“The Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet” – part 1 of Coptic text now online

Dr Anthony Alcock has been at it again.  Fresh from translating the late Coptic poem, the Triadon, he has attacked another late Coptic text.  Today I received a PDF with the first part (out of five) of an English translation of a 14th century work, The Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet.  It is here:

What is this text?  Well, it’s one of those texts that finds significance in all sorts of ways, such as in the number of letters in the alphabet:

In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, one God. A discourse uttered by Apa Seba, the presbyter and anchorite, concerning the mystery of God that is in the letters of the alphabet, which none of the ancient philosophers was able to reveal.  …

So, it has become clear that the twenty-two works in the economy of Christ and the twenty-two works of God in the creation are the model of each other, like the twenty-two letters of the alphabet, as we have already said.  …

The text is extant in a manuscript in the Bodleian library in Oxford, Ms. Huntingdon 393, written in 1393 A.D.

There is also an Arabic version, although I don’t know where this might be found.

The Coptic text was published with French translation in Le Muséon, vols. 19 and 20 in 1900-1901 by Adolphe Hebbelynck.  US readers may find vol. 19 here (non-US readers should curse the malign publishers of their land who induced Google to block their access). (Update: also here, at Archive.org). Vol. 20 is here, and accessible to all (so far).

Dr. Alcock has stated his intention to translate the other four sections.  This is admirable, and I look forward to reading them!

UPDATE: The excellent Alin Suciu also has the story here, but in addition posts a monochrome image of a couple of pages of the manuscript!  This is in Coptic, with a marginal Arabic translation.  So that’s where the Arabic version may be found!

UPDATE: A kind correspondent has emailed a link to vol. 19 at Archive.org, accessible to all.

8 Responses to ““The Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet” – part 1 of Coptic text now online”


  1. Alin Suciu

    The original Greek version of this text was published in 2007. See C. Bandt, Der Traktat “Vom Mysterium der Buchstaben”: Kritischer Text mit Einführung, Übersetzung und Anmerkungen (Texte und Untersuchungen, 162; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007).

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much indeed for this! I hadn’t known that there was an original Greek version (with introduction, translation and commentary, no less!).

  3. Roger Pearse

    But I hope that Dr Alcock will proceed with making the Coptic accessible.

  4. stephan huller

    Here is a review of the German translation
    http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2008/2008-08-06.html

  5. stephan huller
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