The Coptic apocalypse of Daniel

Ian Tompkins pointed me to an interesting article on this little known Coptic text, in RHR 33 (1896), 163-176.  Since I don’t know anything about this text, and M. Macler is willing to tell me (in French), here is a running translation of excerpts of his article.

It’s name, The fourteenth vision of Daniel, is because in the manuscript in which it is found, it follows the book of Daniel which is divided into thirteen visions, as in the Alexandrian manuscript. [Ms. BNF copt 58]

This apocalypse begins by imitating the canonical book of Daniel; it borrows from it the notion of four great monarchies; it even borrows entire phrases…

After a very detailed historical-seeming introduction, which resembles that of the canonical book, the prophet has a vision concerning the realm of the sons of Ishmael.  Nineteen kings of this race shall reign over the land (over Egypt); in the reign of the nineteenth and last, Pitourgos, his enemy will return, put him to flight and kill him; then the king of the Romans will rise up and govern the Ishmaelites; then Gog and Magog will shake the earth…then Antichrist will appear… then the Ancient of Days will come, who will put Antichrist to death, and whose kingdom will have no end.  Finally Daniel is commanded to seal up all these things until the time when they happen.

Our Apocalypse offers this characteristic, that at first sight all the quoted facts seem historical and easy to identify; but on looking at there more closely, this semblance disappears, and there remains nothing except a bizarre collection of treatises gathered by a less than faithful memory. If the reader, not wanting to remain in that state, reviews in more detail his study, he will see that the author of the Apocalypse has juxtaposed some historical facts which he remembered preciselywith other vague and erroneous data, intended to replace the events which he could not remember.  

We will add the results at which we arrived in the notes. We do not claim to have the complete story, but our hypothesis cannot be very far away from the truth.

The author of the Apocalypse enumerates nineteen kings, but he characterizes them only starting with the tenth; as he writes in Egypt, it is probable that he is speaking about Fatimids of Egypt, and in our explanatory notes we will see that Pitourgos indicates the Turks, and more especially Saladin; the Romans (Roumis) arrive, they are the Crusaders: so we believe that our Apocalypse was created around the time of the Third Crusade, a little after 1187.  

There then follows a French translation of the text, which I have translated into English and will put online tomorrow.


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