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Shenoute
d. 466
Ancient Christian Church
Atripe / Thebais I / Egypt


On the Upper Nile north of Thebes where the prevailing flow is east to west is the ancient center of Coptic Christianity. About 350 Pgol established an important cenobitic community, the White Monastery, based on the Rule of Pachomius (c. 290-346), near Sohag (Athribis/Atripe), some fifty miles downstream from Nag Hammadi, the source of Coptic Gnostic papyri. Administration passed from Pgol to his nephew Shenoute some time before 388.

Of this man there remains a considerable volume of expository epistles and sermons -- nearly half unpublished, those published undergoing Coptological reediting -- and for his life several accounts, the oldest by his pupil and successor, Besa, which describe his severe temperament besides organizational abilities. Shenoute was present at the Council of Ephesus (431 -- he dates his ministry from some 43 years prior) and influential upon that of Chalcedon (451 -- having aided the Church against both Gnosticism and Monophysitism). He may have lived as late as 466; the tradition ascribes to him the inordinately long life of 118 years.

Clyde Curry Smith



Bibliography (see abbreviations link to table below):

Q3.2.11; ODCC 1250; NIDCC 902 (C. C. Smith); ODByz 1888 (J. A. Timbie, A. Kazhdan); DECL 535 (TBaumeister); OEEC 776 (T. Orlandi); GEEC 1055 (F. W. Norris), 772 (J. E. Goehring)

Supplementary Bibliography:
E. A. Wallis Budge, By Nile and Tigris, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1920): 133, n.1: Shenoute was "born A.D. 333, died at midday July 2nd, A.D. 451, aged 118 years!"
Dwight W. Young, "The Milieu of Nag Hammadi: Some Historical Considerations," Vigiliae Christianae 24 (1970), 127-137.
--------, "Pages from a Copy of Shenute's Eighth Canon, " Orientalia 67 (1998), 64-84.
--------, "Additional Fragments of Shenute's Eighth Canon," Archiv für Papyrusforschung 44 (1998), 47-68 + pls. I-XX.
"Two Leaves from a Copy of Shenute's Ninth Canon," Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde der Morgenlandes 88 (1998), 281-301.
W. R. Dawson, Who Was Who in Egyptology, (2nd rev. ed. w. E. P. Uphill; London: The Egypt Exploration Society, 1972):172 [re Johannes Leipoldt (1880-1965), whose life work was devoted to Shenoute].
W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement: Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1972): passim.
--------, Religion Popular and Unpopular in the Early Christian Centuries (London: Variorum Reprints, 1976): passim.
---------, Town and Country in the Early Christian Centuries (London: Variorum Reprints, 1980): passim.
---------, Archeology and History in the Study of Early Christianity (London: Variorum Reprints, 1988): passim.
J. M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, transl. by members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1977): 19-20.
A. Badawy, Coptic Art and Archeology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978): passim.
S. L. Emmel, Shenoute's Literary Corpus (unpub. Ph.D. diss. Yale U., 1993).



This article, received in 2000, was researched and written by Dr. Clyde Curry Smith, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History and Religion, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.


Click here for Abbreviations and Source References for Ancient African Christians.