by Adolph (von) Harnack
translated and edited by James Moffatt
Second, enlarged and revised English edition;
London: Williams and Norgate / New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1908 (from the 2nd German edition).
Theological Translation Library, volumes 19-20
From the German, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (1902, revised 1906, 1915, and finally 1924)
[[Book 4, Chapter 3, section 3, location 7 (page 158 = 2nd German ed p. 132) (scanned and proofed, Elana Newberger 4/2004), edited RAK 5/2004; checked by Francisco Lameiro 2/2005; Greek added, some ETs still needed]]
7. EGYPT AND THE THEBAIS, LIBYA, AND PENTAPOLIS\1/
The worst gap in our knowledge of early church history is our almost total ignorance of the history of Christianity in Alexandria and Egypt (in the wider as well as in the narrower [] sense of the term) up till 180 C.E. (the episcopate of Demetrius), when for the first time the Alexandrian church appears in the daylight of history. It is then a stately church with a powerful bishop and a school of higher learning attached to it by means of which its influence was to be diffused and its fame borne far and wide. Eusebius found nothing in his sources bearing on the primitive history of Christianity at Alexandria\2/\3/; and although we may conjecture, with regard to one or two very ancient Christian writings (e.g., the epistle of Barnabas, the Didachê, the Preaching of Peter, the Apostolic Constitutions, etc.), that their origin is Egyptian or Alexandrian, this can hardly be proved in the case of any one of them with clearness.\4/
\1/ Cp. Map 5. -- Politically, Pentapolis (Cyrenaica) belonged to Crete; but I group it as above, since ecclesiastically, so far back as we can see, it gravitated to Alexandria and was added by Diocletian to Egypt. Apart from several seaports, [[159b]] it was a dismal region; cp. Dionys. Alex. in Eus., H.E. 7.11.14, ὁ γὰρ Αἰμιλιανὸς εἰς τραχυτέρους μέν, ὡς ἐδόκει, καὶ λιβυκωτέρους ἡμᾶς μεταστῆσαι τόπους ἐβουλήθη. The independence of Egypt within the empire (from Augustus to Diocletian), as well as its secluded position, can be made out from ecclesiastical as well as from civil history. Hence one must take care to avoid postulating for Egypt the general ecclesiastical condition which prevailed throughout the empire. The characteristic division into nomes, the primacy of Alexandria, and the lack of towns, were also of great significance for the development of local Christianity
\2/ Renan (Les Apôtres, Germ. ed., pp. 297 f.; cp. Les Évangiles, p. 158) thinks that Christianity must have at first been slow to take any hold of Egypt, and refers for proof of this to the scanty intercourse maintained by the Alexandrian and the Palestinian Jews(!), as well as to the fact that the Judaism of Egypt "developed to a certain extent along its own lines: it had Philo and the Therapeutæ, and that was all its Christianity." He also believes that the Egyptian religion, as it then existed, afforded no favorable basis for Christianity(!). But it is very doubtful whether the scanty notices of Christianity in Egypt prior to 180 C.E. justify us in holding that Christianity was really weak and scanty. Even supposing that a long interval elapsed during which it was comparatively small, we would not be in a position, I think, to offer any explanation of the fact.
\3/ So that we also know next to nothing of the relations between the powerful Judaism of Egypt and of Alexandria and the development of the church. It is more than a conjecture, however, that a larger number of Jews were converted to Christianity in the Nile valley than anywhere else; for (1) the inner development of Judaism never approximated so closely to a universal religion as it did in Alexandria, and (2) we know that the gospel according to the Hebrews circulated in a Greek version in Egypt during the second century -- which implies the existence of an original Jewish Christianity (details below). We cannot, of course, appeal to Jerome (de Vir. Ill. 8.: "Alexandriae prima ecclesia adhuc iudaizans").
\4/ Cp. also the
"Sayings of Jesus" among the
papyri [= Gospel of Thomas].
The following items sum up all our knowledge of the Alexandrian or Egyptian church previous to Demetrius.\5/ [] (1) There was a local gospel, described by Clement of Alexandria and others as "the gospel according to the Egyptians" (εὐαγγέλιον κατ' Αἰγυπτίους), but orthodox Christians had already dropped it from use by the end of the second century. The heretical asceticism and Modalism which characterize it throw a peculiar light upon the idiosyncrasies of early Egyptian Christianity. Originally it was not used merely by actually heretical parties, who retained it ever afterwards, but also by Egyptian Christians in general, as is plain from Clement's position, and still more so from its very title. For the latter either implies that the book was originally used by the Gentile Christians of Egypt as distinguished from the local Jewish Christians who read the εὐαγγέλιον καθ' Ἑβραίους in an Aramaic or Greek version,\6/ or else it implies a contrast between κατ' Αἰγυπτίους and κατ' Ἀλεξάνδρειαν. In this event, the gospel would be the book of the provincials in contradistinction to the Alexandrians.\7/ (2) The heretic Basilides labored in Egypt. Of him Epiphanius writes as follows (Hœr., 24.1): [] ἐν τῇ τῶν Αἰγυπτίων χώρᾳ στειλάμενος τὴν πορείαν ἐκεῖσε τὰς διατριβὰς ἐποιεῖτο, εἶτα ἔρχεται\8/ εἰς τὰ μέρη τοῦ Προσωπίτου καὶ Ἀθριβίτου, οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τὸν Σαΐτην [καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρειαν] καὶ Ἀλεξανδρειοπολίτην χῶρον ἤτοι νομόν. (νομὸν γὰρ οἱ Αἰγύπτιοί φασι τὴν ἑκάστης πόλεως περιοικίδα ἤτοι περίχωρον ("After spending some time in Egypt, he went to the districts of Prosopitis and Athribis, not but that he also visited the district or nome of Sais and Alexandria and Alexandreiopolis. For the Egyptians give the name of 'nome' to the environments or suburbs of a city"). (3) Another Egyptian, who probably began his work in Egypt, was Valentinus. Epiphanius (31.2), who declares that none of the early heretics mentioned his birthplace, writes that only one piece of information, and that of doubtful weight, was extant regarding this Egyptian: ἔφασαν γὰρ αὐτόν τινες γεγενῆσθαι Φρεβωνίτην [Φαρβαιθίτην] τῆς Αἰγύπτου Παραλιώτην, ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ δὲ πεπαιδεῦσθαι τὴν τῶν Ἑλλήνων παιδείαν ("Some said he was born at Phrebonitis [or Pharbæthus] in Egypt, and educated after the Greek fashion in Alexandria"); cp. also 31.7: Ἐποιήσατο δὲ οὗτος τὸ κήρυγμα καὶ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ ὅθεν δὴ καὶ ὡς λείψανα ἐχίδνης ὀστέων ἔτι ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ περιλείπεται τούτου ἡ σπορά, ἔν τε τῷ Ἀθριβίτῃ καὶ Προσωπίτῃ καὶ Ἀρσινοΐτῃ καὶ Θηβαΐδι καὶ τοῖς κάτω μέρεσι τῆς Παραλίας καὶ Ἀλεξανδρειοπολίτῃ ("He also preached in Egypt. And one result is that his brood still survives in that country, like the remains of a viper's bones, in Athribis and Prosopitis, and Arsinoites, and Thebais, and the lower regions of the coast, and Alexandreiopolis").\9/ This is confirmed by the author of the Muratorian Canon, who says that Valentinus was born at Arsinoë; but the meaning of the phrase is not quite certain. (4) Justin (Apol. 1.29.) relates how an Alexandrian Christian had recently applied to the proconsul Felix for permission to be castrated, in order to refute the bitter calumnies levelled against Christians; he was refused. The popular fury [] had evidently been whetted against Christians in Egypt also by means of calumnies. (5) From the Palestinian document of 190 C.E., mentioned by Eusebius (H.E. 5.25), we learn that the Palestinian church had exchanged letters, for a larger or shorter period, with the church of Alexandria in reference to the celebration of Easter on the same date. (6) According to the extant fragments of an Armenian epistle, Irenæus wrote once to an Alexandrian Christian (Harvey's Opp. Iren. 2.456). (7) Eusebius introduces with a φασίν ("they say") the statement (which may be referred back to the opening of the third century) that Mark the disciple of the apostles preached the gospel in Egypt and founded "churches first of all at Alexandria, itself" (ἐκκλησίας τε πρῶτον ἐπ' αὐτῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας, H.E. 2.16). We have no means of checking this statement.\10/ But the expression "churches" (so all MSS) is very singular. Alexandria was evidently a sort of province. (8) An Alexandrian list (originally extant, so far as we know, in the Chronicle of Africanus, and therefore dating at the latest from the reign of Elagabalus) gives the bishops of Alexandria from Mark downwards; but unluckily it is quite fictitious, and hardly anything is to be learned from its contents\11/ (cp. my Chronol. 1. pp. 124 f., 202 f.). Such is the sum total of our knowledge regarding the history of early Christianity in Egypt!
\5/ Reference may be made to Apollos of Alexandria (Acts 18.24), who appears to have joined the Baptist's followers in Alexandria (though this is not [[160b]] certain). We should possess an important account (though one which would have to be used with caution) of early Christianity in Alexandria, were Hadrian's epistle to Servianus authentic. This is controverted, however, and consequently cannot be employed except for the third century. The passage in question runs as follows (Vita Saturn. 8): "Aegyptum, quam mini laudabas, totam didici levem pendulam et ad omnia famae momenta volifantem, illic qui Serapidem colunt Christiani sunt et devote sunt Serapidi qui se Christi episcopos dicunt; nemo illic archisynagogus Judaeorum, nemo Samarites, nemo Christianorum presbyter, non mathematicus, non haruspex, non aliptes. ipse ille patriarcha cum Aegyptum venerit, ab aliis Serapidem adorare, ab aliis cogitur Christum…..unus illis deus nummus est; hone Christiani, hunc Judaei, hunc omnes venerantur et gentes" ("The Egypt which you praised to me, I have found altogether fickle, flighty, and blown about by every gust of rumor. There people who worship Serapis are Christians, while those who call themselves bishops of Christ are adherents of Serapis. There no chief of a Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no Christian presbyter, but is an astrologer, a soothsayer, a vile wretch. When the patriarch himself visits Egypt, he is forced by some to worship Serapis, and by others to worship Christ…. Christians, Jews, and all nations worship this one thing -- money"; cp. vol. 1. p. 275).
\6/ Clement still used both side by side, but he sharply distinguishes them from the canonical.
\7/ Such is the opinion advocated by Bardenhewer, Gesch. der altkirchl. Litt., 1. p. 387; but I do not think it probable. It is incredible that the provincial Christians of Egypt had any independent position at so early an age, over against the Alexandrian Christians. Preuschen (Zur Vorgeschichte des Evangelienkanons, Programm des Ludwig Georg Gymnasiums in Darmstadt, 1905) adheres to my [[161b]] view, and tries boldly to develop it. In the sources, "Egyptians," as distinct from Greeks, mean the old inhabitants, i.e., the Copts. But we can hardly interpret the title of the gospel κατ' Αἰγυπτίους in the light of this.
\8/ I do not understand this expression.
\9/ Apelles, the son of Marcion, stayed for some time at Alexandria, as we know.
\10/ The same passage mentions local work on the part of Barnabas.
\11/ The names are partly Greek and partly Roman: Arrianus, Abilius, Cerdo, Primus, Justus, Eumenes, Marcus, Celadion, Agrippinus, Julianus, and Demetrius. The predecessor of Demetrius is quite unknown to us.
Matters become clearer with the entrance of Clement of Alexandria and of the long-lived Demetrius (bishop from 188/189 to 231) upon the scene.\12/ But unfortunately the [] former yields us very little concrete evidence regarding either the former philosopher, who lived on ideal heights, or the church. We learn that the church and its school already had by no means an insignificant role in Alexandria, that the school was frequented by pagans as well as by Christians, that presbyters, deacons, and "widows" were to be found in the church, that it counted members from all classes and ranks, that it was partly secularized (cp. the Pœdagogus), and that many Christian heretics disquieted the Alexandrian church.\13/ But this is about all, though Clement does remark (in Strom. 6.18.167) that Christianity had spread "to every nation and village and town" (κατὰ ἔθνος καὶ κώμην καὶ πόλιν πᾶσαν), gaining whole households and families, and including even philosophers in its membership. As regards the local organization, so much is certain, viz., that throughout the province (including the Thebais and Libyæ) the Christian churches in each nome were at first, and for a long while, ruled simply by presbyters and deacons, or by presbyters and teachers (cp. Dion. Alex. in Eus., H.E. 7.24), under the supervision, we may assume, of the Christian church in Alexandria. How old the monarchical episcopate is here, we cannot tell, for no certain conclusions, unfortunately, can be drawn from the relevant statements in Clement. Possibly it was instituted by, or shortly before, Demetrius. But once it was set up, all the powers of use and wont hitherto exercised by the Alexandrian [] church were transferred to it.\14/ The course of affairs seems to have been as follows. Alexandria at first and alone had a monarchical bishop, who very soon came to rank himself and to act\15/ as the counterpart of "the chief priest of Alexandria and all Egypt."\16/ This bishop then began to consecrate other bishops for the chief towns in the various nomes. "Like the towns, the nomes also became the basis of the episcopal dioceses, in the Christian epoch" (Mommsen, p. 546; Eng. trans., 2. p. 235). According to one account (Eutychius, 1.332), which is not to be despised, Demetrius only consecrated three such bishops at first, while Heraclas, his successor, created as many as twenty.\17/ During the third century, perhaps all the leading towns in the nomes came to have bishops of their own (see below), under the autocratic supervision of the metropolitan, who was also the head metropolitan during the third century (as the sixth Nicene canon proves) of Egypt (including the Thebais), Libyæ, and Pentapolis. He had the power of ordaining all bishops, of issuing general disciplinary regulations, and of presiding over all judicial proceedings of the church. The late rise of the episcopate in Egypt explains how he possessed this power.\18/ Towards the close of his life Demetrius [] held synods (against Origen); cp. Photius, Cod. 118: σύνοδος ἀθροίζεται κατὰ Ὠριγένους ἐπισκόπων καί τινων πρεσβυτέρων (followed at once by the words, Ἀλλ’ ὅ γε Δημήτριος ἅμα τισὶν ἐπισκόποις Αἰγυπτίοις) [a synod of bishops and certain presbyters…..Demetrius too, along with certain Egyptian bishops].
\12/ The importance of Alexandria throughout the church at large begins also at this period. We do not know how old was the custom, attested by Dionysius of Alexandria, of the local bishop fixing the date of Easter for the whole church, but perhaps it began with Demetrius (cp. the Coptic-Arabic Synaxarium on the 10th Hatur). Origen made the school of Alexandria a standard for the East, and it held this position even after he left the city. We learn incidentally, for example, that Julius Africanus (Eus., H.E. 6.31) hurried thither to hear Heraclas. The church and the school, which hitherto had not always co-operated, were closely united by Dionysius, who also succeeded by means of his personal influence, his learning, wisdom, and discretion, in acquiring an authoritative position throughout Christendom which was challenged only by the Roman bishop. This lofty position the see of Alexandria managed to retain under Petrus, while it was secured for quite a century by the powerful authority of Athanasius. The subordination of Egypt to the diocese of the "East" (i.e., under Antioch) could not upset the authority and independent position of the patriarch; on the contrary, the latter could attempt to gain control over the entire political diocese of the "East," and thus to add a fresh chapter to the perennial conflict between Syria and Egypt. When the victory was wellnigh over, the Chalcedon catastrophe occurred. During the fourth and the first half of the fifth century, Egypt was a semi-sovereign ecclesiastical state.
\13/ The Marcionites and the Montanists both made their way to Egypt. Clement mentions the Valentinians, the followers of Basilides and Marcion, the Peratæ, the Encratites, the Docetists, the Haimatites, the Cainites, the Ophites, the Simonians, and the Eutychites. Eusebius, in describing the youth of Origen, tells an interesting story about an Antiochene heretic called Paul in Alexandria (H.E. 6.2).
\14/ The rights of the Alexandrian bishop were not affected by the political division into provinces; on the contrary, he laid claim to authority over them all. We learn, e.g., that Heraclas, the successor of Demetrius, deposed the bishop of Thmuis.
\15/ "The pagan high priest himself had a far-reaching influence, even in respect of learning, over the entire country; he was ἐπιστάτης τοῦ Μουσείου" (Marquardt, 1.(2) p. 505). Here we get the complete prototype of the Alexandrian bishop and his school.
\16/ See Mommsen's Röm. Geschichte, 5.558 f., 568 (Eng, trans., 2.238 f., 249), Lübeck (op. cit., pp. 106 f.). Reference may also be made to the position of the Jewish ethnarch over all Egypt, as a prototype.
\17/ Schwartz (Athanasiana, 5. pp. 182 f., in the second number of the Nachr. d. K. Gesellsch. d. W., Göttingen, 1905) rightly calls attention to the fact that the decision of Demetrius to ordain bishops for the χώρα of Alexandria, i.e., for Egypt, is to be connected with Septimius Severus' gift (in 202 C.E.) of a nominal civic autonomy to prominent "villages" (improperly called capitals). But Demetrius was very prudent. He only ordained three bishops. Hence we must conclude that he only wanted to do what was absolutely essential. Heraclas was the first who really tackled the new situation and the needs of the growing Christian population outside the capital.
\18/ Into the origin and development of the organization in Alexandria and Egypt we cannot enter any further (cp. Lübeck, op. cit., 102 f., 105 f., 110 f., 114 f.). [[165b]] I do not know what to make of the statement in Epiph., Haer., 68.7, that Alexandria, unlike other cities, never had two bishops. With regard to the metropolitan powers of the bishop of Alexandria, one gets the impression that they were not only as despotic as these of the ἀρχιερεὺς πάσης Αἰγύπτου, but as those of the emperor in the sphere of politics. Cp., e.g., Epiph., Haer., 68.1.: τοῦτο γὰρ ἔθος ἐστί, τὸν ἐν τῇ Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ ἀρχιεπίσκοπον πάσης τε Αἰγύπτου καὶ Θηβαΐδος, Μαρεώτου τε καὶ Λιβύης, Ἀμμωνιακῆς, Μαρμαρίδος τε καὶ Πενταπόλεως ἔχειν τὴν ἐκκλησιαστικὴν διοίκησιν ("The custom is for the archbishop of all Egypt, the Thebais, Mareotis and Libya, Ammoniace, Mareotis and Pentapolis, to have his ecclesiastical headquarters at Alexandria"). This confirms the evidence of the sixth canon of Nicæa. Schwartz (p. 185) deletes Mareotis twice; its mention is certainly remarkable in this connection. Seybold would read Μαρμαρικῆς..
As Eusebius (H.E. 6.1.) informs us that by 202 C.E. Christians were dragged to Alexandria "from Egypt and all the Thebais" (ἀπ' Αἰγύπτου καὶ Θηβαΐδος ἁπάσης) and martyred, there must have been Christians in all parts of the country. He says μύριοι (6.2.3) -- which is an exaggeration.\19/
\19/ It is difficult to believe the statement of Suidas that Julius Africanus was a Libyan by birth.
From the writings and history of Origen, a man to whom, far more than to Clement, the whole Eastern church was indebted for its fusion with intellectual culture, ample information (see above, pp. 10 f.) can be gained regarding the external and internal expansion of Christianity even beyond the confines of Alexandria and Egypt. No doubt, as he concedes to Celsus that the number of Christians was still "extremely scanty," relatively to the Roman empire, we cannot form any extravagant estimates of their number in Origen's native land down to the year 240 (cp. also his statement that Christian martyrs were rare and easily counted); but, on the other hand, as he finds the steady extension of Christendom (even in the upper circles of society) to be so marked that he can already contemplate its triumph, it follows that the number of Christians must have been quite considerable.\20/
\20/ Accurate statistics of the inhabitants of Alexandria were drawn up in connection with the relief of the poor, as is proved by the remarks of Dionysius Alex. (in Eus., H.E. 7.21) upon the great plague of 260 C.E.: "Yet people are astonished…..at our great city no longer containing such a multitude of inhabitants -- even if one now includes little children and very old people in the census -- as formerly it could number of those who were merely in the prime of life, so called. In those days people between forty and seventy constituted so large a majority of the inhabitants that their number cannot be made up nowadays even by the inclusion of people between fourteen and eighty in the list compiled for the purposes of public charity -- those who, to appearance, are quite young, being now, as it were, coeval with those who formerly were full of years [so that the dispensing of food was extended to such persons]. Yet, although they see how the human race continues to diminish and waste away, they tremble not at the destruction of mankind which is ever advancing upon themselves." We must accordingly assume that a very serious diminution took place in the population of Alexandria about the middle of the third century.
The number of nomes or cities in which we can prove that
there were Christians previous to Meletius, to the Nicene council, and
to the accounts furnished by Athanasius (i.e.,
Diocletian), is extremely small, although the fault lies solely with
our sources of information, They are as follows: --
\21/ ἐν μὲν οὖν τῷ Ἀρσενοΐτῃ γενόμενος, ἔνθα, ὡς οἶδας, πρὸ πολλοῦ τοῦτο ἐπεπόλαζεν τὸ δόγμα [chiliasm], ὡς καὶ σχίσματα καὶ ἀποστασίας ὅλων ἐκκλησιῶν γεγονέναι [so that there were several, or many, local churches even before 250 C.E.], συγκαλέσας τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους καὶ διδασκάλους τῶν ἐν ταῖς κώμαις ἀδελφῶν, παρόντων καὶ τῶν βουλομένων ἀδελφῶν, δημοσίᾳ τὴν ἐξέτασιν ποιήσασθαι τοῦ λόγου προετρεψάμην ("When I was at Arsinoë, where this view had been current for a long while, so that there had been schisms and apostasies of whole churches, I summoned the presbyters and teachers of the brethren in the villages, and when those who were willing had gathered, I exhorted them to examine the doctrine openly").
\22/ There was an estate of Rostoces at Thmuis (Martyr. Hieron.).
\23/ According to Dionys. Alex. (Eus., 6.40), there seem to have been Christians at Taposiris (a small town about twenty-five miles south-west of Alexandria, at the end of a long arm of the Mareotic lake) as well. In the village of Cephro (otherwise unknown) "near the desert" (τὰ μέρη τῆς Λιβύνης), the exiled Dionysius first spread abroad the word of God successfully, according to his own account. (ἐν δὲ τῇ Κεφροῖ καὶ πολλὴ συνεπεδήμησεν ἡμῖν ἐκκλησία, τῶν μὲν ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ἀδελφῶν ἑπομένων, τῶν δὲ συνιόντων ἀπ’ Αἰγύπτου [note the contrast]. κἀκεῖ θύραν ἡμῖν ὁ θεὸς ἀνέῳξεν τοῦ λόγου). In the Mareotic district, where the village of Colluthion (the fresh place of exile appointed for him) was situated (otherwise unknown), there were no Christians, or practically none, about the middle of the third century, although the district lay close to Alexandria (cp. Dionys. in Eus., H.E. 7.11.12). There, too, it was he who planted Christianity. Mareotis (for Mareotic Christians, see Dionys., Eus., H.E. 7.11) is mentioned in a document of the Jerusalem Synod (Athanas., Apol. c. Arian 85): "Mareotis is a district of Egypt. There never was a bishop there, nor a territorial bishop; the churches throughout the entire district were under the bishop of Alexandria. The separate presbyters had charge of the larger villages, to about the number of ten and upwards"; cp. Socrates, 1.27: Μαρεώτης χώρα τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας ἐστί· κῶμαι δέ εἰσιν ἐν αὐτῇ πολλαὶ σφόδρα καὶ πολυάνθρωποι, καὶ ἐν αὐταῖς ἐκκλησίαι πολλαὶ καὶ λαμπραί· τάττονται δὲ αὕται αἱ ἐκκλησίαι ὑπὸ τῷ τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας ἐπισκόπῳ, καὶ εἰσὶν ὑπὸ τὴν αὐτοῦ πόλιν ὡς παροικίαι ("M. is a district of Alexandria. It contains a very large number of populous villages, in which there are many splendid churches. These churches are under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Alexandria, and are subject to his city as parishes"). On the Christians in Mareotis, see also Athanas., op. cit., 74., and Epiph., Hœr. 68.7 (a number of local churches as early as 300 C.E.).
\24/ Deissmann, Ein Originaldokument aus der dioklet. Verfolgung (1902), pp. 12 f. [Eng. trans.].
\25/ Cp. Violet, Mart. Pal., pp. 60 f. (Texte u. Unters., 14.4): "Down to the sixth year of the persecution the storm blew hard, which had risen against us, and many companies of the faithful were in the mines called the 'Porphyritis,' in the district of Egyptian Thebes. Those who broke the temple marble were also called Porphyrites. Such were the names borne by the large companies of the faithful who were condemned, all over Egypt; there were ninety-seven local martyrs."
The fragments of the correspondence of Dionys. Alex., and the record of the persecutions, give one the impression that the number of Christians in Alexandria was large, and that the spread of Christianity throughout the country, in towns and villages alike (Eus., 6.42.1), was considerable. Quite incidentally, for example, we find (in Eus., H.E. 7.11.17) that "special meetings" were regularly held "in the more remote suburbs" of Alexandria (ἐν προαστείοις πορρωτέρω κειμένοις κατὰ μέρος ἔσονται συναγωγαί). Egypt (Lower Egypt), after the middle of the third century, certainly belonged to those territories in which Christians were particularly plentiful,\26/ although Dionysius (Eus., H.E. 7.7) was aware that there were provinces in Asia Minor where the churches were still more numerous.\27/
\26/ By the time of the Decian persecution, Christians were already occupying public positions in Alexandria, and many were to be found among the rich (Eus., 6.41, 7.11). Libelli, or certificates of exemption granted to apostates, survive from towns of no great size; but this proves at most the large number of local Christians. Dionysius, in his account of the Alexandrian victims in the persecution (Eus., H.E. 6.41), distinguishes between Greeks and Egyptians (details below), but Christians were to be found among both classes of the population.
\27/ Practically no information upon ecclesiastical geography is furnished by the history of Egyptian monasticism previous to 325 C.E. The monastic settlements of Pachomius in Tabennisi (not Tabenne Nesus; cp. v. Schubert's Lehrb. d. k. Gesch., 1. pp. 405 f.) and Pbow, however, are to be fixed within that period (not later than c. 320 C.E.), and we are also told how Pachomius was converted at Schenesit (=Chenoboscium) on the Nile in the Thebais district. It lay near the town of Diospolis parva in Southern Thebais (cp. Grützmacher, Pachomius und das älteste Klosterleben, 1896). -- I hesitate to infer from the Coptic-Arabic Synaxarium the localities which it connects with the stories of the Diocletian martyrs, as legend (connected with graves and relics) may have invented a good deal. For example (Wüstenfeld, Synaxarium, 1. pp. 18-19), on 8 and 9 Tut it is noted: "The presbyter Timotheos from Dirschaba, belonging to the see of Dantu, martyred in the town of Atripe"; "The bishop Basura in the town of Masil." For the date of the rise of monasticism, cp., as against Weingarten's untenable hypothesis, especially Butler (The Lausiac History of Palladius, 1898, pp, 215 f.). Antony, the father of all monks, began his significant work c. 305, after twenty years' sojourn in the wilderness. Thus the monastery of Antonius (i.e., the colony of monks) near the Red Sea, in the latitude of Heracleopolis, was founded at the beginning of the fourth century. The monastic settlements in the Nitrian and Scetic deserts belong to c. 330 C.E.
[] As regards the Egyptian episcopal hierarchy at the opening of the fourth century, we find ourselves in a particularly fortunate position. The episcopal lists certainly give a most imperfect idea of the spread of Christianity in Egypt, as each nome had at first only one bishop, while many large churches, in town and country alike, were governed by presbyters, and small villages had not even so much as a presbyter. But, on the other hand, we have to take account (1) of the statement of Alexander (of Alex.) in his encyclical letter, that he had gathered, c. 320 C.E., a synod of almost 100 bishops (Socrat., H.E. 1.6). Then (2) there is the corroborative statement of Athanasius, for the age of the synods of Sardica (and especially for the earlier synod of Alexandria in 339), that "there are close upon 100 bishops in Egypt, the Thebais, Libyæ, and Pentapolis." See Apol. c. Arian, 1 and 71. Thus there were no bishoprics founded between 320 and 340. This is important evidence. Had not the episcopal organization been fully organized in Egypt by the opening of the fourth century, we should have expected a number of bishoprics to be established just between 320 and 340. At the synod of Sardica 94 Egyptian bishops were actually present, or subsequently signed the resolutions (so Apol. c. Ar., 50, where their names but not their dioceses are given). Athanasius had all his bishops summoned to that council. (3) There is also the fragmentary record, compiled by Meletius, of his adherents among the Egyptian hierarchy, which was laid by him before the council of Nicæa (325). This list includes twenty-nine or thirty bishops (cp. Athan., op. cit., 71); viz., in
\28/ Perhaps Diospolis parva (not D. magna=Thebes), as it is mentioned between Cusæ and Tentyra.
\29/ It is remarkable that no bishopric within our period (i.e., pre-Nicene) is ever assigned to Ptolemais, though it was the second city in Egypt. This omission cannot be a mere accident. The city perhaps for long sharply excluded Christianity. Meletius, bishop of Lycopolis, discharged the duties of metropolitan in the Thebais, under Diocletian. As the town was not the political capital of the Thebais, Schwartz (p. 185) conjectures that Petrus delegated his metropolitan functions to him.
\30/ Quentin (Anal. Boll., 24.1905, pp. 321 f.) has recently discovered and edited the Passio Dioscuri. The scene is in Cynos (Anacipolis in Mart. Hieron.), "praeside Culciano" (305-306), apparently in upper Cynos (p. 331). The father of D. was reader there, and he himself "debitor fisci" in virtue of his position as "curialis" (pp. 327, 329).
\31/ "No heretic or pagan is to be found there: all the citizens are Christians." The continued existence of pagan conventicles at Oxyrhynchus, assumed by Wilcken (Archiv f. Papyrusforschung 1.3, pp. 407 f.), rests, in my opinion, upon a misinterpretation of παγανικαὶ συντέλειαι, an expression which occurs in a document of 426 C.E.
\32/ I do not know what authority Larsow has for putting Phthenegys in the extreme north of Egypt, south of Paralos, on the map in his edition of the festal epistles of Athanasius (1852). I have tried in vain to find the place in any source outside of Athanasius.
\33/ In the notices of martyrdom during the great persecution, as well as in Eusebius (Dionys. Alex.), some further Egyptian episcopal names are preserved, but the localities are unknown; cp., e.g., the names in Eus., H.E. 8.13. The presbyters who followed Meletius in Alexandria were Apollonius, Irenæus, Dioscurus, Tyrannus (and Macarius from Parembolê); the deacons, Timotheus, Antonius, and Hephæstion.
We also have the list of bishops from Egypt, the Thebais and both Libyas, who were present at Nicaea. These came from
\34/ "The site of the town is not known; the memory of it seems to have perished by the beginning of the Middle Ages. Two Coptic-Arabic writings note Alphocranon among the suppressed sees (cp. Amélineau, La géographie de 1'Égypte à 1'époque Copte, Paris, 1893, pp. 572, 576, and 4639)," Gelzer, Conc. Nic., p. 233.
\35/ It is surprising that Ptolemais, the capital of Pentapolis, occurs here, and not in its proper place before Berenicë. We must not think of Ptolemais Hermia, as at first we might be inclined to do; for the bishop's name (Secundus) is definitely fixed as that of the metropolitan of Pentapolis at that date (cp. above, p. 171).
\36/ For Memphis, see Constantine's speech to the holy synod (apud Eus, 16.2): τοιγάρτοι καρπὸν ἤραντο τὸν προσήκοντα τῇ τοιαύτῃ θρησκείᾳ Μέμφις καὶ Βαβυλών, ἐρημωθεῖσαι καὶ ἀοίκητοι καταλειφθεῖσαι μετὰ τῶν πατρῴων θεῶν. καὶ ταῦτα οὐκ ἐξ ἀκοῆς λέγω, ἀλλ’ αὐτός τε παρὼν καὶ ἱστορήσας ἐπόπτης τε γενόμενος τῆς οἰκτρᾶς τῶν πόλεων τύχης. Μέμφις ἔρημος. The heretic Marcus came from Memphis; he went to Spain and there gained a noble lady, Agape, and an orator, Helpidius, who thereupon won over Priscillian (cp. Sulp. Sev., Chron. 2.46).
\37/ I follow here the Coptic recension.
\38/ An inscription was found here in 1902, which shows that a Jewish community, modelled on Greek lines, existed here as early as Ptolemy Euergetes (247-222 B.C.E.). It had a synagogue of its own, "in honor of the king, the queen, and their children."
\39/ Antæopolis (cp. the Coptic list) is uncertain; it is only attested by a single witness.
\40/ The latter six are from Libya superior and inferior. -- The names of the bishops are obviously not Egyptian, but almost entirely Greco-Latin. Paphnutius, bishop of an unknown town in Upper Thebais, was also at Nicæa. -- Very likely there were Christians, and a Christian bishop also, at Darnis (Dardanis) before 325 C.E., as it was the metropolitan's headquarters for Libya II. during the days of Athanasius (cp. the 39th  festal letter of Athanasius, published by Schmidt in the Nachr. d. Gesells. d. Wiss. zu Gött., 1901, 3. p. 5). -- Immediately after 325 we get evidence for Christian churches (cp. Athan., Apol. 64.) at the following Egyptian localities (none of which, in spite of great efforts, can be identified; so far as I know, they are never mentioned elsewhere; they were in the vicinity of Alexandria, viz., in Mareotis), viz., Dikella, Phasko, Chenebri, Myrsinë, and Bomotheus. Add Taposiris (see above). Hypselis, where Arsenius, the opponent of Athanasius, was a bishop, may also be added to the places which possessed a church previous to 325.
[] Down to 325 C.E., therefore, we may assume Christians to have existed in about fifty towns (or nomes) of these provinces, more than forty of which were episcopal sees.\41/ In Alexandria there was quite a number of churches (cp. also Eusebius, as above, p. 162, on Mark's work at Alexandria), and we have actual knowledge of those in which Arius preached, besides those of Dionysius and those of Pierius, called after the famous head of the local school (cp. my Litt.-Gesch. 1. p. 439), and several others.\42/ The Novatians also had several churches in Alexandria, which Cyril had ultimately closed (Socrat., 7.7). The number of the Alexandrian clergy (including the Mareotic) at the opening of the fourth century may be calculated with fair precision. Epiphanius (Hœr., 69.3) declares that Arius won over in Alexandria not only 700 consecrated virgins but 7 presbyters and 12 deacons. The epist. encycl. of Alexander of Alexandria was signed by 17 presbyters and 24 deacons. In Mareotis 19 presbyters and 20 deacons also sided with Alexander. This gives us 24 presbyters and 36 deacons for [] the city of Alexandria, while, if the Mareotic clergy are included, we get no fewer than 43 presbyters and 56 deacons.\43/ Evidently we are handling large numbers here. From the activity and position of Anatolius in Alexandria (cp. above, p. 39), we may conclude that Christians then formed a strong and influential party in the city. A further proof of the wide spread of Christianity in Egypt is furnished by the fact that it continued to be a power in Upper Egypt at the opening of the fourth century (compare the description of the Diocletian persecution which raged so fiercely in the Thebais itself), and also by the outburst and the propaganda of monasticism during the last thirty years of the third century. In Alexandria, more than in any other city and province, the church understood how to present Christianity in forms which were suited to the varied grades of human culture, and this feature undoubtedly proved an extraordinary aid to the propaganda of the religion, although at a subsequent period, of course, the multitude of uneducated Christians overmastered alike the educated members of the church and the bishop of Alexandria himself.
\41/ Philostorgius (H.E. 7.13) mentions a bishop of Thebes, Heron by name, who fell away in the reign of Julian. In the 12th (19th) festal letter of Athanasius the following bishoprics, hitherto unmentioned, occur (it is true that we cannot be sure if they existed prior to 325 C.E., but the great likelihood is that they did, as the notices of them refer to successors of dead occupants of the respective sees): Paralus (at the extreme north of Egypt), Bucolia (not far east of Alexandria, on the coast, but deserted), Thebes, Apollonopolis inferior (where?), Aphroditon (east of Memphis, north of Nilopolis), Rhinocorura (on the Philistine border), Stathma (where? near Rhinocorura?), Garyatis orient. and merid. (both in Marmarika, but, so far as I know, unidentified), Syene, Latopolis, Hypselis, Prosopitis (cp. above, p. 161), Diosphacus ("which is on the sea-border," Athanasius adds: the place was evidently unfamiliar, and seems still to be unidentified), Saites (cp. above, p. 161), Xois (north of Sais), and Clysma (to the north of the Red Sea). These seventeen names bring up the number of bishoprics in Egypt, prior to the Nicene council, to about sixty.
\42/ Epiph., Hœr., 69.2: εἰσὶ τοίνυν πλείους τὸν ἀριθμὸν ἐν τῇ Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ [ἐκκλησίαι] .... εἰσι πλείους, ὡς ἔφην, Διονυσίου καλουμένη ἐκκλησία καὶ ἡ τοῦ Θεωνᾶ καὶ ἡ Πιερίου καὶ Σεραπίωνος καὶ ἡ τῆς Περσαίας καὶ ἡ τοῦ Διζύας καὶ ἡ τοῦ Μενδιδίου καὶ ἡ Ἀννιανοῦ καὶ ἡ τῆς Βαυκάλεως καὶ ἄλλαι. ἐν μιᾷ δὲ τούτων Κόλλουθός τις ὑπῆρχεν, ἐν ἑτέρᾳ δὲ Καρπώνης, ἐν ἄλλῃ δὲ Σαρματᾶς, καὶ Ἄρειος οὗτος, κ.τ.λ. ("The churches in Alexandria are more numerous. There are the churches of Dionysius [also mentioned by Philostorg., H.E. 2.11; Athanasius was consecrated bishop in it], of Theonas [cp. Theod., H.E. 4.22], of Pierius and Serapion, of Persaia, of Dizus, of Mendidius, of Annianus, of Baucalis, etc.; in one there was a certain Colluthus, in another Carpones, in another Sarmatas and Arius," etc.). Hœr., 68.4: ἦν γὰρ οὗτος [ὀ Ἄρειος] ἐν Βαυκάλει τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ οὕτω καλουμένῃ Ἀλεξανδρείας πρεσβύτερος. καθ’ ἑκάστην γὰρ εἷς πρεσβύτερός ἐστιν ἀποτεταγμένος· ἦσαν γὰρ πολλαὶ ἐκκλησίαι, νῦν δὲ πλείους ("For Arius was presbyter in Baucalis, the church so named in Alexandria; for one presbyter is appointed to each church. There were many churches then, but there are more now"). The statement of the Coptic-Arabic Synaxarium (Wüstenfeld, 2. pp. 210) that the believers had to meet in private houses and holes (??) till the era of bishop Theonas (i.e., the reign of Diocletian), and that Theonas built the first church in Alexandria (in the name of the Virgin), may be untrustworthy, but it deserves notice. Theonas may have built a church to Mary, and it may have been the first large building. For the Alexandrian churches in the fourth century, cp. Schwartz (Athanas., 1.336).
\43/ Cp. Snellmann, Der Anfang des arianischen Streits (1904), p. 49.
The uneducated were more strongly represented in the original population of Egypt (afterwards called Copts). But Christianity, as has been remarked, soon pushed its propaganda [] among them also. Bishop Dionysius distinguishes Greeks and Egyptians among the Decian martyrs (Eus., H.E. 6.41); the latter bear purely Coptic names.\44/ Αἰγύπτιοι, as Feltoe proves from the papyri (The Letters and other Remains of Dionysius of Alexandria, 1904, p. 13), even elsewhere at that period denoted natives as opposed to Greeks. In one place Dionysius also calls a (Coptic) martyr ὁ Λιβύς (Eus., H.E. 6.41). The present state of our knowledge regarding the origin and early development of national Egyptian Christianity has been recently sketched by Leipoldt (Die Entstehung der koptischen Kirche, 1905).
\44/ Even in Origen there are several passages which incidentally prove that Christianity was welcomed even by the native Egyptians; e.g., Hom. 12. in Lucam. (Opp. 5. p. 128, Lomm.); cp. above, p. 154.
The first Christian who, to our knowledge, published his biblical studies in the Egyptian (Coptic) language was the ascetic Hieracas (Epiph., Hœr. 67.), an older contemporary of Arius, who was suspected as a semi-heretic. Pachomius also belongs to the pre-Constantine age; his monasteries were assigned to Coptic Christians. Antony, who lived as an ascetic after 270 C.E., was a Coptic Christian. The three versions of the Bible, the Sahidic (Thebaic),\45/ the Akhmimic,\46/ and the Fayyumic\47/ (erroneously called the Bashmuric or Middle Egyptian), were extant by 350 C.E. (although the whole Bible perhaps had not yet been completely issued in these dialects; the Bohairic version is not earlier than the close of the fifth century). We may conjecture, though we cannot prove, that these versions partly go back to the third century. Christianity, in Egypt more than anywhere else perhaps, with the exception of Greece, adjusted itself to certain cardinal traits of the old national religion (e.g., its conception of the dead, its vivid grasp of the future, its moral tone, [] its use of spells to safeguard life, etc.). Coptic Christianity lived amid these elements (cp. also its predilection for ardent apocalypses). It came forward as a transformed popular religion, without any philosophy or profound speculations or dogma. The peculiar affinity between Coptic Christianity and monasticism has not yet been adequately explained. But here too the leading role was that of beliefs about the dead and a passion for the world to come. If the Egyptians were for the most part Christians by the middle of the fourth century (what Leipoldt, pp. 5 f., adduces from Schenute regarding merciless pagan landowners about the beginning of the fifth century refers to Greeks), then they had created a sort of national religion for themselves out of the new religion by grafting on the latter to the cravings and remnants of the old. If the years between 350 and 450 are to be taken as the blossoming period of the Coptic church, then the number of Coptic Christians c. 300 C.E. must have been very considerable. Who can tell how many of all these millions were Christians (cp. Mommsen, p. 578, Eng. trans. 2.259 f.; Lübeck, p. 106) when the great persecution broke out? Certain it is, however, that the Christians had long ago outstripped the Jews numerically, and by the opening of the fourth century they were over a million strong. Their large numbers are also evident from the fact that during the fourth century there was a comparatively rapid decline of paganism, native and Hellenic, throughout Egypt -- apart, that is, from the cults at Philæ and other outstanding temple-cities (cp. Wilcken, Archiv für Papyrusforschung 1.3. pp. 396 f., who shows, however, that there were Christian churches even in Philæ by the beginning of the fifth century). The outlying district of Bucolia, no doubt, is reported (Jerome, Vita Hilarion. 43) to have been still entirely pagan in the fourth century, while almost the whole of the city of Antinoë was still given up to idolatry in the reign of Valens. These, however, were the exceptions. And that was why inconvenient clerics were banished thither by the emperor (Theodoret, H.E. 4.15). Other exiled clerics are said, about the same period, to have found nothing but pagans and an idolatrous temple on an island of the Nile (Socrat., 4.24). But whatever value one [] might attach to this disappears when one considers the question put by the pagans to the Christians when they landed, "Have you come hither also to drive us out?" (ἤλθετε καὶ ἐνταῦθα ἐξελάσαι ἡμᾶς). The tale thus becomes a witness to the spread of Christianity. Judaism and Hellenism had plainly paved an open way for Christianity in Egypt, while the national religion, with all its peculiarities, which had long ago become quite meaningless,\48/ did not possess the same powers of attraction and resistance as certain of the Syro-Phoenician cults evinced.
\45/ "The Berlin Sahidic MS. of the Apocalypse of John certainly belongs to the fourth century, and the Apocalypse was by no means the first scripture translated by the Copts into their vernacular. In fact, we know MSS. of the Psalter and the Wisdom of Solomon which may be very little later than that of the Apocalypse."
\46/ "This version was, even in the fifth century, the memorial of a decaying dialect, and was practically supplanted by the Sahidic." The Akhmimic version contains the oldest writings extant in any Coptic MS.
\47/ "I think it very likely that it is just as old as either the Akhmimic or the Sahidic."
\48/ For the religion of Egypt, see Erman (Die aegypt. Religion, 1905). Its final period, together with the social and political position of the natives from the third to the fifth century, may be seen most clearly in Leipoldt's Schenute von Atripe (Texte u. Unters., 25.1.22 f., 26 f., 29 f.). -- It is extremely remarkable how little notice is taken of Egyptian religion -- for all its deep influence on the Greco-Roman empire -- in early Christian literature. Even Christian Greek gnosticism, so powerfully influenced by the lore of Syrian and Asiatic rites, betrays few traces of the Egyptian cultus, apart from magical spells (yet cp. the Pistis Sophia). The latter must have been disintegrated during the second and third centuries, yielding place to Hellenism, and in part to rude household cults. Reitzenstein's Poimandres ("Studien zur griech. -- ägypt. u. frühchristl. Literatur," 1904) has certainly unearthed some lines of connection which had hitherto lain unobserved; but he goes too far, I think, with his bold speculative constructions.
We know nothing about the early history of Christianity in Pentapolis (Cyrenaica), where a very large number of local Jews had already created an atmosphere for the new faith.\49/ Irenæus (1.10) declares there were Christians in Libya.\50/ But the fact of Basilides being metropolitan (in Ptolemais) of Pentapolis in the days of Dionysius of Alexandria (Dionys., Ep. ad Basil.; Eus., H.E. 7.20; Routh's Reliq. Sac., 3.(2) pp. 223 f.) shows [] that church life had been organized there, with a number of bishoprics (e.g., Berenicê, p. 168), by the middle of the third century.\51/ The modalistic Christology gained a specially large and resolute number of adherents in this district about the same time. Sabellius was a Libyan, and came from Pentapolis. We have also evidence for martyrs in these provinces.\52/
\49/ Cyrene is mentioned in the N.T. (Acts 2.10), which proves, at any rate, that converted Jews from this district were known about 100 C.E.; cp. also the synagogue of the Cyrenians (Acts 6.9) in Jerusalem, as well as the fact (noted in Acts 11.20) that converted Jews from Cyrene and Cyprus were the first (in Antioch) to preach the gospel to pagans. Finally, Acts knows of a Christian teacher, Lucius of Cyrene, in Antioch (13.1); while the gospel mentions a Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15.21 and parallels) who was obliged to carry the cross of Jesus. The Bible Christian Africans (like the negroes in America) nowadays honour this Simon as their hero. Jews and Greeks and Romans shared in the crucifixion of Jesus, but an African carried his cross!
\50/ There is some likehood that Tertullian's story about the proconsul Pudens (in ad Scapulam, 4.) had been enacted even in Cyrenaica previobs to 166 C.E., which would prove the existence of Christians there at that period. But the transference of the tale is not quite assured. Crete also might be meant; cp. Neumann's Röm. Staat. u. allgem. Kirche, 1. pp. 33 f.
\51/ We cannot tell how or when the Alexandrian bishop succeeded in bringing Pentapolis, which did not belong to Egypt politically, under his control. The local metropolitan, as such, was his colleague, but in one aspect was only his subordinate. We have no details about the demarcation of authority and jurisdiction between the metropolitans and the Alexandrian super-metropolitan for the fourth century, let alone for the third. Nor do we know how many metropolitans there were in the large territory over which the Alexandrian bishop presided. Perhaps during the third century -- apart from the metropolitan of Pentapolis -- there were no metropolitans there at all, in the strict sense of the term. But whether there was one or more, they were quite unsuccessful in their efforts to be independent metropolitans like their colleagues elsewhere in the empire. For the provinces and metropolitans in Egypt, cp. Schwartz, pp. 180 f" Lübeck, pp. 109 f., 116 f.
\52/ Catacombs are said to have been discovered in Cyrene, dating from the pre-Constantine period; cp. Smith and Porcher, History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene (London, 1864). -- The coast of the Syrtes was as barren and barbarous then as it is today. "Vacua humano cultu omnia…..ubi aversa quaedam a mari promuntoria ventis resistunt, terra aliquantulum solidior herbam raram atque hispidam gignit: ea ovibus pabulum est satis utile; incolae lacte vivunt" (Sulpic. Sev., Dial., 1.3 f.). There were no churches there, but perhaps one or two Christian settlers at the end of the fourth century.
Not until the fourth century (Socrates, 1.19; Philost. 3.4 f.) did Christianity penetrate the wide stretches of country south of Philæ towards Abyssinia and Southern Arabia; cp. Duchesne's Les missions chrétiennes au sud de l'empire Romain (1896). All tales relating to an earlier period are legendary.\53/ What we may call the "papal" power of Alexandria is further shown by the fact that the Abyssinian church rose and remained in a position of entire dependence on Alexandria.