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.

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.


A few more interesting links from my backlog

Here are a few more stories that I saw over the last few weeks, and thought might be of general interest, some concerned with antiquity, others less so.

Ps.Chrysostom, “De remissione peccatorum (CPG 4629)” – now edited with French translation

Another tweet alerts me that Sergey Kim has put online at here a new edition of the pseudo-Chrysostom homily “de remissione peccatorum” (the forgiveness of sins), together with a French translation.  This is very welcome!  It also includes the editio princeps of a Bohairic Coptic version!

Papyri from Nessana?

Nessana is not a name that we associate with papyri.  But while looking for information on St George, I came across mention of them – mostly documents of the community of Nessana in the early muslim period – here.[1]  There’s biblical papyri, texts of the Aeneid (!), and a lot of hagiographical stuff.  And, of course, documents with prices.  The article gives some nice ideas of what things cost at that period.

When a muslim student went to Cambridge in 1816

Quite a different story from Nile Green here, telling the story of a group of Persians sent to Britain to learn from western civilisation just after Waterloo.  It must have been obvious to the Shah that the power of the west was becoming immense, and he understandably wanted to keep up.  One of the students ended up at Cambridge, through the networks of connections through which Georgian England functioned, and came under the patronage of Samuel Lee.

Lee is a figure that was already known to me.  He was the editor and translator of the Theophania of Eusebius, after it was retrieved from the Nitrian desert in the 1840s. But before then, he was already famous as the “Shrewsbury linguist”, an ordinary man who had proven to have immense gifts for language.  It was naturally to Lee that the Persian was entrusted.  I did not know, however, that Lee was an enthusiastic Christian – why do secular writers always try to hide this behind terms like “evangelical”? – and generally a very worthy man.  Of course as a professor, yet social outsider, he was perfect to assist the visitor.

Buying books online? Beware the book-jacker!

A couple of weeks ago I decided to buy the autobiography of rock keyboard player Keith Emerson, Pictures of an Exhibitionist.  I was perplexed to see a series of copies offered for sale, starting at $100 and moving swiftly up.  Then I learned about book-jacking.

From what we’ve been able to piece together, there are about 40 “sellers” on Abe & Amazon … that do not own any of their own stock, but simply hijack other legitimate booksellers’ listings from other websites and then post the listings with inflated prices.

The availability of APIs from Abe, and (especially) Amazon have made it very easy for people with computer programming skill to become bookjackers and pull the wool over unsuspecting consumers’ collective eyes.  …

At 10 a.m. on Monday morning:
Book A becomes available on by a legitimate seller for $25
Book A is currently not available on
Shortly thereafter bookjacker software detects the book on and quickly posts it to So a few hours later the Marketplace on Amazon looks like:

Bookjacker1, $89.95
Bookjacker2, $89.99
Bookjacker3, $91.11
Bookjacker4, $95.50

After sifting the listings for the Emerson book, it looks like a classic example.  There is perhaps one copy for sale, at a bookshop in London.  The others are all get-rich-quick swindlers.  Beware!

How the quakers got rid of haggling in shops

Slashdot tells me about a video (yuk) on the invention of … the fixed price tag:

Belying its simplicity and ubiquity, the price tag is a surprisingly recent economic development, Aeon magazine writes. For centuries, haggling was the norm, ultimately developing into a system that required clerks and shopkeepers to train as negotiators. In the mid-19th century, however, Quakers in the US began to believe that charging people different amounts for the same item was immoral, so they started using price tags at their stores to counter the ills of haggling. And, as this short video from NPR’s Planet Money explains, by taking a moral stand, the Quakers inadvertently revealed an inefficiency in the old economic system and became improbable pricing pioneers, changing commerce and history with one simple innovation.

The end of tithes, and the British Union of Fascists

The medieval system of agricultural taxes where the (often poor) farmers paid the (often wealthy) rector a “tithe” of the crop was very obsolete in the 20th century, and greatly resented.

In the 1930s the British Union of Fascists was active, and they chose to take up the case of farmers being prosecuted for failure to pay tithes.  The political establishment didn’t like this at all; and the tithe system was quickly abolished.

But I came across a photo of blackshirts in Norfolk confronting bailiffs.  The page then has the very interesting story beneath.  It’s here.

February 1934: BUF black shirts and farm workers defend Doreen Wallace’s Wortham Manor Farm from the bailiffs and the police.

 In 1934, Doreen Wallace and her husband Rowland Rash, who was from a long line of Wortham landowners, refused to pay their tithes for Wortham Manor farm. For sixteen days, some fifty members of the British Union of Fascists surrounded the farm to stop the court’s bailiffs gaining access to remove goods. They were confronted by lines of police drafted in from Ipswich, and then many were arrested on a technicality and carted off to prison in Norwich.

On February 22nd 1934 the bailiffs entered and took £702 worth of goods. Doreen Wallace recalled in an interview many years later that the bailiffs had come down from Durham, as no East Anglian firm could be found to take on the job. The police had to intervene to stop the bailiffs lifting the piglets by ears and tail, a practice outlawed in East Anglia but apparently still acceptable in the north. The bailiffs had previously wanted the farm’s 1934 wheat harvest, but they couldn’t find any farmworkers for miles around who were prepared to take it in for them, a fact of which all East Anglians should be proud. The events are remembered by a memorial on the edge of the Wortham Manor Estate near to Wortham church.

A few miles away across Suffolk, the Elmsett Tithe Memorial recalls a similar incident, in which possessions were seized from the home of a land owner in lieu of payments to the Church. It reads 1934. To commemorate the Tithe seizure at Elmsett Hall of furniture including baby’s bed and blankets, herd of dairy cows, eight corn stacks and seed stacks valued at £1200 for tithe valued at £385.

Charles Westren, the farmer at Elmsett, had refused to pay his tithes to the church. After the seizure, he set up this monolithic concrete memorial on the edge of his land facing into the gateway of Elmsett church, so that anyone leaving a service would be reminded of the injustice of the system. Westren eventually emigrated to America during the Second World War.The legal abolition of the tithes system in England and Wales was set in motion after the War, the system coming to a final end in the 1970s, by which time very few tithes were still collected because of the cost of doing so.

I never knew that ecclesiastical tithes were still being collected in the 1970s.  The injustice with which they were collected in the 1930s is breathtaking.  But, as parishioners and clergy of the US Episcopalian Church found in recent years, or even the presbyterian congregation of Tron church in Glasgow, the brass-faced determination of a certain sort of ecclesiastic, to tear whatever they can get out of the hands of others, even if they don’t need it, is far from dead, even today.

My impression is that the system pretty much ceased to exist in the 1930s after the BUF started to make capital from it.

And that’s your news round-up for now!


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 martyrdom of Theodore the Anatolian: a Bohairic Coptic text translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has sent in another of his excellent translations from Coptic.  This time it is a hagiographical text, the Martyrdom of Theodore the Anatolian, or Oriental.  It is translated from a Bohairic Coptic text preserved in Codex Vaticanus 63 ff. 28-54.  The text was edited by I. Balestri and H. Hyvernat in the Acta Martyrum (1907), p.34-62 (in the second half of the volume), with a Latin translation on p.30 f.  This is online here.

Here is Dr Alcock’s English translation, which is very welcome:

Most hagiographical texts belong to the 5-9th century; no doubt this does also.

There is a plate from a 9th century Morgan collection manuscript, of which details are here and here, and which contains a version of the Life in Sahidic Coptic (facsimile online at Internet Archive here).  The webpage labels him as Theodore Tiro.

There seems to be quite a  bit of confusion about the various lives of St Theodore, and whether he is one saint or two!  There are several lives in Greek, listed in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (BHG) entries 1760-1773.  Unfortunately none of the material indicates which Greek life the Bohairic corresponds to.

But it is useful to have this text in English!  Thank you!


Anthony Alcock, “The concept of our great power” – online in English

Dr Alcock has translated one of the Nag Hammadi gnostic texts, and annotated it for use by students.  It’s here:

Thank you very much!


Life of the Coptic Patriarch Isaac (686-689 AD) by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has kindly translated for us all a Bohairic Coptic account of the life of the Coptic patriarch Isaac (686-689 AD), which he has sent to me for publication.  The PDF is here:

Isaac does appear in the History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church, but only briefly – this Life is much longer, but also hagiographical.  It is translated from the text in the Patrologia Orientalis 11 (1914).

Our thanks to Dr. Alcock for making this accessible!


Solomon in Coptic Songs – text and translation by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock continues his series of translations from the Coptic.  This new item consists of 10th century AD Coptic songs – folk-stories – which mention Solomon.

Thank you, Dr A., for sharing this with us!