Reconciling Mercy with Justice


This manuscript is a notebook containing the draft of a sermon or essay by Coptic thinker and teacher Iryan Moftah (1826–86) on the theme of the reconciliation of justice with mercy. The author’s notes are in a careful Ruqah script on unlined commercial notebook paper with holes punched for insertion into a binder. The main text is heavily annotated with Biblical citations and textual emendations in the margins. Some pages are missing, as are the last pages of the volume. The author is not named in the text but internal evidence and the inclusion of the notebook among Moftah’s papers make authorship virtually certain. Moftah tackles the perceived contradiction between divine justice and divine mercy, arguing that mankind’s inclination to sin as reflected in the disobedience of Adam and Eve recounted in Genesis is matched by divine mercy and forgiveness. Iryan Moftah belonged to a distinguished Coptic family. He was a leader of the 19th century movement to reform the administration of the Coptic Church and the liturgical language. Known best for his influence on reforming liturgical Coptic, he was also an intellectual and lay preacher. His manuscripts on religious, historical, and linguistic subjects are preserved in the Iryan Moftah Collection of the American University in Cairo.

Last updated: July 21, 2014