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From the Greek meaning "hidden."
Christian writers of these early centuries sometimes used
this word to characterize books that took the form of
Gospels, Acts of Apostles, Epistles, or Apocalypses, but
were not regarded as "canonical," and were ultimately
not accepted in the New Trestament (q.v.). Use of the
word to designate a large group of such works became common
only in the sixteenth century (Schneemelcher, "Introduction"
in Schneemelcher 1991).
Churchmen such as St. Athanasius condemned apocryphal
writings. Many have disappeared completely. Others have
been rediscovered in Egypt.
Some apocryphal texts could be regarded as harmless,
or even as sympathetic stories, and so survived.
|Term used in various eastern Christian churches
to denote an abbot (the head of a monastery). The
word comes from the Greek for ruler of a flock (manddra).
||Usage differs in different places and periods,
but usually this term denotes an abbot of particular importance,
sometimes the superior of several monasteries.
Monastic life is usually divided
into two types, cenobitic and eremitic, although many
combinations of the two exist.
St. Pachomius (d. 379) is often considered to have
founded cenobitic monasticism: He advocated that monks
and nuns live in communities surrounded by a wall, under
a single head, and following a common rule of behavior.
||This way of life is called cenobitic from
the Greek word koinobion or common life (on the
words koinobion and koinonia in Pachomius'
thinking, see Fry 1982: 25).
Koinobion was originally used for the buildings,
later called monasteries (q.v.).
Ancient city in Asia Minor, present
day Turkey. In 451 church leaders gathered in Chalcedon
to work out commonly acceptable descriptions of the Trinity
and of Christ. They suceeded in writing texts that won
assent from the majority, healing an impending rift between
the East and the West.
Some Easterners, however, including most
Egyptians, found the phrasing unacceptable. The majority
at the council condemned these dissenters as "monophysites,"
or one-nature-ites in their approach to Christ. Their
spiritual descendants, the Coptic Church (q.v.) deny that
they ever took a monophysite position, and see political
motives behind the condemnation: seeFrend
1972; Monophysitism 1991;
plural is codices
The form of book that became increasingly
popular in the Early Christian centuries, eventually all
but replacing the earlier form, the roll (q.v.)
Individual sheets are folded and fastened together in
groups (called quires) of varying sizes. Both sides of
the sheets, i.e., the recto and the verso, are written
on. Sheets may be made of papyrus, but increasingly animal
skin became the prevalent material.
Early codices are often roughly square, or about twice
as high as they are wide.
The codex is always used for Christian writings in preference
to the roll. Possible reasons include cheapness, since
both sides of a sheet are used, ease of transportation,
and ease of finding a particular place in the text (Reynolds
and Wilson 1991: 35; Roberts
1979, Roberts and Skeat 1987:
These words originate from the Arabic
term for Egyptians, Kibt or Kubti, probably
derived from Greek Aegyptoi.
In time, the term "Copt" came to be applied specifically
to those Egyptians who remained Christian.
Then it extended to the language they spoke and wrote,
to their church, and then still more broadly to art, and
to a historical period.
These not entirely compatible uses are further described
in the next three entries.
|The Coptic language is
the final development of ancient Egyptian. It came into
being aboutthe third century of our era, incorporating many
loan words from Greek and written in an alphabet combining
the 24 Greek letters with 6 or 7 new letters for Coptic
sounds. There were various dialects, of which two principle
ones were Sahidic and Bohairic.
||As use of Arabic increased in Egypt, Coptic
died out. It probably ceased to be written by the fourteenth
century. It may still have been widely spoken in the fifteenth
century, but seventeenth century European visitors encountered
only a few elderly people who could speak it. Today it survives
as the language for parts of the Coptic Church Services.
|The name used today
to denote the indigenous Christian Church in Egypt. It separated
from other branches of Christianity after the Council of
Chalcedon (q.v.) and was branded by those others as "Monophysite,"
a term it vehemently rejects. It now has about nine million
members in Egypt and over one million abroad, including
many in the United States.
Many web sites give information about the activities
of the present day Coptic Christian communites. See especially
three web pages , representing (1) the church,
(2) its current Pope,
Shenouda III, and (3) the Coptic
society in North America.
Today, it is also possible to speak of Copts, i.e., Christians,
who belong to Catholic or Protestant churches, but these
groups are small ,and represent comparatively recent developments.
Art and culture.
|In 1884, Butler published The Ancient Coptic
Churches of Egypt, using the word in its religious connotation.
It was Alphonse Gayet who established this adjective as
designating a broad range of artifacts. His 1902 book,
L'Art copte, was followed in 1904 by Stryzgowski’s
Koptische Kunst. These scholars were applying the term
to works made in Egypt from approximately the third to the
seventh century or a little later, and seen to show native
sensibility as distinct from Greek influence.
||Today scholars also speak of a Coptic period
from the third century to the seventh century Arab conquest.
In Egypt, as elsewhere around the Mediterranean, these centuries
can also be called Late Antique, late Roman, or early Byzantine.
The term "Coptic"serves to emphasize Egypt's strong local
peculiarities. Discussions of Coptic art or culture embrace
both Christian and pagan manifestations.
|St. Anhtony (d.ca.
356) and other men and women went out into the desert to
live alone. They were called anchorites or hermits, words
drawn from the Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew (14:
13):" [Jesus] withdrew [anachorein] into a desert
place [eremos topos] by himself."
||An anchorite is one who withdraws; a hermit
is one who lives in the desert--later, often a symbolic
desert--and his or her way of life is called eremitic (Fry
et al. 1981: 17).
From the Greek gnosis, knowledge.
Modern scholars use this term to designate a religious
movement current in the early centuries of our era, and
characterized in part by reliance on knowledge as a means
of salvation. Gnosticism takes a number of forms. Among
the salient characteristcs are 1. belief in salvation
through esoteric knowledge reserved for a few, 2. emphasis
on spiritual rather than physical reality, 3. complex
concepts of the divine and its relationship to humanity.
Knowledge of Gnosticism long depended on surviving attacks
by Early Christian churchmen. Our understanding of the
teachings entered a new phase when a group of Gnostic
texts in Coptic were found at Nag Hammadi (q .v.) (Layton
1980; Layton 1987;
For the current popularity of ideas drawn from or inspired
by these writings, see the abundant web sites using this
first referred to any dwelling of a monk, including a hermitage,
and only later came to be the preferred word for communal
dwellings (Patrich 1995: 13).
||The word "monastery" applies to
habitations of either monks or nuns, In English, convent
or nunnery are often used for houses of nuns, and in Roman
Catholicism monastery has acquired a narrow legal meaning.
|Modern town near which farmers found the texts
now known as the Nag Hammadi Library (see fourth century).
Nag Hammadi is on the east side of the Nile about 50 miles
south of Sohag.
||This site lies in an area of great activity
in the Early Christian period, near the birthplace of Pachomius
(see fourth century) and the sites
of several of his monastic foundations.
New Testament consists of twenty-seven books. They are
four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, twenty-one Epistles
(Letters) ascribed to St. Paul and others, and the Apocalypse
or Book of Revelations.
This name derives from a phrase used in three Gospels,
Mat.26.28, Mark 14.24, and Luke 22.20, and repeated in
Epistles. The fourth century writer Eusebius uses it to
refer to the group of texts then accepted as orthodox.
Definition of this group of texts began in the second
century. As written texts concerning Jesus and his associates
multiplied, authorities began to use the terms Canon and
Canonical for those they found reliable. The basic list
remains much the same from the second century on, but
there was disagreement about a few texts.
By the fourth century the list was fixed except for one
debated book, the Apocalypse. The fourth
century Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, was one
of those who listed a Canon similar to the present New
Testament, and who fought for a clearly established grouping.
For one account of these terms and the process of their
development, see Schneemelcher
An early book form, gradually replaced
by the codex (q.v.) during the Early Christian period.
A book roll is often made of papyrus reeds. Stalks are
pounded to fom sheets. Sizes vary, but individual sheets
are often about 25 cm high. Up to 20 sheets may be glued
together to form a roll of up to 6 meters in length.
The side of the roll with horizontal fibers, called the
recto, is best for writing.
Rolls may also be made of vellum, i.e., calfskin or parchment,
i.e., sheep or goat skin.
Rolls have continued to be the form of book used for
some Jewish Scriptures, the Torah Scrolls.