Education of the clergy of the Coptic church at a church college is a modern arrangement. In antiquity, every bishop had to provide for the education and installation of the clergy of his diocese (see ORDINATION, CLERICAL). The demands made of priests and deacons are known from the church canons (see CANONS, ECCLESIASTICAL), and from texts relating to the ordination of clergy from the correspondence of Bishop ABRAHAM of Hermonthis about 600.
These texts presuppose definite attainments that the candidate was to pursue, or in accordance with which he was to act. He therefore had to be instructed about them or to acquire specific knowledge on his own. Among the latter were knowledge of the canons of the church and “professional knowledge.” Sometimes the latter is more exactly described as “knowledge of the office of deacon” or “knowledge of the office of priest.”
The candidate was carefully instructed in the actions of his office that should be carried out in the church and at the altar. There must also have been instructed about the prayers to be spoken by him. Since only a few clergy could read, the candidates had to learn their professional knowledge by heart. To this must be added memorization of certain biblical texts, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John being named. This task had a time limit, often of two months.
An examination on the memorized material took place in the presence of the bishop. It is striking that the evidence given by sources indicates that this trial did not always come before the ordination, but could occur afterward. If the text could not be recited, there was no ordination. We are not told, however, what happened when a candidate who had already been ordained failed his test.
After the punishment, such as exclusion from communion (see EXCOMMUNICATION), the candidate, on being readmitted to communion, might be required to memorize further Bible texts.
- Bilabel, F., and A. Grohmann. Zwei Urkunden aus dem bischöflichen Archiv von Panopolis in Ägypten. Heidelberg, 1935.
- Coquin, R.-G. “A propos des rouleaux coptes arabe de l’evêque Timothée.” Bibliotheca Orientalis 34 (1977):142-47.
- Krause, M. “Apa Abraham von Hermonthis. Ein oberägyptischer Bischof um 600,” 2 vols. Ph.D. diss., Berlin, 1956.
- Maspero, J. “Un diplôme arabe-chrétien du XIIIe siècle.” Annales du Service des antiquités 11 (1911):177-85.
- Plumley, J. M. The Scrolls of Bishop Timotheos. Two Documents from Medieval Nubia. London, 1975.
- Steinwenter, A. “Die Ordinationsbitten koptischer Kleriker.” Aegyptus 11 (1930-1931):29-34.