Smagina Eugenia

Hermenia as a genre of coptic liturgical literature

Smagina Eugenia (2018) "Hermenia as a genre of coptic liturgical literature ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia III : Filologiia, 2018, vol. 57, pp. 102-109 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturIII201857.102-109


This article deals with a genre known as hermenia and attested in early Coptic religious literature. Hermenia represents a compilation of verses from Psalter (with a rare addition of verses from other Biblical books) that are picked according to the occurence of the same keyword, i. e. it was a predecessor sui generis of Biblical concordance. The most extensive hermenia preserved is contained in the manuscript M 574 from the collection of Pierpont Morgan, dated to the 9th century; it serves as a source for this study. There arises the question why this genre has this particular name, literally meaning “defi nition, translation”. Comparing it with the biblical “literature of Wisdom”, we see its succession with regard to the numerical parable, where a certain number of objects and phenomena mentioned at the beginning are classifi ed according to the shared property or characteristic. In the Jewish exegesis of Tanakh, the numerical parable is transformed into a numerical midrash, where the source of material is Scripture, while the complilation is made by the shared keyword or root. A variety of a similar explanation, expanded and elaborated in a detailed way, is employed in the Manichean literature. The Coptic hermenia is presumably an abridged variant of the numerical midrash, employed by the early Coptic church with liturgical aims.


Coptic literature, hermenia, Psalter, Biblical exegesis, numerical parable, numerical midrash, genres of early Christian literature


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Information about the author

Smagina Eugenia

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Philology;
Academic Rank: Associate Professor;
Place of work: Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences; 12 Rozhrestvenka Str., Moscow, 107031, Russian Federation;
ORCID: 0000-0001-9816-6997;
Email: esmagi54.54@mail.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.