JOHN THE PRESBYTER

An author, also known as John the elder, said by some to have written some of the Johannine books of the Bible. To him also is attributed a Coptic version of the life of Saint PISENTIUS, of Qift (Coptos), dating from the mid-seventh century. The text has reached us in only one codex (British Museum, London, Or. 7026, Budge, 1910, pp. 75-127).

The Life of is made up of miraculous episodes; these do not always appear in the same order in the different versions and may sometimes have additions or omissions—in some cases passages.

De L. O’Leary (1930) identifies four versions: one in Coptic, attributed to John the Presbyter; one in Bohairic Coptic, attributed to MOSES OF QIFT; and two in Arabic, one shorter than the other. O’Leary also gives a careful summary of the versions. The text is clearly based on a preexisting collection of episodes, so that it is later than the version attributed to Moses of Qift.

The main feature of the version attributed to John the Presbyter is that it has the form of a real homily, with an added prologue, conclusion, and personal reflections by the author. These are of an encomiastic or moral nature, inserted between episodes or groups of episodes. The most interesting sections are the prologue (which also discusses the literary justification for the work), a digression on Jacob, another on Moses, to whom is compared, and a third on the oratorical skill of Pisentius.

  • Budge, E. A. W. Coptic Homilies in the Dialect of Upper Egypt. London, 1910.
  • O’Leary, De L. The of S. Pisentius. PO 22, 3. Paris, 1930.

TITO ORLANDI