THE OLDEST COMPLETE COPTIC PSALTER EVER FROM THE FOURTH CENTURY: THE MUDIL CODEX: IN THE MIDDLE EGYPT (OXYRHYNCHITIC) DIALECT
Figure 1: The Mudil Codex (The Coptic Psalter in the dialect of Middle Egypt) – the oldest Coptic psalter ever discovered. It is kept in the Coptic Museum in Old (Coptic) Cairo.
In a previous article, we have seen the oldest complete Coptic psalter in the Upper Egypt (Sahidic) dialect, which was edited by E. A. Wallis Budge, and published in London in 1898. It formed part of the Edfû Manuscript (or Edfû Codices), and goes back to the end of the sixth or seventh century. Now, it is time to speak about the oldest Coptic psalter ever – what is called the Mudil Codex, which is written in Middle Egypt (Oxyrhychitic) dialect, and dates from the fourth century. Budge’s Coptic Psalter is kept in the British Library in London – the Mudil Codex is, however, kept in the Coptic Museum (MS. 6614), in Old Cairo, or what is called Coptic Cairo, in Egypt.
This priceless manuscript, as described by the Coptic Coptologist, Gawdat Gabra, is “The only biblical text discovered in an Egyptian tomb, it was found in the large, poor [Coptic] cemetery of Al-Mudil, 40 kilometres north-east of Oxyrhynchos, a city famous on Graeco-Roman times, in a shallow grave under a [Coptic] young girl’s head. Her parents must have been relatively rich to have owned such a valuable volume. The practice of burying religious texts with the dead dates back to Ancient Egyptian burial customs… the small peg used to lock the book is shaped like the ancient Egyptian symbol of life.”
Unfortunately, no study of this gem has been done in English. Recently, in 2007, the German Coptologist Gregor Emmenegger wrote Der Text des koptischen Psalters aus al-Mudil. Ein Beitrag zur Textgeschichte der Septuaginta und zur Textkritik koptischer Bibelhandschriften, mit der kritischen Neuausgabe des Papyrus 37 der British Library London (U) und des Papyrus 39 der Leipziger Universitätsbibliothek (2013), which an extensive study of it. The publisher writes:
The Mudil Codex from the late 4th century contains the Biblical Psalms in Coptic. However, the text differs significantly from familiar versions of the Psalms, giving rise to the question of whether we are dealing with an original form of the text. The comprehensive analysis presented here demonstrates the tradition in which this fascinating text is located, how it arose, and what significance it has for research into the Psalms generally and the Coptic Bible manuscripts in particular.
An good English review of the German book by Thomas J. Kraus in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2008.01.37), can be found here.
 Al-Madil is a small town in the eastern side of the Nile between Beni Suef and al-Bahnasa, Egypt.
 Oxyrhynchos, or Oxyrhynchus, is the Greek name (Coptic, Pemdje; modern town, el-Bahnasa or al-Bahnasa). It is a city in Upper Egypt in the governorate of Minya – some 100 miles southwest of Cairo. It is a rich archaeological site of Greek and Coptic papyri.
 Cairo: The Coptic Museum & Old Churches by Gawdat Gabra with contributions by Anthony Alcock (Cairo, Egyptian International Publishing Company – Longman, 1993); pp. 110-111.
 Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.