The Coptic Martyrdom of Isaac of Tiphre, written ca. 399 AD
From Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, vol. 7 (1884-5), pp. 95-97.
A Paper entitled " Notes on the Martyrdom of the Coptic Martyr Isaac of Tiphre," was read by E. A. Wallis Budge, B.A.:----
The MS. from which the Coptic text of this Martyrdom is taken is in the possession of Lord Zouch. It is written in a large and regular hand and belongs most probably to the tenth century. Some of the capitals which begin the paragraphs are illuminated, and on the tops of the pages are the short ejaculatory prayers, " God have mercy upon us, God save, God help us, God hear us," and the like. According to the colophon the MS. was written while one John was Archbishop of Alexandria, in the 115th year of the era of the Martyrs, and was presented by a monk called Father Stauros in the Monastery of Father John to the Holy Church of Elijah the Prophet. The donor entreats that everyone who reads in the MS. shall say, "May the Lord Jesus Christ show mercy unto him with all the things of this world, and when he departs from the body may He make him to lie down in the bosom |96 of Abraham the greatest of our fathers, with Isaac, and Jacob, and Elijah the prophet, in the kingdom of heaven." As a whole the text is very perfect, a few clerical errors, and the omission of a word or two here and there, comprising nearly all its faults.
The history of the Martyrdom of Isaac was written by a kinsman of his called Christopher, who, as he himself states, was an eye witness from the beginning to the end of his tortures and of his death, hence this contemporaneous account is peculiarly valuable. In the last century the Augustinian monk F. A. A. Giorgi published in his "De miraculis Sancti Coluthi" 1 some excerpts from the Vatican MS. No. 66, containing the " Martyrdom of Isaac," with a Latin translation, and in the year 1810 Zoega's 2 Catalogue of the Coptic MSS. in the Borgian Museum appeared, containing two interesting extracts from the same source. As far as I know, however, no complete copy of the text of the Martyrdom, nor a version of the whole of it, has ever appeared. Isaac the Martyr suffered and died during the reign of Diocletian, most probably in consequence of one of the edicts issued by this Emperor in the years 303-4 A.D. It will be remembered that the first edict was issued 22nd February, 303 A.D., and the persecution of the Christians began with the demolition of the church at Nicomedia. This edict proclaimed that the lives of the Christians were to be spared if possible; but by the three edicts which followed in this and the following year, no restrictions were laid upon the ruthless and savage hands of the persecutors.
The history of Isaac's martyrdom was most probably written by Christopher shortly after it took place, and there is no doubt that a knowledge of it was general among the Egyptian Christians during the latter half of the fourth century. Lord Zouch's MS. containing the account of the martydom was copied from a MS. dated in the 115th year of the era of the Coptic Martyrs. Now this era was reckoned from 29th August, 284 A.D., therefore the original MS. was written about the year 399 A.D. For an account of the causes of the persecution of the Christians by Diocletian, see Gibbon, " Decline and Fall." London, 1854. Vol. II, pp. 264-273; |97 Mosheim, "Ecclesiastical History," Vol I, p. 213 et seq. Eusebius, "'De Vita Constantini," II, 51.
Isaac was a native of the village of Tiphre, in the province of Garbiah, in the Busirite nome in the Delta. When he was twenty-five years of age, one night, while he was asleep in a field by his cell, the angel of the Lord woke him up, and told him to go and confess Christ to the Governor of Taubah or Bana. The holy man bade farewell to his parents, and set out to perform the command. When he arrived at Taubah, the Governor Culcianus was in his bath. When he came out and saw Isaac, the would-be martyr cried out that he was a Christian. After some conversation, the governor gave him into the charge of a soldier called Dionysius, telling him to keep guard over him while he went to Taniati. Shortly after, on a miracle being wrought by Isaac, the soldier was converted, and on his confessing it to his lord Culcianus, he was beheaded. Isaac was then taken to Peshati or Niciu, the metropolis of the Prosopites nome. There he was tortured by being immersed in a boiling cauldron; a miracle was wrought, however, and he was delivered from death. Culcianus now took counsel with Arianus, the Governor of Hormes, who, having seen and heard the holy man, took him away with him to Hormes, a town sixteen days' distance by ship from Taubah. In the prison of this place Isaac found two other Christians, called Philoxenus and Surine. A day or two after his arrival he was tormented with all the hideous tortures which the cultured mind of the civilised Roman had invented to terrify the unhappy Christians. During the tortures some miracles were wrought, by which Isaac was a second time delivered from death; and the people of the city made an uproar, and wished to stone their governor. Isaac was then taken by ship to Taubah, where he suffered death by the executioner's sword. |98
From Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, vol. 9 (1893), pp.74-90
By E. A. Wallis Budge, M.A.
Read 3rd March, 1885.
The vellum manuscript from which the text of this Martyrdom is taken is in the possession of Lord Zouche; it is written in a large, regular hand, and belongs to the XIIth century. Some of the capitals which begin the paragraphs are illuminated, and on the tops of the pages are the short ejaculatory prayers "God have mercy upon us"; "God help us"; "God save me"; "God hear me," and the like. In ancient days the manuscript was presented to the library of the Holy Church of Elijah the prophet by one Father Stauros, a monk in the monastery of Father John. The MS. is dated in the 115th year of the era of the martyrs. Since the era of the Martyrs is reckoned from the 29th of August, A.d. 284, its 915th year will be equivalent to A.D. 1199. The Martyrdom was written by Christopher, a kinsman of Isaac the Martyr, and towards the end of it he says that he was with the holy man throughout all his tortures and sufferings from the beginning to the end, and that he was also an eye witness of his death. I have not been able to find out the exact year in which the martyrdom was consummated, nor the year in which it was first written down. It will be remembered that Diocletian ascended the throne A.D. 284, and that the first eighteen years of his reign were marked by a spirit of mild religious toleration. Christianity spread to such an extent as to alarm the polytheists and pagans, and Galerius while passing the winter at Nicomedia with |75 Diocletian, represented to him that he could not consider his work of the deliverance of the empire perfect if he allowed an independent people like the Christians to subsist and multiply in the heart of the provinces.3 Whatever may have been Diocletian's secret reasons for persecuting the Christians, it is certain that a merciless and cruel attack upon them began with the destruction of the church of Nicomedia, February the 23rd, A.D. 303. The following day the general edict of persecution followed; but it attacked the churches and the property of the Christians rather than their lives, for Diocletian was averse to the effusion of blood. Shortly after, the edict was torn down from its conspicuous position by the hands of a Christian, and Diocletian was filled with fury, hatred, and jealousy. Edict after edict appeared, each more severe than the last, and eventually every one in the Imperial service had power to persecute the unhappy Christians as much as they pleased.4 It is very probable that Isaac suffered death in the year A.D. 804, the year in which Diocletian issued the edict5 that commanded the magistrates to employ every severity to make the Christians give up their superstition and to return to " the religion of nature, of Rome, and of their ancestors." His self-sought martyrdom was consummated at Taubah6 on the 6th day of Pashons, the first month of the season of the inundation, and corresponding to the last few days of our April and a large portion of May. Christopher's account of it would be written down very soon after this, and would be current among the Egyptian Christians during the IVth century. |76
The Augustinian monk F. A. A. Georgi in the last century published in his "De Miraculis Sancti Coluthi" 7 some extracts from the Vatican MS. No. 66,8 which contained the history of the Martyr Isaac, and added a Latin version; and in 1810 Zoega's Catalogue of Coptic MSS. in the Borgian Museum 9 appeared, containing two important extracts from the same source. So far as I know, however, neither a complete copy of the text has hitherto been given, nor a translation of the whole of it. The text contained in Lord Zouche's MS. is on the whole very perfect, a few clerical errors and the omission of a word here 10 and there comprising nearly all its faults. I offer my thanks to him for his kindness in allowing me to copy this martyrdom.
The martyrdom of the holy martyr of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father Isaac of Tiphre,11 in the nome of Panau,12 which was consummated on the sixth day of the month Pashons 13 in the peace of God, Amen.
The emperor Diocletian in his days did things which it was unlawful for him to do, for he made idols and worshipped them, and forsook the God of |77 heaven.14 Besides this he wrote an edict 15 saying, "I, the Emperor Diocletian, command that the whole world shall offer sacrifice to the gods; whosoever shall not obey this decree, him shall they torture with horrible pains, and afterwards they shall spoil his house, and carry away all that he hath." And he gave the order to Culcianus the general, who carried it to Alexandria, where he made the multitude to offer sacrifice; and journeying on again he came towards the south to Egypt, and entering into Taubah 16 he landed at the harbour.
Now there was in the village of Tiphre, in the nome of Panau, a prudent young man whose name was Isaac; he was twenty-five years of age, and was very beautiful, and he served God by day and by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared unto him while he was asleep in the field behind his hut (or 'the reapers'?) and woke him up, saying, Hail, Father Isaac, the God-bearing (or God-borne) man, why sleepest thou when the contest is spreading? |78 And he showed him a crown, and said, Be strong, this crown is thine, neglect not thy salvation. Arise, get thee to the governor of Taubah, and confess Christ, that thou mayest die for His holy name, and come into His everlasting kingdom; and when the angel had said these things, he departed from him.
When the daylight had spread over the earth, Isaac arose and came into his house, and greeting his father and mother, said, I salute you, my parents; and they said, Whither goest thou? He says to them, I am going to the governor to die for the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, Whom they crucified under Pontius Pilate; it is good for me to die to this world, that I may live in the kingdom of God; but they laid hold on him, saying, We will not send thee away, O beloved child, to die a horrible death.
At midnight the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and the whole house became exceedingly bright. And the angel said to him, Hail, Father Isaac, God be with thee; and the blessed man replied, Thy grace be with me. And he led him out from his village and his house, saying, Endure, that thou mayest receive the incorruptible crown, for I say unto thee, thy crown and thy throne are in heaven. Fear not, I will be with thee, until thou endest thy martyrdom, for thou shalt suffer many pains for the name of the Christ; but be of good cheer, I will come to succour thee. And having said these things, the angel went upwards into heaven. Then the blessed Father Isaac arose in the strength of Christ, and departed on foot to Taubah, where he found the governor in the bath, and he stood before the door. And, behold, there came out to him a soldier, whose name was Dionysius, and he said to him, What dost thou need? Says the noble one, I want the governor. |79 The soldier replied, What is thy business with the governor? And the holy man answered, I am a Christian. Dionysius says to him, What hast thou to do with this matter? dost thou wish to die a horrible death? The blessed man answered, The death of this world is not death to me, but life in the world to come. Now while he was speaking with Dionysius, the governor came out from the bath; and when the noble Father Isaac saw him, he cried out, saying, I am a Christian. Then Culcianus the governor looked at him, and said, Knowest thou what a Christian is? The holy man answered, I know that I am a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the governor spake to him, saying, If thou listenest to me, thou shalt live; but if thou dost not listen to me, thou shalt die a horrible death. The holy Father Isaac answered, saying, It is written in the Holy Gospel, "fear not them that are able to kill your body, but are not able to kill your soul; but fear rather Him that is able to destroy the soul and the body in the Gehenna of fire." Says the governor to him, Where are these things written? And the holy man made answer to him, "They are written in the Gospels." And again the governor spake to him, Art thou the reader? Says the holy man, No. Then the governor asked him, Whence comest thou? The holy man replied, I am a man of Tiphre, in the nome of Panau. And the governor said to Dionysius, See if thou canst persuade him while I go to Taniati and return; and having gone up into a ship, he came to Taniati. |80
Then Dionysius took the holy man into his house, and said to him, Listen to me, offer sacrifice to the gods; I have one only child, a daughter, and her will I give to thee to wife. I will also cause the governor to give thee a post in the army, and thou wilt receive honour. What hast thou to do with this name of Jesus? Says the holy man to him, By the prayers of the Saints, if thou wert to give me the empire of Diocletian, I would not deny my Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. So when Dionysius knew that he would not listen to him, he left off speaking to him, and put him under restraint; and he gave him bread and water for his daily food.
And it came to pass that the holy man came out one day, and behold there was a blind man sitting begging. Dionysius says to him, Go and entreat the man of God, to lay his hand upon thine eyes and thou shalt see; and he straightway cried out, saying, O man of God, help me that I may see. Then the blessed one said to him, Our Lord Jesus did not say to any man, See? but according to thy faith, so shall it be to thee. And laying his hands upon his eyes, he said, In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, See. And he saw immediately, and cried out, saying, One is the God of the Christians, the God of Father Isaac. And behold a woman cried out, Lord have mercy, and help me, for I and my son are poor. The blessed man says to her, Which gods do ye serve? and she answered, I serve Zeus and Hermes; and the holy man said, Thou art poor, and thy gods also are poor. If thou listenest to me, the blessing of God shall be with thee: go, serve Christ, and His blessing also shall be with thee.
Now the blessed Isaac stayed in the house of Dionysius the soldier until the governor returned to the south. And when he had come, he asked Dionysius, |81 Has the Christian persuaded himself to offer sacrifice?
He answered, Mayest thou be burnt, and thy polluted idols with thee; for from now and henceforth I will serve the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and the Holy Spirit. Upon this the governor said, With thee I have nothing to do, but I will send thee to thy tribune. Then Dionysius said to him, As the God of Father Isaac liveth, thou shalt neither eat nor drink until thou hast pronounced my sentence, so that I may receive the crown of Christ in His kingdom.
Now when the governor had risen to go to his house, his chariot was delayed, and he was unable to go to his dinner. And he said to Dionysius, Now, show your sorcery to-day! He replied, I am no sorcerer, but a servant of Jesus Christ. Then the governor wrote his sentence, which ran after this manner: "I command that the head of Dionysius, a soldier disobedient to the commands of the emperors, be severed [from his body] by the edge of the sword." And when they had carried him to the west of the city to the place of the theatre, they took off his head: and he consummated his martyrdom on the 5th day of Pashons, in the peace of God, Amen.
Then says the governor to Father Isaac, Behold, through thee the soldier is dead; and I will take thee to Peshati 17 that I may try thee in the same manner; so he took him with him on board the ship, and brought him to Peshati. And on the morrow, when the governor sat upon the throne, he commanded them to bring the |82 blessed Father Isaac before him. "When they had brought him, he said to him, Hearken unto me, and offer sacrifice to the gods, that thou mayest escape a multitude of sufferings, for I am exceedingly grieved for thee. Says the holy man to him, If thou didst sorrow for me yesterday, do not pity me to-day; but the governor commanded them to hang him upon the wooden horse and to torture him. Then the holy man made the sign of the cross, saying, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, help me, O good Saviour; and straightway the wooden horse broke in two in the middle. When the company of soldiers saw the marvel which had taken place, they cried out, The God of the Christians is the only ONE, the God of Father Isaac. Then the governor commanded to lay him upon the iron bed,18 and to heat it until he was entirely consumed, and to pour sulphur and pitch in his throat. And at the same time the governor said to Isaac, Hearken unto me, and die not by such a horrible death. Says the blessed man to him, Through the strength of Christ I can endure every torture thou wishest to inflict upon me. Says the governor, Carry him away to prison until I consider what I shall do with him: so they took him and carried him away to prison. And on the morrow, while he sat upon the judgment seat, behold Arianus the general landed at the city, and they greeted one another. Then Culcianus said to Arianus, There is a Christian here whom I am unable to compel to offer sacrifice to the imperial gods. Says Arianus to him, Show him to me. When they had brought the holy man, Arianus said to him, Art thou |83 the sorcerer from Tiphre, who despisest the imperial gods? The blessed man says to him, I am not a sorcerer; nay, but I belong to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Says Arianus to Culcianus, Send him to me, and I will teach him. Then Culcianus says to the holy Father Isaac, Since thou hast not listened to me, behold, I banish you; and he sent him away with Arianus, who sailed to the south.
And they threw the blessed man into the hold of the ship; and behold the Saviour appeared to him there. When the blessed man saw Him he threw himself down before Him, and did reverence, saying, Be mindful of me, O Lord, and sustain me until I finish my course. Then the Lord said to him, Fear not, I will never forsake thee, nor any like unto thee, until ye inherit the kingdom; and having said these things, He gave him the salutation of peace, and went up into heaven. And the blessed Father Isaac prayed to God, saying, O God, Who didst form me from my mother's womb, help me in every place whithersoever I shall go; and be not far from me, lest the heathen say, Where is their God?
Now while he was saying these things, the sailors of the ship listened to him, and said to one another, This is a man of God. And when one of the sailors opened the door of the hold of the ship and said to him, Hail! the blessed man replied, my Lord, hail, good brother; do me a charity and give me a little water. So he brought a vessel to the holy man, and he drank, and said to the sailor, May God show mercy unto thee in: the day of the great judgment. And the sailor took the vessel, and there was a little water left in it, and, |84 in sport, he poured it upon one of the sailors who had a diseased eye, and immediately the eye was opened and became as if it had never been diseased. Then the sailor to whom this had happened glorified God, Who alone doeth great and wonderful things. At another time they brought him bread to eat; but the blessed man said to them, May my God bless you, but I will not eat until I have finished my course, when I shall eat bread in the kingdom of heaven with my Lord Jesus Christ.
And at the end of the sixteenth day he landed at the port, and they brought the blessed man into the city, which was exceedingly hospitable: and finding Philoxenus and Father Surine in prison, he greeted them.19 They said to him, Be of good cheer, beloved brother, we have received grace through greeting thee; and the blessed Father Surine said, May the Lord God give us power that we may stand firm in His Holy Name until we finish our contest. And the blessed Father Isaac said, Remember, O Fathers, that I am but a child, and I know nothing; Philoxenus replied, Be of good cheer, brother, the governor will hear thee before us, and thou wilt receive the crown of thy martyrdom; and do thou be mindful of us [when thou art] in the house of God.
And at midnight the holy man prayed: and Father Isaac opened his mouth and blessed God, saying, "I bless Thee, O God, in life, and I will praise Thee while I have my being; may my prayers come up before Thee as sweet incense: keep me under the shadow of Thy wings, and deliver me by Thy Holy Name, for Thine is the glory for ever." On the morrow Arianus the governor sat upon the judgment seat, and he commanded, saying, Bring |85 hither to me the sorcerer from Tiphre. So the executioners went to the prison [to bring him]. Then the blessed Father Isaac says to the saints, Entreat God that He may give strength to me. They answered and said, My God Whom we serve day and night will give strength to thee until thou has finished thy course.
And when he had been brought before the governor, he said to him through an interpreter, Hast thou not yet persuaded thyself to offer sacrifice to the glorious gods, concerning whom the emperors have made proclamations, that thou mayest escape from torture? The holy Father Isaac says, I have already told thee not once nor twice that I will not offer sacrifice to thy gods; and I have already told thee that the whole world shall go to destruction, but the glory of my God shall endure for ever. When the governor heard these things he became exceedingly wroth, and he caused his mouth to be beaten with a rod of iron until his teeth were knocked out. Then the holy man suffered agonies through tortures such as these: they made gashes in various parts of the body of the holy man with iron knives; they poured vinegar and acid upon his wounds; they dug out the nails of his hands and feet, one by one; they laid hot ashes upon the places thereof; they brought iron borers red hot from the fire, and they thrust them through his ears until the fire entered his brain; but the holy man endured all these things with fortitude.20 Then the whole multitude and the governor himself marvelled. Arianus the governor turned to Father Isaac, the brave man, and said to him, Verily thou hast shown thy sorcery this day. Says the holy man, Dost thou not see, O fool, that my Lord Jesus has come time after time to deliver me from thy wiles and tortures? Arianus said to him, Verily, nothing could deliver thee from all these |86 things except the sorcery which thou doest in the name of Jesus in whom thou believest. But by the life of the gods, by Apollo and Artemis, the mother of the gods, I will hack thee limb from limb until I find (know) that thy sorcery can deliver thee out of my hands. The governor says to him, What is thy name? The holy man answered, The name which my parents gave to me in the flesh according to the [custom of] the world is Isaac, but the name by which I live as a free man is Christian. Then the governor said to him, Isaac, thy words of madness will avail thee nothing: hearken unto me, and offer sacrifice to the gods. Says the holy man, I am wise and not mad; but were I to hearken unto thee I should indeed become mad.
So the governor commanded to carry him to the wooden horse and to torture him until all his bowels flowed away. Says the governor to him, Offer sacrifice that I may set thee free. The blessed man answered, It is in thy power to inflict all [manner of] tortures upon my body, but over the soul and the spirit thou hast no power. Then the governor commanded, saying, Bring hither oil and wax and sulphur, and throw them into a cauldron and make fire under them until they boil; first of all pour some down his throat, and then over all his body; and they did so. When the holy man saw the cauldron, he said, O Lord Jesus Christ, help me, and as Thou didst send Thy angel and didst deliver the three holy ones out of the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar the king, oven so deliver me, O Lord Jesus Christ, that the governor may not say, Where is his God? And when he had said these things, he made the sign of the Cross three times, saying, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then he went into the cauldron, and prayed, saying, Come to me, O Lord Jesus Christ, and be not far from |87 me. And behold, the archangel Michael came immediately from heaven and cooled the cauldron, making it like cold water.
Now when the [people of the] city had seen what had taken place, they wished to stone the governor, and cried out, saying, Either release him, or pronounce sentence upon him. Then the governor commanded to carry him on board ship, and to carry him to Taubah; and in passing sentence upon him he wrote thus, Since it is the wish of this man Isaac of Tiphre, in the nome of Panau, to die for the name of Jesus, I command that his head be taken off by the edge of the sword; and thus [saying] he closed up the paper and rose up from the judgment seat.
When the servants of iniquity had come, they dragged away the holy man with a gag in his mouth. Now when they had brought him to Taubah, the whole city came out to him, and they marvelled at his comeliness and the glory that surrounded him. And when they had seized him in order to take off his head, the holy Father Isaac said to the soldiers who were holding him, Long life to you, my brethren, and have patience with me a little time that I may pray to my God before ye slay me. So the executioners withdrew from the blessed Father Isaac, and turning his face towards the East, he opened his mouth and prayed, saying:----
O ye Angels of light, stand by me this day; O ye Archangels of light, stand by me this day; O ye Seraphim of light, stand by me this day; O ye ministers of light, stand by me this day. Come to me this day, O Lord Jesus Christ, and give me strength; may I be worthy to hear Thy voice before I die, that my heart may be consoled by |88 asking from Thee the petition which is in it. While the holy Father Isaac was saying these things, behold the Lord Jesus Christ, riding upon a chariot of light, came from heaven, with thousands of angels praising Him. And stopping the chariot above the place where the holy man was, the Lord cried out with a loud voice, saying, Come up to Me, O beloved Isaac, and I will
give unto thee the wages of the recompense for the sufferings which thou hast endured for My Name. Every petition thou desirest to make I will grant to thee, for My Father is a joyful giver. Now when the holy Father Isaac heard the Saviour saying these things to him, his heart took courage, and he spoke to Him, saying, thus: Hear me, O Lord God, and make my heart glad [by granting] that which I shall ask from Thy hand, Thou knowest, O God, that my city is little, and lest an enemy rise up against it, send the archangel Michael to help them and to give
them strength to destroy them. If a sinful man shall come to my body, and shall pray to Thee, do Thou forgive his sin before the sun goes down on that day. Then the Lord spoke to him, O beloved one, as thou wishest so shall it be. And the holy Father Isaac said to Him, I entreat Thee also on behalf of him that shall lay my body in a sarcophagus, that in the hour of his necessity thou wilt clothe his body that it be not naked; I ask too that Thou wilt write the name of him that shall write down [the history of] my martyrdom,
and publish me abroad, in the book of Life; that Thou wilt make the heart of him that shall voluntarily call his son by my name, happy with joy; and that Thou wilt give part of the endless offering to him that shall make an offering at my tomb. When the holy Father Isaac had said these things, the Saviour answered in a gentle voice, saying, Verify, I say unto thee, |89 whatsoever thou hast asked in My name, that will I grant unto thee, and the things which thou hast not made mention of, will I also grant unto thee. And behold I will appoint Michael the chief archangel to the place where thy body shall be laid to serve thee in every demand of healing the people which they ask thee for. And after these things the blessed Father Isaac turned to the executioners, and said to them, Come, fulfil that which has been commanded you. So they came and put the gag in his mouth, and having placed his head upon a great stone, they stretched out his neck, and cut off his holy head by the sword. Then the place where they cut off his head rocked hither and thither three times; and there was fear and trepidation in the city. And there came forth blood and milk from the body of the blessed man; and many people having heard of it came forth to see the wonder which had taken place. Now when the blind, and the lame, and the deaf, and the dumb had taken of that same blood and milk which came forth from the body of the blessed man, and laid it upon their diseased members, behold they were healed immediately: The blind saw, the lame walked, the deaf heard, and the dumb spake. This is how the holy Father Isaac consummated his martyrdom, on the 6th day of the month Pashons; and departed to Him whom he loved, our Lord Jesus Christ, and received his incorruptible crown in the kingdom of heaven.
After these things the chief citizen of the city brought a byssus cloth and wrapped the head of [the martyr] in it; and again he brought a fine linen garment, and buried the body of the blessed Father Isaac in it. I, Christopher, a sinner and kinsman of the holy man, was with him, and remained with him from the beginning, and have written his memoirs. I have |90 added nothing thereto, neither have I taken anything therefrom. When I saw that there was no one with me there to carry away [the body], I asked the chief citizen and he gave me a four-wheeled carriage and his ten servants. Then I laid the body upon it and brought it to the port of his village, but I found no boat to carry it across the river. And God commanded the horses (?) and they walked upon the waters as upon dry land. Now when the people of the city heard of this, they all came out small and great, to meet the body, and they carried it to the Church with honour and glory, and they rejoiced and praised God, Who alone doeth wonderful things.
After these things, I, Christopher, destroyed his house at the north of the Church towards the close of the eighth month, and I built an oratory to the saint, and laid its crown for it. Then we sent and brought the Bishop, and he consecrated it on the sixth day of the month Tybi; and mighty deeds and wonderful things took place in it, and they praised our Lord Jesus Christ and all His saints: for Whom with the Father and the vivifying and consubstantial Spirit, all glory and majesty and adoration is meet, now and evermore for all eternity. Amen.
The Colophon reads:-----
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the perfect consubstantial Trinity in one Godhead: this is our God, and we Christians praise Him and glorify Him. O Thou Who didst accept the gift of Abel the just man, the sacrifice of our father Noah, the offering of our father Abraham, the two |91 mites of the widow and the alms of Cornelius, do Thou receive the offering from Thy servant my father, Father Stauros, a monk in the monastery of our righteous and great father, Father John, the son of Timanshopi-Pehoout.' He took very great pains about this holy book, and gave it to the holy Church of Elijah the mighty Prophet, that he, and those who came after him, might read therein. I pray everyone who reads in it to say, May the Lord Jesus Christ show mercy unto him with all the things of this world; and, when he departs from the body, may he recline in the bosom of our patriarch Abraham, with Isaac, and Jacob, and Elijah the prophet, in the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall say Amen, may he be blessed. Amen, Amen, ninety-nine times.
The 915th year of the era of the Martyrs (i.e., A.d. 1199) under our Father the Patriarch, Abba John, Archbishop of Alexandria. Our Lord Jesus Christ being King over us. Amen.21
[Coptic omitted. A few of the footnotes are included here online]
1. * "De miraculis Sancti Coluthi et reliquiis actorum Sancti Panesniv Maryrum." F. A. A. Georgii eremitae Augustiniani. 4to. Rome, 1793.
2. + "Catalogus Codicum Copticorum Manuscriptorum." G. Zoega. Rome, 1810.
3. 1 Gibbon, "Decline and Fall," London, 1854, Vol. II, pp. 264-273.
4. 2 See Gibbon, "Decline and Fall," Vol. II, pp. 264-273; Mosheim "Ecclesiastical History," Vol. I, p. 213, et seq.; Eusebius, "De Vita Constantini," Vol. II, p. 41.
5. 3 The first edict was published February 23, a.d. 303, and the fourth A.D. 304. See Mosheim, p. 938.
6. 4 Eusebius mentions that in the Thebaid ten to one hundred persons suffered martyrdom in one day. See the fifth chapter of his eighth book, and Gibbon, "Decline and Fall," p. 430.
7. 1 "De Miraculis Sancti Coluthi et reliquiis actorum Sancti Panesniv Martyrum," F.A. A. Georgii, erernitae Augustiniani. 4to., Rome; pp. 33,36,88, 100, 144, 146.
8. 2 Dated in the year of the Martyrs 641=A.D. 925.
9. 3 "Catalogus Codicum Copticorum Manuscriptorum." G. Zoega; Rome, 1810.
10. 4 I am indebted to Prof. Henri Hyvernat of Rome for some of the corrections of the text printed in notes at the foot of my translation. He intends to publish the text of this martyrdom, according to the Vatican MS., in his magnificent work, "Les Actes des Martyrs de l'Egypte."
11. 5 Tiphre, or Dephri, a village in the province of Garbjah, in the Busirite nome, in the Delta. See Quatremère, "Mémoires," Vol. I, p. 107. Champollion, "L'Egypte sous les Pharaons," Vol. II, p, 183.
12. 6 The name of a town and a nome in the Delta; called also Bana, the Benha of Niebuhr ("Voyage in Arabia," Vol. I, p, 64). See Quatremere, "Mémoires," Vol.1, pp. 105-107; Champ., "L'Egypte sous les Pharaons," Vol.II," pp. 181-183.'
13. 7 This month began on the 26th of April.
14. 1 Elsewhere we are told that he made seventy golden images, thirty-five male and thirty-five female, and called them gods, beginning with Apollo, Zeus, and Diana. Zoega, "Cat. Copt. MSS.," p. 32; Vatican MS., p. 66.
15. 2 This was probably his second edict against the Christians, given in the year a.d. 303.
16. 3[Coptic] or Taba, a city near [Coptic], south of Alexandria, in Lower Egypt, the [Coptic] of Ptolemy, and [Coptic]. of Stephen of Byzantium. In the Itinerary of Antoninus it is placed between Cyno and Andro, being thirty miles from the first, and twelve from the second. Its prefect or governor at the time of Isaac was Culcianus. See Quatremere, "Memoires," Vol. I, p. 350. Champ., "L'Egypte sous les Pharaons," Vol. II, p. 175. Anton. Itin. Wessel., p. 153.
17. 2 The Latin Nicin, the metropolis of the Prosopites nome, situated on the right bank of the west arm of the Nile, towards Rosetta. Two of its bishops, Sarapamen and Macrobious, were martyred under Diocletian. See Quatremere, "Memoires," Vol. I, p. 420; Vol. II, p. 162; Le Quien, "Oriens Christianus," Vol. II, p. 523; Champ., "L'Egypte sous les Pharaons," Vol. II, p. 162.
18. 1 Oil was often poured upon the fire under the bed to increase the torture of the victim. See "Praefat. de Miraculis," pp. xlviii-lxix.
19. 3 In the martyrdom of Saint Apater and Hrai, it is said that Saint Isaac of Tiphre was in prison at Antinoou with Saints Paphnouthi, Tshmaoul, Simeon of Tapsho, Sissinnios, Theodoros, Moses of Philotheos, Macarius, Maximus, and many others. See Hyvernat, Les Actes des Martyrs de l'Egypte, p. 100.
20. 1 For a list of the horrors endured by the martyrs, see "Praefat. De Miraculis," pp. lxiii-lxxxviii.
21. 1 The first patriarch of Alexandria, called John, was head of the Church for eight or nine years A.D. 498-507. - See Le Quien: 'Oriens. Christ.,' vol. ii., pp. 423-425; Eusebius Renaudot: 'Historia Patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Jacobitarum.' Paris, 1713, pp. 125, 126.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2006. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
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