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E00111: Coptic Life of *Onnophrios, the Anchorite (Egyptian anchorite, 4th c., S00055), written probably in the 5th/6th c. in the Scetis (Lower Egypt), recounts how monks of the Scetis wrote down the account for future presentation.

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

The Life of Onnophrios as presented by Paphnoutios to monks of Scetis is written down for public presentation:

ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡⲉⲩⲙⲁ ⲛϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲡⲉ ϣⲓⲏⲧ ⲁⲩϭⲉⲡⲏ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲩⲥϩⲁⲓ ⲛⲛⲉⲓϣⲁϫⲉ ⲛⲧⲁⲩⲥⲟⲧⲙⲟⲩ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲓⲧⲟⲟⲧϥ ⲛⲁⲡⲁ ⲡⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲁⲩⲧⲁⲭⲩ ⲁⲩⲧⲁⲁⲩ ⲉⲩϫⲱⲱⲙⲉ ⲁⲩϫⲟⲟⲩϥ ⲉϣⲓⲏⲧ ⲁⲩⲕⲁⲁϥ ϩⲛ ⲧⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ ⲉⲩϩⲏⲩ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲛⲁⲥⲱⲧⲙ ⲉⲣⲟϥ

'Their place of residence was Scetis. They made haste and wrote down these words which they heard from Apa Papnoute [Paphnoutios]. They hurried and made them into a book. It was sent to Scetis and placed in the church, as a benefit to those who shall hear it.'

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

Text: Budge 1914, p. 223, fol. 21a–b. Translation: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Onnophrios, Egyptian Anchorite : S00055 Paphnoutios, Egyptian Anchorite : 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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

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and Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M580, fol. 1–36, from Hamuli in the Fayum, dated to the year 889/890 (unpublished), one in Bohairic (Vatican Library, Coptic 65, fols. 99–120v, dated to the year 978/979).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 is a prime example of how historicity was ascribed to manuscripts of saints’ lives used in churches and monasteries and read out to the congregation.


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). Translation: 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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