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E04177: Coptic ostracon from western Thebes (Upper Egypt) mentioning *John (most likely the 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 796

In this fragmentary letter, a saint John is mentioned seemingly as part of the solution to a discussed problem. It might even have involved an oath sworn to the saint.

Lines 16–19 on the verso of the letter run as follows:

ⲡⲗⲏⲛ ⲧⲡⲣⲟⲑⲉⲥ̣[ⲙⲓⲁ]
[ⲛ]ⲧ̣ⲁⲛⲧⲟϣⲥ ⲛⲙⲙⲁϥ ⲛ̣  ̣[  ̣  ̣]  ̣
ⲙ̣ⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ [ⲁ]ⲡⲁ ⲱⲁⲛ[(ⲛ)ⲏⲥ]
[ⲉ]ⲕϣⲁⲛⲉⲓ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲡⲛ̣[ -ca.?- ]

‘But the deadline which we have determined with him for … […] for/to saint Apa John, if you come to the […] …’

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

A complete record of the text is available at:;;796


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

[ⲁ]ⲡⲁ ⲱⲁⲛ[(ⲛ)ⲏⲥ]

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


The ostracon inv. O. 291894 is a limestone ostracon inscribed on both sides and 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.


Perhaps one could consider reading ⲱⲣⲕ 'swearing (an oath)' or ⲡⲱⲣⲕ 'the swearing (of an oath)' at the end of line 17 to have in lines 16–18: ⲡⲗⲏⲛ ⲧⲡⲣⲟⲑⲉⲥ̣[ⲙⲓⲁ] [ⲛ]ⲧ̣ⲁⲛⲧⲟϣⲥ ⲛⲙⲙⲁϥ ⲛ̣ ⲡ̣[ⲱⲣ]ⲕ̣ ⲙ̣ⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ [ⲁ]ⲡⲁ ⲱⲁⲛ[(ⲛ)ⲏⲥ] ‘But the deadline which we have determined with him for the [swearing (of an oath)] to saint Apa John, …'


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), 427–428.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity