Universiteit Leiden

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Renate Dekker


Dr. R.E.L. Dekker
+31 71 527 2727

Renate Dekker is a Lecturer at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies.

More information about Renate Dekker

Fields of interest

Coptic, Christian Egypt, monasteries in Egypt, Late Antique bishops (e.g. Pesynthios of Coptos).


PhD research

Episcopal Activity in Late Antique Egypt: Theban Bishops at work 
Supervisors: Jacques van der Vliet and Olaf Kaper 

My PhD-research examines the social role of bishops in Late Antique Egypt, particularly in the Theban region (near modern Luxor), in a period that decisively shaped the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church and that of Egypt in general (ca. 600-641). 

During this period, the doctrinal conflict over Christology at the Council of Chalcedon (451) became a definite schism, for the anti-Chalcedonian movement in Egypt rapidly developed into a separate church hierarchy alongside the official one, which was supported by the Byzantine state. This oppositional church is the forerunner of the present-day Coptic Orthodox Church. The beginning of the seventh century was also marked by political unrest, caused by the Persian invasion, the reconquest of Egypt under the Emperor Heraclius, the enforcement of the Chalcedonian creed by the Byzantine state, and the Arab conquest. 

Whereas the Chalcedonian bishops presumably resided in or near the cities, their anti-Chalcedonian counterparts mainly operated from monasteries in the countryside and seem to have formed a stabilizing factor in this dynamic society. Direct information about the anti-Chalcedonian church is provided by the professional archives of the bishops Abraham of Hermonthis and Pesynthios of Koptos, which are unique sources of factual information on episcopal activity, unlike the normative texts that we usually examine. By analyzing the specific nature of the contacts and social involvement of Abraham and Pesynthios on the basis of their archival documents, it will be possible to evaluate their role as social agents and to correct the idealized images of bishops as presented by normative texts. 

I am conducting this research as a self-funded PhD-student under the supervision of Prof. dr. Jacques van der Vliet (Leiden University; Radboud University, Nijmegen) and Prof. dr. Olaf Kaper (Leiden University).


Curriculum vitae


  • BA Egyptian Language and Culture (Leiden 2005)
  • MA Egyptian Language and Culture (Leiden 2006)
  • Research MA Middle Eastern Studies (Leiden 2008)

Research grants 

  • September 2005: Lustrumbeurs, for the participation in the Programme Archaeology/Egyptology.
  • February 2008: Grant by the LUF Internationaal Studiefonds, for the participation in the Symposium “Christianity and Monasticism” in Naqada.
  • February 2008: Grant by the seminar of Eastern Christianity at Leiden University, for the participation in the Symposium “Christianity and Monasticism” in Naqada.
  • March 2011:  Kardinaal Willebrands-prijs, for the best thesis on a subject in the field of Eastern Christianity (MPhil-thesis on Bishop Pesynthios of Keft).


Key publications

  • 2008. Oussoren, P., and R. Dekker, Buiten de Vesting: een woord-voor-woord vertaling van alle deuterocanonieke en vele apocriefe bijbelboeken, Uitgeverij Skandalon, Vught 
    (second edition: 2009).

  • 2008. Dekker, R., “De monumenten van Montoeëmhat, de vierde profeet van Amon en burgemeester van Thebe (zevende eeuw v.C.)”, Ta-Mery 1, Uden, Amsterdam, 16-24.

  • 2008. Dekker, R., “‘New’ Discoveries at Dayr Qubbat al-Hawâ, Aswan: Architecture, Wall Paintings and Dates”, Eastern Christian Art 5, Peeters, Leuven, 19-36.

  • 2008. Dekker, R., J. van der Vliet, “From Naqada to Esna: A late Coptic inscription at Deir Mari Girgis (Naqada)”, Eastern Christian Art 5, Peeters, Leuven, 37-42.

  • 2009. Dekker, R., “Lay-out and Organisation of the Monastery of Apa Jeremiah at Saqqara”, Saqqara News Letter, Friends of Saqqara Foundation, Volume 7, 30-33.

  • 2010. Dekker, R., “Encomium on Pesynthios of Coptos. The recently discovered Sahidic version from Sheikh Abd al-Qurna”, in: G. Gabra, H.N. Takla (eds.), Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt 2: Nag Hammadi - Esna, AUC Press, Cairo, 21-31.

  • 2010. Dekker, R., “Book review of Jitse H.F. Dijkstra, Philae and the End of Ancient Egyptian Religion. A Regional Study of Religious Transformation (298-642 CE), Peeters, Leuven, 2008 (OLA 173)”, Eastern Christian Art 6, Peeters, Leuven, 141-142.

  • 2010. Dekker, R., “Pachomius”, Patropedia, available  here.

  • 2010. Dekker, R., “Shenoute van Atripe”, Patropedia, available  here.

  • 2011. Dekker, R., “Reconstructing and Re-editing the Archive of Bishop Pesynthios of Koptos/Keft (7th century)”, in: M. Horn, C. van den Hoven et. al. (eds.), Proceedings of the eleventh annual symposium which took place at Leiden University, The Netherlands, 5-8 January 2010, Oxbow, Oxford.

  • 2011. Dekker, R., “Bishop Pesynthios of Coptos (Egypt):“He did not pursue the honour, but it was the honour that pursued him””, in: S. Keough et. al. (ed.), Proceedings of the symposium “Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity” in Leuven, Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/ New York (in press)


  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 2.02b



  • Het Huis van Horus docent Koptisch (digitale cursus)

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