Canons Of Pseudo-Athanasius


A name used to describe a canonical collection of various prescriptions touching the faithful or the clergy. The great Saint Athanasius cannot have been its author. The absence of mention of Christmas, which was introduced into Egypt among the great festivals in the middle of the fifth century, obliges one to set its composition before that date.

There are fragments in Coptic from the sixth or seventh century and a complete Arabic translation, in which the text is divided into canons, whereas the original text is continuous. The original must have been Greek. The Arabic translation does not seem to be very old, for it is not quoted in the Nomocanon of GABRIEL II IBN TURAYK (1131-1145), that of MIKHA’IL, BISHOP OF DAMIETTA, or that of al-SAFI IBN AL-‘ASSAL.

The canons are invoked in the encyclopedia of Abu al-Barakat IBN KABAR. The translator, or at least the man who divided the text into 107 canons, was MIKHA’IL, bishop of Tinnis, very probably the same man who in 1051 continued for some part the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS begun or initiated by SAWIRUS IBN AL- MUQAFFA. In any case, they are quoted in the spiritual work of MIKHA’IL, bishop of Atrib and Malij, who lived in the thirteenth century, and in the chronological collections of the fourteenth century. As with the canons of Pseudo-Basil, one observes profound divergences between the Coptic text peculiar to Egypt and the Arabic version, when both texts are available.

The Coptic fragments and the complete Arabic version were edited and translated into English by W. E. Crum and W. Riedel (1904). New Coptic fragments were published by H. Munier (1920, pp. 238-41).

As in the other juridical compilations, the plan is not very rigorous, and one finds several repetitions. The interested reader should consult the list of these 107 canons as reproduced by ibn Kabar and translated into German by W. Riedel (1900, pp. 554-58).


  • Crum, W. E., and W. Riedel, eds. The Canons of Athanasius of Alexandria. Text and Translation Society 9. London and Oxford, 1904; repr. Amsterdam, 1973.
  • Munier, H. “Mélanges de littérature copte 3: Les Canons de saint Athanase.” Annales du Service des antiquités de l’Egypte 19 (1920):238-41.
  • Riedel, W. Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien. Leipzig, 1900; repr. Aalen, 1968.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *