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A brief introduction to Coptic Egypt

The term Copt or Coptic is a corruption of the Greek word "Aegyptios" (or Aigyptos) meaning Egyptian. Aigyptos derived from the Ancient Egyptian "Ha-ka-Ptah" meaning "the house of the Ptah". Through its use in Arabic, "qubt" or "qibt", it became known as "Copt".

The modern use of the term "Coptic" refers to both the Egyptian Christians themselves, and the final stage of the language of the Ancient Egyptians. It also describes the art and architecture that developed as an early expression of this "new" faith.

The Coptic Church is based upon the teachings of St Mark, who brought Christianity to Egypt in around 50 AD. St Mark was one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the gospel of St Mark is the oldest canonical gospel. 

A small community of Christians developed in Alexandria in the late first century, and became more numerous by the end of the second century. The Egyptians embraced the new faith, and Christianity quickly spread throughout Egypt within half a century of St Mark's arrival in Alexandria. Some similarities in beliefs helped Christianity to be accepted by Egyptians, including the beliefs that the Egyptian god Osiris was both human and god, the resurrection of Osiris, and the godly triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus.

There are many sites throughout Egypt at which the holy family are said to have taken shelter and sought refuge during the three years that they spent in Egypt after fleeing from Judea and King Herod. Many ancient churches have been built upon these sites.



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