THE CRISIS OF EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANITY

This past week has been horrible for Egypt’s Christians. I offer this quote from the New York Times: In Sohag, Bishop of Mar Girgis [St. George] Church Moussa Ibrahim told Mada Masr that the church was set ablaze by Muslim Brotherhood supporters at 9:30 a.m. in the absence of police forces, despite repeated threats against [Read More...]

SHENOUTE THE GREAT

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Who’s the odd man out: Ambrose, Patrick, John Chrysostom, Leo the Great, Shenoute? All were great Christian leaders who lived in the century after 350. But it’s a trick question, as there are two answers. One answer is “Patrick” as we have virtually nothing written by him, while the others all left copious literary remains. [Read More...]

HERACLEON

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Here’s a trivia question. Who wrote the first ever commentary on a piece of Christian scripture? The answer is quite surprising, and it says a lot about some of the diverse subcultures that existed within different parts of the Christian world Elaine Pagels earned fame through her 1979 book The Gnostic Gospels. Far less well [Read More...]

VALENTINUS THE EGYPTIAN

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Early Egyptian Christianity had a strong non-orthodox strand, if that “Gnostic” current did not actually dominate. I have already discussed the influence of Basilides, but Egypt produced an even more celebrated teacher in Valentinus. What makes him so interesting for a modern Christian audience is that he shows just how close the Gnostics were to [Read More...]

BASILIDES AND THE BAPTISM

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I was discussing the theory that the oldest level of Egypt’s Christianity was very different from anything we would recognize as orthodoxy, and that the most prominent leaders were what we would call Gnostic. That theory can be advanced in extreme terms, so that basically there is no early orthodoxy. Even if we do not [Read More...]

THE EGYPTIAN MYSTERY

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I recently described the extraordinary position that Egypt held in early Christian history, when the country became the source of many ideas and institutions that would spread throughout the wider Christian world. Given that importance, it is really surprising that we know so very little about the early history of Egyptian Christianity, an ignorance that [Read More...]

OUT OF EGYPT

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Material objects can evoke distant periods of history far more powerfully than even the greatest texts. Sometimes, they can also teach astonishing lessons. In the study of early and medieval Christianity, one of the most significant finds of modern times occurred in 2006, when peat diggers in Ireland’s County Tipperary uncovered a psalter from around [Read More...]


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