. 409-417.

[4] Françoise Morard, “Homélie copte sur les apôtres au Jugement Dernier,” in David H. Warren et al. (eds.), Early Christian Voices in Texts, Traditions and Symbols. Essays in Honor of François Bovon, Boston – Leiden, E.J. Brill, 2003, pp. 417-430.

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Report on the International Conference “Shenoute and the Bible” (Göttingen, May 17-21, 2016)

On May 17-21, 2016, the Coptic research group coordinated by Heike Behlmer (Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, Universität Göttingen) hosted in Göttingen the international conference “Shenoute and the Bible.” The conference was organized on the occasion of the annual meeting of the team that is producing the first critical edition of the works of Shenoute, which this year took place in Göttingen. This international team of scholars is coordinated by Stephen Emmel (Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, Universität Münster). “Shenoute and the Bible” was sponsored and funded by the DFG-Sonderforschungsbereich 1136 “Bildung und Religion,” one of whose projects examines the re-use of the Bible in the works of Shenoute.

Besides the workshops on the critical editions and the translations of Shenoute’s works, the conference comprised a number of presentations, given by the members of the Shenoute team and of the Coptic projects currently hosted by the Göttingen University and Academy. For a complete list of the papers and speakers, see this post.


I would like to highlight just a few of the most important moments of the conference. On the first day, May 17, took place the public showcase “Window onto Egyptian Monasticism: Shenoute: 4th/5th century abbot and eminent Coptic writer,” during which Stephen Emmel, Bentley Layton (Yale University), Frederik Wisse, and myself spoke about Shenoute and his monastery.

The following day, May 18, Frank Feder (Göttingen Academy) and Ulrich Schmid (Göttingen Academy) introduced our project “Digitale Gesamtedition und Übersetzung des koptisch-sahidischen Alten Testaments,” which is hosted by the Göttingen Academy since January 2015. The evening of the same day, we visited the manuscript collection of the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, where the director, Johannes Mangei, showed us the Coptic and Copto-Arabic codices brought by Heinrich Brugsch from Wadi Natrun in 1870.

On May 19, Martin Tamcke had a public lecture entitled “Von ‘Wir begannen, die Anachoreten in einem anderen Licht zu sehen’ zu ‘Jedermann braucht etwas Wüste’, Erhart Kästners (1904–1974) Zeltbuch von Tumilat und die Kopten.”

Finally, particularly interesting were the papers delivered by Diliana Atanassova (Göttingen Academy) on the liturgical manuscripts from the White Monastery, and by So Miyagawa (Universität Göttingen) and Kirill Bulert (MPI für Biophysikalische Chemie, Göttingen) on some remarkable results of the use of OCR software for digitizing Coptic (including manuscripts!). We also heard about a new and exciting manuscript discovery: Sebastian Richter (Freie Universität Berlin) spoke about a Sahidic papyrus fragment which seems to contain an early (anti?-)Origenist dialogue, which has surfaced recently in the collection of Leipzig University Library. The fragment has been edited and translated into English by Richter, and will soon be published in a collective volume. We look forward to finding out more about his discovery.

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Forthcoming: Shenoute and the Bible, International Conference, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, 17–21 May 2016


Shenoute and the Bible
International Conference
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
17–21 May 2016

sponsored by:

2in conjunction with:

Critical Edition of the Works of Shenoute, Annual Meeting (“Shenoute 2016”)


Tagungszentrum an der Sternwarte, Geismar Landstr. 12, 37083 Göttingen, Meeting Room 3 (except where noted otherwise in the program, or as announced during the meeting)

Tuesday 17 May
• Heike Behlmer: Welcome, introductions, logistics
• Stephen Emmel: Meeting program, progress report
• Progress on the Critical Edition of the Works of Shenoute. Presentations by Tito Orlandi, Bentley Layton, Heike Behlmer, Frederik Wisse, Anne Boud’hors, David Brakke, and Zlatko Pleše

• Stephen Emmel: Workshop on the critical editions and the translations of Shenoute’s
works (1st and initial session)

18.00–20.00 (Tagungszentrum, Meeting Room 1, “Großer Seminarraum”):
Showcase: Window onto Egyptian Monasticism
Schenute: Klostervorsteher und bedeutender koptischer Schriftsteller des 4./5. Jh. –
Shenoute: 4th/5th century abbot and eminent Coptic writer
Welcome address by the Sprecher des Sonderforschungsbereichs “Bildung und Religion”, Peter Gemeinhardt, Professor of Church History at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
• Stephen Emmel: “Schenute (ca. 348–465): koptischer Mönch, Klostervorsteher,
• Bentley Layton: “The Structure of Monastic Life in Shenoute’s Monastery”
• Alin Suciu: “The Library of Shenoute’s Monastery: Center of Monastic Knowledge and
• Frederik Wisse: “Shenoute and the Bible”

Wednesday 18 May
• Ariel Shisha-Halevy: “On Puns, Alliteration and Paronomasy in Shenoute”
• David Brakke: “Making Shenoute an Author: Christian Literature in the Age of Lists”
14.00–16.00 (Lagarde-Haus, Friedländer Weg 11):
• Jürgen Horn: “Shenoute’s Importance in the History of Research on the Coptic Septuagint”
• Frank Feder et al., Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen: Presentation of the project “Digitale Gesamtedition und Übersetzung des koptisch-sahidischen Alten Testaments”
16:30-18:30 (Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, Historisches Gebäude, Papendiek 14):
• Visit to the manuscript collection of the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen: codices brought by Heinrich Brugsch from Wadi Natrun in 1870

Thursday 19 May
• Sebastian Richter: “Recent Developments and Achievements of the ‘Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic’ Project”
• Anne Boud’hors: “Some Thoughts about the Category of Pseudo-Shenoutean Texts”
• Frederik Wisse: “Canon 7, work 8, O Man: Introduction, Text, and Translation”

• Sebastian Richter: “A Fragment of an (Anti?-)Origenist Dialogue on a 4th/5th-Century Papyrus Leaf from the Papyrus Collection of the Leipzig University Library”
• Stephen Emmel: Workshop on the critical editions and the translations of Shenoute’s works (2nd session)
18.00–21.00 (Hörsaal Theologicum T01):
• Ringvorlesung “Imaginiert und real, erschaut und erdacht: Christen in Ägypten und literarische Werke von und zu ihnen”
Martin Tamcke: “Von ‘Wir begannen, die Anachoreten in einem anderen Licht zu sehen’ zu ‘Jedermann braucht etwas Wüste’, Erhart Kästners (1904–1974) Zeltbuch von
Tumilat und die Kopten” (public lecture at 18.15)
followed by (from appr. 19.30: Foyer of the Kulturwissenschaftliches Zentrum, Heinrich-Düker-Weg 14)
• Reception; opportunity to visit the Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie (Please RSVP by May 9 to:

Friday 20 May
Presentations by members of Göttingen projects on Shenoute and the Bible (SFB 1136 “Bildung und Religion” Teilprojekt B 05; KELLIA “Koptische/Coptic Electronic Language and Literature International Alliance”; “Digitale Gesamtedition und Übersetzung des koptisch-sahidischen Alten Testaments”)

• Uwe Sikora: Survey and recommendations on digital metadata standards, with particular regard to (Coptic) manuscripts and other objects
• So Miyagawa and Heike Behlmer: Processing non-biblical texts (e.g. Besa and Shenoute) for the Old Testament Virtual Reading Room and using text re-use software for detecting and describing (biblical) intertextuality
• Kirill Bulert and So Miyagawa: Optical character recognition (OCR) software for digitizing Coptic
• Diliana Atanassova: The White Monastery typika

• Stephen Emmel: Workshop on the critical editions and the translations of Shenoute’s works (3rd session)

Saturday 21 May
• Stephen Emmel: Workshop on the critical editions and the translations of Shenoute’s works (4th and final session)
• Heike Behlmer: Closing remarks and farewells

Dr Diliana Atanassova, Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen
Prof. Heike Behlmer, Universität Göttingen
Dr Anne Boud’hors, CNRS, Paris
Prof. David Brakke, Ohio State University, Columbus
Kirill Bulert, MPI für Biophysikalische Chemie, Göttingen
Prof. Stephen Emmel, Universität Münster
Dr Frank Feder, Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen
Dr Jürgen Horn, Hamburg
Prof. em. Bentley Layton, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
So Miyagawa, Universität Göttingen (SFB 1136)
Prof. em. Tito Orlandi, Rome/Hamburg
Prof. Zlatko Pleše, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Prof. em. Ariel Shisha-Halevy, Toronto
Prof. Tonio Sebastian Richter, Freie Universität Berlin
Uwe Sikora, Universität Göttingen
Dr Alin Suciu, Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen
Prof. em. Frederik Wisse, Coldstream, British Columbia

Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, Universität Göttingen, Heinrich-Düker-Weg 14, 37073 Göttingen
Ph.: +49 551 3924400 Email:

Download the programme as PDF.

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Forthcoming: Window onto Egyptian monasticism. Shenoute: 4th/5th century abbot and eminent Coptic writer

Dienstag, 17.5. 2016 um 18 Uhr im Tagungszentrum an der Sternwarte, Raum 1 – Großer Seminarraum


Schenute: Klostervorsteher und bedeutender koptischer Schriftsteller des 4./5. Jh.   –   Shenoute: 4th/5th century abbot and eminent Coptic writer

a.   Stephen Emmel: “Schenute (ca. 348–465): koptischer Mönch, Klostervorsteher, Schriftsteller”

b.   Bentley Layton: “The Structure of Monastic Life in Shenoute’s Monastery”

c.   Alin Suciu: “The Library of Shenoute’s Monastery: Center of Monastic Knowledge and Culture”

d.   Frederik Wisse: “Shenoute and the Bible”

poster_showcase_shenoutePoster: Julien Delhez & So Miyagawa

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Ewa Wipszycka, The Alexandrian Church. People and Institutions

New book by one of the greatest historians of the Egyptian church:

The Raphael Taubenschlag Foundation, Department of Papyrology of Warsaw University and Chair of Roman Law and the Law of Antiquity of Warsaw University are pleased to announce the release of The Journal of Juristic Papyrology, Supplement XXV

Ewa Wipszycka, The Alexandrian Church. People and Institutions

ISBN 978-8393842544, hardcover, 500 pp, maps and charts. Price: 93 EUR; May & June special 20% discount: 74,4 EUR

… a description of the hierarchical Church, its framework and machinery. The word ‘description’ is somehow too narrow to express what I would like to present, for my ambition is to show how the ecclesiastical institutions functioned. What I aim at is a picture of the Church ‘in motion’. I will try to discover the mechanisms of cooperation between the three levels of the hierarchic pyramid: the patriarch and his curia, the bishops, and the remaining clergy subordinate to the latter.
I believe that I am able to sketch (at least in part) the mentality of the members of hierarchical Church, to reconstruct the procedure of appointment of bishops and to give an account of the creation of the network of churches.
(…) My intellectual adventure with the history of the Church began with research on ecclesiastical economy, incomes and the manner of their administration, expenditures, and the material status of the clergy. The choice of these subjects was absolutely natural to me, since my academic education had provided me with a solid background for tackling such issues; I had also learnt much while preparing my doctoral dissertation on the textile industry of Roman Egypt. In spite of having enough reasons to find the results of my previous research satisfactory, I did not want to explore the subject any farther. It was late antique Egypt that captivated me – a fascination I owe to my French papyrology teacher, Roger Rémondon. Within this realm I found the Church and monasticism particularly intriguing.
(from the Preface)

Table of contents
Preface . 3
Chapter One . 9
Church historians – 10. Historians of the Alexandrian Church – 22. Normative texts – 27.
Church archives of documents on papyrus – 34 (The archive of Abraham – 34. The archive of Pisentius – 37).
Chapter Two
The origins of monarchic episcopate in Egypt . 43
The bishops of Alexandria – 43. The bishops of Egypt – 60.
Chapter Three
The Great Persecution in Egypt: new sources, new hypotheses . 75
New sources – 75. The beginnings of the Great Persecution: an attempt at a reconstruction -76. The number of victims of the Great Persecution in Egypt – 92. Appendix
A: Chronology of the history of Christian Egypt in the times of the Tetrarchy and Constantine – 95. Appendix B: Victims of persecutions in Egypt according to Eusebius – 98. Appendix C: On the governor’s jurisdiction during the Great Persecution in Egypt – 99.
Chapter Four
The institutional church of Egypt AD 325-700: an overview . 107
Chapter Five
The episcopal elections . 127
Introduction – 127. The elections of bishops in the Egyptian chora – 129. The elections of
bishops in the Pentapolis – 146. The elections of the patriarch and their rules – 149. Conflictual elections of patriarchs -154.
Chapter Six
Constantine’s policy towards the church. The subvention for clergy, church-building programme, fiscal privileges . 171
Chapter Seven
The payroll of the clergy . 195
Chapter Eight
The economy of the Alexandrian patriarchate in the Lives of John the Almsgiver . 209
Chapter Nine
The people of the Alexandrian patriarch . 237
Chapter Ten
The patriarch of Alexandria and his bishops . 271
Chapter Eleven
The bishop and his clergy . 305
The ordination of clergy – 308. Requirements concerning the members of the clergy – 321. Means of disciplinary punishment at the bishop’s disposal – 324. The clerics’ preparation to fulfil their liturgical functions – 325. What do we know and what do we not know about the  liturgical service? – 327. The hierarchical order in the clergy – 330. Appendix A: Chosen examples of churches in Egyptian cities, towns, and villages – 335. Appendix B: Lighting of
the churches’ interior (by Tomasz Górecki) – 343.
Chapter Twelve
The bishop’s philanthropic activity . 349
Chapter Thirteen
The church treasures of Byzantine Egypt . 365
Chapter Fourteen
Churches in a city: The case of Ptolemais in Cyrenaica . 377
Character of the basilicas of Ptolemais and interpretation of their location in the city – 380. Buildings associated with the churches – 388.
Final remarks . 415
Alexandrian bishops from the patriarchate of Demetrius to the end of the seventh century . 439
Bibliography . 441
Indices . 467

JJP Suppl. xxv (Wipszycka) okladka-kopia

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Internship – Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic Old Testament

Akademie Göttingen

The Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic Old Testament at the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Göttingen is dedicated to digitally describe, edit and analyse the transmission of the Coptic Old Testament with a focus on the Sahidic tradition. The long-term project has an opening for a (paid) internship, to be filled at the earliest possible date. This internship will give the successful applicant the opportunity to expand his or her knowledge about the Biblical tradition in Coptic and to receive further hands-on training in editorial methods, manuscript studies and digital humanities, as applied to the Coptic Bible and Coptic literature.

The intern will commit to working 30 hrs per week in a variety of tasks, which will depend on his or her experience and interests and the current Old Testament project focus. If pursuing a research project within the wider field of the Coptic Bible the intern will be able to dedicate up to 50% of this time to his or her own research.

Prerequisites are a degree in Coptic Studies or a project-related field (Egyptology, Biblical Studies, History of Christianity, Digital Humanities or similar) and a working knowledge of Coptic. Other language skills (in particular in Ancient Greek) are welcomed.

The appointment is for one year, with a possibility for an extension. It is available either as a part-time employment (internship) contract or as a scholarship contract. Details will be provided upon request.

Please direct enquiries and (electronic) applications (short CV, digital copies of diplomas or transcripts and letter of motivation) by May 15, 2016 to Prof. Heike Behlmer (hbehlme [at] or Dr Frank Feder (ffeder [at]

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IACS Awards for Academic Excellence 2016: Deadline Extended

Since earlier notices appear to have escaped the attention of many of our members, the IACS Board has decided to extend the deadline for submitting candidacies for the IACS Awards for Academic Excellence until the middle of May. Therefore, competition is still open for awards to be given at the Eleventh International Congress of Coptic Studies, to be held in Claremont, California (U.S.A.), 25–30 July 2016. Again the IACS will award two prizes, one for the best M.A. thesis and a second one for the best Ph.D. dissertation, both written in the field of Coptic studies. Winners will receive a certificate and an amount of € 2,000 (Ph.D.) or an amount of € 1,000 (M.A.).

Eligible theses and dissertations should make a significant scholarly contribution in the field of Coptic studies in the widest possible acceptation, in accordance with the objectives of the IACS. Eligible for the current competition will be M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations accepted by any recognized academic institution in the four-year period 2012 through 2015. By “acceptance” is meant the date of the formal approval of the thesis/dissertation by the responsible faculty; it does not mean the date of submission or the date on which the resulting degree was ceremonially conferred (as at a graduation ceremony).

Competitors for the prizes are requested to submit a .pdf version of their thesis/dissertation before 15 May 2016 to the President-Elect of the IACS, Prof. David Brakke, at (it is not necessary to submit also a printed copy). Submissions should mention clearly the full name and contact information of the author of the thesis/dissertation, and they should be accompanied by a copy of the diploma (or other proof that the thesis/dissertation has been formally accepted by a recognized academic institution) and a brief letter of recommendation from a thesis/dissertation supervisor. The thesis/dissertation may be written in any of the four “congress languages” recognized by the IACS (English, French, German, Italian). Submissions will be judged for clarity and correctness of expression, conceptual and methodological adequacy, originality, as well as general quality and interest; for Ph.D. dissertations, also methodological innovation will be a criterion. The jury will consist of the Board of the IACS, which may call in specialist advice if necessary.

The jury will hold its deliberations immediately before the Eleventh International Congress of Coptic Studies, and the awards will be announced during the opening session of the Congress. (Note that this is a change in procedure over against that of 2012, when the awards were announced in the middle of the week of the Congress.) Winners do not need to be in attendance at the Congress in order to receive their award; a winner who is absent will be contacted by the IACS Secretary either during the Congress or immediately thereafter.

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Guest Post: Felix Albrecht – Critical Edition of Epiphanius, De xii gemmis (CPG 3748)

My colleague, Felix Albrecht, announces that he prepares the critical edition of the Greek fragments of Epiphanius’ De xii gemmis.

The work De duodecim gemmis (Περὶ τῶν δώδεκα λίθων) of Epiphanius of Salamis is an exegetical treatise on the twelve gemstones on the High Priest’s breastplate (Ex 28:17–20 par. 39:10–13). It is, in fact, the oldest Christian book on gemstones. Epiphanius deals with the stones according to their appearance and their healing powers, as well as their attribution to the twelve tribes from a Christian point of view. Only extracts of this work are preserved in Greek. Nonetheless, there is an Old Georgian translation, parts of a Latin translation, parts of an Armenian version, as well as Coptic fragments, an extract in Syriac, and tradition in Arabic.

For over ten years I have been focusing study on this intriguing work of Epiphanius. I have been able to collect all the Greek fragments, and am preparing a critical edition of the Greek text, including a retroversion into Greek, based on all extant tradition and versions.

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Abstract of my paper for the 11th International Coptic Congress

At the Coptic congress, which this year will be held in Claremont, California, I will speak about the discovery of Melito of Sardes’ homily on the baptism of Christ in a Sahidic papyrus manuscript. My paper is entitled “Recovering a Hitherto Lost Patristic Text: Greek and Coptic Vestiges of Melito of Sardes’ De Baptismo.” Here is the abstract:

“In this paper, I will argue that a fragmentary Sahidic papyrus manuscript featuring a homily on the baptism of Christ can be identified as Melito of Sardes’ De Baptismo. This early Christian writing has been considered to be lost with the sole exception of a quotation preserved in a Greek catena collection. In the first part of the paper, I will show that the only known Greek fragment of Melito’s De Baptismo finds a parallel in a Sahidic papyrus manuscript. In the second part, I will analyze the Coptic text and I will show that a number of similarities with the other works of Melito strengthen the hypothesis that the fragmentary papyrus actually contains his hitherto lost homily on the baptism of Christ.”

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Panels and papers for the 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies

Dr. Hany Takla announced that the list of panels and papers for the 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies, which will be held July 25-30, 2016, in Claremont, California, is now available on the website of the congress.

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An Ascetic Fragment from Montserrat: Aphorisms of Paul of Tamma and Anoup

In the latest issue of the Journal of Coptic Studies, Sofía Torallas Tovar (University of Chicago) brings to our attention an unidentified Sahidic parchment fragment currently kept in the Montserrat Abbey, situated near Barcelona (P. Monts. Roca inv. no. 735).[1] The fragment used to be in the possession of Father Ramón Roca-Puig, a monk of the Montserrat Abbey, who left his collection of manuscripts to the monastery after his death in 2001.

P. Monts. Roca inv. no. 735 belonged to a miniature codex (5 cm in height x 5.8 cm in breadth). Although the fragment is paginated 35-36, the signature ⲓⲉ (= 15) on the upper right corner of the verso shows that this was the last leaf of the 15th quire. Codicologically, this indicates that the scribe started anew the pagination of the manuscript, but numbered consecutively the quires. Discontinuous pagination is a well-documented practice in some Coptic codices.

The fragment seems to contain vestiges of two different texts, separated at the bottom of the recto by a title which is partly difficult to read, “The commandments of our beloved Father Apa Anoup (?) of ???. In peace, Amen.” As the content of the fragment has not been identified, it is not clear if the title represents the subscriptio of the first text or rather the superscriptio of the second. In her article, Sofía proposes that the texts could either belong to some Christian oracles (sortes sanctorum) or to the Apophthegmata Patrum. While the first possibility should be excluded from the outset in light of the aforementioned title, the second proposal seems, at first sight, bolstered by the ascetic character of the texts.

  1. The First Text

However, it appears that the first writing can be identified with paragraphs 23-25 of On humility by Paul of Tamma, a Middle Egyptian monk of the late 4th or early 5th centuries.[2]  This ascetic text has been attested until now in a single Sahidic manuscript, which came from the library of the White Monastery (MONB.GU). Here is the parallel:

1As we can see, the most significant difference between the two texts is that the Montserrat fragment omits the long quotation from Joel 3:17-21. Furthermore, On humility continues with other sayings in the White Monastery manuscript MONB.GU, while the Montserrat fragment stops here.

Does this show that it is not the same text? Actually, a similar thing happens with another writing of Paul of Tamma, On the Cell. This text has 126 paragraphs in the White Monastery codex MONB.GU, but only 102 in Michigan MS 166, which is a small-format codex similar to the one to which the Montserrat fragment originally belonged. My hypothesis is that ascetic texts like those of Paul of Tamma were inscribed in small-format manuscripts because, as they are collections of aphorisms, they could be conveniently shortened when the lack of space required, without sacrificing the coherence of the writing.

The Montserrat fragment is the third small-format manuscript which features the writings of Paul of Tamma. The other two are Michigan MS 166 (two texts by Paul, an ascetic Epistle and On the Cell) and British Library Or. 4918(1) (= Crum no. 264) (On the Cell). The latter I have identified in a forthcoming article.[3] All three manuscripts are paleographically datable around 600 CE, which means that Paul of Tamma’s texts were quite popular around that time in Egypt.

2. The Second Text

The second text is harder to identify. As I have already mentioned, the superscription describes it as “The commandments of our beloved Father Apa Anoup (?) of ???.” Sofía Torallas Tovar proposes the reading “Anoup of Nerte,” which is indeed possible but not certain since some of the letters are not clear enough on the photos available. Being the case that the place name “Nerte” is not an attested elsewhere, I would be tempted to read nneri, “of the Cells (Kellia),” but, judging on the visible traces of letters, I do not think this reading is possible either.

Be that as it may, the text has clear literary contacts with Stephen of Thebes’ Sermo asceticus, a text which is preserved in Arabic, Coptic (Sahidic), Ethiopic (Gǝʿǝz), Georgian, and Greek. Just like the writings of Paul of Tamma, the Sermo asceticus contains precepts of an ascetic teacher to his “son,” written in the style of gnomic literature.

A sentence of Apa Anoup in the Montserrat fragment resembles much the Sahidic text of Sermo asceticus 46:

2What is more, what follows after this may be a direct quotation from Stephen of Thebes’ Sermo asceticus 66:

3Leaving aside the variae lectiones, the two texts seem to me very close. If Anoup refers indeed to Stephen of Thebes, then this is the first quotation that we have from the Sermo asceticus.

These are only some preliminary thoughts, but there is definitely more to do with the Montserrat fragment. I am grateful to Sofía for bringing to light this very interesting piece.

[1] S. Torallas Tovar, “A New Sahidic Coptic Fragment: Sortes Sanctorum or Apophthegmata Patrum?,” Journal of Coptic Studies 17 (2015) 153-164.

[2] Edited and translated into Italian in T. Orlandi, Paolo di Tamma. Opere (Corpus dei Manoscritti Copti Letterari; Rome: C.I.M., 1988) 126-133.

[3] A. Suciu, “Sitting in the Cell: The Development of the Ascetic Praxis in Paul of Tamma’s Writings and the Monastic Literature of Lower Egypt. With an Edition of a Hitherto Unknown Miniature Manuscript of De Cella,” forthcoming in Journal of Theological Studies.

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Coptic Job in Berlin


One position as Research Assistant (1/2 time, up to 31.10.2018) is available for work on the project Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic (DDGLC). The DDGLC project is a long-term project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and hosted by the Free University of Berlin. The project aims at a systematic, comprehensive and detailed lexicographical compilation and description of Greek loanwords as attested in the entire Coptic corpus through all dialects and sorts of text. Its intended outcome shall be the production of an online database and in a printed dictionary. For further particulars about the DDGLC project please follow this link.

Applicants should have a degree (B.A. hons. or M.A.) in Classical Studies, Coptology, Early Christian Studies, Egyptology, Linguistics, or related disciplines. Good skills in Coptic and a sound knowledge of Greek are preconditions. Previous experience in linguistics and digital Humanities would be an advantage. Applicants will be expected to have the intention to work on a PhD in the field of Coptic philology or linguistics.

The posts, which are fixed term contracts, are available from 1 February 2016 until 31 October 2018, with a possibility of renewal. Salary is within grade E13 according to the German collective labour agreement for the public service (TV-L).

Applicants are required to submit a CV, certificates of academic degrees, and a cover letter outlining the applicant’s research interests, academic background and suitability for the role, and giving the full contact details of two referees, on paper to:

Freie Universität Berlin,

Fachbereich Geschichts-und Kulturwissenschaften


Ägyptologisches Seminar

Herrn Prof. Dr. Tonio Sebastian Richter

Fabeckstr. 23-25

14195 Berlin


or as an electronic file to

All applications quoting the reference code (DDGLC-2/2015) should be addressed no later than December 7th, 2015.

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SBL Nag Hammadi Celebration (Sat 7pm)


Dylan Burn announces all those interested that

“There will be a panel and reception celebrating the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices at the Society of Biblical Literature’s Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA on Saturday, 21 November, 2015, 7pm-9pm, room M21-435, at the Sheraton — Capital Ballroom North (Level 1). (Please note that the time and location of the panel have changed from what is printed in the AAR’s Program Booklet!) The panel will feature three speakers talking about their experiences with the three major translation projects of the NHC (English, French, and German, respectively): John D. Turner, Paul-Hubert Poirier, and Gesine Schenke Robinson.  Please join us for a snacks, a drink, and a wealth of Coptic Gnostic lore.”

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SBL Coptic Dinner

On Monday night, 23 Nov at 7:30pm, this year’s SBL Coptic gathering will take place at Pitty Pat’s Porch, an outstanding Atlanta restaurant whose cuisine and atmosphere derive from the blockbuster film and novel Gone with the Wind. Last year’s festivities were a great success, but notably attendees had to wait an hour and a half for their meals. This year, we will use a group menu which will eliminate the wait and also insure that we have our own room. The two main options are fried chicken and BBQ ribs, although there is also the possibility for a vegetarian platter. An extensive sidebar of multitudinous southern sides are included as well as drinks, tip and tax for $38.40 (or $21.76 at the student rate). No, René, you are not a student.


Please RSVP in the comments or through email. We hope that you will join us, and be assured… “You will never be hungry again.” (Thanks to Dylan Burns for the quote.)

Christian Askeland

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Volume in Honour of Peter Nagel

Pages from Digitale Edition der koptisch-sahidischen Septuaginta-2

A volume in honour of the German Coptologist Peter Nagel has recently been edited by Heike Behlmer, Frank Feder and Ute Pietruschka. The volume contains some of the papers presented on April 26-27 during a colloquium held at the Coptic orthodox monastery of St. Mary & St. Mauritius in Höxter-Brenkhausen.

The volume can be downloaded for free HERE.

From the presentation of the book,

“The present volume contains papers of an international conference held in April 2013 in honour of the 75th birthday of Peter Nagel, the doyen of Coptic Septuagint research. The conference venue was the Coptic Orthodox Monastery Höxter-Brenkhausen, where the participants enjoyed the kind hospitality of H.G. Bishop Damian. This volume builds on the scientific work of Peter Nagel, reevaluates research results on the Coptic Old Testament and offers fresh perspectives for further research.

As additional material, the digital publication offers a video clip ‘Students of a traditional Ethiopian church school present their knowledge to the teacher’ by Verena Böll.”

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Doctoral and Postdoctoral Positions available at Göttingen University

Uni Goettingen - Logo 4c CMYK - 600dpi

The Collaborative Research Centre 1136 “Education and Religion in Cultures of the Mediterranean and Its Environment from Ancient to Medieval Times and to the Classical Islam” at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Germany), funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), currently invites applications for 14 research positions (doctoral students and postdocs).

Detailed information HERE.

One of the position pertains to Coptic studies,

sub-project B 05: Scriptural Exegesis and Educational Traditions in Coptic-Speaking Egyptian Christianity in Late Antiquity: Shenoute, Canon 6

Doctoral Student (payscale: TV-L E 13, two-thirds of the regular working time)

The project examines the reception and the exegesis of the Bible in texts from Egypt’s cenobitic monasticism, with a focus on the works of the abbot Shenoute († 465). The aim of the study is fourfold: to explore, using digital tools and methods, the exegetical and rhetorical strategies of the abbot, in particular, the grammar and pragmatics of biblical quotations, to understand the relationship between author and recipients, to analyse their respective level of education and to trace the interaction between Christian, Ancient Egyptian and Classical/Hellenistic educational traditions in Shenoute`s exegetical practice.

The successful candidate for the research position should have

M.A. (or equivalent) in Coptic Studies, Theology/Biblical Studies/Religious Studies, Egyptology, Christian Oriental Studies, Classics or related fields

Very good knowledge of Coptic (good working knowledge of Ancient Greek highly desirable)

Familiarity with databases and online research and the willingness and ability to be trained in the use of a variety of Digital Humanities tools and methods

For further information please contact Prof. Dr. Heike Behlmer

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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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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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