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E00109: Coptic Life of *Onnophrios, the Anchorite (Egyptian anchorite, 4th c., S00055), written probably in the 5th/6th c. in the Scetis (Lower Egypt), records a discussion with the saint concerning his future cult.

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posted on 29.10.2014, 00:00 by gschenke
Paphnoutios of Scetis, Life of Onnophrios, the Anchorite

Papnoutios records a discussion he had with Onnophrios concerning his future cult, in which Onnophrios expressed his expectations for specific cult activities, while Papnouthios systematically lowered them from an actual offering in the saint’s name to the possibility of a mere utterance of three prayers:

ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲟⲛ ⲛⲁⲓ ϫⲉ ⲉⲕϣⲁⲛⲃⲱⲕ ⲉⲕⲏⲙⲉ ⲧⲁϣⲉⲟⲉⲓϣ ⲙⲡⲁⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲉⲩⲥϯⲛⲟⲩϥⲉ ⲛⲛⲉⲥⲛⲏⲩ
ⲡⲉⲧⲛⲁϯ ⲛⲟⲩⲡⲣⲟⲥⲫⲟⲣⲁ ϩⲙ ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲛ ⲉⲩⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲛⲁⲓ ⲓⲥ ϩⲱⲱϥ ⲛⲁⲛⲧϥ ϩⲛ ⲧϣⲟⲣⲡ ⲛⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩ ⲙⲡϣⲟ ⲛⲣⲟⲙⲡⲉ
ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ⲇⲉ ⲡⲉϫⲁⲓ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉ ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲟⲩϩⲏⲕⲉ ⲡⲉ ⲉⲙⲛ [ϣ]ϭⲟⲙ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲉϯ ⲛⲟⲩⲡⲣⲟⲥⲫⲟⲣⲁ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲣⲁⲛ
ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛⲁⲓ ϫⲉ ⲙⲁⲣⲉϥⲧⲙⲙⲉ ⲟⲩⲥⲟⲛ ⲛϩⲏⲕⲉ ϩⲙ ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲛ
ⲡⲁϫⲁⲓ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉ ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲟⲩϩⲏⲕⲉ ⲡⲉ ⲙⲛ ϣϭⲟⲙ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲕⲛⲁⲛⲧϥ ⲁⲛ ⲉⲡⲇⲩⲡⲛⲟⲛ ⲛⲧϣⲟⲣⲡ ⲛⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩ ⲙⲡϣⲟ ⲛⲣⲟⲙⲡⲉ
ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛⲁ ϫⲉ ⲙⲁⲣⲉϥϯ ⲟⲩⲕⲟⲩⲓ ⲛⲥⲧⲟⲓ ϩⲙ ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲛ
ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ⲇⲉ ⲡⲉϫⲁⲓ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉ ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲟⲩϩⲏⲕⲉ ⲡⲉ ⲙⲛ ϣϭⲟⲙ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲉϯⲥⲧⲟⲓ ⲉϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲣⲁⲛ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲧⲙⲛⲧϩⲏⲕⲉ ⲁⲓⲟ ⲡⲁⲉⲓⲱⲧ ⲉⲧⲛⲁⲛⲟⲩϥ ⲙⲁⲣⲉ ⲡⲉⲕⲛⲁ ⲧⲁϩⲟⲛ ⲧⲏⲣⲛ ϫⲉ ⲡⲉⲧⲕⲛⲁⲁⲓⲧⲉⲓ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲛⲧⲙ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲛⲁⲧⲁⲁϥ ⲛⲁⲕ
ⲡⲉϫⲁϥ ⲛⲁⲓ ϫⲉ ⲙⲁⲣⲉϥⲁϩⲉ ⲣⲁⲧϥ ⲛϥϫⲉ ϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲛⲥⲟⲡ ⲛϣⲗⲏⲗ ⲉⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ϩⲙ ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲛ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡϫⲥ ⲓⲥ ⲛⲁⲛⲧϥ ⲉⲡϣⲟ ⲛⲣⲟⲙⲡⲉ
ⲛϥⲕⲗⲏⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲉⲓ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ

'He said to me, "If you go to Egypt, proclaim my remembrance as a perfume to the brethren. He who shall make an offering in my name, as a remembrance of me, Jesus himself will bear him in the first hour of the thousand years."
But I said to him, "What if he is a poor man lacking the ability to make an offering in your name?"
He said to me, "Let him feed a poor brother in my name."
I said to him, "If he is a poor man lacking the ability to feed him, will you not bear him for the feast in the first hour of the thousand years?"
He said to me, "Let him offer a little incense in my name."
I said to him, "What if he is a poor man lacking the ability to offer incense in your name due to poverty? Indeed, my good father, let your mercy come upon us all, for that which you will ask from God, God will grant it to you."
He said to me, "Let him stand up and utter a prayer to God three times in my name. The Lord Jesus will bear him to the thousand years and he will take part in the inheritance together with all the saints."'

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

Text: Budge 1914, p. 216, fols. 13b–14a. Translation: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Onnophrios, Egyptian Anchorite Paphnoutios : S00063

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲟⲛⲛⲟϥⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲡⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ

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

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of the cult of saints

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.


This kind of kidan, the part of a hagiographical narrative when saints set out the parameters for their future cult, or have them set out for them, is known as a typical feature of Ethiopic hagiography (I owe this information to Anna Rogozhina, Oxford), but has so far not attracted much attention in Coptic hagiographical texts. Here the wishes of the dying saint for his cult provision are refuted three times by the person recording the will. Paphnoutios argues that the saint’s demands for securing salvation could not be met by a person of poor means and should therefore be altered in such a way that it would be obtainable by everyone. The final agreement in case of poverty are three prayers to God in the saint’s name. To obtain the saint’s divine intervention, a range of offerings are thus agreed upon: an actual offering, feeding a poor brother, the offering of incense, and three prayers in the saint’s name, depending on the financial ability of the supplicant.


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. 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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