Pachomius, “Instruction concerning a spiteful monk” – now translated by Anthony Alcock

There is a text preserved in a Coptic manuscript which is thought by some to be the work, or partly the work, of the Egyptian monastic leader Pachomius.  Dr Anthony Alcock has kindly prepared a new translation of the work, from the text printed by E. A. Budge in Coptic Apocrypha in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (1913), p.146-176.  He has made this available to us online, under the title of: Instructing an angry monk at Tabennêse.  It’s here:

The text was printed from a single parchment manuscript, discovered at the monastery of S. Mercurius at Edfu.  It is now British Library Oriental 7024.  The text is on folios 18r-49v.  The colophon dates it to AD 985.[1]  The work was edited again by L. T. Lefort, Œuvres de S. Pachôme et de ses disciples, CSCO 159, (with French translation CSCO 160) (1956), p.1-24.  But this I have not seen.  The original work was certainly in Coptic, but at least two manuscripts of an Arabic translation are known.  Lefort made use of one, and the other was discovered recently by Khalil Samir.  Other Arabic manuscripts probably exist, or so I learn from A. Veilleux &c, Pachomian Koinonia: Instructions, Letters and other writings of Salnt Pachomius and his disciples, vol. 3 (1982) which also includes an English translation (online at Alin Suciu’s site here).

The manuscript attributes the work to Pachomius, but there is some disagreement among scholars, or so I learn from Ulla Tervahauta &c, Women and Knowledge in Early Christianity, p.255 n.18 (preview here).  There is more discussion at Carolyn Schneider, The Text of a Coptic Monastic Discourse On Love and Self-Control (2017), p.79 f. (preview here).  No doubt any Coptic monastic text might drift into being attributed to Pachomius, whoever the original author.   Lefort was the first to note that the work includes a long section from Athanasius’ On Charity and Continence, quoted without attribution.

Thank you Dr Alcock!

  1. [1]So this page.

Shenoute, “I have heard about your wisdom” (Ad Flavianum ducem) – English translation by Anthony Alcock

An email last night brought with it a text and English translation of a Coptic text, Abbot Shenoute “I have heard about your wisdom” (the Discourse in the presence of Flavian or Ad Flavianum ducem), made by Dr Anthony Alcock.  Alin Suciu has discussed this text somewhat here.  The slightly unusual title is in fact the incipit.

The PDF, which I have renamed, is here:

The works of Shenoute seem to have remained determinedly offline, yet this forceful figure of the late 4th-early 5th century is exceedingly important in the history of Coptic Christianity, and the transition from official paganism to official Christianity.  It is very good to have at least something online!  Thank you.


The Confession and Martyrdom of Cyprian of Antioch – translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock is continuing his series of translations of Coptic texts.  He has sent in a translation of a hagiographical text, the Confession and Martyrdom of Cyprian of Antioch, and provided a short introduction.  The text is translated from manuscript.

The story is known to 4th century authors but is purely fictional, and perhaps based on earlier pagan stories including Lucian.  The saint is also known as Cyprian the Magician, and he is described as a pagan magician who converts to Christ.  The Wikipedia article on Cyprian and Justina is here.  It has been suggested that the text may have inspired the modern legend of Faust, the man who sold his soul to the devil.  A blog article here gives some interesting information about the text and its transmission in Greek from L. Radermacher, Griechische Quellen Zur Faustsage. Der Zauberer Cyprianus. Die Erzählung Des Helladius. Theophilus. (Anthemius.), 1927.  Unfortunately I have no time to go into any of this now.

Here is the translation of the Coptic texts:

Thank you, Dr Alcock.


Sayings of Luqman – translated by Anthony Alcock

The sage Luqman appears in the Koran, but also in other sources, as the author of collections of wisdom.  Anthony Alcock has translated one of these collections from Arabic, which is very good news.  The content itself is highly readable, and it is very useful to have.  Here it is:

Thank you, Dr. A!


A new translation of Synesius’ “In praise of baldness” from Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has translated Synesius of Cyrene’s spoof Encomium of baldness  from Greek.  Synesius was a contemporary of Hypatia, and lived in the late 4th century.

Here it is:


Life of Aesop, translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has deviated from his usual work in Syriac and Coptic to translate one of the ancient Lives of Aesop.  His full introduction explains which, and based on what manuscripts.  This work belongs to the genre of “sayings” or “wisdom” literature (gnomologia); but I presume might also relate to the genre of Saints’ lives.

This is therefore very valuable to have.  Thank you!


A Nestorian Syriac account of the life of Nestorius – translated by Anthony Alcock

In the late 19th century the Nestorians were still holed up in the mountains of what is today northern Iraq, and preserved a considerable amount of literature in Syriac giving their side of the dispute with Cyril of Alexandria that culminated in the Council of Ephesus in 433.

Anthony Alcock has kindly translated an abbreviated account of this, from that perspective.  I think most of us find Cyril difficult to like, and tend to be sympathetic to Nestorius.  So these texts are valuable.  Here it is:

Thank you so much!


An annotated translation of part of the Coptic Acts of the synod of Ephesus – by Anthony Alcock

Now here is an interesting one!  Dr Alcock writes:

I attach an annotated translation of the ‘fictional’ part of the Coptic acts of the Synod of Ephesus. I am currently preparing an annotated translation of a short Syriac text about Nestorius, which of course contains a different perspective (or ‘take’, as people say nowadays).

Here it is:

Pboou is one of the Pachomian monasteries.  The Egyptian text has suffered from the attention of hagiographers, who have introduced fictional sections like this one.  So the story is not of historical value (although genuine documents from the synod are embedded in the text).

All this material is useful to have online in English.  We could do with much more synodical material accessible in this way.  Who of us has ever read the Acts of Ephesus, or Chalcedon?


The Miracles of St Ptolemy – translated from Arabic by Anthony Alcock

Dr Alcock has kindly translated another Eastern Christian text.  This one is a collection of miracles by St Ptolemy.  It’s here:

Thank you so much, Dr A.!