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E02931: Coptic Letter To Herai written by Besa (abbot of the White Monastery near Sohag in Upper Egypt), quoting *Antony ('the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356, S00098) saying that neglectful behaviour in ascetics pains the saints, and claiming that Herai as a nun had already been counted among the saints, written in the late 5th century.

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posted on 2017-06-05, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Besa, Letter to Herai, ed. Kuhn 30.I.3–4:

In this letter, Besa addresses a nun named Herai who decided to leave the monastery.

ϩⲙ ⲡⲁ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲛⲧⲁϥϫⲟⲟⲥ ⲛϭⲓ ⲡⲉⲛⲉⲓⲱⲧ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲁⲛⲧⲱⲛⲓⲟⲥ ⲡⲉⲛⲧⲁϥⲥⲟⲩⲛ ⲙⲡⲟⲛⲏⲣⲓⲁ ⲙⲡϫⲁϫⲉ ⲉⲧⲙⲟⲥⲧⲉ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲙⲉ ⲙⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲛⲁ ⲉⲛⲧⲁⲩϯ ⲡⲉⲩⲟⲩⲟ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉⲩϩⲏⲧ ⲧⲏⲣϥ ϫⲉ ⲁⲗⲏⲑⲱⲥ ⲛⲁⲙⲉⲣⲁⲧⲉ ⲧⲉⲛⲙⲛⲧⲁⲙⲉⲗⲏⲥ ⲙⲛ ⲡⲉⲛⲑⲃⲃⲓⲟ ⲙⲛ ⲧⲉⲛϭⲓⲛⲣⲓⲕⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ
ⲛⲛⲉⲩϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛⲁⲛ ⲁⲛ ⲛⲟⲩⲟⲥⲉ ⲙⲁⲩⲁⲁⲛ ⲁⲗⲗⲁ ⲛⲕⲉⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲛⲉⲩϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛⲁⲩ ⲛⲟⲩϩⲓⲥⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉⲭⲥ ⲓⲥ ⲁⲗⲏⲑⲱⲥ
ⲟⲛ ⲛⲁϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲡⲉⲛⲑⲃⲃⲓⲟ ϣⲁϥϯⲙⲕⲁϩ ⲛⲁⲩ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ · ⲡⲁⲗⲓⲛ ⲟⲛ ⲡⲉⲛⲟⲩϫⲁ ⲙⲛ ⲡⲉⲛϣⲟⲩϣⲟⲩ ϣⲁϥϯⲟⲩⲛⲟϥ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛϥϯⲙⲧⲟⲛ ⲛⲁⲩ

‘For on this said our holy father, Apa Antony, who knew the wickedness of the enemy who hates those who love God, those who advanced to him with all their heart, “Truly, my beloved, our carelessness and our humiliation and our perversion have not been injurious to us alone, but they have also been painful to the angels and to all the saints in Jesus Christ. Truly also, my sons, our humiliation grieves them all, whereas our salvation and our glory give joy and rest to them all.”’

Ed. Kuhn 30.3.4:

ⲙⲏ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲧⲉⲡⲉⲓⲑⲉ ⲏ ⲧⲉⲟⲩⲱϣ ⲉⲧⲣⲉⲩϥⲱⲧⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲙⲡⲟⲩⲣⲁⲛ ϩⲙ ⲡϫⲱⲱⲙⲉ ⲙⲡⲱⲛϩ ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲁ ⲧⲣⲉⲩⲥⲁϩϥ · ⲏ ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲁ ⲧⲣⲉⲩϫⲓⲏⲡⲉ ⲙⲙⲟ
ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲥⲉⲟⲡⲉ ⲉⲧⲉⲥⲧⲣⲁⲧⲉⲓⲁ ⲛⲧⲡⲉ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉⲁⲩϫⲓϩⲱⲛ ⲙⲙⲟ ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲡⲓⲥⲧⲓⲥ ⲉⲁⲣⲥⲟⲩⲛ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ

‘Are you persuaded and do you wish that your name should be blotted out of the book of life after it has been written, after you have been numbered with the saints and counted among the hosts of heaven though you have been promised in faith and you have known the Lord?’

Text and translation: Kuhn 1956, p. 99–100 (text), p. 96 (trans.) and p. 102 (text), p. 98 (trans.).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518 Antony, 'the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356 : S00098

Saint Name in Source

ⲡⲉⲛⲉⲓⲱⲧ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲁⲛⲧⲱⲛⲓⲟⲥ

Type of Evidence

Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex Literary - Letters


  • 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 - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


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.


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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