ISAAC OF TIPHRE, SAINT
A martyr in fourth-century Egypt (feast day: 6 Bashans). Isaac is commemorated in the Coptic Church but is unknown in the tradition of other churches. His Passion is preserved in Bohairic in three manuscripts: one in the British Museum (Or. 8799), and two in the Vatican Library (Coptic 66f. and 69f.).
As far as can be deduced from the style of the text, this Passion belongs to the late period (seventh and eighth centuries) in which the texts making up the various CYCLES were composed, although it does not, in fact, belong to any of these. It was probably simply composed around a locally venerated name.
The text opens with the anti-Christian edicts of DIOCLETIAN, promulgated at Antioch and brought to Alexandria by the prefect Culcianus, who then sets out for the south. In the village of Tiphre (Difrah), near Panau in the Delta, lives a twenty-five-year-old Christian, Isaac. An angel appears to him and exhorts him to confess his faith. He, therefore, presents himself to Culcianus, who is passing through the city on his way to Damietta. Culcianus hands him over to the soldier Dionysius, who tries to persuade Isaac to sacrifice to Roman deities when Culcianus comes back to Panau.
On his return, however, Culcianus finds that Isaac has converted Dionysius by means of a miracle, and he kills Dionysius. Then Isaac’s torture begins, after which he is entrusted to the governor Arianus, who takes him south. Here some Christians care for him. His trial follows, with the usual episodes: argument, torture, visions, miracles. Finally, Isaac is beheaded. At the end of the text, a certain Christopher is presented as the author.
- Baumeister, T. Martyr Invictus. Der Märtyrer als Sinnbild der Erlösung in der Legende und im Kult der frühen koptischen Kirche, pp. 115-16. Münster, 1972.
- Budge, E. A. W. “The Martyrdom of Isaac of Tiphre.” Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archeology 9 (1893):74-111.