“Do not Believe Every Word Like the Fool … !”

Gawdat Gabra and Hany N. Takla

in Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt

Published by American University in Cairo Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9789774161223
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9781617970450 | DOI:
“Do not Believe Every Word Like the Fool … !”

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St. Shenoute is the major Coptic writer of the late 4th and 5th centuries. The idea of producing texts in Coptic was not his invention, but he brought the language to a peak of literary quality which subsequent writers would struggle to attain. The centrality of Scripture for Shenoute's language, style, and argumentation cannot be overestimated, and in particular the creative appropriation of the biblical text shows the consummate rhetorical skill of this monastic writer. This chapter demonstrates this skill, examining two passages from one of Shenoute's collections of works on monastic life: Canon 6. It aims to show how Shenoute skillfully uses biblical quotations not only to support his own arguments, but also to deflect attacks by opponents; to present an instance where we can grasp a struggle within the monastic community about the correct interpretation of Scripture in the framework of a disagreement about a point of monastic discipline; and to show how the careful examination of rhetorical strategies can complement codicological and philological strategies aimed at the reconstruction of the original sequence of works in a codex and the restitution of the argument.

Keywords: Shenoute; Coptic writers; Canon 6; scripture; biblical text; monasticism

Chapter.  4867 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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