Politics, Monasticism, and Miracles in Sixth Century Upper Egypt.

Author:Platte, Elizabeth
Position:Book review

Politics, Monasticism, and Miracles in Sixth Century Upper Egypt. By JAMES E. GOEHRING. Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum, vol. 69. Tubingen: Mohr SlEBECK, 2012. Pp. xiv + 116. 49 [euro] (paper).

In this book, Goehring collects, for the first time, the sources which reveal the life and memorialization of the last abbot of the Pachomian federation, Abraham of Farshut. Goehring focuses on three texts preserved in manuscripts GB and GC from the White Monastery, which he refers to as A Panegyric on Abraham of Farshut, On Abraham of Farshut, and an excerpt from the Panegyric on Manasse that contains a biography of Abraham. In addition to these three core texts, Goehring also draws from the Copto-Arabic Synaxarion, which is included in translation in this book. He complements this collection, edition, and translation of primary sources with an exploration of the historical, social, and religious context in which Abraham lived and in which the celebrations of his life preserved at the White Monastery were composed. In particular, Goehring explores how the non-Chalcedonian discourse in the White Monastery manuscripts concerning Abraham not only reflected the role of theological disputes in the end of Pachomian Monasticism, but also revealed the construction of a non-Chalcedonian identity which embraced Pachomian traditions in the Shenoutian federation. According to Goehring, the texts "serve as valuable witnesses to the development of the totalizing discourse of Coptic Christianity and the formulation of Upper Egyptian monastic history within it" (p. 32).

This short book is arranged in four chapters and an introduction. The introduction presents a compelling argument for the importance of texts concerning Abraham of Farshut in establishing an understanding of not only the beginning of the Pachomian federation--the period which receives the most scholarly attention--but also its eventual decline. Here, Goehring also explains that Abraham is known almost exclusively from Coptic texts from the White Monastery collection, which, until now, have been poorly understood.

Chapter 1 ("The Manuscripts") introduces White Monastery Codices GC, which includes both the Panegyric and On Abraham, and GB, which includes the Panegyric on Manasse. Due to its importance to the topic at hand and Goehring's personal interest in and access to the codex, Codex GC occupies most of this chapter. Through careful study of the manuscripts and language of the texts...

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