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The Legend of Judas Cyriacus in Coptic Literature

Fælles seminar for Forskningsenhederne for Kirkehistorie og Ny Testamente ved Dr. Ivan Miroshnikov, Pro Futura Scientia Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study.

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Thursday 21 March 2024,  at 13:00 - 15:30



The story about the empress Helena traveling to Jerusalem and finding the True Cross with the help of a Jew named Judas was exceptionally popular in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Originally composed in Greek sometime during the fifth century, most probably in Jerusalem, the Inventio crucis was soon translated into almost all the languages of the Christian world: Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Church Slavonic, Arabic, Ethiopic, Sogdian, and perhaps even Chinese. This list, as one might notice, does not include the vernacular language of Christian Egypt—viz., Coptic; indeed, the scholars of the Inventio have long been puzzled with the absence of a Coptic version and even hypothesized as to why this version never existed. However, as my forthcoming edition of the papyrus fragment P.Berol. 5731+5732 will show, the Inventio was in fact translated into Coptic. In my paper, after giving a brief description of the manuscript, I will offer an overview of the various Coptic sources that betray the knowledge of the legend—viz., the Sahidic version of the Martyrdom of Eusignius, the Bohairic version of the Martyrdom of Judas, the Sahidic Homily on the Cross by Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem, and the Sahidic Legend of Eudoxia—and investigate how the original story was transformed and expanded by the Coptic writers. This investigation will in the coming years yield a study on the images of Jerusalem in the symbolic universe of Coptic literature.