The documented history of Egypt dates back to the age of codification (about 3200 BC) and over more than 5300 years of its written history. Although the country was subjected to military occupation dozens of times over this long period, Egypt changed its religious doctrine only twice. The first was in the first Century with Christianity, and the second with Islam in the seventh century. In fact, Egypt has succeeded in injecting both Islam and Christianity with many of its ancient beliefs. In the end, the essence of the ancient Egyptian doctrine was centered on faith in the resurrection after death, reckoning, paradise and hell, all of which are essential components to all the Abrahamic religions.
Perhaps we need to explain how Egypt created its own version of Islam in a separate article. But for Christianity, the Egyptian touches are very influential in the religion that has spread worldwide. They bear the authentic Egyptian features that the country’s people have embraced since ancient times until it appeared it was Christian before the birth of Christ thousands of years ago.
Christianity, which appeared in the first century, was considered another version of Judaism. In the vast pagan ocean, which extends to the Roman Empire , the early Christians were seen only as a group of Jewish sects who failed to establish their kingdom at the hands of their leader (the Savior), who rebelled against the Roman state, so he was punished like one. Christianity crystallized in the form of an independent religion and doctrine separate from Judaism only after passing through Egypt, which gave it three of the most important components.
The early Christians did not use the cross as a symbol. Until the fourth century AD, Christians in the ancient world used the fish symbol "Ichthys in Greek" or ΙΧΘΥΣ, the oldest known Christian symbol.
As for the symbol of the cross used by Christians throughout the world, it is the development of an ancient Egyptian symbol, "Ankh", which carries the meaning of eternity, or life after death.
In the Coptic Museum in Cairo there are many archaeological evidence on the evolution of the use of this symbol and its adoption by Egyptian Christians as a decorative element at the beginning and then as a symbolic value associated with the eternity of Christ and defying death.
In the Coptic Museum in Cairo there are some tombstones that have a fascinating development of the use of the symbol of Ankh, which was traditionally placed as a sail for the Ra boat in the other life to cross the sea of darkness. After Christianity, the first Christians in Egypt also placed on their graves the Ra’s sailboat, but with a slight change in the form of the ankh symbol to become closer to the shape of the cross.
The evolution of the symbol of the cross from the pharaonic symbol Ankh is closer to archaeological studies than the common hypothesis that the symbol of the cross refers to the instrument of torture used to crucify Christ. The ancient Roman cross that Christ was supposed to have been crucified on was T-shaped, which was different from the shape of the known cross.
The oldest creed that Egypt had known for thousands of years was based on the Holy Trinity, the Father God Osiris, the Mother Goddess Isis, and the Son Horus, whom Isis bore without defiling herself. (Sounds familiar?)
In fact, all the early Christians preserved their original faith while introducing some new details. Soon the Isis temples spread in Egypt were transformed into churches. The statues of Isis carrying her child Horus metamorphosed to the Virgin Mary holding the Christ which later spread with Christianity to all parts of the world.
The first monk in history was the Egyptian saint, Anthony the Great, who was born in Thebes in 251 and lived for more than a hundred years. He was the first to establish the monastic system and the rules of residence in the monasteries.
In fact, Christianity in its early form did not know monasticism or monasteries. It evolved from Judaism, which did not welcome the idea of an unmarried man or being apart from the world even if he was a clergyman. The idea of virginity among the ancient Egyptian priests (male and female) was common and the great temples were attached to some monasteries where some of the priests and priestess devoted themselves fully to worship, austerity, isolation and virginity.
An Icon of St. Anthony the Great. First monk in Christianity.