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E00696: Coptic Martyrdom of *Isaak of Tiphre (martyr of Tiphre in the Nile Delta, S00441), claiming to be an eyewitness account. Known through three manuscripts in the Bohairic dialect of the 9th-10th c., one seemingly copied from a manuscript giving a date for the year 399. The account includes a list of benefits promised to the saint’s devotees, including healing at his shrine, and describes the construction of the saint’s oratory.

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posted on 2015-09-07, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Coptic Martyrdom of Isaak of Tiphre


In the village of Tiphre in the Nile Delta, Isaak at the age of 25, young, prudent and beautiful, is asleep in his field, when an angel appears to him in his sleep and encourages him to confess his faith before the governor, in order to die for Christ’s name and be received in his kingdom.

In the morning, Isaak confronts his parents with this idea, who refuse to let him go. The angel returns the following night and promises Isaak to help him through his struggle and suffering. He then leads him away from home to the city Taubah, where the governor is resting in a bath for healing purposes:

ⲁϥϫⲓⲙⲓ ⲙⲡⲓϩⲏⲅⲉⲙⲱⲛ ϧⲉⲛ ϯⲥⲓⲱⲟⲩⲛⲓ
“He found the governor in the healing bath.” (ed. Budge, fol. 154–158).

At the entrance, Isaak meets a soldier named Dionysios who tries to persuade him not to confess his faith publicly. Just then the governor Culcianus appears and Isaak announces his faith. Culcianus likewise asks him to reconsider and entrusts his soldier Dionysios with the task of taming the Christian until his return. Dionysios takes Isaak home and offers him his only daughter in marriage in addition to a post in the army, should he sacrifice to the pagan gods. Since Isaak refuses, Dionysios puts him under arrest. Meanwhile, Isaak heals a blind beggar by touching the man’s eyes. By the time the governor returns, his soldier Dionysios has converted to Christianity himself and demands to die as a martyr. The governor tries to ignore him and make his way home, but is miraculously hindered from doing so, gets angry and orders Dionysios to be beheaded, thus fulfilling his martyrdom on the 5th of Pashons, one day before Isaak (ed. Budge, fol. 158–169).

The governor takes Isaak along on a short boat trip to Peshati to face his trial there a day later. This trial includes numerous brutal tortures answered by miracles destroying the very instruments for torture (ed. Budge, fol. 169–172).

Culcianus eventually hands Isaak over to Arianus to see, if perhaps he can persuade the Christian to sacrifice. Arianus takes him along further south on a ship to his next trial. On the boat, the eye of one of the sailors is healed through the water left in Isaak’s drinking cup.

After a sixteen-day boat trip south, Isaak is taken into the city of Hormes. In prison he meets two other confessors, Philoxenos and Apa Serene [these are probably, but not certainly, the martyrs of Oxyrhynchos], who encourage him, despite his youth. His trial in front of Arianus begins on the next morning, when Arianus asks him “through the interpreter” (ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲓⲧⲉⲛ ⲡⲓⲉⲣⲙⲉⲛⲉⲩⲧⲏⲥ (ἑρμηνευτής)) to sacrifice to the imperial gods. Due to his refusal, large numbers of extreme tortures are brought upon him, all of which he endures through the help of divine intervention. This combat between tortures and faith is so impressive that the crowds demand that the governor release the saint. Arianus orders him to be brought back to Taubah, where he first met Culcianus, to be beheaded there (ed. Budge, fol. 173–189).

In his final prayer, Isaak asks for 1. the well-being of his home village; 2. the forgiveness of sins for whoever shall come to pray at his body; 3. the well-being of the one who will bury him; 4. eternal life for the one who will write down and publish the account of his martyrdom; 5. happiness to whoever shall name their son after Isaak; 6. and favours granted to whoever shall make an offering at Isaak’s tomb. These wishes, and whatever else the saint shall wish in addition, are granted, and the archangel Michael is appointed to the place where the saint’s body will be buried to serve him there and help with the healing of whoever shall pray to Isaac (ed. Budge, fol. 190–196).

Fol. 193–196 (ed. Budge, p. 35): ⲥⲟⲧⲉⲙ ⲉⲣⲟⲓ ⲡⲁ⳪ ⲛⲧⲉⲕⲑⲱⲧ ⲙⲡⲁϩⲏⲧ ϧⲉⲛ ⲫⲏ ⲉϯⲉⲣⲉⲧⲓⲛ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲛⲧⲟⲧⲕ ⲕⲥⲱⲟⲩⲛ ⲱ ⲡⲁ⳪
ϫⲉ ⲟⲩⲕⲟⲩϫⲓ ⲛϯⲙⲓ ⲡⲉ ⲡⲁϯⲙⲓ ⲙⲏⲡⲟⲧⲉ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲟⲩϫⲁϫⲓ ⲧⲱⲛϥ ⲉϩⲣⲏⲓ ⲉϫⲱϥ ⲉⲕⲉⲟⲩⲱⲣⲡ ⲙⲙⲏⲭⲁⲏⲗ ⲡⲓⲁⲣⲭⲏⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲛⲧⲉϥⲉⲣⲃⲟⲏⲑⲓⲛ
ⲉⲣⲱⲟⲩ ⲛⲧⲉϥϯϫⲟⲙ ⲛⲱⲟⲩ ⲛⲧⲉⲕⲧⲁⲕⲟ ⲛⲛⲟⲩϫⲁϫⲓ
ⲁⲣⲉϣⲁⲛ ⲟⲩⲣⲱⲙⲓ ⲉⲣⲛⲟⲃⲓ ⲛⲧⲉϥⲓ ⲉϫⲉⲛ ⲡⲁⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲛⲧⲉϥⲧⲱⲃϩ ⲙⲙⲟⲕ ⲉⲕⲉⲭⲱ ⲛⲁϥ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲛⲛⲉϥⲛⲟⲃⲓ ⲙⲡⲁⲧⲉ ⲫⲣⲏ ϩⲱⲧⲡ ⲙⲡⲓⲉϩⲟⲟⲩ
ⲉⲧⲉⲙⲙⲁⲩ. ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲡ⳪ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉ ⲉⲥⲉϣⲱⲡⲓ ⲙⲡⲁⲓⲣⲏϯ ⲱ ⲡⲁⲙⲉⲛⲣⲓⲧ
ⲡⲉϫⲉ ⲡⲓⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲓⲥⲁⲁⲕ ⲛⲁϥ ϫⲉ ⲉⲓⲉⲣⲉⲧⲓⲛ ⲙⲙⲟⲕ ⲉⲑⲃⲉ ⲫⲏⲉⲧⲕⲱⲥ ⲙⲡⲁⲥⲱⲙⲁ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲕⲁⲓⲥⲓ ⲉⲕⲉϩⲱⲃⲥ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲥⲱⲙⲁ ϧⲉⲛ ⲡⲓⲛⲁⲩ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲧⲉϥⲁⲛⲁⲅⲕⲏ ⲛⲛⲉϥϣⲱⲡⲓ ⲉϥⲃⲏϣ
ⲫⲏⲉⲑⲛⲁⲥϧⲁⲓ ⲛⲧⲁⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓⲁ ⲛⲧⲉϥⲟⲩⲟⲛϩⲧ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲉⲕⲉϧⲁⲓ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲣⲁⲛ ⲉⲡϫⲱⲙⲉ ⲙⲡⲱⲛϧ.
ⲫⲏⲉⲑⲛⲁϯ ⲙⲡⲁⲣⲁⲛ ⲉⲟⲩϣⲏⲣⲓ ⲛⲧⲁϥ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲱϣ ⲛϩⲏⲧ ⲉⲕⲉⲑⲱⲧ ⲛϧⲏⲧ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲟⲩⲛⲟϥ
ⲫⲏⲉⲑⲛⲁϯ ⲛⲟⲩⲡⲣⲟⲥⲫⲟⲣⲁ ⲉⲡⲁⲧⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲉⲕⲉϯ ⲛⲁϥ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϧⲉⲛ ϯⲡⲣⲟⲥⲫⲟⲣⲁ ⲛⲁⲡⲉⲣⲁⲧⲟⲛ
ϧⲉⲛ ⲡϫⲓⲛ ⲡⲓⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲓⲥⲁⲁⲕ ϫⲉ ⲛⲁⲓ ⲁⲡⲓⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣ ⲟⲩⲱϩⲉⲙ ⲛⲁϥ ϧⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲥⲙⲏ ⲙⲙⲉⲧⲣⲉⲙⲣⲁⲩϣⲉ ϥϫⲱ ⲙⲙⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ⲁⲙⲏⲛ ϯϫⲱ ⲙⲙⲟⲥ
ⲛⲁⲕ ϫⲉ ϩⲱⲃ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ ⲉⲧⲁⲕⲉⲣⲉⲧⲓⲛ ⲙⲙⲱⲟⲩ ϧⲉⲛ ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲛ ϯⲛⲁⲧⲏⲓⲧⲟⲩ ⲛⲁⲕ ⲛⲓⲕⲉⲭⲱⲟⲩⲛⲓ ⲉⲧⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲉⲣⲡⲟⲩⲙⲉⲩⲓ ϯⲛⲁⲉⲣⲭⲁⲣⲓⲍⲉⲥⲑⲉ
ⲙⲙⲱⲟⲩ ⲛⲁⲕ. ⲓⲥ ⲙⲓⲭⲁⲏⲗ ⲡⲓⲛⲓϣϯ ⲛⲁⲣⲭⲏⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲁⲓⲑⲁϣϥ ⲉⲡⲉⲕⲧⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲫⲏⲉⲧⲟⲩⲛⲁⲭⲱ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲛϧⲏⲧϥ ⲛⲧⲉϥⲉⲣⲇⲓⲁⲕⲟⲛⲓⲛ ⲉⲣⲟⲕ ϧⲉⲛ ⲉⲧⲉⲙⲁ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ ⲛⲧⲁⲗϭⲟ ⲛⲧⲉ ⲛⲓⲣⲱⲙⲓ ⲛⲏⲉⲧⲟⲩⲉⲣⲉⲧⲓⲛ ⲙⲙⲱⲟⲩ ⲛⲧⲟⲧⲕ

"‘Hear me, my Lord, and satisfy my heart through that which I ask from you.
You know, Lord, that my village is small, so that an enemy might attack it. Send the archangel Michael to help them and strengthen them, so that you destroy the enemies.
If someone commits a sin and comes to my body and entreats you, you shall forgive him his sins, before the sun sets on that day.’
The Lord said to him: ‘So it shall be, my Beloved.’
Saint Apa Isaak said to him: ‘I am asking you on behalf of the one who prepares my body for burial in a grave, that you shall cover his body at the time of his need so that he shall not be naked.
The one who will write my martyr story and make me known, you shall write his name in the Book of Life.
The one who will give my name to a son of his wholeheartedly, you shall satisfy with joy.
The one who will give an offering at my shrine (topos), you shall repay him with the endless gift.’
After saint Apa Isaak said these things, the Saviour replied to him in a gentle voice, saying: ‘Amen. I am telling you that everything you have asked in my name, I will grant you. Also the things you have not mentioned, I will grant you. Behold, I have appointed Michael, the great archangel to your shrine (topos) in which your body will be kept, so that he shall serve you in any healing request from people who ask these things through you.’"

The place where he was beheaded on the 6th day of the month Pashons (1st May) trembled three times and blood and milk came out of his wound. The blind, lame, deaf and dumb of the city took from the liquids running out of his body and put them on their diseased parts and all were healed (ed. Budge, fol. 197–198). The leading citizen arrived bringing two different types of cloth, one in which he wrapped the head of the saint, the other to wrap up his body (ed. Budge, fol. 198).

Fol. 198 (ed. Budge, p. 35): ⲙⲉⲛⲉⲛⲥⲁ ⲛⲁⲓ ⲁϥⲓ ⲛϫⲉ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲧⲟⲡⲟⲗⲓⲧⲏⲥ ⲛⲧⲉ ϯⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲁϥⲓⲛⲓ ⲛⲟⲩⲗⲉⲛⲧⲓⲟⲛ ⲛϣⲉⲛⲥ ⲁϥⲧⲏⲓϥ
ⲉⲧⲉϥⲁⲫⲉ ⲁϥⲓⲛⲓ ⲇⲉ ⲟⲛ ⲛϩⲁⲛⲥⲩⲛⲇⲟⲛⲓⲟⲛ ⲁϥⲕⲱⲥ ⲙⲡⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲙⲡⲓⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲓⲥⲁⲁⲕ

“Afterwards, the leading citizen of the city came and brought one linen cloth (λέντιον) and placed it over his head. And he also brought some fine linen (σινδών) and wrapped up the body of the blessed Apa Isaak.”

Christopheros, a relative (συγγενής) of Apa Isaak, who claims that he has been with the saint all along through his struggle and has written down the account of his martyrdom, asked the leading citizen for help to carry away the body. He offers him ten of his servants and a four-wheeled wagon for the transport of the saint’s remains. Christopheros then transports the body to the saint’s home village. When he reaches the river and finds no boat to cross it, the animals pulling the wagon just walk across the water through divine intervention. The body is then carried to the local church and Christopheros takes apart the saint’s house located to the north of the church and within eight months builds an oratory (εὐκτήριον) to the saint instead and dedicates it to his glory. He then sends for the bishop to consecrate it on the 6th day of the month of Tybi (1st/2nd January) (ed. Budge, fol. 199–201).

Fol. 200 (ed. Budge, p. 35–36): ⲙⲉⲛⲉⲛⲥⲁ ⲛⲁⲓ ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ⲡⲉ ⲭⲣⲓⲥⲧⲟⲫⲟⲣⲟⲥ ⲁⲓϣⲟⲣϣⲉⲣ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲏⲓ ⲥⲁϩⲏⲧ ⲛϯⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ ϧⲉⲛ ⲡϫⲱⲕ ⲛⲏ
ⲛⲁⲃⲟⲧ ⲁⲓⲕⲱⲧ ⲛⲟⲩⲉⲩⲕⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲙⲡⲓⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲓϯ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲥⲧⲉⲫⲁⲛⲟⲩ ⲁⲛⲟⲩⲱⲣⲡ ⲁⲛⲓⲛⲓ ⲙⲡⲓⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲁϥⲉⲣⲁⲅⲓⲁⲍⲓⲛ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲛⲥⲟⲩ ϛ
ⲙⲡⲓⲁⲃⲟⲧ ⲧⲱⲃⲓ ⲁⲩϣⲱⲡⲓ ⲛⲛϧⲏⲧϥ ⲛϫⲉ ϩⲁⲛϫⲟⲙ ⲛⲉⲙ ϩⲁⲛϣⲫⲏⲣⲓ

"Afterwards, I, Christophoros, took his house on the north side of the church apart and within eight months I had built an oratory for the saint and dedicated it to his glory. We sent and brought the bishop and he consecrated it on the sixth day of the month Tybi. Many miracles and wonders took place in it."

At the end of the colophon of the manuscript edited by Budge, the year 115 of the era of the martyrs (AD 399) is mentioned as the year of production of the manuscript, however, at the time of the patriarch Abba John, the archbishop of Alexandria. This might be John the Merciful/Almsgiver, but his dates as patriarch of Alexandria are two centuries later (AD 606–616). Budge himself suggested this to be the first known John, patriarch of Alexandria, whose dates in office are given as AD 498–507, with the discrepancy in the overall date of the manuscript remaining.

Fol. 201, end of colophon (ed. Budge, p. 35–36): ⳩ ⳥ ⲣⲓⲉ ⲛⲁϩⲣⲁϥ ⲙⲡⲉⲛⲓⲱⲧ ⲙⲡⲁⲧⲣⲓⲁⲣⲭⲏⲥ ⲁⲃⲃⲁ ⲓⲱ ⲡⲓⲁⲣⲭⲏⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲛⲧⲉ
ⲣⲁⲕⲟϯ ⲉϥⲟⲓ ⲛⲟⲩⲣⲟ ⲉϩⲣⲏⲓ ⲉϫⲱⲛ ⲛϫⲉ ⲡⲉⲛ ⲓⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲭⲥ ⲁⲙⲏⲛ

"(Written in the year) 115 of the martyrs, in the presence of our father, the patriarch Abba John, the archbishop of Alexandria, while our Lord Jesus Christ reigns over us. Amen."

Text: Budge 1886. Translations and summary: Gesa Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Isaac of Tiphre, Egyptian martyr (ob. 4th cent.) : S00441 Philoxenos : S00443 Sirenos, martyr of Alexandria : S00134 Dionysios, Soldier of Culcianus, converted by *Apa Isaac of Tiphre, martyred at the theater of Taubah : S00445

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲓⲥⲁⲁⲕ ⲫⲩⲗⲟⲝⲉⲛⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲥⲩⲣⲓⲛⲏ ⲇⲓⲟⲛⲏⲥⲓⲟⲥ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex


  • Coptic

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica Egypt and Cyrenaica Egypt and Cyrenaica Egypt and Cyrenaica Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tiphre Panau Taubah Peshati Hormes

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

Tiphre Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Panau Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Taubah Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Peshati Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis Hormes Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Christopheros, kinsman of Apa Isaac of Tiphre

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracle after death Miracles experienced by the saint Miraculous power through intermediary Miracles causing conversion Power over objects Healing diseases and disabilities Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Pagans Relatives of the saint Soldiers Officials Slaves/ servants Ecclesiastics – unspecified The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - water and other liquids Bodily relic - blood


Three Bohairic manuscripts are known: Or. 8799 in the British Museum, as well as Coptic 66, fol. 82r–94v and Coptic 69, fol. 56r–66r, both in the Vatican Library, all of a post 800 AD date. The original composition, however, seems to be earlier. The passion does not belong to any of the known cycles believed to have originated in the 7th and 8th centuries and might therefore be a very local and/or earlier product. The date given in one of the manuscripts, 399 AD, could well be copied from an earlier text. The same might be true concerning the second date, i.e. in the colophon, the scribe might have copied the date of two different earlier manuscripts. A Coptic manuscript of the 12th century as well as Ethiopic manuscripts are also known.


Seemingly for no other reason than being young and prudent, Isaak is called to fulfil his martyrdom with divine support (ed. Budge, fol. 154–158). Only once he has made the decision to follow that call does he gain power to heal a blind beggar and to convert a Roman officer (Dionysios). The first meeting between the governor and the future martyr takes place at the scene of the healing bath (ⲥⲓⲱⲟⲩⲛⲓ) in the city of Taubah, an interesting detail that also appears in the martyrdom of Apa Phoibammon [cf. E00239]. The soldier Dionysios, once he is ready to die for his new Christian faith is suddenly equipped with the miraculous power to detain the governor Culcianus until he orders the beheading of his former soldier, who functions in the way of a typical side martyr to enhance the main martyr’s importance (ed. Budge, fol. 158–169). The brutality of the tortures ordered for the main martyr seems to be employed to illustrate the power of Christ within the martyr who does not suffer any pain and therefore has taken his first step towards eternal life (ed. Budge, fol. 169–172). The part where Culcianus hands Isaak over to Arianus for an additional trial in yet another city much further south might very well be a later addition in order to incorporate another cult place and connect it with Apa Isaak of Tiphre. Isaac’s place of martyrdom is neither Peshati, to which Culcianus brought him for trial, nor Hormes to which he was taken by Arianus, but Taubah where he originally went himself in order to confront the governor Culcianus. The additional boat trips just seem an attempt to add some geographical importance to a most likely rather local village saint (ed. Budge, fol. 173–189). Through the saint’s final prayer, the established cult, i.e. the rules and range of possibilities are then catalogued publicly (ed. Budge, fol. 190–196). At the scene of his death, there is a mass healing miracle taking place through liquids oozing from the saint’s body (ed. Budge, fol. 197–198). Then by way of cleaning up afterwards, the leading citizen brings two separate pieces of cloth to wrap the head and the body of the saint separately, from which point on, they might be permanently separated from each other (ed. Budge, fol. 198). It is not quite clear whether both, head and body, are brought back to the saint’s home village Tiphre, as the manuscript speaks only about the body (soma) which is happily received into the village church. In the meantime Christophoros builds an oratory for it, apparently using the building material of Isaac’s former home, by taking it apart. He basically seems to 'convert' Isaak’s former house north of the church into an oratory which then houses his physical remains, perhaps head and body, consecrated by the bishop. This oratory is then the cult location at which further miracles take place (ed. Budge, fol. 199–201).


Editions: Budge, E.A.W., “The Martyrdom of Isaak of Tiphre,” Transactions of the Society for Biblical Archaeology 4:1 (1886), 1–37. Balestri, I., and Hyvernat, H., Acta Martyrum, vol. 2, CSCO 86 (Paris, 1924; reprint Peeters, Leuven 1953), 73–89. Further reading: Baumeister, T., Martyr Invictus. Der Märtyrer als Sinnbild der Erlösung in der Legende und im Kult der frühen koptischen Kirche (Münster, 1972), 115–116. O’Leary, De L., The Saints of Egypt (London, 1937), 157–158; Orlandi, T., “Isaac of Tiphre, Saint”, in: The Coptic Encyclopedia 4 (1991), 1304–1305; Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides (Paris, 2001), 109.

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