Coptic Church

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Coptic Church

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

"Copt" comes from the Greek word Aigyptos. This, in turn, comes from Hikaptah, one of the names for Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt.

The Coptic Church traces its roots to Saint Mark, who is said to have brought Christianity to Egypt twelve years after Jesus' ascension. The Copts believe they are the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 19:19: "In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border."

When Alexandria became a major presence in early Christianity, the Coptic Church was recognized as a center for learning. Much of currently accepted theology was hammered out there in the writings of major, foundation-building church theologians such as Origen and Augustine, the favorite of the Protestant Reformers.

Copts pride themselves as the ones who hosted the Holy Family when they were forced to flee Palestine after the birth of Jesus (see Christ/Jesus of Nazareth). The Nicene Creed, a statement of faith used in many churches to this day, was created under its tutelage. The Catechetical School of Alexandria, probably the oldest such school in the world, was founded there in 190 CE. Monasticism was born in Egypt when the Desert Fathers retreated there to pray, meditate, and contemplate. Saint Anthony, the world's first Christian monk, was a Coptic priest from Upper Egypt.

The prophet Muhammad was said to have had such respect for the Coptic Church that he warned his warriors to tread lightly in Egypt, "for they are your protégés and kith and kin." Because of this, Muslim scholars saved much of what otherwise might have been lost when European Christianity quite literally fanned the flames that led to the burning of the Alexandrian library.

Ever since the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE, the Copts have been independent of European Christianity. At that council, as at other ecumenical councils, Church bishops met to settle matters of doctrine and practice—in this case, to address the heretical notion that Christ had only one nature rather than two. Here there is great disagreement. Church historians tend to argue, as did the fifth-century council, that Copts are monophysites—that is, believing that Christ had only one (divine) nature rather than, as the council determined, two natures, divine and human.

The Coptic Church insists they were misunderstood at that council. Their position is that Christ had two perfect natures, but that those natures were joined in one called "the nature of the incarnate word." They believe their expulsion was due to European bigotry; they claim the Europeans wanted to isolate and finally abolish the Egyptians, who had their own Pope and who were insisting church and state should be separate.

Although centered in Egypt, the Coptic Church has congregations scattered around the world. Some nine million Copts live in Egypt, almost one-fifth of the population. Although they practice many of the same sacraments and feast days of Roman Catholicism, they no doubt hold the record for serious fasting. Out of 365 days in the year, Copts fast for 210 of them, allowing no food or drink to be consumed between sunrise and sunset.

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