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E02657: Coptic Apocalypse of *Elijah (Old Testament prophet, S00217), from Akhmim/Panopolis (Upper Egypt), pronouncing a false and deceitful Christ to be the enemy of the saints, who are essential to life on earth and who are in company with the true Christ; datable to the 4th century.

online resource
posted on 2017-04-04, 00:00 authored by gschenke
P.Chester Beatty 2018

The main theme of the text is how to recognise false leadership, especially in times of difficulties. The text offers helpful and practical advise on how to detect deceit and gives a list of signs indicating deceitful misuse of power. It also describes the rewards for those who manage not to be fooled by deception.

The text begins with a section dedicated above all to fasting and prayer. It continues with the narration of wars and calamities in Egypt, and ends with the appearance of the Antichrist, who is opposed by the virgin Tabitha, as well as by Elijah, Enoch, and the sixty just men. In a final battle Elijah and Enoch slay the Antichrist and Christ appears.

The virgin Tabitha reproves the false Christ, calling him the enemy of the saints (Sa3 14,15–17):

ⲱ [ⲡⲁⲧϣⲓⲡⲉ ⲱ] ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲛⲧⲁⲛⲟⲙⲓⲁ ⲱ [ⲡⲉⲧⲁϥⲣ ϫ]ⲁϫⲉ ⲉⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁ[ⲁ]ⲃ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ

'[Shameless one]! Son of lawlessness! [You who have become an] enemy to all the saints!'

The exposed false Christ is so enraged that he pursues the virgin and slays her. But after he has killed her, she comes alive again and continues to shame him. She becomes a salvation for future generations (Sa3 14,17–15,7):

[ⲧⲟⲧⲉ ϥⲛⲁϭⲱ]ⲛⲧ ⲉⲧⲡⲁⲣⲑⲉ[ⲛⲟⲥ ⲛϭⲓ ⲡⲁⲧϣⲓⲡⲉ ϥ]ⲛⲁⲡⲱⲧ ⲛⲥ[ⲱⲥ ϣⲁϩⲣⲁ ⲉⲙⲙⲁ ⲛϩⲱⲧⲡ] ⲙⲡⲣ[ⲏ ϥⲛⲁⲥⲱⲛⲅ ⲙⲡⲉⲥⲥⲛⲟϥ] ⲙⲡⲛⲁⲩ
[ⲛⲣⲟⲩϩⲉ ⲛϥⲛⲟⲩϫⲉ ⲙ]ⲙⲟⲥ ⲉϩⲣⲁ[ ⲉϫⲛ] ⲡⲣⲡⲉ ⲛⲥϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲛⲟⲩϫⲁ ⲙⲡ[ⲗⲁⲟ]ⲥ [ⲥⲛⲁⲧ]ⲱⲟⲩⲛⲥ ⲙⲡⲛⲁⲩ ⲛϣⲱⲣⲡ ⲉⲥⲟⲛ[ϩ ⲛ]ⲥⲥⲟⲟ[ϩⲉ]
ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲉⲥϫⲱ ⲙⲙⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ⲡⲁⲧϣ[ⲓ]ⲡⲉ ⲙⲛ ϭ[ⲟ]ⲙ ⲛⲙⲟⲕ ⲉⲧⲁⲯⲩⲭⲏ ⲟⲩⲇⲉ ⲡⲁⲥⲱⲙⲁ ϫⲉ ϯⲟⲛϩ ⲁⲛⲟⲕ ϩⲙ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲛⲟⲩⲟⲉⲓϣ ⲛⲓⲙ
ⲡⲁⲕⲉⲥⲛⲟϥ ⲛⲇ[ⲉ] ⲟⲛ ⲉⲛⲧⲁⲕⲛ[ⲟ]ⲩϫⲉ ⲙⲙⲟϥ [ⲉϫ]ⲙ ⲡⲣⲡⲉ ⲁϥϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲛ[ⲟ]ⲩϫⲁ ⲙⲡⲗⲁⲟⲥ

'[Then the shameless one will become] angry with the virgin (Tabitha). [He] will pursue [her to the setting places] of the sun. [He will suck her blood in the evening and cast] her forth [on account of] the temple, and she will become salvation for the people. [She will] rise in the morning, being alive, and she will reprove him saying: "Shameless one, you have no power over my soul and body, since I am alive. I am in the Lord at all times. Even my blood, which you have spilled [on account of] the temple, has become salvation for the people."'

Elijah and Enoch, when they hear that the false Christ has defiled the holy places, come down to fight against him too, calling him an enemy of all heavenly beings, of the angels and powers. He tortures them as well and all the other righteous ones, until the true and compassionate Christ finally sends down his 64,000 angels and resumes power on earth.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to save his reign, the shameless impostor tries to seek the help of the saints, demanding that they are brought before him (Sa1 13,34–14,5):

ⲁⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲁⲛⲓⲥⲟⲩ ⲁϩ{ϩ}ⲣⲁ ⲉⲧⲃⲏⲧⲟⲩ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲉⲣⲉ ⲡⲕⲁϩ ϯⲕⲁⲣⲡⲟⲥ
ⲉⲧⲃⲏⲧⲟⲩ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲉⲣⲉ ⲡⲣⲏ ⲣⲟⲩⲟⲉⲓⲛ ⲉϩⲣⲁ ⲉϫⲙ ⲡⲕⲁϩ
ⲉⲧⲃⲏⲧⲟⲩ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲉⲣⲉ ϯⲱⲧⲉ ⲛⲏⲟⲩ ⲉϫⲙ ⲡⲕⲁϩ

'Fetch the saints for on their account the earth gives produce; for on their account the sun shines upon the earth; for on their account the dew settles on the ground.'

The text ends with the following hopeful outlook (Akhmimic manuscript 43,8–44,4):

ⳉⲙ ⲫⲟⲟⲩⲉ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲟ ϥⲛⲛⲏⲩ ⲁⲃⲁⲗ ⲛⲧⲡⲉ ϭⲉ ⲡⲭⲥ ⲡⲣⲣⲟ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃⲉ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ϥⲣⲱⲕϩ ⲙⲡⲓⲕⲁϩ ϥⲣⳉⲟ ⲛⲣⲁⲙⲡⲉ ϩⲓϫⲱϥ ϫⲉ
ⲁⲛⲣⲉϥⲣⲛⲁⲃⲉ ⲉⲙⲁϩⲧⲉ ϩⲓϫⲱϥ ϥⲛⲁⲧⲁⲛⲟ ⲛⲟⲩⲡⲉ ⲛⲃⲣⲣⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲟⲩⲕⲁϩ ⲛⲃⲣⲣⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲇⲓⲁⲃⲟⲗⲟⲥ ϩⲓ ⲙⲟⲩ ⳉⲟⲟⲡ ⲛⳉⲏⲧⲟⲩ ϥⲛⲁⲣⲣⲟ
[ⲙ]ⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃⲉ ⲉϥⲛⲛⲁ ⲁϩⲣⲏ ϥⲛⲛⲏⲩ ⲁⳉⲣⲏ ⲉⲩⳉⲟⲟⲡ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲛⲟⲩⲁϣ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲩϩⲟⲟⲡ ⲙⲛ ⲡⲭⲥ ⲛⳉⲟ ⲛⲣⲁⲙⲡⲉ
ϯⲁⲡⲟⲕⲁⲗⲩⲯⲓⲥ ⲛϩⲏⲗⲉⲓⲁⲥ

'On that day, Christ, the king with all the saints, is coming forth from heaven. He is burning this earth and spending a thousand years on it, since the sinners seized it. He will create a new heaven and a new earth. No devil or death exists in them. He will rule with the saints, descending and ascending, whilst they are with the angels at all times and with Christ for a thousand years.
The Apocalypse of Elijah'

(Text and trans.: Pietersma and Turner Comstock, modified by G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217 Enoch, the seventh Patriarch of the Book of Genesis : S00762 Tabitha/Dorkas, New Testament pious woman from Iope : S00300

Saint Name in Source

ϩⲏⲗⲉⲓⲁⲥ ⲉⲛⲱⲭ ⲧⲁⲃⲓⲑⲁ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories) Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus codex


  • 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)

Panopolis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts


Four Coptic manuscripts are known so far, dating from the 4th to the 5th century. 1. An Akhmimic text, which has been almost completely reconstructed from fragments, now in Paris and Berlin (ed. Steindorff, 1899, 19–44). 2. Sahidic, represented by six folia (ed. Steindorff, 1899, 3–14). 3. Another Sahidic fragment in the British Library, Or. 7594 (ed. Budge, 1912). 4. A complete Sahidic text, the manuscript P.Chester Beatty 2018, consisting of 10 folia (ed. Pietersma, Comstock, Attridge, 1981). A small Greek fragment has also been discovered, PSI 7, from the end of the Apocalypse of Elijah, datable to the 4th century (ed. Pistelli, 1912). The Akhmimic manuscript is believed to preserve a better and earlier version of the text, than the Sahidic ones.


The text is considered to be a 3rd century work of Jewish origin, drawing on existing apocalyptic traditions as well as on Jewish messianic ideas from the 1st century BC to the 1st cent. AD. The present version, however, shows traces of Christian rewriting during the 4th century. The concept of saints as essential to life on earth ('for them the earth gives fruit, for them the sun shines, for them the dew settles on the ground') suggests a developing cult of saints by the middle of the 4th century. Frankfurter, insisting on a 3rd century date for the rewritten version of the text, has difficulties explaining many of its particular features that fall naturally into place in a composition of the 4th century.


Texts and translations: Complete Sahidic version of The Apocalypse of Elijah: Pietersma, A., and Turner Comstock, S., with Attridge, H.A.,, The Apocalypse of Elijah (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1981). Fragmentary Akhmimic manuscript: Steindorff, G., Die Apokalypse des Elias (Leipzig, 1899), 66–108. Studies: Frankfurter, D., Elijah in Upper Egypt: The Apocalypse of Elijah and Early Egyptian Christianity (Minneapolis, 1993). Frankfurter, D., "The Cult of the Martyrs in Egypt before Constantine: The Evidence of the Coptic 'Apocalypse of Elijah,'" Vigiliae Christianae 48:1 (1994), 25–47.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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