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E02929: Coptic Sermon On Individual Responsibility for Sin by Besa (abbot of the White Monastery near Sohag in Upper Egypt), claiming that the saints cannot do anything for sinners who do not repent, written in the late 5th century.

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posted on 2017-06-05, 00:00 authored by gschenke
Besa, Sermon, ed. Kuhn 36.2.4:

ⲏ ⲛⲁϣ ⲛϩⲉ ⲉⲣⲉ ⲛⲉⲡⲛⲁ ⲛⲛⲇⲓⲕⲁⲓⲟⲥ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲛⲁ ⲉⲧⲛⲱϣ ⲛⲛⲉⲩϣⲁϫⲉ ⲛⲁⲙⲧⲟⲛ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ϩⲁⲧⲉⲧⲏⲩⲧⲛ ⲉⲣⲉ ⲛⲇⲁⲓⲙⲱⲛ ⲙⲟⲥⲉ ⲛϩⲣⲁⲓ ⲛϩⲏⲧⲧⲏⲩⲧⲛ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲩⲙⲧⲟⲛ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ϩⲣⲁ ϩⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲛⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲛϩⲏⲧ ⲉⲧⲥⲟⲟϥ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲩⲥⲁⲁⲛϣ ⲛⲛⲉⲩⲕⲁⲕⲓⲁ ϩⲣⲁ ϩⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲛϣⲟϫⲛⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲡⲉⲧⲛϩⲏⲧ ⲉⲧϫⲁϩⲙ

‘Or how shall the spirits of the righteous and all the saints, whose words we read, repose with you, while the demons breed inside you and repose in your foul-minded thoughts, and nurture their wicked deeds through your machinations and your defiled mind?’

Ed. Kuhn 36.3.4:

ⲛⲧⲱⲧⲛ ⲇⲉ ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲙⲟⲕϩ ⲁⲛ ⲛϩⲏⲧ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲧⲏⲩⲧⲛ ⲙⲁⲩⲁⲧⲧⲏⲩⲧⲛ ⲟⲩⲇⲉ ⲟⲛ ⲛⲧⲉⲧⲛϣⲛϩⲧⲏⲧⲛ ⲁⲛ ⲉϩⲣⲁ ⲉϫⲱⲧⲛ ⲙⲙⲓⲛ ⲙⲙⲱⲧⲛ ⲱ
ⲛⲉⲃⲓⲏⲛ · ϫⲉⲕⲁⲥ ⲛⲛⲉⲗⲁⲁⲩ ϩⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ϣⲛϩⲧⲏϥ ⲉϩⲣⲁ ⲉϫⲱⲧⲛ ⲙⲡⲛⲁⲩ ⲛⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁⲛⲁⲅⲕⲏ

‘But you are not troubled at heart concerning yourselves nor again do you have pity upon yourselves, O wretched ones, so that no one among all the saints will have pity upon you at the time of your need.’

Ed. Kuhn 36.4.2:

ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉϣϫⲉ ⲛⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁϭⲓⲛⲉ ⲁⲛ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲉⲧⲣⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲛⲙⲙⲁⲩ ϩⲛ ⲙⲡⲏⲩⲉ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉϣϫⲉ ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁϭⲓⲛⲉ ⲁⲛ ⲛⲟⲩⲙⲁ ⲛⲙⲧⲟⲛ · ⲉⲉ
ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲟⲩ ⲣⲱ ⲁⲧⲉⲧⲛⲕⲁⲁⲩ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲧⲏⲩⲧⲛ

‘And if you will not find the saints to let you be with them in heaven, and if you will not find a resting-place, why then did you forsake them?’

Text and translation: Kuhn 1956, p. 76–77 and 121–122 (text), p. 115–117 (trans.), slightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518

Type of Evidence

Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • 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)

Sohag Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic


The discourses and letters of Besa come from nine different parchment codices found in the library of the White Monastery, dating to the 7th/8th and 8th/9th centuries.


This discourse has recently been considered to be a product of Besa’s predecessor Shenoute, rather than of Besa himself.


Edition: Kuhn, K.H., Letters and Sermons of Besa, CSCO vol. 157 (text) and CSCO vol. 158 (trans.) (Leuven, 1956). Discussion: Behlmer, H., Heilige Schriften als Waffe der Rhetorik. Autoritative Texte und ihre literarische Verarbeitung im Werk des ägyptischen Klostervorstehers Besa (in preparation).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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