God created man as a crown for creation. A human being distinct from all other beings, has a mind and is able to speak. When our parents Adam and Eve sinned, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden. And when the wickedness of man increased, God brought the flood and destroyed mankind, except for Noah, his wife, his children, and the wives of his sons (Genesis 6, 7, 8). And after the Flood, the whole earth was of one tongue and one language. Then man proceeded to build the Tower of Babel, so God punished them with the confusion of tongues (Genesis 11: 1-9).
Hence, languages arose and multiplied, each language with its own vocabulary and varying dialects.
Our ancient Egyptian ancestors had a scientific lead in codifying their language with initial attempts with figurative inscription and syllables about seven thousand years ago. The ancient Egyptian language is characterized as the first language with an alphabet in its hieroglyphic form around the thirty century BC.
Most of the other civilizations took from it, where they have alphabets that are very similar to the hieroglyphic alphabet in form and pronunciation, but also in relation to grammar and linguistic structures.
The hieroglyphics developed in a simplified way into hieratic font, in relation to the priests (scientists), and then to demotic font, that is, for the common people around the seventh century BC, for use in daily life. Then to the modern Coptic language.
The Bible was translated into the Coptic language in the second century AD around 181 AD by the scholar Bentinos, director of the Alexandria School, with some of his students.
Church prayers and praise were written in the Coptic language. We have papyri in monasteries, churches and museums in Egypt and all over the world, that require further study.
We infer from the lives of saints such as Anthony and Pachomius, the spread of the Coptic translation of the Bible. Saint Anthony, who did not know Greek when he heard in the Gospel in the Liturgy the verse: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Likewise, the canons of St. Pachomius, which he wrote around the year 321 AD, in which he recommends his disciples, monks, to read the Bible in the Coptic language.
And when the church found that the Coptic language was less used among the people, the church legalized the Bohairic coptic as the official language of the church that was Starting from the reign of Pope Christodoulos The 66 in the eleventh century AD.
And the church continued to maintain this dialect until now. In this era, the writing of grammar books and dictionaries was introduced.
The historian al-Maqrizi says in the fifteenth century AD, that the Copts of Egypt only spoke Coptic and had a great knowledge of the Greek language.
During the reign of Pope Cyril IV, the father of reform, in the nineteenth century AD. The Church was interested in reviving a broad educational renaissance.
Pope Cyril IV established Coptic schools, opened the way for girls’ education, and brought the first modern printing press to print church books and school curriculums.
Then he assigned the hegemon Takla to supervise, and then to the Blessed Archer, the Lead deacon, Arian Effendi Miftah, who is considered the first scholar to restore the proper pronunciation of the Coptic language.
Arian Effendi is related to Dr. Ragheb Moftah, who recorded church hymns, and melodies (in the voice of the lead deacon Michael Gerges Al-Batanoni) with the first recording device in Egypt after the radio device.
We thank God that these recordings are preserved in the Department of Music and Melodies at the Institute of Coptic Studies in Cairo as the first audio documentation of the Coptic language in general and the ecclesiastical pronunciation.
Then H.H. Pope Shenouda III adopted a development project for the old recordings with the help of Prof. Dr. Michel Badi Abdel Malik, who succeeded Prof. Dr.. Ragheb Moftah, as the head of Music and Melodies department, by converting these old recordings onto modern digital devices with the help of a specialized team from a German university.
His Holiness also taught the Coptic language himself to the congregation for a whole year (in 1975 AD), and it was published weekly in El-Keraza magazine.
Bishop of Melawi, Ansina & Ashmonin
Coptic Language Department Head
at the Institute of Coptic Studies
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