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.


12 thoughts on “The “Two Ways” in the Arabic Life of Shenouda

  1. There’s also a couple of pages on this source in van de Sandt/Flusser’s _The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity_ (Fortress, 2002). This book contains one of the most comprehensive treatments of the Two Ways tractate that I’ve seen.

  2. Interesting.

    Roger, I have to add that Apa Shenoute’s contribution to Coptic spirituality is completely lost on Amelineau, who refers to the saint as having a “Christless spirituality.”

  3. Brandon, thank you very much! Most interesting. I’m actually replacing my scanners at the moment (thank you Vista) and finding that the modern ones are perceptibly better quality and faster.

  4. I’ve scanned the note by van de Sant etc and put it here, as it forms something of a roadmap of how to look further into this. (Thankfully Finereader 9 coped with the problems in the image really rather well!)

  5. I have read again, since Roger posted his article about St Shenoute and “the two ways”, the D N Bell English translation of the Bohairic Life of Shenoute by Besa, and I ould like to comment on it: the translation is good and conveys much of the charisma and spirituality of St Shenouda. What I didn’t like, however, is Bell’s remarks in his Introduction. I know of no one who has put more venom in his writings about Copticism, the Coptic Church and the Copts in general. He does not only fail to see Coptic Spirituality, as Nader, has already mentioned, but he treats the Coptic Church and the Copts with unjustified disrespect, which is bound to upset the unbiased Coptologist, and make the Copts fuel with indignation. Take just one of his comments: “In the present writer’s view, the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 642 was the salvation of the country, and the glories of the Caliphate happily counterbalance the dismal story of Egyptian Christianity in the fifth and sixth centuries.” p. 22 (Cistercian Publications, 1983).

    We are accustomed to anti-Coptic writings between the 16th and early 20th centuries, particularly, when they come to St. Shenoute, by Chalcedonians (for St. Shenouda’s support of Patriarch Dioscorus in 451 AD), and by semi-Nestorians (for his alleged attack on Nestorius at Ephesus in 431 AD), but for this to come from a lecturer in religions, in a respectable university, in the late 20th century, is, honestly, a bit too much. I really do not think Bell has read the biography properly, or if he has, he must have skipped the many stories that depict Shenoute as embodying the Christian values of brotherly love, mercy and hospitality to the needy and strangers. This is what made the Copts love St Shenoute and venerate him to this day. But there are two other factors, in my opinion, which made Shenoute the charismatic leader he was: he practiced ascetic life with single-mindedness rare except in great hermits such as St. Anthony, St. Pishoi and St, Pachomius; and he stood to defend the oppressed fellahin (those whom Bell seems happy to describe, quoting Leipoldt, as “uneducated slave people”) against their Greek masters who oppressed and exploited them.

    I recently visited The White Monastery in Upper Egypt, and found it, out of all Egyptian monasteries, closely linked to the lay Copts in the area. They live in it or close to it and the interaction between its monks and Copts, fellahin or otherwise, is not repeated elsewhere. It is a monastery for the people rather than away from them. And this perhaps is the lasting legacy of St. Shenoute.

    Dioscorus Boles

  6. Thank you Dioscorus for these details.

    Is it just Copts, or Christians in general that get attacked? It sounds like a case of political correctness.

  7. You are absolutely correct, Roger. All Christianity is indited these days. The, Copts, if you would allow me, do get it a bit more though, as they are squeezed from all sides, as you know – that is why my focusing on the attacks against them.

  8. You’re quite right, and the Copts face a far more difficult situation than any of us in the west. Well worth highlighting.

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