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Christianity in the Land of the Pharaohs: The Coptic Orthodox Church

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (30 Dec. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1138010138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1138010130
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'Jill Kamil has provided us with an important resource for Coptic Studies ... At her sharpest and best, Jill Kamil can be described as the finest agent provocateur of Coptic Studies.' - Watani

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Format: Paperback
Jill Kamil’s “Christianity in the land of the Land of the Pharaohs is a book I picked up last year on a visit to the AUC in Cairo. Having finally gotten the chance to read it through, I found it a very interesting book and a change from the usual texts on Coptology and Egyptian History due to its change in focus from the Church and its teachings to the people of Egypt themselves. As a text on the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church it avoids any of the traditional trappings of selling itself as an apologetic for the Church and looks at the links between Egyptian Culture and the Church’s development. This is both quite refreshing and somewhat frustrating for the reader.

The book is structured in a way that gives the history from the visit of the Holy Family to the modern times. The Chapters consist on various historical instances, such as the rise of monasticism, the legalisation of Christianity, the Chalcedonian Council, Roman Persecution and the rise of Islam. These all allow for the book to flow in a way that creates a clear narrative, however this is sometimes confused by tangents from the author which can at times disjoint the flow of the text. The book ends with a look into the future of the text, in which the author praises the conversation of Icons in monasteries and the revival of this practice, demonstrating the preservation of many of the aspects covered in the book today.

In a way, this book is a breath of fresh air, since it takes a very novel approach to the history of the church. It does this by avoiding dwelling on any of the traditional Theological aspects which many would fawn over it looks at the Church as the Christian people of Egypt. In the same way, it has a brilliant analysis of Egyptian monasticism as a phenomenon within the cultural scape of Egypt.
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Format: Hardcover
A fantastic read! One again Kamil is able to give an amazing insight on the ancient world. Her guidebooks of Egypt have proven to be the best of its kind, and this book was an academic insight into the ancient world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insider's vivid Coptic Christianity 8 Feb. 2004
By Thought lancer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Egyptian Christianity:
The Christians of Egypt, called the Copts, a corrupted Greek word for Egyptians, used by the nomadic Arab invaders, have a tragic but very fascinating history. Their significance to Western culture and Christian faith has gained momentum, in the last decades after the discovery of the Coptic Gnostic Library of Chenoboskion, near today's city of Nag Hammadi, in upper Egypt.
Author with a challenge:
Jill Kamil, is an outstanding writer and columnist for Al Ahram Weekly, the elite Middle East English cultural bulletin, where she edits the travel and archeology section. Jill, living in Egypt since 1956, when she adopted her husband's Coptic heritage, weaved in a unique style, by her observing eyes and analytical mind, supported with historical research, and endorsed with absorbing stories, a lively mosaic of history, tragedy, faith and mysticism. Jill anticipates and answers her Children and grandchildren queries, and yourself if you will, supported with over a hundred photo
-How has Egyptian Christianity influenced the wider church?
-What led the Copts to initiate and promote monasticism?
-Why were so many Christian martyred in late antiquity Egypt?
-When and Why did the Egyptian church break away from Chaledonian main stream Christianity, after the sixth century? Who called it the Coptic Church, and when?

Coptic tradition and Culture:
"A beaming bearded priest led me towards the baptismal font in the cathedral of St. Mark the Evangelist in the Ezbekieh district of Cairo. I was seven month pregnant and about to become a member of the Coptic orthodox church. My husband Nabeeh Kamil, sociologist and artist whom I met when he was studying in the UK, was by my side." This is how Jill started her book with her natural introduction but fascinating encounter with ancient Christianity, still alive in the hearts of the Copts.
Christianity in Kemet, the land of the Pharaohs is an engaging survey of Coptic Christianity, through late pharaonic times, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Memluk, and Ottoman periods and beyond Mohammed Aly modern Egypt.
She based her book, the sixteenth in a category, on her own insider experience of half a century of living and loving, extensive travel around the Coptic sites, conversing with a colorful spectrum of various experts, monks, archeologists, evaluating and summing up the Coptic experience, and impact in space and time, on tradition and culture in Egypt, the region, and the world.
Stories from the Past:
Jill recounts Coptic folklore fables, they keep telling their sons and daughters from generation to generation, and stories held dear to their hearts, that centuries away created those marvelous legends in the Gnostic Gospel of the Childhood, and according to the Egyptians. In her introduction she defended very articulately the case for setting the record straight about the same deficiency-bias ,'associated with Europe's view of Europe itself at the time...{and} the colonial attitude led to a resistance against providing Egyptians with information on their own past'
' Ancient Egyptian theology, despite its apparent diversity and growing complexity with the passage of time, remained remarkably uniform throughout the 3,000 years of ancient history. It was closely connected with the Egyptian's conception of his world -- the universe was essentially static; the social order was part of the cosmic order, and the central figure was the king, whose acts were those of a god not a human being.' Amazing!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A flawed book on a sadly obscure topic 26 Jan. 2010
By Mohe - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Christianity in the Land of the Pharaohs" is an unnecessarily complicated book, it contains fascinating details that are hard to find elsewhere but it is also badly organized, scatter shot and often littered with facts that are not exactly correct.

Written by an Anglo-Kenyan woman who married an Egyptian Copt in the 1950s, it is rather chatty and very much an apologetic for the Coptic faith. The book focuses on the continuity of religious experience from Pharonic times till today, with a special focus on the origins of the Coptic church. Filled with stories of various Saints and Holy Men along with sketches of various monasteries, it is certainly enthusiastic.

The author has many ideas, but they are badly organized, for example discussions of various gnostic gospels are sandwiched into stories of various Coptic religious figures who were in all likelihood not nearly so unorthodox. At other points, there are serious errors of fact, such as when Patriarch Gregory I of Antioch is confused with the French bishop, Gregory of Tours. Kamil's grasp of the history of the non Copt church is shaky at best, and very colored by her prejudices.

The biggest problem though, since this is basically a volume of church history, is that the author has a very weak grasp of theology, that of the Orthodox Chalcedonian churches and of her own Coptic Orthodox Church. Because of this her, frequent, theological discussions are mostly incoherent and definitely confusing.

This is unfortunate because there really is almost nothing on this topic in English, that is readily available. Most works on Egyptian Christianity are really about Christian art, and tend to be both uninterested and dismissive of the Coptic church itself, focusing on the "naive" art of the Copts. If you are interested in the subject I recommend this book, but don't be surprised if you find it as frustrating as I did.

I was tempted to give this three stars, but the uniqueness of the book led me to give it a fourth.
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