PHIB, SAINT, or Abib
A monk associated with Saint APOLLO OF BAWIT and Papohé (feast day: 25 Babah). A Coptic Life of Phib is preserved in the Pierpont Morgan Library (Manuscript M 633, original pp. 47-68). The codex, which also contains the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, has a colophon that gives its date as 994 (van Lantschoot, fasc. 1, no. 114, and fasc. 2, pp. 80-81). It was edited by T. Orlandi and A. Campagnano (1975).
A summary of this text, with several divergences, is given in the Copto-Arabic SYNAXARION. Papyrus fragments are in the A. C. Harris collection (British Library, Or. 7.561, pp. 135-48; cf. Galtier, 1906, pp. 88-91). An Arabic version made from a Coptic text differing from the one that has survived is in the National Library, Paris (Arab. 4787, fols. 126v-158, and 4888, fols. 139-75; cf. Troupeau, 1972-1974, pp. 38-63, and, in library of the Monastery of Saint Antony on the Red Sea, Hist. 67, 130 and 140).
The Coptic life speaks of three persons, Apollo; his friend Phib, who it seems died young; and Papohe, the steward. It appears that they are to be identified with the three monks of the same names mentioned in several Coptic inscriptions discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century at BAWIT. It is not known where Apollo and Papohé were born or at what age the three became monks.
Indeed, this life of Phib teaches one more about Apollo than Phib.
The problem is complex, because other sources, such as the HISTORIA MONACHORUM IN AEGYPTO, speak at length of an Apollo, but the details are not the same.
According to the Coptic Life, Phib was a native of Psinemoun in the nome of Shmun, probably Hermopolis Magna in Middle Egypt, for this town was near Bawit. It appears that Apollo and Phib were for five years disciples of a certain Petra (Peter) but then separated from him to set up residence in Titkooh, which seems to be the village attested by papyri since the second century under the name Titkois. In any case, the monastery of Titkooh could not have been founded by this Apollo.
It appears that at first these three monks led the life of itinerant monks, such as are testified to have existed by several documents from the fourth and fifth centuries. The character of Phib is underlined in this Life. He was a man who loved tranquillity, was peaceful, and desired solitude. One phrase remains enigmatic: “loving the image of God, as a man alone.” This kind of itinerant life is characterized by the phrase “in all the mountains, like wild animals,” a formulation also applied to the life of Saint ONOPHRIUS. The role of Papohé as the one who liberated Apollo and Phib from the material necessities of life in his capacity as steward, is clearly delineated.
According to a story placed on the lips of Phib, he had been a shepherd on behalf of his parents in his youth. Phib died, apparently while still young, at Titkooh on 25 Babah. Thereafter, Apollo and Papohé continued to wander in the mountains until they received a command from the Lord to return to Titkooh and remain there. Apollo submitted to this order against his will. It is clear that the monks sometimes lived at a distance from the monastery and one another, each maintaining his independence.
Phib’s resting place became the site of a curious rite of penitence: anyone who prostrated himself in faith on Phib’s tomb on the anniversary of his death would receive the remission of his sins. Prostrating oneself at Phib’s tomb thus became a “penance of salvation.” A church was built over the tomb, and religious offices were celebrated there. Then came an order from God to construct a great church, no doubt a martyrium. It is affirmed several times that the gift of the remission of sins was given by God to Phib. Unfortunately, nowhere is it explained why this gift was bestowed.
- Coquin, R.-G. “Apollon de Titkooh ou/et Apollon de Bawit?” Orientalia 46 (1977):435-46.
- Galtier, E. “Coptica-arabica, Coptica.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 5 (1906):87-115.
- Lantschoot, A. van. Recueil des colophons des manuscrits chrétiens d’Egypte. Bibliothèque du Muséon 1. Louvain, 1929-; repr. Milan, 1973.
- Orlandi, T., and A. Campagnano, eds. Vite dei Monachi Phif e Longino. Testi e documenti per lo Studio dell’antichità 51. Milan, 1975.
- Troupeau, G. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, Vol. 1, Manuscrits chrétiens. Paris, 1972-1974.