Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review of Gardner, Alcock, and Funk, Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis, Vol. 2

Iain Gardner, Anthony Alcock, Wolf-Peter Funk, Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis, Volume 2: P. Kellis VII (P. Kellis Copt. 57–131). Dakhleh Oasis project Monograph 16. Oxford; Philadelphia: Oxbow Books, 2014. Pp. 366 p.; 18 p. of plates, 1 CD-ROM. ISBN 9781782976516. $130.00.

Reviewed by Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University (

When Mani’s disciple Koustaios looked into the future soon after the apostle’s death, he foresaw a great war, after which a new generation would arise, and find the scriptures and books of Mani (Homilies 7.8–42.8, see esp. 28–29). Even though Koustaios’s hope that this would herald the final triumph of the Manichaean Church has not come to pass, his vision was partly fulfilled by the rediscovery of original Manichaean texts over the past century. In Egypt, in addition to the Medinet Madi codices in Berlin and Dublin and the ‘Cologne Mani Codex’, the last 25 years have witnessed the unearthing of the papers of a Manichaean community in the village of Kellis, modern Ismant el-Kharab in the Dakhleh Oasis, deep in the Western Desert.

This volume, which publishes 75 Coptic documentary texts, brings to a close the publication of Coptic texts from the site. It forms a companion to the first volume of Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis (P.Kell. V, 1999, by the same editors), and should also be read alongside the two volumes of Kellis Literary Texts (P.Kell. II & VI, ed. Gardner 1996, 2007), and the Greek papyri from the site (especially P.Kell. I., ed. K.A. Worp, 1995). This long-awaited volume sheds light on (among other matters) the textile trade, Coptic epistolography, women’s literacy, book copying, travel between valley and the Oasis, religion, and above all, the life of an extended family over several decades. It provides both a new perspective on previously published material and a major addition to the dossier of fourth-century Coptic documentary material.

Cross-file under Coptic Watch and Manichean (Manichaean) Watch.