What Did the Lord Jesus Christ Say

About The Coptic Orthodox Church?


Deacon Victor Beshir


Fact: The only place that the Lord and the holy family lived in besides Israel was Egypt... 

But, why Egypt?

Fact: The Lord almost spent more time in Egypt planting the seeds of churches there than He spent in Israel.  This definitely raises the question, why Egypt?

Fact: The only church that our Lord Jesus talked about was the Coptic Orthodox Church, which started in Egypt in the first century, and continued to exist until now as the church in Egypt along with hundreds of locations around the globe.  Again, why the Coptic Orthodox Church?

Why does the Bible refer to Egypt as where our Lord was crucified, although He was crucified in Jerusalem?

Why was Egypt the source of wheat whenever famine occurred in the Old Testament?

Why did the prophecy about the altar of the New Testament mention Egypt only?  Again, why Egypt? Or a better question would be:  why the Coptic Orthodox Church (since it is the church of Egypt)? 

There are a lot of amazing facts that need to be disclosed about Egypt and the Coptic Orthodox Church, and this is what we are going to deal with here.

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I know that you are eager to hear what the Lord said about the Coptic Orthodox Church.  But before we listen to what He said, we need to start the journey from its old sources in the:

The Old Testament:. 

First we meet with:  Joseph, son of Israel:

The life of Joseph, the son of Israel, was a symbol and prefigure of Christ’s life.  His life is full of symbols that we can clearly see in them prefigures of Christ’s life.  However, one aspect of Joseph’s life is not that obvious until you consider the flee of the Holy Family into Egypt.  The world was struck by a great famine at Joseph’s time.  However, before the famine started Joseph stored wheat from all over Egypt for seven years.  During the famine time, Joseph fed the world and thus saved the world (Gen 47:7).  

In addition, in the days of the first Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we have seen people making many trips to Egypt to get wheat because of famine in other lands. This is clearly established a spiritual pattern and a prophecy that Egypt would be the source of spiritual food for the world whenever spiritual starvation hit hard.

The spiritual food in the New Testament is our Lord Jesus Christ, since He is the ‘Bread of Life’ (John 6:48).  Therefore, the church of Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox Church, would be the presenter of Christ, the Bread of life, to the world when spiritual hunger occurs. 

Now, you can know one reason for why Joseph was a symbol of Christ.  Both Christ & Joseph came to Egypt to prepare the world for famines.  Joseph prepared the world by storing wheat for seven years and Christ prepared a church that would feed the spiritual hunger of the world through its spiritual springs, and apostolic teachings that didn’t change since its inception. 

Second, let us examine: Moses & The Exodus:

Again, Moses’ life is considered as a symbol of the Lord’s life.  The Passover made by Moses, the Manna, crossing the Red Sea, and the exodus of the children of Israel, all were considered by the New Testament and the fathers of the church as prefigures of the salvation on the cross, of our spiritual life in Christ, and of the spiritual trip into the heavenly Jerusalem respectively.

As we all know, the word of God is very accurate.  If it refers to Egypt, then there is something related to Egypt in it.  If Moses led the children of Israel in their exodus, and Moses is a symbol of Christ, then similarly the Lord Jesus Christ would lead His children out of sin and into salvation.  Moreover, as Moses led the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea, fed them with manna, and directed them into the promised land, similarly the Lord Jesus Christ would go into Egypt and through His church would lead His people to salvation in baptism (symbolized by crossing children of Israel  the water of the Red Sea), feed them with the Eucharist (symbolized by feeding the Israelites with manna), and lead them into the heavenly Jerusalem (symbolized by leading the Israelites to the promised land). 

Christ clearly makes the connection between eating manna and eating from the Eucharist when He says: “I am that Bread of life.  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eats of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:48-51).” 

St. Paul talks about the prefigures of crossing the Red Sea when he says: “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1Cor 10:2).     

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Egypt was mentioned in the Bible 587 times, which indicates the importance of Egypt in the Bible.  Since the Bible is a spiritual book then this tells us about the importance of the spiritual mission of Egypt  in the Bible.  This teaching reaches its climax when the Bible talks about ‘Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified’ (Rev 11:8).  We all know that the Lord was crucified in Jerusalem, therefore mentioning crucifixion in Egypt refers to the first Passover done by Moses in Egypt, as a prefigure of Christ.  It is also a prophetic reference that refers to the power of salvation which would be preached by the church of Egypt (The Coptic Orthodox Church).

Although, Egypt was seen ‘like the garden (paradise) of the Lord, like the land of Egypt’ (Gen 13:10), it had its Satanic influence on the globe.  Without any doubt old Egypt was a big center of idolatry  and because of its strategic location and its trade relationships with east and west, it spread its idol worship to many countries around the globe.  At the same time, since Egypt was one of the greatest empires of the past, it had a great army, and its people reached sophisticated  levels in science, mathematics, medicine, engineering,-just to mention a few- , which resulted in a nation full of sinful human pride.  

Therefore, to start a New Testament, a great spiritual power was needed to get rid of the idolatry center  in Egypt and to restore Egypt to its first image as the spiritual ‘garden of the Lord’ and the spiritual feeder of the world.  

Third, let us listen to Isaiah:

It is well known that the book of Isaiah is called the ‘Fifth Gospel,’ because Isaiah saw clearly and wrote eloquently about: the Savior and His salvation, and the New Testament, its churches, its worship, and its missionary work, to just mention a few.

Isaiah clearly has seen the church of Egypt as a very significant church with a great missionary work.  Just listen to some of his visions:

1- ‘In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt; and a pillar to the Lord at its border’ (Isaiah 19:19)

According to the laws of Moses there should be only one altar, and that altar was moved to Jerusalem after his time.  Therefore, there is only one altar in Jerusalem.  Then, the reference to an altar in Isaiah is not a reference to the Old Testament’s altar, but rather to the New Testament’s altar. 

This verse is the only place in the Old Testament that talks about another altar, the Christian altar.  This altar is in Egypt.  What does this mean?  Doesn’t it mean that the Coptic Church is a church of deep worship, of great salvation, of spiritual fulfillments, and of authentic Christian teachings?  

As to the ‘Pillar at its border,’ this pillar could refer to St. Mark the Apostle, the founder of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the writer of the second gospel, or it could refer to the city of Alexandria, located at the Northern West border of Egypt, where the Coptic Church first started and is still called until today ‘The Church of Alexandria,’ or it could refer to this great ‘Alexandrian Theological School,’ where Bible Interpretation and Christian Theology first started and many great theologians of the early church graduated from.

At any rate, this prophecy of Isaiah foresaw the great spiritual role of the Christian Egypt and its church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, in an exclusive way that was never told of any other church in the world.


2- “Blessed is Egypt My people” (Isaiah 19:25).

This is a great blessing to the children of the Coptic Church, one of a kind in the Bible.  It is uttered from the mouth of the Lord Himself.  This blessing is the yeast of life that started the Coptic Church and kept it alive over the centuries to overcome waves of severe persecutions, monstrous heresies, and the gates of hell.  This blessing made the Coptic Orthodox Church a very spiritual one, which over the centuries presented a great number of saints, martyrs, teachers, theologians, Bible interpreters, and faith defenders.  In it also started the Christian Monasticism by St. Anthony in the Fourth century.  Leaving Egypt, monks established other monasteries all over the world, and evangelized Christianity to many countries.  They were the first to evangelize in Ireland and to establish its monasteries that played a great role in keeping the writings of the old civilizations which were used as the references establishment  in the Renaissance.    

Now, after harboring for a while in the Old Testament, let us move to:

The New Testament:

The Flight of The Holy Family (Jesus, Joseph & Virgin Mary) To Egypt:

King Herod, as it is recorded in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, planned to kill Jesus when he was a child.  The angel of the Lord ordered Joseph to take the Virgin Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt.  Although historically the Holy Family entered Egypt on June 1, ecclesiastically the flight to Egypt is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Nativity Feast (Christmas).  The importance of this feast was fully recognized in the early centuries of Christianity when a cluster of feasts was celebrated around the time of Nativity.  They all related to the Epiphanies (God manifestations in our lives), and they all have important roles in our salvation.  This means the flight into Egypt has its own importance for our salvation, not only for members of the Coptic Church but also for all Christians.  

How Saint Matthew Phrases the Flight of the Holy Family?

It is amazing that the Holy Spirit uses almost the same words used in the Old Testament when He talked about Moses and applied them here on the flight of our Lord into Egypt.  Please compare for yourself: 


First comparison:


‘When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses.  But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). 



‘When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under’ (Matt 2:16)

‘An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  (Mat 2:13)


Second comparison:



‘And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush (Exodus 3:2).

‘And the Lord said to Moses in Median, "Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead" (Exodus 4:19).



‘When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead" (Matthew 2: 19,20). 

‘Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord through the prophet, had spoken, "Out of Egypt I have called my son" (Matt 2:14,15).



It is very clear that the Holy Spirit intentionally uses these parallel verses to draw our attention to the common salvation in both stories.  Moses returned to Egypt for the salvation of the children of Israel, while Christ fled to Egypt for the salvation of all human beings.  This mission needs to be added to the one we mentioned earlier about Joseph.  Here is the new Joseph, Christ, went to Egypt to prepare the world for the spiritual famine.  

What Happened During The Flight To Egypt?

Instead of going through details of the flight to Egypt, which could require many volumes, I’m inclining to present a few important Biblical, historical, and spiritual aspects of the trip. 

1- Again, Isaiah foretold the flight and described it in very precise words:

The LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them (Isaiah 19:1)

Saint Cyril the Great, a great Egyptian theologian from the fifth century, views the swift cloud as the Virgin Mary carrying Jesus and escaping to Egypt.  


2-     Reviewing the history of the flight of the Holy Family, someone  can easily conclude that there was a great mission behind the trip, which could be summarized in two aspects: destroying the worship of idols and planting seeds for churches.


3-     Although anyone expects that the holy family would hide in one place in Egypt, however, to our amazement the Holy Family did not stay in one place  but rather traveled all over Egypt from East to West and from North to South, covering most parts of Egypt.


4-     The idols were destroyed in every place visited by the Holy Family, as prophesized by Isaiah and witnessed by historians.  Palladius, a historian from the Fourth Century, went to Upper Egypt and saw all the idols in the idol temples that fell to their faces when the Lord entered the cities[1].  Although, destroying the idols would endangered the lives of the Holy Family members, but they continued in pursuing this mission all over Egypt.  One example, in Babylon, old Cairo, the Holy Family stayed there for only one week because the idols were destroyed, and the devils fled, which enraged the governor who tried to kill Jesus.


5-      Sozomenus the historian mentioned in his ‘Ecclesiastical History, many incidents of breaking idols and one ‘concerning the tree Persis which was inhabited by a devil, and when Jesus passed by it, the devil fled away and the tree worshipped Christ and became a source of healing.’[2]


6- As a result of the trip, the Egyptians knew  deception of the devil and falseness of  worshipping idols.  The roots of idol worship were uprooted from the minds of the Egyptians, and that helped in  destroying  the idolatry  influence on the rest of the world.


7- the historians mentioned that in every place welcomed the Holy Family, Christ blessed the place and prophesied that a church or a monastery would be built in the place.  All these prophecies were fulfilled.  These blessings were like seeds planted in those places and grew to be spiritual centers of the Christian faith. 


8-  Christ made numerous miracles all over Egypt, many mentioned by the historians.  In addition, He left behind many holy places that became a source of authentic healing, like trees and wells.


Egyptians  believed in Jesus as a divine child.  The memories of the child helped many in accepting the Christian faith later on.

Because of the blessings of the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, the Coptic Church chants in celebrating the annual feast of the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt saying:

“Rejoice and exalt Egypt with your sons and all your cities as the Lover of mankind has come to you, the everlasting One.” 

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How much time did the Holy Family spend in Egypt?

1-     The family left Israel when Jesus was two years old, as the wise men told Herod of the time of the appearance of the star, and as per his order to kill every child who was two years old and younger.  The Bible says, ‘they (the wise men) saw the child with Mary His Mother’ (Matt 2:11).  So, Jesus at the time of the visit of the wise men was a child and not a baby.


The Coptic Synaxarium, under 24  Bashans (Coptic month),  says: ‘The Lord came to the land of Egypt and He was two years old.’

2-      The Coptic book of Difnar, under 6 Hathor (Coptic month),  says: ‘The Lord came with His mother and His pure apostles to this place where He escaped for three and a half years from Herod the king.’


3-     In 1998, a small manuscript written in Coptic was discovered and published in German.  The manuscript dated back to the fourth century and contained the following: ‘The Holy Family stayed in Egypt for three years and eleven months.’

This means that The Lord Jesus Christ stayed in Egypt almost four years uprooting the idols worship and planting churches.  Putting a summary of the life of Lord Jesus Christ on earth amazed me greatly.  Let me share with you what I found:

Summary of Jesus’ Life on earth:


years of JESUS’ life


what HE DID

1-2 years


No traveling

3-6 years


Traveled all over Egypt, destroyed idols,

planted seeds of churches, & did miracles.

7- 30 years


In one place, no recorded missionary work

31- 33 years


Great work all over Israel

The conclusion:

The Lord lived in two countries only: Israel and Egypt.  He spent close to four years in Egypt.  Therefore, The Lord spent almost more time in Egypt planting seeds of churches than what He spent in Israel.  This conclusion definitely raises the question, why?  

In Israel He dealt with Jews, who worship God, and familiar with the laws of Moses, and the prophets, and were waiting for the Messiah.  In contrast, in Egypt He dealt with Gentiles who worshipped idols through the deception of the devil.     


A Very Reliable Reference for the Flight To Egypt:

As you know, apparitions of the departed saints and prophets is mentioned in the Bible, we found one good example that illustrates this fact in the apparition of Moses and Elijah to Jesus (Matthew 17: 1-8).  They didn’t only appear to Him but they also talked with Him and they were not seen by Jesus alone but by the apostles too, while Moses was dead 1250 years before the birth of Jesus.  This is what Jesus made very clear when He says: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32).  This dogma explains well why all the saints in the early church were eager to depart from this world to be with Christ.  St. Paul was bewildered between his desire to go to heaven and staying with the faithful on earth, listen to what he said:

  “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.  For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you (Philippians 1:21-24).  If Saint Paul was not sure that when he departs from earth he wouldn’t be alive with Christ, he wouldn’t be pressed between the two desires he had.   

St. Theophpilus, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church (376-403 AD), had heard many accounts of the Holy Family flight to Egypt.  He thought that the best authentic reference of the trip would come from a person who involved directly in the trip, and this person would be Virgin Mary.  So he locked up himself in a church for days, fasting and praying to God, and asked for the account of the flight to Egypt from Virgin Mary.  Virgin Mary appeared to him in a vision, and told him all the details of the trip.  He wrote a manuscript containing all what he heard from Virgin Mary.  The original manuscript still exists in the library of St. Mary Monastery, known as Dair al-Muharraq in Egypt.  .  There is an English translation published by Sir E.A.W. Budge in London, 1922, titled: ‘Legends of Our Lady Mary the Perpetual Virgin and her Mother Hanna.’[3]  The French scientist Amelineau studied the manuscript of St. Theophilus and found that there are three Arabic copies of the transcript in Vatican, Paris, and Al-Muharreq Monastery.  In addition, there are copies of the manuscript in other languages, such as Coptic and Ethiopian. Although, there are other historical references for the trip, but since St. Theophilus’ account came directly from an eyewitness of the trip and revealed amazing  facts, the Coptic Church considered it as the main source of the trip information.     


What Happened in the Monastery of Saint Mary (Dair Al-Muharraq)?

The manuscript of St. Theophilus talked about the last place the Holy Family lived in Egypt before returning to Israel.  They stayed in this place for over six months.  This place is exactly in the middle of Egypt, between north and south, as Isaiah prophesied.  After the resurrection of our Lord, St. Mary gave the Apostles some details about the trip to Egypt.  Then, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to them in glory with Michael and Gabriel the Archangels and said to St. Mary that He will go now to consecrate the place where they stayed last in Egypt.  In the place, Christ Himself took water and consecrated an altar and a church.  This was the first church to be consecrated in the whole world, and also the only church in the world to get consecrated by the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  This incident fulfilled the prophecy:‘In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt; and a pillar to the Lord at its border’ (Isaiah 19:19).  This was the altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, the New Testament altar, from which great deep spring of spirituality would water all who are thirst to the living water of the Son of God.

The consecration of this altar was not mentioned only in the manuscript of St. Theophilus, but was mentioned also in many other references [4]

Then, before leaving that place, the Savior says the following: 

‘ The blessing of my good Father and the Holy Spirit will stay in this house forever.  In this place a church will be built, and have a devoted altar to the Lord where people from everywhere will come and offer sacrifices and gifts.  The angel of peace will bless every person who comes to this place and worships in sincerity.  People in this place will stay in the Orthodox[hgby1]  Faith until My second coming.”  

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My dear friend, do you know who are the people who live now in this place?

They are the monks of the Monastery of Saint Mary (Dair Al-Muharraq), Coptic Orthodox monks, and the church that this monastery belongs to is the Coptic Orthodox Church.  Then, this statement explicitly refers to the faith of the Coptic Orthodox Church.  So, the Lord Himself says that the Coptic Orthodox Church has and it will continue to have the authentic faith until the second coming of our Lord.[hgby2]   

What a powerful statement!  A statement never said about any other church in the world.   

Dear reader who is seeking the authentic faith in the Twenty-First century where there are thousands of Christian denominations, each claims to have the true faith, you have heard it from the mouth of the Lord Himself.  Do I need to add any more to what the Lord said about the Coptic Orthodox Church?  If it comes from Him, then this is the full truth, and in it there are full directions to everyone who listens.

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After this wonderful journey from the Old Testament to the New Testament and to the history of Egypt, you understand the prophecies about Egypt, and why the Lord Jesus spent that much time and put that much efforts very early in His life in Egypt.

He planted the seeds for establishing the Coptic Orthodox Church, which started in Egypt in the middle of the First Century.  From Egypt, a great missionary works started and reached many parts in Africa & Europe.  When the waves of the Roman persecution started, the vast numbers of the Coptic martyrs were a testimony of the unshaken faith of the Coptic Church.

The distribution of wheat by the Egyptians to the hungry world by Joseph in the past, it was repeated over and again in distributing the food of the deep spirituality of the Coptic Church.  It happened, for example, when St. Anthony, an Egyptian hermit, started monasticism in the desert of Egypt.  Waves of men and women  came from all over the world to stay in the Egyptian monasteries to quench their thirst from its deep spirituality.   From Egypt monasticism spread all over the Christian world.

The great altar of the Coptic Orthodox characterized with its deep spirituality and heavenly worship that attracted the whole world in the past & will attract more in the future.

Thanks to God for all the blessings He gave to the Coptic Orthodox Church, and for His promise that this church will keep the faith until His second coming, the faith  ‘ which was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 1:3). 

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All the blessings mentioned about Egypt are stored in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and these blessings are yours too.  The good news is The Coptic Orthodox Church is no longer in Egypt alone.  It has hundreds of parishes all over the world, carrying the same blessings, and having the same water of life. 

Search for the closest Coptic Orthodox Church near you.  To experience the depth of its spirituality, before you join its Sunday worship, ask to learn about the church.  Once you are ready, you will discover the Kingdom of God on earth in each Sunday worship.  

“And the Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that heareth say, come. And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).


[1]  Palladius, the Paradise, Vol I, p. 304, London, 1907

[2] Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, book 2,  pages 342, 343

[3] The word ‘Legend’ is used to tell ‘a story of the life of a saint, or a collection of such stories,’ as explained by the New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language, 1993   


[4]  The consecration of this altar mentioned in the following references:

Many Coptic Synxariums, and other ecclesiastical books, the Patrologia Orientalis in   the third volume under the translation of the Arabic Synxarium done by RENE BASSET, AMELINEAU in his French book about Geography of Egypt, ABU EL-MAKARAM in his book, 'The History of Egyptian Churches & Monasteries', and Meinardus in his book, Monks and Monasteries.    



 [hgby1]Was the term Orthodox in use at the time of Pope Theophilus before the council of Chalcedon!!

 [hgby2]Very strong statement that can be easily debated