I have had many people ask me as to what took me to learn Coptic, and what is behind my love for it.

Coptic inscriptionPerhaps the easiest way to explain it is that when I was a child growing up in Malaysia, I was fascinated by all the religions I saw in this beautiful country: Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and (the, for me, equally exotic) Christianity. I became fascinated at an early age, perhaps 8 or 9, by the Christian gospels and the Book of Revelation. When I flew over to England, at the age of 10, to start attending a school there, I was to come across three other areas which were to have a huge influence on my life: the works of Aleister Crowley, the Old Testament Apocrypha, and the ghost stories of MR James. After I had finished reading all of James’ ghost stories, I looked for other material by him to read, and I discovered his extraordinary work, The Apocryphal New Testament. Coupled with a new fascination with the mythology and beliefs of Pharaonic Egypt, MR James’ wonderful, and scholarly, collection of apocryphal works connected with Christ and his followers became an obsession with me, and led to an investigation, albeit pre-pubescent, of Gnosticism and non-canonical Christian texts. This fascination ebbed and flowed, sometimes emphasising other esoteric (and exoteric) interests, but it never left me.

Coptic inscriptionMany years later, at around the age of 42, I taught myself New Testament (‘koine’) Greek in order to read the New Testament in its original language. Although I attained a fair degree of familiarity with Koine Greek, it never really set my heart on fire. I then decided I would learn Coptic, as looking at the Greek New Testament had re-ignited my love for Gnostic and non-canonical Christian texts. So, when travelling down from Glasgow in the removal van to where I presently live in Hastings, I started learning Coptic on the journey. I had bought Thomas Lambdin’s (excellent) Introduction to Sahidic Coptic, and commenced reading it in the van. I fell in love with Coptic suddenly, blindingly, beautifully and obsessively. I continued studying Lambdin’s book at home, and then, whilst doing more research on the internet, contacted Professor Lance Eccles, then head of Chinese at MacQuarie University in Australia. A superb linguist, his interests outside of Chinese were focused on Coptic and Syriac, and he was unfailingly kind and helpful when I asked for his advice. Lance, bless him, made me even more determined to become as knowledgeable in Coptic as I could be.

Coptic inscriptionI contacted the head of the International Association of Coptic Studies, Professor Stephen Emmel, an American academic who is head of the internationally-renowned Institute for Coptology at Münster, Germany. He was so inspiring and so enthusiastic about my studies and my evident love of Coptic that he suggested I start an MA under Professor Heike Behlmer, a German academic then teaching at MacQuarie, like Lance Eccles, in Australia.

David Tibet at a Coptic church in EgyptMacQuarie had an online MA programme which I commenced. I became close friends with Stephen Emmel (who occasionally plays with Current 93), and continued to study privately with him and in my MA course with Heike Behlmer. I was luck enough to meet many of the other great Coptic scholars—apart from Emmel and Behlmer—such as Anne Boud’hors, Sebastian Richter, Wolf-Peter Funk, Bentley Layton, David Brakke, James Goehring, Tito Orlandi, Jenny Cromwell, Malcolm Choat, as well as the new generation of Coptologists, including Hugo Lundhaug, Alin Suciu and Diliana Atanassova.

Coptic inscriptionThe kindness and support of all of these individuals was remarkable and, through the assistance of Anne Boud’hors, I started work on a 2-semester Special Research project to finish my MA, which consisted of a diplomatic edition of the previously unpublished Coptic text of The Enthronement of (the Archangel) Michael which is held at the IFAO in Cairo. My diplomatic edition consisted of a diplomatic transcription of the text, an edition of the Coptic text broken into prosodic units, a translation of the Coptic, a codicological description of the manuscript and a grammatical analysis and commentary of the language of the text. My edition is to be published in the IFAO’s journal.

Coptic inscriptionI continue to read, research and love Coptic, with my interest now extended, by Stephen Emmel and Heike Behlmer, into also studying early Egyptian monastic texts, especially those of the 4th century monastic leader Shenoute, who lived from 348 to 466 AD. I intend to start my PhD in Coptic in 2010. The Coptic texts I read continue to be a deep and lasting influence on both my thoughts on the nature of God and Christ, as well as on the music of Current 93 and my own lyrics.

David Tibet, Hastings, December 2009.

David's Coptic certificatesClick here to download a PDF file (2.2 MB) containing David’s Coptic academic certificates. Updated August 2010


David’s column in XL magazine

David's column in XL magazineDavid contributed a tiny column called ‘Il proclama’ to XL magazine, in which he chose a Coptic text that moved him, and translated it—though XL magazine print an Italian translation. The first was published in November 2009, and the last in the December 2011 publication. PDFs of all the 2-page spreads in which David’s column occupies a tiny section can be viewed/downloaded here:

 

December 2011November 2011October 2011 • September 2011June 2011 •  May 2011 • April 2011 • March 2011 • February 2011 • January 2011December 2010November 2010October 2010September 2010July/August 2010June 2010May 2010April 2010March 2010February 2010December 2009/January 2010November 2009

Latest releases

Current 93: I am the Last of All the Field That Fell UK black vinyl 2LPCurrent 93: I am the Last of All the Field That Fell UK CDCurrent 93: I am the Last of All the Field That Fell North America CDDavid Tibet: I am the Last of All the Field That Fell art printCurrent 93: set of five enamel badgesCurrent 93: Dogs Blood Rising tote bagMyrninerest: Jhonn, Uttered Babylon limited LPMyrninerest: Jhonn, Uttered Babylon LPMyrninerest: Jhonn, Uttered Babylon North American CDMyrninerest: Journey to AveburyCurrent 93: And When Rome Falls CDSteffi Thiel: Late But Never CDCurrent 93: HoneySuckle Æons LP North American editionCurrent 93: HoneySuckle Æons: UK/European CDCurrent 93: HoneySuckle Æons: UK LPCurrent 93: Drank HoneySuckle Æons: 12in picture discCurrent 93: HoneySuckle Æons: North American CDCurrent 93: Baalstorm, Sing Omega CDCurrent 93 dreamt by Andrew Liles: Like Swallowing Eclipses 6LP boxSkitliv & Current 93: Bloodletting 10in picture disc


Featured items

Current 93: Aleph on Hallucinatory Mountain CDMichael Cashmore: The Snow Abides LPCurrent 93: Birdsong in the Empire CDCurrent 93: How I Devoured Apocalypse Balloon 2CDBarbara Emmel: Tatters and Whispers book

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