DANIEL AND MOSES
Two hermits whose lives have come down to us in two versions of the Sahidic recension of the Copto- Arabic Synaxarion. One is a completed manuscript for the first half of the year, preserved at Luxor, the other a fragment of the same Synaxarion consisting of four leaves (Troupeau, 1974, Vol. 2, pp. 67-68). Both are still unpublished.
Daniel and Moses were brothers and natives of the village called al-‘Arish, near Armant, in Upper Egypt. They were peasants, possessing some lands and living by their labor in the fields, gardens, and vineyards. When each turned thirty-five, they married “according to the law,” the Synaxarion notes. Daniel had three sons, named Isaac, Jacob, and Lazarus; Moses had a single son named Peter. Later they decided to abandon everything and embrace the monastic life, placing themselves under the direction of Anba Jacob, about whom no details are given.
They lived at first in monasteries, then became hermits on the left bank at Qus: Daniel in the mountain of Banhadab, Moses in a mountain in the neighborhood of Tukh. The text relates as a salient fact from the life of Daniel the vision that he had near the ramparts of Jeme on the left bank at Luxor. In this vision, he saw a troop of demons armed like barbarians with bows and arrows. He dispersed them by turning toward the east, by making the sign of the cross, and invoking the help of God. Then the demons changed into weeping old women. This story recalls the most ancient monastic texts, although here the demons are not in the desert but on the outskirts of a town.
This notice in the Synaxarion of Upper Egypt is of particular interest as it shows that these two monks did not abandon their family cares. Each of them, in fact, had children who caused them suffering. Two of Daniel’s sons had the idea, “contrary to the canons of the Church,” as the story emphasizes, of becoming eunuchs. One of them died as a result; the other “fell into temptation.” The father’s grief was such that he had to abandon his eremitic life for a while. Moses was scarcely more fortunate, for his son became mad very young, and he kept him in his own cave, enduring alone the presence of the sick man. The author presents these family trials as acts of virtue and asceticism, which is rare in the hagiographic texts, the monks rather fleeing from concern for their progeny.
Both Daniel and Moses lived for more than forty years in the wilderness, persevering in their forbearance and in their exercises as hermits. Their feast day is 9 Amshir.
- Coquin, R.-G. “Le Synaxaire des Coptes. Un nouveau témoin de la recension de Haute Egypte.” Analecta Bollandiana 96 (1978):351-65.
- Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, Vol. 2, pt. 1, Manuscrits chrétiens. Paris, 1974.