Scholars who study the first three Ecumenical Councils are able to distinguish the Alexandrine Theologians as leaders and pioneers of the Christian faith on an ecumenical level. Among the most prominent are:
1. St. Athanasius the Apostolic, the 20th patriarch, whose papacy was from 326-372 A.D., attended the first Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 A.D. Being only a deacon and the secretary for Pope Alexandros at that time, he fought Arianism locally and authored the Orthodox Creed, which he presented at the council and which was agreed upon by the 318 convening bishops. After Pope Alexandros’s departure, he took his place, becoming the 20th patriarch.
2. Pope Timothy, the 22nd patriarch, whose papacy was from 380-385 A.D., played a significant role in defeating the Macedonian heresy, which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit at the second Ecumenical Council which was held in Constantinople in 381 A.D. and convened by 150 bishops. He authored the last section of the Orthodox Creed or Nicene Creed, which addressed the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
3. St. Cyril the Great, the 24th patriarch, whose papacy was from 412-458 A.D., participated in the third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. He led the 200 convening bishops to the understanding that Nestor’s concept of Christ having two natures – divine and human – instead of one, was heretical and undermined His redemptive act on the cross. St. Cyril reiterated and articulated the Christological formula, “The One Nature of the Incarnate Word of God.”
These theologians’ prominence was not based on any political ties since Alexandria was under the Roman Empire, and subsequently under Byzantine rule until the Arab Conquest of Egypt. Their prominence, however, was based on the pious, spiritual, theological and Scriptural perspective.
The faith of the Copts is often referred to as “The Orthodox Faith,” which is to say the “Straight faith” that was handed down by the Apostles. The Copts have fiercely defended their faith throughout the ages and against numerous attacks.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is an Apostolic Church, not only because it was founded by St. Mark the Apostle, but also because it preserves apostolic teachings as passed down by the Apostles in the Scriptures and the Holy Tradition, which in Orthodoxy is known as the Oral or Spoken Gospel. The Apostolic teachings are upheld in all facets of Coptic Orthodoxy, from the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, to its doctrine and theology and to its spirituality and worship. The Church is considered a living extension of the Apostolic Church of the first century without deviation offering the precious gift of faith throughout the ages and where Christ transfigures its life, attracting many to Himself, working through its members by the power of the Holy Spirit.