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.

Pentateuch

This manuscript is an Arabic translation of the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch), which is called on the first leaf, “The Holy Torah.” The book contains little information about its production other than a note at the end indicating that it is of Coptic origin. Framed cruciform patterns appear at the top of the first leaf and are the only illustrations in the work. There are chapter and verse headings in red as well as guidewords and occasional directions for recitation during fasts and feasts. At the 25th leaf of Genesis, the script and paper quality deteriorates, the former showing ink smudging and perhaps a different hand, while the latter suffers from staining and imprecise trimming. The front and back covers are contemporary with the manuscript and consist of layers of heavy paper covered in thin red leather. The covers are blind stamped with a rosette pattern commonly used when the book was made, around 1800. By the time of copying, the Coptic language and its dialects used in earlier times had been supplanted, except for liturgical use, by Arabic among Egypt’s native Christians. We do not know from the work itself whether the translation was made from the Greek, from a Coptic-language version, or if it is simply a copy of another Arabic translation. This work is part of the Iryan Moftah Collection of Coptic Books and Manuscripts at the American University in Cairo.

Letters, Essays, and Sermons by Saint Gregory Nazianzus

This 18th-century manuscript is a collection of letters, essays, and sermons by Saint Gregory Nazianzus (died circa 389). The manuscript is thought to be the first Arabic translation from the original Greek and has not yet been edited or published. It is the second volume of a two-volume work. Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as Gregory the Theologian, is recognized as a Father of the Church in both the Eastern and Western traditions. He was born in Cappadocia (eastern Anatolia), where he spent much of his life. He was a classmate of emperors and of Saint Basil the Great. Like Basil, he had a Christian family upbringing, a classical education, and was known for his steadfast defense of orthodox positions on the doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The maiamer (essays) in this volume cover theological topics, including the heresies of Apolinarius and Arius; marriage; and reflections on the Hasmonean family. Also included are a message to clergy on Easter, Gregory’s farewell address as bishop of Constantinople in 381, a panegyric to his friend and patron Saint Basil, and another to Saint Cyprian. At the end are comments on Gregory’s life and achievements. Gregory was much honored for his religious learning and literary talent. This work is part of the Iryan Moftah Collection of Coptic Books and Manuscripts at the American University in Cairo.