CONFESSION OF THE FATHERS (ca. 1078)
Patristic florilegium (literally a “selection of flowers,” like a bouquet; a chain of quotations from selected authorities). The anonymous text known as I‘tiraf al-Aba’ (Confession of the Fathers) is a patristic florilegium. Confession is significant as an assertion and defense of the one-nature (Miaphysite) Christology of the Coptic Church compiled in Arabic, though largely from Coptic-language sources, around the year 1078.
It thus takes its place with History of the Patriarchs and various canonical works as an instance of what may be seen as a late 11th-century project of putting key resources of the Coptic Orthodox Church into the Arabic language. To judge from the large number of manuscript copies, Confession was widely read and used; furthermore, in the 16th century, it was translated into Ethiopic and, in Arabic, refashioned in a Catholic adaptation. A noncritical but useful edition of Confession was published in 2002 in an inexpensive volume by the monks of the Muharraq Monastery.
The Confession of the Fathers presents material from 53 authors, including the great theologians of the early Church (with Cyril of Alexandria figuring especially prominently among them), later teachers of the one-nature Christology such as Severus of Antioch, and the medieval Syrian Orthodox theologians Habib Abu Ra’ita and Yahya ibn ‘Adi. The text also preserves a number of the “synodical letters” exchanged by the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch on the occasion of the election of a new patriarch, and thereby provides a window into a relationship that was important to the life of both the Coptic and the Syrian Orthodox churches, especially when other relationships were cut off or made problematic after the Arab conquest.