Bentley Layton

Bentley Layton's picture
Frederic & Laura Goff Professor of Religious Studies; Professor of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and History
Fields of interest: 

Ancient Christianity


Bentley Layton teaches the literary, intellectual, and social history of ancient Christianity in the Mediterranean regions; and the Coptic language. His specializations include gnosticism and heresies, asceticism and monasticism, textual editing and manuscript studies, and Coptic linguistics. Before coming to Yale in 1976, he taught in Jerusalem at the École biblique et archéologique française and worked in Cairo for the UNESCO Technical Subcommittee for Publication of the Nag Hammadi Manuscripts. Among his publications are textual editions of fifteen works found in the ancient Gnostic manuscripts of Nag Hammadi; Catalogue of Coptic Manuscripts in the British Library; The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations; A Coptic Grammar with Chrestomathy and Glossary: Sahidic Dialect; Coptic-Gnostic Chrestomathy; and technical articles on ancient Christian texts, literature, thought, and history. He is currently writing on the social history of ancient monasteries, and editing works of the ancient monastic leader Apa Shenoute. He is past President of the International Association of Coptic Studies and has been a Fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Harvard Society of Fellows.


  • 1971, Harvard, Ph.D., highest honors.
  • Dissertation: “The Treatise on Resurrection (from the Coptic Gnostic Library): Edition, Translation, and Commentary.” Director: Helmut Koester.
  • 1970, 1972—1975, private study of Coptic and linguistics with H. J. Polotsky, Jerusalem.
  • 1963, Harvard, A.B. summa cum laude.

Employment Record

  • 1983— : Professor of Religious Studies (Ancient Christianity) and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Coptic), Yale University. Affiliated faculty in departments of Classics and History.
  • 1978—83: Associate Professor, Yale.
  • 1976—78: Assistant Professor, Yale.
  • 1971—76: Visiting Professor (Early Christian Literature), École biblique et archéologique française, Jerusalem.

Subjects Taught

  • History of Christianity from the origins to Islam especially ecclesiastical history and literature related graduate seminars tutorials.
  • Gnostic religion and literature.
  • Techniques of Greek epigraphy (inscriptions on stone).
  • Coptic language and theory of syntax.
  • Critical edition of texts.
  • Ancient manuscript studies.
  • Ancient Monasticism.
  • Historiography.