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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

Coptic Encomion on *Abbaton, the Angel of Death (S01947), attributed to Timothy, the archbishop of Alexandria (AD 381–384), delivered on the feast day of Abbaton, relating how Timothy visited the shrine (martyrion) of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) in the Valley of Iosaphat, and how he obtained a book from the library at Jerusalem in which Christ relates the reason for God’s creation of Abbaton to his disciples, from which he then reads or cites to the congregation, explaining to them that honouring the saints is a service to God; written allegedly in the late 4th century.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Colophons, marginalia etc.

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Major author/Major anonymous work

Timothy of Alexandria

Ms. Oriental no. 7025, fol. 1a–32b

The text is introduced as follows:

Fol. 1a; Budge, p. 225, lines 1–6:

ⲟⲩⲉⲅⲕⲱⲙⲓⲟⲛ ⲉⲁϥⲧⲁⲩⲟⲟϥ ⲛϭⲓ ⲡⲉⲛⲡⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲛⲉⲱⲧ ⲉⲧⲧⲁⲏⲩ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲥⲙⲟⲧ ⲛⲓⲙ · ⲁⲡⲁ ϯⲙⲟⲑⲉⲟⲥ ⲡⲁⲣⲭⲏⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲛⲣⲁⲕⲟⲧⲉ ·
ⲛⲧⲁϥⲧⲁⲩⲟⲟϥ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲡⲧⲁϩⲟ ⲉⲣⲁⲧϥ ⲛⲁⲃⲃⲁⲧⲱⲛ ⲡⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲙⲡⲙⲟⲩ ·

‘An encomion which our holy and in every respect honourable father, Apa Timotheos, the archbishop of Alexandria, delivered. He delivered it concerning the installation of Abbaton, the Angel of Death.’

The archbishop addressing the congregation on the feast day of Abbaton, the Angel of Death (9 November), relates to them what Christ had told his Apostles about the installation of Abbaton, created by God as a punishment for the transgression of Adam and Eve. The archbishop claims to have received this information from a book given to him during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, after he visited the shrine of Mary at the Valley of Iosaphat.

Fol. 4a; Budge, p. 228, lines 6–9:

ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲧⲉⲓϩⲉ ⲁⲛⲃⲱⲕ ⲉⲡⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲛ ⲛⲧⲉⲑⲉⲟⲧⲟⲕⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲙⲁⲣⲁ ⲡⲁ ⲛⲧⲁⲩⲕⲟⲧϥ ⲛⲁⲥ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉⲁ ⲛⲓⲱⲥⲁⲫⲁⲧ ⲁⲛϫ ⲙⲡⲉⲥⲙⲟⲩ
ⲁⲛϣⲗⲏⲗ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲛⲧⲁⲩⲉⲓ ⲉⲡϣⲁ ·

‘And so we went to the shrine of Mary, the holy Theotokos, the one which was built for her in the Valley of Iosaphat. We received the blessing and prayed together with those who had come for the feast.’

The bishop encourages his audience to remain mindful of God and to abide by his laws, and to honour his saints, because a service to his saints is a service to God.

Fol. 3a–3b; Budge, p. 227, lines 17–31:

ⲛⲉⲧϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲥ ⲛⲉ ⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲙ ⲉⲧϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲡⲧⲁϩⲟ ⲉⲣⲁⲧϥ ⲛⲛⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲙⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲉⲩⲟⲩⲱⲛϩ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲙⲡⲉⲩⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ·

‘Those who seek God are anyone who enquires after the installation of the angels of God as they appear at their holy commemoration.’

ⲛⲉⲧϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲡⲉ ⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲧϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲛϥⲡⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲉⲧϥ ⲙⲡⲣⲟⲟⲩϣ ⲛⲛⲉⲩϩⲥⲉ · ⲛⲧⲁⲩϣⲟⲡⲟⲩ ⲛⲥⲉⲕⲁⲁⲩ ϩⲛ
ⲛⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲁ ·

‘Those who seek God is anyone who enquires after his saints and who is mindful of their sufferings which they have received and who establishes them in the churches.’

ⲛⲉⲧϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲡⲉ ⲣⲉⲙⲉ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉϥϯⲁⲅⲁⲡⲏ ϩ ⲡⲣⲟⲥⲫⲟⲣⲁ ⲙⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉⲩⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲧⲉϥϭⲟⲙ ·

‘Those who seek God is anyone who gives alms and offerings for God at their holy commemoration, each one according to his ability.’

ⲛⲉⲧϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲛⲥⲁ ⲡϫⲥ ⲛⲉ ⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲙ ⲉϥⲟ ⲙⲙⲁϣⲙⲙⲟ · ⲙⲙⲁϩⲏⲕⲉ · ⲉϥϯϩⲱⲟⲩ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲕⲏ ⲕⲁϩⲏⲩ ϩⲙ ⲡϣⲁ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲡⲟⲩⲁ
ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲧⲉϥϭⲟⲙ ·

‘Those who seek God are anyone who is kind to strangers and to the poor, who clothes those who are naked at the festival of the saints, each one according to his ability.’

ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲡⲁ ϭⲉ ⲛⲁⲥⲛⲏⲩ ⲛⲁⲙⲉⲣⲁⲧⲉ ⲙⲁⲣⲛϯ ⲙⲡⲉϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲧⲉϥϭⲟⲙ ·

‘Therefore then, my beloved brothers, let us donate on the day of the saints, each one according to his ability.’

Fol. 31b; Budge p. 247, line 34–p. 248, line 3:

ⲧⲉⲛⲟⲩ ϭⲉ ⲛⲁⲙⲉⲣⲁⲧⲉ ⲙⲁⲣⲛⲥⲡⲟⲩⲇⲁⲍⲉ ⲉϯⲁⲅⲁⲡⲏ ϩ ⲙⲛⲧⲛⲁ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲙⲡⲣⲡⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ⲛⲁⲃⲃⲁⲧⲱⲛ ⲡⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲟⲥ ⲙⲡⲙⲟⲩ · ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲡⲟⲩⲁ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲧⲉϥϭⲟⲙ ·

‘Now then my beloved ones, let us be eager to bestow kindness and charity on the day of the commemoration of Abbaton, the Angel of Death, each one according to his ability.’

(Text: E. A. W. Budge; summary and trans.: G. Schenke)


Saint’s feast

Cult Places

Cult building - monastic
Cult building - unspecified
Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Places Named after Saint


Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Visiting graves and shrines
Distribution of alms
Composing and translating saint-related texts
Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Theorising on Sanctity

Considerations about the veneration of saints
Considerations about the validity of cult forms


The colophon of Ms. Oriental no. 7025 located at the British Museum in London, provides 8 September 982 AD as the date of production.

It also mentions the scribe who donated the manuscript to the monastery of saint Merkurios at Edfu (Upper Egypt), for the salvation of his soul and in the hope that Merkurios would invoke Christ on his behalf, bless him in this world and save him from the Devil as well as from evil men; hoping also that Abbaton, the Angel of Death, would show him kindness before God.


Text and translation:
Budge, E.A.W., Coptic Martyrdoms etc. in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (Coptic Texts 4; London: British Museum, 1914), 225–249 (text) and 474–496 (trans.).

Record Created By

Gesa Schenke

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristⲙⲁⲣⲁCertain
S00518Saints, unnamedCertain
S01947Abbaton, the Angel of Deathⲁⲃⲃⲁⲧⲱⲛ Certain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Gesa Schenke, Cult of Saints, E05121 -