Coptic text of 2 Enoch recovered

2 Enoch only exists in an Old Slavonic version.  But a Coptic version has been rediscovered in fragments from Nubia, from the now drowned site at Qasr Ibrim.  The fragments were discovered in the Egypt Exploration Society rescue expedition in 1963, as the waters rose behind the Aswan High Dam. 

Joost Hagen has been entrusted by the EES with the edition of the manuscript material in Coptic, the language of Christian Egypt and one of the literary languages used in the Christian kingdoms of Nubia.

The ‘Slavonic Enoch’ fragments, found in 1972, are four in number, most probably remnants of four consecutive leaves of a parchment codex. The fourth fragment is rather small and not yet placed with certainty, also because there is as yet no photograph of it available, only the transcription of its text by one of the excavators. For the other three fragments, both this transcription and two sets of photographs are available. The present location of the pieces themselves is not known, but most probably they are in one of the museums or magazines of the Antiquities Organization in Egypt.

The fragments contain chapters 36-42 of 2 Enoch… they clearly represent a text of the short recension, with chapter 38 and some other parts of the long recension ‘missing’ and chapters 37 and 39 in the order 39 then 37. On top of that, it contains the ‘extra’ material at the end of chapter 36 that is present only in the oldest Slavonic manuscript of the work, U (15th cent.), and in manuscript A (16th cent.), which is closely related to U. For most Coptic texts, a translation from a Greek original is taken for granted and the existence of this Coptic version might well confirm the idea of an original of the Book of the Secrets of Enoch in Greek from Egypt, probably Alexandria.

Archeologically it seems likely that the Coptic manuscript is part of the remains of a church library from before the year 1172, possibly even from before 969, two important dates in the history of Qasr Ibrim; a tentative first look at palaeographical criterea seems to suggest a date in the eighth to ninth, maybe tenth centuries, during Nubia’s early medieval period. This would mean that the fragments predate the accepted date of the translation of 2 Enoch into Slavonic (11th, 12th cent.) and that they are some several hunderd years older than the earliest Slavonic witness, a text with extracts of the ethical passages (14th cent.).

Thanks to Jim Davila for the tip.  Andrei Orlov runs a site dedicated to 2 Enoch.


5 thoughts on “Coptic text of 2 Enoch recovered

  1. I am hoping to make an updated version of 2 Enoch, and I want to incorporate the coptic, but i can’t find the coptic anywhere. where can i find the coptic version? i can find no outside sources testifying to the existence of the coptic fragments. only different websites that don’t have any sources, they just make the claim. so, are there any sources where I can testify to the existence of the coptic and where I can use them for my edition of 2 Enoch?

  2. Dear Anayah,

    My article with an English translation of the Coptic fragments, introduction and elaborate commentary will appear later this year in the proceedings of the Naples Enoch Seminar of 2009.

    Very best wishes,

    Joost Hagen.

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