Many consider the Coptic church as the oldest church in the world. It traces its beginnings back to the work of the gospel writer Mark who they believe came to Alexandria, Egypt in 42 AD during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero.
For those who believe Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Copts have been undergoing horrific persecution in the Middle East, most recently with the bombing of St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Cairo on December 11, 2016. According to Egyptian authorities a suicide bomber was carrying 12 kilograms of TNT when he set it off in the Sunday morning service killing 24.
The Copts make up 10% of Egypt’s population of 91 million.
Though authorities were quick to condemn the slaughter, there has been a significant increase in Muslim persecution of Christians in Egypt, since the military overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammaed Morsi in 2013,
The Muslim brotherhood who backed Morsi, blames the Coptics, who supported the overthrow, for the president’s downfall. Since 2013, Muslim extremists have destroyed nearly 50 Coptic churches in Egypt and are using the courts to persecute Christians.
Earlier this year, a court sentenced three Coptic Teenagers to five years in prison for making a 30-second video mocking Islam. The boys stated they produced the video in response to the beheading of the 21 Syrian Coptic Christians and were actually mocking ISIS.
In 2013, an Egyptian military court sentenced a woman and her seven children to 15 years in prison for converting to Christianity. The woman, who was raised a Christian, converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim man. When her husband died she decided to return to her Christian faith, resulting in the sentence.
And it is not just Egypt, Coptic Christians — found throughout North Africa — are similarly being persecuted. You may remember the video posted in February, 2015, when ISIS marched 21 Syrian men, bound and dressed in orange, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and beheaded them. Those men who refused to deny their faith were Copts.
The Coptic Church formed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD over disagreement on the nature of Christ. This split the church into three groups, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and what would become the Coptic church.
Though there were several theological differences, the issue that caused the split surrounded the nature of Christ. Those who fell into the Coptic tradition believed that God dwelled in Jesus and that His flesh and Divine nature were not joined. They essentially believe Jesus had two natures — one divine and one human.
Those in the Roman Catholic camp believed Christ’s divinity and flesh were joined “in one hypostasis, or individual existence.”
This difference resulted in a major disagreement on who Mary was. Roman Catholics consider Mary the mother of God, while Copts consider her the mother of Christ.
Despite theological differences, with similar roots the Coptic church still has many similarities to Catholicism, including the priesthood, monasteries and even a pope — Pope Tawadr0s of Alexandria.
The Egyptian Coptic Church believes Scripture prophesied the church’s existence:
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 near its border. (Isaiah 19:19 NASV).
And there may even be a reference to Copt believers in the Book of Revelation, where in his vision of the end times the Apostle John saw a special reward given to Christians beheaded for their faith:
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:4-5 NASV)
- Christians under siege: Funeral for 24 worshipers slaughtered by Islamist suicide bomber as they prayed at Coptic Church in Cairo: Daily Mail
- Egyptian court sentences Christian family to 15 years for converting from Islam: Fox News
- Who are the Copts? Why are they being attacked?: Crosswalk.com
- 5 things to know about Coptic Christians: Aletia
Hello Dean, I would do some fact checking on your description of the Coptic Faith. The Coptic Fathers, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, St. Basil, etc. have a long and clear record of establishing Christian Theology. The Coptic church has always maintained the position that Jesus is FULLY God, God did not just “dwell” in Him as you have described. Christ has one nature, indivisible after the union. We freely proclaim St. Mary as the Theotokos, “Mother of God.” Furthermore, the Catholic Pope at the time of the council of Chalcedon (Pope Leo) was ignorant of Christ’s nature and professed two natures after the union! (Pope Leo’s tome). I invite you to study the Coptic Church more as we have a long history of maintaining the same unchanging faith as the apostles. Looking forward to your response!
Thank you very much for your comment Antony. I watch what the Egyptian Coptic believers are going through and I honor their steadfast faith in Christ in the midst of persecution. I can only hope that we in the west will remain as strong if we ever face similar persecution. God Bless