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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

CHAPTER 12
THE EGYPTIAN CONTRIBUTION TO
CHRISTIANITY
I. EGYPT AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
No country has affected the development of the Christian
religion more profoundly than has Egypt, or rather—to speak
more exactly—no city has affected the development of the
Christian religion more profoundly than has Alexandria, the
Greek-speaking capital of Egypt. Native Coptic-speaking Egypt
did indeed itself come to play no small part in later Christian
history, for at a very early date Coptic Christianity produced
pioneers in the ascetic life whose influence was felt throughout
the Church as Christian monasticism established itself. This
contribution of native Christian Egypt will be dealt with in this
book by another hand. Then again the later development of the
Monophysite Coptic Church and the story of its chequered rela-
tions with the Imperial Church and the Patriarchal See of Con-
stantinople constitute a significant chapter in the history of the
Church in the Nearer East. But though the part which Egypt
played through each of these movements is noteworthy in a high
degree, in neither case would it justify the claim which I have
advanced for Egyptian influence in Christian history. The out-
standing legacy of Egypt to the Church, the legacy which has
coloured all later history, has been the scientific Platonizing
theology which the catechetical school of Alexandria was begin-
ning to fashion at the close of the second Christian century and
which the comprehensive genius of Origen carried to a successful
issue in the first half of the third century.
Let it be said at once that Origen's bold speculative system
of Christian doctrine has never commanded the allegiance of th$
Church at large. In his lifetime he appears to have incurred no