YASSA ‘ABD AL-MASIH (1898-1959)

An Egyptian scholar, with special knowledge of ecclesiastical Arabic. Although his higher education was limited to diplomas in theological studies from the Coptic Clerical College (1922) and in archaeology from the Egyptian University, now Cairo University, he distinguished himself through his own independent efforts in the study of the Coptic language. He became an internationally scholar in this field.

He started his career as a teacher at Thamarat al-Tawfiq Coptic School (1918-1922). He then became librarian of the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo (1922-1957). In 1951 he was selected to assist in the American expedition for microfilming the manuscripts of the MOUNT SINAI MONASTERY OF SAINT CATHERINE. He taught Coptic at the CLERICAL COLLEGE and the OF COPTIC STUDIES.

His publications include Catalogue of the Coptic and Arabic Manuscripts in the Coptic Museum, the Patriarchate, the Principal Churches in Cairo and Alexandria, and the Monasteries of Egypt (with Murqus Pasha, 3 vols., Cairo, 1939-1942); an unedited Bohairic letter of Abgar (Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 45, 1946, pp. 65-80); a Sahidic fragment of the Martyrdom of Saint Philotheus (Orientalia Christiana Periodica 4, 1938, pp. 584-90); “Saint Cyrille dans la liturgie de l’église copte” (Kyrelliana, 1947); “Doxologies in the Coptic Church” (Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 4, 1938, pp. 97-113; 5, 1939, pp. 175-91; 6, 1940, pp. 19-76; 8, 1942, pp. 31-61); letter from a bishop of al-Fayyum (Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 7, 1941, pp. 15-18); History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church (trans., with O. H. E. Burmester, of the History of the Holy Church, by Sawirus ibn al-Muqaffa‘, Vol. 2, pt. 1, Cairo, 1943; and with Aziz Suryal Atiya and O. H. E. Burmester, Vol. 2, pts. 2-3, Cairo, 1948-1949); and The Gospel According to Thomas (ed. and trans. with A. Guillaumont, H. C. Puech, and W. C. Till, New York, 1959).


  • Burmester, O. H. E. Obituary. Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 15 (1958-1960):191-92.
  • Kammerer, W. A Coptic Bibliography. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1950. Khater, A. “Bibliographie de Yassa ‘Abd al-Masih.” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 15 (1958-1960):167.