True or not? Coptic Church is older than Catholic Church?

Just a question to those who have actually researched the early Church and not looking for what is presumed?


(I realize that this can be a tricky area of Christianity since the early church really was not all that cohesive and more community based if one is being intellectually honest about history. Just looking for intelligent and informed information of actual history and not the romanticiszed. Thanks)

It really depends on what you mean. The See of Rome was founded by St. Peter, the See of Alexandria(Coptic) was founded by St. Mark around the same time. In the Early Church, Rome was considered first, and Alexandria was considered Second. Alexandria, or at least part of it, broke communion with the rest of the Catholic Church around 454 AD.

Most Coptic sources put the founding of the Church in Egypt at around 43 AD, though some take a more metaphorical view and say instead that Christianity really started with the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, as early churches were built around the places tradition recorded that they took refuge (which are to this day marked as special places of pilgrimage).

It makes no difference which particular church was chronologically founded first since all the particular churches of early Christianity were originally in communion with each other and part of the one universal (catholic) Church founded by Christ. The more important question is what role the bishop of Rome had in the early Church. Catholics have multiple examples of ECF quotes and quotes from Sacred Scripture to show evidence for our position. The problem is that the EOs will simply say that we are “taking the quotes out of context”, or if that doesn’t work they will say that the translation is in error. :shrug:

Is that factually true? Do they have a credible argument from that assertion?

Im asking for as an intellectually honest answer as possible?..

Thank you, dzheremi. Appreciate your input and perspective… :slight_smile:

I guess what I mean is who has the historical facts to back up their claims?..

Like I said, I know this is an area of Christianity that is very hard to pin down, with historical accuracy… :slight_smile:

When someone says “you are taking that quote out of context” it is impossible to prove to said person otherwise. And if they say it’s a bad translation, it’s impossible for most people to prove otherwise in the argument since probably about 99.99999999999999% of the world’s population are not experts in Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. And even if we show them something from an expert we know about they will reject that expert’s opinion based on that the expert agrees with us and not with them. I went around the block with the EOs on here, and everything I showed them was rejected in this way.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is in no way a part of the Eastern/Chalcedonian Orthodox communion, so none of this stuff about what the EO will or will not accept from RCC apologists has anything to do with the question of the OP. I’m not sure where to find an exact date for the founding of the Roman church (funny fact: If you put “When was the Church of Rome founded” into Google, it tells you 1 AD…this church was apparently founded when our Lord Jesus Christ was 1 to 3 years old! Oh, Google…:rolleyes:), but I think everyone can agree that whether a given apostolic church is a few years older or a few years younger than any other, all were founded within about a decade of one another. Nearest I can tell, the Egyptian church is probably at least a bit older than that of Rome if only because it is believed that Peter likely did not visit the city for the first time until after his liberation from prison in Jerusalem c. AD 42 (or at least this is the contention of the very Roman Catholic Catholic Encyclopedia, which states that the “other place” referred to in Acts 12:17 is a veiled reference to Rome), perhaps even some years afterward.

I agree with the entry you’ll find at that link that there is no way to know for sure when St. Peter’s journey to Rome occurred. There are various traditions, but nothing conclusive (nor need it be; if Alexandria was founded in 43 AD and Rome in 46 AD or whatever, does that make Alexandria better than Rome somehow? I don’t think so; besides, even if it did, Jerusalem is undoubtedly older than both, so…)

Thanks Livingwordunity. :slight_smile:

So you were able to demonstrate with intellectual honesty and your position was dismissed outright? (not being argumentative here; just trying ti sift thru the facts)
Was there any intellectual honesty on their side that had as much credibility as the argument that you provided?

(again just sifting thru historical facts vs presumed and romanticized history)

The Coptic and Catholic Churches both date from Christ’s apostles so neither is older than the other. The question we should be asking is why they are out of communion with one another.

Thanks DZ.
I realize I am asking a really hard question to pin down historically because of, well, the early church was not clear cut in how it unfolded.
I appreciate your efforts to be historically and factually accurate when it comes to dates.
I guess, maybe?, it has to do with when Mark went to Alexandra vs when Peter went to Rome? Would that be a fair POV? when did the Alexandra community come into being (Mark?) vs when did the Roman community come into being (Peter?)

Would that be an intellectually honest way of looking at my question?

I dont know if that is a completely fair and intellectually honest approach?

It’s fair to state that it is reasonable to assume one community was founded before the other, is it not?

Why they are out of communion with each other to me, at least, is easy to answer.
Human beings are subject to the brokeness of the human ego. And considering the time and the (lack of women’s imput) male ego, human competiveness and the need to win, is pretty powerful.

Sure, I suppose. I’m not going to pretend that I understand why this question matters, but I suppose if I thought it did that’s what I’d want to look at, too.

The standard narrative of the founding of the Church in Egypt is more or less this (but, y’know…nobody was a cartoon). :slight_smile:

Thank you, and thank you for your time in trying to answer my question. :slight_smile:

The thread I was in with them went on for 528 posts. The evidence I used spanned the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Early Church fathers. So, it wasn’t one or two quotes taken out of context. The thread started out being about the history of the 1054 AD Schism and the mutual lifting of the excommunications that happened in 1965.

I showed them pages of quotes from the ECF and from the Bible. For the ECF quotes, I showed them some that were prepared by Marcus Grodi. But they objected because the source of the quotes was a Catholic apologist.

So, I manually skimmed through 82 epistles and 12 of St. Cyprian’s Treatises to look for evidence for when and if Saint Cyprian spoke in favor of the Primacy of Peter. And I provided a clickable source link for every quote so that they could read the whole document that the quote came from if they desired to. But, they rejected all of these quotes. So, I picked one out from the batch of St. Cyprian quotes I gathered which I thought was the strongest statement about the Primacy of Peter. This is the quote:

“After such things as these, moreover, they still dare— a false bishop having been appointed for them by, heretics— to set sail and to bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to** the throne of Peter, and to the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source**; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access.” - St. Cyprian, Epistle 54

After many pages of them denying that the quotes I had been showing them were showing the Primacy of Peter, one of them finally told me that the ECF quotes I showed them were translated the wrong way. It was hard for me to believe this since the quotes all came from the Catholic Encyclopedia which is very meticulous in how they gather and present their information.

I showed them the following passages from the Bible and tried to explain them:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.** I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.**" - Matthew 16:18-19

I said, “The “keys” of authority that Jesus gives to Peter is even acknowledged in Heaven.”

"but I [Jesus] have prayed for you [Peter] that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." - Luke 22:32

"He [Jesus] said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, 'Do you love me?' And he said to him, 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep.'" - John 21:17

I said, “Are we not Jesus’ sheep? I don’t understand how heaven and earth can be interpreted to mean not universal.”

One replied with “Yes, absolutely I disagree. I am Orthodox. No one has universal authority but God.”

And I said, “Unless God appoints someone and grants him universal authority to lead God’s people, kind of like how God did with Moses in the Old Testament. Moses is an example of how there was a precedent for God appointing one man to lead all of God’s people.”

That was a good reply. :thumbsup:

I think that it is a mistake to assume that the Coptic Church and the Catholic Church were founded separately. They were one and the same Communion as the Universal Church of Christ.

The surviving rendering in Latin of St. Cyprian’s words in that passage have the verb “exorta est” which corresponds to the Perfect/Preterite and not “exoritur” which would correspond to the present tense used in the translation (the difference, in other words between originated and originates). No amount of appeals to the authority of the Catholic Encyclopedia (as if scholarly works can never contain errors or oversights) or, rather bizarrely, appeals to the relative obscurity of the Latin language (why should widespread ignorance of Latin, after all, have any bearing on what St. Cyprian wrote or how it should be translated?) can change that. And we rejected your reading of St. Cyprian on the grounds that he attaches the Cathedra Petri not to the bishop of Rome alone, but to the one episcopate.

But when one looks at how those texts were read by the Fathers, one has no reason to suppose that they should be read in the way you read them. Pope St. Leo, for example, in his fourth homily strongly implies that the power of the keys was given to all of the Apostles, but was given to St. Peter first in order to commend the unity of the Church (a common theme in the scriptural exegesis of the early Latin Fathers), and that the type of Peter is thereby proposed to all of the pastors of the Church, who bind and loose as Peter. St. Augustine in a homily (I forget which one, but I shall search for the source if asked) similarly remarks that the command to St. Peter to feed His sheep was actually given to all of the Apostles, but was spoken to Peter alone in order to commend the unity of the Church.

We can never accept the modern papacy as it presents itself because it proposes an ontology of the papacy and its charisms which is attached neither to the episcopacy nor to the sacrament of Holy Orders, but rather to the concept of an extra-episcopal office, something which is unknown to Orthodoxy (after all, to our minds, if primacy is not a function of the episcopacy, would it not be true that the pope is required to be ordained as a bishop by custom and not for any reason of sacramental ontology?).

But that only highlights these sort of questions. To whom or what is the charism of primacy given? Is primacy a function of the office of the papacy or of the episcopacy? If it is a function of the papacy, how does the episcopacy participate in Peter’s primacy and power, if at all? If it is that primacy is delegated to the local bishop, does this not indicate that the local Church cannot itself be called Catholic, since it is itself only a piece of a Church and not the entirety and fullness of the Church according to the whole? How could the bishop be compared to God the Father by St. Ignatius if his power and primacy is in fact delegated to him? These questions may seem obscure, but they reflect rather legitimate ecclesiological concerns which Orthodoxy has with the papacy.

This is a really big interest of mine. From my research, which started as a child, I have come to a few conclusions on the matter.

  1. The Church of Jerusalem is the “Mother of all Churches” of all of Christendom, because it was in Jerusalem that the Church was established on the day of Pentecost with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus Christ. From Jerusalem the gospel of Christ was spread to the world.

As Christianity spread, and the persecutions of the Jews by Roman authorities in their homeland increased, causing the dispersion of many of the Christians from Jerusalem, the import of this church and its impact on the ongoing life of the whole Church diminished. As other churches gained ascendency, namely the Churches of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, the Church of Jerusalem was accorded a place of honor with them among the five original Christian patriarchates of the Christian world, called the Pentarchy.

The Church of Jerusalem remains the custodian of many of the holy sites in Jerusalem and environs, sometimes jointly with Roman Catholic or Coptic or Armenian Christians, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

  1. A Coptic priest I spoke with believes that Christianity started in Egypt when the Holy Family sought shelter there. Those that protected our Lord became believers and were blessed.

  2. Rome was a major Church but not the Church until much later.

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