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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


COPHT, or COPTI, a name given to the Christians of Egypt who are of the sect of the Jacobites.

See JACOBITES. The Cophts have a patriarch, who resides at Cairo; but he takes his title from Alexandria. He has no archbishop under him, but eleven or twelve bishops. The rest of the clergy, whether secular or regular, are composed of the orders of St. Anthony, St. Paul, St. Macarius, who have each their monasteries. Besides the orders of priests, deacons, and sub-deacons, the Cophts have, likewise, archimandrites, or abbots; the dignity whereof they confer with all the prayers and ceremonies of a strict ordination. By a custom of six hundred years standing, if a priest elected bishop be not already archimandrite, that dignity must be conferred on him before episcopal ordination. The second person among the clergy after the patriarch is the titular patriarch of Jerusalem, who also resides at Cairo. To him belongs the government of the Cophtic church during the vacancy of the patriarchal see. To be elected patriarch, it is necessary the person have lived all his life in continence.

To be elected bishop, the person must be in the celibate; or if he have been married, it must not be above once. The priests and inferior ministers are allowed to be married before ordination; but, not forced to it, as some have observed. They have a great number of deacons, and even confer the dignity frequently on their children. None but the lowest rank among the people commence ecclesiastics: whence arises that excessive ignorance found among them; yet the respect of the laity towards the clergy is very extraordinary. The monastic life is in great esteem among them: to be admitted into it, there is always required the consent of the bishop. the religious Cophts, it is said, make a vow of perpetual chastity; renounce the world, and live with great austerity in deserts: they are obliged to sleep in their clothes and their girdle, on a mat stretched on the ground; and to prostrate themselves every evening one hundred and fifty times with their face and breast on the ground. They are all, both men and women, of the lowest class of the people, and live on alms. the nunneries are properly hospitals, and few enter but widows reduced to beggary.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Cophti'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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