Wednesday, March 23, 2022

A 12th-Century Coptic Gospel Book (Part 3)

This is the third and final part of a series of images from a Coptic Gospel book of the later twelfth century, which I stumbled across on the website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. (Département des Manuscrits. Copte 13) In the first post, we saw the majority of the images, concentrated in the Gospel of St Matthew, and in the second, those from Mark and Luke, so here is John. I have cropped the pages to highlight just the illustrations.
Each Gospel is preceded by one of these elaborately decorated crosses.
The beginning of the Gospel itself. The Coptic alphabet is the same as the Greek alphabet, with seven letters based on late demotic Egyptian script to represent sounds for which Greek has no letter. The language also borrows a huge number of words from Greek, as for example in the very first line, “ⲁⲣⲭⲏ – beginning.”

St John the Baptist sends his disciples to follow the Lord.
The Wedding at Cana
The Samaritan Woman
The healing of the paralytic at the pool.
The healing of the blind man.
The raising of Lazarus.
The washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.
The manuscript is filled with these decorative elements; the Greek letters in the middle of the centra; circle are actually the number of an ancient chapter system for the Gospels called the Eusebian Canons.

The serving-girl accuses Peter of being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, as the other men in the courtyard warm themselves at a fire.
The soldiers cast lots for the Lord’s garments.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus bury the Lord.
Peter and John arrive at the tomb and find the stone rolled away.
Doubting Thomas
The meeting at the Sea of Tiberias
The very last page has this large colophon in Greek that says, “The Gospel of life according to John, in peace to the...” (and then I must confess that I am uncertain what the abbreviated words that follow mean.)

The beginning of the Eusebian Canons. Each Gospel is divided into a number of sections, which are much shorter than the medieval chapters which we now use. There then follows a series table which show which section of one Gospel corresponds to which section of another. There are a total of ten such tables, one for the parallels between all four Gospel, four for the parallels shared by three, four for the parallels shared by two, and a final one in four parts showing the material unique to each Gospel.

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