Who are the Copts?
Published on: March 30, 2011
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  • Great summary, but here’s a quick clarification: Chalcedon is not usually considered the last ecumenical council. That was Nicaea II (787), the “Seventh Ecumenical Council.” As far as I know, this council is universally accepted as such by Catholics and Orthodox, but not by most Protestants (who, I understand, just ignore the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils without really caring either way these days even though they are technically not accepted). With the Seventh Ecumenical Council, it’s the issue of icons that makes Protestants nervous, but all seven are “Ecumenical” in that the major Catholic and Orthodox churches assented to them. Of course, all of the councils were primarily Eastern, such that all that we have for some of them in terms of Western assent is a letter from the bishop of Rome or a small papal delegation.

  • WigWag

    The Copts are not only treated poorly by Muslims, they are also treated shabbily by their Christian co-religionists. Anyone who visits the Church of the Holy Sepulchre can get a birds-eye view of this. There was the famous incident in 2002 when a Coptic monk committed the heinous act of moving his chair from its assigned spot to a spot that was shadier. The end result was a riot started by Ethiopian monks and others who were enraged that the Copts were seeking to expand their territory. Many people were injured, several were hospitalized and the Israeli police had to be called in to quell the disturbance. The Coptic Chapel is tiny compared to the areas of the church controlled by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and the Armenian Apostolic churches.

  • Loren Mead

    Peter: Thanks. A coherent, simple guide to an almost incomprehensible bit of history. One is tempted to say — reading the whole thing anachronistically in light of later political behavior — the THEOLOGICAL outcomes of the councils was heavily determined by the decisions about who was invited to vote in the meeting! Hence the exclusion of vast communities of Africa and the churches of Syria and the East.

  • Pingback: What the Copts? « conferreibidem()

  • As you probably know, it is just the Chalcedonian Christians who consider the first 7 big councils “the big councils.”

    Great point about translation. Pretty much every Christian schism I’ve come across, and pretty much every other religious schism besides, is a split across language regions.

    Germany was 90% Protestant by 1600, and every other officially Protestant country had a Germanic language speaking government.

    Avignon? Pretty much.

    Every government that chose the Pope after 1054 had a Latin speaking government, while countries with Greek speaking governments ended up siding with the Patriarch of Constantinople (a couple small regions on the border are excepted, both effectively vassal to the German Holy Roman Empire).

    The Aryan heresy? The Germanic-speaking kingdoms on one side, the Latins on the other.

    I’m pretty sure it works with Nestor, but I’ve found less to read about it. Donatism still feels right.


    And, yes, I’m saying that, in part, arguments themselves, once translated, change, and so change in effectiveness.

    And that religions, and religious schisms, are ideas, which flow like water between co-communicants (people who share a language?) and not at all between those who don’t.

  • John Barker

    The belief that Christ is both human and divine resonates in my soul in ways I do not understand but is more meaningful than scripture or theology.

  • Conrad Hackett

    I am not aware of any nationally representative survey or census in Egypt supporting the claim that the total Christian population in Egypt has ever equaled or exceeded 10% of the population. In fact, the publicly available quantitative data suggests the total Christian population is about 5% of the country. See discussion here: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1770/ask-the-expert-pew-research-center#christians-egypt

    And further discussion here:

  • desert voice

    The Copts are ancient Christians and as such deserve respect. The Egyptians must realize that they are the younger brothers of the Copts, who were there many centuries before Muhammad came in! I am not saying that I am against the Egyptians. But the Muhammad’s rule of the “second citizenship for the Copts” should forever be wiped of the map of Egypt! By common sense, it’s the Egyptian Muslims that are second citizens, for they came later. However, for the sake of democracy, all such considerations be forever buried!

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