History of the Coptic Church

The Coptic Orthodox Church is an Apostolic Church; whose history extends from the time of the Apostles following the death and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After the ascension of Christ, the Good News was proclaimed in Egypt by St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the seventy-two apostles and writer of the gospel bearing his name. St. Mark came to Egypt, in the first century, at a time when the Egyptians worshiped many pagan gods; he came to the city of Alexandria, which was one of most renowned cities for its philosophy, science and culture. As St. Mark, wandered in the streets of Alexandria, his footwear was torn. As he walked in to see a shoemaker by the name of Anianus, he profited from the occasion to preach the Good News to him. Anianus would eventually become the second Pope in the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church; following St. Mark. Within years, Christianity was spread and accepted throughout the land of Egypt. Since St. Mark, the Coptic Orthodox Church has enjoyed an uninterrupted continuity of the high priesthood up to the current HH Pope Tawadros II.

The Coptic Church is a church of martyrs, whose sons and daughters offered their lives as a pure sacrifice for the love God. St. Mark was first in line to receive the crown of martyrdom. The Coptic Church lived through many waves of persecution over the centuries. The persecution during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century led to the martyrdom of thousands of men and women who refused to worship the pagan gods. Amongst the Coptic Orthodox Church martyrs, though a list of whom would be endless, stand St. Mena the Wonderworker and St. Rebecca (Refka) and her five children.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is a church of monasticism, which is a life of prayer, repentance, contemplation, solitude, worship and purity of heart. Monasticism arose at a time when the Roman Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity, a time of rest from the bloodiest persecution of the previous Emperor Diocletian. Men and women fled to the desert, offering their lives to God in prayers and praises, leaving all to abide in the One. The barren desert became fruitful, providing for the world children whose holy lives enlightened generations. Two of the most famous Coptic Monastic fathers are St. Anthony the Great and St. Pachomius, whose lives not only significantly influenced the monastic movement in Egypt, but were also used as a monastic model in the world. St. Anthony sold all that he had and departed into the wilderness upon hearing the words of the Gospel: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). The biography of St. Anthony was written by St. Athanasius of Alexandria, the twentieth Pope of Alexandria.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is a church of theologians, who have defended the Orthodox Christian Faith against many heresies. St. Athanasius fought the heresy of Arianism for years, which aimed to attack the divinity of Christ. He was exiled five times, insulted and plotted against to kill him. St. Athanasius stood against the followers of Arianism and Emperors; he stood against the world. St. Gregory the Theologian called St. Athanasius the Pillar of the Church.

The Coptic Orthodox Church has preserved the sound apostolic Christian Faith till today as the Church fought against heresies aimed at destroying the Orthodox Faith and robbing Christians of their precious salvation. Our current Orthodox Faith has been professed in the lives of many by keeping the sound teaching of the truth. Spirituality, orthodoxy, martyrdom, and monasticism encapsulate the beauty and richness of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Truly, Isaiah was correct when he prophesied: “The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people…” (Isaiah 19:25).