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E05993: Coptic ostracon from Deir el-Bahari (Upper Egypt) with a letter written by bishop Abraham stating that clerics should go to the shrine of Apa *John (presumably either the Baptist, S00020, or the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) to hold a night vigil and not just to receive the canon; datable around the year 600.

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posted on 2018-07-18, 00:00 authored by gschenke
O.Crum 485

This letter seems to address the reluctance of some clerics to lead or participate in the entire service including the night vigil. Instead some seem to be in the habit of just joining when a canon is offered. Bishop Abraham considers those clerics non-clerics and goes on to offer an explanation for his assertion, by citing from a text; but the letter here becomes somewhat illegible.

Lines 1–11 read as follows:

⳨ ϣⲟⲣⲡ ⲙⲉⲛ ϯϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲉⲧⲉⲕⲙⲛⲧϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲡⲕⲗⲏⲣⲓⲕⲟⲥ ⲉ[ⲧⲉ] ⲙⲉϥⲃⲱⲕ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲉⲙⲁ ⲛⲁ[ⲡ]ⲁ ⲓⲱⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ ⲉⲣⲟⲩϣⲏ ⲛⲣ[ⲟⲉ]ⲓⲥ ⲏ ⲉⲣϣⲁⲛϥⲃⲱⲕ
[ⲉⲃⲟ]ⲗ ϫⲉϥⲛⲁϫⲓ ⲕⲁⲛⲱⲛ ϥⲟ ⲛⲁⲡⲟⲕⲗⲏⲣⲟⲥ ⲉϥⲥⲏϩ ϫⲉ ⲡⲉⲧⲣϩⲱⲃ ⲁⲛ ⲟⲩⲇⲉ ⲙⲡⲣⲧⲣⲉϥⲣ ...

'First, I am greeting your fraternity. The cleric [who] is unable to go forth to the place of Apa Ioannes to spend a night keeping awake, or if he (just) goes forth, so that he will receive a canon, he is no longer a cleric. As it is written: "He who does not work, neither let him …"'

(Text: W. E. Crum; trans.: G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

ⲁ[ⲡ]ⲁ ⲓⲱⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ ⲁ[ⲡ]ⲁ ⲓⲱⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ

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

Deir el-Bahari

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

Deir el-Bahari Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery


This ostracon is kept at the British Museum in London, inv. 33070.


Text and translation: Crum, W.E., Coptic Ostraca from the Collections of the Egypt Exploration Fund (London, 1902), p. 15–16 and 79. = O.Crum

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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