Christianity in Egypt is described as, "was locked in an often deadly struggle against the Pagan religions of the Greco-Roman culture as well as the Gnostic movement that peaked in Alexandria spreading to other large cities."
The 'World of Early Egyptian Christianity', which captured increasing interest after the publishing of the Coptic Gnostic Library of Chenoboskion, is here exposed by Tito Orlandi, Birger Pearson, James Goehring, Philip Rousseau, among other eminent scholars on these fascinating and inspiring Coptic themes. The illuminating book features essays written in honor of David Johnson, S.J., professor emeritus of Coptic language, at the Catholic University of America. Book editors, Goehring and Timbie display eleven essays held admirably together, displaying some exciting cases of the significant consequence in the study of late ancient Egypt, including some recently recognized figures as Evagrius Ponticus and Shenoute of Atripe, rewriting the glory of Christianity in late antiquity Egypt. The essays cover Coptic papyrology, the history of Egyptian Christianity, interaction of Christianity with Egyptian Judaism and ancient Egyptian religions, and Coptic literature.
The history of early Christianity, being their own confessed belief, should be of continuing personal interest to today's Christians. Since Egyptians have played an important role in the early development of Christian life, Egyptian Christianity has been linked closely with Early Christian Orthodoxy. Nothing is more likely than Alexandrian Christianity gained adherents among the Therapeutae, Jewish Coenobetics, and that their communities were adapted to the new religion. Many of the oldest surviving texts of the New Testament, as Rylands P52, a scrap of papyrus dating to Ca 125 AD, was discovered in middle Egypt in 1920. Roughly the size of a business card, it bears parts of John 18:31-33 on one side and John 18:37-38 on the other. Many texts dating from early third century, have been preserved in Egypt's dry weather, including the recently discovered Gnostic Gospel of judas.
Church leaders in Alexandria, Egypt established the Didascalia, a catechetical school in founded in the late second century Alexandria, to counter Hellenistic writings that often criticized the nascent Christian religion. The Didascaleon, became the mind of Christian philosophy, enabling great teachers and orators like Clement and Origen to battle Hellenistic philosophers on their own ground, advocating Christianity in a systematic pedagogy. In this great university of Christian learning, Christianity first underwent rigorous studies that laid the foundation of its first theology and doctrines, making the new faith accessible to the elite as well as the publicans. The Didascalia, enabled the Alexandrines to bridge the gap between Dynastic Egypt and the new Christian era by promoting the use of a Greek alphabet amended with seven Demotic letters, translating the NT books as well as writing of Christian apologetics and letters, and instructing everyone on Christian faith in up to three years.
This admirable collection of essays, about the rise of early Coptic language, literature, and social history, written by the most eminent authors in the field, explores a wide range of topics, offering great support to the progress of Coptic studies. Coptology, first established as a realm of Coptic culture and tradition, by professor Aziz Atiya, was enriched by Rodolphe Kasser, Tito Orlandi, Otto Meinardus, and others. Out of American Coptologists who searched the emergence of Christianity in Egypt are two of the admirable contributors to this book; James Goehring and Birger Pearson. The essays cover a wide array of subjects as Coptic language and literature, examining the origins and history of the Coptic and monastic communities in its formative years. The Jewish content and connections of earliest Christianity in Egypt are explored, with the survival of pagan rituals in an increasingly developing Christian world.
For an AmeriCopt reviewer, who dwelt in this wonderful milieu since I was twelve, I found that Frankfurter's contribution is a bit of historical intrusion, by an outsider. On the other hand, Boyarin offers a fresh view on allegory in biblical exegesis among Jews and Christians in common era Alexandria. His analysis are stimulating, underlining the differences between the allegorical approaches of Philo and Origen, and further between allegorical exegesis and Rabbinic Midrash. Masterful Goehring focus on Shenoute of Atripe voluminous literary corpus, reflects an interest in ritual purification as purity language, shows an in depth understanding of the issues. The anti-Chalcedonian episode of Abraham of Farshut, an abbot of the Pachomian order, was music to my ears. Abraham orders that the monks wash the entire meeting place with an imperial (Chalcedonian) envoy with water "as though it were polluted by ... the emperor," in an amazing Coptic cultural education.
Coptology: Past, Present, and Future. Studies in Honour of Rodolphe Kasser (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta)