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The Coptic Orthodox Church

About the Coptic Orthodox Church

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The Coptic Church in History:

All through history and particularly during the Coptic Era, the Coptic Church played quite a significant role in shaping and defining Christian drought and doctrines. The contribution of the Coptic Church to world Christianity can be briefly summarized in the following four movements:

Theological Scholarship and the Catechetical School:

Before Christianity, Alexandria was famous for having the largest library and museum in the world. That compound was actually the headquarters of the well-known School of Alexandria. It housed millions of scrolls of papyrus, which were said to have held all the knowledge of ancient scholarship. It was established by Ptolemy Soter in 323 BC. In that school, seventy legendary scholars from the Jewish community translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek in 270 BC. It was a monumental work that stood the test of time and is known as the "Septuagint." Those scholars also established the order in which the books of the O.T., including the "Apocrypha", are arranged.

The school started as a predominantly scientific and literary institution. It then developed into a philosophical and theological university. The Catechetical School of Alexandria came in direct succession to it. This was the earliest important institution for theological education in Christian antiquity. Its deans, teachers, and graduates were responsible for what could be called the philosophisation of Christian creed and for the most monumental works of exegesis. They defined Christianity in its final form for all generations to come.

The first known dean of the school was Pantaenus (died 190 AD), followed by Clement of Alexandria who made a real effort to successfully convert educated Greeks to Christianity. Next came Origen (about 215 AD) who was a biblical scholar and philosopher. He wrote lengthy commentaries on almost every book in the Old and New Testaments. His homilies are known to be the most ancient example of Christian preaching. Origen was succeeded by Dionysius of Alexandria (The Great) who later became the Patriarch of the Church (246-264 AD). Another distinguished dean of the School was Didymus the Blind. He lost his sight when he was four years old. However, this handicap did not deter him from acquiring the vision of the mind and the soul. He mastered grammar, rhetoric, poetry, philosophy, mathematics and music. He knew by heart both the Old and the New Testaments. Among his pupils were St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Jerome, Palladius and Rufinus the historian. In his care for educating the blind, he became the first one in history to devise a system of engraved writing. By the fourth century, Coptic Alexandria had indeed become the seat of Christian Learning for the whole world.

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