YUHANNA AL-HADHIQ AL-QIBTI (MU‘ALLIM)
The seventeenth-century author of a history of the world from the creation to the age of the apostles, called Kitab Akhbar al-Zaman. He intended the work as an apology, as indicated in the introduction, rather than a historical treatise. Yuhanna once had a discussion with a Jew concerning the Christian faith and the life of Jesus. Because the Jew denied the advent of the Messiah, Yuhanna resolved to prove Christ’s existence by appealing to the Old Testament.
He also employed as proof the work of another Jew, Yusuf ibn Kuryun (Joseph ben Gorion), written in the ninth century. This work was translated into Arabic in the tenth century by the Yemeni Jew Zakariyya ibn Sa‘id, and was known widely in the Coptic church during the Middle Ages. Yuhanna also referred to Christian works such as those by Epiphanius of Salamis, Sa‘id ibn al-Bitriq, the Melchite patriarch, and “the eighty-one books of the Jacobite Christians.”
After reviewing the history of the kings of Israel, the Persians, Alexander, the Seleucids, and the Roman emperors, Yuhanna sought to establish Jesus’ divinity by appealing to His miracles in the Gospels and to the missions of the apostles. He ended his work on this enigmatic note: “I then turned around and saw this Jew no longer. To this day I do not know where he went.” Contrary to what he said in the preface—that the history would continue to 1020—he stopped with the missions of the apostles.
G. Graf at first considered Yuhanna to be Melchite Orthodox, then classified him among Coptic authors. Nasrallah rejected the possibility that he might be Melchite. The employment of Coptic dates in his book and the contents of the book itself confirm that he belonged to the Coptic community. This is further substantiated by the fact that the only two existing manuscripts known of this history are of Coptic origin.
As for the date of this work, one could consider that it was written shortly after 1612, if the Arabic date 1020, noted in its preface, is correct.
There are two known manuscripts, one in Cairo, in the private collection of Jirjis ‘Abd al-Masih, and the other in the National Library, Paris (Arabe 6702). This latter manuscript was copied by the priest Yuhanna of Harit al-Rum in Cairo; it was finished on 15 Tut A.M. 1503/October 1785. He may have been the same priest who, in October 1806, copied the manuscript now in the Coptic Museum (Liturgy 295) and bequeathed it to the Church of the Virgin of Harit al-Rum.
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KHALIL SAMIR, S.J.