A History Of Christianity In Egypt Essay

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A History Of Christianity In Egypt Essay, Research Paper The history of Christianity in Egypt dates back verily to the beginnings of Christianity itself. Many Christians hold that Christianity was brought to Egypt by the Apostle Saint Mark in the early part of the first century AD. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastic History states that Saint Mark first came to Egypt between the first and third year of the reign of Emperor Claudius, which would make it sometime between AD 41 and 44, and that he returned to Alexandria some twenty years later to preach and evangelize. Saint Mark’s first convert in Alexandria was Anianus, a shoemaker who later was consecrated a bishop and became Patriarch of Alexandria after Saint Mark’s martyrdom. This succession of Patriarchs

has remained unbroken down to the present day, making the Egyptian Christian, or Coptic, Church one of the oldest Christian churches in existence. Evidence for this age comes in the form of the oldest Biblical papyri discovered in remote regions of Upper Egypt. These papyri are written in the Coptic script and are older than even the oldest Greek copies of the Bible ordered by Constantine in AD 312. The Egyptians before Christianity had always been a deeply religious people, and many readily embraced the young religion, having had their old beliefs effectively destroyed by the coming of the Roman Empire and the final dethroning of the god-king Pharaohs. Many of the concepts of Christianity were already familiar to the Egyptians from their ancient religion, such as the death and

resurrection of a god, the idea of the judgement of souls and a paradisiacal afterlife for the faithful. The ankh too, the Egyptian symbol for eternal life, is very similar to that of the cross revered by Christians (especially in the form of the Coptic cross, seen at right), itself also a symbol for eternal life. Furthermore, the belief that God had chosen Egypt as a safe place for His infant son to hide him from Herod was a great source of pride to the Egyptian Christians. It was through Christianity that the Egyptian culture survived the Roman Dominion. The Church Suffering and Victorious Yet these formative years were not without problems. Throughout this time Christianity in Egypt was locked in an often deadly struggle against the polytheistic religions of the Greco-Roman

culture as well as the Hellenistic movement that began in Alexandria spread to other large cities. To counter Hellenistic philosophy that often criticized the young religion the Christian leaders in Egypt established a catechetical school in Alexandria, the Didascalia, founded in the late second century AD. This school became the heart of what can only be called Christian philosophy, and great teachers and orators such as Clement and Origen were able to battle the Hellenistic philosophers on their own ground and advocate Christianity in an orderly and intellectual manner. It was also in this great university of Christian learning that Christianity first underwent rigorous studies that created its first theology and dogma, as well as making the new faith accessible to all.

Pantaenus, the founder and first dean of the Didascalia, helped the Egyptian people bridge the gap between Dynastic Egypt and the new era by promoting the use of the Greek alphabet instead of the Demotic (”cursive” hieroglyphics) in translations of the Bible as well as in the writing of religious theses and letters. Additionally, the school educated everyone who came to it in Greek, opening the study of religion to just about everyone, and making as many people as possible literate. Yet the greatest persecutions on the young religion came at the hands of the Roman government. Emperor Nero had set the precedent in AD 64, about the same time as the martyrdom of Saint Peter. It was unusual, for the actual offense was simply to be a Christian or to profess the Christian faith,