HELLENISTIC AND PHARAONIC INFLUENCES ON THE FORMATION OF COPTIC IDENTITY
AbstractConflicting descriptions of Coptic identity still exist today. The Copts regard themselves as those descendents of Pharaonic Egyptians who have retained their identity because of their Christian faith, in spite of Egypt having become a predominantly Islamic, Arab country. They claim to have “caught a glimpse of the Light of Christianity” before the birth of Christ. This article offers iconographical evidence to supplement an explanation of how the ancient Egyptian mythopoeic thinking, in combination with the syncretistic cultural environment of Hellenism, mediated this phenomenon. Today the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt represents “a return to the apostolic father type leading of the church”. Although pharaonic and gnostic influences appear to have contributed to their remarkable eusebeia, the Copts perceive themselves as having abided by the decisions of the first three Church Councils and have respected and upheld the canon.
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