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Monday, January 3, 2011

Coptic Church: A brief introduction

The Flight into Egypt
In order to better understand the recent tragedy at the Al-Qiddisin (Saints) Church in Alexandria, it is important to know some background about the Coptic Church.

Christianity in Egypt goes as far back as the Holy Family’s flight there.  Many Christians believe that Jesus’ link to Egypt was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.  Hosea 11:1 states:  When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  That is why Matthew 2:15 refers directly to this Hosea quote when telling about the flight to Egypt.

Many also hearken to Isaiah 19 as being predictive of the Coptic Church.  Isaiah 19:1 states:  See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt.  Isaiah 19:19-21 speaks of the day when there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a savior and defender who will rescue Egyptians from their oppressors.

The Church of Alexandria, one of the original Apostolic Sees of Christianity, was founded by St. Mark the Apostle in approximately 42 AD.   All Christian churches in Africa are considered its daughter churches, as well as the following three specific ones:  Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (Oriental Orthodox); Eastern Orthodox Church of Alexandria (Greek Orthodox or Byzantine Orthodox); and Coptic Catholic
Church (Eastern Catholic in full communion with Rome).

St. Mark, who the Coptic Church believes was born in Africa, is considered to be the father of Christianity in Africa.  He also became the first bishop of Alexandria.  According to Coptic history, St. Mark was martyred in 68 AD by Hellenistic Alexandrians who resented his efforts to convert them.They allegedly dragged him through the streets by a rope around his neck until he was dead.

Coptic contributions to overall Christianity are profound.  Today’s oldest catechetical school in the world is the Christian School of Alexandria (which some say was also founded by St. Mark).  Christian Monasticism was born of Egyptian Desert Fathers such as Anthony the Great and Abba Pachomius.  The Nicene Creed is said to be based largely upon the teachings of  St. Athanasius of Alexandria.


Copyright January 3, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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