Searching for books; Origen, Agapius, and the Didache in Shenouda.

My trip to the University Library at Cambridge was successful, and they did let me in. I was able to get photocopies of the Baehrens GCS edition of Origen’s Homilies on Ezechiel.  Mind you, it cost 15c per page, which made it costly and prevented me from copying the whole volume.  I wish someone with borrowing privileges would scan all these early GCS editions — they’re all out of copyright.

I also took a look at the CSCO edition of Agapius, by L. Cheikho, from 1912.  I’m not all that impressed by this; if it is using al-Makin to supplement the text then it doesn’t really say so.  The apparatus seemed rather feeble to me.  It does seem to me that a modern critical edition of this text is required.  Modern technology such as multi-spectral imaging should allow the material that was illegible in those days to be read with relative ease.

Some time ago I discussed the Arabic life of the 4th century Coptic churchman Shenouda.  This is of interest because it contains, improbably, a version of the Didache.  It was printed with a French translation in several versions by Amelineau, over a century ago.  Unfortunately all of these are offline.  CUL did have the Vie de Schnoudi volume, but had consigned it to the dungeon which is the “rare books” department.  This means that you can’t photocopy it, which makes getting a copy difficult and costly.  However the version printed in the Monuments pour servir a l’histoire de l’Egypte…, t. IV, in 2 vols, was accessible and could be copied.  The text is found on pp. 289-478; which means photocopying over 150 pages, one page at a time.  However the format is Arabic at the top, French at the bottom, and there isn’t actually that much text on each page; less than in the Patrologia Orientalis editions. 

I would have photocopied this, but a call on my mobile cut short my visit, to attend to family business.  I’ll get a copy of this another day.

Wish it didn’t cost so much, tho.


Nau’s version of the Syriac life of Shenouda now online

I’ve hastily uploaded my translation of the short Syriac life of Shenouda, published by Nau, here.  I really need to add a short preface, but I just don’t have the time at this moment.

More on Shenouda and the “Two Ways”

The Arabic life of Shenouda is briefly discussed in van de Sandt and Flusser’s The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity(Fortress, 2002), chapter 2, pp. 66-67.  Their note is so useful that I think we had better see it, as we start to look at this text:


Shenoute (Sinuthius) was an abbot of the famous White Monastery of Atripe in Upper Egypt.43 When he died around 466 at the age of 118, his life was written by his successor, the abba Besa. In the form of a memorial speech, Besa idolizes the personality of his great teacher and idealizes his achievements. The account, which was thus a hagiography rather than an ordinary biography, was written in Sahidic Coptic and served as a source for translations into Syriac, Arabic and the Bohairic dialect. The text in the Bohairic dialect dates from the Middle Ages and was first published by Emile Amelineau 44 in the late nineteenth century and again by Iohannes Leipoldt in 1906.45 For our present study, the Arabic text of the Life of Shenoute is of significance because only this translation includes a version of the Two Ways. After the publication of the Arabic text as a whole by E. Amelineau 46 in 1888, it was L.E. Iselin who identified the very beginning of this hagiography as a form of the Two Ways instruction.47

The Two Ways form in the Arabic Life of Shenoute, like the Apostolic Church Order, leaves out the materials which are presented in Doctr./Did 4:9-14. This does not mean, however, that the Arabic version was indebted in this respect to ACO. For ACO (and the Epitome for that matter) omits the Way of Death passage as well, which in an abbreviated shape is present in the Arabic version. Another outstanding feature in this design of the Two Ways is that the “te/kvov” sayings are not limited to the passage that corresponds with Doctr./Did 3.1-6. In the Life of Shenoute, the hearers/readers are addressed as “my son” from the phrase which runs parallel to Doct./Did 2:6 and this stylistic device (with exceptions in the parallel passages to3:9-10; 4 :7) is maintained as far as the saying analoguous to 4:8. However, the distinctive repetitive pattern which characterizes all five literary units in Doctr./Did 3:1-6 is lacking here. Finally, the present form of the writing, referring to “Jesus Christ” (cf. the parallel item in Doctr./Did 2:5 and, possibly, in 4:14c) and “Jesus'” (cf. id., 4:7), shows some obvious instances of Christian editing.

Amelineau supposed that the Arabic text of the Life of Shenoute is a faithful translation from the Sahidic Coptic original. Modern scholarship, however, no longer accepts thus view and believes that the Arabic Life represents an adaptation and elaboration of the Sahidic Coptic archetype.48 The revision may date from the late seventh century. Besa (or “Visa” in the Arabic version), on the other hand, composed his original in the second half of the fifth century. It is clear that these data concerning the process of tradition and transmission do not inspire confidence with regard to a well-founded judgment on the earlier shape of the present text. This much is clear, however, that the monks in the White Monastery in Atripe had a Coptic version of the Two Ways at their disposal.49 This version was not a secondary elaboration of this instruction, like, for example, the Apostolic Church Order. For despite the additions, omissions, and alterations, the Arabic text has many terms in common with the Doctr./Did 1:1 -5:150 and these agreements largely occur in the same sequence. The Coptic Two Ways treatise as seen in the Arabic translation betrays a feature of its primitiviness in omitting the evangelical section of Did 1:35b-2:1. It may thus be considered a witness to a Two Ways form that circulated independently of the Didache and was closely related to the one in the Doctrina.

43 For the following, see Quasten, Patrology 3, 185-187; Altaner-Stuiber, Patrologie, 268-269; Bell, Besa: The Life of Shenoute, 1-35 (Introduction); Davis, ‘The Didache and early Monasticism’, 353-358.
44 Memoires 4.1, 1-91: ‘Vie de Schnoudi’.
45 We had only access to the following publication: Leipoldt, Sinuthii Vita Bohairice (1951). A Latin translation (completed by L.T. Lefort) is found in Wiesmann. Sinuthii Vita Bohairice (1951).
46Memoires. 4.1: Monuments, 289-478 and for the Two Ways, see esp. 291-296.
47Eine bisher unbekannte Version des ersten Teiles der “Apostellehre” (1895) with a German translation from A. Heusler. An English translation of the Life’s Two Ways section (“from the rendition of the French translation by Emile C. Amelineau”) is found in Davis, ‘The Didache and early Monasti­cism’. 365-367.
48 See Bell. Besa: The Life of Shenoute. 4. For the view of Amelineau. cf. Memoires 4.1: Monuments. I.II-LVIII.
49 Cf. also Davis. ‘The Didache and early monasticism’. 35 8.
50 Goodspeed traced seventy-seven corresponding items; cf. ‘The Didache’. 237.

It is pleasing to learn from the footnotes that even these professional academics had difficulty locating copies of Amelineau’s work!  I think that there are copies in Cambridge, and I will try to obtain a copy when I go up there in July.

The scribe Besa is called “Visa” in the Syriac life published by Nau which I have translated and will put online.  This I found slightly confusing, while I was translating, since I was also making a claim against the French National Library on my credit card at the time.

Thanks to Brandon W for letting me have a copy of this, in response to my previous post.

The “Two Ways” in the Arabic Life of Shenouda

We’re all familiar with the material common to the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas, known as the Two Ways.  However it seems from a note at CCEL that this material also appears in the Arabic version of a hagiographical text called the “Life of Shenouda the Archimandrite”.  This text exists in multiple Coptic and Syriac versions as well, all somewhat different.

From this source I learn the following:

The Life of St. Shenouda was recorded by his close disciple St. Besa, shortly after his repose. It was done in Sahidic Coptic but only the Bohairic translation survived intact in a 10th century AD manuscript. Some Sahidic fragments have been identified and published. There is also, a more expanded version extant in Arabic as well as one similar to the Bohairic surviving in Ethiopic. The Coptic Text was edited by Dr. Johannes Leipoldt from Vatican Copt. LXVI, ff. 19r-82r (CML 55C). It was translated in French by Prof. E. C. Amelineau, in latin by Prof. Weitzmann (?), and in English by Dr. D. N. Bell. The excerpts provided below are from the English translation.


Abd an-Nur Seifin, History of the Great Saint Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite. Alexandria 1959 (In Arabic)
Amelineau, E. C., Les Moines Egyptiens: Vie de Schenoudi. Paris: Leroux, 1898
Amelineau, E. C., Oeuvres de Schenoudi: Texte Copte et Traduction Francaise. 2 vols. Paris: Leroux, 1907-14
Basset, R. Le Synaxaire Arabe Jacobite. Patrologia Orientalis vol 17 no. 3, Paris, 1923 (Entry under the 7th of Abib)
Bell, D. N. The Life of Shenoute by Besa. Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1983
Bell, D. N., Shenoute the Great: The Struggle with Satan. Cistercian Studies, 21, 1986, 177-85
Bethune-Baker, J. F., The Date of the Death of Nestorius: Schenute, Zacharias, Evagrius. Journal of Theological Studies, 9, 1908, 601-5
Brakke, D. Shenute: On Cleaving to Profitable Things. Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica 20, 1989, 115-41
Burmester, O. The Homilies or Exhortation of the Holy Week Lectionary. Museon 45, 1932, 21-70
Butcher, E. L., The Story of the Church of Egypt. vol. 1 London, 1897.
Chassinat, E. Le Quatrieme Livre des Entretiene et Epitres de Shenouti, MIFAO v.23Cairo, 1911
Emmel, S., Shenoute’s Literary Corpus Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University 1993

A look in Graf’s Geschichte der christilichen arabischen Literatur would give more info on the Arabic version, I suspect. My copy is at home, tho.

A search on reveals “Une version syriaque inédite de la vie de Schenoudi, par F. Nau,… – E. Leroux (Paris) – 1900“. This includes Syriac text and a French translation (about 12 short pages in length). It also draws a tree of the relationship of the various versions.  In the introduction, Nau says that Amelineau published the Coptic life and an Arabic life, with French translation, of which the copies above were reprints, in Memoires publies par les membres de la mission archaeologique francaise au Caire, tome IV.

Unfortunately, despite the industry of Amelineau, none of these versions are online.  This is a pity, since we could usefully have a translation of it.

I’ve translated into English the Syriac version published by Nau, and will upload it soon.  But it does not contain the two ways.