The Coptic Encyclopedia


.Aziz S. Atiya, ed.,



The newly published Coptic Encyclopedia is an impressive work in many ways and,
despite some unevenness,  it  will  become  a  very  useful  tool  for  various
disciplines related to Coptic studies in the broadest sense. Any decent library
must get it.

The editors have asked some of the best  specialists in  Coptic  matters,  from
many countries, to write about  2800 entries,  which they divide into four main
categories: early Christian history, biographies of saints and other historical
figures, art and architecture, and archaeology.  Moreover, they have decided to
give various aspects of the Coptic language more than  200 pages  (400 columns)
in the last volume,  under  the editorship of the  Swiss  Coptologist  Rodolphe
Kasser.  Many of the entries are very rich,  in both content  and bibliography,
and appear to represent the status quaestionis.   Others are weaker,  as is the
case in any such collective enterprise,  and/or of only tangential relevance to
a Coptic encyclopedia.  The editors have sought,  and rightly so, to include in
the  work  everything  related to the history,  the religion,  and the material
culture of Christians in Egypt, mainly from the first centuries when Coptic was
spoken,  side by side  with Greek,  but  also  from  the  Islamic period,  when
Christian literature  begins to be written in Arabic,  and  up  to contemporary
issues,  represented  rather  unevenly  by some entries.  Here,  one would have
wished for  more details on the  situation of the  Copts  today,  but  this  is
obviously a delicate issue,  on  which  the editors might not have felt free to
express themselves.

Coptologists proper (linguists, such as Kasser, A. Shisha Halevy, or W.P. Funk,
and philologists, for instance T. Orlandi and P. Nagel), students of Coptic art
(P. du Bourguet,  for instance),  archaeologists (many entries,  very detailed,
are  written  by  P. Grossmann  on  what  seems  to  be  most  ancient Egyptian
churches),  scholars  of  Arabic  Christian  literature  (Khalil  Samir, S.J.),
specialists  of  patristics  and ecclesiastical history  (A. Guillaumont and W.
Frend, for instance) have all  collaborated on the enterprise, for our benefit.
The reader  will find in  these  volumes  many  valuable  details,  such as the
existence  and  location of manuscripts.  Previously such  information could be
obtained only through much more intense effort, dispersed as the material is in
many obscure publications known only by specialists.

Reviewed by:
Gedaliahu Guy Stroumsa
Annenberg Research Institute
420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA
U.S.A. 19106