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E00091: Coptic Life of *Onnophrios, the Anchorite (Egyptian anchorite, 4th c., S00055), written probably in the 5th/6th c. in the Scetis (Lower Egypt), recounts a miraculous liver operation performed on *Timotheos, the hermit (S00056).

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posted on 23.10.2014, 00:00 by gschenke
Paphnoutios of Scetis, Life of Onnophrios, the Anchorite

Timotheos who has been living in the remote desert for thirty years tells Paphnoutios of his initial suffering which was due not only to remorse over his sin (a six months sexual affair with a nun), but also due to pain in his liver. The latter, however, was healed successfully by a spiritual being in the following manner, as Timothy reports:

ⲁⲓϩⲓⲥⲉ ⲇⲉ ⲟⲛ ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲛⲟϭ ⲙⲙⲟⲕϩⲥ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲡⲉⲧⲕⲁⲥ ⲉⲧϩⲓϫⲱⲓ ⲁⲓϭⲱϣⲧ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲓⲛⲁⲩ ⲉⲩⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲉϥϩⲁⲉⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲙⲁⲧⲉ ⲁϥⲁϩⲉ ⲣⲁⲧϥ ϩⲁ ϩⲧⲏⲓ
ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛⲁⲓ ϫⲉ ⲉⲕϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲉⲟⲩ ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲧⲁϭⲟⲙ ⲉⲓ ⲉⲣⲟⲓ ⲛⲟⲩⲕⲟⲩⲓ ⲡⲉϫⲁⲓ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉ ⲡϫⲥ ⲉⲓϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲉⲡⲁϩⲏⲡⲁⲣ ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛⲁⲓ ϫⲉ
ⲙⲁⲧⲥⲁⲃⲟⲓ ⲉⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲕϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲁⲓⲧⲥⲁⲃⲟϥ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲡⲁϩⲏⲡⲁⲣ ⲉⲧϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲁϥⲥⲟⲃⲧⲉ ⲛⲧⲉϥϭⲓϫ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲉⲣⲟⲓ ⲉⲣⲉⲛⲉϥⲧⲏⲏⲃⲉ ⲧⲁⲗⲏⲩ ⲉϫⲛ
ⲛⲉⲩⲉⲣⲏⲩ ⲁϥⲡⲉϩ ⲡⲁⲥⲡⲓⲣ ⲛⲑⲉ ⲛⲟⲩⲥⲏϥⲉ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁϥⲉⲓⲛⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲙⲡⲁϩⲏⲡⲁⲣ ⲁϥⲧⲥⲁⲃⲟⲓ ⲉⲛⲉⲡⲗⲩⲅⲏ ⲉⲩϩⲓⲱⲱϥ ⲁϥϩⲟⲕⲟⲩ ⲁϥϯ
ⲛⲛⲉⲩⲟⲩⲁⲙⲟⲙⲉ ⲉⲩⲧⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲁϥϯ ⲟⲛ ⲙⲡⲁϩⲏⲡⲁⲣ ⲉⲡⲉϥⲙⲁ ⲛⲕⲉⲥⲟⲡ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁϥⲥⲗⲟϭⲗϭ ⲉϫⲙ ⲡⲁⲥⲱⲙⲁ ϩⲛ ⲛⲉϥϭⲓϫ ⲁϥⲧⲱϭⲉ ⲙⲡⲙⲁ
ⲛⲧⲁϥⲡⲁϩϥ ⲉϫⲛ ⲛⲉϥⲉⲣⲏⲩ ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛⲁⲓ ϫⲉ ⲉⲓⲥ ϩⲏⲏⲧⲉ ⲁⲕⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ⲙⲡⲣⲕⲟⲧⲕ ⲉⲣⲛⲟⲃⲉ ϫⲉ ⲛⲛⲉⲡⲉⲑⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲡⲁⲓ ϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲙⲙⲟⲕ ⲁⲗⲗⲁ ⲁⲣⲓ
ϩⲙϩⲁⲗ ⲙⲡϫⲥ ϫⲓⲛ ⲧⲉⲛⲟⲩ ϣⲁ ⲉⲛⲉϩ ϫⲓⲛ ⲡⲉϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲁⲛⲉⲧⲙⲡⲁⲥⲁ ⲛϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁⲓⲗⲟ ⲉⲓϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲉⲡⲁϩⲏⲡⲁⲣ
ϯϣⲟⲟⲡ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉⲓⲙⲁ ⲛϫⲁⲓⲉ ⲭⲱⲣⲓⲥ ϩⲓⲥⲉ
ⲁϥⲧⲥⲁⲃⲟⲓ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲧⲧⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲉⲧⲉⲣⲉ ⲛⲟⲩⲁⲙⲟⲙⲉ ϩⲓⲱⲱⲥ

'"But I suffered great distress due also to the stabbing pain on me. So I looked and I saw someone full of glory. He stood in front of me and said to me, 'Where do you feel pain?' As for me, my strength came back to me for a moment and I said to him, 'Lord, I feel pain in my liver'. He said to me, 'Show me the spot where you feel pain'. And I pointed him to my painful liver. He reached out his hand to me, with his fingers resting upon each other, and he cut open my side as with a knife. He brought out my liver and showed me the wounds on it. He scraped them [clean] and put their ulcers upon a cloth. Then he put my liver back in its place again. He smoothed over my body with his hands and repaired the spot into which he had cut. He said to me, 'Behold, you are well. Do not turn back to sinning, so that no greater evil than this shall come upon you. But be a servant to the Lord from now on until eternity'. From that day onwards, all my inner organs were fine. I stopped feeling pain in my liver, living here in the desert without suffering."
And he showed me the cloth with the ulcers on it.'

For a summary of the complete text, see $E0089.

Text: Budge 1914, p. 208–209, fols. 5a–5b. Translation: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Timotheos, Egyptian Anchorite : S00056

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus codex Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Sketis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Paphnoutios of Sketis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities Miraculous protection - other

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The Coptic Life of Onnophrios, the Anchorite is known through three complete manuscripts, two in Sahidic: British Library, London, Oriental 7027, fols. 1–21v, from Edfu, with a colophon giving the year 1004/5 (ed. Budge, Coptic Martyrdoms) and Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M580, fol. 1–36, from Hamuli in the Fayum, dated to the year 889/890 (unpublished), one in Bohairic (Vatican Library, Coptic 65, fols. 99–120v, dated to the year 978/979). There are also codex fragments: a papyrus leaf dated on palaeographical grounds to the 7th century (ed. Lefort, 1945, 97–100), a fragmentary papyrus leaf from the end of the story, dated on palaeographical grounds to the 6th/7th century (ed. Orlandi), and two parchment leaves of a codex from the so called White Monastery (ed. Till). There are therefore good reasons to think that the text is 6th century or earlier.


The cloth with the ulcers on it, left over from the liver operation, is shown to Paphnoutios as proof of the validity of Timotheos' testimony. It has been pointed out (Coquin, 'Timotheus, Saint', 2262), that Timothy’s testimony rests on the Greek concept of a tripartite soul, with the liver as the seat of concupiscence. As Timothy repented for the sin he committed with the nun, his liver would let him feel acute pain. In a way this operating cloth functions not only as proof of the miraculous healing that has taken place on the Saint, but as a relic as well. One might wonder, whether Paphnoutios was actually meant to take it along as proof for his report on the hermits he met in the remote desert.


Editions: Budge, E.A.W., Coptic Martyrdoms etc. in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (Coptic Texts 4; London: British Museum, 1914), 205-224. Lefort, L.T., “Fragments coptes,” Le Muséon 58 (1945), 97-120. Orlandi, T., Papiri copti di contenuto teologico (Vienna: In Kommission bei Verlag Brüder Hollinek, 1974), 158-161. Till, W.C., Koptische Heiligen- und Martyrlegenden. Vol. 1 (Rome: Pont. institutum orientalium studiorum, 1935), 14–19. Translations: Vivian, T., Paphnutius, Histories of the Monks of Upper Egypt and the Life of Onnophrius (Cistercian Studies 140; Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1993). [With an introduction and evaluation of the text, as well as an English translation, all three of rather questionable value] Further reading: Coquin, R.-G., “Onophrius, Saint,” in: A.S. Atiya (ed.), The Coptic Encyclopedia. 8 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1991), vol. 6, 1841-1842. Coquin, R.-G., “Timotheus, Saint,” in: A.S. Atiya (ed.), The Coptic Encyclopedia. 8 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1991), vol. 7, 2262-2263. O'Leary, De L., Saints of Egypt (London: SPCK, 1937), 210. Sauget, J.-M., “S. Onofrio anacoreta in Tebaide,” Bibliotheca Sanctorum 9 (1987), 1187-1197. Williams, C.A., Oriental Affinities of the Legend of the Hairy Anchorite. Part II: Christian (University of Illinois Studies in Language and Literature 11/4; Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 1926). For a full range of the documentary evidence on Onnophrios: Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides (Paris: CNRS, 2001), 161-162.

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