Readings in Sahidic Coptic Texts

May 16 – July 18, 2018
Oriental Institute 210
Wednesday, 6:00-8:00 pm
Instructor: Foy Scalf
Office Hours: By Appointment


This course offers an introduction to Coptic literature through direct readings of original material written in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic (and some closely related dialects). Each class session will focus on a particular Coptic text representative of its genre. Students will be expected to translate the text prior to class and be prepared to parse the grammatical forms found in the text during class discussion. This is not an introductory grammar course and therefore a prerequisite is required. Students wishing to take this course must have completed the Intensive Sahidic Coptic Grammar course offered through the Oriental Institute or a similar course at the college level based on either Thomas Lambdin, An Introduction to Sahidic Coptic, or Bentley Layton, Coptic in 20 Lessons. Prospective students with questions about the necessary prerequisite should contact the Oriental Institute Adult Education Coordinator or the instructor to discuss.

This course is a hybrid course and will have simultaneous online and onsite sections. Local students will have the opportunity to attend the onsite course (and have access to all the online materials) while non-local students can take the course entirely online. The weekly onsite session will be livestreamed through YouTube live and archived online for viewing at the students’ convenience. Students viewing the live feed will be able to participate and ask questions through YouTube’s live stream chat feature. Online course materials will include discussion forums, supplemental videos, additional readings, links to online content, bibliography, and supplementary material to help engage the students in the study of Coptic language, history, and culture.


Students will develop an ability to use all the tools necessary to independently read Coptic literature in the Sahidic dialect. With appropriate study, basic vocabulary developed during the required prerequisite grammar course will be expanded considerably and students will be exposed to the grammatical variation present in primary source material written in Sahidic. Students will further be introduced to the methods needed for studying Coptic manuscripts directly, beyond the type-set editions of scholars. By the end of the course, students will be thoroughly familiar with a wide range of Coptic literature, including its linguistic features, content, and format.


There are no required books for this course. All materials related to the Coptic readings will be provided by the instructor.


Reading original Coptic texts in the Sahidic and closely related dialects can prove challenging. Students will need access to a variety of tools for reference, including grammars and lexica. Many of these tools are expensive. If purchase is not an option, students can obtain copies through their local library and interlibrary loan programs. Some of the tools are available online. For further questions, please contact the instructor. The following are recommended:

Thomas O. Lambdin. Introduction to Sahidic Coptic. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1982.

Bentley Layton. A Coptic Grammar. Third Edition, Revised. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2011.

Walter E. Crum. A Coptic Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939.

H. G. Liddell and R. Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. Ninth Edition with Revised Supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.
Available Online:

Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000.


Class 1: Coptic Translation of the New Testament – Matthew 1:18–4:25
Class 2: Coptic Translation of the Old Testament – Proverbs 1:1–2:22
Class 3: Coptic New Testament Apocrypha – The Dance of the Savior
Class 4: Coptic Hagiography – The Life of Aaron and Macedonius at Philae
Class 5: Coptic Hagiography – The Life of Hilaria
Class 6: Shenute – A Monastic Invective against Hieroglyphs
Class 7: Coptic Gnostic Texts – Asclepius
Class 8: Coptic Gnostic Texts – The Gospel of Thomas

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