Letters, Pedagogical Teachings, and Sayings of Saint Anthony of Egypt


This manuscript opens with the 20 letters “to the sons who follow his [Anthony’s] gentle path…and prayers to keep us from Satan’s example.” The letters are for the most part short, many not exceeding five folios. According to an introductory note, they are addressed to both men and women. The work is in a bold but relaxed hand. Each letter or other significant section is set off in red. There are no contemporary marginal glosses, but comments and corrections (some in English) in pencil were made by Fahim Moftah, whose name appears on the flyleaf. The letters are followed by ta’lim ruhani (spiritual instructions) “and wasayah [holy admonitions] from the sayings of Saint Anthony the Great.” The manuscript ends with stories and devotional advice in question-and-answer form, demonstrating simple faith and pragmatic wisdom. Saint Anthony (circa 250–355 or 356) is recognized as a founder of Christian monasticism and is venerated as such to this day. Thanks to a biography written by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (died 373), details of Anthony’s life and teachings are more complete than for most early Church leaders, although modern scholarship has questioned details of the biography. Regardless of issues of accuracy, it was thanks to Athanasius’s Life that Anthony’s influence on monastic asceticism spread throughout the Christian world. Works ascribed to Anthony are still in print and are widely sold. This manuscript is part of the Iryan Moftah Collection of Coptic Books and Manuscripts at the American University in Cairo.

Last updated: July 21, 2014