Copts

    The word 'Copt' is derived from the Greek 'Aigyptios' (which became 'Qibt' after the Arab invasion in the seventh century AD); it was first used in the sixteenth century AD in Europe to distinguish the Christian inhabitants of Egypt.
    The Egyptians readily adopted Christianity which developed several concepts which were already familiar to them. Their particular contribution was the concept of physical retreat from the material world, at first as hermits in desert caves and later in purpose-built monasteries. At the Council of Ephesus in AD 451, the doctrine that Christ combined a human and a divine nature was sanctioned, but the Egyptian Christians rejected this and adopted the monophysite heresy as the foundation of their beliefs, forming a sect which broke away from the rest of Christendom. By the sixth century AD, the Coptic Church had extended southwards into Nubia, but following the Arab conquest of Egypt in AD 640, many Egyptians were converted to Islam and the new faith reached Nubia in the thirteenth century AD. Strong pockets of Christianity survived in Egypt particularly in the south around Thebes; today, the Copts form an important minority group there, and the Coptic Patriarch also has nominal authority over the Ethiopian Church.
    Both native and Hellenistic styles influenced the culture of Coptic Egypt. At first, pagan themes predominated but by the fourth and fifth centuries AD, Coptic art increasingly expressed itself through Christian motifs, eventually becoming the distinctive art of Christian Egypt. Traces of its influence can also be seen in Islamic art. Some of the monasteries can still be visited and in these, as in the churches and houses, the artists have used decorative and ornamental frescoes.
    Coptic is the final stage of the ancient Egyptian language and was initially developed as a medium for the translation of Biblical texts. In Coptic, the Egyptian language, previously written in hieroglyphs, Hieratic and Demotic, now used the Greek alphabet with the addition of seven signs from Demotic for those Egyptian sounds which were unknown to the *Greeks. The oldest Coptic manuscripts date from the third century AD when Christianity began to spread through Egypt, but earlier attempts with this script had been made in previous centuries. Translations of the books of the Old Testament were followed by those of the Gospels and other writings, and the works of St. Antony (AD 251-356) were of particular importance. Coptic has a relatively small vocabulary and many Greek words were therefore included, but an important development was the introduction of written vowels which the earlier Egyptian scripts had omitted.
    Ultimately, Coptic was used to help with the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and provided some information about the pronunciation of the ancient language. Coptic manuscripts were imported into Europe from the beginning of the seventeenth century AD, and some of these were acquired by a Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher, who, in his work Lingua Aegyptiaca restituta (1643), began a serious study of Coptic (which was understood) and Egyptian. He made the important discovery that Egyptian hieroglyphs and Coptic were related and later, when Champollion began to decipher hieroglyphs, his knowledge of Coptic advanced his studies and helped him to reach important conclusions.
    Gradually, Arabic replaced Coptic as Egypt's main language; Coptic was last spoken in Christian villages in the seventeenth century AD but it survives today as the liturgical language and script of the Coptic Church.
    Textiles were another major feature of early Coptic culture. Made of wool and linen, many still survive in the form of vestments, wrappings, tunics and domestic furnishings and provide a valuable insight into a lively and distinctive folk-art.
BIBL. Walters, C.C. Monastic Archaeology in Egypt. Warminster: 1974.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Copts — (k[o^]pts ), n. pl.; sing. {Copt} (k[o^]pt). [See {Coptic}.] (Etnol.) 1. An Egyptian race thought to be descendants of the ancient Egyptians. [1913 Webster] 2. The principal sect of Christians in Egypt and the valley of the Nile. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Copts — ⲚⲓⲢⲉⲙ̀ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ ̀ⲛ̀Ⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲓ̀ⲁⲛⲟⲥ Top ro …   Wikipedia

  • Copts —    The indigenous population of Egypt (q.v.) who spoke Coptic (q.v.). The term derives from an Arabic corruption of the Greek word for Egyptian (Aigyptioi). In Byzantine times most of the Copts were Monophysites (q.v.) belonging to the Coptic… …   Historical dictionary of Byzantium

  • COPTS —    the Christian descendants of the ancient Egyptians, who are Monophysites in belief, some regarding the Patriarch of Alexandria and some the Pope as their head; they adhere to the ancient ritual, are prelatic, sacramentarian, and exclusive;… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Copts — kÉ’pt n. member of the Egyptian Coptic Church; Egyptian who is a descendant of the ancient Egyptian people …   English contemporary dictionary

  • List of Copts — Infobox Religious group group = Copts AqbaUnicode|ṭ أقباط Coptic|ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙ ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ ⲛ Ⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲓ ⲁⲛⲟⲥ ni.Remenkīmi en Ekhristianos image caption = Top row (left to right) Saint Mary of Egypt • Boutros Boutros Ghali • Ester Fanous • Saint Maurice Bottom row… …   Wikipedia

  • Bull of Union with the Copts — The Bull of Union with the Copts was promulgated by Pope Eugene IV at the Ecumenical Council of Florence on 4 February 1442. It was part of an attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to reunite with other Christian groups including the Coptic Church …   Wikipedia

  • Persecution of Copts — A Copt (Coptic: Coptic|ⲟⲩⲣⲉⲙ ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ ⲛ Ⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲓ ⲁⲛⲟⲥ ou.Remenkīmi en.Ekhristianos , literally: Egyptian Christian ) is a native Egyptian Christian. When the word persecution is used to describe the treatment of the Copts it is always a subject of… …   Wikipedia

  • Copt — Copts Copts (k[o^]pts ), n. pl.; sing. {Copt} (k[o^]pt). [See {Coptic}.] (Etnol.) 1. An Egyptian race thought to be descendants of the ancient Egyptians. [1913 Webster] 2. The principal sect of Christians in Egypt and the valley of the Nile.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Copt — Infobox Religious group group = Copts AqbaUnicode|ṭ أقباط Coptic|ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙ ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ ⲛ Ⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲓ ⲁⲛⲟⲥ ni.Remenkīmi en Ekhristianos image caption = Top row (left to right) Saint Mary of Egypt • Boutros Boutros Ghali • Ester Fanous • Saint Maurice Bottom row… …   Wikipedia

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