First Coptic fragment

I began translating the first of the two Coptic fragments published by Amelineau, and this was what I came up with, as far as I got:

… they’ve left.”  The steward [1] said, “I don’t know why they’ve left.”  He [2] ordered him to be beaten until the steward told him everything that had taken place.  The steward said to him, “Don’t beat me, and I will tell you the facts.  This man, Samuel the ascetic, made a great catechism to the monks, condemning you, calling you a blasphemer, and he said that you were a Chalcedonian Jew, an atheist unworthy to do the synaxary as archbishop, unworthy to be in communion with anyone whatsoever.  This is why the monks listened to him, and they have all left.”

The impious one, when he heard all these words, flew into a rage, he chewed his lips in his frenzy, he cursed the steward, the monastery and the monks, and he went home by another road and never came back to the mountain to this day.

After that the brothers returned in peace to the monastery.   As for the Kaukhios, the pseudo-archbishop, he kept his grudge in his heart until he arrived at the town of the Fayoum.  Immediately he summoned his servants and men who knew (the district), so that they could bring him the holy apa Samuel with his hands bound behind his back and a yoke around his neck, beating him like a thief.  They arrived at the topos [3], and asked for him.

1. Oikonomos.
2. This must be the archbishop.
3. Here the topos is a monastery with its church and whatever belonged to it. (EA)

But who or what was “Kaukhios”?  I did a google search and … found that the passage has already been translated, in Butler’s The Arab Conquest of Egypt, p.185.f.  Here is Butler’s version, and the rather curious manner in which he quotes an original source without making clear which bits are him, and which are not.

Another, document the life of Samuel of Kalamun the original of which was certainly contemporary with Cyrus, shows so clearly the part which Cyrus himself took in the persecution, that one may be pardoned for quoting it at some length. The story tells how the Archbishop on coming to the monastery found it deserted except for the steward, who was scourged and questioned. The steward then said, ‘Samuel the ascetic held much discourse with the monks, calling you a blasphemer, a Chalcedonian Jew, an atheist, a man unworthy to celebrate the liturgy, unworthy of all communion : and the monks hearing this fled before your visit.’ At these words the impious blasphemer fell into a furious passion, and biting his lips he cursed the steward, the monastery, and the monks, and departed another way, ‘nor has he returned to this day,’ adds the chronicle 2. Then the brethren came back in peace to the convent. But as for the Kaukhios (Mukaukas), the Pseudo-Archbishop, he came to the city of Piom (Fayum), cherishing wrath in his heart. There he summoned his minions and ordered them to bring the holy Abba Samuel, his hands tied behind his back and an iron collar about his neck pushing him on like a thief. So they came to the convent where he abode and took him.

Samuel went rejoicing in the Lord and saying, ‘Please God, it will be given me this day to shed my blood for the name of Christ.’ Therefore he reviled the name of the Mukaukas with boldness, and was led before him by the soldiers. When the Mukaukas saw the man of God, he ordered the soldiers to smite him, till his blood ran like water. Then he said to him, ‘Samuel, you wicked ascetic, who is he that made you abbot of the monastery, and bade you teach the monks to curse me and my faith?’ Holy Abba Samuel answered, ‘It is good to obey God and His holy Archbishop Benjamin rather than obey you and your devilish doctrine, son of Satan, Antichrist, Beguiler.’ Cyrus bade the soldiers to smite him on the mouth, saying, ‘Your spirit is kindled, Samuel, because the monks glorify you as an ascetic : but I will teach you what

it is to speak evil of dignities, since you render me not the honour which is my due as Archbishop and my due as Controller of the Revenues of the land of Egypt.’ Samuel replied, ‘Satan also was controller, having angels under him : but his pride and unbelief estranged him from the glory of God. So with you also, O Chalcedonian Deceiver, your faith is defiled and you are more accursed than the devil and his angels.’ On hearing this, the Mukaukas was filled with fury against the saint, and signed to the soldiers to strike him dead. In a word the blasphemer essayed to slay the saint, but the ruler of the city of Piom delivered him out of his hands. When Cyrus saw that Samuel had escaped, he ordered him to be driven away from the mountain Neklone.

Butler footnotes various points, which may be seen at the Archive.org text.  But he also tells us that Amelineau republished the text in Mon. pour servir a l’Histoire de l’Egypte chretienne au IVe-VIIe siecles (Mem. Miss. Arch. Franc. au Caire, t.iv.2, pp.774 ff).

The actions and attitudes of Cyrus, the murderous melkite archbishop, sound like those of the litigious “bishops” of the modern American episcopalian church — all about power and money, dressed up in the language of Zion, and conducted with an utter contempt of right and wrong.  The wicked priest is always the same, it seems.  Nor should we be slow to say so, for we might recall that our Lord Jesus Christ himself was executed by the design of one such.

2 Responses to “First Coptic fragment”


  1. Dioscorus Boles

    Roger, I admire you enthusiasm and hard work.

    It is very interesting fragment. It is very clearly about St. Samuel of Kalamoun, to whom the interesting Apocalypse of Samuel is attributed. He was a fiery Coptic ascetic, who resisted Cyrus, the Melkite patriarch of Alexandria, and at the same time Prefect of Egypt, and endured awful sufferings under him (he lost one eye in the beatings). The document is clearly written in the early reign of Cyrus, most probably 631-632 AD; i.e. in the last ten years before the Arab occupation.

    The “oikonomos” to my understanding is not a steward but is actually an archpriest (hegomen), who is called in the Coptic Church now Qomus. A stweard is called now in the Coptic Church Qa’yyim, which I think is a superintendent.

    The Kaukhios as Butler has clearly shown is Cyrus. Kaukhios in actually Caucasian – Cyrus was known to come from the Caucasus. For a recent study on the identity of Cyrus, see: http://www.etd.ceu.hu/2009/aleksidze_nikoloz.pdf

    Looking forward to more of your work.

    Thanks again.

    Dioscorus Boles

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for these details — most useful. I did wonder what Kaukhios was. I wasn’t sure about oikomenos, but I had to translate it somehow.



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