Blogs Blogs

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.


LCBM 1.0 2021 online

The List of Coptic Biblical Manuscripts (LCBM) is now available on our website. LCBM is a common list maintained and regularly updated by the INTF Münster (Siegfried G. Richter and Katharina Schröder) and the Coptic Old Testament project Göttingen. It was the result of an agreement between Siegfried Richter and Frank Feder in 2016 to replace the partly overlapping and competing numbering systems of Karlheinz Schüssler's Biblia Coptica and the SMR (Schmitz-Mink-Richter) list of Coptic New Testament manuscripts. The details are outlined in an article in the Journal of Coptic Studies 22.

Updates to LCBM will appear on an annual basis (or more often if substantial changes occur). The published list is a fixed actual state (version 1.0, March 2021) of a work in progress representing the reconstruction of Coptic biblical and liturgical manuscripts, first for the Sahidic manuscripts. It gives the basic information for each manuscript, of which leaves or fragments in which collections it consists and which verses of a certain biblical book or pericopae they contain, and a concordance of the different numbering systems that exist. In addition, as for the NT manuscripts, also the Horner and GA sigla are noted. Any other detail, like provenance or dating, will be reserved for the comprehensive description of the manuscript in the metadata scheme in the manuscript catalogue. A link at the end of each line leads you, in case of the OT manuscripts, to the diplomatic editions in the CoptOT VMR, also work in progress and, therefore, in different stages of accomplishment, and, in case of the NT manuscripts, to the SMR-Database. For this first version, the column with 'codex type/lectionary type' is mostly left blank, as we are still working with the assignment of the fragments. This, and also the sigla for the manuscripts of the other dialects (except the classical Bohairic version which needs a separate list) will be added successively.

The progress in comparison to Schüssler's Biblia Coptica is already visible in many cases, and we are very grateful for any additional information, suggestions, and improvements you may have.  

Wolf-Peter Funk, 1943-2021



Unser verehrter Kollege, der Anglist, Theologe und Koptologe Wolf-Peter Funk, geboren 1943 in Leipzig, ist am 18. Februar 2021 im kanadischen Québec gestorben. Er erlag einem tückischen Krebsleiden.

Als Schüler von Hans-Martin Schenke gehörte Wolf-Peter Funk zu den Mitbegründern des Berliner Arbeitskreises für koptisch-gnostische Schriften. Der Berliner Arbeitskreis veröffentlichte ab 1973 sukzessive deutsche Übersetzungen von Nag Hammadi-Schriften, zu denen Wolf-Peter Funk die Übersetzungen des Authentikos Logos (NHC VI,3) und der Lehren des Silvanus (NHC VII,4) beitrug. Seine bereits 1971 fertiggestellte Dissertation über die Zweite Apokalypse des Jakobus aus Nag Hammadi-Codex V erschien dann 1976 als erste kommentierte Textausgabe aus den Reihen des Berliner Arbeitskreises in der Reihe Texte und Untersuchungen des Berliner Akademie-Verlages als TU-Band 119. Wolf-Peter Funk setzte darin mit seiner Indizierung des koptischen Textes den linguistischen Standard, der seitdem die Textausgaben des Berliner Arbeitskreises auszeichnet.

Frühzeitig machte er statistisch-mathematische Methoden für die linguistische Qualifizierung koptischer Texte fruchtbar. Als Pionier computergestützter Analyse trug er wesentlich zur dialektologischen Entschlüsselung insbesondere von Nag Hammadi-Texten bei. Als „Hexenmeister“ (so eine Formulierung von Hans-Martin Schenke) der von ihm mitentwickelten computergestützten Konkordanzen zu koptischen Textcorpora erschloss er der Koptologie ein unschätzbares Werkzeug, von dem zahlreiche Koptologinnen und Koptologen seitdem profitiert haben. Am Beispiel dieser Computerkonkordanzen wird besonders deutlich, dass das veröffentlichte Werk Wolf-Peter Funks nur die sichtbare Spitze eines Eisbergs darstellt. Etliche Konkordanzen, etwa zu den sogenannten „kleinen“ Dialekten, erschienen nur als Privatdruck oder wurden großzügig als Disketten geteilt – stets zum Nutzen und zum Fortschritt der Koptologie.

1987 nutze Wolf-Peter Funk einen Studienaufenthalt in Kanada, um den engen und einengenden Verhältnissen in der DDR den Rücken zu kehren. Er lehrte und forschte seitdem an der Université Laval in Québec und veröffentlichte seine wissenschaftlichen Beiträge abwechselnd auf Deutsch, Englisch und Französisch – je nach den Erfordernissen der jeweiligen Publikation.

In den letzten Jahrzehnten hat sich Wolf-Peter Funk besonders um die Erschließung der manichäischen Schriften verdient gemacht, sowohl der bereits seit Jahrzehnten in Bibliotheken aufbewahrten als auch der neugefundenen etwa in der Oase Dachlah. Seine Konkordanzen zu den manichäischen Kephalaia und den manichäischen Homilien gehören zu dem unter der Wasserlinie liegenden Eisberg seines Lebenswerks.

Der Hindernislauf seiner Heimarmenē hat nun ein Ende gefunden. Wolf-Peter Funk war nicht nur Kollege und Koptologe, sondern auch Mensch und Freund. Als ehemaligem Mitglied des Leipziger Thomanerchores lagen ihm auch Alte Musik und historische Aufführungspraxis am Herzen. Diskussionen linguistischer Detailfragen mit seinem Kollegen und Freund Hans-Gebhard Bethge endeten nicht selten im gemeinsamen Hören neuer, aufregender Aufnahmen Alter Musik. Die Lücke, die sein Tod reißt, ist nur zu ahnen.

Peter Nagel Das Deuteronomium sahidisch New volume in TSKB series

Volume 2 in the TSKB (Texts and Sudies on the Coptic Bible) series has just been published with Harrassowitz. Peter Nagel, a nestor in Coptic Studies and one of the best specialists in the research on the Coptic Bible, presents a new edition of the text of Deuteronomy in the early papyrus (4th century) British Library Or. 7594 (sa 17) with a miscellany of Biblical (Deut, Jonah, Acts) and apocryphal texts (Apocalypse of Elijah). The Deuteronomy text is one of the earliest witnesses of the Sahidic Old Testament and its grammar and syntax patterns yield very important examples of an early classical Sahidic. The first edition of the Deutoronomy text in Or. 7594 by Ernest A.W. Budge in 1912 (Coptic Biblical Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt) rendered this important document only very inadequately. Finally, Peter Nagel offers an exemplary and reliable edition critically checked, and supplied where the text of the London papyrus is missing, with textual variants of another fourth century papyrus P. Bodmer XVIII (sa 2001) and the complete medieval (9th–10th century) parchment manuscript M 566 (sa 2006). The edition is introduced by a codicological description and a short evaluation of its text character as version of the Septuagint. The text edition is accompanied by a complete translation and explanatory notes. The comprehensive indices explore the Coptic conjugation patterns, the Coptic vocabulary, the Greek loanwords, and the proper names in the text.

While Deuteronomium sahidisch is the first reliable edition of the Deuteronomy text of the London Papyrus, and, at the same time, the first complete edtion of the Sahidic version of this book, it is neither a complete editon of Or. 7594 (sa 17) nor a critical edition of the Sahidic Deuteronomy yet. This will soon be realised by our project in a digital edition in the VMR. Nevertheless, Deuteronomium sahidisch is a very important intermediary step on the way there. 

Eusebian Tituli Psalmorum in the Coptic Psalter Codex sa 2033

Since the publication of my last post, I have gained some new insight into the Coptic Psalter Codex sa 2033, which I am sharing below. 

1. Following a valuable hint given to me by Professor Rainer Stichel,[1] I consulted the series of Psalm titles written by Eusebius of Caesarea around 330 AD [2] and reproduced by Jacques-Paul Migne [3] under the heading Υποθεσεις του αυτου ευσεβιου εισ τουσ ψαλμουσ. As noted by Martin Wallraff, it is “a shortlist by Eusebius of the subject matter of each of the 150 Psalms”.[4] This shortlist precedes the Psalms in the famous fifth century manuscript Royal MS 1 D VII known as Codex Alexandrinus preserved in the British Library in London.[5] 
It turns out that the headings appearing in the Coptic Psalter sa 2033 are a quite literal translation of the Eusebian Psalm titles. Let me illustrate this with the titles preceding Psalms 64 and 65; the table below is followed by a detail of the manuscript showing the beginning of Psalm 64. 

Detail of Berlin, SBB, Ms. or. Fol. 1605, f. 3r. (Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE)

I checked each of the Psalm titles extant in sa 2033 and was able to ascertain that the Sahidic titles correspond to the Eusebian ones except for the titles of Psalms 146 and 148 (coincidentally being those reproduced in my previous post). I have now found out that these two titles appear in Latin in several manuscripts and belong to what Pierre Salmon calls the first series or “Série de Saint Colomba”. The Christian titles of this series are widely attested in Europe as early as the sixth century “quelles que soient ses origines plus lointaines”.[6] The fact that they appear in our Sahidic manuscript suggests that their origin must certainly be Greek. In a longer article I am currently working on I will give the complete comparison between the Eusebian tituli Psalmorum and those appearing in sa 2033.

2. Searching through the Göttingen VMR for other Coptic witnesses of the Eusebian tituli Psalmorum, I discovered that two London fragments classified by Karlheinz Schüssler as a codex of their own with the siglum sa 185 [7] actually belong to sa 2033 (BC sa 101). The London fragments in question are 

  • London, BL, Or. 6954 (96), a fragment complementing Cairo, CM, Inv. no. 3854 bearing Ps 24:7–15; 25:1–9, and
  • London, BL, Or. 6954 (98), a fragment bearing Ps 67: 21–26; 68: 1–5 to be placed between Berlin, SBB, Ms. or. fol. 1605, f. 3 and Paris, BnF, Copte 133(2), f. 26b. 

The new fragments also contain the Eusebian tituli Psalmorum, and this brings the identified parts of sa 2033 to 26 fragmentary folios dispersed among 7 libraries. All 26 leaves are now freely available in the Göttingen VMR in the correct order with the indication of their content.

[1] Rainer Stichel is the author of the book Beiträge zur frühen Geschichte des Psalters und zur Wirkungsgeschichte der Psalmen. Paderborn et al.: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2007. Also see his article Zur Herkunft der Psalmenüberschriften in der Septuaginta, in: Erich Zenger (ed.), Der Septuaginta Psalter. Sprachliche und theologische Aspekte. Freiburg et al.: Herder, 2001, 149–161.
[2] On the possible date Eusebius of Caesarea (also called Eusebius Pamphili) wrote his hypotheseis, cf. William Smith and Henry Wace, A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines. London: Little, Brown and Company, 1880, 308–355 at p. 336–337.
[3] Migne, PG 23: 68–72.
[4] Martin Wallraff, The Canon Tables of the Psalms, An Unknown Work of Eusebius of Caesarea, in: Dumbarton Oaks Papers 67 (2013), 1–14, 9. As for the number of 150, note that all witnesses of Eusebian Psalm titles refer to 150 Psalms following the Masoretic tradition (unlike the LXX, which has 151 Psalms). The Latin translation of the Eusebian Psalm titles constitutes the Série IV in Pierre Salmon, Les “Tituli Psalmorum” des manuscrits latins, Collectanea Biblica Latina XII. Rome: Abbaye Saint-Jérôme and Libreria Vaticana, 1959, 117–131.
[5] See fols. 531v–532v in The Codex Alexandrinus in reduced photographic facsimile, The Old Testament, part IV, published by the Trustees of the British Museum in 1957. It also features in other Greek Psalm manuscripts and Catenae. Some examples are Oxford, BL, MS. Auct. D. 4.1, f. 26r–28v (10th century), and Rome, BAV, Reg. Gr. 1, f. 488v–490r (10th century). More examples and a discussion can be found in Cordula Bandt, Eusebius Periochae, in: Cordula Bandt, Franz Xaver Risch and Barbara Villani (eds), Die Prologtexte zu den Psalmen von Origenes und Eusebius, Texte und Untersuchungen zur altchristlichen Literatur 183. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019, 122–141.
[6] Salmon, Tituli, 47.
[7] Karlheinz Schüssler, Das sahidische Alte und Neue Testament, Biblia Coptica 2.2. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015, 17–18, sa 185.

Textual History of the Bible Vol. 2A just appeared

The most actual volume of Brill's Handbook series Textual History of the Bible just appeared as book and online version. Vol. 2, edited by Matthias Henze and Frank Feder is dedicated to the Deuterocanonical Scriptures, and consists of three volumes. Vol. 2B and 2C already appeared in 2019. They contain articles on the manuscript transmission, the textual history, and the texcritical value of the individual books which are not included in the Hebrew Bible but in the Septuagint. For the Coptic transmission of these books the contributions offer the most up to date state of research.

Vol. 2A presents overview articles on the canonical and textual history of the different versions. The essays on the Coptic Canon and the Textual History of the Coptic Texts give, for the first time, a consistent and comprehensive overview over these histories for the Coptic version of the Old Testament.

Fore information see Brill's website

A Coptic folio finds its way back home: New insights into BnF, Copte 129.19, folio 85

Manuscript sa 299L, a fragmentary Holy Week lectionary, is one of the primary sources of my ongoing PhD project on the Sahidic Holy Week lectionaries. Its fragments were first put together and described by Franz-Jürgen Schmitz and Gerd Mink in their catalog in 1991.[1] In their suggested reconstitution, the scholars included one mutilated leaf preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris (BnF) under call number Copte 129.19, f. 85. Although that leaf contained only Psalm chapters, and, what is more, Psalm chapters never resorted to in Holy Week lectionaries, it seems that the two scholars were misled in two respects. Firstly, they mistook the several framed headings for headings of liturgical rubrics (‘Lesungseinleitungen’, I, 2.2, p. 852) whereas they are short titles summarizing the content of the chapters at issue. This mistake can be explained by the fact that such headings do not correspond to the traditional superscriptions in the psalter (see below). Secondly, they were misled by the similarity of this folio with sa 299L in terms of number of lines per page (around 36) and paleography. In 2004, in her article on the Sahidic Holy Week lectionaries, Diliana Atanassova already expressed her doubts as to the belonging of folio 85 to the Holy Week lectionary sa 299L.[2] In her comprehensive overview of the new findings related to the Sahidic Holy Week lectionaries in 2018, on pages 26-27, Atanassova published a new reconstitution of the extant folios belonging to sa 299L, definitely discarding folio 85.[3] However, she did not suggest a new codex to which the folio could belong.

Building on the characteristics of the leaf at issue and on the concluding words by Atanassova in her blog article on Codex sa 2033 (BC sa 101) dated August 22, 2019,[4] I consulted the photo archive of the Göttingen Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament project. Together with a project internal database developed by Malte Rosenau, it helped me find out to which codex this leaf could belong.

Some relevant properties of folio 85 can be summarized as follows:  it contains Sahidic versions of Ps 145, 8-10 and Ps 146, 1-11 on its recto, and of Ps 147, 1-9 and Ps 148, 1-6 on its verso. The heading and the beginning of the first verse of Ps 146 and Ps 148 are in italics and framed by horizontal strokes and dots retraced in red. The end of each verse is marked by a black dot over a bigger red one. There is one colored animal drawing on the bottom margin of each side of the leaf. Interestingly, all these features are characteristic of sa 2033.[5]

This allows us to assume that folio 85 actually belongs to sa 2033, the extant constituents of which present the same paleography, the same decoration of chapter headings, the same type of miniatures in the margins. Going through all the pages that can be seen on the Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR) (sa 2033) of the Göttingen project, another surprise comes up: this newly discovered addition finds its exact position immediately after the Vienna fragmentary folio K 9857, pp. ⲣ︦ⲝ︦ⲍ︦/ⲣ︦ⲝ︦ⲏ︦ (167/168), F/H of codex sa 2033, which contains parts of Ps 143 and 144. This enables us to reconstruct the pagination of folio 85 as [ⲣ︦ⲝ︦ⲑ︦]/[ⲣ︦ⲟ︦] (= [169]/[170]). Moreover, the recto of the Paris folio is the hair side and the verso is the flesh side of the parchment. Thus, Gregory’s rule[6] confirms once more the correct position of the new folio within the structure of sa 2033.

We can therefore conclude by saying that — including the folio discovered by Atanassova in 2019 and the folio discussed here — the identified parts of sa 2033 now sum up to 25 (fragmentary) folios, dispersed among 6 libraries.

My work on this folio also uncovered an important feature of sa 2033 not registered until now in the descriptions of this codex. In fact, headings such as those mentioned in the beginning of this blog article, which were mistaken for liturgical rubrics by Schmitz and Mink, can be found at the beginning of each Psalm in codex sa 2033.

As is well known, some of the Psalms of the Hebrew Bible contain superscriptions (titles or instructions). In the Septuagint these superscriptions were partially altered and increased in number.[7] However, the headings found in sa 2033 are of another nature which rather reminds us of the Psalm titles which have been added by some Bible translators and editors in modern times.  E.g. the beginnings of Ps 146 and 148 found on folio 85 are:

Ps 146:        [ⲉⲧⲉⲥ]ⲙⲏ ⲙ̄ⲡⲉⲭ︦ⲥ︦ ⲛⲁϩⲙ̄ ⲗⲁⲟⲥ                     ‘On the voice of Christ before the people’

                1  [ⲁⲗ]ⲗⲏⲗⲟⲩⲓⲁ [ⲥⲙⲟⲩ ⲉⲡⲟⲉⲓⲥ …                      Hallelujah. Praise the Lord…                      

Ps 148:        ⲉⲧⲉⲥⲙⲏ ⲛⲧⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ ⲛⲁϩⲙ̄ ⲡⲗⲁⲟⲥ               ‘On the voice of the Church before the people’

                1  []ⲗⲗⲏⲗⲟⲩ[ⲓⲁ] ⲡⲁ[ⲅⲅⲁⲓⲟⲥ ⲙⲛ ⲍⲁⲭⲁ]ⲣⲓⲁⲥ            Hallelujah, of Haggai and Zechariah


While the underlined part of Ps 148,1 clearly belongs to the Septuagint tradition, the titles in bold are specific to this Sahidic manuscript and the wording shows that they are late interpolations, probably made by a Christian scribe to link the Old Testament to the New Testament. A similar procedure can be observed all over sa 2033. The origin of these headings is a subject for future research.[8] All that can be said for now is that, to my knowledge, no other Sahidic Psalter shows this particularity, and there seems to be no trace of it either in the Septuagint or in other ancient OT translations.


[1] Schmitz, Franz-Jürgen/Mink, Gerd (1991). Liste der Koptischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, I, Die sahidischen Handschriften der Evangelien. Teil 2,2 (Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Text­forschung 15). Berlin/New York: De Gruyter.

[2] Atanassova, Diliana (2004). Zu den sahidischen Pascha-Lektionaren, in: Mat Immerzeel and Jacques van der Vliet (eds), Coptic Studies on the Threshold of a New Millenium I. Pro­ceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Coptic Studies Leiden, 27 August – 2 September 2000 (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 133). Leuven: Peeters, 607620.

[3] 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, 137.

[4] Atanassova, Diliana (2019). Neues Blatt aus der Bodleian Library für den Psalterkodex sa 2033 (BC sa 101).

[5] For the characteristics of sa 2033, see Atanassova, Neues Blatt.

[6] I.e., a hair side is always followed by a hair side and a flesh side by a flesh side forming the quire folding pattern F/H-H/F. See C. R. Gregory, Les cahiers des manuscrits grecs, in: CRAI 13 (1886), 261–268, in particular p. 265.

[7] Stichel, Rainer (2007). Beiträge zur frühen Geschichte des Psalters und zur Wirkungsgeschichte der Psalmen. Paderborn et al.: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 37–105.

[8] I would like to thank Professor Rainer Stichel for giving me some valuable hints for further investigation of this particularity.

Legutóbbi bloggerek Legutóbbi bloggerek

Lina Elhage-Mensching
Bejegyzések: 6
Csillagok: 7
Dátum: 2023.03.21.
Frank Feder
Bejegyzések: 13
Csillagok: 6
Dátum: 2023.02.15.
Julien Delhez
Bejegyzések: 1
Csillagok: 1
Dátum: 2023.02.15.
Uwe-Karsten Plisch
Bejegyzések: 4
Csillagok: 2
Dátum: 2023.02.08.
Malte Rosenau
Bejegyzések: 19
Csillagok: 8
Dátum: 2023.02.01.