Biblical education has been documented in the Holy Bible from
the time of Moses as being of utmost importance. Through God's spokesman,
Moses, the Israelites were charged to teach His Holy Commandments to their
children, "Recite them to your children and talk about them
when you are at home" (Deuteronomy 6:7). At that time, many
Israelites instructed their children in the home setting. Fathers educated
sons in all aspects of the Israelite faith. The wealthy we learn in the
Holy Book of II Kings 10:6, often hired professional teachers to
instruct their children.
In the King David era, archaeologists have unearthed tablets inscribed
with school exercises from that time period which may have been when
formal schools actually emerged. By the first century BC, Jews had set
up elementary schools in synagogues and homes throughout all of Israel.
The basic subjects taught were memorization of Holy Scripture, reading,
writing, and mathematics. Older students sometimes sought out master
teachers who could instruct them in the intricacies of Holy Bible interpretation
and Jewish tradition.
We are further told in the Holy Book of Acts 22:3 of St. Paul
finding such a teacher in Gamaliel, who was a respected member of the
In the year 61 AD, St. Mark the Evangelist entered the City of Alexandria
preaching Christianity to Egypt. As the growth of the Christian faith
grew, St. Mark guided by the Holy Spirit recognized the need for establishing
a theological school to explain and to consolidate the Christian faith.
The School of Alexandria is well documented as the earliest important
institution of theological learning in Christian history.
Alexandria at that time was a melting pot and a homeland of learning
for many. It was inhabited by Egyptian, Greek, and Jewish cultures.
Therefore, it was a necessity to have a Christian school of learning.
It was further felt by St. Mark that a center of learning was the only
way in which to give respect and rise to Christianity, a new religion.
The theological school began by teaching the people who wanted to be
baptized whether they were Jewish, Gentile, or Christian. The beginning
priority of the school was to strengthen faith. The school opened its
doors to all people with different religions, cultural backgrounds,
and varying social positions. The theological school was a mix of both
sexes without discrimination. Its emphasis was placed upon theoretical
studies and the life of faith and true Christian love.
Recorded by St. Eusebius the Scholar as well as St. Jerome, the theological
school's founder was St. Mark, who appointed Justus as its first dean
(who would also later become the 6th Patriarch). Most of the prominent
leaders of Alexandria were involved with the school either as teachers
or students and many were to become future Patriarchs.
The first great director of the school was Pantaenus, whom was credited
as one of those who adopted the Greek alphabet in the Coptic script.
His successor was St. Clement of Alexandria noted for his efforts in
attempting to reconcile Greek philosophy and Christianity.
Origen the Scholar, Heracles, and Dionsius would also become deans
of the Theological School of Alexandria. In the years to follow St.
Athanasius would give the headship of the school to St. Didymus the
Blind. Among his students would be St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Jerome,
In 451, with the first split of the church following the Council of
Chalcedon, the emperors of Constantinople closed the school. In l893,
His Holiness Pope Kyrillos V began a new seminary in Cairo and Christian
education gained momentum once more.
On September 30, l962, His Holiness Pope Kyrillos VI ordained Fr. Antonious
El Souriany as Bishop Shenouda, the first appointed Bishop for Christian
Education. Following this ordination, His Grace Bishop Shenouda then
became the President and Dean of the Theological College.
Today as our endearing pope, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III's continued
efforts to emphasize education make it a priority for the Coptic Church.
Besides the seminary in Cairo, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III has established
six additional seminaries in: Alexandria, Tanta, Menoufeia, Menia, Mouharrak
Monastery and Beliana, two seminaries in the USA and one in Australia.
Through His Holiness' numerous lectures and speeches, countless books
and websites, and through encouraging and establishing many Coptic schools
in several countries, education and instruction abounds ensuring the
growth and strength of the Coptic Church today. For Maccabees 13:22
states: "(Brothers) grow stronger from both general education
and our discipline in the Law of God."
Truly, as His Holiness' life example demonstrates, the Holy Bible was
given for our earthly transformation with education as its foundation.
As it is written, "Do not conform to the pattern of this
world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind"
In honor of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III's 40th Anniversary of becoming
the first bishop of Christian education the Coptic Orthodox Diocese
of the Southern United States dedicates this Sunday School curriculum.
Ultimately to know the will of God is the greatest of all educational
pursuits, to understand the will of God is the greatest educational
discovery and putting Christian education to use by doing the will of
God is the greatest of life's achievements.