Yuhanna Ibn Abi Zakariyya Ibn Sabba‘ (13th-14th C.)

IBN SABBA‘ (13th-14th c.)

A Liturgical encyclopedist. ibn Sabba‘ was the author of an encyclopedic compilation in 113 chapters with the rhymed title al-Jawhara al-nafisa fi ‘ulum al-kanisa (The Precious Jewel in the Ecclesiastical Sciences). After a theological, biblical, and apologetic introduction (chapters 1-26), the work concentrates on ecclesial and ritual matters, frequently giving them typological and spiritual interpretations.

For example, in chapter 113 we learn that the naqus is to be beaten to gather the faithful to prayer; this imitates Noah, who beat the naqus in order to gather the humans and animals who would be saved from God’s wrath into the ark—which is a type of church. The Precious Jewel has been published a number of times, notably by the Franciscans in Cairo in 1966. It remains an important witness to the liturgical and spiritual life of the medieval Coptic Orthodox Church.