The Original Egyptians
The word “Coptic” is of a linguistic origin from the Greek word “Aigyptos” which means “Egyptian”. The modern use of the term “Coptic” describes Egyptian Christians, as well as the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language script.The Coptic lineage in Egypt includes the Pharaonic ancestry and the people that marvelously built the ancient temples and pyramids.
The Arab conquest of Egypt (639-642), only some 20 years after the rise of Islam, imposed on the land the culture of Islam and Arabism. The original culture of the nation was suppressed and made illegal. Many of the people continued their adherence to Coptic Christianity despite the special tax extracted from “infidels”. Eventually, the settling of colonists from Arabia, economic struggles and persecution of the original Egyptians, dwindled the Coptic Christians down to the present day 17% of the population–about 14 million. The Greek and Coptic languages went out of use, and Arabic became the predominant language.
The only trace of the ancient Pharaonic peoples is in the Coptic Orthodox Church. The original language of Egypt–Coptic–is used only in the Divine Liturgies of the Church.
In the latter part of the 20th century, the Muslim dominated government changes the official name of Egypt to the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The Coptic Orthodox Church feels the responsibility and takes pride in preserving our magnificent Pharonic roots and keeping alive the heritage of one of the oldest and most advanced civilizations in the world.
The Coptic Orthodox Church
Egypt has the distinction of being the only country visited by the Holy Family. Moreover it is a fulfillment of the prophecy, “out of Egypt I have called My Son” (Hosea 11:1 & Matthew 2:15).
When the baby Jesus fled the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem, He came to Egypt with Mary & Joseph to seek refuge. Church tradition has it that wherever the holy family went, the stone idols tumbled. It is believed that the Holy Family remained in Egypt between three to ten years.
St. Mark the Evangelist, in his journeys to Egypt, established the Coptic Orthodox Church (originally known as the Church of Alexandria) in the year 48 A.D. Egypt has the distinction of being the first country to be fully converted to Christianity. St. Mark was the first pope of the Church and since that time, the succession of the Coptic patriarchs, bishops, priests and deacons has been continuous.
Through the Church of Alexandria, Egypt became the world leader in the Christian faith for about 450 years. The majority of the principles and dogmas of Christianity had their origin in definition from Egypt, with the teachings being expressed through the academia of the first Theological School in the world, in Alexandria.
The central faith is in the Redeeming Act of the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Resurrection from the dead. The Coptic Church affirms Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), Confession, Holy Eucharist (communion), Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders and Unction of the Sick.
In the Holy Eucharist, the belief is in the True Presence of our Lord – True Body and True Blood.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is in communion with the Armenian, Syrian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, British Orthodox and Indian Orthodox Churches. It is a member of the World Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches of the USA.
Among the Coptic Church’s Contributions to Christianity
” The Nicene Creed (proclaimed in all Catholic and Orthodox Churches)
” The ordering and compilation of the Holy Bible as it is today.
” The order of the Divine Liturgy (the Mass)
” The calendar assignment and calculation for Easter each year.
” Monasticism – through St. Anthony The Father of Monasticism and St. Pachomious the Father of the Cenobites
” Evangelization of portions of Europe, Africa and the Middle East
” Historical writings of the saints, scholars and theologians including Origen in 185AD, St. Clement 211AD, St. Athanasious 296AD, St. Cyril 377AD and more.
The Coptic Church’s Political Views
The Coptic Church, by the Grace of God, has survived through the centuries of persecution and slaughter. Despite such persecution, the Coptic Church, as a religious institution, has never controlled, nor allowed itself to be controlled by, the governments in Egypt. Throughout the ages, the Coptic Church has always maintained its position of separation between State and Religion because Jesus Christ Himself, when He asked His followers to submit to their rulers said “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Not once in its long history has the Coptic Church ever staged an uprising, ever forcefully resisted authorities or invaders, nor ever allied with any powers; for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ are clear “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Practicing our Christianity, we have blessed those who have persecuted us, those who have killed us, because it is the command of our Lord Jesus Christ to be merciful and loving even to our enemies.