THE BIZARRE WAY COPTS ABANDONED THE SWEET WORDS ‘ISOUS’ AND ‘MARIA’
In a previous article, I have written of a serious encroachment of Arabisation on the Coptic name of God: Ephnuti[i] (or Abnouda[ii]). As Copts got Arabised in the Middle Period of their history[iii], they abandoned Ephnouti for Allah (اللّه), the Arabic name for God. I explained the devastating effect on that on Coptic culture, and I would say, even to Coptic Christianity. The reader can consult the article for detail.
: these beautiful names have been mouthed by Copts throughout their history before Arabisation with reverence: millions upon millions of Copts found them most sweet, most comforting, most uplifting as they chanted them, whether they were gathering at homes, harvesting their fields, sailing the Nile, praying the liturgy in churches, or performing their ascetic practices at monasteries and deserts across Egypt. They were innate and intimate names to Coptic Christianity. But, with the language shift in the Coptic Middle Period, Copts abandoned Isoas and Maria to their Arabic equivalents, ‘يسوع’ (pronounce, Yasoa) and ‘مريم’ (pronounced, Mariam), respectively.
Of course Jesus and Mary are the same whatever language you use; however, it seems to me there is no good reason to change the names of the holiest of your holies as you adopt another language, in the same way you don’t change your proper name from, for example, Angaelos[iv] to Angel or Agia[v] to Saint, if you adopt the English language.
I look at it as completely bizarre as much as damaging to our culture.
[ii] In Old Bohairic.
[iii] This period corresponds roughly to the 12th and 13th centuries.
[iv] Meaning ‘angel’ in Coptic.
[v] Meaning ‘Saint’ in Coptic (f.).