"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Coptic Papacy

Earlier I noted a forthcoming book on the Coptic papacy. I have at last received it from the publisher, the American University of Cairo Press. It is:

Mark N. Swanson, The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt 641-1517 (2010), xxii+226pp.

This is the second of a projected three volumes in the series. When the earlier volume came out by Stephen Davis, The Early Coptic Papacy: The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity (Popes of Egypt) I reviewed it at the time in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. The author was clearly writing as an historian rather than a theologian, but his book was no less fascinating or important.

The Coptic Church is especially dear to me not only because of close friends who are Copts, and not only because they are among the most heavily persecuted of Eastern Christians today: the Copts are also a great inspiration in the vigor of their ecclesial life, their ascetial discipline (with a fasting regimen stricter than any other Eastern Christian tradition), and in their ecclesial structures. The Coptic papacy is a fascinating model to examine, as I did in detail in my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy, for those of us seeking to respond to Pope John Paul's request for new models of how the Roman papacy could be exercised anew in service to Christian unity. There is much to be learned from these Coptic models.

The author of this second volume, Mark Swanson, is a professor of Muslim-Christian relations at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. He covers a wider swath of terrain than Davis did in hhis book. Swanson's book includes an appendix of martyrs from the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It also has a wonderful twenty-page bibliography, which is most useful.

This will be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies in 2011.

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