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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Coptic Manichaen Psalm Sold at Christies'

A VERY EARLY MANICHAEAN PSALM TEXTOde on the Judgement of God on a papyrus leaf in AKHMIMIC COPTIC

Lot Description

A VERY EARLY MANICHAEAN PSALM TEXT, Ode on the Judgement of God on a papyrus leaf in AKHMIMIC COPTIC
[Egypt, possibly Akhmim, 3rd or 4th century]
245 x 196mm. 35 lines written in the Akhmimic dialect of Coptic in black ink in 3mm-high Coptic half-uncials, similar to Schoyen Collection MS 2337 (worn, loss affecting ten lines of text, some soiling). Framed in glass.

Feinberg posits that this must be ONE OF THE EARLIEST COPTIC LITERARY TEXTS EXTANT, and certainly as far as Gnostic writings go it seems earlier than or at least contemporaneous with the Chester Beatty Manichaean papyri (see C.R.C. Allberry, Manichaean Manuscripts in the Chester Beatty Collection, vol II: 'A Manichaean Psalm Book Part II', Stuttgart, 1938). Manichaeism, a major Gnostic religion originating in Sassanid-era Babylonia, thrived between the third and seventh centuries, reaching Egypt by the middle of the third century. Its founding prophet Mani (c.216-276) preached an intricate dualistic cosmology that juxtaposed a good, spiritual world of light and an evil, material world of darkness. The text of the present manuscript, which is substantial, contains references to the serpent (line 10: 'even as a serpent ceases [its] strike, that [serpent] hears [and] speaks to them), to Patek (line 11), to Adam (lines 11-12: 'Adam as you [are] of God you [are] a son of God') and to Genesis 3.2 (line 30: 'Weep for me all ye trees which [are] in paradise'). After his conversion to Christianity, Augustine of Hippo, once a Manichaean himself, would become one of its most vociferous critics and denounce its followers as pseudo-Christians and 'children of the serpent' in his Contra Faustum Manichaeum.