A History Of Christianity In Egypt Essay
, Research Paper
The history of Christianity in Egypt day of the months
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 portion of the first century AD. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, in his
Ecclesiastical History provinces that Saint Mark foremost came to Egypt between
the first and 3rd twelvemonth of the reign of Emperor Claudius, which would
do it sometime between AD 41 and 44, and that he returned to Alexandria
some twenty old ages subsequently to prophesy and evangelise. Saint Mark & # 8217 ; s first convert
in Alexandria was Anianus, a cobbler who subsequently was consecrated a bishop
and became Patriarch of Alexandria after Saint Mark & # 8217 ; s martyrdom. This sequence
of Patriarchs has remained unbroken down to the present twenty-four hours, doing the
Egyptian Christian, or Coptic, Church one of the oldest Christian churches
in being. Evidence for this age comes in the signifier of the oldest Biblical
papyri discovered in distant parts of Upper Egypt. These papyri are written
in the Coptic book and are older than even the oldest Grecian transcripts of
the Bible ordered by Constantine in AD 312.
The Egyptians before Christianity had ever
been a profoundly spiritual people, and many readily embraced the immature faith,
holding had their old beliefs efficaciously destroyed by the coming of the
Roman Empire and the concluding dethroning of the god-king Pharaohs. Many of
the constructs of Christianity were already familiar to the Egyptians from
their ancient faith, such as the decease and Resurrection of a God, the
thought of the opinion of psyches and a paradisaical hereafter for the faithful.
The ankh excessively, the Egyptian symbol for ageless life, is really similar to
that of the cross revered by Christians ( particularly in the signifier of the
Coptic cross, seen at right ) , itself besides a symbol for ageless life. Furthermore,
the belief that God had chosen Egypt as a safe topographic point for His baby boy
to conceal him from Herod was a great beginning of pride to the Egyptian Christians.
It was through Christianity that the Egyptian civilization survived the Roman
The Church Suffering and Victorious
Yet these formative old ages were non without
jobs. Throughout this clip Christianity in Egypt was locked in an frequently
lifelessly battle against the polytheistic faiths of the Classical civilization
every bit good as the Hellenistic motion that began in Alexandria spread to
other big metropoliss. To counter Hellenistic doctrine that frequently criticized
the immature faith the Christian leaders in Egypt established a catechetical
school in Alexandria, the Didascalia, founded in the late 2nd century
Ad. This school became the bosom of what can merely be called Christian doctrine,
and great instructors and speechmakers such as Clement and Origen were able to
conflict the Hellenistic philosophers on their ain land and advocator Christian religion
in an orderly and rational mode. It was besides in this great university
of Christian larning that Christianity foremost underwent strict surveies
that created its first divinity and tenet, every bit good as doing the new religion
accessible to all. Pantaenus, the laminitis and first dean of the Didascalia,
helped the Egyptian people bridge the spread between Dynastic Egypt and the
new epoch by advancing the usage of the Greek alphabet alternatively of the Demotic
( & # 8221 ; cursive & # 8221 ; hieroglyphics ) in interlingual renditions of the Bible every bit good as in the
authorship of spiritual theses and letters. Additionally, the school educated
everyone who came to it in Greek, opening the survey of faith to merely
about everyone, and doing every bit many people as possible literate.
Yet the greatest persecutions on the immature
faith came at the custodies of the Roman authorities. Emperor Nero had set
the case in point in AD 64, about the same clip as the martyrdom of Saint Peter.
It was unusual, for the existent discourtesy was merely to be a Christian or
to profess the Christian religion, instead than any sort of condemnable Acts of the Apostless that
might travel along with it ( such as those later falsely attributed to Medieval
misbelievers ) . An arrested Christian could have a forgiveness merely by offering
incense on a Roman communion table, but many refused to make so, mentioning Bible transitions
pressing religion in the one God. Thus the true & # 8220 ; offense & # 8221 ; of the persecuted Christians
was their refusal to make homage to the Roman Gods, including the emperor.
Those who did decline to bow to the Roman faith were imprisoned, frequently
tortured, thrown to the wild animate beings in the amphitheater, or suffered executing
by any figure of other agencies. Rather than detering the Christians,
these actions encouraged them and reinforced their religion, repeating the words
of Jesus that those who suffered persecution because of his name were genuinely
blessed. These heroes of the Christians were called & # 8220 ; sufferer, & # 8221 ; a word that
agencies & # 8220 ; witnesses. & # 8221 ; In the first century this persecution was mostly done
by the authorities, though after a few decennaries they seem to hold lost involvement
( or become fearful of the religious order ) and in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries
the rabble took over the persecutions. Decius and Diocletian, in the 250s
and early 300s severally, brought the empire back into the persecution,
but it was clear by this clip it was a losing conflict as Christianity had
penetrated even into the highest degrees of society.
It was in Egypt that some of the greatest
rebelliousnesss of the Romans by Christians were done. While their Roman opposite numbers
worshipped in catacombs and belowground vaults, the Egyptian Christians
built their churches openly and performed their ceremonials in full position
of the Empire. And for every one that the Empire struck down, more would
be converted by the illustration of the sufferer. Diocletian was peculiarly
brutal, put to deathing so many Christians in 284 entirely that the Coptic Church
dates its calendar, the Calendar of the Martyrs ( Anno Martyri ) from that
clip. Despite these persecutions, Christianity seems to hold grown quickly
in Egypt, distributing to Fayoum in 257 via Anba Dionysius, and in 260 even
down into the Thebaid. But in 306 something happened that would alter
the fate of Christianity forever: Flavius valerius constantinus became emperor.
Flavius valerius constantinus
Actually, he became one of the emperors.
The Roman Empire of the clip used the Tetrarchy, or Rule of Four. There
was one Augustus and one Caesar each for the eastern and western parts
of the Empire. One of Constantine & # 8217 ; s first Acts of the Apostless as Augustus was to stop the
persecution of Christians where he had been runing in Gaul ( France ) ,
Spain, and Britain. It is unknown where Constantine got his initial regard
for Christianity, but it is thought that his female parent was a Christian. Shortly
afterwards Galerius, the Eastern Augustus, issued an edict of acceptance
for Christianity, stoping persecutions in Greece and the environing country.
Maximinus Daia ( non to be confused with Maximinus the Thracian ) nevertheless,
responded by increasing persecu
tions in his district of Egypt.
The narrative is told that one time before the
Battle of Milvian Bridge ( by which Constantine took complete control of
the Western Empire ) when the odds were greatly against him, Constantine
beseeched God for aid, praying in the Christian manner, and won the twenty-four hours.
He subsequently adopted the Chi-Rho, a conventionalized monogram of the first letters
of & # 8220 ; Christus, & # 8221 ; as his criterion, and led his ground forcess to triumph after triumph.
Because of this, Constantine was even more friendly towards the Christians,
though he himself was non baptized a Christian until his deathbed. In 313
together with Licinius, the eastern Augustus, he developed a policy of
spiritual tolerance throughout the Empire and for the first clip in many
many decennaries there was a societal peace. Peoples were free to idolize as they
pleased and the Christian Church was allowed to ain belongings, doing it
much easier to construct lasting churches. Additionally, Christianity was
made the official province faith, liberating it at least from persecution
by the Imperium. Constantine & # 8217 ; s order giving spiritual freedom to all under
his regulation is known as the Edict of Milan or more decently, the Edit of Tolerance,
and was the precursor of other spiritual Torahs such as those found in the
American Constitution and the Lateran Treaty of 1949, portion of which created
Feeling that his power in Egypt was threatened,
Maximinus, still transporting out his persecutions against the Christians at that place,
marched an ground forces across Asia Minor into Europe and confronted Licinius.
Licinius, following Constantine & # 8217 ; s illustration, prayed in the Christian manner
with his ground forces before the conflict and defeated Maximinus. With this, Licinius
brought the new Roman policy of spiritual tolerance to Egypt and ended
the persecution of the Egyptian Christians.
After this, Constantine became more and
more involved in the workings of Christianity. His dream was to go
to the Holy Land and be baptized in the Jordan River, but this was abandoned
when he discovered that the eastern churches were in upheaval, largely due
to the splash caused by the beliefs of Arius, now called the Arian Heresy.
In 325, in response to this inharmoniousness, Constantine ordered the Council
of Nicaea. This council was the largest assemblage of Christian bishops
in the history of the Church so far, and though the bulk of those present
were stand foring the eastern churches of Egypt and Greece, there were
delegates from Rome, and therefore the nickname & # 8220 ; oecumenic & # 8221 ; ( intending & # 8220 ; of the
whole universe & # 8221 ; ) was attached. Constantine attended every bit good, depicting himself
as & # 8220 ; bishop of external things, & # 8221 ; and maintain a secular place on the issues,
but it was clear that he wanted Christianity to be united and harmonious.
The Nicene Creed, the great part of the Council and a supplication still
used by Christians to this twenty-four hours, was composed by Saint Athanasius, a immature
Egyptian deacon who would subsequently follow Alexandros as patriarch of Alexandria.
The Foundations of Monasticism
Egypt is regarded by many Christians,
regardless of denomination, as the place of Christian monasticism, and it
is really easy to see why. The sheer figure of Christian monasteries scattered
about the East is amazing, from the 300 that were in Constantinople
entirely to the stray Saint Catherine & # 8217 ; s at Mount Sinai. Yet it was Egypt
that was seen as the bosom of the cloistered thought. The anon. work, History
of the Monks in Egypt, written at some clip in the 4th century, says
There is no town or small town in Egypt
or the Thebaid that is non surrounded by hermitages as if by walls, and
the people depend on their supplications as if on God Himself & # 8230 ; Through them
the universe is kept in being.
Christian monasticism emerged as a genuine
motion during the early 4th century, but the spirit of monasticism
was already present in Christianity with its thoughts of asceticism and moderateness.
For the Christian East, the monastic was by definition a lone function, and
at that place have been more Christian anchorites in this country than in any other in
It is Saint Anthony of Egypt who is credited
with the initiation of monasticism, along with his fellow countryman Saint
Pachomius. Yet even they were merely spread outing on an thought that had already
existed. After the decease of his parents in the 270 & # 8217 ; s, Anthony had entrusted
his younger sister to a Parthenon, or convent of adult females. Thus priories of
what are today called nuns were already established long before Saints
Anthony and Pachomius even began their work. Indeed, it is adult females who are
to be genuinely credited with the beginning of the cloistered career. Yet Anthony
still deserves the congratulations due to him, for his true invention was to travel
the cloistered community off from the distractions of society and the metropolis
and into the wilderness, which he did, establishing his first hermitage in
Unlike monasteries in the West, the monasteries
of Egypt and the environing country had no centralised orders, instead, each
one was an independent unit. Many of the early monasteries in the East were
founded and maintained by the swayers and aristocracy, others by groups of
the people wishing to hold supplications said for themselves and their households.
The size of the monasteries besides varied greatly. Some were extremely organized
endeavors, having big sums of land and commercial involvements, while
others were hermitages of merely three or four members. After Saint Anthony,
there were two basic types of monasticism in Egypt, and subsequently on, the universe.
There was the eremetical, or anchorite, manner and the coenobitic, monasteries
in which the occupants led a communal life.
These Egyptian abstainers each lived really
similar lives to the others of their type. They took vows of celibacy and
poorness, and if portion of a cloistered community, obeisance to the archimandrite. They
practiced long and frequent fasts, some abstained from intoxicant and meat,
and they supported themselves by making services for the ballad people nearby,
such as assisting with labour or the merchandising of some little handcrafts. The
largest monasteries were frequently self-sufficing, owning farms and herds,
every bit good as doing everything they needed, from the apparels they wore to
the staff of life that was on their tabular array. If they did do any money for anything
they did, they kept merely what they needed to exist and gave the remainder
to the hapless. While crowds of the hapless frequently united monasteries ( vows of
poorness being nil new to them, and at least they would hold nutrient, vesture,
and shelter ) , subsequently on many of the upper category joined as Christianity spread
across category and caste. Quite a figure of the latter were educated and
were employed by the Church in assorted rational businesss such as
catechists, clerks and physicians. From the really beginning, the early Christian
Church had a topographic point and a undertaking for everyone.