Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA (ăl'ĕg-zăn'drĭ-a, Gr. Alexandreia). Founded by Alexander the Great, 332 b.c.; successively the Ptolemaic, Roman, and Christian capital of Lower Egypt. Its harbors, formed by the island Pharos and the headland Lochias, were suitable for both commerce and war. It was the chief grain port for Rome. Its merchant ships, the largest and finest of the day, usually sailed directly to Puteoli, but at times because of the severity of the weather sailed under the coast of Asia Minor, as did the vessel that carried Paul (Acts.27.6). Alexandria was also an important cultural center, boasting an excellent university. Patterned after the great school at Athens, it soon outstripped its model. It was especially noted for the study of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and poetry. Literature and art also flourished. The library of Alexandria became the largest and best known in the world. In different eras it reportedly possessed from 400,000 to 900,000 books and scrolls.

The population of Alexandria had three prominent elements: Jews, Greeks, and Egyptians. The Jews enjoyed equal privileges with the Greeks, so that they became established there. While they continued to regard Jerusalem as “the holy city,” they looked on Alexandria as the metropolis of the Jews throughout the world. Here the translation of the OT into Greek, known as the Septuagint, was made in the third century before Christ. It became the popular Bible of the Jews of the Dispersion, generally used by the writers of the NT. At Alexandria the OT revelation was brought into contact with Greek philosophy. The consequent synthesis became of great importance in subsequent religious thought. The influence of Alexandrian philosophy on the thought of the writers of the NT is debatable, but its impact on later theological and biblical studies in the Christian church was great.

According to tradition, Mark the evangelist carried the gospel to Alexandria and established the first church there. From this city Christianity reached out into all Egypt and the surrounding countries. A theological school flourished here as early as the second century. Among its great teachers were Clement and Origen, pioneers in biblical scholarship and Christian philosophy.——BP


The Pillar of Pompey (actually Diocletian) standing amidst the remains of the Serapium, an impressive acropolis with a temple of Serapis. It was destroyed when the Byzantines also destroyed the famous library of Alexandria, saying that if the books disag
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ALEXANDRIA. Alexandria was founded in 332 b.c. by the Macedonian conqueror nodetitle, one of the many cities which bore his name. Alexander was in the midst of his destructive drive through the crumbling Persian Empire, an advance maintained and spearheaded by his superbly drilled Macedonian phalanx and its fine cavalry arm. Without adequate communications, successful largely because of the shock tactics of his assault on an ill-knit and loosely garrisoned, polyglot political system, Alexander needed bases and a network of control behind him as he drove deeper and deeper into E Egypt, strategically essential to the control of the Eastern Mediterranean and strategically vulnerable, requiring a strong garrison and firm government. A city and port on the Nile Delta provided both, with harbor facilities in addition.

The site itself, as the astounding Gr. conquest of the Middle E brought unprecedented unity to a vast and ancient sector of the world, promoted the growth of Alexandria. When Alexander died in 323 b.c., and Ptolemy, one of his generals, took Egypt as his share of the succession, a Gr. state was founded in Egypt. Alexandria became the seat of government in place of Memphis, the last capital of the pharaohs. Ptolemy was aided not a little by his shrewd interception of Alexander’s corpse, for which he built a magnificent tomb. The dynasty which Ptolemy founded lasted three centuries. Fourteen monarchs of the name sat on the throne of Gr. Egypt, and the last of the varied line was the famous Cleopatra who almost divided the Roman empire before its time.

From the beginning Alexandria was cosmopolitan. Greeks and Jews in large numbers made it a goal of emigration. There was a large native Egyp. population. Rapidly becoming a great commercial center and a nodal point of communication like Corinth, a terminal of the E Mediterranean sea routes with canal links from the Nile to the Red Sea, and the dhow trade which plied to the Malabar Coast and Ceylon, Alexandria became the metropolis where E met W, wealth inevitably accumulated, and where the ambitious, the able, and the cultured assembled. They gathered under the stimulus and encouragement of the first able members of the Ptolemaic line.

Hellenism was born in Alexandria. The Museum, founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus, the second ruler of the dynasty, was one of the first great universities of the world. A “museum,” in ancient parlance, was not, as in modern times, a collection of objects of art, rarity, and curiosity, but a center of culture, a “home of the Muses,” as its name implies. The Alexandrian Museum was established in 280 b.c. on the advice of Aristotle’s pupil Demetrius of Phalerum. Ptolemy gathered a band of men, who today would be called research scholars, from all parts of the Mediterranean and supported them by generous salaries to foster learning, academic discussion, and writing. The Caesars inherited the Museum from the Ptolemies, and for centuries its band of learned men promoted the culture of the Gr. and Rom. world. The buildings, worthy of a city famous for its architecture, were splendidly furnished and had a great dining hall, lecture and seminar rooms.

In spite of the vicissitudes of cultural life in a politically turbulent city, and the fortunes of changing imperialism, the Museum pursued its active life for at least five centuries, and the preservation of much of the culture of the ancient world must be ascribed to its beneficent work. This invaluable function of conservation was shared by the great Library, also a foundation of the first two Ptolemies. A series of notable scholars and literary men worked in this great institution and together established a Silver Age of Gr. lit. whose forms and canons deeply influenced and inspired the lit. of Rome, and through Rome the lit. of Western Europe and the world.

It was in Alexandria, under the influence of the cultural and literary activity which gathered around the Museum and the Library, that the scholars from the great Jewish sector of Alexandria produced the LXX, the Gr. VS of the OT. The production of this tr. is one of the most significant events in the history of religion. The LXX is the subject of much legendary lore, and it is not known for certain how and when it was produced. It is sufficient to say that it prob. appeared at intervals during the 3rd and 2nd centuries b.c., the work of unknown trs. of unequal merit. The influence of the LXX tr. in the history of world Judaism is beyond calculation. It played a major part in the growth of the intelligent Hel. Judaism whose exponents, men like Stephen, Philip, and Paul, took Christianity to the world and preserved it from the narrowing influence of metropolitan Judaism. The LXX, of course, had currency and influence in wider spheres than Judaism and the Hel. synagogues. It familiarized thoughtful multitudes, to whom old forms of paganism no longer appealed, with the God of the Jewish faith and OT canons of righteousness. The fact that quotations from the Heb. Scriptures in the NT are from the LXX VS shows that the Alexandrian trs. had provided the Early Church with a Bible.

The same hothouse atmosphere of speculation, philosophy, and literary criticism which produced the attempt to fuse Hebraism and Hel. found its greatest exponent in the Jewish scholar Philo, a contemporary of Christ. The movement with its elaborate and obtuse allegorizing, was a barren one, but it influenced a school of Christian theologians including Clement and Origen, both Alexandrians, whose speculative interpretations and extravagant “typology” found partisans in the church until recent years. For the most part Jewish Alexandrianism was irrelevant to the emerging theology of Christianity, though some have thought that here lay the reason for the further instruction which Apollos of Alexandria needed from Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:24-28). Others have thought that the Epistle to the Hebrews and parts of the Epistle to the Galatians (e.g. 4:24-31) show traces of Alexandrian hermeneutics. The fact that the synagogue of the Alexandrian Jews (Acts 6:9) in Jerusalem emphatically opposed Stephen’s plain interpretation of OT history shows that Christianity owed little to Alexandrian Jewish thought. Paul, in his person, doctrine, and writing, demonstrated that fusion of Judaism and Hel. which the Jews of Alexandria and Philo’s school attempted to achieve but failed to discover.

The Jews of Alexandria reflected the spirit of the city in other ways than in their enthusiasm for literary culture and intellectual speculation. They constituted a turbulent section of the great city, ever prone to riot and contention with the Greeks, and frequently the victims of pogrom and repression. It was an inflammable situation. In Alexandria the largest and most self-conscious section of the Jewish Diaspora lived side by side with a Gr. community notorious for its unruliness. The Jewish community claimed to be coeval with the city itself and had received special privileges and concessions from the first Ptolemies. They had rapidly overflowed the NE quarter, their statutory ghetto, and when in a.d. 42 the bungling governor Flaccus declared alien all the Jews domiciled in Gr. districts of Alexandria, no fewer than 400 business establishments were destroyed by the riotous mob. The anti-Semitism was prob. inspired by the manner in which the Jews were dominating the trade and commerce of the city. There is some evidence that they controlled the wheat export trade, and Egypt being Rome’s granary, vast tonnage of grain passed through the Alexandrian docks. It was a grain ship of Alexandria on which Paul sailed to Rome (Acts 27:6). Flaccus, no doubt, was encouraged by Caligula’s wellknown hostility to the Jews, an attitude which occasioned Philo’s embassy to Rome, but such outbursts must find base and impetus in popular discontent. It was a dangerous situation relieved only by the mad, young emperor’s early and opportune death.

Claudius, learned and conciliatory, succeeded Caligula, and the pogrom was the occasion of a wordy letter to the Alexandrians in which, with appeal and threat commingled, Claudius sought to reduce the city to peace. In the course of the document he mentions “Jews who come down the river from Syria.” This may be the first indication of Christian missionaries arriving in Alexandria and becoming there, as elsewhere, a source of debate and unrest in the Jewish community. Apart from this there is no certain knowledge of how the Christian religion reached Alexandria.

Alexandria prob. housed a million people by the 1st cent. The city was worthy of the reputation which wealth, trade, and a cultured monarchy had given it. The Romans inherited from the Ptolemies a city of palaces and public buildings unique in the world, interlaced with parkland like some ancient Washington or Canberra. The royal palace, where Julius Caesar first met Cleopatra, occupied a whole section of the level waterfront, dominated by the Pharos, the mighty 590 ft. lighthouse built for the second Ptolemy by Sostratus of Cnidus. The temple of Serapis was accounted one of the finest buildings in the world. The temple of Pan is described by the geographer Strabo as an artificial rock mound like a pine cone, from the top of which was a panoramic view of the whole flat, geometrically planned city. Ancient writers mention many other magnificent buildings. The architectural magnificence of Alexandria, its boulevards, motley crowds, industry, culture, trade, crowded dockland, and busy roads and waterways made Alexandria more like some modern metropolis than almost any other city of the 1st cent. Its active life is as open to modern view as that of Rome itself. Rome left a lit. in poetry, prose, and multitudinous inscrs. Alexandria also left considerable lit., but the papyri of Egypt, with their astounding revelation of common life in town and countryside over the many centuries of Alexandria’s preeminence, give as vivid a view of the teeming life of the delta port and metropolis as any source which the ancient world has to offer.

Bibliography

H. I. Bell, Jews and Christians in Egypt (1924); CAH X (1924-1939), 284-314; H. I. Bell, Cults and Creeds in Graeco-Roman Egypt (1953); E. M. Smallwood, Philonis Alexandrini Legatio ad Gaium, ed. with an intro., tr. and comm. (1961); V. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1961), 320-328, 409-415; E. Badian, Studies in Greek and Roman History (1964), 179-191.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(he Alexandreia).

1. History:

In 331 BC, nodetitle, on his way to visit the Oracle of Amon seeking divine honors, stopped at the West extremity of the Delta at the isle of Pharos the landing-place of Odysseus (Od. iv.35) His keen eye noted the strategic possibilities of the site occupied by the little Egyptian village of Rhacotis, and his decision was immediate to erect here, where it would command the gateway to the richest domain of his empire, a glorious city to be called by his own name. Deinocrates, greatest living architect, already famous as builder of the Temple of Diana, was given free hand and like a dream the most beautiful city of the ancient or modern world (with the single exception of Rome) arose with straight, parallel streets--one at least 200 feet wide--with fortresses, monuments, palaces, government buildings and parks all erected according to a perfect artistic plan. The city was about fifteen miles in circumference (Pliny), and when looked at from above represented a Macedonian cloak, such as was worn by Alexander’s heroic ancestors. A colossal mole joined the island to the main land and made a double harbor, the best in all Egypt.

Before Alexander died (323 BC) the future of the city as the commercial metropolis of the world was assured and here the golden casket of the conqueror was placed in a fitting mausoleum. Under the protection of the first two Ptolemies and Euergetes Alexandria reached its highest prosperity, receiving through Lake Mareotis the products of Upper Egypt, reaching by the Great Sea all the wealth of the West, while through the Red Sea its merchant vessels brought all the treasures of India and Arabia into the Alexandria docks without once being unladen.

The manufactories of Alexandria were extensive, the greatest industry however being shipbuilding, the largest merchant ships of the world and battleships capable of carrying 1,000 men, which could hurl fire with fearful effect, being constructed here. This position of supremacy was maintained during the Roman domination up to the 5th century during which Alexandria began to decline. Yet even when Alexandria was captured by the Arabs (641) under the caliph Omar, the general could report: "I have taken a city containing 4,000 palaces and 4,000 baths and 400 theaters." They called it a "city of marble" and believed the colossal obelisks, standing on crabs of crystal, and the Pharos, that white stone tower 400 ft. high, "wonder of the world," to be the creation of jinn, not of men. With oriental exaggeration they declared that one amphitheater could easily hold a million spectators and that it was positively painful to go upon the streets at night because of the glare of light reflected from the white palaces. But with the coming of the Arabs Alexandria began to decline. It sank lower when Cairo became the capital (circa 1000 AD), and received its death blow when a sea route to India was discovered by way of the Cape of Good Hope (circa 1500).

Today the ancient Alexandria lies entirely under the sea or beneath some later construction. Only one important relic remains visible, the so-called Pompey’s Pillar which dates from the reign of Diocletian. Excavations by the English (1895) and Germans (1898-99) have yielded few results, though Dr. G. Botti discovered the Serapeum and some immense catacombs, and only recently (1907) some fine sphinxes. In its most flourishing period the population numbered from 600,000 to 800,000, half of whom were perhaps slaves. At the close of the 18th century. it numbered no more than 7,000. Under the khedives it has recently gained something of its old importance and numbers now 320,000, of whom 46,000 are Europeans, chiefly Greeks (Baedeker, Handbook, 1902; Murray, Handbook, 1907).

2. The Jews in Alexandria:

Among the private papers of Alexander it is said a sketch was found outlining his vast plan of making a Greek empire which should include all races as harmonious units. In accordance with this, Europeans, Asiatics and Africans found in Alexandria a common citizenship. Indeed in several cities, under the Ptolemies, who accepted this policy, foreigners were even given superiority to natives. Egyptians and Greeks were conciliated by the introduction of a syncretic religion in which the greatest Greek god was worshipped as Osiris, Egyptian god of the underworld, whose soul appeared visibly in the form of the Apis bull.

This was the most popular and human form of the Egyptian worship. This new religion obtained phenomenal success. It was in furtherance of this general policy that the Jews in Alexandria were given special privileges, and though probably not possessing full civic rights, yet they "occupied in Alexandria a more Influential position than anywhere else in the ancient world" (Jewish Encyclopedia). To avoid unnecessary friction a separate district was given to the Jews, another to the Greeks and another to the native Egyptians. In the Greek section were situated the palaces of the Ptolemies, the Library and Museum. In the Egyptian district was the temple dedicated to Serapis (Osiris-Apis) which was only excelled in grandeur by the capitol at Rome. The Jews possessed many synagogues in their own district and in Philo’s day these were not confined to any one section of the city. Some synagogues seem to have exercised the right of asylum, the same as heathen temples. One of these was so large that the chazan signaled by a flag when the congregation should give the Amen! Each district had a practically independent political government.

The Jews were at first ruled by a Hebrew ethnarch. By the days of Augustus a Council of Elders (gerusia) had control, presided over by 71 archons. Because of their wealth, education and social position they reached high public office. Under Ptol. VI and Cleopatra the two generals-in-chief of the royal army were Jews. Ptol. I had 30,000 Jewish soldiers, in his army, whose barracks have only recently been discovered. It may have been a good thing that the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (2nd century BC) checked Jewish Hellenization. During the Roman supremacy the rights of the Jews were maintained, except during their persecution for a brief period by the insane Caligula, and the control of the most important industries, including the corn trade, came into their hands.

When Christianity became the state religion of Egypt the Jews at once began to be persecuted. The victory of Heraclius over the Persians (629 AD) was followed by such a massacre of the Jews that the Coptics of Egypt still denominate the first week in Lent as the "Fast of Heraclius." Wisdom and many other influential writings of the Jews originated in Alexandria. Doubtless numbers of the recently discovered documents from the Cairo genizah came originally from Alexandria. But the epochal importance of Alexandria is found in the teaching which prepared the Hebrew people for the reception of a gospel for the whole world, which was soon to be preached by Hebrews from Hellenized Galilee.

3. Alexandria’s Influence on the Bible:

(1) In Da 11 the Ptolomies of Alexandria and their wives are made a theme of prophecy. Apollos, the "orator," was born in Alexandria (Ac 18:24). Luke twice speaks of himself and Paul sailing in "a ship of Alexandria" (Ac 27:6; 28:11). Stephen `disputed’ in Jerusalem in the synagogue of the Alexandrians (Ac 6:9). These direct references are few, but the influence of Alexandria on the Bible was inestimable.

(2) The Septuagint, translated in Alexandria (3rd to 2nd centuries BC), preserves a Hebrew text 1,000 years older than any now known. This translation if not used by Jesus was certainly used by Paul and other New Testament writers, as shown by their quotations. It is Egyptian even in trifles. This Greek Bible not only opened for the first time the "Divine Oracles" to the Gentiles and thus gave to the Old Testament an international influence, but it affected most vitally the Hebrew and Christian development.

(3) The Alexandrinus Codex (4th to 5th centuries) was the first of all the great uncials to come into the hands of modern scholars. It was obtained in Alexandria and sent as a present to the king of England (1628) by Cyrellus Lucaris, the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Sinaiticus and Vaticanus uncials with many other most important Bible manuscripts--Hebrew, Greek, Coptic and Syriac--came from Alexandria.

(4) John and several other New Testament writings have justly been regarded as showing the influence of this philosophic city. Neither the phraseology nor conceptions of the Fourth Gospel could have been grasped in a world which Alexandria had not taught. Pfleiderer’s statement that He "may be termed the most finished treatise of the Alexandria philosophy" may be doubted, but no one can doubt the fact of Alexandrian influence on the New Testament.

4. Influence of Alexandria on Culture:

With the founding of the University of Alexandria began the "third great epoch in the history of civilization" (Max Muller). It was modeled after the great school of Athens, but excelled, being preeminently the "university of progress" (Mahaffy). Here for the first time is seen a school of science and literature, adequately endowed and offering large facilities for definite original research. The famous library which at different eras was reported as possessing from 400,000 to 900,000 books and rolls--the rolls being as precious as the books--was a magnificent edifice connected by marble colonnades with the Museum, the "Temple of the Muses." An observatory, an anatomical laboratory and large botanical and Zoological gardens were available. Celebrated scholars, members of the various faculties, were domiciled within the halls of the Museum and received stipends or salaries from the government.

The study of mathematics, astronomy, poetry and medicine was especially favored (even vivisection upon criminals being common); Alexandrian architects were sought the world over; Alexandrian inventors were almost equally famous; the influence of Alexandrian art can still be marked in Pompeii and an Alexandrian painter was a hated rival of Apelles. Here Euclid wrote his Elements of Geometry; here Archimedes, "that greatest mathematical and inventive genius of antiquity," made his spectacular discoveries in hydrostatics and hydraulics; here Eratosthenes calculated the size of the earth and made his other memorable discoveries; while Ptolemy studied here for 40 years and published an explanation of the stellar universe which was accepted by scientists for 14 centuries, and established mathematical theories which are yet the basis of trigonometry. "Ever since this epoch the conceptions of the sphericity of the earth, its poles, axis, the equator, the arctic and antarctic circles, the equinoctial points, the solstices, the inequality of climate on the earth’s surface, have been current notions among scientists. The mechanism of the lunar phases was perfectly understood, and careful though not wholly successful calculations were made of inter-sidereal distances. On the other hand literature and art flourished under the careful protection of the court. Literature and its history, philology and criticism became sciences" (Alexandria Weber).

It may be claimed that in literature no special originality was displayed though the earliest "love storms" and pastoral poetry date from this period (Mahaffy); yet the literature of the Augustan Age cannot be understood "without due appreciation of the character of the Alexandrian school" (EB, 11th ed.), while in editing texts and in copying and translating manuscripts inconceivable patience and erudition were displayed. Our authorized texts of Homer and other classic writers come from Alexandria not from Athens. All famous books brought into Egypt were sent to the library to be copied.

The statement of Josephus that Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247) requested the Jews to translate the Old Testament into Greek is not incredible. It was in accordance with the custom of that era. Ptol. Euergetes is said to have sent to Athens for the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, etc., and when these were transcribed, sent back beautiful copies to Greece and kept the originals! No library in the world except the prophetic library in Jerusalem was ever as valuable as the two Alexandrian libraries. The story that the Arabs burned it in the 7th century is discredited and seemingly disproved (Butler). At any rate, after this period we hear of great private libraries in Alexandria, but the greatest literary wonder of the world has disappeared.

5. Influence on Philosophy:

Though no department of philosophy was established in the Museum, nevertheless from the 3rd century BC to the 6th century AD it was the center of gravity in the philosophic world. Here Neo-Pythagoreanism arose. Here Neo- Platonism, that contemplative and mystical reaction against the materialism of the Stoics, reached its full flower. It is difficult to overestimate the influence of the latter upon religious thought. In it the profoundest Aryan speculations were blended with the sublimest Semitic concepts. Plato was numbered among the prophets. Greece here acknowledged the Divine Unity to which the Old Testament was pledged. Here the Jew acknowledged that Athens as truly as Jerusalem had taught a vision of God. This was the first attempt to form a universal religion.

The Alexandrian philosophy was the Elijah to prepare the way for a Saviour of the world. The thought of both Sadducee and Pharisee was affected by it and much late pre-Christian Jewish literature is saturated with it. Neo- Platonism drew attention to the true relation between matter and spirit, good and evil, finite and infinite; it showed the depth of antagonism between the natural and spiritual, the real and ideal; it proclaimed the necessity of some mystic union between the human and the Divine. It stated but could not solve the problem. Its last word was escape, not reconciliation (Ed. Caird). Neo-Platonism was the "germ out of which Christian theology sprang" (Caird) though later it became an adverse force. Notwithstanding its dangerous teaching concerning evil, it was on the whole favorable to piety, being the forerunner of mysticism and sympathetic with the deepest, purest elements Of a spiritual religion.

6. Christian Church in Alexandria:

According to all tradition, Mark the evangelist, carried the gospel to Alexandria, and his body rested here until removed to Venice, 828 AD. From this city Christianity reached all Egypt and entered Nubia, Ethiopia and Abyssinia. During the 4th century, ten councils were held in Alexandria, it being theological and ecclesiastical center of Christendom. The first serious persecution of Christians by heathen occurred here under Decius (251) and was followed by many others, the one under Diocletian (303-11) being so savage that the native Coptic church still dates its era from it. When the Christians reached political power they used the same methods of controversy, wrecking the Caesarion in 366 and the Serapeum twenty-five years later. Serapis (Osiris-Apis) was the best beloved of all the native deities. His temple was built of most precious marbles and filled with priceless sculptures, while in its cloisters was a library second only to the Great Library of the Museum. When Christianity became the state religion of Egypt the native philosophers, moved by patriotism, rallied to the support of Serapis. But Theodosius (391) prohibited idolatry, and led by the bishop, the Serapeum was seized, and smitten by a soldier’s battle-axe, the image--which probably represented the old heathen religion at its best--was broken to pieces, and dragged through the streets.

That day, as Steindorff well puts it, "Egyp paganism received its death blow; the Egyptian religion fell to pieces" (History of Egypt). Thereafter heathen worship hid itself in the dens and caves of the earth. Even secret allegiance to Serapis brought persecution and sometimes death. The most appalling tragedy of this kind occurred in 415 when Hypatia, the virgin philosopher, celebrated equally for beauty, virtue and learning, was dragged by a mob to the cathedral, stripped, and torn to pieces before the altar. Some of the greatest Christian leaders used all their influence against such atrocities, but the Egyptian Christians were always noted for their excitability. They killed heretics easily, but they would themselves be killed rather than renounce the very slightest and most intangible theological tenet. It only needed the change of a word e.g. in the customary version to raise a riot (Expos, VII, 75).

Some curious relics of the early Egyptian church have very recently come to light. The oldest autographic Christian letter known (3rd century) proves that at that time the church was used as a bank, and its ecclesiastics (who, whether priests or bishops, were called "popes") were expected to help the country merchants in their dealings with the Roman markets. Some sixty letters of the 4th century written to a Christian cavalry officer in the Egyptian army are also preserved, while papyri and ostraca from circa 600 AD show that at this time no deacon could be ordained without having first learned by heart as much as an entire Gospel or 25 Psalms and two epistles of Paul, while a letter from a bishop of this period is filled with Scripture, as he anathematizes the "oppressor of the poor," who is likened unto him who spat in the face of our Lord on the cross and smote Him on the head (Adolph Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, etc., 1910). Oppression of Jews and heretics was not, however, forbidden and during the 5th and 6th centuries. Egypt was a battle-field in which each sect persecuted every other.

Even when the Arabs under the caliph Omar captured the city on Good Friday (641), Easter Day was spent by the orthodox in torturing supposed heretics! The next morning the city was evacuated and Jews and Coptics received better treatment from the Arabs than they had from the Roman or Greek ecclesiastics. After the Arab conquest the Coptic church, being released from persecution, prospered and gained many converts even from the Mohammedans.

But the Saracenic civilization and religion steadily displaced the old, and the native learning and native religion soon disappeared into the desert. By the 8th century, Arabic had taken the place of Greek and Coptic, not only in public documents but in common speech. Then for 1,000 years the Egyptian church remained without perceptible influence on culture or theology. But its early influence was immeasurable and can still be marked in Christian art, architecture and ritual as well as in philosophy and theology. Perhaps its most visible influence was in the encouragement of image-reverence and asceticism. It is suggestive that the first hermit (Anthony) was a native Egyptian, and the first founder of a convent (Pachomius) was a converted Egyptian (heathen) monk. Today Alexandria has again become a Christian metropolis containing Coptics, Romans, Greeks, Armenians, Maronites, Syrians, Chaldeans and Protestants. The Protestants are represented by the Anglican church, the Scotch Free church, the evangelical church of Germany and the United Presbyterian church of the U.S. (For minute divisions see Catholic Encyclopedia)

7. Catechetical School in Alexandria:

The first theological school of Christendom was founded in Alexandria. It was probably modeled after earlier Gnostic schools established for the study of religious philosophy. It offered a three years’ course. There were no fees, the lecturers being supported by gifts from rich students. Pantaenus, a converted Stoic philosopher, was its first head (180). He was followed by Clement (202) and by Origen (232) under whom the school reached its zenith. It always stood for the philosophical vindication of Christianity. Among its greatest writers were Julius Africanus (215), Dionysius (265), Gregory (270), Eusebius (315), Athanasius (373) and Didymus (347), but Origen (185-254) was its chief glory; to him belongs the honor of defeating paganism and Gnosticism with their own weapons; he gave to the church a "scientific consciousness," his threefold interpretation of Scripture affected Biblical exegesis clear down to the last century.

Arius was a catechist in this institution, and Athanasius, the "father of orthodoxy" and "theological center of the Nicene age" (Schaff), though not officially connected with the catechetical school was greatly affected by it, having been bred and trained in Alexandria. The school was closed toward the end of the 4th century because of theological disturbances in Egypt, but its work was continued from Caesarea and other centers, affecting profoundly Western teachers like Jerome and Ambrose, and completely dominating Eastern thought. From the first there was a mystical and Docetic tendency visible, while its views of inspiration and methods of interpretation, including its constant assumption of a secret doctrine for the qualified initiate, came legitimately from Neo-Platonism. For several centuries after the school disbanded its tenets were combated by the "school of Antioch," but by the 8th century the Alexandrian theology was accepted by the whole Christian world, east and west.

LITERATURE. Besides works mentioned in the text see especially: Petrie, History of Egypt (1899), V, VI, Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies (1895), Progress of Hellenism (1905); Butler, Arab Conquest of Egypt (1902); Ernst Sieglin, Ausgrabungen in Alexandrien (1908); Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (1895-1900), and in New Sch-Herz (1910); Inge, Alexandrian Theology in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (1908); Ed. Caird, Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers (1904); Pfleiderer, Philosophy and Development of Religion (1894); Schaff, History of Christian Church (1884-1910); Zogheb, Etudes sur l’ancienne Alexandrie (1909).

Camden M. Cobern