Coptic history is part of history of Egypt that begins with the introduction of Christianity in Egypt in the 1st century AD during the Roman period, covers the history of the Copts to the present day. Many of the historic items related to Coptic Christianity are on display in many museums around the world and a large number is in the Coptic Museum in Coptic Cairo. Egypt is identified in the Bible as the place of refuge that the Holy Family sought in its flight from Judea: "When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, was there until the death of Herod the Great, that it might be fulfilled, spoken by the Lord through the prophet, Out of Egypt I called My Son"; the Egyptian Church, now more than nineteen centuries old, regards itself as the subject of many prophecies in the Old Testament. Isaiah the prophet, in Chapter 19, Verse 19 says "In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, a pillar to the LORD at its border."
The first Christians in Egypt were Alexandrian Jews such as Theophilus, whom Saint Luke the Evangelist addresses in the introductory chapter of his gospel. When the Church of Alexandria was founded by Saint Mark during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, a great multitude of native Egyptians embraced the Christian faith. Christianity spread throughout Egypt within half a century of Saint Mark's arrival in Alexandria as is clear from the New Testament writings found in Bahnasa, in Middle Egypt, which date around the year 200 AD, a fragment of the Gospel of John, written in Coptic, found in Upper Egypt and can be dated to the first half of the 2nd century. In the 2nd century, Christianity began to spread to the rural areas, scriptures were translated into the local language, namely Coptic; the Catechetical School of Alexandria is the oldest catechetical school in the world. St. Jerome records. Around 190 AD under the leadership of the scholar Pantanaeus, the school of Alexandria became an important institution of religious learning, where students were taught by scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement and the native Egyptian Origen, considered the father of theology and, active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies.
Origen wrote over 6,000 commentaries of the Bible in addition to his famous Hexapla. Many scholars such as Jerome visited the school of Alexandria to exchange ideas and to communicate directly with its scholars; the scope of this school was not limited to theological subjects. The question-and-answer method of commentary began there, 15 centuries before Braille, wood-carving techniques were in use there by blind scholars to read and write. Many Egyptian Christians went to the desert during the 3rd century, remained there to pray and work and dedicate their lives to seclusion and worship of God; this was the beginning of the monastic movement, organized by Anthony the Great, Saint Paul, the world's first anchorite, Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Pachomius the Cenobite in the 4th century. Christian Monasticism was born in Egypt and was instrumental in the formation of the Coptic Orthodox Church character of submission and humility, thanks to the teachings and writings of the Great Fathers of Egypt's Deserts.
By the end of the 5th century, there were hundreds of monasteries, thousands of cells and caves scattered throughout the Egyptian desert. A great number of these monasteries have new vocations to this day. All Christian monasticism stems, either directly or indirectly, from the Egyptian example: Saint Basil the Great Archbishop of Caesaria of Cappadocia and organiser of the monastic movement in Asia Minor, visited Egypt around 357 AD and his rule is followed by the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Countless pilgrims have visited the "Desert Fathers" to emulate their disciplined lives; the Edict of Milan issued by the Roman Emperor Constantine I 313 A. D. marked an end of anti Christianity. In the 4th century, an Alexandrian presbyter named Arius began a theological dispute about the nature of Christ that spread throughout the Christian world and is now known as Arianism; the Ecumenical Council of Nicea 325 AD was convened by Constantine under the presidency of Saint Hosius of Cordova and Saint Alexander of Alexandria to resolve the dispute and led to the formulation of the Symbol of Faith known as the Nicene Creed.
The Creed, now recited throughout the Christian world, was based on the teaching put forth by a man who would become Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, the chief opponent of Arius. In the year 381 AD, Saint Timothy I of Alexandria presided over the second ecumenical council known as the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, which completed the Nicene Creed with this confirmation of the divinity of the Holy Spirit: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified who spoke by the Prophets and in One, Holy and Apostolic Church. We confess one Baptism for the remission of sins and we look for the
Coonan Cross Oath
The Coonan Cross Oath, taken on 3 January 1653, was a public avowal by members of the Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala, India that they would not submit to Roman Catholic dominance in ecclesiastical and secular life. The swearing of the oath at Mattancherry was a major event in the history of the Saint Thomas Christian community and marked a major turning point in its relations with the Roman Catholics; the oath resulted in the breaking up of 54 years of Roman Catholic Padroado Jurisdiction over the St Thomas Christians, started with the synod of Diamper in the year 1599 A. D. convoked by the Roman Catholic Archbishop Dom Alexio De Menezes. The Saint Thomas Christians remain in communion with the Church of the East, it is believed that Malabar Church was in communion with the Church of the East from CE 300 to CE 1599. With the establishment of Portuguese power in parts of India, clergy of that empire, in particular members of the Society of Jesus, attempted to Latinise the Indian Christians.
The Portuguese started a Latin Rite diocese in Goa and another at Cochin, sought to bring the St. Thomas Christians under the jurisdiction of the Portuguese padroado and into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. A series of synods, including the 1585 Synod of Goa, were held, which introduced Latinized elements to the local liturgy. In 1599 Aleixo de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, led the Synod of Diamper, which brought the Saint Thomas Christians under the authority of the Latin Archdiocese of Goa; the independence of the ancient Church of Malankara was rescinded. The Padroado of the Portuguese Crown was only momentary for the feelings of resentment and the desire to regain independence among the St. Thomas Christians were real and could not be contained for long. In 1653, Ahatallah of Antioch was captured by the Portuguese, he was taken on board a Portuguese ship at Madras bound for Goa and en route, it touched Cochin. Local Christians heard of the arrival of the ship at Cochin; the Archdeacon with a large number of Priests and several thousands of Saint Thomas Christians assembled at Mattancherry Cochin.
Several letters were sent to all the civil and religious authorities in Cochin, for at least an opportunity to visit Mar Ahatallah, to examine his credentials and to verify his identity, promising that if he was found an imposter, they would be the first to press for his punishment. Due to the staunch and intransigent opposition of the Archbishop Garcia and the Jesuit fathers it did not happen; the Archbishop refused to meet the Christians, who wanted to discuss the matter with him. What happened to Mar Ahatallah in the midst of Arabian Sea is still a mystery. Further resentment of these measures led a part of the community to take the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653 swearing "never to submit to the Portuguese". Ahatallah claimed to be the Patriarch of Antioch and hence was called himself "Ignatius Aloho", the name of the Patriarch Ignatius Hidayat Aloho. According to some writing on 1980s, Metropolitan Mar Ahatalla is said to have landed at Surat in 1652 and thence came to Mylapore, where he was arrested by the Jesuits on 3 August 1652.
While at Mylapore, Mar Ahatalla met two Syrian Christian deacons, viz: Chengannur ltty and Kuravilangad Kizhakkedath Kurien from Malankara, who were on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas and sent a letter through them to the Church of Malankara saying:Behold, I Ignatius, Patriarch of All India and China, send to you a letter through the clerics who came here from your place; when you have read this letter diligently send me two priests and forty men. If however, you wish to send them from your place, send them cautiously and soon, so that seeing your people they would release me without hindrance. I came to the city of Mylapore thinking that many people come here, that priests would get me to your place of the Indias. In the year 1652 of our Lord, in the month of August, on Monday, I arrived in Mylapore in the monastery of the Jesuits. In the same monastery I stay, they help me much. Peace be with them, with you, with us now and always. Amen. I, Patriarch of All India and China; when the ship carrying Mar Ahatallah reached Goa, he was handed over to the inquisition, he was kept in close custody in the Jesuit house there.
He was sent to Portugal on the ship "Nosa Senhora da Graca" from Goa and reached Lisbon on 14 July 1653. The king of Portugal decided to send him to Rome. Accordingly, while he was on his way to Rome, he died at Paris on 26 March 1654 and is buried at the Jerusalem Chapel of the Cordeliena Church. St. Vincent De Paul who met Mar Ahatallah at Paris mentions of him in the following words "There remains in this city a good old man of eighty years, a foreigner, lodging with the late monsignor Archbishop of Myra, they say. Be that it may, he is alone and has no mark of prelacy"; the treatment of Mar Ahatalla, shocked the Christian community, their wounded feelings effervesced into a mass upsurge which heralded the breaking off from the Padroado of the Portuguese Crown and the "Paulists". Seeing that the Archbishop thus turned a deaf ear to their insistent pleas, the Nasranis became exasperated. A rumor was spread at this time that Mar Ahatallah was drowned by the Portuguese. Hence on 3 January 1653, Archdeacon Thomas and representatives from the community assembled at St Mary's Church at Mattancherry to swear what would be known as the "Coonan Cross Oath".
The following oath was read aloud with lighted candles, with the Archdeacon and the leading
A debtera is an itinerant religious figure among the Beta Israel and in the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches, who sings hymns and dances for churchgoers, who performs exorcisms and white magic to aid the congregation. A debtera will behave as in minor orders, they may in fact be ordained as deacons, or may act outside the Church hierarchy. They are feared by the local population. Debteras are chosen from families of other debteras, are trained from childhood as scribes and as cantors, they are taught traditional medicine and lay rites as well. While studying, they live by begging, retailing, or practicing traditional medicine; the main purpose for their studies, however, is written and oral lore pertaining to religious functions, the test for graduation is memorizing the psalter. Before services, they bathe and don white clothing, a loose striped over-garment called a shamma. Debteras carry prayer sticks to the service, where they sing and play drums and sistra outside the church or the synagogue during religious services.
Among the Beta Israel, the status of debtera is a milestone in the study to become a kahen. Unlike fully-fledged Kahens, debteras are closer to the laypeople serving as intermediaries between them and the clergy. A Kahen who gives up his position or is deposed may serve as a debtera. Kahens and debteras are two separate professions. Orthodox Tewahedo churches see the division as following the model used by the ancient Israelites. During Lenten services, debteras tap prayer sticks to keep the rhythm; the Ethiopian Church condones the performances of debteras, citing the story in 2 Kings of David dancing at the temple and Psalm 47:1 for Biblical examples. These performances feature symbols connected to the Passion of Jesus: the sistrum's swaying and the beating of the drums represent Christ's swaying while enduring beatings, the tapping of the prayer sticks represent the flagellation of Christ. Debteras participate in liturgy as singers and musicians and, outside the Church religio-magical healers by performing as herbalists, fortune-tellers etc.
Some Ethiopian authors consider these healers as ‘spiritual healers’ whereas, they are purely religio-magical healers. Not all duties taken on by Debteras are condoned by the Ethiopian Church. Many distribute contraceptive herbs to women and perform magic meant to perform contraceptive functions, in contradiction to the Ethiopian Church's teachings; some are reputed to study black magic invoking demons alongside their more benevolent official learning. Some Debteras manufacture; these amulets are made of silver and are noted for their use against the legendary budas, zār spirits, the evil eye. They may study a variety of anti-magic invocations and exorcisms; these exorcisms may include prayers, blessing of holy water, burning of roots, incantations from a Magic Star Book. Some amulets may take the form of small scrolls kept in pouches or similar containers, made from the skin of a sacrificed goat or lamb whose blood is used to ritually purify the intended owner; some practice astrology, by giving unlucky people new stars by changing their names.
This may be considered "cheating" by the locals, however. Some Debteras have been noted to use Datura stramonium to cause hallucinations. A debtera may charge a fee for his charms and astrological practices, but not liturgical activities. Not all of the Debteras duties and cures are supernatural. Debteras place scarecrows in farm fields to protect them and shave heads to prevent lice outbreaks. Before the 1974 revolution, nobles would hire Debteras to educate their children. A major theological difference in the healing practices of Priests and Debteras is that for the priests, sin Vs virtue or evil-spirit Vs God is the basis for any sickness and healings. Therefore, they prescribe prayer and holy water, fasting, penance together with holy water as a remedy. For the debteras it is evil spirit Vs human beings. Besides these, kitab or amulets are prepared and give by them to be worn to wade away the evil spirits and evil eye. On the other hand, the priests use the practice of confession, fasting and Church attendance as a means of healing together with some sort of advice and guidance.
The soul-father, called yenafs abbat is a kind of family spiritual-doctor, common in many places makes frequent visits to the home and performs services as required. Ethiopian chant
Miaphysitism is Cyril of Alexandria's Christological formula holding that in the person of Jesus Christ, divine nature and human nature are united in a compound nature, the two being united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration. Chalcedonian Christians have considered Miaphysitism in general to be amenable to an orthodox interpretation, in contrast to Monophysitism. Since 1142, Oriental Orthodoxy uses the term "Miaphysite" for themselves but prefer to call themselves non-Chalcedonians; the term "miaphysitism" arose as a response to Dyophysite criticisms of Monophysitism. As Nestorianism had its roots in the Antiochene tradition and was opposed by the Alexandrian tradition, Christians in Syria and Egypt who wanted to distance themselves from the extremes of Nestorianism and wished to uphold the integrity of their theological position adopted this term Miaphysite to express their position; the theology of miaphysitism is based on an understanding of the nature of Christ: human.
After steering between the doctrines of docetism and adoptionism, the Church began to explore the mystery of Christ's nature further. Two positions in particular caused controversy: Nestorianism stressed the distinction between the divine and the human in Christ to such an extent that it appeared that two persons were living in the same body; the view was condemned at the Council of Ephesus. Eutychianism stressed the unity of Christ's nature to such an extent that Christ's divinity consumed his humanity as the ocean consumes a drop of vinegar; the view was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon. In response to Eutychianism, the latter Council adopted dyophysitism, which distinguished between person and nature, stating that Christ is one person in two natures, but emphasizes that the natures are "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation"; the Monophysites rejected this definition as verging on Nestorianism and instead adhered to a wording of Cyril of Alexandria, the chief opponent of Nestorianism, who had spoken of the "one nature of the Word of God incarnate" but they failed to see the distinction between the emphatic masculine form Mono and the less emphatic feminine form Mia.
The distinction of this stance was that the incarnate Christ has one nature, but that nature is still of both a divine character and a human character, retains all the characteristics of both. The Council of Chalcedon was seen as a watershed for Christology among the Chalcedonians as it adopted dyophysitism. However, as Oriental Churches the Copts in Egypt, who held to Miaphysitism, rejected the decision, the controversy became a major socio-political problem for the Eastern Roman Empire. There were numerous attempts at reunion between the two camps, the balance of power shifted several times. However, the decision at Chalcedon remains the official teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and traditional Protestants; the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches are grouped together as Oriental Orthodox. Over recent decades, leaders of the various branches of the Church have spoken about the differences between their respective christologies as not being as extreme as was traditionally held.
John Meyendorff, a historian of this period of Church history, held that the official teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church is not expressed by Chalcedon alone, but by "Chalcedon plus Cyril" – i.e. the dyophysite position expressed by Chalcedon, plus Cyril's miaphysite expression quoted above in its Orthodox interpretation – with the former attempting to express the inexpressible from one side and the latter doing the same from the miaphysite side, both approaches being necessary and neither sufficient by itself. Much has been said about the difficulties in understanding the Greek technical terms used in these controversies; the main words are ousia, physis and prosopon. In Greek, their meanings can overlap somewhat; these difficulties became more exaggerated when these technical terms were translated into other languages. In Syriac, physis was translated as kyānâ and hypostasis was qnômâ. However, in the Church of the East, which followed the East Syriac rite, qnômâ was taken to mean nature, thereby confounding the issue further.
The shades of meaning are more blurred between these words, they could not be used in such a philosophical way as their Greek counterparts. The Miaphysite Churches, all in communion with each other are: Armenian Apostolic Church Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin Holy See of Cilicia Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria French Coptic Orthodox Church Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo ChurchOther Miaphysite Churches, not in communion with the Oriental Orthodox Churches, include the Celtic Orthodox Church, the Ancient British Church, the British Orthodox Church. Acephali Three-Chapter Controversy Meyendorff, John. Imperial unity and Christian divisions: The Church 450–680 A. D; the Church in history. 2. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. ISBN 978-0-88-141056-3. Pope Shenouda III «THE NATURE OF CHRIST» MAIN DOCTRINES AND PRACTICE OF THE CHURCH – Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Severus of Antioch’s Objection To
Timkat is the Orthodox Tewahedo celebration of Epiphany. It is celebrated on January corresponding to the 10th day of Terr in the Ethiopian calendar. Timkat celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River; this festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism. During the ceremonies of Timkat, the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, present on every Ethiopian altar, is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and borne in procession on the head of the priest; the Tabot, otherwise seen by the laity, represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan for baptism. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated near pool early in the morning; the nearby body of water is blessed towards dawn and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom enter the water and immerse themselves, symbolically renewing their baptismal vows. But the festival does not end there; the clergy, bearing umbrellas of many hues, perform rollicking dances and songs. Dressed up in their finest, the women chatter excitedly on their one real day of freedom in the year.
The young braves leap down in spirited dances, tirelessly repeating rhythmic songs. When the holy ark has been safely restored to its dwelling-place, everyone goes home for feasting. "Timket". 13 October 2004. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 2014-10-04. "Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris - Timket - Epiphany in Ethiopia". Ethiopianriftvalleysafaris.com. Archived from the original on 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2014-10-04. "meskelsquare.com". Meskelsquare.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2014-10-04. Timkat Celebration in Lalibela