Coptic Christianity, Isaiah 19, Notes



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The Coptic Church and Isaiah
    Isaiah 19 describes God's true people worshipping in Egypt. The Coptic Christian church might come to mind as we read the text, but we run into problems when comparing with the Bible. The Bible text is on page is19. Following is an explanation I received from Andrew. I'll share my thoughts in notes lower on this page.
    "Coptic Christianity represents one of the most ancient and blessed Churches of Christendom and is the only Church prophesied about in the Holy Bible. . . .
    "The altar to the Lord in the Land of Egypt is not an Old Testament altar, for it was not lawful to have any altar except in Jerusalem (This is why every male had to attend Jerusalem three times a year to sacrifice and worship) note 1, it is the spiritual altar of the New Testament note 2. And the sacrifice and oblation mentioned are not Old Testament sacrifices, which could only be offered in Jerusalem, they are the bloodless sacrifice of Christ as presented in the Eucharist. note 3.
    "This prophecy has been fulfilled with the consecration of the first altar in Egypt at "Dair El-Muharraq," a monastery dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, and the altar-stone was the bed, upon which the Infant Savior lay note 4. The Holy Family had crossed over to Upper Egypt and had hidden there for almost six months. Al-Muharraq Monastery is located, literally, in the midst of the land of Egypt standing at its exact geographical center note 5.
    "As for the 'pillar at its borders .... which will be for a sign and for a witness...' the Patriarchal See of the Apostolic Church in Egypt, established by St. Mark himself note 6, is situated in Alexandria, on Egypt's northern borders.  As Christianity in Egypt spread, churches were built throughout the length and breadth of the land, and the sites chosen were, primarily, those which, had been visited and blessed by the Holy Family's sojourns."
.1. Actually we should remember that there were altars to the true God mentioned in the OT that were not in Jerusalem. Consider the one Elijah repaired and used, as an example 1ki1830, Also ge0820. It is true that males were to go to Jerusalem for three important holy days.
.2. Jesus Christ was the lamb symbolized in the courtyard of the sanctuary. It was a symbol of the death of Christ at Calvary. jn0129. When He died, the temple vail was torn from top to bottom indicating that the temple was no longer recognized by God mt2751. Jesus had left the temple desolate mt2338. Biblical references to an altar after that time point to the altar in the sanctuary in heaven he0801-5. Also re0803.
.3. The sacrifice of Christ was offered only once he0727, he0928. And it was with blood 1pe0119. The Eucharist has no biblical authority. See explanation at re1408f.
.4. The infant Savior on a stone? Compare lu0207. Relic worship became popular during the  Middle Ages. See mt0410, re0920, da0318.
.5. From reading the context in Isaiah 19, we see Israel and Assyria turning to worship the true God along with Egypt is1924. The Coptic church is only part of Egypt and there is no three-nation worship fellowship. The symbolic language is similar to je3134, ho0110.
.6. Although the idea is based solely on tradition, we have no reason to doubt that Mark probably helped establish true religion in Egypt. However, He first worked in Asia Minor with Barnabas, Paul, and Peter. ac1225, ac1537.
Roots in early Christianity
    We remember that, while the gospel was being proclaimed by the apostles, apostasy was developing within the church they were establishing. Paul and John made this clear. For Paul's testimony, see on 2 Thess. 2:3a.  False ideas developed from those who refused to accept the love of truth 2 Thess. 2:10. John wrote that the antichrist was already at work, 1 John 2:18. There have always been many individuals who remained faithful. Was the Coptic church affected?
    From the biblical record, Christianity would have first reached the area through the eunuch in charge of the treasury of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. See the story beginning at Acts 8:26. It is interesting that the eunuch was baptized by immersion. This would have been around 35 A.D. In fact the Greek word for "baptism" means "to immerse" or "to dip under." Jesus, our example, was baptized this way Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, John 3:23. Evidence from old churches shows that immersion was the way of baptism during the early New Testament centuries. Also see on Rom. 6. We can be reasonably sure that the church of Rome influenced the Coptic religion. The change in the method of baptism is evidence of turning away from the ways of Christ and the apostles. Sunday worship also developed slowly after the time of the apostles (thus after the conversion of the Ethiopian). See links.
    Worship of Mary, contrary to the teaching of Jesus Matt. 12:46-49, came gradually into the Roman Church and was adopted at an early date by the Coptics who would have been familiar with the Egyptian goddess, Isus. The church pictures Mary in a similar way. Alfred J. Butler reports on a Coptic painting of "The Death of the Virgin." (The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, p. 108, Oxford, 1884, 1970.) He says, "I know no other instance of it. In the western Churches it was common. The Virgin lies on a high altar-like couch, behind which Christ is standing and receiving in his arms a little swathed figure, which represents Mary's soul. . . . Round about the bier are twelve figures the apostles who wear the episcopal omophorion. . . ." The scene may be compared to the Catholic doctrine of Mary's corporal assumption (bodily going to heaven).
    Around 282 or 283 A.D. ". . . a great church was built at Alexandria and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the first cathedral of Egypt. . . . many other churches existed before this in different parts of Egypt. . . . " (E. L. Butcher, The Story of the Church of Egypt, p.278. London, 1897).
    The Coptic church uses unfermented wine in the service of the Lord's Supper. This has biblical support, 1 Tim. 3:3.
    Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, had an unorthodox view of the nature of Christ and also refused to accept the title "Mother of God" for Mary. He was pronounced a heretic in 431. This illustrates the intolerance for the freedom of individual opinion.
   Isaiah was inspired to set the standard for knowing truth. New ideas must be in harmony with established light is0820. The Coptic church certainly has many faithful, God fearing, adherents. The call of the inspired word is to seek truth. At the end of probationary time, according to Rev. 18:4, God calls His faithful ones to come out of the fallen religions represented as Babylon.
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