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E02227: Coptic private letter from Hermopolis (Middle Egypt), sent from a monk to a comes with intent to console him in his illness, contemplating the sufferings of the *saints (unnamed, S00518) and their ability to heal on account of their purity, as well as on *Iob (Old Testament patriarch, S01191) whose suffering was rewarded; datable to the 7th century.

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posted on 2017-01-06, 00:00 authored by gschenke
P.Harrauer 57

A monk named Apollo writes to the comes Apa Demetrios, an important figure in Hermopolis, acknowledging the severe illness of his addressee and pointing out that the saints were healed and rewarded due to their purity, focusing on the case of Iob.

Lines 5–14 read as follows:

ϩⲙ ⲡⲧⲣⲁⲙⲡϣⲁ ⲛⲛⲉⲕⲥϩⲁ ⲉⲧⲧⲁⲏⲩ ⲧⲁ-
ⲉⲓⲙⲉ ⲉⲧⲙⲁⲥⲧⲓⲅⲝ ⲛⲧⲁⲥϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲥⲱⲙⲁ ⲉⲧⲟⲩ-
ⲁⲁⲃ · ⲛⲁⲙⲉ ⲁⲗⲩⲡⲉ ⲧⲟⲛⲉ ⲧⲟⲛⲉ · ⲁⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲛ-
ϩⲁϩ ϩⲛ <ⲛ>ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲛⲧⲁⲩϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲁⲩϯϩⲏⲩ ⲧⲟⲛⲉ
ⲕⲁⲛ ⲉϩⲉⲛⲁⲧⲛⲟⲃⲉ ⲛⲉ ⲁⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲛⲟⲩⲁ ⲉⲁϥϣⲡ
ϩⲓⲥⲉ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲟ ⲉⲣⲟⲟⲩ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁϥⲫⲓⲗⲟⲥⲟⲫⲉⲓ ⲛϩⲟⲩⲟ ⲉⲛⲉⲧ-
ϩⲙⲟⲟⲥ ϩⲓ ⲛⲉⲧⲑⲣⲟⲛⲟⲥ ⲉϣⲁϫⲉ ⲡⲛⲟϭ ⲱⲃ ϩⲉⲛϣⲡⲏⲣⲉ
ⲛⲉ ⲛⲉⲛⲧⲁⲩⲉ ⲉϫⲱϥ ϩⲓⲧⲙ ⲡⲇⲓⲁⲃⲟⲗⲟⲥ ϩⲓⲧⲛ ⲧⲥⲩⲛⲭⲱⲣⲓ-
ⲥⲓⲥ ⲙⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲁ ⲧⲣⲉⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ϯⲙⲧⲟⲛ ⲛⲁϥ ⲁϥ-
ⲑⲉⲣⲁⲡⲉⲩⲉ ⲙⲡⲉϥⲥⲱⲙⲁ

'Having been worthy of your honoured letters and becoming aware of the torture which had a grip on your holy body, I was truly very, very upset. I have been reminded of many from among the saints who have been ill. They have certainly been rewarded, if they were without sin. I remembered one who suffered more than they and was contemplating more than those who are siting on the thrones'. I am talking about the great Iob. Wonders are what came upon him through the devil and through the permission of God. After God set him at ease, he healed his body. …'

(Text and German trans.: H. Förster, Engl. trans and text adjustments.: G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous saints : S00518 Job, Old Testament Patriarch : S01191

Saint Name in Source

ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲱⲃ

Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Letter Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus sheet


  • Coptic

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)

Hermopolis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The papyrus document P.Vindob. K 4730 is housed at the papyrus collection in Vienna and has been dated on palaeographical grounds.


Using analogy, the letter seems to suggest to the addressee, that since the saints have been healed and rewarded due to being without sin, so will the addressed overcome his temporary infliction. It is the saints' purity that causes them to be healed themselves, and in turn might enable them to ask for healing of those who invoke them. Iob's purity and strong belief make him a confessor, but the emotional and physical tortures he suffers at the hands of the devil, who tries his conviction, make him a martyr, albeit one who survives. Even though this private letter does not refer to any cult or cult activity in particular, it is a rare and pure chance example of how actual people applied their understanding of the concept of saints to real life situations.


Edition: Förster, H., "57. Christlicher Trostbrief," in: B. Palme (ed.), Wiener Papyri als Festgabe zum 60. Geburtstag von Hermann Harrauer (P.Harrauer) (Vienna, 2001), 207– 222. Discussion: Gonis, N., "Prosopographica II," Archiv für Papyrusforschug 54 (2009), 94.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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