Bentley Layton

Frederick and Laura Goff Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Bentley Layton

Bentley Layton, A.B. and Ph.D. Harvard University, faculty member at Yale since 1976: Your field-transforming work on Coptic language and literature knows no peer. You were a member of the prestigious UNESCO committee for the publication of the Nag Hammadi Codices and thus played an instrumental role in bringing early Christian gnostic literature to worldwide attention. Through your meticulously prepared critical editions and accessible translations, academics and the general public became captivated by this esoteric literary and philosophical corpus. Your work has quite literally reinvented the way that we understand Coptic linguistics. You catalogued an important number of Coptic manuscripts in the British Library. Your pioneering research and teaching grammars have deservedly become the standard reference works in the field. Finally, your work on late ancient Egyptian monasticism has been equally revolutionary. Whether it is editing the texts of Shenoute, the most prolific author in the Coptic language, or editing and documenting previously unedited and untranslated monastic rules, you have thoroughly transformed our understanding of everyday life in Egyptian monasteries—from leadership structures and institutional organization, to matters pertaining to sex, illness, food, and ritual practice.

As influential as your research has been as a scholar, however, it has been matched by your unflagging commitment to the teaching craft and to the mentoring of students and younger scholars in the academy. Your graduate students now occupy professorships and chairs at leading institutions of higher learning across the globe. The respect you have garnered among your peers is reflected in your service as president of the International Association for Coptic Studies; series editor of the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Series Coptica; and member of the editorial board of the Journal of Coptic Studies. At Yale, you have served two departments with great distinction, having spent time as the director of graduate studies in both. As a member of the Egyptology Advisory Committee, you have also played an indispensible role in promoting archaeological initiatives, and indeed for the past decade, your unflagging scholarly energy has underwritten annual fieldwork seasons in Egypt documenting the architecture of the fifth-century church at the White Monastery.

You have been a model scholar, teacher, mentor, and friend to the University and to the international academic community. At your retirement, the Yale faculty joins together to honor you, to offer its heartfelt thanks for your illustrious career, and to wish you continued productivity and happiness in your ongoing life of research and intellectual inquiry.

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans