The Earliest Manuscript of the Coptic Life of Aaron (British Library, Or. 7558 [89] [93] [150])

in Vigiliae Christianae
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In this article, we offer a first edition of three papyrus fragments in Sahidic Coptic from the British Library (Or. 7558 [89] [93] [150]). They can be dated to the sixth or seventh century on palaeographical grounds and belong to the earliest known manuscript of the Coptic Life of Aaron. Since a complete manuscript of the text survives in a tenth-century paper codex, also preserved in the British Library (Or. 7029), the fragments enable us to compare the text of a Coptic hagiographical work as it was fairly close to the date of its composition, in this case probably the sixth century, with a much later version of the same text. A detailed analysis allows conclusions about both the reliability of the medieval witness and the nature of the changes that the text underwent in the course of its transmission.

Vigiliae Christianae

A Review of Early Christian Life and Language




Layton, Catalogue, xxx, 173. Unfortunately, it was not recorded which fragment was removed from which of these ten manuscripts, although they were all copied at Esna and hence it is likely that the recycled fragments came from there. The fragments do not seem to correspond to the ones listed by Sir Herbert Thompson, and cited by Layton (p. 199) as coming from the bindings of Or. 7029 (the manuscript containing the Life of Aaron), though these are only the fragments that Thompson was able to identify.


As also suggested by Layton, Catalogue, 173.


Crum in Winlock – Crum, Monastery of Epiphanius 1, 196-208; Layton, Catalogue, xxxiii-xxxv, with e.g. Pl. 20 (no. 134), Pl. 22 (no. 166-168).


Or. 7029, fol. 26b-29b.


Or. 7029, fol. 30a-32a.


See Crum in Winlock – Crum, Monastery of Epiphanius 1, 242; P.E. Kahle, Bala’izah: Coptic Texts from Deir el-Bala’izah in Upper Egypt vol. 1 (Oxford 1954) 61 (§ 11).


Or. 7029, fol. 16a, l. 23-fol. 16b, l. 1: ⲡⲛⲟϭ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲧⲙ̄ⲙ̣ⲁ̣ⲩ̣ ⲁ̣ϥϫⲱⲣⲙ̄ ⲟⲩⲃⲉ ⲡⲕⲟⲩⲓ [ϫⲉ] ϣⲁϫⲉ “that older one signalled the younger one to speak.”


Or. 7029, fol. 57a-61a, listed in Layton, Catalogue, 197.


Dijkstra, Philae and the End, 226.


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