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The brief paper presented below gives a general overview of the Sahidic version of the New Testament and its importance. It was originally written and distributed by the current editor in 1989.


  

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      IMPORTANCE OF THE SAHIDIC LANGUAGE: IN RESEARCH AND TRANSLATION

         Copyright (c) 1989-2005 by J. Wells. All rights reserved.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It is noteworthy that the New Testament was translated into three languages

during the Koine period (b.330 AD), that is, while the Koine (common) Greek

was still the lingua franca of the Roman world and universally understood.

This gives us an opportunity to see how people who read, wrote, spoke, and

thought in New Testament Greek rendered the divine Word into their mother

tongues. These three languages were Latin, Syriac (spoken in Palestine), and

various dialects of Coptic (spoken in Egypt).

 

To date, the vast majority of research has been done on the first two. This

is unfortunate since the Coptic (especially the Sahidic dialect) surpasses

both Latin and Syriac in several ways. First, it represents a textual

tradition generally considered to be superior. Second, it is represented by

more, and older, manuscripts. Third, it is an important source for historical

interpretation. Fourth, it is more like English in certain respects.

 

The following will explain each of these four aspects, primarily for the

Sahidic version of the Coptic.

 

1. Both the Latin and Syriac are representative of the Western textual family

(which is generally viewed as inferior), while the Sahidic ranks with the

best papyri and the "B" Uncial (Vatican Library 1209) as representative of

the Proto-Alexandrine textual family, which is generally recognized as the

best and earliest group of manuscripts. The Westcott-Hort, UBS, and Nestle-

Aland master texts, and thus most modern translations, are based on this

family of manuscripts.

 

2. The Old Latin and Syriac are represented by two extant manuscripts each,

which can be dated as being from before the fifth century (400 AD). All four

are of the Gospels only. On the other hand, Sahidic (and other Coptic)

manuscripts dating from the same period are more numerous, more complete and

and represent many more books of the Bible.

 

Below is a comparison chart of the extant manuscripts for each language.

 

Language  Manuscript      Contents                Century   Condition

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Latin:   Vercellensis     Gospels                 IV        partial

         Bobiensis        Gospels                 IV/V      partial

 

Syriac:  Sinaitic         Gospels                 IV        fragmented

         Curetonian       Gospels                 IV/V      fragmented

 

Sahidic: Crosby           1Peter                  III       complete

         Brit. M. 7594    Acts                    III/IV    fragmented

         Mich. 3992       John 1Cor. Titus        III/IV    fragmented

         Berlin 408       Rev. 1John Philemon     IV        partial

         Kahle 22         Eph. 1Pet. 1John James  IV        fragmented

         Lectionary 1604  Matthew                 IV        fragmented

         Berlin 15926     Acts                    IV        fragmented

         Garrido          Matthew                 IV        fragmented

         Rainer V(p41)    Acts                    IV/V      partial

         Bodmer XIX       Matthew Romans          IV/V      fragmented

         Kahle 21         1Timothy Titus          IV/V      fragmented

 

Other:*  Achmimic         Matt(p62)               IV        fragmented

         Achmimic         John James(p6)          IV        fragmented

         Achmimic         Luke                    IV        fragmented

         Fayumic          John                    IV        partial

         Oxyrhynchite     Matthew                 IV        complete

         Oxyrhynchite     Acts                    IV        partial

         Proto-Bohairic   John                    IV        partial

         Sub-Achmimic     John(Q)                 IV        partial

         Achmimic         Galatians               IV/V      fragmented

         Fayumic          Acts                    IV/V      partial

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Other Coptic dialects.

 

3. On the subject of textual criticism, Kurt and Barbara Aland write (in

"The Text of the New Testament"):

 

   Important as the Latin and Syriac versions may be, it is of far

   greater importance to know precisely how the text developed in Egypt.

 

On the Sahidic's importance in the field of historical interpretation,

well known coptologist J. M. Plumley observed:

 

   By and large the Coptic version can be a valuable aid to the scholar

   engaged in textual criticism, and because in certain passages it

   preserves very ancient traditions of interpretation, it ought to be

   of considerable interest to the scholar working on the history and

   development of Christian doctrine.

 

4. While English is related to Latin, in some important respects it is quite

similar to the Sahidic. Where Greek has the definite article (the) but no

indefinite article (a, an) and Latin and Syriac have no articles at all,

Sahidic has both the definite and indefinite articles. Moreover, Sahidic

article usage is quite similar to English. Thus Thomas Lambdin wrote (in his

"Introduction to Sahidic Coptic"):

 

   Because the use of the Coptic articles, both definite and indefinite,

   correspond closely to the use of articles in English, only exceptions

   to this general correspondence will be noted.

 

In light of the above, the dialects of the Coptic language are a valuable,

albeit greatly untapped, resource for New Testament researchers and

translators. It is a pity that more research has not been done into these

important version of the New Testament.

 

For these reasons a new version of the New Testament in Sahidic Coptic is

being produced.

 

The last print version of the entire Sahidic version came out in seven

volumes from 1911 to 1924. This edition is quite rare. The only available

copy found by a recent used book search (12/2003)* was partial and priced

at $1300. Until 2000 the available only editions were electronic. One from

the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) in a obsolete database format.

Another was put out by the Saint Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society

in 1998 in PDF format. Each of these volumes cost about $50 each. Neither

edition is in a standardized format.

 

Starting in 2000, using the PHI edition by permission, I began compiling

and collating a new edition in a standardized format. The Sahidica edition

will be available online, free of charge.

 

The purpose of the edition is to make available a free, diglot edition of

the Sahidic Coptic version and along with original Greek version, presented

in parallel, as an easy to use html version. The edition is designed to be

useful primarily to students and researchers, but also of a quality to be

of use to scholars and translators.

 

* A more recent search (11/2005) found this edition no longer available.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note on Dialect Names

 

Sahidic is also called Thebaic

Bohairic is also called Memphitic

Fayumic is also called Bashmuric

Fayumic is also spelled Fayyumic and Fajumic

Oxyrhynchite is also called Middle-Egyptian

Proto-Bohairic is also called Old Bohairic

Sub-Achmimic is also called Lycopolitan

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Primary Sources:

 

Aland and Aland, "The Text of the New Testament." Michigan, 1989.

 

Metzger, "The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission,

and Limitations." Oxford, 1978.

 

Metzger, "The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and

Restoration." Third Edition. Oxford, 1992.

 

Schmitz and Mink, "Liste Der Koptischen Handschriften Der Evangelien: Die

Sahidischen Handschriften Der Evangelien." Berlin - New York, 1986.

 

Other sources include: Crum, Hintze and Schenke, Horner, Husselman, Kahle,

Kasser, Kenyon and Adams, Lambdin, Plumley, Quecke, Schenke, Schussler,

Thompson and Willis.

 

J. Warren Wells

 

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ADDENDUM 1 (2004): Brief Overview of Greek-Coptic Diglots.

 

    "The Coptic version should be studied in conjunction with the original

    Greek; only in this way can the reader gain a clear understanding of

    the translation techniques employed and of the influence the original

    has had on the grammar, vocabulary, and style of the Coptic

    translation."  -- Thomas Lambdin

 

Although very rarely stated in either secular or scholarly literature several

early Greek manuscripts (in fact about 7 percent of all papyri and uncials)

are Greek-Coptic diglots. These include 6 papyri dating from the fourth

century to eighth century and 20 uncials dating from the fifth century to the

tenth century. (This is according to Aland & Aland, ppg.96-128, which fails

to note that p6 contains portions of John and James in Coptic.)

 

Included among the papyri are:

 

  p2,  John, VI

  p6,  John & James, IV

  p41, Acts, IV/V (VIII)

  p42, Luke, VII/VIII

  p62, Matt, IV

  p96, Matt, VI

 

Included among the uncials are:

 

  029,  e, V  (= 0113, 0125, 0139)

  070,  e, VI (= 0110,  0124, 0178-0180, 0190, 0194, 0202)

  086,  e, VI

  0114, e, VIII

  0164, e, VI/VII

  0177, e, X

  0184, e, VI

  0200, e, VII

  0204, e, VII

  0205, p, VIII

  0236, a, V

  0237, e, VI

  0238, e, VIII

  0239, e, VII

  0275, e, VII

  0276, e, VIII

  0298, e, VIII/IX

  0299, e, X/XI

 

Plus two uncials now listed as lectionaries:

 

  Lectionary 963, e, VII (= 0100, 0195)

  Lectionary 1575, e, IX (= 0129, 0203)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ADDENDUM 2 (2005): Note on John's Christology in the Coptic Versions

 

It is noteworthy that Coptic was the first language the New Testament was

translated into that has the indefinite article; and the only language

with the indefinite article that was produced during the Koine Greek period.

 

The reason this is significant is that, in Coptic versions, John 1:1b is

commonly translated "the word was with God and the word was a god" using

the Coptic indefinite article.

 

Moreover, in the proto-Bohairic version (Papyrus Bodmer III, which was

partially reconstructed by Rodolphe Kasser) the first occurrence of "god"

in John 1:1 is in the Nomina Sacra form, but in contrast, the second

occurrence is spelled out.

 

Again, in John 1:18 it is noteworthy that the "God" no one has seen is also

in the Nomina Sacra form, whereas the only-begotten "god" is spelled out.

 

This Christological aspect of the Coptic versions underscores the statement

by J. M. Plumley (already quoted above):

 

"By and large the Coptic version can be a valuable aid to the scholar

engaged in textual criticism, and because in certain passages it preserves

very ancient traditions of interpretation, it ought to be of considerable

interest to the scholar working on the history and development of Christian

doctrine."

This document is copyrighted. Copyright 1989-2005 by J. Warren Wells. All rights reserved

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

First edition 1989

Fifth revision 2005

Copyright 1989-2005 by J. Warren Wells.-- ® http://www.integlogic.com/sahidica/pages/sahidicpaper1990.html

 

   sahidica@integmatrix.com       Open   --editor in 1989.

 

 


.

 

KATA IѠϨANNHС

The Coptic Gospel of John 1:1-14

Digitalized and Translated
by Lance Jenott (2003)

According to the Coptic text in G. Horner, The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect, vol. III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911-1924) pp.2-4.


1:1  ϨΝ ΤЄϨΟΥЄΙΤЄ ΝЄϤϢΟΟΠ ΝϬΙΠϢΑϪЄ, ΑΥѠ ΠϢΑϪЄ ΝЄϤϢΟΟΠ ΝΝΑϨΡΜ ΠΝΟΥΤЄ. ΑΥѠ ΝЄΥΝΟΥΤЄ ΠЄ ΠϢΑϪЄ

In the beginning existed the Word, and the Word existed with God, and the Word was a God.

1:2  ΠΑΙ ϨΝ ΤЄϨΟΥЄΙΤЄ ΝЄϤϢΟΟΠ ϨΑΤΜ ΠΝΟΥΤЄ.

In the beginning this one existed with God.

1:3  ΝΚΑ ΝΙΜ ΑΥϢѠΠЄ ЄΒΟλ ϨΙΤΟΟΤϤ. ΑΥѠ ΑϪΝΤϤ ΜΠЄ λΑΑΥ ϢѠΠЄ. ΠЄΝΤΑϤϢѠΠЄ

Everything came into being through him, and without him nothing came into being. That which came into being

1:4  ϨΡΑΙ ΝϨΗΤϤ ΠЄ ΠѠΝϨΑΥѠ ΠѠΝϨ ΠЄ ΠΟΥΟЄΙΝ ΝΝΡѠΜЄ.

within him was Life, and Life was the light of mankind.

1:5  ΑΥѠ ΠΟΥΟЄΙΝ ЄϤΡΟΥOЄΙΝ ϨΜ ΠΚΑΚЄ.  ΑΥѠ ΜΠЄ ΠΚΑΚЄ ΤΑϨΟϤ.

And the Light shone in the the darkness and the darkness did not apprehend it.

1:6  ΑϤϢѠΠЄ ΝϬΙΟΥPѠΜЄ ЄΑΥΤΝΝΟΟΥϤ ЄΒΟλ ϨΙΤΜ ΠΝΟΥΤЄ.  ЄΠЄϤΡΑΝ ΠЄ ΙѠϨΑΝΝΗС.

A man came into being, sent by God, and his name was John.

1:7  ΠΑΙ ΑϤЄΙ ЄΥΜΝΤΜΝΤΡЄ.  ϪЄΚΑС ЄϤЄΡΜΝΤPЄ ЄΤΒЄ ΠΟΥOЄΙΝ.  ϪЄΚΑС ЄΡЄ ΟΥΟΝ ΝΙΜ ΠΙСΤЄΥЄ ЄΒΟλ ϨΙΤΟΟΤϤ.

This one came as a witness in order to witness about the Light, so that everyone may believe through him.

1:8  ΝЄ ΠЄΤΜΜΑΥ ΑΝ ΠΟΥΟЄΙΝ.  ΑλλΑ ϪЄΚΑС ΝΤΟϤ ЄϤЄΡΝΤΡЄ ЄΤΒЄ ΠΟΥΟЄΙΝ.

That one was not the Light, rather (he came) in order to witness about the Light.

1:9  ΠΟΥΟЄΙΝ ΜΜЄ ЄΤΡΟΥΟЄΙΝ ЄΡѠΜЄ ΝΙΜ ΠЄ ЄϤΝΗΥ ЄΠΚΟСΜΟС.

It is the true Light which shines for all Mankind, coming into the world.

1:10  ΝЄϤϨΜ ΠΚΟСΜΟС ΠЄ.  ΑΥѠ ΝΤΑ ΠΚΟСΜΟС ϢѠΠЄ ЄΒΟλ ϨΙΤΟΟΤϤ.  ΑΥѠ ΜΠЄ ΠΚΟСΜΟС СΟΥѠΝϤ.

He (the Light) was in the world, and it was through him that the world came into being. And the world did not know him.

1:11  ΑϤЄΙ ϢΑ ΝЄΤЄΝΟΥϤ ΝЄ.  ΑΥѠ ΜΠЄ ΝЄΤЄΝΟΥϤ ΝЄ ϪΙΤϤ.

He came to those who were his own, and they did not receive him.

1:12  ΝЄΝΤΑΥϪΙΤϤ ΔЄ ΑϤϮ ΝΑΥ ΝΤЄξΟΥСΙΑ ЄΤΡЄΥϢѠΠЄ ΝϢΗΡЄ ΝΤЄ ΠΝΟΥΤЄ.  ΝЄΤΠΙСΤЄΥЄ ЄΠЄϤΡΑΝ.

But to those who received him he gave the power to become the children of God, those who believe his name.

1:13  ΝΑΙ ΝϨЄΝЄΒΟλ ΑΝ ΝЄ ϨΝ ΟΥѠϢ ΝСΝΟϤ ϨΙ СΑΡξΟΥΔЄ ЄΒΟλ ΑΝ ϨΜ ΠΟΥѠϢ ΝΡѠΜЄ.  ΑλλΑ ΝΤΑΥϪΠΟΟΥ ЄΒΟλ ϨΜ ΠΝΟΥΤЄ.

These were not out of want of blood and flesh, nor out of the want of Man, but rather it was from God that they were begotten.

1:14  ΑϤΡСΑΡξΑϤΟΥѠϨ ΝΜΜΑΝ.  ΑΥѠ ΑΝΝΑΥ ЄΠЄϤЄΟΟΥ.  ΝΘЄ ΜΠЄΟΟΥ ΝΟΥϢΗΡЄ ΝΟΥѠΤ ЄΒΟλ ϨΙΤΜ ΠЄϤЄΙѠΤ.  ЄϤϪΗΚ ЄΒΟλ ΝΧΑΡΙС ϨΙ ΜЄ.

He became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory, like the glory of an only child from his father, filled with grace and truth.

C/H- http://depts.washington.edu/cartah/text_archive/coptic/coptjohn.shtml,  

 

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