The Coptic Bible: (ⲁ̅) Pentateuch

The first of a series of articles surveying the published editions of the Bible or ⲛⲓⲅⲣⲁⲫⲏ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ in the Bohairic dialect of Coptic.

The first article will focus on the Pentateuch with subsequent articles on the Historical Books, Poetic Books, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, and later the New Testament.


I will begin by discussing the names of the Pentateuch and its five books in Coptic, namely, ⲫⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ, ϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ, ⲡⲉ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ, and ϯⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ and then I will list the editions in chronological order.

The printing of texts of the Coptic Bible goes back to the 17th century. In the intervening 365 years, numerous editions and studies in many dialects have been published. In this and subsequent articles, I will focus only on editions of Classical Bohairic (B5) versions of the Bible, leaving aside editions in other dialects including Palaeo-Bohairic (B4).

I will also aim to link to the digitised editions and manuscripts where they are available, which I hope will be useful to readers.

For editions of the Bible in all other dialects, including lists of extant manuscripts, see the studies available on Alin Suciu’s blog. To this list, specifically focusing on the Old Testament or Pentateuch, I would add Brooke (1902), Hallock (1933), Peters (1979), Takla (2007), and Brill’s Textual History of the Bible. 1

If you notice any mistakes, or omissions, or know of a digital copy of any edition not linked then please let me know by commenting below or by contacting me.

The Pentateuch & its Books

The Pentateuch survives in its entirety in several manuscripts in Bohairic. The earliest Classical Bohairic manuscript of the Pentateuch by quite a margin is Vat. Copt. 1, dated to the 9th-10th century, which has still not been edited. The next oldest surviving manuscript is BNF Copte 1 dating to 1359-60. 2

Its name

The Pentateuch is the first division of the Old Testament, known as ϯⲇⲓⲁ̀ⲑⲏⲕⲏ ⲛ̀ⲁⲡⲁⲥ or ϯⲡⲁⲗⲉⲁ̀. 3

The following is a provisional study on the names of the Pentateuch and its books based on Biblical and liturgical manuscripts as well as references in other literature. 4

ⲫⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ

The Pentateuch is referred to as ⲡϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲫⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ “The Book of the Law of Moses” or simply ⲫⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ “The Law of Moses” within the Bible. There is only meagre evidence that this designation was in general use. 5

ϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ – a misinterpretation?

Different terms occur in Bohairic manuscripts containing the Pentateuch. One of these, at least in Biblical manuscripts from the 14th century, is ϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ. This is properly the title of the Book of Genesis but was misinterpreted as the title of the entire Pentateuch. 6

For instance, in Paris BNF Copte 1 (dated 1359-60) we find the title and Arabic translation:

[ⲧ]ⲁⲣⲭⲏ ⲛ̀ϯⲅⲉⲛⲏⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ [ⲡ]ⲁⲣⲭⲏ ⲙ̀ⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ

بدو توراة موسى رأس الآنبياء

“Beginning of (the) Torah of Moses, Head of the Prophets” (Ar. transl.)

Paris BNF Copte 1 f. 1r

Immediately following this, we find an alternate name for (or description of) the Book of Genesis. Of course, this is made necessary by the misinterpretation of ϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ as meaning “The Torah of Moses”:

ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ [ⲛ̀]ϩⲟⲩⲓ̀ⲧ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲡⲓⲥⲱⲛⲧ

السفر الأول سفر الخليقة

“The first Book: Book of Creation” (Ar. transl.)

Paris BNF Copte 1 f. 1r

Indeed, a manuscript in Cairo (Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 3) containing Genesis and Exodus, dated 1805, and with an almost identical title in Coptic and Arabic is corrected by a later hand to more accurately reflect the Arabic: 7

ⲡ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ϯⲅⲉⲛⲏⲥⲓⲥ ⸌ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ⸍ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩⲥⲏⲥ ⲡ̀ⲁⲣⲭⲏ ⲙ̀ⲡ̀ⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ ‧ ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲟⲩⲓⲧ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲡⲓⲥⲱⲛⲧ ⸌ⲉ̀ⲧⲉ ϯⲅⲉⲛⲏⲥⲓⲥ ⲓⲉ ⲡⲓⲥⲱⲛⲧ⸍

“The book of Genesis ⸌of The Law⸍ of Moses the Archprophet ‧ The first Book of Creation ⸌which is Genesis or Creation⸍” (Cp. transl.)

Cairo Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 3 f. 4r

This misinterpretation is not isolated to Biblical manuscripts and also occurs in liturgical manuscripts, at least from the early 14th century, which of course may well have been copied from the same or similar Biblical manuscripts. 8

Nevertheless, pericopae from the Pentateuch are generally introduced by ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ϧⲉⲛⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ “From Moses the Prophet” and sometimes with the book specified, e.g. ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ϧⲉⲛⲡⲓⲇⲉⲩⲇⲉⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲟⲛ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ “From Deuteronomy of Moses the Prophet” (Paris BNF Copte 70 f. 219r). 9

The likely explanation is that in Biblical manuscripts, such as Paris BNF Copte 1, only the Books were titled and not the Pentateuch as a whole. It is conceivable that this was misconstrued by a single copyist more familiar with Arabic than Coptic, at some stage prior to the 14th century, and his error was transmitted to later extant copies of the Pentateuch, which are largely related. 10

ⲡⲉ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ

In the Coptic translation of the Canons of the Apostles, the group of Books that make up the Pentateuch is referred to as ⲡϯⲟⲩ ⲛ̄ϫⲱⲱⲙⲉ ⲙ̄ⲙⲱⲩⲥⲏⲥ in Sahidic and ⲡⲉ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ in Bohairic — “The 5 Books of Moses.” 11

This seems to be the intended meaning of the title in Vat. Copt. 2 (14th century), but incorporating the misinterpretation discussed above: 12

ⲧⲉⲛⲥϧⲁⲓ ⲛ̀[ⲡ]ⲉ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ

نكتب خمسة اسفار التوراة لموسی النبى

“We write the Five Books of the Torah of Moses the Prophet (Ar. transl.)”

Vat. Copt. 2 fol. 1r

ϯⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ

There is another curious term for the Pentateuch (or Torah) that appears in some of these Biblical manuscripts, again from the 14th century. This expression, ϯⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ, occurs in the colophon to Paris BNF Copte 1 (see Fig. 1).

The first line reads “ϯⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ has been completed is in peace of God, amen” without an Arabic gloss. 13 On f. 237r at the beginning of the Book of Numbers, there is a subtitle incorporating this term and accompanied by an Arabic gloss:

ⲡⲓⲙⲁϩⲇ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ϧⲉⲛϯⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ

السفر الرابع من التوراة المقدسة

“The fourth Book from the Holy Torah” (Ar. transl.)

Paris BNF Copte 1 f. 237r

This correspondence of ϯⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ with التوراة المقدسة “The Holy Torah” is replicated in the other manuscripts containing the Pentateuch. 14

In this expression, ⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ is probably an instance of the Greek word θεωρία used in the sense ‘spiritual interpretation of scripture’ or ‘prophecy,’ which is a sense it is known to have been used among the Early Church Fathers, including Cyril of Alexandria. 15 This suggests the possibility that the Pentateuch was known at this date as “The Holy Prophecy.” An explanation along these lines is also suggested by a wall painting at the Monastery of Saint Anthony, which depicts Moses with a scroll in his hand labelled ϯ[ⲡ]ⲣⲟⲫⲏⲇⲓⲁ ⲙⲱⲩⲥⲏⲥ “The Prophecy (of) Moses.” 16

The names of its Books

The names of the books of the Pentateuch are those taken from Greek, the name for Exodus being the only significant departure. I have given here the principal forms with ‘strong’ definite articles, including notes of variants, based on the Biblical and liturgical manuscripts I’ve seen. 17

  • Genesis — ϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ 18
  • Exodus — ⲡⲓⲇⲟⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ 19
  • Leviticus — ⲡⲓⲗⲉⲩⲓ̀ⲧⲓⲕⲟⲛ 20
  • Numbers — ⲛⲓⲁ̀ⲣⲓⲑⲙⲟⲥ 21
  • Deuteronomy — ⲡⲓⲇⲉⲩⲧⲉⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲟⲛ 22


The first scholar to publish the Pentateuch was David Wilkins (1685-1745) in 1731 along with a Latin translation. He used manuscripts from the Vatican (Vat. Copt. 2-4, dated 14th century), Paris (BNF Copte 56, dated 1660), and Oxford (Bod. Hunt. 33, dated 1673). 23 His edition has been criticised on various grounds, including that he used another undeclared source or altered the text himself to better conform to the Greek. 24

In 1854, A. Fallet began to publish the Pentateuch manuscripts in Paris with notes on variants. Only Genesis 1:1-27:25 ever appeared but without an introduction or key. 26 The manuscripts he probably used were BNF Copte 1 (dated 1359-50), BNF Copte 57 containing only Genesis and Exodus (dated 1655), and BNF Copte 56 (dated 1660). 27

  • Fallet, A., La version cophte du Pentateuque publiée d’après les manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale de Paris: Avec des variants et des notes (Paris: Didot, 1854).

Paul Anton de Lagarde (1827-1891; formerly, Paul Bötticher) was next to publish an edition of the Pentateuch in 1867 but without translation. He used Wilkins’ edition as his basis along with an incomplete manuscript of the Pentateuch belonging to Henry Tattam (now London BL Or. 422, dated 1393). 28 He included a list of variants between Wilkins’ edition and his manuscript. Lagarde reproduced many of Wilkins’ unique readings. 29 Although his edition follows the order of the text in the manuscripts, he chose to number the chapters and verses according to the Hebrew text.

Walter Ewing Crum (1865-1944) published in 1913 two fragments (London BL. Or. 5638.1 and 5641, dated 13th century) from a liturgical text with Arabic translation originating from Scetis. 30 They contain Deuteronomy 5:23-6:3 with some lacunae and Deuteronomy 16:3-10. He notes that the text is quite different from that of the Bohairic Biblical manuscripts and in some ways closer to the Sahidic. This is perhaps the only published text of a pericopae from the Pentateuch though they are abundant. 31

In 1907, in the chrestomathy of his grammar (2nd ed.), Alexis Mallon (1875-1934) published Genesis 39:1-45:10 from BNF Copte 1 (1359-60) and noted variants with Vat. Copt. 1 (9th-10th century). This was the first time that the earliest witness had been considered at all.

In 1939, the Egyptian society ʾĀbnāʾ al-Kanīsah “The Sons of the Church” published Genesis and Exodus with a new Arabic translation. The publication appeared without notes to indicate the source of the text; although it may be Cairo Orth. Pat. Lib Bible 3 (1805). 32 It seems that no more books of the Pentateuch were published.

  • ʾĀbnāʾ al-Kanīsah, The Holy Book. The Old Testament: in Coptic (Cairo, 1939). [See reprint by Šākir Bāsīlyūs Miḫāʾīl (1991)]

More recently, Melvin K. H. Peters began a critical edition of the Pentateuch which was never completed. Only the books of Deuteronomy in 1983, Genesis in 1985, and Exodus in 1986 appeared. The editor used the majority of manuscripts available in Western collections containing the Pentateuch or parts of it. 33 Although his edition used a larger number of manuscripts than any previous, it has nevertheless received some severe criticism. 34

  • Peters, M.K., A Critical Edition of the Coptic (Bohairic) Pentateuch, Vol. 1: Genesis (SBLSCS 19; Chico: Scholars Press, 1985).
  • Peters, M.K., A Critical Edition of the Coptic (Bohairic) Pentateuch, Vol. 2: Exodus (SBLSCS 22; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986).
  • Peters, M.K., A Critical Edition of the Coptic (Bohairic) Pentateuch, Vol. 5: Deuteronomy (SBLSCS 15; Chico: Scholars Press, 1983).

Finally, Šākir Bāsīlyūs Miḫāʾīl printed an edition of the Pentateuch in Cairo in 1991 in two volumes. Published without proper attribution, Genesis and Exodus are reprints of that published by ʾĀbnāʾ al-Kanīsah (1939) without the Arabic translation whereas Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are simply facsimiles of Lagarde’s edition (1867). 35

  • Miḫāʾīl, Š.B., ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲉⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ: ϯⲇⲓⲁⲑⲏⲕⲏ ⲛ̀ⲁⲡⲁⲥ. الكتاب المقدس: العهد القديم باللغة القبطية (Cairo: The Egyptian Brothers Press, 1991) — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.


The featured image is a woven roundel illustrating scenes from the Story of Joseph, currently at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. It dates to about the 7th century AD and incorporates elements from almost the entirety of Genesis 37.



  1. There are two special studies on the Bohairic grammar of the Pentateuch. Ernest Andersson (1904) wrote a study of the Bohairic translation based on Lagarde’s edition. Ariel Shisha-Halevy (2007) wrote an extensive study of Bohairic syntax using the text of Paris BNF Copte 1 as his corpus. ↩︎
  2. For Vat. Copt. 1 see Boud’hors (2012) and for Paris BNF 1 see Boud’hors in Shisha-Halevy (2007, 675-83). ↩︎
  3. The “Old Testament” or “Old Covenant” is referred to as ϯⲇⲓⲁ̀ⲑⲏⲕⲏ ⲛ̀ⲁⲡⲁⲥ in 2 Corinthians 3:14 and likewise in the Canons of the Apostles (Lagarde, 1883, 235). In the Sullam of Šams al-Riʾāsah Abū al-Barakāt (or the Scala Magna) it is referred to as ϯⲡⲁⲗⲉⲁ̀ with the Arabic gloss العتيقة from παλαιά (διαθήκη) “Old (Testament)” (Macomber, 2020, 100). ↩︎
  4. The question of the names given to the Pentateuch and its books needs further research. According to Peter Nagel (2020), the name of the Pentateuch among the Copts is unknown though I hope the following remarks will to a limited extent help answer this. ↩︎
  5. The use of ⲡⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ “The Law” with this meaning occurs in an 8th century ostracon found in Thebes: ⲁⲣⲓⲡⲛⲁ ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲡⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ ϩⲁϩⲧⲏⲕ ⲁⲩⲱ ⲉϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲡϩⲱⲃ ⲁⲣⲉⲥⲕⲉ ⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲕⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲓⲱⲧ ⲧⲛ̄ⲛⲟⲟⲩϥ ⲛⲁⲓ̈ ⲛ̄ⲧⲟⲟⲧϥ̄ ⲙ̄ⲡⲁϩⲁⲧⲣⲉ [ⲛ̄ⲧⲁ]ⲟϣϥ̄ ⲛ̄ⲧⲁⲛ̄ⲧϥ̄ ⲛⲁⲕ ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ̈ ϩⲙ̄ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲙⲱⲩ̈ⲥⲏⲥ “Do (me) the kindness, if (the Book of) The Law is with you, and the matter pleases Your Paternity, send it to me via Pahatre so that I may read it and return it to you. Salvation in the Lord, Moses.” (Boud’hors & Heurtel, 2010, 84 [O. Frange 74]). This hints that the term may have been in common use. In addition, see further below for the 19th-20th century scribal correction in Cairo Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 3. ↩︎
  6. This is the case in all the manuscripts I could review, namely, Paris BNF Copte 1, Paris BNF Copte 1, Vat. Copt. 1, Vat. Copt. 2, and Cairo Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 3. Although Vat. Copt. 1 is dated 9th-10th century, the first leaf (containing the title) and leaf 4 were lost at some point and replaced around the 13th-14th century (Boud’hors, 2012, 65). Therefore, it is not certain that this reading predates the 14th century. ↩︎
  7. The same correction occurs in the title of the Book of Exodus (Cairo Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 3 f. 95r). ↩︎
  8. This Coptic with Arabic title occurs in a liturgical manuscript dated 1307-8 and edited by Horner (1902, 81). Similarly in a “very young manuscript” in Göttingen University Library (or. 125, 15) described by Lagarde (1879, 38f). ↩︎
  9. For many other such examples, see Burmester (1933 & 1943) for an edition of the Holy Week from the oldest extant manuscript, London BL Add. 5997 dated 1273. See also the Bohairic Holy Week Lectionary project, which compiles many liturgical manuscripts. Instances where pericopae from books other than Genesis are introduced as being ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ϧⲉⲛϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ may be simple scribal misattributions or under the influence of the discussed misinterpretation. For example, in Burmester (1943, 211, 235) the pericopae introducing Numbers 20 and Exodus 17 respectively in the Holy Week lectionary are so introduced. ↩︎
  10. See Peters (1979, 17-24) on the interrelationships of the extant manuscripts. Further investigation is needed to confirm this theory. ↩︎
  11. This reflects common designations, such as πεντάτευχος “Five Books/Scrolls.” ↩︎
  12. This is probably the origin of the title of Wilkins’ 1731 edition of the Pentateuch. I suspect the Bohairic may properly be ⲡⲓⲉ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲙ̀ⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ with the ‘strong’ rather than ‘weak’ definite article since the former more ordinarily determines quantifiers. The Bohairic translation is late (early 19th century) and made from Sahidic in which the form of the definite article superficially coincides with the Bohairic ‘weak’ definite article. No other Biblical manuscript, as far as I have been able to determine, has a similar reference to the “5 Books” in its title. ↩︎
  13. The colophon in full: Ⲁⲥϫⲱⲕ ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ⲛ̀ϫⲉϯⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ ϧⲉⲛⲟⲩϩⲓⲣⲏⲛⲏ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲫ᷍ϯ ⲁ̀ⲙⲏⲛ ⲉ̀ϫⲉⲛⲧϫⲓϫ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓϩⲏⲕⲓ ⲉⲑⲃⲉⲡⲁϣⲁⲓ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲛⲉϥⲛⲟⲃⲓ ⲡⲓϣⲉⲛⲛⲉ (read: ⲡⲓϭⲉⲛⲛⲉ) ⲉⲧⲙⲉϩ ⲛ̀ⲁϭⲛⲓ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ ⲫⲏ ⲉⲧⲉ̀ϥⲉⲙⲡϣⲁ ⲁⲛ ⲉⲑⲣⲟⲩⲙⲟⲩϯ ⲉ̀ⲣⲟϥ ϫⲉⲣⲱⲙⲓ ⲙⲁⲗⲓⲥⲧⲁ ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲭⲟⲥ ϧⲉⲛⲫⲣⲁⲛ ⲙⲓⲭⲁⲏⲗ ⲡϣⲏⲣⲓ ⲛ̀ⲁⲃⲣⲁⲁⲙ ⲡⲓⲣⲉⲙⲡⲉϫⲏ ϯⲙⲁⲓⲛⲟⲩϯ ⲙ̀ⲃⲁⲕⲓ “The Holy Torah has been completed in peace of God, amen; by the hand of the miserable one on account of the multitude of his sins, the idler full of every stain, he who is unworthy to be called ‘man’ much less ‘monk’ with the name Michael son of Abraham the man of Pemje the pious city.” ↩︎
  14. I have noted the same in Paris BNF Copte 1, Paris BNF Copte 100, and Cairo Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 4. Peters (1979, 8-10) notes the same expression in London BL Or. 8797 and Oxford Bod. Hunt. 33. It is absent from Vat. Copt. 1 and Vat. Copt. 2. Also of note in Cairo Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 4 (1805) is an error-strewn Coptic colophon written by the scribe of the manuscript. In it, he describes the Books just written as ⲡⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ ⲉ̀ⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡ̀ⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ with the corresponding Arabic meaning “The Holy Torah of Moses the Prophet.” A later hand has corrected ⲑⲉⲱ̀ⲣⲓⲁ̀ to ⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ but did not correct it in the titles of Leviticus and Numbers. ↩︎
  15. For definitions, see the Coptic Dictionary Online (C9171) and Lampe (1961, 648-9; especially sense D). For the use of the term among early Church Fathers see Kerrigan (1952, 116-22). Anne Boud’hors in Shisha-Halevy (2007, 681) suggests that the word could be a misunderstanding of the Hebrew word Torah through Arabic. ↩︎
  16. See Bolman (2002, 236; image 4.27 on p. 63). ↩︎
  17. The names occur with or without (‘strong’ or ‘weak’) definite articles. ↩︎
  18. This sometimes takes the form ⲅⲉⲛⲏⲥⲓⲥ. As has already been mentioned, the book is also referred to (or explained as) ⲡⲓⲥⲱⲛⲧ (or ϯⲙⲉⲧⲣⲉϥⲥⲱⲛⲧ in Vat. Copt. 2) “The Creation” in manuscripts. ↩︎
  19. The earlier Biblical manuscripts have simply ⲉ̀ⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ, typically without an article. However, this is not the usual form in Coptic sources. Already in the Coptic translation of the Canons of the Apostles, the form is given as ⲡⲇⲉⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ in Sahidic and ⲡⲓⲇⲟⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ in Bohairic (Lagarde, 1883, 235). The date of the Bohairic manuscript that Lagarde edited, which was translated from Sahidic, is 1803-4; however, the Sahidic manuscript is much older, being dated 1005-6 (Crum, 1905, 52-53; Lagarde, 1883, iv). Later Bohairic Biblical manuscripts and pericope headings in liturgical manuscripts have the form ⲇⲟⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ without an article (with minor spelling variants: ⲇⲉⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ, ⲇⲟⲝⲟⲧⲟⲥ, ⲧⲟⲝⲟⲧⲟⲥ, ⲧⲉⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ; the last two might be interpreted as having a definite article, i.e. ⲧ-ⲟⲝⲟⲧⲟⲥ/ⲧ-ⲉⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ). The same is found in Sahidic liturgical manuscripts. It is also sometimes unambiguously accompanied by a feminine definite article, e.g. Sahidic ⲧⲇⲟⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ in Vat. Borg. Copt. 109 cass. XXIII fasc. 99 f. 12v and Bohairic ⲧ̀ⲇⲉⲝⲟⲧⲟⲥ in Vat. Copt. 98 f. 169r. However, as we have seen in the Canons of the Apostles, and especially in Bohairic manuscripts it takes the masculine definite article, e.g. ⲡⲓⲇⲟⲝⲟⲇⲟⲥ in Paris BNF Copte 100 and the liturgical manuscript dated 1307-8 edited by Horner (1902, 97). It may be that the form incorporates a Greek article or perhaps is influenced by ⲇⲟⲝⲁ (i.e. δόξα “glory”) or ⲇⲟⲝⲟⲗⲟⲅⲓⲁ̀ “doxology” from δοξολογία, but this is uncertain and needs further research. ↩︎
  20. Note in Vat. Copt. 3, the Book of Leviticus is called ⲡϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ⲛⲓⲗⲉⲩⲓ̀ⲧⲓⲕⲟⲛ. This is unique as far as I am aware and likely under the influence of the Arabic designation سفر اللاويين “Book of the Levites.” ↩︎
  21. For example, ⲛⲓⲁ̀ⲣⲓⲑⲙⲟⲥ in a liturgical manuscript dated 1307-8 edited by Horner (1902, 137). ↩︎
  22. Later manuscripts usually have the spelling ⲡⲓⲇⲉⲩⲇⲉⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲟⲛ. Other variant spellings include ⲇⲉⲩⲇⲉⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲟ, ⲇⲉⲩⲇⲉⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲛ,ⲧⲉϯⲣⲟⲛⲟⲙⲓⲙⲟⲛ. ↩︎
  23. Lagarde (1867, iii) makes the accusation that Wilkins claimed to use multiple manuscripts but only used Oxford Bodl. Hunt. 33, which Hyvernat (1897, 48) and Vaschalde (1930, 413) follow. However, Brooke (1902, 260-1) and later Peters (1979, 25-77) find evidence that he used all the manuscripts he declared. ↩︎
  24. Brooke (1902, 262): “It is also very probable that Wilkins did not hesitate in places to re-translate from the Greek into Coptic, when his Coptic MSS were defective or, in his opinion, unsatisfactory.” Peters (1979, 365) identifies the additional source as the Sixtine edition of the Septuagint. ↩︎
  25. Already Lagarde (1867, vii n.) had noticed the error in Wilkins’ title, which he likely took, while introducing another error of his own, from the title of Vat. Copt. 2; which reads: ⲧⲉⲛⲉⲣϩⲏⲧⲥ ϧⲉⲛϯⲃⲟⲏ̀ⲑⲓⲁ̀ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲫ᷍ϯ ⲧⲉⲛⲥϧⲁⲓ ⲛ̀ⲉ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ϯⲅⲉⲛⲉⲥⲓⲥ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ ⲡⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲟⲩⲓ̀ⲧ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉϯⲙⲉⲧⲣⲉϥⲥⲱⲛⲧ ⲡⲉ. Thus, Wilkins’ ⲛ̀ⲉ̅ ⲛⲓϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ should be corrected to ⲡⲓⲉ̅ ⲛ̀ϫⲱⲙ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲙⲱⲩ̀ⲥⲏⲥ ⲡⲓⲡⲣⲟⲫⲏⲧⲏⲥ “The 5 Books of Moses the Prophet”. ↩︎
  26. Hyvernat (1897, 48) and Vaschalde (1930, 414). ↩︎
  27. As identified by Brooke (1902, 261). ↩︎
  28. See Crum (1905, 315 [No. 712]). The date of the manuscript is 1109 AM (1393 AD), which Lagarde read as 1019 AM (1303 AD), followed by Hyvernat (1897, 48). Crum gives an account of the lacunae and notes that after Lagarde had published his edition, sections containing Genesis 1:1-4 and 7-10 were found among London BL Or. 1242 fragments. ↩︎
  29. See Peters (1979, 365). ↩︎
  30. See Crum (1905, 315-6 [No. 713]; 339 [No. 787]). The text of Deuteronomy 16:3-10 is given in the catalogue. ↩︎
  31. For lists of liturgical pericopae from the Pentateuch see Vaschalde (1930, 414-6) and also Burmester (1943, 423ff). ↩︎
  32. This publication is noticed by Till (1959, 235) who adds that the publication is intended for religious use and does not represent a particular manuscript. See also Takla (2007, 35). The fact that Genesis and Exodus were printed together suggests that if there is a single manuscript source then it is likely to have contained those two books. In Cairo, Orth. Pat. Lib. Bible 3 is an obvious candidate, having been written in 1805, and containing Genesis and Exodus. The text of the ʾĀbnāʾ al-Kanīsah 1939 edition (as assessed via the Šākir Bāsīlyūs Miḫāʾīl reprint) seems provisionally to contain the same text as the manuscript, though detailed comparison is needed. In addition, the manuscript contains many later corrections and also chapter and verse numbers added in pencil according to the Hebrew text, which is indeed how the ʾĀbnāʾ al-Kanīsah edition is numbered. ↩︎
  33. Of the manuscripts he used, six contain the entire Pentateuch, and so were used for each of his three publications (London BL Or. 422, Oxford Bod. Hunt. 33, Paris BNF Copte 1, Paris BNF Copte 56, Paris BNF Copte 100, Vat. Copt. 1). For his editions of Genesis and Exodus, he also used Paris BNF Copte 57 and Vat. Copt. 2 (though for the latter he prints Vat. Copt. 4 as his source, surely in error). For his edition of Deuteronomy, he used in addition Vat. Copt. 2 and London BL Or. 8789 (though he prints BL. Or. 8987, which again must be an error). See also his earlier publication on the Book of Deuteronomy (1979), in which he discussed the manuscript in greater detail. ↩︎
  34. For reviews, see H. Quecke (1986) in Orientalia 55(3): 349-354; H.-M. Schenke (1988) in Theologische Literaturzeitung 113: 421-424; and W.-P. Funk (1988-9) in The Jewish Quarterly Review 79(2/3): 243-247. ↩︎
  35. See Takla (2007, 45). ↩︎
Cite this page:
Boles, A. “The Coptic Bible: (ⲁ̅) Pentateuch” The Coptist, 6 March 2024; Available at: (Accessed: 12 July 2024).

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