Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie

The Coptic Old Testament

The translation of the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint / LXX) into the classical literary language of Christian Egypt, Sahidic Coptic, took place from the 3rd to the 5th century. Together with the Coptic New Testament, the Coptic OT was one of the most important translations of Late Antiquity and is thus a unique monument to the intellectual, religious and cultural history of the eastern Mediterranean. This translation molded and developed the literary language of Christian Egypt up to the the Middle Ages when Arabic became established as everyday language and church language. The Coptic version is the most extensively attested among the translations of the Old Testament into the languages ??of the Christian East (Syriac, Arabic, Georgian, Armenian), and it also directly influenced the emerging Ethiopian Church. The Bible is the basis of all Christian-Coptic literature and religious culture, especially of the most important contribution of Egypt to the history of Christianity, of monasticism. In addition, the translation into Sahidic Coptic is the most monumental testimony of the Egyptian language in its last stage of development. For this translation forms the main and largest source for our knowledge of Coptic Egyptian, a language which is still important today as a central part of the liturgy of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt as well as in the Diaspora. From the beginnings to the present, the readings from the Old Testament play an important part in the Liturgy of the Copts during the 40 days of Lent and the Pascha Week. Thus the Coptic translation of the Bible continues to be an important part of Egypt?s cultural heritage up to modern times.

A detailed account of the transmission of the Coptic Old Testament can be found in contributions by Frank Feder, e.g. in the introduction to his ground-breaking edition of the Corpus Ieremiae (Berlin: De Gruyter 2002).