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Sahidic influences in two Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries

As it is well known, the Coptic Old Testament is a daughter translation of the Greek Septuagint.[1] Unlike the Sahidic Old Testament, which was completely translated (unfortunately it did not survive in its entirety), the Old Testament was only partially translated into Bohairic (only the Pentateuch, Job, Psalms, and the Prophets are complete). Other books are only attested as excerpts, mostly in liturgical books as pericopae.[2]

The Sahidic influence was already observed by Burmester in some excerpts of Bohairic Old Testament books,[3] which are not widely copied, or of minor liturgical importance, as for example the Wisdom of Solomon, or Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), which are attested only as pericopae in the Holy Week Lectionary.[4]

Working on Bohairic manuscripts of the Holy Week Lectionary in the framework of the DFG project Project AT 193/2–1 “Digitale Edition und wissenschaftliche Erschließung des koptischen Paschalektionars,” I came across many Old Testament pericopae – in addition to the ones from Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus – in which a Sahidic source is undeniably present. The following tables show a comparison between some words and sentences from these pericopae from the Sahidic Holy Week Lectionary sa 16L (before 1443 AD) and their parallels from the Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries using two manuscripts which show Sahidic influences:

  • bo 3005L = Vat. copt. 98 dated 1385 AD;
  • bo 3014L = ICP Copte-Arabe (part I) 6 & bo 3015L = ICP Copte-Arabe 7 (part II) dated 1777 AD.[5]

In addition to the forms found in the manuscripts, the expected standard Bohairic forms are given. For the Bohairic forms in the Minor Prophets, I consulted Henry Tattam’s 1836 edition, but did not always follow it.


  1. Phonological and orthographical peculiarities:

1.1. Aspiration

Aspiration is one of the main phonological phenomena that distinguish Bohairic from other Coptic dialects. Voiceless plosives (, , , ϫ) become aspirated (, , , ϭ) before sonorants and stressed syllables. The following table shows some examples, in which the scribe or the translator rendered the Sahidic words into Bohairic without considering the aspiration:

Table 1.1.1. 

sa 16L,
fol. 19r–19v

bo 3005L,
fol. 115r–116r

bo 3014L,
fol. 81r–81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:9


 ⲁϥⲡⲓⲙϩⲧ (sic!)[6] 


 ⲁϥⲫⲟϩ [7]





1Kgs 19:10

 ⲟⲩⲕⲱϩ ⲁⲓ̈ⲕⲱϩ 

 ⲟⲩⲕⲟϩ ⲁⲓⲕⲟϩ

 ⲟⲩⲕⲱϩ ⲁⲓⲕⲱϩ 

 ⲟⲩⲭⲟϩ ⲁⲓⲭⲟϩ





1Kgs 19:12






1.2. Hypercorrection

The following examples show unnecessary correction of some words: aspiration of before the sonorant in ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲁ and replacing ϩ with ϧ (very common).

Table 1.2.1. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 19r–19v 

 bo 3005L, 
fol. 115v

 bo 3014L, 
fol. 81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:11






Table 1.2.2. 

sa 16L,
fol. 135r

bo 3005L,
fol. 336v

bo 3015L,
fol. 256r

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 2:1


 ⲉϧⲟⲩⲛϩⲓⲥⲓ (sic!) 








1.3. Other Sahidic influences on the orthography

In the following examples, the scribe did not write the words in their standard Bohairic form:

Table 1.3.1. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 19r–19v 

bo 3005L,
 fol. 115r–116r 

bo 3014L,
 fol. 81r–81v 

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:9





1Kgs 19:11





1Kgs 19:13






Table 1.3.2. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 135r 

bo 3005L,
fol. 336r

 bo 3015L, 
fol. 255v

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 1:15






  1. Morphological and syntactical misinterpretation and misunderstanding:

Another indication of Sahidic influence is misanalysing Sahidic phrases. The Bohairic scribe or translator either copied them as they are or misinterpreted them resulting in ungrammatical phrases.

For example, the Sahidic definite article for plural ⲛ- is analyzed as the particle ⲛ- (1Kgs 19:10, Table 2.1.) and the genitive particle with the definite article for plural ⲛ- is analyzed as the possessive prefix (ⲛ︤ⲛ︥ϭⲟⲙ > ⲛⲉⲛϫⲟⲙ) (1Kgs 19:10, Table 2.1.). We can also find forms copied from Sahidic, for example, the Sahidic ⲛⲉⲣⲉ- instead of the Bohairic ⲛⲁⲣⲉ- (1Kgs 19:11, Table 2.1.), Greek Verbs without the auxiliary ⲉⲣ- (Mic 2:2 Table 2.2.), the use of the Sahidic Temporal ⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲣⲉ- instead of its Bohairic counterpart ⲉⲧⲁ- (1Kgs 19:13, Table 2.1.) and the Sahidic forms of some words, for instance, ⲛ̄ⲛ̄ⲧⲟⲩⲉⲓ̈ⲏ̇ (1Kgs 19:11, Table 2.1.) and ⲛⲁⲩ “to them” (Hos 7:13, Table 2.3.).

The most interesting, and maybe the most common phenomenon, is misinterpreting almost every consonant cluster ⲙⲛ as the conjunction/preposition ⲛⲉⲙ, for instance, ⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲛ̄ⲥⲁ > ⲛⲉⲙ ⲛ̇ⲥⲁ (1Kgs 19:12, Table 2.1.); ⲙ︤ⲛ︥ⲧⲭⲏⲣⲁ > ⲛⲉⲙ ⲧ̀ⲭⲏⲣⲁ (Mic 1:16, Table 2.2.).

Table 2.1.

sa 16L,
fol. 19r–19v

bo 3005L,
 fol. 115r–116r 

bo 3014L,
fol. 81r–81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:10

 ⲡ̄ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲛ︤ⲛ︥ϭⲟⲙ 

 ⲫϯ ⲛⲉⲛϫⲟⲙ̇

 ⲫϯ ⲛⲉⲛϫⲟⲙ

 ⲫϯ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ ⲛⲓϫⲟⲙ

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛ̄ϣⲏⲣⲉ

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛ̇ϣⲏⲣⲓ

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛ̀ϣⲏⲣⲓ 

 ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϫⲉ ⲛⲓϣⲏⲣⲓ

1Kgs 19:11

 ⲛ︤ⲅ︥ⲁ̇ϩⲉ ⲣⲁⲧ︤ⲕ︥



 ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲕⲟ̀ϩⲓ ⲉ̀ⲣⲁⲧⲕ









1Kgs 19:12


 ⲛⲉⲙ ⲛ̇ⲥⲁ

 ⲛⲉⲙ ⲛ̀ⲥⲁ


1Kgs 19:13






Table 2.2.    

sa 16L,
fol. 135r

bo 3005L,
fol. 336r–336v

bo 3015L,
fol. 255v–256r

Standard Bohairic form

Mic 1:16


 ⲧⲁϣⲟ ⲛ̀ⲧⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ 

 ⲧⲁϣⲟ ⲛ̀ⲧⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ 

 ⲟⲩⲱϣⲥ ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲉⲧⲭⲏⲣⲁ 

Mic 2:2






Table 2.3. 

sa 16L,
fol. 160v–161r

bo 3005L,
fol. 371v–372r

bo 3015L,
fol. 283v

 Standard Bohairic form 

Hos 7:13






 ⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲧⲉⲃⲓⲏⲛ 

 ⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩ ⲛⲉⲙ ⲧⲏⲃⲛⲏⲓ 






Hos 7:16






Table 2.4. 

sa 16L, fol. 171v

bo 3005L, fol. 387r

bo 3015L, fol. 296r

 Standard Bohairic form 

Josh 5:10

 ϩ︤ⲛ︥ ⲥⲟⲩⲙⲛⲧⲁϥⲧⲉ ⲙ̄ⲡⲉⲃⲟⲧ 

 ϧⲉⲛ ⲥⲟⲩⲛⲉⲙⲓ︤ⲇ︥ϯ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ 

 ϧⲉⲛ ⲥⲟⲩⲛⲉⲙⲓ︤ⲇ︥ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ 

 ϧⲉⲛ ⲥⲟⲩⲓ︤ⲇ︥ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ


  1. Lexical influences:

The Sahidic Vorlage influenced the Bohairic translation, not only on the morphophonological or syntactic level, but also on the lexical one.

3.1. Using Sahidic lexemes in the Bohairic translation that are usually not common in Bohairic:

Table 3.1.1. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 19r–19v 

bo 3005L,
 fol. 115v–116r 

bo 3014L,
 fol. 81r–81v 

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:10





1Kgs 19:12






Table 3.1.2. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 135r–135v 

bo 3005L,
 fol. 336r–337r 

bo 3015L,
 fol. 256r–256v 

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 1:16





Amos 2:7






3.2. In some cases, the Bohairic text shows Greek words, where standard Bohairic texts (as the Bohairic NT) would use a word of Egyptian origin:

Table 3.2.1. 

sa 16L,
fol. 19r

bo 3005L,
fol. 115v

bo 3014L,
fol. 81r–81v

 Standard Bohairic form 

1Kgs 19:10




 ⲛⲉⲕⲙⲁ ⲛⲉⲣϣⲱⲟⲩϣⲓ[11] 

1Kgs 19:11






Table 3.2.2. 

sa 16L,
 fol. 135r 

 bo 3005L, 
fol. 336v

 bo 3015L, 
fol. 256r

 Standard Bohairic form 

Mic 1:16






These pericopae and many others that show influences from Sahidic are not attested in other Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries.[13] The two parts of the Bohairic Holy Week Lectionary bo 3014L & bo 3015L were used in the White Monastery[14] in Upper Egypt where the Sahidic Holy Week Lectionaries were most probably kept.

The following observations can be made from the previous examples:

  • The scribe (and/or the translator) did indeed have some basic background knowledge about the differences between Sahidic and Bohairic; for instance, S ⲙⲛ > B ⲛⲉⲙ, some Sahidic words with ϩ have ϧ in Bohairic, the atonic at the end of a word in Sahidic is written in Bohairic, and aspiration (cf. Table 1.1.1.).
  • Nevertheless, the scribe (and/or the translator) was unable to understand some parts of the Sahidic texts. This is evident from his copying Sahidic words with/without a slight modification (according to the Bohairic orthographical and phonological rules) and incorrectly analyzing the texts (cf. Table 2.1.–2.4.).
  • For these passages with Sahidic influences, the scribe seems most probably to have translated them directly from a Sahidic Vorlage and not to have used a copy of the Bohairic Bible, even if a Bohairic translation of the biblical book existed. Evidence for this is the pericope of Amos 3:1–10, which is read twice during the Holy Week according to bo 3005L and the second part of the 18th-century lectionary bo 3015L (once on Good Friday morning and once at the sixth hour of Maundy Thursday evening), and once according to the other witnesses (only at the sixth hour of Maundy Thursday evening). The one read on Maundy Thursday and witnessed in all manuscripts identified in the DFG project AT 193/2–1 shows no Sahidic influence, unlike the one read on Good Friday. What is the reason for such differences in the two versions of Amos 3:1–10? When did this difference emerge? Maybe the Amos pericope with the Sahidic influences emerged later and the scribe did not have access to a copy of the Bohairic Bible? We cannot be sure.

These observations raise questions concerning the linguistic situation at least in the White Monastery in the second millennium. It appears that Sahidic and Bohairic were not completely and mutually intelligible, and the knowledge of Coptic was in full decline. Even if Coptic was no longer understood, we can assume that these biblical passages were read aloud in Coptic; a habit that is still practiced today in the liturgy of the Coptic Church.



Böhlig, Alexander. 1954a. Die griechischen Lehnwörter im sahidischen und im bohairischen Neuen Testament, Studien zur Erforschung des christlichen Aegyptens, Heft 2, München.

________. 1954b. Register und Vergleichstabellen zu Heft 2, Studien zur Erforschung des christlichen Aegyptens, Heft 2A, München.

Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward. 1934. “The Bohairic Pericopae of Wisdom and Sirach,” in: Biblica 15, 451–465.

________. 1935. “The Bohairic Pericopae of Wisdom and Sirach,” in: Biblica 16, 25–57, 141–174.

Feder, Frank. 2008. “The Coptic Version(s) of the Book of Jesus Sirach,” in: Géza G. Xeravits and József Zsengellér (eds.), Studies in the Book of Ben Sira, Papers of the Third International Conference on the Deuterocanonical Books, Shime'on Centre, Pápa, Hungary, 18–20 May, 2006, Leiden and Boston, 11–20.

________. 2020. “1.1.6 The Coptic Canon,” in: Frank Feder and Matthias Henze (eds.), Textual History of the Bible. The Deuterocanonical Scriptures, Vol. 2A: 1 Overview Articles, 1.1 The Canonicle Histories of the Deuterocanonical Texts, Leiden and Boston, 213a–239.

Lagarde, Paul de. 1879. Orientalia. Teil I: Die koptischen Handschriften der Göttinger Bibliothek. Bruchstücke der koptischen Übersetzung des Alten Testaments, Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse 24, Göttingen.

Lefort, Louis Théophile. 1925. S. Pachomii vita: Bohairice scripta, CSCO 89, Scriptores Coptici 7, Paris.

Tattam, Henry. 1836. ⲛⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲓⲓ︤ⲃ︥ ⲛⲛⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ ⲛⲕⲟⲩϫⲓ ϧⲉⲛ ϯⲁⲥⲡⲓ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ Duodecim prophetarum minorum libros in lingua Aegyptiaca vulgo Coptica seu Memphitica, Oxford.


[1] Feder 2008, 11.

[2] Feder 2020, 235–238. See, for example, the excerpts (mostly from the Historical Books) which Paul de Lagarde collected from liturgical manuscripts (Lagarde 1879, 64).

[3] Cf. Burmester 1934, 454.

[4] Cf. Burmester 1934; Feder 2008, 16.

[5] bo 3014L and bo 3015L are actually two parts of the same codex, but each has its own binding. The former begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Maundy Thursday evening, and the later begins with Maundy Thursday morning and ends with Easter Monday.

[6] It is not uncommon for scribes to confuse the three arms of the with and .

[7] Besides being influenced by the Sahidic Vorlage, for unknown reasons the Bohairic scribe used the verb ⲡⲱϩⲧ/ⲫⲱϧⲧ in this example instead of ⲡⲱϩ/ⲫⲟϩ.

[8] It was originally written ϩⲉⲕⲉϫⲱ, but the second was then erased.

[9] The literal equivalent of the Sahidic would be ⲟⲩⲟⲛⲟⲩⲙⲉⲧⲉⲃⲓⲏⲛ.

[10] The scribe apparently interpreted it as the noun ⲃⲱⲕ “servant”.

[11] The Greek word θυσιαστήριον “altar” is not found in the Bohairic NT but appears, e.g., four times in the Life of St. Pachomius (see Böhlig 1954b, 48–49; Lefort 1925, 238). The word ⲙⲁ ⲛⲉⲣϣⲱⲟⲩϣⲓ is used instead (Böhlig 1954a, 313).

[12] The Greek word ἀετός “eagle” is not found in the Bohairic NT but is found once in a hymn for St. Pachomius (see Böhlig 1954b, 6–7; Lefort 1925, 231). The word ⲁϧⲱⲙ is used instead (Böhlig 1954a, 161).

[13] At least among the known Bohairic Holy Week Lectionaries identified in the DFG project.

[14] As read in the Arabic colophon (bo 3015L, fol. 399v): “An eternal dedication […] to the church of the greatest among the saints, the great saint, our father, Apa Shenoute […] which is also called ‘the White Monastery’”.

Peter Nagel – Collected Biblica

The services of our project website have been enhanced with a new entry under "Digital Resources": Peter Nagel – Collected Biblica. Anyone who is interested in the history and transmission of the Coptic Bible has inevitably come accross the name of Peter Nagel. As Professor of Christian Near Eastern Studies in Halle (Saale) and Bonn he has influenced several generations of scholars. Peter Nagel is undoubtedly one of the most renowned scholars in the field of Coptic Studies. He has been honored with Festschriften on occasion of his 65th and his 80th birthday. The latter was also the first volume in our project's book series Texts and Studies on the Coptic Bible.

Since the 1980s he has been worked intensively on the edition of the Sahidic version of the Old Testament in particular. He was aware from the outset that only a systematic and comprehensive collection and documentation of the mostly dispersed and fragmented manuscript witnesses would make a complete edition a feasible project. Peter Nagel supported the planning of our project from the beginning. Thus, still during the process of applying for funding for the Complete Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic–Sahidic Old Testament, an inaugural colloquium was held at the Coptic monastery in Brenkhausen to mark his 75th birthday in 2013. Two books that have appeared in our print publication series, Das Deuteronomium sahidisch and Der sahidische Psalter Editio Minor, are important preliminary text editions on the path towards the future complete digital edition of the Sahidic Old Testament.

The Collected Biblica make all the important articles and monographs on the Coptic Old Testament by Peter Nagel visible and, if the copyright has returned to the author, also accessible for download. With this online collection, we would like to thank Peter Nagel for his commitment to the study of the Coptic Bible and to our project. And, we hope to draw the attention of a public beyond the scholarly community to the seminal works that Peter Nagel has contributed to our field.


A Visit to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 5 – 16 June 2023: Autopsying Coptic Holy Week Lectionaries (Part II)

Further to our visit to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in June and as announced in the first blog entry in July, here follow some on-site autopsy results of a few manuscripts I had the opportunity to consult during the visit. The information pertaining to the first manuscript described below can be found as Metadata in the Göttingen Virtual Manuscript Room. The information pertaining to the other manuscripts can be considered as draft entries of a catalogue of Coptic liturgical manuscripts, which is under construction.

sa 349L, 14–15th century[1]
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Borg. Copt. 109, cass. XXIII, fasc. 98

Four extant folios originally belonging to a bilingual Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary of which another two folios are preserved at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Written on unwatermarked Egyptian glossy ‘two-layered’ paper,[2] with apparent laid lines and non-distinguishable chain marks. Page dimensions 36.5x22.5 cm, text coverage 31x19 cm, lines per page 25 for the Sahidic text and 25 for the Arabic text, line width 11–13 cm for the Sahidic text and ca. 5 cm for the Arabic text, intercolumn ca.1 cm. 10 lines of text: 12 cm. Ornamented hanging capital letters in black, red, yellow, and green up to 7 cm in height at the beginning of pericopes. Hanging capital letters in black, red, and yellow at the beginning of paragraphs. The last two extant folios, which preserve the readings for the Synaxis on Holy Thursday with a pericope from the book of Isaiah, namely Isaiah 32,1–16, are the only known example with this reading at that hour, whereas all other Holy  Week lectionaries I have examined have another Isaiah reading at that same hour, usually from Isaiah 52–53.

Borg.copt.52, 18th century[3]

Bilingual Bohairic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary written on European paper with the tre lune watermark (in transmitted light, the paper reveals the distinctive originally Italian watermark tre lune,[4] (see fig. 1 below) three moon crescents in decreasing size, specifically created for the Levant),[5] 460 folios. Page dimensions 315x215 mm, written text dimensions 240x155 mm, lines per page 22–23, 10 lines height 10 cm, line width 10–11 cm for the Bohairic text, 4–4.5 cm for the Arabic text, intercolumn ca. 1 cm. The Bohairic columns end with catchwords. All alphas (ⲁ) at the beginning of a pericope are ornamented as birds, some surmounted by a cross (more than 70 occurrences). Begins with Palm Sunday Eve and ends with the Synaxis on Easter Sunday, includes the whole text of the Apocalypse. Colophon on folio 459v dated 2 of Tout 1492 A.M., 1189 A.H., corresponding to 1775 A.D. Scribe Dāwūd Mīnā Aljīzāwī (داوود مينا الجيزاوي), surnamed al-Muwaqaʿ (الموقع), deacon of the Coptic Catholic Church.

Fig. 1: Three crescents, watermark in Isl. Ms. 589 (Yemen 1660)[6]

Vat.copt.34, 16th–17th century[7]

Bohairic manuscript with Bohairic–Arabic rubrics, 299 folios, page dimensions 295x205 mm, 21 lines per page. Begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. This manuscript was written by two different hands. The first hand wrote the first 90 pages (up unto folio 45v, line 7) and the second hand undertook the writing from folio 45v, line 8 up unto the end of the manuscript. Anonymous invocations to pray for the soul of the ‘unworthy scribe’ are written in Arabic at the bottom of the page on folios 21v, 62r, 66v, 158v and 219r.[8]

Vat.copt.90, 18th century[9]

Bohairic manuscript with Bohairic–Arabic rubrics, 298 folios, page dimensions 330x225 mm, 22–25 lines per page. Begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. Arabic colophon on f. 297 written by the scribe Maqarios ibn ishm Allah, monk at the Baramous Monastery in the Nitrian Desert and dated 1440 A.M., 1724 A.D., 14th century

We wrongly assumed that this non-digitized Arabic codex was a Holy Week lectionary. It turned out to be a Gospel lectionary with an index of all the lections from the New Testament to be read during the prayers and the masses all days of the year.[10] The 138 folios are made of unwatermarked Egyptian paper. This Gospel lectionary features a colophon on folio 135, dated 1054 A.M., 1338 A.D.


- Atanassova, Diliana (2018). Neue Erkenntnisse bei der Erforschung der sahidischen Quellen für die Paschawoche, in: Heike Behlmer, Ute Pietruschka and Frank Feder (eds), Ägypten und der Christliche Orient. Peter Nagel zum 80. Geburtstag (Texte und Studien zur Koptischen Bibel 1). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1–37.
- Briquet, Charles-Moise (1907). Les filigranes. Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu’en 1600 avec 39 figures dans le texte et 16 112 fac-similés de filigranes, volume 2 (Ci-K), Paris : Alphonse Picard et Fils.
- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1933). Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte. Texte copte édité avec traduction française d’après le manuscrit Add. 5997 du British Museum, vol. I (Patrologia Orientalis, 24,2, Nr. 117). Paris: Firmin-Didot (Reprint Turnhout: Brepols 1985).
- Hebbelynck, Adolph/van Lantschoot Arnold (1937). Codices Coptici Vaticani Barberiniani Borgiani Rossiani, I: Codices Coptici Vaticani, Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae codices manu scripti recensiti. Rome: In Bibliotheca Vaticana.
- Humbert, Geneviève (2002), Le manuscrit arabe et ses papiers, in Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée 99–100/2002, 55–77, 67.
- Kropf, Evyn. Watermark Wednesdays blog series. Beyond the Reading Room (2014–2016)
- Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Marie-Thérèse (1998). Les papiers non filigranés. État présent des recherches et perspectives d'avenir. Paris: CNRS Éditions.
- Karabacek, Joseph von, (1991). Joseph von Karabacek, Arab Paper 1887, translated by Don Baker and Suzy Dittmar with additional notes by Don Baker. London: Archetype Publications.
- Mai, Angelo (1831). Catalogus codicum bibliothecae Vaticanae Arabicorum, Persicorum, Turcicorum, Chaldaicorum, Aethiopicorum, Slavicorum, Indicorum, Copticorum, Armenicorum et Ibericorum, item ejus partis Hebraicorum et Syriacorum, quam Assernanni in editione praeternisserunt Catalogus Codicum Bibliothecae Vaticanae. Rome: Typis 
- Zanetti, Ugo (1986). Filigranes vénitiens en Égypte, in Studi Albanologici, Balcanici, Bizantini e Orientali, in onore di Giuseppe Valentini S.J., (= Studi albanologici. Studi e Testi, 6). Florence: Olschki, 437–499.

[1] First identified by Atanassova as belonging to a Holy Week lectionary, Cf. Atanassova, Neue Erkenntnisse,12–13.

[2] Karabacek, Arab Paper, 29–30; Zanetti, Filigranes vénitiens, 445–446; Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Les papiers non 
filigranés, 85–86.

[3] Included as R3 in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[4] Briquet, Les filigranes, 314b–315a; Zanetti, Filigranes vénitiens, 447–448.

[5] Humbert, Le manuscrit arabe, 67.

[6] From Evyn Kropf, Watermark Wednesdays: Three crescents,

[7] Included as R in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[8] For more details on the contents, cf. Hebbelynck/van Lantschoot, Codices Coptici Vaticani, 126–135.

[9] Included as R1 in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[10] Mai, Catalogus, Codices Arabici, 14–34.

Kolloquium zur koptischen Bibel, Sprache und Literatur im Gedenken an Jürgen Horn


This blog post also serves as an opportunity for me to introduce myself!  My name is Leila Hyde and I am from a little town on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  I earned my bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University - Hawaii in History and then pursued a master’s degree at Indiana University in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures with a focus in Egyptology.  I arrived in Göttingen in May to begin working as a Trainee with the project.

July 7th, 2023 allowed for the celebration of the life and work of Dr. Jürgen Horn.  As a newcomer to the Academy and the city of Göttingen, I was pleased to become acquainted with some of the individuals in attendance.  The presentations vividly reminded those in attendance of Jürgen Horn’s widespread scholarly interests, the numerous contributions he made to academia as well as the good friend he was to those he worked with. After a welcoming address by Heike Behlmer introducing Jürgen Horn as teacher, colleague, and friend, some special aspects of Horn’s research were highlighted. Frank Feder recalled their common work during the former Halle University project “Koptische Septuaginta” (1994-1999) and the important contribution which Jürgen Horn made to the reconstruction and edition of the Coptic Old Testament.


Sebastian Richter focused on Horn’s interest in the history of scholarship on Ancient Egypt and singled out the outstanding but unpublished introduction to a planned volume on Wilhelm von Humboldt’s (1767-1835) essay “Ueber die coptische Sprache”. The Prussian diplomat and statesman, brother of the famous scientist and explorer Alexander, had a vivid interest in the Egyptian language. Matthias Müller reminded the audience of Jürgen Horn’s research on documentary sources and suggested the location of a newly discovered monastery in Western Thebes. Finally, the “Märtyrerhelden” presented by Gerald Moers not only connected the cult of the Christian martyrs in Late Antique Egypt with today’s, but also shed light on this central topic in Jürgen Horn’s research, the martyr accounts, on which he wrote his dissertation. 



Just before Anne Boud’hors gave her impressive evening lecture “Die Macht Gottes und die Milde des Propheten”, on the policy of quoting the books of the prophets in Coptic Literature, Diliana Atanassova and Frank Feder surprised Heike Behlmer with her birthday present, a copy of her Festschrift entitled: Pharaonen, Mönche und Gelehrte, comprising more than 1000 pages with articles by 58 contributors. 


Following the talks and presentation of the Festschrift, a delicious dinner was served which was prepared by many of the members of the Project.  This allowed many people to continue to talk with old friends and to make new acquaintances facilitating a good environment for networking and sharing ideas.

A Visit to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 5–16 June 2023: Autopsying Coptic Holy Week Lectionaries (Part I)

The investigation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary in Egypt is the primary objective of the DFG project AT 193/2–1 “Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary” currently pursued at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities of Lower Saxony. The on-site consultation of the manuscripts constituting the backbone of the project’s research is one of its milestones. During a 14-day visit of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, we were able to shed light on aspects up till then invisible on the digital reproductions of manuscript pages and to proceed to an autopsy of some non-digitized manuscripts. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is home to two of our main Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionaries (included in the digital collection of the Vatican library) and to three of the Bohairic–Arabic Holy Week lectionaries (not yet digitized by the Vatican library) used by Burmester in his “Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte”.[1] Besides the activities mentioned above, the visit also allowed us to exclude the codex, a non-digitized Arabic codex wrongly assumed to be a Holy Week lectionary. My colleague Diliana Atanassova was also there for an on-site autopsy of all Sahidic liturgical typika kept in BAV within the framework of her DFG project AT 193/1–1 “The Hymns in the Coptic Liturgy of the White Monastery in Upper Egypt”.

The autopsy results concerning the manuscript sa 16L are presented in what follows. Part II (forthcoming) will be dedicated to some other manuscripts.

sa 16L, end of the 14th century [2] 
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Borg. Copt. 109, cass. XXIII, fasc. 99

Bilingual Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary written on unwatermarked Egyptian brownish ‘two-layered’ paper,[3] with apparent laid lines and non-distinguishable chain marks, 189 surviving folios, page dimensions 36.5x26.5 cm, text coverage 25.5x19 cm, lines per page: 26–28 for the Sahidic text and 15–22 for the Arabic text, line width 11–13 cm for the Sahidic text and ca. 6 cm for the Arabic text, intercolumn almost non-existent. 10 lines of Coptic text: 9–9.5 cm, corresponding to 7 lines of Arabic text. Initial structure: 27 quaternions. Extant: 25 quaternions, three of which with missing folios. Last quire: Three folios and a stub before a last folio added at the end. In its current state, the lectionary begins with the ninth Hour of the Day on Holy Monday and ends with Holy Saturday. Six marginal notes, four in Arabic, one in Bohairic and one bilingual in Bohairic and Arabic. Four give us details about the owner family of the manuscript before it came to Rome, as for example the marginal note dated 1160 A.M. corresponding to 1443 A.D. that provides us with a terminus post quem non for the writing of the codex.[4] 

One of the aims of the autopsy was to identify the text on f. 187r of the codex. Water leak between f. 186v and 187r had resulted in a transfer of ink from one page to the other leading to the fading of the red ink on f. 187r or to its coverage by the black ink transferred from the previous page (fig. 1).

Detail, sa 16L, f. 187r

Using a magnifying glass with light as well as UV light helped identify parts of the damaged text and allowed for a tentative reconstruction.


The page above begins with the first liturgical rubric mentioning that the people recite the Nicaean Creed of which the incipits are given in Greek and Coptic in the left column, and in Arabic in the right column. 
The next frame includes a liturgical instruction, the deciphering of which turned out to be a very challenging task. In spite of our efforts, and the use of the tools at our disposal in the BAV, we were not able to identify every letter on all lines. Nevertheless, we made a significant step forward. We read many and reconstructed plausibly most of the letters. As a result, four elements could be singled out. (1) Despite the fact that the first line of the liturgical instruction is completely illegible, it most probably informs us of what should happen to the Cross at the end of the first Hour of the Day of Holy Saturday. Maybe the Cross was to be lifted by the priest? (2) We guess that the third line includes the Coptic word for “linen or silk”. Should there be an object (Cross or icon) wrapped in silk or linen? The censers are clearly legible in the Arabic counterpart but not to be found in the Coptic text. (3) Many lighted lamps and candles were most probably carried around. (4) Something had to be done in the church four times. The first thing that comes to mind is the procession round the church. However, we know that the priest goes in procession “thrice round the church” [5] at that hour and not four times. The number ‘four’ is clearly legible as much in Coptic as in Arabic. Does the number ‘four’ refer to the four cardinal points and not to the procession round the church? As one can see, we still have a few questions to be answered regarding the liturgical instruction. 
The second liturgical rubric can be read without problem. First, it informs us that the ṭarḥ should be sung to the melody type ‘Adam’, a well-known praise that begins with the word ‘Adam’. Obviously, the scribe attributes this ṭarḥ to Severus. Again, new questions will need to be investigated.


- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1933). Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte. Texte copte édité avec traduction française d’après le manuscrit Add. 5997 du British Museum, vol. I (Patrologia Orientalis, 24,2, Nr. 117). Paris: Firmin-Didot (Reprint Turnhout: Brepols 1985).
- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1943). Le Lectionnaire de la Semaine Sainte. Texte copte édité avec traduction française d’après le manuscrit Add. 5997 du British Museum, vol. II (Patrologia Orientalis 25,2, Nr. 122). Paris: Graffin (Reprint Turnhout: Brepols 1997).
- Burmester, Oswald Hugh Edward (1967). The Egyptian or Coptic Church. A detailed description of Her Liturgical Services and the Rites and Ceremonies observed in the Administration of Her Sacraments. Cairo: Société d’archéologie copte. 
- Elhage-Mensching, Lina (forthcoming). The Owner Family of a Sahidic–Arabic Holy Week lectionary: Arabic and Bohairic marginalia in the 14th century codex sa 16L, to appear in Acts of the Twelfth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Brussels 11–16 July 2022.
- Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Marie-Thérèse (1998). Les papiers non filigranés. État présent des recherches et perspectives d'avenir. Paris: CNRS Éditions.
- Karabacek, Joseph von, (1991). Joseph von Karabacek, Arab Paper 1887, translated by Don Baker and Suzy Dittmar with additional notes by Don Baker. London: Archetype Publications.
- Zanetti, Ugo (1986). Filigranes vénitiens en Égypte, in Studi Albanologici, Balcanici, Bizantini e Orientali, in onore di Giuseppe Valentini S.J., (= Studi albanologici. Studi e Testi, 6). Florence: Olschki, 437–499.



[1] Burmester, Lectionnaire I–II.

[2] Included as R4 in Burmester’s collation of 21 manuscripts, cf. Burmester, Lectionnaire, I, 176.

[3] Karabacek, Arab Paper, 29–30; Zanetti, Filigranes vénitiens, 445–446; Le Léannec-Bavavéas, Les papiers non filigranés, 85–86.

[4] Cf. Elhage-Mensching, The Owner Family of sa 16L.

[5] Burmester, The Egyptian or Coptic Church, 291.

The cataloguing of the newly-digitized Coptic manuscripts of the British Library

A collaboration between the Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic-Sahidic Old Testament Project and the British Library

By Chrysi Kotsifou

In May 2019, I visited the British Library to work on some Coptic Old Testament manuscripts from their collection. It was also then that I met for the first time with Dr Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator of the Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections. I was very glad to find out from her that the British Library would be starting a project of digitizing selected manuscripts from their Christian Orient Collections. Ilana Tahan had already created the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project and now with the Eastern Christian Manuscripts Digitization Project, her department would be digitizing for the first time selected Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac manuscripts. This project has been part of the Heritage Made Digital (HMD) programme initiated and funded by the British Library. For Ilana Tahan it was imperative that the selection of the manuscripts to be digitized reflected the diverse fields of knowledge represented in each collection. Besides religious texts, the selection included secular topics such as linguistics, sciences, philosophy, and various others.

She asked me if our project would be willing to assist her in the selection of the Coptic manuscripts to be digitized. It was a great opportunity and honour to be part of this very important endeavor, especially if we consider that so far, the British Library has online only four items, namely Papyrus 98, Papyrus 1442, Or.6801, and Or.7029, and these newly-digitized manuscripts will be made available to everyone online for free. Ilana Tahan had already a list of selected Coptic manuscripts and immediately in May 2019, we offered her our recommendations and additions to that list. In the years to follow, I maintained a continuous collaboration with Dr Tahan and was able to follow how this project evolved and is now close to its completion. The years of the pandemic certainly delayed matters but the digitization project managed to carry on. With the first list of Coptic manuscripts having been established, the British Library then needed to proceed to the conservation of these items. Some of these manuscripts are papyrus and some parchment and many items are mounted in glass frames, especially the papyrus ones. All issues of conservation of the selected items needed to be addressed, before any digitization took place. In April 2021, I also contacted Prof. Siegfried G. Richter (then at the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung at Münster University) who also recommended to us more Coptic manuscripts to be digitized.

During my second visit at the British Library in May 2022, Dr Tahan was very happy to inform me that most of the Coptic manuscripts had already been restored and digitized. Unavoidably before any of these manuscripts could be made available to the public, they needed to be newly-catalogued and have all their metadata updated. Our project offered then to Dr Tahan that we undertake the task of creating this new catalogue. The digitization of the Coptic manuscripts was concluded by the winter of 2022; our project and the British Library signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2023; and in the months to follow we received in numerous batches the digital images. Here is the list of the Coptic manuscripts that have been digitized:

  • Add MS 5114 (Pistis Sophia)
  • Add MS 5996 (Lectionary)
  • Add MS 5997 (Lectionary)
  • Add MS 17725 (The Euchologion)
  • Add MS 18997 (Bohairic Proverbs, Job)
  • Add MS 19902 (Sahidic NT Fragment)
  • Or 424 (Bohairic Pauline Epistles)
  • Or 425 (Four Gospels Coptic & Arabic)
  • Or 429 (The Euchologion)
  • Or 433 (Baptismal service)
  • Or 438 (Consecration of the Holy Oil)
  • Or 1241 (Liturgical and Biblical Fragments)
  • Or 1314(1) (Bohairic Minor Prophets, Daniel)
  • Or 1314(2) (Bohairic Minor Prophets, Daniel)
  • Or 1315 (Four Gospels)
  • Or 1318 (Pauline Epistles)
  • Or 1319 (OT Isaiah, Corpus Ieremiae)
  • Or 1320 (Canons of Apostles)
  • Or 1322 (Services for the consecration of Monks & Nuns)
  • Or 1325 (Arabic-Coptic grammars and vocabularies)
  • Or 3381 (Four Gospels)
  • Or 3579A (Sahidic OT)
  • Or 3579B (Sahidic NT)
  • Or 3581 A (Homilies)
  • Or 4844 (Psalms)
  • Or 5000 (Budge Psalter)
  • Or 5001 (Budge Homilies)
  • Or 5287 (Misc. Coptic Fragments)
  • Or 5984 (Wisdom Books)
  • Or 5987 A–C (Magical Charm)
  • Or 6010 (Prochorus, Acts of John)
  • Or 6019 (A charm)
  • Or 6695 (Pauline Epistles and John)
  • Or 6781 (Ps.-Theodosius of Alexandria)
  • Or 6783 (Miscellany)
  • Or 7021 (Encomium of Theodosius)
  • Or 7029 (Life of Aaron)
  • Or 7594 (Biblical Misc. Papyrus)
  • Or 8799 (Miscellany)
  • Or 8800 (White Monastery fragments of Shenoute)
  • Or 8802 (White Monastery palimpsest fragments)
  • Or 8808 (Psalms)
  • Or 8810 (White Monastery fragments)
  • Or 13825 (Book of Sirach)
  • Or 14149 (Gospel Fragments)
  • ORB.99/260 (Book bindings)
  • Papyrus IV (Deed)
  • Papyrus 91 (Letter)
  • Papyrus XLVIII (Job)

A priority list of Coptic manuscripts to be catalogued has been established in our contract with the British Library. These are the 46 underlined shelfmarks in the list above. Alin Suciu and I will carry out this first phase of the cataloguing. In the meantime, Alin Suciu has been in contact with Michael Erdman in the British Library and together they have updated the British Library Metadata Template to reflect better the cataloguing needs of Coptic manuscripts, especially the ones that are dispersed piece by piece in numerous countries and collections. This new catalogue will certainly be a welcome addition to Walter E. Crum’s Catalogue of the Coptic manuscripts in the British Museum, London, 1905, and Bentley Layton’s Catalogue of Coptic literary manuscripts in the British Library acquired since the year 1906, London, 1987. Besides cataloguing, in due course our project will also edit all the newly-digitized Old Testament manuscripts on our Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR).

Last but not least, I would like to mention that the British Library also digitized the book bindings of the Coptic manuscripts in their collection. We received those photographs, as well, and I intend to catalogue them after the priority phase of the cataloguing is completed.

This collaboration is ongoing for five years now and there are still goals to be achieved. Our project believes that the British Library and Ilana Tahan undertook a very worthy cause and we are pleased to be part of it and to assist in any way possible towards its completion. Coptic studies are bound to be enriched in numerous ways when all the above-mentioned manuscripts will be made available to the public. But also, the contemporary Coptic communities in Egypt and abroad, whether lay or monastic, will be thrilled to see their heritage so carefully and scientifically treated and easily accessible to them.

The Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary: 2022 progress report

On 4/11/2022, I reported on the new project dedicated to the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary (HWL), co-led by Diliana Atanassova and Frank Feder. Now, almost one year after its launch, it is time to provide a first progress report with the highlights of the period from April 1 to December 31, 2022.

1. New dedicated Holy Week Lectionary space in the VMR

The VMR now hosts three new dedicated sections for the Holy Week Lectionaries: Holy Week Lectionary Sahidic, Holy Week Lectionary Bohairic, and Holy Week Lectionary Arabic. We have updated the existing stock of digital copies of Holy Week lectionaries in the VMR with further manuscripts listed separately under the respective dedicated sections and henceforth available for transcription.

1.1 Uploading and display

The list in the new Holy Week Lectionary Sahidic section displays the five lectionaries that were already hosted in the Göttingen CoptOT manuscript workspace. These are sa 16L (1), sa 292L (2), sa 298L (3), sa 299L (4), and sa 349L (5) and correspond to more than 270 leaves.

The list in the new Holy Week Lectionary Bohairic section now includes six Holy Week lectionaries and four Ṭuruḥat for the Holy Week codexes, all newly prepared and uploaded. These are bo 3000L (6), bo 3003L (7), bo 3004L (8), bo 3004L (9), bo 3005L (10), bo 3006L (11), and bo 3007L (12), totalling more than 2000 leaves. The Ṭuruḥat are bo 3009L (13), 3010L (14), 3011L (15), and 3013L (16) and total 272 leaves.

The list in the new Holy Week Lectionary Arabic section includes all bilingual Sahidic–Arabic and Bohairic–Arabic Holy Week lectionaries already included in the other two dedicated sections as well as the monolingual Holy Week lectionary ar 1L (17) (185 leaves).

1.2 Indexing and tagging

Indexing in our context means identifying the contents of each page of a manuscript, i.e. biblical passages, liturgical instructions, liturgical rubrics, homilies, hymns, etc. Indexing is an essential work in preparation of the transcription of the texts in the codices. This step was further expanded by the development of a new feature tagging system specific to the Holy Week Lectionary, where the period, the day of the Holy Week and the time of the service are encoded. This can be seen in the following illustration


In this case, the relevant pages have been indexed for the biblical passages they contain. The lines in red are the so-called features, which were created specifically for the HWL project. They contain information on the day of the Holy Week, the service at issue (Night or Day) and the hour at which the biblical passage is read. For example, the features for Page ID 10, “P: HolyW WD5 SvcD12” read: Holy Week, Day 5 (i.e. Holy Thursday), 12th Hour of the Day.


The three Sahidic–Arabic and one of the two monolingual Sahidic HWLs were fully indexed and tagged (245 leaves) by me. I also set off and progressed on the indexing and feature-tagging of the monolingual Arabic HWL. More than 1100 leaves of the Bohairic HWLs were indexed by Peter Missael.




1.3 Transcription

Of the manuscripts mentioned in section 1.1, I fully transcribed the Sahidic and the Arabic texts of the three Sahidic–Arabic HWL manuscripts sa 16L, sa 292L, and sa 349L as well as of the Sahidic texts of the monolingual sa 298L in the Transcription Editor of the Göttingen VMR in line with the rules worked out by the CoptOT team (250 leaves). The diplomatic editions of the Sahidic texts contained in the above HWLs were part of two critical editions carried out by the CoptOT team: Isaiah 53  and Leviticus.

The Bohairic parts of the bilingual Bohairic–Arabic HWLs are being transcribed. The Bohairic texts already transcribed by Diliana Atanassova and Peter Missael amount to 370 leaves.

My transcription of the Arabic text of the monolingual HWL ar 1L (Paris, BnF, Arab 113) was also set off in 2022.

1.4 Special challenges

During the transcription of the HWL manuscripts, special challenges were met, such as the introduction and adaptation to the LXX versification of a Bohairic biblical base text and of an Arabic biblical base text in the essentially Sahidic environment of the Göttingen CoptOT VMR. Moreover, transcribing Arabic text, which must read from right to left, in an environment where all other transcriptions read from left to right was yet another challenge that had to be tackled.

Our special thanks go to our colleagues from the CoptOT team and more specifically to Troy A. Griffitts and Ulrich B. Schmid for their support, understanding and creativity in helping us overcome the above-mentioned challenges and enabling the integration of a new language and new features in the VMR.

2. Talks at Congresses

Diliana Atanassova and Lina Elhage-Mensching were present at two important liturgical events:

  • The Interdisciplinary Symposium “The Liturgy of St James” of the University of Regensburg, 6–10 June 2022, Regensburg, Germany with a joint contribution with the title “The Anaphora of St James in a Sahidic Euchologion”
  • The 8th International Congress of the Society of Oriental Liturgy,13–18 June 2022, Thessaloniki, Greece with a joint contribution with the title “The Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary”.

Diliana Atanassova, Lina Elhage-Mensching, and Frank Feder attended the 12th International Congress of Coptic Studies of the International Association of Coptic Studies, 11–16 July 2022, Brussels, Belgium.

  • Diliana Atanassova presented the plenary paper on the developments in the research on Coptic Liturgy from 2012 to 2022, and
  • Lina Elhage-Mensching contributed with a talk titled “The Owner Family of sa 16L” 
  • Frank Feder held a talk related to the Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament.

3. Blog articles

Elhage-Mensching, Lina, “New DFG Project at the Göttingen Academy: ‘Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary’ (01.04.2022 – 31.03.2025).” In: Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament,, 11 April 2022.

Elhage-Mensching, Lina, “The Arabic Bible in the new DFG project “Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary.” In: Biblia Arabica,, 6 June 2022.

4. Publications

Atanassova, Diliana, “Die Predigten Schenutes in den liturgischen Typika des Weißen Klosters,” in: The Rediscovery of ShenouteStudies in Honor of Stephen Emmel, edited by Anne Boud’hors, with the assistance of David Brakke, Andrew Crisip, and Samuel Moawad (OLA 310), Leuven, 2022, 27–75.

––––––, “Coptic Monastic Canons,” in: Coptic Literature. Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium of Coptic Studies by the Saint Mark Foundation. Monastery of St. Bishoi (Wadi al-Natrun), 10–14 February, 2019, edited by Samuel Moawad, Cairo 2022, 75–90.

Feder, Frank, “A New Textual Witness of the Sahidic Version of Jeremiah and Its Text Historical Assessment,” in: Editing the Septuagint: The Unfinished Task, edited by Frank Feder and Felix Albrecht, De Septuaginta Investigationes 16, Göttingen, 2022, 123–28.

––––––, “Eine sahidische Palimpsesthandschrift aus dem Weißen Kloster,” in: Sortieren – Edieren – Kreieren: Zwischen Handschriftenfunden und Universitätsalltag. Stephen L. Emmel zum 70. Geburtstag gewidmet, edited by Angelika Lohwasser, Gesa Schenke, and Frank Feder, Aegyptiaca Monasteriensia 8, Aachen, 2022, 233–43.

––––––, “The Complete Reconstruction and Edition of the Coptic Sahidic Old Testament and Its Relevance for the Textual History of the Septuagint,” in: XVII Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies, Aberdeen 2019, edited by G. R. Kotzé, M.N. van der Meer, and Martin Rösel, Septuagint and Cognate Studies 76, Atlanta, 2022, 61–87.

New Standard Edition of Sahidic Psalms

A brand-new volume in our Series Texts and Studies on the Coptic Bible just appered with the Publisher Harrassowitz: Peter Nagel's editio minor of the Sahidic Psalms. It is based on the important London Papyrus manuscript British Library Or. 5000 (sa 2031, ca. 500 CE), the only completely preserved manuscript of the Sahidic Psalter, and the variant readings of two miniature manuscripts (Chester Beatty Library n. 815 with Ps 1-50, sa 6; and Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Library Collection n. 167 with Ps 51-151, sa 2010; both ca. 600 CE). Since the digital editio maior of the many but fragmentary Sahidic Psalm manuscripts will need more time, the importance of Nagel's edition is multifold: first it replaces the notorious edition by Budge from 1898 ("Budge Psalter") providing a reliable edition of the London Psalter with the variant readings of two other manuscripts; second, it provides the indispensable reference text for the fragmentary Sahidic manuscript transmission; and third, the complete translation and the comprehensive indices make it, at the same time, an indispensable reference work for scholars specialised in the Septuagint Psalter tradition and its versions.     

An unforgettable conference in the Wadi El Natrun valley (near Cairo, Egypt)


From 28 January to 2 February, Frank Feder, Chrysi Kotsifou and I attended the 10th Symposium of the Saint Mark Foundation for Coptic Heritage. This meeting's topic was "The Coptic Bible". Scholars from Egypt, the United States, and eight European countries gathered to address issues such as the transmission of the Coptic Bible in various dialects, its usage in education and in liturgy, and its role in inspiring Coptic monks and artists. Some of the speakers offered philological/linguistic papers relying upon biblical books in Coptic.

As far as the Göttingen Academy is concerned, the conference featured representatives of both the Coptic Old Testament project (our "big project") and the Pauline epistles project. Frank Feder gave an overview of the CoptOT project, in which he also detailed the historical attempts to edit and translate books of the Sahidic Old Testament. Chrysi Kotsifou's topic was: "Editing the Sahidic Book of Psalms".

Katharina Sandmeier's talk was focused on the history of research on the Coptic New Testament at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF). My own presentation outlined Göttingen and Münster's work on the Pauline epistles in Coptic. It is my impression that our two speeches usefully complemented each other.

Unlike the regular conferences of, say, the IACS or the AFC, the Saint Mark Foundation's events are aimed at both Coptologists and members of the Coptic community in general. The presentations were abundantly recorded and photographed. Katharina Sandmeier and I volunteered to be interviewed by the COC Channel.

Our stay allowed us to catch up with old friends and meet new colleagues as well. On a personal note, I was especially delighted to meet Professor Lilian Larsen, a specialist of monastic education in Late Antiquity. I heartfully thank the Saint Mark Foundation and especially Hany Takla and Akhnoukh Fanous for their invitation and their wonderful hospitality.

K 57 – ein neuer Zeuge für den koptisch-sahidischen Jesus Sirach in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek

1936 veröffentlichte Walter C. Till in Le Muséon 49 einen Beitrag über „Wiener Faijumica“ (S. 170-217). Zu diesen Wiener Faijumica rechnete er auch das Pergamentfragment K 57 (S. 213f). Till hatte auf der Haarseite zweimal ⲛⲟⲩϯ gelesen und dies als faijumische oder bohairische Schreibweise des Wortes für „Gott“ interpretiert, war sich aber selbst nicht sicher, da sonst keinerlei Dialekteinfluss festzustellen war. Identifiziert hatte Till den Text nicht. Dies gelang erst kürzlich Christian Askeland (E-Mail vom 6. Februar 2023), der den Text der Fleischseite als Sir 20,1ff erkannte. Bei näherer Betrachtung entpuppte sich der Text beider Seiten als sahidischer Standardtext von Sir 20. Das von Till auf der Haarseite gelesene zweimalige ⲛⲟⲩϯ ist jeweils Bestandteil der Phrase ⲟⲩⲛ-ⲟⲩ-ϯ „es gibt eine Gabe“, griechisch ἔστιν δόσις, in Sirach 20,10. Die Fleischseite ist also das recto dieses Pergamentfragments, die Haarseite das verso. Die Onlinepräsentation der Fotos auf der Seite der ÖNB weist noch, entsprechend der Edition von Till, die umgekehrte Reihenfolge auf. Dieser neue Wiener Zeuge des koptischen Jesus Sirach war sehr wahrscheinlich gemeinsam mit dem bereits bekannten Wiener Zeugen für Jesus Sirach K 8689 (Sir 45,9-10/Sir 45,13-15) ursprünglich Bestandteil ein und desselben Codex. Den beiden Zeugen wurde daher im Rahmen des Göttinger Akademievorhabens Digitale Gesamtedition des Koptisch-sahidischen Alten Testaments die Handschrift sa 2182 zugewiesen. Das auf den Fotos der ÖNB oberhalb des größeren Fragments platzierte kleinere Fragment (von Till nicht mitediert) gehört an den unteren Rand und fügt sich dort passgenau ein. Die Schrift ist auf der Fleischseite stark verblasst, was die Transkription anhand des Fotos erschwert.

K 57: Vorläufige Transkription


Job Offer: Trainee position

The Digital Edition and Translation of the Coptic Old Testament at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Lower Saxony is dedicated to digitally describe, edit and analyse the transmission of the Coptic Old Testament with a focus on the Sahidic tradition. The long-term project has an opening for a one-year paid trainee program, to be filled at the earliest possible date. This trainee program will give the successful applicant the opportunity to expand their knowledge about the Biblical tradition in Coptic and to receive further hands-on training in editorial methods, manuscript studies and digital humanities, as applied to the Coptic Bible and Coptic literature.

The trainee will commit to working 30 hrs per week in a variety of tasks, which will depend on their experience and interests and the current Old Testament project focus. If pursuing a research project within the wider field of the Coptic Bible the trainee will be able to dedicate up to 50% of this time to their own research.

Prerequisites are a degree in Coptic Studies or a project-related field (Egyptology, Biblical Studies, History of Christianity, Digital Humanities or similar) and a working knowledge of Coptic. Other language skills (in particular in Ancient Greek or Arabic) are welcomed.

Please direct enquiries and (electronic) applications (short CV, digital copies of diplomas or transcripts and letter of motivation) by February 28, 2023 to

For further information contact Prof. Heike Behlmer ( or Dr Frank Feder ( Information about the project is available on its website:

The Academy aims to increase the proportion of women in areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly invites qualified women to apply. It also sees itself as family-friendly and supports the compatibility of work and caring commitments.

Disabled persons or those of equal status will be given special consideration if their qualifications make them suitable candidates.

We would like to point out that submitting an application constitutes consent under current data protection law for us to process your application data. You can find more details on the legal basis of this and the use of your data at:

Travel and application expenses cannot be reimbursed.

Newsletter No. 3

We're happy to announce the third issue of our project's official newsletter.

If you wish to receive future issues of this newsletter automatically, please subscribe to our copt-ot-newsletter mailing list.


New AHRC-DFG Project on Pauline Epistles has started

We are glad to annouce that the British-German joint project on the Earliest Translations of the Pauline Epistles (GALaCsy) has already started at the Göttingen Academy. For the British side, Hugh Houghton (University of Birmingham), for the German side, Holger Strutwolf (INTF Münster), and Frank Feder (Göttingen Academy) are the Principal Investigators. Göttingen and Münster are primarily responsible for the Coptic transmission which is rich and early, and extant in several Coptic dialects (Sahidic, Bohairic, Fayyumic, and Mesokemic). Two post-doc researchers could be hired for the project: Samuel Moawad (at Münster) and Julien Delhez (at Göttingen). The GaLaCsy project received funding for three years (2022-25) and will explore also the Old Latin and Syriac versions of the Pauline Epistles.

Since the Pauline Epistles were widely used in the Liturgy of the Coptic Church GALaCsy will closely cooperate with the sister DFG-Project at the Göttingen Academy the Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary.

All Coptic manuscripts will be digitally edited in our Virtual Manuscript Room. And, not only the texts will soon be publicly available, but also images of the beautiful manuscripts themselves. Finally, the Coptic texts will enter the synoptic tables and the apparatus of variant readings of the Editio Critica Maior of the Greek Pauline Epistles.  


New DFG Project at the Göttingen Academy: ‘Digital Edition and Critical Evaluation of the Coptic Holy Week Lectionary’ (01.04.2022 - 31.03.2025)

Timely for Easter comes the launch at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities of a new project closely related to and hosted on the same premises as the Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament. This new satellite project is dedicated to the Coptic Holy Week lectionary which is one of the fundamental books for Christian worship in Egypt. It is co-led by Diliana Atanassova and Frank Feder. Lina Elhage-Mensching occupies the position of Research fellow and Peter Missael is the Research assistant. 

Despite its significance, the Coptic Holy Week lectionary in Sahidic, Bohairic and Arabic is still under-researched. The text of the oldest Sahidic Holy Week lectionaries (10th to 14th c.) has been only sporadically used for comparison when investigating the younger Bohairic tradition but has otherwise remained completely unexplored. What is more, the Arabic texts in the Coptic Holy Week lectionaries have been studied only superficially or not at all. The existing editions of the Bohairic Holy Week lectionaries no longer correspond to current scholarly standards. In contrast to earlier research, which can only be described as sporadic, selective, and incomplete, the project aims at a comprehensive and systematic investigation of the Holy Week lectionary in Egypt.

The first principal objective of the project is to provide a digital edition of the oldest extant Holy Week lectionary of the Egyptian Christians. The digital edition will generate both a semi-diplomatic edition of the individual textual witnesses and a critical redaction of the Holy Week lectionary, in which Sahidic, Bohairic and Arabic texts from parchment and paper manuscripts will be compared with each other. For the purposes of this study, the digital edition will use and further develop the infrastructure of the Virtual Manuscript Room ( of the Göttingen Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament. 

The second principal objective is the exhaustive analysis of the Holy Week lectionary and of its development as a lectionary type in Egypt. The analysis will involve a text-historical classification of the biblical transmission in the lectionaries in comparison to the overall transmission in the biblical manuscript tradition. The Göttingen Virtual Manuscript Room will be of great help in achieving the second principal objective as well.

Through the use of innovative editorial tools and methods, the digitally based analysis of the Holy Week lectionary will close the research gaps described above. The project is therefore of the greatest significance both for Coptic and for Liturgical Studies and will provide a deeper understanding of the religious life of the Coptic Church, one of the largest and most important Oriental Orthodox Churches.


Job Opening for Pauline Epistles Project

The Coptic Old Testament project is pleased to announce a new job opening in a new satellite project. Hugh Houghton (University of Birmingham), Holger Strutwolf (INTF Münster), and Frank Feder (Göttigen Academy) have been successful in obtaining a joint AHRC-DFG grant for the project "The Earliest Translations of the Pauline Epistles (GALaCSy)". Applications for a full-time research position for a 30 month period are now being accepted by the Göttingen Academy.

Applicants are required to have a completed Ph.D. in Coptic Studies, Egyptology, Theology, Christian Languages and Cultures of the Near East or neighboring fields. Proficiency in Coptic, and a good command of (NT-)Greek, as well as familiarity with the textual history of the Bible are expected. Practical knowledge and experience in editing Coptic original manuscripts and their documentation and annotation in electronic databases and online-based web systems would be advantageous.

The main task of the successful applicant will be the documentation and edition of the earliest Coptic witnesses of the Pauline Epistles in the Virtual Manuscript Room of the Coptic Old Testament project in close coordination and cooperation with the project partners in Birmingham and Münster.

For further information about the application and selection process please consult the job advertisement on the Göttingen Academy website.

Applications with a cover letter and the usual documents should be sent until January 23, 2022, to Frank Feder ( who will be happy to answer any questions.

Vorwärts in die Vergangenheit: Beobachtungen zur AT-Übersetzung der BasisBibel

BasisBibel, Stuttgart (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft) 2021

2960 S. (Die Komfortable), 1968 S. (Die Kompakte)

Vor elf Jahren erschien zunächst die BasisBibel – Neues Testament, etwas später dann auch die Psalmen (auch kombiniert in einem Band), und die hohe Qualität dieser Übersetzungen machte Lust auf mehr. Einige der damals augenfälligen Vorzüge zeichnen auch die nun erschienene Gesamtübersetzung der BasisBibel mit AT und NT aus: modernes Design, lesefreundliche Gestaltung mit zahlreichen Erklärungen am Rand, Onlinespiegel des Bibeltextes.

Alle folgenden Bemerkungen beziehen sich ausschließlich auf die neu hinzugekommene Gesamtübersetzung des Alten Testaments.

Da ich mir kein vorschnelles Urteil anhand von Lieblingsstellen bilden wollte und aus purer Neugier, habe ich zunächst begonnen, von Anfang an zu lesen, stolperte aber rasch von einer Irritation in die nächste. Die erste Verstörung findet sich gleich in Gen 1,27. Hier wird ganz traditionell übersetzt: „Gott schuf den Menschen nach seinem Bild. Als Gottes Ebenbild schuf er ihn, als Mann und Frau schuf er sie.“ Da die BB für sich in Anspruch nimmt, eine kommunikative Übersetzung zu sein, ist diese traditionelle, eine dogmatische Aufladung (mit verheerender Wirkungsgeschichte) fortschreibende Übersetzung doch ziemlich überraschend. Sie ist auch nicht textgetreu (ein weiterer Anspruch der BB), denn von Mann und Frau ist im hebräischen Text gar nicht die Rede. Eine kommunikative Übersetzung dieser wichtigen Stelle hätte etwa so lauten können: Gott schuf die Menschheit nach seinem Bild. Als sein Abbild schuf er sie, die einzelnen Menschen schuf er von männlich bis weiblich. (Oder, wenn man es weniger gendertheoretisch aufgeladen möchte, das ängstigt ja viele: die einzelnen Menschen schuf er männlich und weiblich). Ab Gen 2,4b wird dann der Gottesname JHWH ganz traditionell mit Herr wiedergegeben, verblüffend in einer Bibelübersetzung, die eine „Übersetzung für das 21. Jahrhundert“ (Werbetext) sein möchte. Eine ausführliche Erklärung, warum sich die BB hier in eine bestimmte (nicht: die) jüdische Tradition stellt, wird auf S. 1950 (alle Angaben nach „Die Kompakte“) gegeben. Sie ist zweiteilig und höchst sonderbar. Zunächst wird die Herkunft dieser Tradition erläutert, die erste Begründung ist also im Kern: Das wurde schon immer so gemacht. Die zweite Begründung ist dann, dass Jesus im NT ja auch oft mit Herr angeredet würde. Der zweite Grund ist also, dass hier eine christologische Konnotation in den Text des AT eingetragen werden soll. Theologisch unbedarft ist noch das Mildeste, was mir dazu einfällt. Möglichkeiten, es besser zu machen, gäbe es viele: G’tt (auch eine jüdische Praxis), Gott, JHWH oder auch Adonaj entsprechend der hebräischen Vokalisation. Wer meint, ein unvokalisiertes Wort sei der intendierten jugendlichen Leserschaft nicht zuzumuten, irrt. Jedes Kind kann den Aufkleber FCK NZS entschlüsseln.

Gen 4,1b, Evas Ausruf nach der Geburt von Kain, ist ein anspielungsreicher und kaum zu übersetzender Satz. Sein Ende (ʾt jhwh) ist vermutlich eine Textverderbnis und die übliche Übersetzung (mit Hilfe des Herrn) nur eine an der Septuaginta orientierte Verlegenheitslösung. Evas auf Kain bezogener Satz „Ich habe einen Mann gewonnen“ ist eine volksetymologische Erklärung des Kindsnamens („Gewinn“), denn alle Figuren in der Geschichte haben sprechende Namen, die gewissermaßen das Grundgerüst der Brudermordgeschichte bilden. Die BB erklärt nun weder das Wortspiel noch übersetzt sie angemessen. Zu allem Übel wird das problematische Ende des Satzes auch noch, als frömmelnde Pointe, an die Spitze des Satzes gezogen – als hätte hier jemand abschließend geglättet ohne die geringste Kenntnis von Tiefendimension und Tücken des hebräischen Textes. Aus „Ich habe einen Mann gewonnen ʾt jhwh“ wird in der BB „Mithilfe des Herrn habe ich einen Sohn bekommen.“

Seit dem 19. Jahrhundert hat sich die Deutung des Lamechliedes (Gen 4,23f) als Prahllied (so auch Westermann) auf dem Hintergrund eines Völkerstereotyps eingebürgert (frei nach Wellhausen: der Orientale neigt zur Gewalttätigkeit und brüstet sich gern vor seinen Weibern). Die jüdische Tradition sieht dagegen hinter dem Lied ein einmaliges tragisches Ereignis und versteht (wie viele christliche Ausleger auch) das Perfekt des hebräischen Textes als Vergangenheitstempus. Die BB treibt die vor allem deutsche Auslegungstradition nun auf die Spitze und übersetzt (mit Westermann) präsentisch: „Lamech sagte zu seinen Frauen: Ada und Zilla, hört mir gut zu! / Ihr Frauen Lamechs, merkt euch meine Worte! / Ich erschlage den Mann der mich verwundet. / Ich erschlage das Kind, das mich schlägt.“ Die Übersetzung ist auch deshalb problematisch, weil sie die hebräische Präposition le, an der die ganze Deutung hängt, nicht mitübersetzt, sondern den Text vereindeutigt, letzteres eine durchgängige Tendenz der BB (vgl. z.B. auch Ex 4,24-26, wo die zahlreichen mehrdeutigen Personalpronomina zu eindeutigen Nomina aufgelöst werden).

Aus den Göttersöhnen in Gen 6,2 werden wie in anderen Bibelübersetzungen Gottessöhne, was einen der hier aufgenommenen alten Tradition widersprechenden Monotheismus in den Text einträgt (der dann in der Randerklärung wieder ausgehebelt wird).

Fünf (unterschiedlich gravierende) Irritationen in den ersten sechs Kapiteln sind eine beunruhigende Quote. Zeit also, einen Blick auf die übrigen Textgruppen des AT zu werfen um zu sehen, ob sich der Eindruck verfestigt oder vielleicht nur die Genesis schlecht übersetzt ist.

Thora: In Lev 18 werden die Verbote sozial problematischer sexueller Beziehungen gleichzeitig zu verschwommen und zu explizit übersetzt. Vers 7: „Du darfst nicht mit deiner Mutter schlafen. Das ist, als ob du mit deinem Vater schläfst.“ Der hebräische Text ist dagegen metaphorisch und bringt so zugleich die konkreten sozialen Verhältnisse zum Ausdruck: Die Blöße deines Vaters und die Blöße deiner Mutter sollst du nicht enthüllen. Die Verbote richten sich an israelitische Männer, an Geschlechtsverkehr mit dem eigenen Vater ist hier kaum gedacht, vielmehr gehört die Frau dem Mann und ihre Schändung wäre zugleich seine Schändung. Die Übersetzung der BB verwischt den Begründungszusammenhang: Sex mit Vater oder Mutter wäre ja gleich schlimm. Dass die Übersetzung nicht aufgeht, zeigt Vers 10, wo die nämliche Metapher gebraucht wird: Die Blöße der Tochter deines Sohnes … sollst du nicht enthüllen, denn deine Blöße ist es. In der Logik der BB müsste dann hier stehen: Das ist, als ob du mit dir selbst schläfst. In Vers 22 wird das Verbot von schwulem Sex (lesbischer Sex wird im AT nicht thematisiert) durch die Übersetzung seiner religiösen Konnotation beraubt, die zugleich eine für uns heutige Leserinnen und Leser notwendige Distanz schafft: Aus twʿvh (Luther: Gräuel, im Sinne von Götzendienst) wird in der Basisbibel einfach „eine abscheuliche Tat“, womit das Verbot zugleich absolut gesetzt wird. Die Erklärung am Rand ist abenteuerlich.

Geschichtsbücher: Trauriger Höhepunkt im vielleicht unschönsten biblischen Buch ist Nehemias stolzes Fazit nach seiner erfolgreichen gewaltsamen Auflösung ethnisch gemischter Ehen aus Juden und Nichtjuden: So reinigte ich sie von allem Ausländischen (Neh 13,30 LÜ). Die BB macht daraus einen Text, der weder Übersetzung ist noch Nacherzählung, er ist einfach nur falsch: „So reinigte sich das Volk von allen fremden Einflüssen.“ Der Charakter der stilisierten Autobiographie Nehemias wird hier plötzlich aufgehoben; es bleibt unklar, ob dieser Text intentional geschaffen wurde oder bloßes Versehen ist. Möglicherweise ist es einfach ein Druckfehler oder eine nachträgliche Verschlimmbesserung: „So reinigte ich das Volk …“ entspräche in etwa dem hebräischen Text.

Der Antitext zum nationalreligiösen Nehemiabuch ist das Buch Rut, in dem eine moabitische Frau mit Hilfe ihrer jüdischen Schwiegermutter durch eigene Tatkraft zu ihrem Recht kommt und zur Urgroßmutter des großen Königs David wird. In der Inhaltsübersicht der BB wird das Buch Rut zu Recht als ein Buch „zum Verlieben“ angepriesen. Wenn es dann aber im Buch Rut wirklich zur Sache geht, wird die Übersetzung der BB plötzlich merkwürdig verklemmt. Damit aus Boas für Rut der Löser und Mann werden kann, gibt Noomi Rut in Rut 3,4 einen Rat, den Rut anschließend auch befolgt: „Und sie kam leise und deckte zu seinen Füßen auf (d.h. sie rollte sein Obergewand auf, um seine Genitalien freizulegen) und legte sich hin.“ Der Rest findet sich. In der BB wird daraus: „Mitten in der Nacht wurde es Boas kalt.“ Aus Noomis Anweisung zum Aufdecken der Genitalien wird: „Gib acht, wo er sich zum Schlafen hinlegt.“ Aus der mutigen Frau, die ihr Schicksal beherzt in die eigenen Hände nimmt, wird ein passives Geschöpf, das irgendwie nur daliegt und wartet.

Überhaupt hatte das Übersetzungsteam der BB mit allem, was „untenrum“ so abgeht, offenbar seine Schwierigkeiten (im Unterschied zum Alten Testament selbst!). In einer Werbezeitung für die BB gibt es ein aufschlussreiches Interview mit der BB-Übersetzerin Tina Arnold:

Frage: Ist Ihnen etwas besonders Kniffliges oder Lustiges in Erinnerung geblieben?

Tina Arnold: Manchmal waren es ganz banale Dinge. Wir sagen zum Beispiel: Wir gehen auf die Toilette. Nun gibt es auch in der Bibel einige Stellen, wo eine Person ein größeres Geschäft machen muss und sich deswegen in eine Höhle zurückzieht, zum Beispiel bei Saul und David. Natürlich könnte man schreiben: Saul musste auf die Toilette. Aber ein Konfirmand, der das liest und den kulturellen Hintergrund nicht kennt – was stellt der sich vor? Einen gefliesten Raum mit einer Toilette, vielleicht. Das kann zu einem völlig falschen Bild führen und nicht erklären, warum Saul in eine Höhle geht. Da dann andere Begriffe zu finden, die nicht gleich in Richtung Hochsprache gehen, braucht viele Gedanken.

Also bei mir nicht. Für den Satz: „Saul musste kacken.“ brauche ich keine fünf Sekunden und kein kollektives Nachdenken. Herausgekommen (!) ist in der BB dann: „Denn er musste sich dringend erleichtern“. Als Erklärung am Rand steht dann noch sicherheitshalber: „Die Formulierung umschreibt die Situation, dass Saul aufs Klo musste.“ (1.Sam 24). Übrigens hatte schon Luther das Verb štn in 1.Sam 25,22 u.ö. treffend mit „(an die Wand) pissen“ übersetzt (im 20. Jh. dann leider herausrevidiert, seit 2017 wieder drin). Sehr merkwürdig ist hier wieder die Übersetzung der BB: „Ich werde keinen von Nabals Leuten am Leben lassen, die da wie Hunde an die Wand pissen.“ Von Hunden ist im hebräischen Text gar nicht die Rede, der Stehpisser ist einfach der Mann (weil er’s kann). David schwört schlicht, alle Männer Nabals zu töten. Der Ausdruck wird auch an anderer Stelle als derbe Umschreibung von „männlich“ gebraucht.

Jene leicht bizarre Episode aus der Genese der BB beschreibt ein generelles Problem dieser Übersetzung. Verständlichkeit ist zweifellos für jede Übersetzung ein erstrebenswertes Ziel, das aber nicht impliziert, die Leserinnen und Leser für dumm halten oder verkaufen zu müssen. Bei der Übersetzung des AT ist das besonders fatal, denn anders als beim Neuen Testament sind die hebräischen Texte des Alten Testaments fast immer zugleich auch große Literatur. Deren poetische Kraft einzufangen, gelingt der BB in ihrem verdrucksten Bemühen, um jeden Preis leicht verständlich zu sein, so gut wie gar nicht. Das Übersetzungsprogramm der BB ist letztlich ein Irrweg.

In der Geschichte von Jael, die den Kopf des Feldhauptmanns (BB: Kommandant) Sisera an den Zeltboden nagelt (Richter 4), werden am Rand lauter entbehrliche Informationen gegeben, alle für das Verständnis der Geschichte wesentlichen aber fehlen. So heißt es zum Stichwort „Schlauch mit Milch“: Ein aus Tierhaut genähter Beutel. Relevant für die Geschichte ist aber, dass Jael Sisera Milch gibt anstelle des Wassers, um das er gebeten hatte, sodass sie das Gastrecht nicht gewährt, dass Sisera für sie unantastbar gemacht hätte. So befreit sich Jael selbst aus einer heiklen, für sie lebensbedrohlichen Situation. Wie die Lutherbibel verwendet auch die BB Zwischenüberschriften als Element der Leserlenkung. Über dieser Perikope steht: „Sisera wird von einer Frau erschlagen“. So rückt der Mann in den Mittelpunkt der Geschichte, deren Protagonistin doch Jael ist, die in der Überschrift zugleich ihres Namens beraubt wird. Außerdem wird das Motiv der Schande fortgeschrieben, dass ein Mann durch die Hand einer Frau stirbt, darum geht es in der Geschichte aber nur am Rande. Thematisiert wird es vielmehr zuvor im Zwiegespräch zwischen Deborah und Barak, der sich allein, ohne Deborah, nicht traut, in den Krieg zu ziehen.

Prophetische Bücher: In Amos 3,8 heißt es in der BB: „Der Löwe hat gebrüllt! Wer wird sich da nicht fürchten? Gott, der Herr, hat geredet! Wer wird da nicht zum Propheten?“ Der letzte Satz enthält aber einen Verbalausdruck, analog zu dem parallelen Satz zuvor: Wer wird da nicht prophetisch reden? So wird der Text unnötig nominalisiert (schlechtes Deutsch) und unnötig maskulinisiert, schließlich kennt die Bibel auch Prophetinnen. Prophet sein und prophetisch reden ist auch nicht dasselbe.

Die Revision der Lutherbibel 2017 hatte es sich zum Ziel gesetzt, antijudaistische Stereotype aus den Zwischenüberschriften zu tilgen, was auch weitgehend gelungen ist. Dort heißt es (wie schon in der Lutherbibel von 1984) über Amos 3: „Erwählung bewahrt nicht vor Gericht“. Die BB setzt über Amos 3: „Gottes Gericht über Israel“. Unfassbar.

Zur Erleichterung der Annäherung an die Bibellektüre enthält die BB am Anfang (S. 13-17) allerlei Zehnerlisten (Die 10 schönsten …), worüber sich natürlich trefflich spotten lässt. Besonders verstörend ist die Liste: „Die 10 verrücktesten Geschichten der Bibel“ (S. 13). In drei der zehn „verrücktesten“ (was immer das Kriterium dafür sein mag) Geschichten spielen Frauen eine wichtige Rolle. Platz 4: „Wer andern eine Grube gräbt: Ester 5-8“. Platz 3: „Ein verhängnisvoller Haarschnitt: Richter 16,4-31“. Es handelt sich um die Geschichte, in der die hinterhältige Philisterin Delila den Helden Simson durch eine neue Frisur seiner Kraft beraubt. Platz 6: „Noch böser als im Märchen: Die fiese Königin Atalja: 2. Könige 11“. Nach dem Tod des Königs Ahasja lässt die Königinmutter Atalja die Königsfamilie töten, um selbst Königin zu werden, ein in orientalischen Despotien durchaus übliches Verfahren, man denke nur an die Machtübernahme Davids oder den König Herodes mit dem Kindermord zu Bethlehem (nicht verrückt genug für die Top 10). Atalja wird dann ihrerseits durch eine Priesterintrige gestürzt und ein minderjähriger Knabe an ihrer Stelle als König installiert. Die Frau als Intrigantin, die Frau als Hexe: Verrückt ist vor allem diese Liste.

Laut Begleitmaterial zur BB wurde die Übersetzung wissenschaftlich begleitet. Das ist beunruhigend, denn begleitet heißt eben nicht: verantwortet. Und es ist verstörend, dass niemand, der das Projekt wissenschaftlich oder verlegerisch begleitet hat, wenigstens bei dem hier (in einer Bibelausgabe!) kolportierten antediluvianischen Frauenbild aufgemerkt und die Notbremse gezogen hat.

Laut Werbetext wurden für diese Gesamtausgabe auch die Psalmen und das Neue Testament „vollständig überarbeitet“. Das lässt Schlimmes befürchten. Eine Bibelübersetzung „für das 21. Jahrhundert“ im Geist des 19. kann nicht funktionieren. Sie ist für niemanden zum Gebrauch zu empfehlen.

Habent Sua Fata Libelli: The Virtual Re-Unification of a Parchment Leaf in London

It is not a new fact that we deal in case of the Sahidic Bible with a very fragmentary manuscript tradition. However, the inquisitive researcher is sometimes rewarded with surprising succes. During our research trip to London in 2017 we visited also the Victoria and Albert Museum where Alin Suciu had detected some Coptic manuscript fragments. Among them was the lower half of a parchment leaf with passages from the book of Jeremiah. Thanks to the generosity of the VAM staff we received soon good images and information about the purchaser of this fragment. The painter, ceramics specialist, and collector Henry Wallis (1830–1916) must have acquired the fragment in Egypt before 1888, when it entered the VAM according to the inventory (and acquisition) number VAM 434A-1888.  As we will see below, Wallis gave also manuscripts to the British Museum. He was, however, certainly more interested in the illumination of the leaf than in its biblical text content.

About the same time, the upper half of the leaf must have come, together with other fragments, to the British Museum. The British Museum curator, Ernest A. Wallis Budge (1857–1934) acquired it apparently himself. W.E. Crum informs us about in his catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the British Museum (1905, p. x): "The first instalment to reach here was that brought in 1886 by Mr. H. Wallis (Or. 3367); a far larger quantity was obtained in 1888 through Dr. Budge (Or. 3579-3581), to whom indeed, more than to any other, the British Museum owes its large acquisitions of Coptic MSS." In the 1970s this fragment with the inventory number Or. 3579 A.32, together with the entire Coptic manuscript collection, was transferred to the British Library, where it is kept still today. For more than 100 years, the two halves of the leaf were deposited in London in different collections, and nobody found out that they actually form a single leaf, because the VAM fragments remained unknown to Coptologists.

Our team discovered via the biblical text content that these fragments belong together and the virtual reconstruction shows that the parchment leaf is almost intact. The leaf belonged to the White Monastery Codex sa 2059 (9th–10th century), and it is the first extant leaf of 20 which survived from this codex with the books Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, and Epistle of Jeremiah. Typically, the remaining leaves and fragments are dispersed, besides our two collections in London, over the collections in Ann Arbor (MI, USA), Manchester (UK), Paris (BNF and Louvre), and Vienna. After having read this breath taking discovery report you can vistit the re-unified leaf (already transcribed) with all the other leaves in the original sequence (the other leaves will be indexed and transcribed successively) in our Virtual Manuscript Room. 

However, the story can still be enlarged. If you take a careful look at the color image of the lower manuscript half (VAM) you recognize at the lower outer margin of the leaf that a parchment strip was glued to the folding of the (former) double leaf to stabilize it, a quite typical procedure with parchment manuscripts. Interestingly, the strip bears the rests of the Greek text of John 6:52! So, material of still another (Greek) parchement manuscript was used to maintain the material integrity of the manuscript. Who knows what the other leaves of the manuscript still conceal?

Newsletter No.2 – Pandemic Edition


Finally, the long wait is over! We're happy to announce the second (special pandemic) issue of our project's official newsletter.

If you wish to receive future issues of this newsletter automatically, please subscribe to our copt-ot-newsletter mailing list.


Manuscript Speculation Tool (Part II)

Manuscript Speculation Tool: Reconstructing Non-extant Portions of Manuscripts

Part II: The Example of Codex sa 2070


Diliana Atanassova, Troy A. Griffitts, and Ulrich Schmid


With the Manuscript Speculation Tool, the members of the Göttingen CoptOT Team and other specialists for Coptic biblical manuscripts attempt the reconstruction of missing pages. This tool allows to quickly and systematically estimate the number of missing leaves in between extant leaves as well as the page and quire numbers of fragmentary leaves lacking their upper margins

We will now show in detail how to use the tool by reconstructing the page numbers for sa 2070.


First of all, one should make an in-depth study of the extant leaves of a codex, in order to properly set the parameters in the tool.


The Deuteronomy codex sa 2070 is comprised today of only 5 leaves containing portions of the chapters Deut 13; Deut 17; Deut 21; Deut 31; Deut 32. It is lacking any quire numbers and therefore they will not be the object of this investigation, though some page numbers are still extant. Only the first two leaves are almost undamaged: Vienna, ÖNB, K 9870 and Leiden, RMO, AES 40–12, which provide the basis for the required information about the number of lines per page as well as the number of letters per line. These two leaves consistently have 31 lines per column and on average 8 – 9 letters per line. However, sporadically we also count 7 or 10 letters per line and, in one case, even 11 letters. Codex sa 2070 is written in 2 columns in the unimodular script of Coptic whose main characteristic is that almost all Coptic letters (an exception being the letter iota) have the same height and width. The presence of this characteristic is of great importance as it makes the results much more reliable.


Second, one should choose in which order the gaps between two extant leaves need to be closed by the means of the tool.


In codex sa 2070, there are three leaves out of five that do not have extant page numbers – Leiden, RMO, AES 40–12 (Deut 17), Paris, BnF, Copte 130.5, f. 137 (Deut 21), and Copte 132.2, f. 48 (Deut 31). The rule of thumb for using the manuscript speculation tool is “The smaller the gap, the less room for error!” Therefore in this codex, we choose to begin our reconstruction with the last leaf containing Deut 31, as the next leaf with extant pagination contains Deut 32. This means that the gap between the two leaves is not big. After that, we will reconstruct the pagination of the Leiden leaf with Deut 17, which follows a Vienna leaf with extant pagination and contains Deut 13. Lastly, speculation will be dedicated to the Paris leaf with its content of Deut 21. In order to minimize the percentage of error, we will use the already reconstructed page numbers of the Leiden leaf (Deut 17) as it is located within the codex structure near the Paris leaf (Deut 21).


Third, two of the parameters require attention as they have a special effect on fine-tuning the result, i.e. Line Width and Space Width. Here the selection of the values requires a few attempts, with a goal to bring the first line of the first column of an extant page in accordance with the last line of the last column of the page.


Now comes the time to put all this information together and recreate the two pages of the Vienna leaf by experimenting with the parameters of the Manuscript Speculation Tool. The two columns and the 31 lines per column are a given, as well as the letter iota that should be treated as a Half-width Character. The Starting Character Number is 77 from the Starting Verse Deut 13.13 and Prefer Wordbreak Within Character Count is set to zero. With some trial and error, it emerges that the best result is achieved by setting Line Width to 8.4 and Space Width to 0.4.


This combination of parameters generates two successive pages which mimic the real object displaying only three letters more. Alternatively, setting Line Width to 8.3 results in a reconstruction that displays 17 letters less than the real object over two successive pages.


So using parameters in this range allows us to speculate on all gaps in sa 2070.


Reconstruction of the page numbers of Paris, BnF, Copte 132.2, f. 48 (Deut 31)


At first glance, someone who does not know the codex would suggest that between the two leaves  Copte 132.2, f. 48 (Deut 31) and Copte 129.1, f. 93 (Deut 32) only one or two leaves are missing. However, the tool teaches us that the missing leaves are four because in this unimodular manuscript the letters per line are on average 8–9. The special feature for the reconstruction of this page is the fact that the leaf with the extant page number is following the leaves without page numbers. In such cases, one has to work one's way backward to arrive at the extant page’s missing number.


























We know exactly how the page [164] begins because we know the wording of the last lines of the previous page.

Then we are aiming at a page with the number 173 that should begin with the end of Deut 32:14 ⲙ̄ⲡⲉ̣ⲗ̣ⲟⲟⲗⲉ



It is important to note that the tool does not claim to reconstruct exactly every line on a page but simply to apply a consistent estimate across the entire speculation; therefore, a certain error rate can be expected and does not contradict the results.


The following parameters include the Line Width 8.4 and mirror exactly the first line of the manuscript on Page [164]. Further down the line Page 173 and Deut. 32:14/15 comes along.



As one can see by the highlighted word which represents the first word of the next extant portion of the manuscript, the reconstruction with the parameter Line Width 8.4 falls short by eight lines or 71 characters of the beginning of page 173.


Below, the speculation with Line Width 8.3 is given.



Here we arrive at a reconstruction that is off by only one line or nine characters, which is to be preferred.


Reconstruction of the page numbers of Leiden, RMO, AES 40–12 (Deut 17)

In this case, the page to be reconstructed follows a page with extant page numbers. Since Page 80 ends after the first word of Deut 14:5 we know that our reconstructed Page 81 begins with Starting Character Number 9 of that verse. The end of our gap is bounded by the next extant page which is a recto starting with the end of Deut 17:5 ⲛⲉ ⲉⲣⲟⲟⲩ.



Again, we start with Line Width 8.4 and employ the following parameter set



This time, the error rate amounts to about 10 lines with 87 characters short of the next recto.


As an alternative, we also provide the result for Line Width 8.3.



This speculation is only one line with seven letters short of the next recto. This indicates, again, that the parameter set with Line Width 8.3 gives better results.


Reconstruction of the page numbers of Paris, BnF, Copte 130.5, f. 137 (Deut 21)


In order to minimize the error rate, we continue our reconstruction starting with the page following our previously reconstructed page [96]. As we know exactly how page [96] ends, we can say that the next page will begin in the middle of Deut. 17:14 – at character offset  121.


This time, we are aiming at a fragment that includes Deut 21:5 at about the middle of the first column of a recto.



Again, we start with Line Width 8.4 and employ the following parameter set.



 In addition, we give the speculation for Line Width 8.3 parameter set.



This time for both cases the speculation is off by a comparatively large margin. The best result is found with the first set of parameters with an error margin of 10 lines with 88 characters. The second set of parameters produces an error margin is 20 lines with 172 characters. In addition, the latter set displays the targeted passage on the second column of a recto. In both cases, however, the targeted passage is found on the same page, i.e. page [111]. Therefore, we should be reasonably confident that the overall reconstruction is accurate. With a gap of 16 pages to be reconstructed, our error rate is still less than one line per page. 


By reconstructing the gaps of codex sa 2070 we hope to have been able to show you the advantages of the Manuscript Speculation tool.




Manuscript Speculation Tool (Part I)

Manuscript Speculation Tool: Reconstructing Non-extant Portions of Manuscripts

Part I: General Introduction


Diliana Atanassova, Troy A. Griffitts, and Ulrich Schmid


The codicological reconstruction of the manuscripts from the Library of the White Monastery in Upper Egypt is one of the biggest challenges in Coptology. In order to achieve its final score –  the reconstruction of the Coptic Translation of the Old Testament – the Göttingen CoptOT Team has first to identify new biblical fragments from the White Monastery in the different museums and libraries all over the world, and second to find their original codex among already known codices. Once we know the leaves which belong to a codex, our next task is to put them together in a correct succession and if possible to find out exactly how many leaves are missing. The codicological reconstruction depends on how many leaves survive, how much of each leaf is preserved, and if the leaf still bears its original pagination and quire numbers. However, many of the leaves we have today are fragmentary and often lacking their upper margins. In order to facilitate the reconstruction of the pagination and quire numbers in such cases and also determine the amount of missing leaves in between two extant leaves, the authors of this blogpost have developed the Manuscript Speculation Tool by applying algorithms to this set of problems.

The parameters of the Manuscript Speculation Tool

This tool “reconstructs” missing pages based on a running text of one or more biblical books. In order for it to succeed it has to have a Basetext and certain parameters filled in that are derived from existing pages.  

The first parameter, Basetext will be set to Sahidic Bible 2 for our work on the White Monastery leaves.

Starting Verse – here we enter the Biblical verse at which the tool should start a guess. 

Starting Character Number – the character offset within the Starting Verse at which the tool should start to count. If nothing is entered the tool will start the count at the first letter of the first verse.

Page Column Count – the number of columns per page.

Page Line Count – the number of lines per page; you can use a decimal value to account for a range between two numbers.

Line Width – the number of letters per line; you can supply an average decimal value to account for variation of line width within the manuscript. 

Space Width – the fraction of a character width to use between words. 0 for no space between words; 0.5 for half a character width between words, etc.

Prefer Wordbreak Within Character Count – lines can end exactly on the specified Line Width count or can be adjusted slightly if you find that the scribe preferred to end lines on a word break if the word break was within a reasonable amount of characters, e.g. "1" here would allow the line width to adjust by one character more or one character less if it would result in the line ending on a word break. If your strategy is to match the end of an extant page by adjusting fractional line length values, turning this feature off (setting to 0) is ideal.

Half-width Characters – some characters such as iota are often written using less than a full character width both in unimodular and bimodular manuscripts. Supply a list of characters here which should be treated as such.

Double-width Characters – to better support bimodular manuscript, a list of characters can be provided here which should be treated as double the normal character width when they occur on a line.

Starting Page Number – the number of the page at which the speculation should start.

Number of Pages to Generate – the number of successive pages that the tool should generate.

When you refine your parameters to best match your manuscript, you can then save or share those parameters with colleagues by using the “Return Link” icon in the upper right corner of the tool.

From a methodological point of view we are attempting to establish the tendencies of the Coptic scribe as discovered through the extant portions of the manuscript and apply those same tendencies when reconstructing the missing portions. This method was already used in traditional Coptological investigation, however this work was previously done manually and being very tedious, generally only for a few leaves.[1] Now, through the support of DH software we can reach a new level of speed and consistency in applying our expert decisions, thus increasing accuracy and assuring plausibility for our assumptions. This tool is now integrated and available within the Virtual Manuscript Room and can be used not only for the Coptic biblical codices from the White Monastery but also for all Coptic or other language biblical manuscripts. You can find the Manuscript Speculation Tool here.


Finally, we would like to end the first part of our blogpost with five concise suggestions based on what we have learned by using the tool over the past months.  


  • Know your codex thoroughly.
  • Try to reconstruct an extant page in order to prove your speculative parameter values.
  • Use the tool only to close the gap between two leaves, so as not to carry errors onward to the next gap.
  • Attempt to find other possibilities for best speculation values by tuning different parameters.
  • Tolerate errors.  The tool can only speculate and will never be exact.

  In the second part of this blog post we will be using the tool to reconstruct the non-extant portion of the fragmentary manuscript sa 2070. You are invided to follow us there.


[1] D. Atanassova, “Neue Erkenntnisse bei der Erforschung der sahidischen Quellen für die Paschawoche”, in: Heike Behlmer, Ute Pietruschka, Frank Feder (eds.), Ägypten und der Christliche Orient. Peter Nagel zum 80. Geburtstag (Texte und Studien zur Koptischen Bibel 1), Wiesbaden 2018, pp. 1–37, particularly p. 20.


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