As observed in the AUDIENTIA EPISCOPALIS, the bishop can punish in two ways, either by imposing a fine or a flogging, the execution of which falls to the lashane (lictors), or by inflicting an ecclesiastical punishment, which only he himself can lift. On the evidence of the Coptic sources, the ecclesiastical punishments consisted of EXCOMMUNICATION, DEFROCKING OF PRIESTS, and the imposing of an INTERDICT.
To these punitive measures we may add the punishments mentioned in circular letters from bishops in various regions of Egypt after the ninth century. In these letters, various curses are called down upon the persons to be punished. For example, they may be said to be “under the curse of the Law and the Prophets” or “of the 318 bishops who assembled in Nicaea.” In a letter of John, bishop of Hermopolis, published by G. Steindorff (1892), such punishments were invoked against those who broke into a house in Hermopolis and stole provisions and utensils.
In a letter from another bishop of Hermopolis, whose name has not survived, similar punishments were described for the theft of various provisions from a house. This text was published by W. E. Crum (1909, no. 267). Bishop Daniel of the Fayyum wrote a letter, edited by Yassa ‘Abd al-Masih (1941), in which such curses are invoked against those who pluck a particular plant of the Virgin Mary and Apa Paphnutius.
Fragments of another letter that mentions penalties like these are preserved in the British Museum (Or. 4720 , cat. no. 633). Crum (1909, p. 126) states that pieces of additional such letters were in the possession of de Ricci, and at least one is preserved in Vienna (see Krall, 1892, 33). K. Reinhardt has edited Arabic-Coptic documents of a similar nature.
- Crum, W. E. Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the British Museum. London, 1905.
- . Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the Collection of the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Manchester, 1909.
- Krall, J. “Koptische Briefe.” Mitteilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer 5 (1892):21-58.
- Reinhardt, K. “Eine arabisch-koptische Kirchenbannurkunde.” In Aegyptiaca. Festschrift für Georg Ebers zum 1. März 1897. Leipzig, 1897.
- Steindorff, G. “Eine koptische Bannbulle und andere Briefe.” Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 30 (1892):37-41.
- Yassa ‘Abd al-Masih. “Letter from a Bishop of al Fayyum.” Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie copte 7 (1941):15-18.