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The Christian School of Alexandria

The Christian school of Alexandria is the oldest Christian religion school in the world. The School of Alexandria started as a predominantly scientific and literary institution. It then developed into a philosophical and theological university. The Catechetical School of Alexandria came in direct succession to it. The school was the most important institution for theological education in Christian antiquity. Its deans, teachers, and graduates were responsible for what could be called philosophizing of Christian Creed. They defined Christianity in its final form for all generations to come. The first known dean of the school was Pantaenus (died 190 AD), followed by Clement of Alexandria who made a real effort to successfully convert educated Greeks to Christianity. Next, came Origen (about 215 AD) who was a biblical scholar and philosopher. He wrote lengthy commentaries on almost every book in the Old and New Testaments. His homilies are known to be the most ancient example of Christian preaching. Origen was succeeded by Dionysius of Alexandria (The Great) who later became the Patriarch of the Church (246-264 AD).. Many bishops of the Christian Church, both in Egypt and abroad, were educated at the school under such great theologians as Clement, Origen (called the "Father of Theology") and Didymus the Blind. Under the supervision of Pantaenus and his assistant Clement the New Testament was translated from Aramaic and Greek into Coptic, the language of the Egyptian Christians. Didymus the Blind lost his sight when he was four years old. However, this handicap did not deter him from acquiring the vision of the mind and the soul. He mastered grammar, rhetoric, poetry, philosophy, mathematics and music. He knew by heart both the Old and the New Testaments. Among his pupils were St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Jerome, Palladius and Rufinus the historian. In his care for educating the blind, he became the first one in history to devise a system of engraved writing, thanks to a raised-alphabet system using carved wood, fifteen centuries before Braille. Therefore even blind students were able to attend and learn. By the fourth century, Coptic Alexandria had indeed become the seat of Christian Learning for the whole world.

The Coptic Orthodox Church played an important part in the first three Ecumenical Councils, which convened to put a stop to heresies, to formulate the Orthodox and postolic creeds and doctrines, and to document the Apostolic canons of the Church. After the Council of Chalcedon, the Emperors of Constantinople ordered the closing of the school as part of their persecution against the Egyptian Christians. However, the Coptic Church simply transferred its school to the Monastery of St. Macarius in the Wadi el-Natroun desert. Then in 1893 the Theological College of the Catechetical School of Alexandria was re-founded and today has campuses in Cairo, New Jersey and Los Angeles.



 

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