GABRIEL III (?-1271)
A Scribe, patriarch (77th, 1268-1271). Before his election as patriarch, Gabriel was a monk (at the Monastery of St. Antony), priest (who served for a time at the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem), and scribe (who was a client of the Awlad al-‘Assal, who championed his elevation to the patriarchate). His contributions to Copto-Arabic literature are largely in the scribal realm, as he copied books for the Awlad al-‘Assal and their friends; scattered manuscript notices dated from 1249 to 1271 apprise us of his activities.
However, Ethiopic sources claim that after the disputed election of 1262 that elevated Gabriel’s rival John VII to the patriarchal throne, Gabriel withdrew to the Monastery of St. Antony and—according to one witness—then to the Monastery of St. Paul, where he translated the Pandektes of the 11th-century Byzantine monk Nikon from Greek into Arabic. This story, even if apocryphal, is indicative of the ecumenical horizons of the Coptic scholars of the 13th century: they rejoiced in the discovery of theological books, even those of non-Coptic provenance, and made creative use of them.