The Qasr el-Wizz apocryphon

Alin Suciu has another marvellous post on an item entirely new to me.

When the High Dam was built in the 1960s, almost the entire Nile valley between Aswan and Wadi Halfa had been inundated in order to create the Lake Nassar. As the waters were rising, many archeological sites were destroyed, while others, such as the well-known temples of Abu-Simbel, were removed from their original location and re-erected elsewhere. During the construction of the dam, more precisely in October-November 1965, the archeological team from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago was excavating a Christian monastery at Qasr el-Wizz, situated just a couple of kilometers north of Faras, in Lower Nubia. …

Perhaps the most exciting discovery of the Chicago team at Qasr el-Wizz was a small parchment book written in Coptic. The manuscript was found almost intact, virtually the entire text being preserved. The Qasr el-Wizz codex was initially housed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, but was later been moved to the new Nubian Museum in Aswan.

The codex is quite short (only 17 folios), is dated to the 10th century, and contains  two items:

  1. A revelation of the risen Christ to the apostles, delivered on the Mount of Olives. “It contains a dialogue of the apostle Peter with the resurrected Christ concerning the eschatological and soteriological function of the Cross.”
  2. “A hymn sung by Jesus whilst the apostles are dancing around the Cross”.

The first item has long been known in Old Nubian, and was published by F. L. Griffith in The Nubian Texts of the Christian Period, Berlin, 1913 (online here).

The second is more interesting: it is an abbreviated version of the “Hymn of the Cross” found in the so-called “Gospel of the Savior”, P. Berol. 22220, published by Charles Hedrick back in 1997-ish — a report about it was one of the first items on my newly created website — and apparently this is also found in the so-called “Strasbourg Coptic Gospel”, which is unknown to me.

An English translation was prepared in typescript by Egyptologist George R. Hughes in 1965, for private use, which Alin rediscovered in the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.  He did place it online, but felt obliged to remove it after a communication from Artur Obluski, whom he may have thought was writing on behalf of that institution. 

That is rather a pity, surely.  I have always thought of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago as a rather forward-looking body.  The availability of an admittedly obsolete translation of this obscure item can only benefit everyone by raising awareness of the text.  It is, after all, very obscure.  I had never heard of it, and, given my interest in ancient texts, that means that practically no-one has ever heard of it.

Perhaps I might write to that institution and ask whether they really have any objection.


10 thoughts on “The Qasr el-Wizz apocryphon

  1. I need to correct an information which is not true.

    I did not obliged anyone to do anything and I did not act on behalf of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

    Let’s focus on facts if you may please.

    Alin Suciu received a document from the OI with translation made by one of the OI’s employes 30 years ago with an information “not for publication”.

    In my understanding of ethics if I receive something from someone especially with such a stamp I ask the owner of this document if I can make it public. I may be wrong but that is what I think. Let me know what you think.

    I suggested to Alin to consider asking the OI for a consent to put it on the website not for taking it off it.

  2. Thank you for clarifying the matter. Certainly I gained from your statements the impression that you were writing officially. I will modify the post to reflect this.

    We’re in a strange position, in these early days of the internet. Many things are uncertain. Questions of copyright on basically valueless (in monetary terms) archive material have not been universally agreed. So it is never quite clear what is actually the ‘right’ thing to do. The dog in the manger is not a figure deserving enormous respect, after all.

  3. Roger,

    I am one of the guys who is against keeping the texts and the data in the storage rooms forever and I wish to have it all online ! And I am certainly not a dog in a the menager because it is not who will publish the textual finds from Qasr el-Wizz.
    I don’t have anything against putting Hughes’ translation online. I just thought asking the OI would be the right thing to do. I think that he understood what I meant that’s why he took it off.
    I suppose that our discussions are much ado about nothing and I would really appreciate ending it with this post.
    Have a great weekend.

  4. James,
    If it was mine I would sent it to you rightaway. In this case I need to ask John Larson, head of the OI’s archives. I’ll ask him on Monday and let you know. I do not expect problems since they have already sent it to other researchers.

  5. Dear Mr Pearse,
    both the Coptic text (with fac-simile) and its German translation are easily accessible in my book ‘Koptische Apokryphen aus Nubien. Der Kasr el-Wizz Kodex” Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York 2009.
    An English translation of the second text of the Codex (‘Dance of the Savior’) has been published by Pierluigi Piovanelli, Thursday Night Fever.., in Early Christianity 2012 (vol.3) 229-248.
    Good luck with the text.
    Peter Hubai (Hungary)

  6. Thank you for the update! I’m sure people will find this interesting and useful – thank you!

    I don’t think that “easily accessible” applies to book publication these days, you know? Not in the age of the internet. 🙂

    All the best,

    Roger Pearse

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