DEMETRIUS OF ANTIOCH
A fictitious character created by the originators of a literary CYCLE during the late period in Coptic literature. Demetrius was a figure behind whom a later Coptic author (or authors) hid in order to lend an image of antiquity and authority to theological and moral arguments. A hagiographical thread was added by locating Demetrius in Antioch, making him bishop of that city, and the man who consecrated JOHN CHRYSOSTOM as a presbyter. The most “authoritative” text to affirm this story is an Encomium in Victorem, expressly attributed to John Chrysostom, in which the supposed author tells of “the time when I was at Antioch and stood with my father and teacher, Apa Demetrius, the archbishop” (Bouriant, 1893, pp. 234-35).
The only possible forerunner to such a tale is the authentic manuscript of John Chrysostom’s Ad Demetrium (Clavis Patrum Graecorum 4308; PG 47, pp. 319-86), for which a Coptic translation is extant (Orlandi, 1970). Since Flavian, who in fact consecrated Chrysostom, was not recognized by the see of Alexandria, the idea of replacing Flavian with a fictitious person might have occurred to the Copts.
In any event, Demetrius is supposed to have authored two hagiographical texts and two homilies. The hagiographical texts concern two martyrs of Antioch under DIOCLETIAN:
- Encomium in Philotheum, Miracula Philothei: The manuscript (Vergote, 1935) has reached us only in two brief fragments, but we may deduce that the entire text described a series of miracles occurring at the Sanctuary of Philotheus in Antioch. These excerpts present a decisive literary parallel to the analogous Miracula Coluthi, and in fact both martyrs were especially venerated at Antinoë (ANTINOOPOLIS) as healers.
- Miracula Victoris: The text has survived only in an Ethiopian translation, but it is very possible to postulate a Coptic text as the original.
The two homilies are:
- De Nativitate (ed. Budge, 1915). This is a long work to be read at Christmas. First comes an account, based on well-known apocrypha, of the life of the Virgin from her birth to her betrothal.
Then follows the sacred story of the Incarnation as told in the Gospels, that is, the Annunciation, Elizabeth’s visit, the birth of Jesus, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, the Massacre of the Innocents, and the death of John the Baptist. Interpolated into this narration are interesting bits of an apocryphal nature, dealing with the story of Salome the midwife, and the dialogue between the Father and Son before the incarnation. Also, there is a polemic against NESTORIUS, and the conclusion includes an attack against certain theological ideas relating to Christology and the salvation of laymen.
- In Isaiam I:16-17 (ed. De Vis, 1929). This exegesis serves as an excuse for discussing many moral and social issues such as sin, wealth, poverty, the duty to correct one’s neighbor, and the frailty of human nature. Unfortunately, the text is extremely mutilated in the principal manuscript that transmits this work (Vatican Library, Coptic 67, fols. 110-39), and upon which De Vis based his edition. Another manuscript at Turin (Rossi 1893-1894) is even more fragmentary.
- Bouriant, U. “L’éloge de l’apa Victor fils de Romanos.” In Mémoires de la Mission archeologique française au Caire 8, pp. 145-266. Paris, 1893.
- Budge, E. A. W. Miscellaneous Coptic Texts, pp. 74-110. London, 1915.
- Orlandi, T. “Demetrio di Antiochia e Giovanni Crisostomo.” Acme 23 (1970):175-78.
- Rossi, F. “Di alcuni manoscritti copti che si conservano nella Biblioteca nationale di Torino.” Memorie dell’Accademie delle Scienze di Torino, ser. 2, no. 43 (1893):223-340; 44 (1894):21-70.
- Vergote, J. “Le Texte sous-jacent du palimpseste Berlin No. 9455.” Le Muséon 48 (1935):245-96.
- Vis, H. de. Homélies coptes de la Vaticane. Coptica 1, 5. Copenhagen, 1929.