Pachomian Letters

Beatty W 145 Pachomius

Among the images recently posted online at the Chester Beatty Library are a number of copies of the writings of the Egyptian monk Pahom (usually called by his Latinized name, Pachomius) and his followers. Pachomius established a monastery near Faw Qibli (ancient Pbow) in the 330s. The letters of Pachomius himself have long been known in the form of a Latin translation made by Jerome early in the fifth century, which was transmitted through the centuries and survives in several manuscripts, the oldest of which comes from the ninth century. But in the 1950s, copies of the letters of Pachomius and his followers preserved in Coptic (and occasionally Greek) surfaced on the antiquities market. The manuscripts are generally assigned to a much earlier period (some perhaps as late as the seventh century but one possibly as early as the late fourth century). These manuscripts are notable for their curious formats. Some are copied on oddly shaped strips of parchment; others are copied on long narrow rolls of parchment, while others are written in very broad columns on papyrus rolls.

These items have been rather challenging to study because of a lack of access of good images. This has now changed.The Greek and Coptic copies of the letters of Pachomius and his followers that appeared in the 1950s have ended up in several different collections, and now images of most of these pieces are available online. These items are listed below with links to the online digital images. English translations of all this material can be found in Armand Veilleux (ed.), Pachomian Koinonia Volume Three: Instructions, Letters and Other Writings of Saint Pachomius and his Disciples (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, Inc., 1982). On the odd divisions of the letters of Pachomius, see here.

P.Köln 4.174 / Chester Beatty W. 145 (LDAB  3513)
Letters of Pachomius 1-3, 7, 10, 11a (Greek)

Beatty W 145 Pachomius

Letters of Pachomius 1-3, 7, 10, 11a, Chester Beatty W 145; image source: Chester Beatty Digital Collections 


P.KölnKopt 1 (=P.KölnÄgypt. 9, LDAB 101251)
Letters of Pachomius 10-11a (Coptic)

PKölnKopt 1 Pachomius letter

Letters of Pachomius 10-11a, P.KölnKopt 1; image source Kölner Papyri Sammlung


P.KölnKopt 2 (=P.KölnÄgypt. 8, LDAB 107777)
Letter 8 of Pachomius (Coptic)

PKölnKopt 2 Pachomius Letter 8

Letter 8 of Pachomius, P.KölnKopt. 2; image source: Kölner Papyrus Sammlung


P.Bodmer 39 (LDAB 322184)
Letter 11b of Pachomius (Coptic)

PBodmer 39 Pachomius

Letter 11b of Pachomius, P.Bodmer 39; image source: Fondation Martin Bodmer


Chester Beatty Ac. 1486 (LDAB 108130)
Letter of Theodore 2 (Coptic)

Beatty Letter of Theodore

Letter 2 of Theodore, Chester Beatty Ac. 1486; image source: Chester Beatty Digital Collections


Chester Beatty Ac. 1494 (LDAB 108131)
Letter 3 of Horsiesios (Coptic)

Beatty Ac 1494 Pachomius

Letter 3 of Horsiesios, Chester Beatty Ac. 1494; image source: Chester Beatty Digital Collections


Chester Beatty Ac. 1495 (LDAB 108132)
Letter 4 of Horsiesios (Coptic)

Beatty Ac 1495 Horsiesios

Letter 4 of Horsiesios, Chester Beatty Ac. 1495; image source: Chester Beatty Digital Collections


Two of the Pachomian items seem not to have been digitized, so I provide the rather low-quality scans that I have below:

Chester Beatty Ac. 2556 (LDAB 108078)
Letters of Pachomius 11b, 10, 11a, 9a, 9b (Coptic; the only one among the more recent discoveries in the codex format)

Beatty 54 Pachomius Codex

Papyrus bifolium with letters of Pachomius, Chester Beatty Ac. 2556; image source: H. Quecke, “Ein neues Fragment der Pachombriefe in koptischer Sprache,” Orientalia 43 (1974), 66-82 and plate II.


Unknown private collection (LDAB 107787)
Letter of Theodore 2 (Coptic)

Letter of Theodore LDAB 107787

Letter 2 of Theodore, unknown private collection (LDAB 107787); image source: Martin Krause, “Der Erlassbrief Theodors,” in D.W. Young (ed.), Studies Presented to Hans Jakob Polotsky (Pirtle & Polson, 1981), 220-238


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