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April 12, 2021
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Origins of Coptic Christianity in ancient Egypt’s religio-cultural context – National Geographic

At last, some indications of the influence of ancient Egypt’s language, history and culture in Egyptian Christianity, which survives as Coptic christianity. Latin Christianity, as the religion of the Roman empire, which sought to wipe out earlier alternative christian faiths, became gradually watered down and eventually wiped out by Islam in Egypt. But Coptic Christianity presently led by Pope Tawadross II (since 2012), who is “the latest in an unbroken line of patriarchs believed to stretch back to the Gospel writer St. Mark,” developed apart as an alternative christian tradition culturally rooted in the region.

Egypt, land of the pyramids, is the setting for many of the best known tales from the Old Testament. Through Moses, God punishes the Egyptian pharaoh for holding the Hebrew people in bondage. Betrayed by his brothers, young Joseph suffers in slavery in Egypt before rising to become vizier, second in power only to Pharaoh.

When turning to the New Testament, many people think of the lands of Israel and Palestine, the places where Jesus was born and preached. Egypt, however, also provides a key location in his story: a safe haven for the Holy Family. In the Gospel of Matthew, Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus flee from Jerusalem and King Herod, who wanted to kill the child. The family stays in Egypt until the danger has passed.

In addition to its important place in Scripture, Egypt was a fertile garden in the early flowering of Christianity. From the first century A.D., as the faith took root and began to grow, Egypt became an important religious center, as theologians and scholars flocked there. Egyptian Christianity developed its own distinctive flavor, shaped by the words, culture, and history of ancient Egypt. This branch of Christianity would become the Coptic Orthodox Church, and its followers would be known as Coptic Christians, or, more simply, as Copts.

After the golden age of Ramses II and his successors ended, Egypt underwent invasions by Libyans, Nubians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Even so, Egypt’s old religion proved remarkably durable, partially due to its ability to absorb other influences. 

Read the full article titled, Coptic Christianity originated in Egypt shortly after the death of Jesus | National Geographic, History Magazine

José Pérez-Accino contributed this article on National Geographic’s History Magazine

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