H.H. Pope Tawadros II receives a copy of Coptic Civilization presented by AUC Press. To his right: Dr Nigel Fletcher-Jones and Mr Neil Hewison. To his left, Dr Fawzy Estafanous, St Mark Foundation.
The American University in Cairo Press (AUC Press) has recently published another impressive volume in the growing field of Coptic Studies. Although a number of scholarly volumes have been published by AUC Press, this is perhaps the first time in the history of Coptic Studies that a single edited volume has been produced that aims to provide an account of the culture and civilisation of the Copts in both Egypt and the Diaspora.
The book, Coptic Civilization: Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Egypt, was edited by the world-renowned Coptologist Dr Gawdat Gabra, Professor of Coptic Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. Coptic Civilization includes chapters by twenty international scholars who have written in a style that is scholarly but accessible to the non-specialist. It is also beautifully illustrated, with 170 pages of art, architecture, monasteries, floor plans, texts, tapestries, textiles, and photographs.
On 11 May 2014, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II granted an audience in which he received a copy of the volume. The book was presented by Dr Nigel Fletcher-Jones, Director of the AUC Press, Mr Neil Hewison, Associate Director for Editorial Programs at AUC Press, and Dr Fawzy Estafanous, President of the Saint Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies. The Saint Mark Foundation, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, was instrumental in supporting the publication, and has promoted numerous other volumes on Coptic Studies.
Dr Gawdat Gabra, who heads the Coptic Studies program at Claremont Graduate University describes the ultimate purpose of the volume in his preface: “The richness of Coptic civilisation, presented in the chapters of this book, deserves the attention of more scholars and students, and it should engage the consciousness of a wider readership as well. I hope that this publication will encourage Egyptians, including the hundreds of thousands of Copts in America, Canada, Australia, and Europe, to appreciate and preserve the great heritage of their forebears and to work toward the establishment of Coptic studies not only in Egyptian universities but throughout the world.”
The twenty scholars who contributed to this volume have amply helped fulfill this vision with a variety of chapters representative of the diversity and richness of Coptic culture and civilisation. These include historiography (Samuel Moawad), church history (Youhanna Nessim Youssef), monasticism (Mark Sheridan), Alexandrian theology (Lois M. Farag), liturgy (Youhanna Nessim Youssef), musical culture (Magdalena Kuhn), Coptic language (Ewa D. Zakrzewska), Gnosticism and Manichaeism in Egypt (Marvin Meyer), Coptic Bible (Hany N. Takla), Coptic literature (Youhanna Nessim Youssef), daily life (Tonio Sebastian Richter), magic in late antiquity and early Medieval Egypt (Jacques van der Vilet), Copto-Arabic literature (Mark N. Swanson), the discovery of Christian Egypt through manuscripts and archaeology (Elisabeth R. O’Connell), Christian architecture in Egypt (Peter Grossmann), the decoration of Coptic Churches (Gertrud J.M. van Loon), objects of daily life (Dominique Bénazeth), post-Pharaonic textiles (Cäcilia Fluck and Gisela Helmecke), the Coptic Church today (Nelly van Doorn-Harder), contemporary Coptic art (Monica René), and Coptic civilization in the Diaspora (Saad Michael Saad).
As such, this volume has positioned itself to become a textbook in Coptic Studies. The book was prepared by academicians and professionals and certainly suits the needs of college students and libraries looking for a comprehensive reference. However, it is accessible, useful, and informative for readers of almost any age, especially with dozens of high-quality images and artwork.
Dr. Gabra’s edited volume successfully meets a scholarly need while encouraging a new generation of students and scholars to consider research and writing on Coptic civilization. This is a welcome development, given the increasing interdisciplinary relevance of Coptic culture in the fields of history, religion, art, architecture, music, theology, sociology, Middle Eastern studies, and Diaspora studies.
More information about Coptic Civilization is available on the AUC Press website:
Donald Westbrook is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. He holds an MA from Fuller Seminary and BA from UC Berkeley. He was on the staff that published the eight-volume Coptic Encyclopedia (Macmillan, 1991) in electronic form at the Claremont Colleges Digital Library (www.cgu.edu/cce).
29 June 2014