Florian Graz new addition to the APOCRYPHA-project

A deep fascination for human history led Florian Graz to study Coptology. Now he is starting as a doctoral research fellow connected to professor Hugo Lundhaug’s APOCRYPHA-project.

Photo of Florian Graz

Florian Graz

Florian Graz was born in Dortmund, Germany. At a young age, he moved to Münster with his parents:

‘Münster was the center of my life for roughly the last 20 years. I went to school there and I also applied to the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität of Münster’, Graz says.

When Graz began his bachelor’s studies, he chose history and art history as subjects, but it did not take long before he switched art history for Ancient Cultures of Egypt and the Near East. He followed this path for his master, choosing the subject Languages and Cultures of Egypt and the Near East, with Coptology as his core area:

 ‘For my master’s thesis I edited a hitherto unpublished Coptic sermon about the Archangel Michael, which I hope to be able to publish soon. For roughly three years I have also been a tutor for undergraduate students learning the Coptic language.’

Stories of change

Graz’s interest in history came early on. As a child, he read children’s history books from the local library. He describes them as ‘criminally outdated and very much tattered, but with colorful images and suspenseful stories about the fate of civilizations, of peoples, of individuals through the course of time.’ Even though the books were old and well used, they definitely sparked an interest in him – antiquity especially enticed Graz’s imagination as a child:

‘Civilizations arose and fell in what felt like mere minutes, cultures and languages seemed to change at a rapid rate. Antiquity felt like a far-away, foreign fantasy world, filled with dramatic and thrilling tales,’ Graz elaborates.

When reflecting back, Graz finds that what excited him about history at a young age still does so today:

‘The history of Coptic Egypt was very much vibrant and troublesome, it was a story of change, just like the ones I enjoyed so much as a child.’

Narrative devices in Coptic literature

Now Graz is ready to start on his PhD-project at the Faculty of Theology. He is planning to focus on one specific framing device called the ‘pseudo-patristic framing’ or ‘manuscript find and manuscript fiction’, in his dissertation:

‘In this context, that is, in the context of apocryphal stories as defined by the APOCRYPHA-project, this is a narrative device that serves to introduce extra-biblical stories within the context of sermons that were attributed to certain Church Fathers or other figures of similar standing and authority.’

Graz explains that these apocryphal stories show certain similarities, notably they claim apostolic authorship by being presented as having been written by the apostles themselves. This is the reason why they have been called “Apostolic Memoirs” or “Diaries of the Apostles”.

‘This pseudo-patristic framing can be regarded as one of the typical devices by which apocryphal stories are introduced within Coptic texts of a homiletic nature,’ Graz says and continues:

‘But despite its prominence, and even though previous studies have provided a foundation to build upon, it is one that has not yet been analyzed and contextualized to the fullest.’

An analysis on this scale of the pseudo-patristic framing device has not been undertaken before, and Graz wants to keep an open mind when starting the project:

‘I prefer to leave room for potential discoveries and insights and not be limited from the very start as to where such a study might lead,’ he says.

However, Graz points out that there is a basic question regarding the function of this framing device within the general context of Coptic literature:

‘The dissertation should, ideally, be a stepping stone on the long road toward attaining greater knowledge in the future.’

Looking ahead

When Graz is starting at the Faculty of Theology on February 1st, he looks forward to be a part of a research project that is closely aligned with his personal research interests:

‘I think the APOCRYPHA-project provides the ideal environment for me to write my dissertation,’ Graz says.

Even though Graz’s main reason for coming to the Faculty of Theology is the ERC-funded APOCRYPHA-project, he is excited about having colleagues with academic backgrounds different from his own:

‘All my studies so far have been in an environment focused on philology or history, but never really on theology, even though Christian thought and Christian theology is obviously a big part of studying and researching anything related to the deeply Christianized Coptic Culture,’ Graz says.

‘I’m really looking forward to be a part of this project and can’t wait to see the discoveries that will be made here,’ Graz concludes.

By Marie R. Midtlid
Published Jan. 29, 2021 9:43 AM - Last modified Jan. 29, 2021 9:44 AM