"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).

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Early Coptic Papacy

I first read this book more than a decade ago as it began to emerge as the first of a trilogy, originally published in hardback editions. Next month, it will finally appear in paperback, and it is the sort of series that any library serious about Coptic realities, ecclesiology, and ecumenism must have: Stephen J. Davis, The Early Coptic Papacy: The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity: The Popes of Egypt, Volume 1 (American University of Cairo Press, 2017), 280pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The Copts, adherents of the Egyptian Orthodox Church, today represent the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and their presiding bishops have been accorded the title of pope since the third century AD. This study analyzes the development of the Egyptian papacy from its origins to the rise of Islam. How did the papal office in Egypt evolve as a social and religious institution during the first six and a half centuries AD? How do the developments in the Alexandrian patriarchate reflect larger developments in the Egyptian church as a whole-in its structures of authority and lines of communication, as well as in its social and religious practices? In addressing such questions, Stephen J. Davis examines a wide range of evidence-letters, sermons, theological treatises, and church histories, as well as art, artifacts, and archaeological remains-to discover what the patriarchs did as leaders, how their leadership was represented in public discourses, and how those representations definitively shaped Egyptian Christian identity in late antiquity.
I don't know whether volumes II  (The Coptic Papacy in Islamic Egypt, 641-1517 by Mark N. Swanson) and III (The Emergence of the Modern Coptic Papacy by Magdi Girgis and Nelly van Doorn-Harder) will also appear in paperback, though one would suppose so. Still, the hardbacks of both are available and are not expensive.

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