“We exalt you Mother of the True Light:” Coptic Hymn or Creed, and the Date of Origin

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Beniamin Zakhary


The Coptic “Introduction to the Creed” is a text that precedes the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed within the Bohairic Liturgy of the Hours. Because the current rite in the Coptic Orthodox Church includes two components from the Liturgy of the Hours (Matins raising of incense and hourly prayers of the horologion) before the Eucharistic liturgy, the “Introduction to the Creed” is recited twice in such context. However, this text is completely absent from the core of the Eucharistic liturgy or any other liturgical prayers outside the Liturgy of Hours. Traditionally this text is dated to the Council of Ephesus and attributed to Cyril of Alexandria. Although very little scholarship has been done on this text, previous scholarship have challenged its credal status and have proposed that it was composed by some Bohairic Monastic community. The paper at hand will build upon previous scholarship showing that this text is actually a hymn and not intended to be a creed at all. Although the text has strong parallels to Greek texts in the earliest Sahidic Psalmodia as well as an Encomium attributed to Cyril of Alexandria, there are significant challenges to dating this text. There is no literary or historical reason to confine its origin to the period of the Council of Ephesus. What we could assert with confidence is that it was present before the 14th century, and likely before the 12th century, based on manuscript evidence.


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