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FAQ

Coptic Society

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Coptic?

Coptic is the modern European rendering of the what the Arabic referred to inhabitants of Egypt after their conquest of the Land in Egypt in the Seventh Century AD. This was in turn derived from the name of Egypt in Greek, Aigyptos, which was originally derived from the Egyptian word meaning the 'House of Ptah'.

What is the Coptic Language?

The Coptic Language is the last written stage of the Late Egyptian Language that was earlier written in Hieroglyphs and then in the Demotic script. It is composed of the first 24 letters from the Greek Alphabet plus a number of demotic characters with sound values not represented by the Greek characters in use in Egypt in the early years of the first century AD. In the Modern Bohairic Coptic in use now, that number is fixed at 7. There were early attempts to write Egyptian names in Greek characters in Egypt as early as 3rd century BC and even earlier attempts to write Greek in Hieroglyphs even a couple of centuries earlier. However, the birth of it as a language would most likely be the late 1st century by Pagan Egyptian and after the middle of the 2nd century by the Christians of Egypt.

Who is St. Shenouda the Archimandrite?

This is a 4th-5th century monk that lived in Upper Egypt in the region of Sohag-Akhmim. He took over as an abbot to a small Pachomian-style (cenobitic) monastery that his uncle Pgol founded in the 4th century in Akhmim and developed it into what is know as the Shenoutian Federation. his historical legacy included the following:

  • Development of a highly-developed monastic system that housed about 4,000 monks and nuns in three different monastic settlements in close geographical proximity in the Sohag-Akhmim region of Upper Egypt.
  • He built the largest Christian cathedral in Egypt in fifth century that still stands in the area and is currently known as the White Monastery.
  • He was an advocate of the native peasants who where frequently oppressed by the Greek Pagan landlords. His advocate role was not just punishing those landlords as he is commonly portrayed in modern scholarship, but it extended into appealing to those in power, negotiating with invading armies, and providing a long-term housing to the displaced masses as a result of such campaigns.
  • His writings represent the best literature that was ever written in the Coptic Language. It is safe to say that his writings is the fundamentals of the classical Coptic Language (Sahidic Dialect).
  • He is the Coptic interpreter of the Greek writings of the Coptic Church Patriarchs in Alexandria. He was not a mere translator but one that explained it to the native masses.
  • He carried the authority of the Patriarchate in Alexandria in the far North to the Middle and Upper in the South, a de-facto Ambassador of the Patriarchate for the Southern half of Egypt.
  • He was an ardent defender of the Orthodox faith of the Church in Alexandria in the 5th Century.