Trinity College

Christianity in Egypt and the Middle East

Course Code: 
Last Offered: 
Fall 2018
Next Offered: 

This course will provide an overview of the history of Coptic Christianity within the broader context of the Middle East, from its inception in the 1st century AD, till the present time. It focuses on the establishment of the Early Church institutions and doctrines in Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople. A special focus will be on the development of Monasticism in Egypt, Syria and Palestine, and the role of monasteries in preserving and transmitting the Church tradition. Selected edited Greek, Coptic and Syriac literary sources on monasticism will introduce students to the religious and cultural affinities between the Churches of the Middle East.


  • To expose students to the wealth of heritage of the Churches of the Middle East.
  • To introduce students to different types of historical primary sources and how to historically-critically interpret them.
  • To help students reconstruct the historical context of the Christian communities in those territories.
  • To outline the reasons that led to the survival or decline of Christian communities within the chronological frame of the course.


Required readings (selected chapters from the following titles or articles will be posted all along the course)

  • Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, edited by Avraham Negev, Shimon Gibson, New York: The Continuum Publishing Group Inc., 2005.
  • Atiya A.S. 1980. A History of Eastern Christianity, Kraus Reprint, Millwood New York.
  • Binns J. 1994. Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: The Monasteries of Palestine, 314-631. (Oxford Early Christian Studies) New York: Clarendon Press of Oxford University Press.
  • Chitty J. D. 1999. The Desert a City, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, third edition.
  • Cragg K. 1991. The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East, Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press.
  • Hevelone-Harper J. L. 2005. Disciples of the Desert: Monks, Laity, and Spiritual Authority in Sixth-Century Gaza, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Wilkinson J. 1979. Palestine Pilgrims before the Crusades, Warminster.
  • Ye’or B., Kochan M., Littman D. 2002. Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, Farleigh Dickinson University Press.
  • Ye’or B. 1996. The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude: Seventh-Twentieth Century, Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.