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E03551: Coptic Sermons of unknown Egyptian provenance, presenting passages from the Life of *Zenobios (physician and martyr of Antioch, S00246), ascetic and famous physician, relating his healing practices, his severe ascetic conduct, and a powerful vision; written most likely in the 6th/7th century.

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posted on 2017-08-08, 00:00 authored by gschenke
The fragmentary text describes Apa Zenobios’ very strict way of life, mindful of all the demons and evils, praying all night, forgoing sleep, food, and drink, and focusing on the scripture. He would leave his cell for only three reasons: church, study, and the necessity to relieve himself. He was always eager to learn and practise new ascetic ways. He is described as a very successful physician for all sorts of diseases, seemingly even the emotional ones.

Till, KHML I, p. 128, lines 4–12:

ⲛⲉⲥⲡⲗⲁⲅⲭⲛⲟ[ⲛ] ⲉⲧϩⲓϩⲟⲩⲛ · ⲉϣⲁ[ϥ]ⲑⲉⲣⲁⲡⲉⲩⲉ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ϩⲛ ϩⲉⲛⲡⲁϩⲣⲉ ⲛⲥⲱ ⲛⲃⲁⲗ ⲇⲉ ϩⲛ ϩⲉⲛⲕⲟⲗⲗⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ · ⲛⲉⲛⲡⲗⲩⲅⲏ ⲇⲉ ϩⲛ
ϩⲉⲛⲉⲙⲡⲗⲁⲥⲧⲣⲟⲛ · ⲛⲟⲩⲱϣϥ ϩⲛ ϩⲉⲛⲙⲁⲗⲁⲅⲙⲁ · ⲛⲉⲛⲧⲁⲩⲣ ⲟⲩⲁⲙⲟⲙⲉ ⲟⲛ · ϩⲛ ⲙⲙⲉⲗⲟⲥ · ⲉϣⲁϥⲃⲟⲏⲑⲉⲓ ⲉⲣⲟⲟⲩ ϩⲛ ϩⲉⲛϫⲟⲩϥ ·
ⲙⲛ ϩⲉⲛⲧⲟⲕ · ϩⲁⲡⲁⲝ ϩⲁⲡⲗⲱⲥ ϣⲁϥⲭⲣⲱ ⲛⲧⲉϥⲧⲉⲭⲛⲏ ⲛⲥⲏⲩ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲡⲣⲟⲥ ⲧⲉⲕⲣⲁⲥⲓⲥ ⲛⲛⲥⲱⲙⲁ · ⲡⲣⲟⲥ ⲡⲉⲭⲣⲟⲛⲟⲥ ⲛⲙⲡⲁⲑⲟⲥ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡⲣⲟⲥ ⲧⲛⲟϥⲣⲉ [ⲙ]ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲡⲟⲩ[ⲁ ⲛ]ⲛⲉⲧϣⲱⲛⲉ

‘The inner organs, he would treat with a drinking medicine, the eyes with collyria, the wounds with plasters, (and) the fracture with bandages. Also those who had gangrene on the limbs, he would help them with burnings and knives. In short, he would need his skill on any day depending on the state of health of the bodies, depending on the length of time of the suffering, and depending on the profitable outcome for each one of the patients.’

Till, KHML I, p. 128, lines 15–22:

ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉϥⲟ ⲛⲣⲙⲙⲁⲟ ϩⲛ ⲛⲉϥⲕⲁⲣⲡⲟⲥ · ⲧⲁⲅⲁⲡⲏ ⲡⲣⲁϣⲉ ϯⲣⲏⲛⲏ · ⲧⲙⲛⲧϩⲁⲣϣϩⲏⲧ · ⲧⲙⲛⲧⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲟⲥ · ⲡⲡⲉⲧⲛⲁⲛⲟⲩϥ ⲧⲡⲓⲥⲧⲓⲥ ·
ⲧⲙⲛⲧⲣⲙⲣⲁϣ ⲧⲉⲅⲣⲁⲧⲓⲁ · ⲉⲧⲉ ⲛⲁⲓ ⲛⲉ ⲛⲃⲟⲏⲑⲓⲁ ⲙⲡⲙⲁ ⲛϯⲡⲁϩⲣⲉ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲛⲛⲉⲯⲩⲭⲏ · ⲛⲉϥⲑⲉⲣⲁⲡⲉⲩⲉ ⲙⲉⲛ ⲛⲟⲩⲟⲛ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲧⲟⲩϫⲓ
ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ⲛϭⲟⲛⲥ · ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲓⲧⲙ ⲡⲇⲓⲁⲃⲟⲗⲟⲥ · ϩⲛ ⲧⲁⲡⲁⲧⲏ ⲙⲡⲛⲟⲃⲉ · ⲉϥⲡⲁⲣϩⲓⲥⲧⲁ ⲙⲙⲟⲟⲩ ⲙⲡⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣ ⲉⲩⲟⲩⲟϫ ·

‘He was enriched by his results, (such as by) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, the good, faith, gentility, (and) self-control, which are the aids for the souls at the holy healing shrine. He was treating anyone who was taken forcefully by the devil through the deceit of sin, presenting them cured to the Saviour.’

Zenobios would also tell his fellow monks of his own turmoil and relate the story of how he entered the monastic church and had a vision. He encountered a soldier coming up from the altar pointing his sword towards him and reproaching him for feeling resentment towards another brother.

(Text: W. C. Till, KHML I, 125–138; summary and trans. G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Zēnobios, physician martyred in Antioch, ob. 304/311 : S00246

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲍⲉⲛⲟⲃⲓⲟⲥ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint Literary - Sermons/Homilies 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

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

Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Physicians Crowds


Fragments of two manuscripts of this text are preserved in London (Crum, BM 362) and Paris (P 1316, f. 9), as well as in Vienna (K 9772, p. 33/34, K 9773– K 9774, p. 61–64, and K 9775, p. 73/74). The parchment pages in Vienna seem to be datable to the 9th–11th century due to layout and script.


Text and German translation: Till, W.C., Koptische Heiligen- und Martyrlegenden. Vol. 1 (Rome: Pont. institutum orientalium studiorum, 1935), 125–138.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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