Friday, 3 April 2015

Damien LABADIE: BHO 1093 : a Coptic encomion on the protomartyr Stephen

The Coptic text recorded under the number 1093 in the Bollandists’ Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis has never received much scholarly attention. Preserved in five fragmentary Coptic manuscripts, this text is anencomion in honor of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It was written and delivered by an anonymous bishop of Jerusalem on the day of the annual saint’s feast or synaxis. Topographical evidence in the text enables us to date it between the beginning of the fifth and the beginning of the seventh century. A careful analysis of its contents reveals that the bishop delivered his sermon in the diaconicon(sacristy) of the Holy Sion Church in Jerusalem, where Stephen’s relics were first deposited after their translation from the village of Kaphar Gamala in 415. The anonymous bishop praises the diaconicon as a holy martyriumwhere numerous miracles happen. Recounting at length two of those miracles, the author then describes a vision during which he saw a heavenly liturgy led by Stephen the archdeacon and the apostle John. This text appears to be without any parallel in patristic literature and is a unique witness to the devotional practices performed in the diaconicon. I will focus on philological issues, particularly on the editing of the Coptic manuscripts, and on historical topics related to late Antique sanctuaries and holy sites in Jerusalem.

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