Saint Shenufe


A fourth-century martyr under DIOCLETIAN, (feast day: 7 Babah). His Passion has survived complete in a codex (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M 583, fols. 103-138; ed. Reymond and Barns, 1973, pp. 83-127) and in fragments of another codex (Coptic Museum, Cairo, Sottas, 1919).

At the beginning of the text there is an interesting and unusual list of prefects of Egypt at the time of Diocletian. This is followed by the usual promulgation of the edict of persecution and the sending of letters to the prefect ARIANUS in Egypt. Shenufe and his family (his brothers were martyred with him) from Empaiat, near Alexandria, are then presented.

After seeing a vision of Jesus, Shenufe presents himself to Arianus in Alexandria and confesses his faith. He is brought first to Memphis, where he is tried and where he performs miracles, and then to the Fayyum, where various miraculous episodes take place— the dead being raised, healings, etcetera. After this there is the list of magistrates of the Fayyum. After various moves within the Fayyum, the final sentence, and a last vision of the Savior, he is martyred in the presence of Julius of Aqfahs.

In this version, the text represents a contamination of the Cycles of Basilides and the Cycle of Julius of Aqfahs; however, the break in the narrative clearly shows that the elements taken from the Cycle of Basilides are extraneous to a preceding narrative, whether written or oral is uncertain.


  • Baumeister, T. Martyre Invictus. Der Märtyrer als Sinnbild der Erlösung in der Legende und im Kult der frühen koptischen Kirche, p. 129. Münster, 1972.
  • Horn, J. “Der erste Martyrer. Zu einem Topos der koptischen Märtyrerliteratur (mit zwei Anhängen).” In Studien zur Spätantik und frühchristlichen Kunst und Kultur des Orients, ed. G. Koch. Weisbaden, 1982.
  • Munier, H. “Fragments des actes du martyre de l’apa Chnoubi.” Annales du Service des Antiquités 17 (1917):145-59.
  • Reymond, E. A. E., and J. W. B. Barnes. Four Martyrdoms from the Pierpont Morgan Coptic Codices. Oxford, 1973.
  • Sethe, K. In Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 57 (1922):139-40.
  • Sottas, E. Revue Egyptologique n.s. (1919):264-67.


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