The greatest, but also the most fragile and delicate treasure of any highly developed civilization is its thought.
This is also true of the Egyptian pharaonic civilization, the most ancient among all exceptionally cultured civilizations.
The majority of today’s tourists admire the Egyptian monuments covered with figures artistically drawn, carved, or painted, without really understanding them. Yet it is through these figures that the eternal soul of the Egyptians is expressed. These figures are a writing, or the essential illustrations to texts—texts written in the genuine Egyptian language, which hands down to us through the ages the mystery and profound essence of Egyptian thinking—through which humanity in its evolution completed a decisive stage in its history.
In the same way we can speak of the Egyptian Coptic civilization, direct descendant of the Egyptian pharaonic civilization. Its thinking especially religious and Christian, but also Gnostic, Hermetic, and Manichaean, has come down to us through a rich literature. That literature is expressed in the different variations of the Coptic language, a language that is also a direct descendant of the Egyptian pharaonic language even if it is written in an alphabetical form (a writing for the most part renovated and simplified).
That is why the presentation of the Coptic language—with all its regional variations, orthographical, phonological, morphological, syntactic—is essential in an encyclopedia entirely devoted to all aspects of the splendid Coptic civilization, a living civilization that still remains flourishing today in Egypt.
Naturally in presenting the Coptic language—in its multiplicity—one cannot avoid some technical terminology without which it would have been difficult to treat correctly the subject in question. It is hoped that those readers who need such linguistic knowledge will make the effort necessary to understand this terminology. Other readers will consider the linguistics as useful tools ready to be used, perhaps rarely, but to hand whenever necessary.
Moreover, how could the Coptic language be omitted from the first Coptic encyclopedia when this language—more than 1500 years old, musically among the most beautiful, and rich in amazing subtleties (like those of the Egyptian Pharaonic language)—still resounds in the Coptic churches of today each time the holy liturgy is sung or recited there? This language goes on living through the adoration that human beings address to heir eternal God, unique and permanent in its many forms and under its many names, multiple and various as it was revealed to humanity.
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