Does the Coptic Church's commemoration of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have special features?

edited July 2019 in Coptic Orthodox Church
Greetings. I am reading the early Christian writings from the time of the Apostles and Apostolic Fathers, which are fascinating and inspiring. Scholars think that several of them like the Testaments of the Three Patriarchs were written by the orthodox, early Christian community in Egypt. The three Testaments narrate the Patriarchs' conversations with angels before their repose.

Some scholars say that one of the three Testaments, the Testament of Isaac, refers to special commemorations for the Three Patriarchs in the Coptic Church. The main versions of The Testament of Isaac are in Sahidic and Bohairic, and you can read the Testament of Isaac in English here:

May I please ask if you have heard of the Coptic Church having special commemorations for the three Patriarchs?

W. F. Stinespring writes in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (vol. 1, p. 904):

There are pronounced Christian elements in the Testament of Isaac as it now stands, and in its present form it has the function of emphasizing the state of the deaths of Abraham and Isaac as commemorated in the Coptic Church. Thus it would be possible to see the work as springing from the Coptic Christian Church.

John Fadden connects T.Isaac to Coptic Christian
Tradition in his doctoral dissertation, "'Our Father Isaac': Reading the
Sahidic Testamentof Isaac in an Egyptian Monastic Context",
noting that, "T. Isaac has a clear notion of monk ( MONAXOC ) as an identity. Monasticism emerges in the third and fourth century C . E ."

Fadden notes that in the Testament,

The Lord mentions the day of Isaac’s commemoration three times in the
conversation between the Lord and Abraham (T. Isaac 6.8, 12, 15). In the
epilogue, the narrator makes reference to the day of the patriarchs’
commemoration ( T. Isaac 8.6). These brief mentions reflect an awareness
of a day of commemoration for Isaac that people are observing. The
Coptic Church has a long history of celebrating the three patriarchs –
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – as a group on the 28th of Mesore (August
21). ... The feast is the result of local practice before it became a
part of an orthodox calendar. In Upper Egypt, the celebration of martyrs
and biblical figures is already active in the fourth century.

In Chapter 6 of his Testament, Isaac appears to give instructions on performing the Old Testament when he writes:

My sons and brothers... Do not offer a sacrifice with a blemish in it; and wash
yourself with water when you approach the altar. ... When you stand
before God and offer your sacrifice. when you come to offer it on the
altar, you should recite privately a hundred prayers to God and make
this confession to God saying: ‘Oh God, the incomprehensible, the
unfathomable... [etc.]'

So later in Chapter 10 when the Testament says that people who identify with Isaac (apparently referring
to the Christians as the spiritual sons of Abraham and Isaac) should
make "sacrifices" for Isaac, it sounds to me like the Testament is talking about the Old
Testament's style of making animal sacrifices. Here is the passage in Chapter 10:
The Lord said to Abraham, ‘As for all those who are given the name of my
beloved Isaac, let each one of them copy out his testament and honour
it, and feed a poor man with bread in the name of my beloved Isaac on
the day of his holy commemoration; to you will I grant them as sons in
my kingdom’. ... But the most essential thing of all is that he should
offer a sacrifice in my beloved Isaac's name, For his body was offered
as a sacrifice.'Yet not only will I give you everyone called by my
beloved Isaac's name as a son in my Kingdom; I will give you also
everyone who does one of the things I have mentioned.

Fadden comments about the Testament's Epilogue:

The epilogue is also concerned with the inheritors of the kingdom and
practice (T. Isaac 8.5-8)... The emphasis is on performing acts of mercy
in the name of Abraham and Isaac on the day of their commemoration.
Those that do so will become the children of the patriarchs in the
kingdom of heaven. ... After additional acts are suggested, the Lord
endorses reading Isaac’s testament or listening to another person read
his testament: “let him seek out a copy of his testament and read it on
my beloved Isaac’s day. If he cannot read it, let him go and listen to
others who can” (T. Isaac 6.15).


The reading of T. Isaac as part of a yearly commemoration suggests that
reading could be an act of devotion in the liturgical setting, in a
communal setting.(431)

Fadden's Footnote # 431

In Coptic, it is more common for public reading from a physical book,
such as when the lector read inchurch was denoted by the verb ωϣ
[pronounced like "Osh" in English phonetics]

I am not trying to imply that the Coptic Church is commemorating Isaac in whatever way that the Testament describes. Rather, I would like to please ask if the Church has any special commemoration for the three Patriarchs, and if so then I would like to learn about it.

The only other thing that I found about to their commemoration was the Coptic Synaxarium's description of the three patriarchs, which it lists under 28 Masra:

(The Commemoration of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - 28 Misra - Masra Month - Coptic Synaxarium |


  • i did not hear of it, i always thought we got this from hebrew sources.
  • Thanks for writing, Mabsoota.
  • The Prophets have their own hymn, but as far as I know there is no hymn for the Patriarchs. The most we have is the unique verse that becomes the Verse of the Cymbals and Acts Response for them that we say in We Follow You/Tenoweh Ensok: “Do not forget the covenant / which You [God] have made with our fathers / Abraham, Isaac, Jacob / Israel, Your Saint [other translations read “Your Holy One”]”
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