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Severus ibn al-Muqaffa

Severus ibn al-Muqaffa
Bishop of Hermopolis Magna
Native name
ساويرس بن المقفع
Personal details
DenominationCoptic Orthodox
OccupationAuthor and historian

Severus ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (Arabic: ساويرس بن المقفع, romanized: Sawirus ibn al-Muqaffa) or Severus of El Ashmunein (ساويرس الأشمونين)[1] (died 987) was a Coptic Orthodox Bishop, author and historian. In Arabic, his name is spelled Sawires ساويرس. Severus is sometimes confused with the Persian author Abdullah ibn al-Muqaffa' (d. 759).

He was bishop of Hermopolis Magna in Upper Egypt around the end of the tenth century. In this period, Egypt was ruled by the Isma'ili Fatimid Caliphate, which had taken Egypt from the Abbasid Caliphate in 969. Fatimid rule slowly but surely changed Coptic Christian culture, especially in the realm of language. Complaining that the Coptic Orthodox Christians of Egypt no longer knew the Coptic language, Severus composed a theological text in Arabic—the first Coptic text written in that language.[2]

He is best known as the traditional initial author of the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria. One of the stories in it relates how Bishop Severus was asked by the Muslim chief justice (qadi al-qudat) whether a passing dog was Muslim or Christian. As it was a Friday, the Bishop said to ask the dog by offering it both meat and wine as Muslims do not drink wine and Christians do not eat meat on Fridays.[3]


Some of the most know works by Severus ibn al-Muqaffa are the following (for a list with 26 titles of works by the Author read Abū al-Barakāt, Catalog of Christian Literature in Arabic, which may have some different titles for the works we know presently.[4]) :

(Full title in Arabic: كتاب الدر الثمين في إيضاح الاعتقاد في الدين بما نطقت به أفواه النبيين والرسل الأطهار المؤيدين والأباء المعلمين والبطاركة المغبوطين علي تجسد رب المجد وصعوده وإرساله الباراقليط).

  • The Rufutation Of Eutychius, of four parts and also known as The Book On The Councils (Arabic: كتاب المجامع). The book was written mainly to defend the position of the Jacobites who rejected the Council of Chalcedon against what has been brought up by the Melchite Patriarch Eutychius, or Sa'id ibn Bitriq, in his book known as the Annals Of Eutychius.
  • The Arrangement of the Priesthood, i.e. Information on Ranks in the Church, (Arabic: ترتيب الكهنوت).
  • The Book of Brief Explanation on the Faith, (Arabic: البيان المختصر في الإيمان).
  • The Explanation, (Arabic: كتاب الإيضاح , Kitāb al-īḍāḥ), 12 Chapters. The book is sometimes confused with the previously-mentioned book of The Precious Pearl.
  • Stringing together of Jewel and Pearls, in answer to the doctrine of fate and divine decree (Arabic: نظم الجواهر والدرر ضد القائلين بالقضاء والقدر), Mistakingly-attributed to George Elmacin (ابن المكين).


  1. ^ [1]; known as Severus of Al-Ushmunain, Severus, Bishop of Al-Ushmunain, Severus of Al'Ashmunein, Severus of Ashmunein, Severus of El-Eschmounein, Severus Ben al-Moqaffa, Severus Aschmoniensis, Sawires Ibn Al-Muqafah, Sawiris etc.
  2. ^ Petry, Carl; Paula A. Sander (1998). "The Fatimid State, 969–1171". The Cambridge History of Egypt. p. 170.
  3. ^ A.S. Atiya, Yassa `Abd al-Masih and O.H.E. Burmester History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church known as the History of the Holy Church , Vol II part II (Cairo 1948), 92-93 (text), 138 (translation)
  4. ^ "Abu al-Barakat, Catalog of Christian Literature in Arabic (2009)".
  5. ^ One scholar, Johannes den Heijer, contests its attribution to Severus. Johannes den Heijer, Coptic historiography in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and early Mamluk Periods, Medieval Encounters 2 (1996), pp. 67–98.
  6. ^ سمير خليل اليسوعي، كتاب مصباح العقل لساويرس بن المقفع، ص11
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Severus ibn al-Muqaffa
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