ABRAHAM OF FARSHUT
A sixth-century abbot (feast day: 24 Tubah). In addition to the SYNAXARION (Basset, 1916, p. 684; Forget, 1953-1954, 47-49, pp. 411-13 [text]; 78, pp. 401-05 [trans.]), which gives a brief résumé of his life, numerous Coptic folios (Campagnano, 1970, pp. 230-32, 239-41) contain the remains of two Encomia. Moreover, we have also in the life of MANASSEH, who was his cousin, a digression on Abraham’s stay in Constantinople (pp. 230, 238).
Abraham was born at Farshut, in the diocese of Diospolis Pârva (modern-day Hiww) in Upper Egypt. His parents, who were Christians and important among the inhabitants of this village, died when Abraham was twelve. The following year, he tried to convince his sister to preserve her virginity, but she did not let herself be persuaded. Abraham then went off to the monastery of PACHOMIUS, at that time under the direction of Pshintbahse. He devoted himself to the asceticism and exercises of the monastic state. On Pshintbahse’s death, he was elected abbot to succeed him. But the emperor JUSTINIAN, wishing to gather the monks under the faith of CHALCEDON, sent a letter to the dux of the Thebaid some time after 535 ordering him to bring Abraham manu militari to Constantinople. Since the empress THEODORA, who took an active part in the protection of the Monophysites, died in 548, Abraham’s stay in Constantinople is located between these two dates. Abraham set off with four brethren. “If only,” says the narrator, “he had not taken them with him.” This regret seems to indicate that Abraham’s companions were not of the same opinion as he. When they arrived at court, Justinian summoned them and confronted Abraham with an alternative: either he would adopt the faith as expounded at the Council of Chalcedon or he would no longer be archimandrite of Pbow. Abraham flatly refused to subscribe to Chalcedon.
Theodora tried to intercede with Justinian, who remained inflexible. Abraham wrote of these events to his monks, saying that he preferred exile to a faith that he considered contrary to that of ATHANASIUS. It is probable, although the text does not speak of it, that Theodora succeeded in persuading him to leave for Egypt.
Driven from Pbow, Abraham founded a new monastery near his birthplace, Farshut. It appears that the monks were few in number (the text speaks of two brethren who were with him). Gradually the number grew, obliging him to enlarge the construction. Pachomius, PETRONIUS, and SHENUTE appeared to him to announce his death and the name of his successor, THEOPHILUS.
Before his death, he delivered to his monks’ long discourses in which he drew a parallel between the abundance of the monastery and their fidelity to the commandments of the Lord. He also founded a convent for nuns, to whom, as to his monks, he gave the rules of Shenute.
Abraham was a priest, as the Synaxarion mentions, and numerous miracles are related at the end of his encomium.
The folios of the second encomium indicate the number of the Pachomian communities at this period, twenty-four in the whole of Egypt. The text does not specify at what period Abraham died after being driven from Pbow. It appears from the Synaxarion that he often lived for periods as a hermit and then returned to his monastery.
- Campagnano, A. “Monaci egiziani fra V e VI secolo.” Vetera Christianorum 15 (1978):223-46.