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August 4, 2012

Little Bird, Coptic fabric from the 5th/6th century (Musée de Cluny, Paris).

The Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun takes a special place in the Coptic national mind. Its author and date of writing are not yet agreed on. We think it was written in the 13th century, and most probably based on earlier writings that go back to the early days of the Arab occupation of Egypt in the 7th century, when the much loved and respected Saint Samuel of Kalamoun (Samuel of Qalamoun or Samuel of Qalamun or Samuel the Confessor) lived (597 – 693 AD).

The Apocalypse of Samuel registers a strong protest against the Arabisation of the Copts, by which we mean the process and phenomenon by which Egyptians/Copts stopped talking in their own Egyptian/Coptic language, and adopted Arabic as their main daily language (It is thus a process of language shift from Coptic to Arabic). This seemed to be anathema to the writer of the Apocalypse: the Coptic language was sacred, while Arabic, the language of the hijra, wasn’t, and so ought not be spoken by the Copts as their first language, particularly in churches and at the liturgy, or taught to their little ones. The writer is clear about the negative consequences of replacing Coptic by Arabic – it leads to Islamic culturalisation (or assimilation) of the nation, whereby Copts, individually or collectively, consciously or subconsciously, abandon their traditions, customs, behaviours, etc. – or in one word their culture – and acquire parts of Islamic culture to which influence they have been exposed.[i]

We shall, in a succession of articles, talk about this important Apocalypse, and discuss its varied dimensions. But first, we shall publish, in one place, the text of the Apocalypse of Samuel as it appears in its Arabic, French and English translations, to make it widely available to readers, and to engender discussion and research.

[i] For more on the definition of Arabisation and Islamic culturalisation (assimilation) of the Copts, and the difference of the latter from ‘Islamisation’, go to:

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