A Bishop of al-Bahnasa (Oxyrhynchus), assumed author of eight homilies. We have no historical evidence of either the existence of this person or the period in which he lived. On the latter, opinions greatly diverge: G. Graf (1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 475) thinks that if one accepts what is said by the Ethiopian Book of Aksum (Conti-Rossini, 1909-1910, CSCO 54, p. 5 [text], and 58, p. 5 [trans.]), Cyriacus would have had to have lived in the first half of the sixth century or the works that are attributed to him would be of the Islamic period. But Graf thought that the dating of these works to the eleventh century was without foundation.
E. Galtier, who published the Martyrdom of Pilate (1912, p. 41), believed, while admitting his ignorance, that Cyriacus dated to the fourteenth century at the latest. G. Giamberardini (1974-1978, Vol. 2, p. 53) placed him in the eighth century, but did not support his own conclusion and remained hesitant about being too definite. P. Sbath (1938, no. 444, p. 57) indicated in laconic fashion the fifteenth century.
No serious study of Cyriacus’ vocabulary and syntax permits one to say if the Arabic text (there is no extant Coptic text) is a simple translation from the Coptic or an original composition in Arabic. Nothing in these works reveals the period in which he wrote. It is possible that any one of these works is in fact a redaction of an earlier document.
Thus, of his two homilies on the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, the first gives the impression of taking up the one attributed to the patriarch THEOPHILUS or that of ZACHARIAS of Sakha, while the second appears to be a plagiarizing of the first, the legend of the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt having crystallized at first around al-ASHMUNAYN (there is evidence of it from the fifth century) and then later having extended to al- Qusiyyah (Qusqam).
One difficulty remains. What is the true spelling of his name? Were there perhaps two persons with this name? The name is often spelled H(e)ryaq(u)s, which is read Cyriaqus; but one may ask if the name was not Heraklios, which through a copyist’s error could have become H(e)ryakaios. The confusion of a with l in writing is easy, while that of k with h is not attested. One can see how the Arabic spelling H(i)ryakus was arrived at. This corruption of the name Heraklios is not inconceivable, for it is found in the episcopal lists (Munier, 1943, p. 16, l. 25; cf. p. 17, l. 35).
If this hypothesis is correct, it would indicate that there was a celebrated bishop named Heraklios before, or at the beginning of, the Islamic epoch to whom certain late homilies were attributed.
Given the paucity of the documentation on Cyriacus, the simplest course is to enumerate here, one after another, the homilies attributed to him in the manuscript tradition:
- Homily on the miracles wrought by the Holy Family at Pi-Jesus (i.e., at Dayr al-Jarnus): Graf, 1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 232; Giamberardini, 1974-1978, Vol. 2, pp. 56-63, an analysis of the homily; an edition without translation in Al-La’’ali’ al-Saniyyah fi al-Mayamir wa-al-‘Aja’ib al-Maryamiyyah (“Precious pearls in the Marian sermons and miracles”), Cairo, 1966, pp. 79-91.
- Homily on the coming of the Holy Family to al-Qusiyyah: Graf, 1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 233; Giamberardini, 1974-1978, Vol. 2, pp. 63-72, an analysis of the homily; edition without translation in Al-La’’ali’, pp. 71-78.
- Homily on the Compassion of Mary at Golgotha and at the tomb: Graf, 1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 247; Giamberardini, 1974-1978, Vol. 2, pp. 72-85, an analysis of the homily; edition without translation in Al-La’’ali’, pp. 92-110). E. Galtier calls attention to two Garshuni manuscripts in Paris (BN Syr. 232,233). These manuscripts appear to be of Syro-Jacobite origin.
- Homily on the Assumption of Mary: Vat. Arab. 170; analysis by van Lantschoot, 1946, pp. 509-511.
- Homily on the Resurrection and on the martyrdom of Pilate: Graf, 1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 239; edition and translation by Galtier, 1912, pp. 42-103. See also the edition and translation of the Ethiopic text by M. A. van den Oudenrijn, 1959. In fact, the Sanhedrin member Gamaliel speaks in the first person (Acts 5:34-39; 22:3); the text attributed to Cyriacus of al-Bahnasa is perhaps only a reworking.
- Homily on Saint VICTOR, son of Romanos: unpublished; Graf, 1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 476. In his Inventaire des manuscrits de Dayr Abu Maqar (1986, p. 55, no. 380; compare p. 64, no. 414), Zanetti seems to say that the same panegyric on Saint Victor is sometimes put under the name of DEMETRIUS OF ANTIOCH, an author still not identified.
- On the martyrs of Isna: Sbath, 1938, no. 444, p. 57. (Perhaps this was the same sermon as that attributed to John, bishop of Asyut, edited and translated by A. Khater, 1981.) The whereabouts of the manuscript is not known.
- Homily on Saint Justus: contained in a manuscript of the Monastery of Saint Antony (DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS near the Red Sea): Hist. 112, fols. 41v-108r.
Mention should be made of the Ethiopic version of several of these texts. The two Marian homilies (1 and 2) seem to exist in an Ethiopic version: British Library Ethiop. 209, 211, 216, 217, 263, 341; Vatican Ethiop. 151.
The homily on the Compassion of Mary (3) also exists in an Ethiopic version: National Library, Paris, Ethiop. 104. The Ethiopic version of homily 5 has already been mentioned. The homily on Saint Victor is also extant in an Ethiopic version: British Library Ethiop. 247, 254, and 306.
There is an Ethiopic anaphora of Mary that is attributed to Cyriacus of al-Bahnasa: S. Euringer, “Die äthiopische Anaphora unserer Herrin Maria,” Oriens Christianus 34 (1937):63-102, 248-62.
- Conti-Rossini, K. Documenta ad illustrandam historiam, Vol. 1, Liber Axumae. CSCO 54 [text] and 58 [trans.]. Paris and Leipzig, 1909-1910.
- Euringer, S. “Die äthiopische Anaphora unserer Herrin Maria.” Oriens Christianus 34 (1937):63-102, 248-62.
- Galtier, E. Mémoires et fragments inédits. Mémoires de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 27. Cairo, 1912.
- Giamberardini, G. Il culto mariano in Egitto, 3 vols. Jerusalem, 1974-1978.
- Khater, A. Martyres des citoyens d’Esna. Cairo and Jerusalem, 1981.
- La’’ali’ al-Saniyyah fi ‘al-Mayamir wa-al-‘aja’ib al- maryamiyyah, al-. Cairo, 1966.
- Lantschoot, A. van. “L’Assomption de la sainte vierge chez les Coptes.” Gregorianum 27 (1946):493-526.
- Munier, H. Recueil des listes épiscopales de l’église copte. Cairo, 1943.
- Oudenrijn, M. A. van. Gamaliel: Äthiopische Texte zur Pilatus- literatur. Fribourg, Switzerland, 1959.
- Sbath, P. Al-Fihris (Catalogue de manuscrits arabes). Cairo, 1938. Zanetti, U. Les Manuscrits de Dair Abu Maqar. Inventaire Cahiers d’orientalisme 11. Geneva, 1986.