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  • Author or Editor: Alexandra von Lieven x
  • Ancient Near East and Egypt x
  • Biblical Studies x
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In the Coptic Martyrdom of St. Shenoufe and his Brethren there is an insertion of a short episode relating the faustic search for knowledge of a Pagan priest from Hermopolis. Being in danger of being tortured by demons the priest invoces Jesus Christ and is thus saved. In this paper the Coptic story is compared with religious and literary texts from the Pagan Egyptian tradition. Pagan Egyptian culture is usually regarded as encouraging the human pursuit of knowledge of the superhuman. Here to the contrary, it is argued that there are two different positions in the traditional literature: one advocates human endeavor to seek divine knowledge while the other is critical about just that endeavor. The divide between those two viewpoints coincides with the divide beetween religious texts and secular literature. Thus the Coptic episode can be demonstrated to stand in the tradition of Pagan Egyptian stories about magicians and their adventures. Though in its present form it clearly has a missionary intention, the story itself as well as its 'anti-faustian' tendency need not be a Christian invention.

In: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions
In: Hellenistic Astronomy