Archive for the 'Egypt' Category

The literary remains of Shenoute of Atripe

Coptic literature is an under-studied area for most of us.  But today I have been finding out that significant work has been done in the last decade on an important figure of the 4th century, Shenoute of Atripe, the leader of the White Monastery at Panopolis.

For this we have Stephen Emmel to thank.  It seems that he has undertaken the painstaking task of recovering the works of this central figure, and has revolutionised the field.  It is unfortunate that none of this is online; but this blurb to Stephen Emmel, Shenoute’s Literary Corpus, Peeters (2004), in 1006 pages (!) tells the story.

… Stephen Emmel’s reconstruction of the literary corpus of Shenoute, monastic leader in Upper Egypt from 385 until 465, and Coptic author par excellence, marks the beginning of a new era in Shenoute studies.

On the basis of about one hundred parchment codexes from the library of Shenoute’s monastery, pieced together from nearly two thousand fragments scattered among some two dozen collections, Emmel demonstrates that Shenoute’s corpus was transmitted in two multi-volume sets of collected works, nine volumes of Canons and eight volumes of Discourses.

At the core of his study is a description of each reconstructed codex, demonstrating the organization and coherence of the corpus as a whole, followed by a survey of its contents in which nearly 150 individual works are catalogued. A research-historical and methodological introduction, tables, concordances, and an extensive bibliography …

I can already see references to “volume 4 of the discourses”, etc, when sermons are referenced.  Effectively this acts as a clavis or index to Shenoute’s works.  The book is, unfortunately almost $200, so unaffordable to the rest of us.

It would be good, surely, to have a list of his works at least, online.

From my diary

Oof!  A concerted effort, and I have just turned the last page of the massive tome that I got from the library and which I have been scanning all week.  I can’t afford to buy a copy — no-one could — and yet I need to consult it.  Solution: photocopy a library copy, or — in modern technology — create a PDF of the page images.  It’s hard, back-acheing work, tho.

Next I need to go through the images, check that they are all there, check that they are not skewed or with bits of flaked-off paper blocking the text.  Then I need to take a copy, and crop them all to a fixed size, with the text central.

Once I have a bunch of TIFF files, I can run a script (using ImageMagick) to add whitespace around them, so that they fit one of the standard sizes for (although why Lulu don’t just do this, if the pages are too small, I have never known).  And then I can create a PDF from the new images, upload it to Lulu, and get a perfect bound copy for my own use, to read, to scribble on, and to absorb.

It’s actually 700 pages.  I suspect it might be best to split it into two halves.  The Lulu books tend to be on the thick side, and I want something that doesn’t twist my wrist!  I want to actually read this thing.

But I shan’t be doing any more of that tonight!

While sitting at the scanner, mechanically turning the pages, I was surfing the web for “Old Coptic”.  There are sections in the 4th century Greek Magical Papyri written in Old Coptic, and I wanted to know more. 

I stumbled across The multilingual experience in Egypt, from the Ptolemies to the Abbasids, and p.76 on Google books gives us a lot of hard information.

Old Coptic turns out to be the version of ancient Egyptian adopted during the late Ptolemaic period.   There are various papyrus archives retrieved from the sands of Egypt which contain it. 

It forms part of the process by which the Egyptians moved from Demotic to Coptic.  The former was written in the difficult Demotic script, which consisted of hieroglyphic symbols given a wildly cursive form.  Vowels were not written in general, so the script was also a shorthand. 

When the Greeks gained control of Egypt under Alexander, and then his Ptolemaic successors, they found a well organised state with an official bureaucracy where the records of taxes and lawsuits were kept in Demotic.  But under the Ptolemys, little by little, Greek grew in importance.  A time arrived quite quickly at which Demotic documents had to be presented with a Greek transcription.  Soon after, Demotic documents were not acceptable by themselves as evidence, a step which marked the end of the importance of Demotic archives.  In addition there are signs that the scribes themselves are finding difficulty with demotic, and mixing Greek vowels into the script.

Old Coptic, then, is what we call ancient Egyptian written in Greek letters from this period.  The texts are entirely pagan, and entirely ancient Egyptian in nature.  It is a transitional form between demotic and Coptic, and appears extensively in papyri in the early centuries of the Christian era.  Coptic also is written in Greek letters, with a few characters borrowed from Demotic but given a Hellenistic twist to make them look more Greek.

In the process of learning this, I learned of Dioskoros of Aphrodito, author of one of the bilingual Greek and Coptic archives.  Leslie S. B. MacCoull’s book Dioscorus of Aphrodito: His Work and His World (1998) is actually online here.  It contains some fascinating material.

In 1901, during the reign of Khedive Abbas Hilmy and the proconsular administration of Lord Cromer, some villagers in Kom Ishgaw were digging a well. Their Upper Egyptian village lay on the left (west) bank of the Nile, four hundred miles south of Alexandria, south of the sizable and half-Christian city of Assiut, north of what had been Shenoute’s White Monastery at Sohag. As so often happens in Egypt when digging is done, they found not water but antiquities: in this case papyri, masses of them, the bundled tax archives of a city. Someone called the police, but before anyone in authority could arrive, many of the papyri had been burned by villagers anxious not to be caught with the goods. The surviving papyri were dispersed through middlemen and dealers, most to find their way to the British Museum and the University of Heidelberg. The science of papyrology was young then, and no scholar had ever seen anything like these voluminous tax codices written in thin, elegant, almost minuscule hands. Bell in England and Becker in Germany identified them as the records kept by Greek and Coptic scribes under the eighth-century Arab administration of a town called Aphrodito.

Four years later, in 1905, matters repeated themselves, again by sheer chance. During house-building operations in Kom Ishgaw, the mudbrick wall of an old house collapsed, revealing deep foundations that had covered over yet another massed find of papyri. The local grapevine alerted Gustave Lefebvre, the inspector of antiquities, who hurried to the spot. A few acts of destruction similar to the earlier burning had taken place, but this time most of the papyri were dispersed to dealers, and thence worldwide from Imperial Russia to the American Midwest, to libraries eager to participate in the new rebirth of Greek literature made possible by papyri. Among the papyri there was indeed a text of Menander; but the body of the find consisted of the private and public papers of the sixth-century owner of that text, the lawyer and poet who would become known as Dioscorus of Aphrodito.

The papyri that Lefebvre managed to keep from middlemen and traffickers he brought to the Museum at Cairo (then at Boulaq). He went back to Kom Ishgaw twice more, in 1906 and 1907, and succeeded in finding more sixth-century papyri on the site of the original find. A few had been bought by a M. Beaugé, of the railway inspectorate at Assiut. These documents also were brought safely to Cairo, and the whole lot was assigned to the editorship of Jean Maspero, a young classical scholar and son of the head of the Antiquities Service, Gaston Maspero. Before his death in battle in 1915, Jean Maspero managed to produce the three pioneering volumes of Papyrus grecs d’époque byzantine, of which the first was published in 1911. Together with Bell’s 1917 edition of the sixth-century Aphrodito papyri that had been acquired by the British Museum (P.Lond. V), and Vitelli’s 1915 edition of those bought by the University of Florence (P.Flor. III), these texts constitute the bulk of what we know as the Dioscorus archive of sixth-century Aphrodito, the city that lay under Kom Ishgaw.

Our evidence for the life, work, and world of Dioscorus thus comes from one find (over time) from one place, in preservation widely dispersed, yet in intention forming a unity. The papers kept during a single human lifetime that spanned much of the sixth century reveal the background, activities, and interests of the person who chose to keep them. Numerous discoveries of Byzantine Egyptian remains at sites all along the Nile Valley, from the Fayum to Syene (Aswan), provide a perspective on the period broader than could be obtained from the archives of just one individual in one city. Most of these discoveries were made in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, when the political climate still allowed exploration in the field of what was once Christian Egypt.

Isn’t that interesting?  Yet I for one had never heard of the man!  The Menander codex is known as the “Cairo Codex” of Menander and contained a bunch of his plays.  It was edited and translated in the 1921 Loeb edition of Menander, which is on 

Many of the Aphrodito papyri have not been edited, even, MacCoull says.  And he refers to clandestine digging in the 1930′s, the fruits of which are only now becoming known.

He continues:

Aphrodito stands on a hill. Unusual among Egyptian sites, which more often lie below the present ground level, the modern village of Kom Ishgaw perches atop a tell that must conceal remains of the Byzantine and Umayyad city (see Figure 2). Aphrodito has never been scientifically explored. The papyrus finds were made by accident, and Quibell and Lefebvre simply looked around the papyrus findspots to gather what they could in the way of artifacts—only a few carvings of wood and bone; the late period was of little interest at the beginning of this century. We do not know what Dioscorus’s house or the Apa Apollos monastery looked like. Until, in some better future, field archaeologists have found the physical remains of the Byzantine/Coptic environment:, we can try to reconstruct the city of Dioscorus from the documents, and view it in its own landscape.

Kom Ishgaw lies amid a network of irrigation canals in the wide cultivated belt west of the Nile’s edge (see Figure 3). South of Assiut, the road toward Kom Ishgaw goes by Sidfa with its Uniat school; Tima, largely Christian even today; the Uniat bishopric of Tahta; and Shotep, the ancient Hypselis, where the late sixth-century Coptic exegete Rufus wrote his extensive biblical commentaries. This is a Christian heartland of great antiquity. Some 45 miles to the south is Shenoute’s town, Sohag; across the river from that lies the Panopolis (Akhmim) that was the target of Shenoute’s attacks on paganism and gnosticism. East of these twin cities, up the river’s bend, is the Pachomian headquarters of Pbow (near Chenoboskion), where the monastic library once included Homer, the Bible, Menander, and the Vision of Dorotheos; in the same vicinity were deposited the texts that have become famous in our own time as the Nag Hammadi Codices. To the north, some 110 miles by river, lie the chief twin cities of Upper Egypt: Hermopolis on the west bank, and Antinoopolis (Antinoë), seat of the Duke of the Thebaid, directly across the Nile on the east. Around Aphrodito itself are the well-documented monastic sites of Bawit, Der Bala’izah, and Wadi Sarga. Dioscorus, the proud son of an elite family, was at home in a landscape of deeply rooted classical and Christian culture. This is the land of the wandering poets and of the founding fathers of the Coptic church.

Dioscorus was, as well, a citizen of no mean city. If buildings and amenities help to define a city, Aphrodito had its share. …

Doesn’t it make your fingers itch to go and find papyri?  It does mine!

On his blog, Alin Suciu of Heidelberg University has been reporting on his own efforts to analyse Coptic papyri.  He has found fragments of Cyril of Alexandria’s scholia, some new Chrysostom material, another leaf of the Ancoratus of Epiphanius, and much more.  All of this is lavishly illustrated on a blog which is a model of how to do this.

In the past I’ve found papyrologists rather off-putting.  But we do need, clearly, more people working professionally in this field.  When Coptic texts are unpublished for a century, then the Academy should feel something like shame.

The tomb of a Greco-Egyptian priest and his papyrus codices

Felling rather lighter in heart, I spent this evening creating a Wikipedia article for Leyden papyrus X.  This is an alchemical papyrus codex of 20 leaves, dating from around 300 AD or just before, and dedicated to metalurgy.  It came out of Luxor in Egypt, or rather, out of Thebes.  It’s written in Greek with some demotic, and in the same hand as the so-called Stockholm papyrus, which contains recipes for dyes and stains to make metals look like gold or silver.  The history of these manuscripts is interesting.

In the early 19th century, there was an Armenian adventurer at the Khedevial court in Alexandria.  His true name is unknown, but he called himself Jean d’Anastasi or d’Anastasy.  This was not long after Napoleon’s adventure in Egypt, and the rout of the Mamelukes by the French was perhaps still fresh in the minds of the Egyptians.  A French name he had, anyway. 

Egypt at that period was still part of the Ottoman empire.  When that empire had been at its height, it had issued various legal concessions to westerners, giving immunities from the corrupt attentions of Ottoman officials, and the arbitrary and objectionable taxes and customs and simple robberies involved in being an Ottoman subject.  In consequence many nations employed local people as consular representatives, and such roles were sought out for the same reasons.  This d’Anastasi, at all events, obtained credentials as the Swedish vice-consul, a role that doubtless involved him in much activity on his own behalf in the name of the King of Sweden, and found him very little inconvenienced by any Swedish travellers in that period.

Such “consuls” were keenly interested in the antiquities trade.  The discovery of ancient Egypt by Napoleon, and the savants with whom he travelled, had created a market for such things.  The decypherment of the hieroglyphics was underway, and papyri were much sought-after.  Several decades later, Amelia Edwards in her A thousand miles up the Nile records her own interest in buying such a thing.

It seems that d’Anastasi, as we may as well call him, got lucky.  His agents told him of a ‘find’.  In Luxor, in the ruins of Thebes of the Hundred Gates, someone discovered the tomb of a Greco-Egyptian priest, who had interests in magic and alchemy, and had taken his precious codices to the grave with him.  D’Anastasi acquired them, doubtless for money.  In 1828 he came back to Europe, and disposed of the lot in a series of sales, mostly to European governments.  These were keen to acquire them; but such low-grade literature was of little interest to scholars mainly interested in the Greek classics. Publication with Latin translation took most of the century, and translation into English is only partial even now.

I have no list of d’Anastasi’s collection.  A study of his life and times and, above all, of his collection of papyri and their modern whereabouts and contents, is one that a scholar would be well advised to undertake.  It is likely that much has escaped the attention of scholars, because of the dispersal of the collection.

But let us return to our priest.  A scholar he was, for his interests were antiquarian.  Whether he was a practising magician we do not know.  He knew both Greek and Demotic, and there is writing in Old Coptic, so he was certainly a native Egyptian.  The material at his disposal was heavily influenced by ancient Egyptian magic, and also by Jewish magicians — for whom Moses was a name of power — and even elements from Christian sources.  All was grist, if it “did the trick”.

We do not know his name.  It’s probably written on the walls of his robbed-out tomb, if that still exists and was not destroyed for lime and raw stones.  So much was destroyed, after all.  Flinders Petrie, the founder of scientific archaeology, was horrified at how everything was just being destroyed all around him.  The great temple of Horus at Armant was blown up with gun-powder by “a rascally Italian” to furnish stone for a sugar factory — there is a drawing of it in the Description de l’Egypte of Napoleon’s day, and little else now.

But whoever our priest was, he upheld the reputation of the Egyptians as great magicians.  The texts he assembled have reached us.  The Luxor find is little known, but it once again highlights just how many books there are in the sands of Egypt.

More on Persian Christian literature

There have been a number of further posts in the NASCAS forum on the subject of Persian Christian literature, all of considerable interest.

Thomas A. Carlson writes:

At one time there was a larger corpus of Persian Christian materials.  In Middle Persian there were some psalms, translations from Syriac Christian authors (including Abraham of Nathpar and Abraham of Kashkar, both translated by Job the Persian), a liturgy (mentioned by John of Dalyatha in a letter), and a law-book by Ishobokht of Rewardashir apparently composed in Persian, but which only survives in Syriac translation.  

In Sogdian some has survived, including parts of the Psalms and New Testament, some saints’ lives, and some monastic literature, an overview of which is provided at the end of Baum & Winkler, The Church of the East: A Concise History (London, 2003), 168-170.  

Dr. Pritula’s excellent work only concerns materials translated into neo-Persian, that is, Persian written in (modified) Arabic script.  Of this, if I remember correctly (it has been a while since I’ve looked at this!), almost all that survives from before the Jesuit missions c.1600 is biblical, although more was at one time written in Persian, for example the lost original travel account of Rabban Sauma’s trip to Europe, which the editor/translator mentioned at the end of the account of Rabban Sauma’s voyage in the Syriac “History of Mar Yahballaha and of Rabban Sauma” (edited by Bedjan, translated into English by Budge, recently re-edited by Pier Giorgio Borbone).

For my own reference, and possible future use, I am keeping a list of known (including lost) works in Christian Persian, so if others know of additional works I am very happy to hear of them!

Sasha Treiger draws attention to an article on the Chronology of Translations of the Bible in the Encyclopedia Iranica.  First it lists translations into Middle Persian, or evidence that such exist:

    • 4th century. Statement by John Chrysostom (Homily on John, in Migne, Patrologia Graecia LIX, col. 32) that doctrines of Christ had been translated into the languages of the Persians.
    • 5th century. Statement by Theodoret (Graecarum affect­ionum curatio IX.936, in Migne, PG LXXXIII, col. 1045c) that Persians regarded the Gospels as divine revelation.
    • 4th-6th centuries (?). Middle Persian translation from Syriac of Psalms 94-99, 119-136 (the “Pahlavi Psal­ter”); the extant manuscript contains canons written after ca. 550; Andreas-Barr, 1933.
    • ? centuries. Sogdian translations of the Gospels, Pauline epistles, and Psalms.
    • 9th century. Biblical quotations in the Zoroastrian text Škand-gumānīg wizār; Menasce, 1945, pp. 176ff., Asmussen and Paper, p. 5.

Then it continues with lists of translations of biblical texts into modern Persian.  This begins in the 13th century, is extensive and mainly from Syriac.

Further details appear in the next article, by Shaul Shaked, on Middle Persian Translations of the Bible:

    • The only extant Middle Persian Bible version is represented by fragments of a translation of the Psalms found at the ruin of the Nestorian monastery at Bulayïq near Turfan.   Most of Psalms 94-99, 118, and 121-36 are contained in these fragments. The script is an early form of the cursive Pahlavi script (see Nyberg, Manual I, p. 129).
    • Theodoret, in the fifth century, mentions a translation of the Bible into the language of the Persians alongside with those of the Romans, Egyptians, Armenians, Scythians, and Sauromatians (Migne, Patrologia Graeca 83, Paris, 1859, cols. 947f.; quoted by Munk, p. 65 n. 2; Asmussen and Paper, p. 5). The existence of Iranian language translations of the Book of Esther in use among Jews is indicated by a question which is raised in the Talmud as to whether it is permissible to recite the text of the Book of Esther on the festival of Purim in one of the following languages: Greek, Coptic, Elamite, or Median (Bavli Megilla 18a).

William Hume raises the question of Manichaean literature, in an interesting if somewhat rambling post, and points out:

Speaking of Middle-Persian-Script languages: let us all constantly keep in mind that the Dun Huang & Turfan materials are not fully excavated, and what has been excavated has not been fully described, much less catalogued.  Those materials have yielded plenty of Manichaean materials.  I have an extremely vague recollection that there were even Nestorian materials found, in Iranian-branch languages like Khotanese Saka, and so on.

He also adds:

May I add, as a sort of “marginal” consideration, my understanding that there is a fair amount of Manichaean literature that survives in Middle Persian? … Prof. Ludwig KOENEN of University of Michigan published the Coptic “Life of Mani”, in which it was made clear that Mani grew up as an Elkasite Gnostic…

I confess that this is news to me, and rather interesting.  The Cologne Mani codex, here referenced, also has an article in the Encyclopedia Iranica here.  The Wikipedia article (unreliable, of course!) gives a 5th century date for the tiny codex, and mentions an English translation.  It also links to images of all the pages.  I have not been able to find an English translation online, however.

A letter of St. Pisentios on Islam

While looking rather carelessly through the online volumes of the Revue de l’Orient Chretien, whose Syriac contents are listed here, I found myself looking at something interesting and non-Syriac.

In ROC 19 (1914), on p.79f. and 302 f. (the article was split into two parts, issued in successive quarters), A. Perier publishes the Arabic text of a letter of St. Pisentios, Coptic bishop of Qeft, to his flock.  The letter exists in four manuscripts in the French National library, the Bibliotheque Nationale, and Perier gives a French translation.

The second half of the letter consists of a prophecy of the coming of the Moslems, and their leader Mamadanous (Mohammed) whose name, in Coptic letters, is said to add up to 666.

Unfortunately the letter cannot be genuinely by the pre-Islamic bishop.  The predictions of the actions of the Turks, the very general terms in which Moslem atrocities are described, the whole feel of the letter suggests a later composition, in which past history and current woes are depicted in apocalyptic terms as a prophecy.  Several Coptic apocalypses are of the same kind, which I think means that we are probably dealing with a literary genre here, rather than several attempts at forgery.

It is rather too long and diffuse for me to turn the French into English, sadly, with my current concerns. 

But it is by no means uninteresting.  It makes the point that the ROC contains a great deal more than just the Syriac articles.  It contains, indeed, publications of texts from the Near East.  Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would digest down a table of contents of these articles also?

A new Coptic nationalist blog

Dioscorus Boles, who comments regularly on Coptic materials here, has started his own blog here, discussing history and politics from a contemporary Coptic point of view.

Coptic fragments from Sothebys

Alin Suciu has a couple of interesting posts, identifying some Coptic fragments recently auctioned at Sothebys.  More info here!

Eusebius update

The proof copy fixes to the Eusebius have all been done and entered.  Yippee!!!   I have finally, finally, got all the Coptic changes into the PDF, decided what they all should be, etc.  To do so, I’ve actually had to learn some Coptic, in order to work out what to do, which has delayed matters for a month.  I was rather left in the dark on the original language stuff.

But this morning I have sent off the PDF to Bob the typesetter.  Deep rejoicing here, indeed.

I also included a word document of notes about it, plus an extra Coptic fragment that the contributor strongly insisted on — I ended up typing in the Coptic text for that myself!  I also sent him a new version of the Alphabetum font.  In the old one, the two Coptic letters lambda and beta were too tall so that overscores intersected the letters.  The font author did a bug fix for me.

So it has been a very busy month.  But that’s it.  That’s the text done, or so I hope.

I can now start paying attention to the cover.  That can wait a few days, I think.

UPDATE: And once I’d done that, I went to collect my email.  And … there was an email from Les editions du Cerf, giving approval from their end of the translation.  I’ve been waiting nearly four months for that (the lady responsible was widowed during the period), but it has come at last!  We have some momentum going here, chaps!

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 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.

The reputation of Amélineau

I spent part of yesterday evening updating the Wikipedia article on Émile Amélineau.  The old version described him as an archaeologist, but was oblivious to his work as a Coptologist.  More seriously it was unaware of the very serious criticisms levelled against his excavation work at Abydos by the great Flinders Petrie. 

Petrie more or less created Egyptian archaeology as a scientific discipline.  Prior to this, there was really only tomb raiding or treasure hunting.  Every anglophone archaeologist has been influenced by his work.  He was certainly egotistical. His 1931 publication Seventy years in archaeology mentions very few other Egyptologists — not even the discovery of Tutankhamun. 

When I was a boy, reading about Egyptology in the books of Leonard Cottrell, Amelineau was simply a villain.  This view has prevailed.  So it was quite a shock to find his endless publications of Coptic texts.  Often these are the only edition.  The Journal Asiatique is full of them, and then there are the great volumes of the works of Shenoute.

These too have not gone without criticism.  Modern coptologist Stephen Emmel, familiar from his role in the Gospel of Judas saga, has criticised them as containing many errors, but he acknowledges that no-one since has edited them.  We may recall that Emmel is editing some of the texts afresh, and so perhaps unconsciously he feels the need to justify the production of a new edition by drawing attention to the defects of the editio princeps

 I wish I could have found a French biography of Amelineau.  Petrie’s bitter remarks, written many years later, can only be one side of the story.  Doubtless Amelineau really did do wrong, and should never have attempted archaeology, for which he had no special qualifications.  But a balanced picture of the man must recognise his real contribution to scholarship.