Reading Coptic Texts

Download the Syllabus of the course (pdf)

Download the Weekly Timetable (pdf)

About the course

This course offers an introduction to Coptic literature through direct readings of original material written in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic (and some closely related dialects). Each class session will focus on a particular Coptic text representative of its genre.

This is not an introductory grammar course and therefore a prerequisite is required. Students wishing to take this course must have confidence with the comprehension of simple Coptic texts.

This course is a hybrid course and will have simultaneous online and in-class sections. Local students will have the opportunity to attend the in-class course (and have access to all the online materials) while non-local students can take the course entirely online. The weekly in-class session will be livestreamed through Zoom and archived online for viewing at the students’ convenience. Students viewing the live feed will be able to participate and ask questions. Online course materials will include additional readings, links to online content, bibliography, and supplementary material to help engage the students in the study of Coptic language, history, and culture.

There are no required books for this course. All materials related to the Coptic readings will be provided by the instructors.

Module: Teachings of Silvanus (NHC VII,4), 9 hours

This writing was probably composed in Greek in Alexandria in the fourth century. It is preserved only in a Coptic translation in the Sahidic dialect. It has the character of a wisdom teaching with many Jewish and early Christian traditions. As such, it is a witness for a fourth century wisdom theology from Alexandria.

Instructor: Jens Schröter

Module: The Hermetic Thanksgiving Prayer (NHC VI,7) and salvation, 2 hours

During the session the Thanksgiving Prayer, from Nag Hammadi, will be read and translated, with an analysis of how this prayer participates to the way of Hermes, a way of salvation which is focused on the Logos and on gnôsis.

Instructor: Anna Van den Kerchove

Module: Manichaean (Berlin) Kephalaia, 6 hours

The Coptic Manichaica is introduced, by offering a reading seminar on selections from the Kephalaia (Chapters), a scholastic compendium of Manichaean dogma.

Instructor: Dylan Michael Burns

Module: Gospel of Thomas (NHC II,2), 8 hours

The Gospel of Thomas is an early Christian gospel comprising 114 sayings and parables of Jesus organized into a simple list: roughly half of the sayings in Thomas are also found in the synoptic gospels. Some sayings assert a strong interpretive framework holding much affinity with other early Jewish wisdom theologians, especially those oriented to Plato, such as Philo of Alexandria.

Instructor: Andrea Annese

Module The Life of Hilaria, 9 hours

The Sahidic Coptic legend of the Emperor’s daughter Hilaria has repeatedly been object of scientific interest, as its account is supposedly dependent on an Old Egyptian narrative and the figure of a princess clothing and behaving like man for religious reasons is addressing gender issues. The text will be read on the base of Drescher’s 1947 edition of the only complete manuscript testimony.

Instructor: Lothar Vogel


Attendance to the programme of conferences, open to public participation and given in English by specialists of Coptic literature, is an integral part of the Coptic Summer School Programme.

First Week 4-9 July 2022

Monday 4 July 2022

10-11 Arrival registration

11-12 Welcome and Orientation | Coptic Summer School Staff

12-13 The Teachings of Silvanus | Jens Schröter, Humboldt Universität Berlin

15-17 The Teachings of Silvanus | Jens Schröter (II)

Tuesday 5 July 2022

Full day Study Excursion

18-19:30 The mystery of God and the human being. Rethinking Gnosis and Gnosticism in the light of recent discoveries and new patterns in research (Public conference) | Eric Noffke, Facoltà Valdese di Teologia di Roma

Wednesday 6 july 2022

9-11 The Teachings of Silvanus | Jens Schröter (III)

15-17 Title to be defined | Anna Van den Kerchove

Thursday 7 july 2022

9-11 The Teachings of Silvanus | Jens Schröter (IV)

15-17 The Teachings of Silvanus | Jens Schröter (V)

18-19:30 An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature (Public conference) | Paola Buzi, Università degli Studi "La Sapienza" di Roma

Friday 8 July 2022

9-11 Manichaean Kephalaia | Dylan Burns, Universiteit van Amsterdam

15-17 Manichaean Kephalaia | Dylan Burns (II)

Saturday 9 July 2022

9-11 Manichaean Kephalaia | Dylan Burns (II)

Free time in the afternoon

Sunday 10 July 2022

Full day free time

Second Week 11-15 July 2022

Monday 11 July 2022

9-11 Analysis of Selected Passages from the Gospel of Thomas | Andrea Annese, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna

15-17 The Gospel of Thomas | Andrea Annese (II)

Tuesday 12 July 2022

9-11 The Gospel of Thomas | Andrea Annese (III)

15-17 The Gospel of Thomas | Andrea Annese (IV)

18-19:30 Rituality in Valentinian Groups: from Cosmology to Anthropology (Public conference) | Anna Van den Kerchove, Institut Protestant de Théologie de Paris

Wednesday 13 july 2022

9-11 The Life of Hilaria | Lothar Vogel, Facoltà Valdese di Teologia di Roma

15-17 The Life of Hilaria | Lothar Vogel (II)

Thursday 14 july 2022

9-11 The Life of Hilaria | Lothar Vogel (III)

15-17 The Life of Hilaria | Lothar Vogel (IV)

18-19:30 Religious pluralism and the origins of Coptic literature (Public conference) | Alberto Camplani, Università degli Studi "La Sapienza" di Roma

Friday 15 July 2022

9-12 The Life of Hilaria | Lothar Vogel (V)

12-13 Course collective evaluation | Participants and Staff

13 Conclusion of Summer School


Jens Schröter

Jens Schröter is professor of New Testament and Ancient Christian Apocrypha at Humboldt University Berlin, Germany. His research areas include the historical Jesus, Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, the formation of the New Testament canon and the ancient Christian Apocrypha.

Anna Van den Kerchove

Anna Van den Kerchove is holding the chair of ancient church history and Patristics in the Institut Protestant in Paris. Among her principal fields of research are the Hermetic and Valentinian texts of Nag Hammadi and Manichaean texts, particularly those preserved in Coptic.

Dylan Michael Burns

Dylan Burns is assistant professor of the History of Western Esotericism in Late Antiquity at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Co-editor of Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, his research focuses on ancient Gnosticism, later Greek philosophy, and Manichaeism.

Andrea Annese

Andrea Annese is Senior assistant professor (RTD-b) in History of Christianity at Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna. He specializes in the Gospel of Thomas and other texts from Nag Hammadi.

Lothar Vogel

Lothar Vogel is teaching Church History in the Waldensian Faculty of Theology. His doctoral thesis was in the field of early medieval hagiography. He takes part in the Coptic Studies Working Group of the Waldensian Faculty of Theology.