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E04176: Coptic ostracon from western Thebes (Upper Egypt) mentioning the production of commentaries to *John (Apostle and Evangelist, S00042); datable to the 7th century.

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posted on 2017-10-19, 00:00 authored by gschenke
O.Frange 768

The limestone ostracon is written on both sides. The beginning and the end of the letter are missing, but it seems to be addressed to a monastic authority concerning the production of books, here of commentaries to the Gopsel of John. The addressee is asked to send the commentaries, if he has finished them. If he has not yet produced them, he should at least acknowledge receipt of the writing material provided, here apparently an empty papyrus roll (tomarion), so that it can be announced that he will produce and them them (soon).

Lines 4–18 of the recto read as follows:

ⲕⲁⲗⲗⲉⲓ ⲟⲩⲛ ⲛⲧⲉⲧⲛ\ⲙⲛⲧ/-
ⲫⲓⲗⲁⲧⲉⲗⲫⲟⲥ ⲁⲩⲱ
ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲑⲟⲥⲉⲃⲓⲁ · ⲉⲧⲣⲉ-
ⲧⲉⲧⲛⲣ ⲡⲛⲁ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲛⲉ-
ⲝⲏⲅⲉⲓⲥⲓⲥ · ⲙⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲓⲱ-
ϩⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ · ⲉⲧⲣⲉⲕⲧⲛⲛⲟⲟⲩ-
ⲥⲟⲩ ⲛⲁⲛ ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲁⲕⲥⲁϩⲟⲩ ·
ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲕⲥⲁϩⲟⲩ ⲁⲣⲓ ⲡⲛⲁ
ⲉⲛⲉⲟⲩ<ⲱ> ⲁⲕϫⲓ ⲛⲧⲟⲙⲁⲣⲓⲟⲛ · ⲛⲅϫⲟ-
ⲟⲩⲥⲟⲩ ⲙⲡⲣⲕⲁⲛ ⲉⲛⲗⲩⲡⲉⲓ ϩⲙ
ⲡⲉⲓϣⲁϫⲉ ⲁⲗⲗⲁ ϯ ⲙⲧⲟⲛ ⲛⲁⲛ̣
ⲛⲑⲉ ⲛⲛⲕⲉⲡⲉⲧⲛⲁⲛⲟⲩϥ
ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲛⲧⲁⲧⲉⲧⲛⲁⲅⲓⲱ-
ⲥⲩⲛⲏ ⲁⲁⲩ ⲛⲙⲙⲁⲛ

‘I am thus beseeching your brotherliness and your piety to let you be merciful with respect to the commentaries to saint John, to let you send them to us, if you have written them. If you have not written them, be merciful, so that we shall announce that you have received the (empty) papyrus roll and that you shall send them. Do not let us be lamenting in this matter, but calm us just as with all the other good deeds which your holiness has done for us.’

At the end of the letter, lines 35–37 of the verso read as follows:

      ⲡⲗⲏⲛ ⲁⲣⲓⲥ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ
ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲡϩⲁⲅ[ ⲓⲟⲥ]

‘But do it for God and for saint John.’

(Text: A. Boud'hors and Ch. Heurtel; trans.: G. Schenke)

A complete record of the text is available at:;;768?


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John, Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Letter Late antique original manuscripts - Ostracon/Pot-sherd


  • 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)

Thebes Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts


The ostracon inv. O.291821 is a large limestone fragment inscribed on both sides. It was found during a season of the Belgian excavation at the Theban necropolis. It is part of the archive of the monk Frange who inhabited the tomb of Amenemope (TT29) in the Valley of the Kings.


Text and French translation: Boud'hors, A., and Heurtel, C., Les ostraca coptes de la TT 29. Autour du moine Frangé (Études d'archéologie thébaine 3; Brussels, 2010), 408–409.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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