Severus Ibn Al-Mukaffa‘

views updated


Arabic-writing Coptic author of the mid-tenth century. After occupying certain public offices, Severus became a monk and was later (in 987) named bishop of Ushmunein in Upper Egypt. With him began, strictly speaking, the second period of Coptic literature, that is, literature written by Copts in Arabic. He composed many theological and polemical works, most of which are still unedited and some now lost. He is especially known for his History of the Patriarchs, i.e., the patriarchs of Alexandria from the legendary first patriarch, St. Mark, to the contemporary, Philotheus (976979). The principal sources used for the early period were the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, a SahidicCoptic history of the patriarchs, and the biographies written by George and by John of Nikiu. Severus's work was continued by other historians, until it formed a sort of official history of the patriarchate of Alexandria, not unlike the Liber pontificalis of the Roman Church. Despite its critical defects, the work of Severus is of much value for its information on the church, not only in Egypt, but also in Nubia and Ethiopia. Some of his writings have been translated into Syriac and Ethiopic.

Severus's History of the Patriarchs was published by C. F. Seybold in Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium, Script. Ar. Ser. 3, v.9 (Paris 190410) and by B. Evetts in Patrologia Orientalis 1.24, 5.1, 10.5; the latter edition was continued by Yassā Abd alMasi,Aziz Suryal Aīya, and O. H. E. Burmester (Cairo 194359); a Latin translation of the work by E. Renaudot was published at Paris (1713). Other works of Severus are: The Book of the Councils, ed. P. Chébli, Patrologia Orientalis 3:121242; The Second Book of the Councils (completed in a.d. 955), ed. L. Leroy, Patrologia Orientalis 6.4 (1900), with a study by S. Grebaut of the Ethiopic version (ibid. 601639); The Book of the Exposition (14 treatises on the Christian religion), ed. Murkus Girğis (Cairo 1925).

Bibliography: g. graf, Orientalia Christiana periodica 3 (1937) 4977; Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur 2:300318. j. assfalg, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 9:703.

[p. bellet]