The Culture Ministry’s new publication
Within its Family Library project, and in accordance with its role of spreading enlightenment, the Ministry of Culture has issued a popular edition of the book Tareekh al-Masseehiya al-Sharqiya (History of Eastern Christianity). The book discusses not only the history of the Coptic Church but also the history of the Ethiopian, Nubian, Syriac, Assyrian, Armenian, Indian and Maronite Churches. It includes a thorough summary of the history of each of the churches with an analysis of historical facts and Ecumenical Councils.
Written in English by Aziz Suryal Atiya in 432 large format pages, and translated by Archdeacon Mikhail Max Iskandar, the book fills a big gap in the Arabic literature on the Eastern Churches, and is especially handy for researchers and historians.
The book begins with an account of the history of the Coptic Church, focusing on the issue of Coptic language, monasticism, the Age of Persecution, the School of Alexandria, and on till modern times. Chapter 2 gives a summary of the Antiochan Church and the Jacobites. Antioch, where this Church was established, was one of the oldest Christian cities visited by any apostles. This chapter also discusses the Stylite monks as well as the Syriac Mass and religious rites. Chapter 3 gives an account of Nestorianism, a heretical Church named after Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, who strongly rejected calling the Virgin Mary “Theotokos” (Mother of God). It explains the emergence and expansion of the schism into the Arabian Peninsula prior to the rise of Islam, its relation with the Arab Caliphs and finally the expansion of the doctrine to China. The History of the Armenian Church is recounted in Chapter 4, telling the tales of agony and heroism of its followers. It begins, however, with the tale of the introduction of Christianity into Armenia by the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, and details the life of Saint Gregorius, the patron saint of Armenia.
The Christians of India, the followers of Saint Thomas, make the meaty topic of Chapter 6, together with the Maronite Church, among the most important strongholds of Roman Catholicism in the Middle East.
The last chapter recounts the history of churches that are no longer here today, including the See of Carthage (near Tunis), the See of Pentapolis (the five Western cities in Libya) and the Church of Nubia.
The book is a comprehensive compilation and a great historical treasure. The author, Dr Atiya, was born in July 1898 in the village of al-Asher in the mid-Delta region of Gharbiya, and died in 24 September 1988. Dr Atiya was one of the founders of Alexandria University where he was a professor of Medieval History at its Faculty of Arts, and was also Director of the Institute of Coptic Studies. He later emigrated from Egypt and spent the remainder of his days between Europe and America, teaching in prominent Western Universities.
16 September 2012