Coptic Sushi, SBL, San Antonio 2016

sushi-zushi-colonnadeI will not be attending the SBL conference this year (I plan to have my first SBL in Boston next year), but here is an important announcement from Christian Askeland:

By popular demand, the biggest Coptological party of the year will once again occur at an establishment of fine sushi. RSVP in the comments here or by emailing Christian Askeland.

Monday, 21 November 19:15

Sushi Zushi (click for the exact location)

Many attendees will probably be coming from the following session:

Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Crockett B (4th Level) – Grand Hyatt (GH)

Theme: Gnostic Writings, Sayings, and Histories

René Falkenberg, Aarhus Universitet, Presiding

Sarit Kattan Gribetz, Fordham University

Women as Readers of the Nag Hammadi Codices (20 min)

Eric Crégheur, Université d’Ottawa

On Plants, Spices and Gems: How Feasible are the Baptismal Rituals in the “Books of Jeu”? (20 min)

J. Gregory Given, Harvard University

Four Texts from Nag Hammadi amid the Fluidity of the “Letter” in Late Antique Egypt (20 min)

Discussion (15 min)

Geoffrey S. Smith, University of Texas at Austin

Medicine and Polemic in Tertullian’s Version of the Valentinian Sophia Myth (20 min)

Emanuel Fiano, Fordham University

The Theory of Names of the Gospel of Truth (20 min)

Einar Thomassen, Universitetet i Bergen

Did Gnostics Have a Concept of History? (20 min)

Discussion (15 min)

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Complete Facsimile Edition of the Coptic Codices from Hamuli Online

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Ronald Hurlocker and to his supervisor, Christian Askeland, for making available on the massive facsimile edition of the Morgan Library & Museum’s Coptic codices which belonged to the Monastery of the Archangel Michael at Hamuli, in the Fayyum (Henri Hyvernat (ed.), Codices coptici photographice expressi: Bibliothecae Pierpont Morgan. Rome, 1922).

You can access the collection HERE.


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Job Opening for the Project Katalogisierung der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland/Cataloguing of Oriental Manuscripts in Germany

This is a two-year fixed term position starting at the earliest possible date on or after October 15, 2016. An extension of the contract beyond the initial two-year term may be available. The project (planned completion date: December 31, 2022) is based in Berlin. The position is part-time (50%) on the public service scale TV-L E 13. There is the possibility (not yet finalised) for a full-time appointment from July 1, 2017, depending on funding being made available.

The appointee will be responsible for the following tasks:

•       Catalogisation of Coptic manuscripts, ostraca and papyri from German collections, chiefly from the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection Berlin, in an online database

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 further training are available.

·       A solid knowledge of Coptic language and the textual tradition of Christian Egypt. Some expertise and experience in the area of Philology/Editions and Manuscript Studies/Codicology is welcome.

Candidates are expected to have:

·      Willingness and ability to quickly familiarise themselves with the tasks at hand

·       Familiarity with modern databases and online research

·       Language skills in Ancient Greek and German. Other language skills, in particular in French or ancient languages other than Coptic 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.

Closing date: September 30, 2016

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

Professor Heike Behlmer (hbehlme at uni-goettingen dot de)

Please direct any enquiries about the project to the same address. General project information can also be found here.

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Papers Presented by the Göttingen Crew at the Recently Concluded Congress of Coptic Studies

Six members of the Göttingen University and Göttingen Academy participated in the recently concluded 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies (Claremont, CA, July 25-30): Heike Behlmer, Frank Feder, So Miyagawa, Troy Griffitts, and myself.

Thus, Frank Feder organized together with Siegfried Richter (University of Münster) the panel “Prospects and Studies for the Reconstruction and Edition of the Coptic Bible,” and spoke about “Reconstructing and Editing the Coptic Bible: The Münster-Göttingen Collaboration for a Complete Reconstruction and Edition of the Coptic Sahidic Bible.” In the same panel, Heike Behlmer presented a paper entitled “Paul de Lagarde, Agapios Bsciai and the Edition of the Coptic Bible.” Frank also organized with Christian Askeland (Indiana Wesleyan University) the “Coptic Digital Tools for Beginners Workshop.”

Troy Griffitts and So Miyagawa participated in the panel “Coptic Digital Humanities,” chaired by Carrie Schroeder (the University of the Pacific). So read a paper which he prepared together with Marco Büchler, from the Göttingen Center for Digital Humanities, who unfortunately could not attend the congress. Their talk was titled “Computational Analysis of Text Reuse in Shenoute and Besa.” Another member of our team, Uwe-Karsten Plisch, gave a talk on the Mesokemic codex Glazier and its relevance for the Coptic translation of the Septuagint.

IMG_5106Finally, I delivered the paper “Recovering a Hitherto Lost Patristic Text: Greek and Coptic Vestiges of Melito of Sardis’ De Baptismo” in the panel “Early Christian Literature Preserved in Coptic,” organized and chaired by Timothy Sailors (Tübingen University).

IMG_5109The abstracts of all the papers presented at the congress, including those mentioned above, can be read HERE.

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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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