Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Stephanos, Fam

1811-c. 1890

The first time we hear about the subject of our research, Fam Stefanos, [1] is in Julian Lansing’s diary-like memoirs Egypt’s Princes.[2] It is a “first” in a double sense, both chronologically, regarding events in the history of Fam, and because it is found in the oldest source available to us. Fam enters our story simply as “a man they had found in Ghous.”[3] He is introduced as one who had already “got far beyond the A B C” of faith–in other words, a truly pious man well versed in Scripture.

A small paragraph found at the end of chapter eight of Lansing’s book describes that first meeting with Fam, or rather relates the initial encounter second hand. The text is laid out as a diary with the date ranges given, so it is possible to identify if not the day then at least the period of writing. Lansing says:

This week Lord Aberdeen made an excursion to Negadeh and Ghous, where he sold books for 800 piastres. Father Makhiel, when they returned, was in ecstasies about a man named Fam Stephanus whom they had found in Ghous. He said he had spent a day and a night with him in most interesting spiritual converse–that he had got far beyond the A B C of controversy about images, confession, etc., and that they spent time in discussing the high mysteries of religion, and in investigating and explaining difficult passages of Scripture. I afterwards became acquainted with this man, and found that in intelligent piety he justified Makhiel’s high encomiums.[4]

The paragraph that precedes this quote has the heading “25th to 3rd.” By backtracking further through the chapter, we find that we are talking about the months of January and February 1861. This is the very last paragraph in both chapter and sub-section, which puts the date when the writer heard the story of the meeting with Fam either at the end of January or the beginning of February 1861. Therefore the meeting itself must have happened very shortly before, i.e., late in 1860 or early January 1861.

It is quite remarkable from any point of view to hear about this man, supposedly a Copt by birth (he has a Christian name), who had adopted for himself, the basic evangelical stances on images, saints and more, all from reading Scripture. He stands there like a solitary lighthouse when the missionaries tell their story of what they see as the general Coptic backwardness of rural Upper Egypt. What kind of man was he, what happened to him, and what role did he have in the church?

After the enthusiastic report of that initial meeting our sources are silent about Fam for quite some time. The next thing we hear about him is five or six years later, in 1866: “The chief man in the Evangelical church in Kus was Mr. Fam Stephanos, an old man and the father of a large family. I will never forget him as he appeared to me the first time, on the banks of the Nile in the winter of 1866, whither he had come with animals to meet Mr. Awad Hanna and myself, when making an evangelical tour up the river.”[5] These are the words of Andrew Watson and it is obvious that Fam has made a great impression on him. He goes on: “He was rather tall, of broad shoulders, fine physique, large head, long beard, and almost kingly bearing. He has always been my ideal of an Eastern patriarch.”[6]

We can almost see an idealized Abraham, a Moses or a Joshua coming towards us out of the desert and down to the Nile. This is no simple peasant but instead an extraordinary man and a model of integrity, according to Watson’s words: “He had from early youth been in the service of the government, and as tax-collector of the town and district, his integrity and fidelity, in a land where such qualities are rare, were matters of wide notoriety; so that his name had become a household word in all upper Egypt among those who loved truth and righteousness.”[7]


Now, who might they be who “loved truth and righteousness”? The text does not say that outright, but at least we are not left in any doubt as to who they are not: “While the patriarchal party was in Qus, the most strenouous efforts were made to corrupt this man, but proved ineffectual. The Patriarch caused the Copts of the town to write a paper against him, as corrupter of the public morals, with the intention of presenting it to the viceroy, in order to have Fam banished to the White Nile.”[8]

This seems confusing. Was the patriarchal party in Qus already? The year was still only 1866 and the dramatic events of the patriarchal visit that culminated in a full confrontation of the Coptic Pope and the Protestants had not yet happened. If we read carefully, however, we will see how this connects after all:

It was for a time supposed that this petition [for banishment] had been destroyed, but it afterwards appeared that the design had not been abandoned. On his return journey the Patriarch had a meeting with the government inspector of provinces, and the result of a consultation as to the best way to get rid of this old man, was the inspector’s declaring that a petition from the inhabitants could easily procure his dismissal from his present office, and that then the government could be easily induced to include his name in the list of scribes to be sent to the White Nile. At the interview it was understood that Fam’s banishment was arranged, and the missionaries were secretly informed of this at the time.[9]

Moving on in the narrative we are told that the missionaries at first were incredulous when they received this news but that at the end of August the inspector, mentioned earlier, visited the area again and it became common knowledge that Fam of Qus was to be sent to the Sudan. Fam was summoned to the provincial court on the pretext of a periodic redistribution of appointments, but unlike the others in the same situation, he was kept in the dark as to his future location.

“In the good providence of God” both Mr. Hogg and Mr. Currie of the mission were close to Qus at this turn of events. Both took part in various efforts to prevent the banishment, soften it or reverse it. Currie subsequently writes a long letter, dated October 7, 1867, giving “a graphic description” of the sequel. [10]

In the letter Currie elaborates the events around the banishment, how he went with those banished and how they eventually stopped and were allowed to return. A very interesting part is the very beginning of the letter, where the governor is confronted with a written protest from John Hogg. He first denies that there is any order to banish Fam, but also says that the government would do what it pleased with its subjects. Currie writes: “Brother Hogg replied that, however absolute might be the control of the Egyptian government over its subjects, there was one thing it dared not do, viz.: it could not act directly contrary to its declaration of religious toleration, and that we asked only that Protestants should be treated as the Copts were, and that if the government should attempt to send Fam to the Sudan, it would be for no other reason than that he had become a Protestant.”[11]

We are then told that the banishment order was in fact not be to the Sudan. Actually, there was supposed to exist a written order for Fam to be sent to Esna, a mere ninety kilometres above Qus. However, he was still kept in the dark as to what was going to happen and when.

In describing the events leading up to the Patriarch’s visit in detail and relating how four members of the congregation at Qus were imprisoned at the time, Watson tells how the Protestants met the Copts for debate, and we see yet another side of Fam:

On arriving at the Coptic church a council was formed, and the American consular agent […] used every argument he could think of to induce Mr. Fam Stefanos, the father of the sect, to pay a visit to the Patriarch. He pressed specially this view of the matter, viz., that Fam would have an opportunity of discussing his religious views with the Coptic boanergis, Priest Feltios of Tanta, and if he (Fam) gained the day, then all the people would join his church.

Fam objected that this was not the way to preach the Gospel, and at first refused to go, but on being assured that he would be allowed equal rights with the champion of the Coptic faith, and that no disrespect would be shown him, he at last consented to enter into a discussion with Priest Feltios in the presence of five members of either sect. Fam, accompanied by Mr. Currie, Father Makhiel, and three or four others, repaired to the bishop’s house at the hour agreed on, i.e., four p.m., but Priest Feltios had not yet made his appearance.[12]

Fam receives even more laudable praise in this story. He is again portrayed as an upright man, a man of integrity, one who will not be used, even for the short-term gain of his church. He is shown as a humble man, but not so humble as to be self-effacing. He is a natural leader, one the American diplomat appeals to as a negotiator with the Patriarch’s men.

The story goes on to tell how the Coptic priest who was to take part in the debate backs out of the discussion, ostensibly on the grounds that Father Makhiel, who was an ex-monk and tireless worker in the Mission, had been anathemized by the Patriarch and that for this reason he as a priest could not enter into the same house with him. Watson concludes briefly: “Thus he [the priest] backed out of a discussion in which he had but little chance of adding to his laurels. Our friends then left.”[13]

In Earl E. Elder’s Vindicating a Vision, we find the events described on a vivid backdrop of violent conflict between Copts and Protestants in places like Assyut and Akhmim.[14] In other words the tension is not located in Qus. Elder writes, “Another victim of the Patriarch’s relentless opposition was Fam Stephanos, a tax collector for Qus and district. […] Lady Duff Gordon [15] in her letters wrote of having met Fam Stephanos. Certainly she could not be accused of prejudice in favor of missions.”[16] Elder thus uses Lady Duff Gordon as an independent and trustworthy witness for the truth of his character.

Elder confirms that Fam’s secular occupation was to be a tax collector. One would perhaps think that it could be described as a disreputable occupation. Even today, Christian Egyptians frown upon Christians taking such a job. However that may be, we can at least be certain that it was an occupation where dishonesty was a great temptation, and we have examples ranging from the New Testament Jews’ contempt for “tax collectors and sinners” [17] and countless other sources on the topic, ancient and modern. It seems Fam was unusual in practicing this occupation.

Fam’s honesty in performing this type of work, [18] tallies well with other descriptions of him as a literate man, a respected man and a man able to talk with people from many stations in life. As a tax collector, his honesty was an especially important and distinctive trait.

Lady Duff Gordon’s description of Fam as quoted by Elder adds still more color to the story and to Fam’s character: “He is a splendid fellow and I felt I looked on the face of a Christian martyr, a curious sight in the 19th century; the calm, fearless, rapt expression was like what you see in noble Italian pictures, and he had the perfect absence of doing pious which shows his undoubting faith.” [19]

She finally goes on to add some very thought-provoking comments on Fam and his fellow Christians given by the (Muslim) Mufti of the village, which is especially interesting in view of the raging conflict between Copts and Protestants:

He [Fam] and the Mufti, also a noble fellow, sparred about religion in a jocose and friendly way which would not have been unintelligible in Exeter Hall. When he was gone the Mufti said: “Oh, we thank them, for though they know not the truth of Islam, they are good men and walk straight; and would die for their religion; their example is excellent; praise be to God for them.”

She went on to tell how he [Fam] had induced some hundred others to accept the teaching of the Presbyterian missionaries. [20]

However, in spite of the fact that Fam was an upright and righteous man, as Elder and Lady Duff Gordon state, the Patriarch had the local Copts throw him in prison, accusing him of corrupting public morals. Elder says this shows how closely the government cooperated with the Patriarch to stamp out the new faith.

The “Raid of the Patriarch”

The Coptic Pope Demetrius II, happened to travel to Upper Egypt in the Lenten season of 1867. The tale related below is what later became known as the “raid of the Patriarch.” Paul Sedra writes:

In March 1867, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Demetrius II departed from Cairo for Upper Egypt aboard a Nile steamer lent to him by the Khedive Isma’il. Representatives of the American Presbyterian Mission at Assyut relate in their 1867 Annual Report that, during his tour of the south, the Patriarch engaged not only in ordering the burning of Bibles and other religious books, excommunicating those suspected of Protestantism and other acts of what may be called ecclesiastical warfare, but also bastinading [beating the soles of the feet with canes] by the hands of Government soldiers, imprisoning and severely threatening those who had thus fallen under his displeasure, and entering into religious intrigues with the local governors for the accomplishment of these purposes. [21]

Nothing very specific came of the charges against Fam at first, as we have seen. However, the Patriarch, on his return, vowed to have the leaders of the Protestant community banished to the White Nile (i.e., the Sudan), which was a very harsh punishment. It involved hard work in an unrelenting climate; in reality, it often meant a delayed death sentence. The Patriarch made good on his vow a little later, after some initial delays and discussions, as related by Watson. As we have seen, the order for banishment had already been planned for some time, but now it seems the time was ripe.

Paul Sedra tells only briefly of this crucial incident involving Fam Stefanos and the Patriarch–one which defined Fam’s reputation and role for years to come:

A straightforward deportation of mission personnel was attempted in Qus at the end of September [1867]. In accord with a Khedival order dispatched by telegram, Fam Stefanos, Anton Matta, and Bassiely Basada were detained by the Governor of Qina and placed upon a boat. That boat, manned by a large contingent of soldiers, was apparently headed to the White Nile, the principal site of banishment for “incorrigible” criminal offenders. However, four days after departure, the boat and detainees were held at Esna, and then permitted to return to Qus, again upon the order of the Khedive. At the request of the Presbyterians, British Consul Thomas Reade had spoken with government officials to secure the release of the converts. [22]

However, Watson relates how Dr. Currie, the missionary stationed in Qus at the time, records the process up to and after the actual banishment in great detail.[23] As we have seen above, Dr. Currie insisted on going with the boat that was taking the prisoners, Fam among them, up the Nile from Qus. After a lot of delay and diplomatic intervention by the British Consul, the boat finally turned back after reaching Esna. The passengers were released and returned amid great scenes of joy: “…the journey of Fam and his companions ended abruptly at Esneh, and when after twenty-four days in the court of the prison they returned unscathed to their friends, the whole country was quick to recognise the full significance of the fact.”[24]

“The significance of the fact” must be found in an interpretation of the events that says that the Patriarch did not, in the end, have the power or the will to carry out his threat. Where he failed, however, Western pressure succeeded. Nowhere does it say so in as many words, but it is reasonable to assume that Fam’s friends and the missionaries must have seen this as God’s hand at work: Fam and the Protestants were vindicated.

Beginning with Qus, the station then farthest to the south, it appears that after the safe return of Uncle Fam and his companions from their threatened banishment, the work of the Lord went forward with quiet and steady progress.[25]

Further describing the wider impact of this incident, Watson quotes Currie’s closing remarks: “The issue of the case,” says Mr. Currie, “has not only silenced the Coptic scribes of Kena [the provincial capital], who were the great enemies and persecutors of all in the province who professed Protestantism, but also had a cheering influence on all our friends, and many, before silenced by fear, now give expression to an evangelical belief.”[26]

Elder comments on yet another consequence of this episode: “Yet it appears that even the Patriarch was led to see that the Scriptures are a great anvil that had broken many hammers for a written order was issued to the clergy that in the future no one would be invested with the functions of priest unless he were versed in the Scriptures. They were commanded to arrange for a daily study hour.”[27]

Finally, in the Annual Report of the American Board of Mission for 1878-79, many years later, we can still find a distant echo of the “raid” in the following paragraph, which describes the establishment of the station at “Koos”:

After several visits from the missionaries at Cairo and Alexandria (1860-1865), Koos was formally opened as a mission station in May, 1866. The agent sent there, ex-monk Mikhail [28], was ordained at Cairo on February 20, 1867, as a pastor of Koos, but, although he continued to labor there till June, 1869 (with the exception of seven months absence through sickness in 1868), he was never formally installed over his charge. In a like manner the elders and deacons, elected as early as November, 1866, have never been ordained. The patriarchal raid of 1867, with the intrigues that followed, rendered this impractical at the time appointed.[29]

As a side note, it is interesting and perhaps ironic–in view of the papal name Demetrius II [30]–that Sedra writes of the Patriarch like this: “Aside from the dramatic events of his 1867 tour of Upper Egypt, Demetrius is deemed scarcely worthy of mention in the historiography of the modern Coptic community in Egypt. […] Seikaly approvingly cites the claim of the nineteenth-century Coptic lay reformer, Mikhail Abd al-Sayyid, that Demetrius’ tenure was ‘one of darkness, in which a black cloud shrouded the community, reducing it to a state of total inactivity.’” [31]

A View to History

It is useful to sidetrack a little to the general situation in the country at this time. John Hogg’s great missionary work in Egypt in the second half of the 19th century as is described in A Master Builder On the Nile.[32] In chapter XI of the book, entitled “Laying Foundations,” [33] he starts by describing the situation in Egypt in the late 1860s that led up to the Patriarch’s unprecedented trip to the south–in the middle of Lent. Hogg’s interpretation is that Ishma’il Pasha, the Khedive, needed to bolster his power and remove those who might conceivably oppose it. Among the potential opponents were the Protestant missionaries who “would diffuse knowledge–amongst an oppressed race the knowledge that is power, amongst their own people the knowledge of wrongs that might arouse the indignant interference of the West.” [34]

Isma’il Pasha, the Khedive and the representative of Ottoman rule, was spending dearly borrowed money at an unprecedented rate and the state’s finances were well on the way to bankruptcy. The Suez Canal was being built, railways constructed, and the army was engaged in skirmishes in the Sudan and elsewhere. All of this depended on cheap labor–forced labor–and conscripted soldiers. As usual, the peasant population was exploited mercilessly, and, also as usual, the chance of actually never returning from either army or forced labor was high. In any case the conditions were such that no one under almost any circumstances would wish to do such “service.” Rich people–as always–were able to escape both types of conscription. The “Golden Key” has always been effective in the Middle East.

However, Muhammad ‘Ali, the “first modern ruler of Egypt,” had instituted a system where those who attended (religious) schools were exempt from service in forced labor and the army. Boys who were in school were thus not being conscripted, and there was a rush to enroll both in Muslim and Christian schools. In this situation it made tempers run high when it turned out that Protestant schools did not benefit from this arrangement; boys in the Protestant schools having their certificates of enrollment in the missionary schools were still being conscripted or forced into labor. This had an immediate effect on attendance in the Protestant schools at a time when rumors of conscription were rife, as can easily be imagined. According to contemporary missionary sources, the Protestant schools were seen as dangerous because they “trained thought as well as memory.” [35]

This then is the historical setting at the time of the “raid” on Upper Egypt. We read that the school boys had left the missionary schools (with some few exceptions) for the Coptic schools, and now the Patriarch and his bishop were–it seemed–coming to confront and forcibly attempt to remove the rest of the Protestants, both indigenous and missionaries. It is in this situation that Fam Stefanos makes his stand and becomes a symbol of resistance and perseverance to the Protestants.

Moving On

In 1882 we find that life has moved on and the focus of the Annual Reports is elsewhere:

The congregation at Koos was also ordained on April 3rd, by the election and ordination of three elders and three deacons. This is the oldest station in all that region, dating back to nearly 23 years ago. The venerable Fam Stephanoos, who had previously done much to enlighten his fellow townsmen as well as many in that region (having himself been brought to the knowledge of the truth by the simple reading of the Word before seeing the face of a missionary), has all these years supplied the place of pastor. He is a man mighty in the Scripture and of an ardent, though somewhat irregular zeal, but he is now advanced in years and the settlement of a pastor over this large and influential congregation is considered very desirable.[36]

Fam is now described as “venerable.” In this context, that most likely means both “old” and “respected.” We find some interesting data here, too. The passage above plainly states that the station of Qus dated “back to nearly 23 years ago”. This was written in 1883, but in the nature of annual reports it refers to events that took place the year before. That means that the latest year possible as the first year of the station is 1860, and it might possibly be as early as 1858-59.

Fam is described as functioning in the role of pastor for the community of Qus during “all these years.” This is reasonably consistent with the description given by Lansing, [37] where it is evident that Fam had met the Protestant missionaries’ co-worker Abuna Mikhail some time in early 1861 or possibly late 1860. 1860 is the date also given by Watson in his brief obituary of Fam. [38] As seen from this more distant vantage point, Fam had functioned as the leader of the flock in Qus from the very beginning.

However, it does conflict with the information found in the previous citation from the Annual Reports, where we are told plainly that ex-monk Mikhail filled the role of pastor until June 1869. From the material we have gone through this far it seems reasonable to think of Fam as a de facto pastor or “shepherd of the flock” for much of the intervening period. We see that due to various factors it was not possible to ordain elders and pastors in Qus properly for a long time, and Fam clearly had authority and leadership abilities. The two pieces of information thus may not be as contradictory as they seem at first glance.

Two years later the report again visits Qus, and we find the following snapshot: “Of the work in Luxor and Koos Mrs. Murch writes: […] ‘We have been in Koos large part of the month, and while there I attended the women’s prayer meeting, which was conducted by Sheikh Fam. He meets with them twice a week, and reads from two to five chapters, explaining and asking questions as he reads. He is a zealous old man who has done a great deal to enlighten the women of the place…’” [39]

This shows Fam in a pastoral role, leading, reading Scripture, asking questions, giving answers, all of this on a regular basis and with zeal. Interestingly, we see Fam gets the title of sheikh in this passage. Protestants and Catholics both use the term to denote an elder in the strict, Presbyterian sense of an “elder,” or a senior, respected male member of the community. As we may deduce, Fam is now an old man of around 70. (See Watson’s estimate of Fam’s age below.) As such he is in any case clearly owed respect from those around him. His history must have contributed to his standing as he is one of the first of his community, both in terms of length of service and of status.

Fam was a pillar in the local Christian society and a model leader in his congregation. Dr. Hogg’s words confirm this: “I was very much impressed and not a little amused at the manner in which those of them who had been quarrelling with their sisters-in-law, etc., since the last communion, were taken to task by the elders (Fam and Bishara) in the presence of the whole sisterhood, before the congregation met. […] Fully two hours were spent going over [each case] in detail followed up by a few earnest general counsels from Elder Fam, as the men gathered in their side of the house. Such faithful dealing cannot fail to have a wholesome effect. Would that it were general! […]” [40]

Final Promotion

Fam was already a grown, mature man when we were introduced to him in 1860 or 1861. Almost thirty years have passed since then, and Fam has come to the end of his life. This is duly noted in the Annual Report in the following year.


It will be proper here to mention the death of Elder Fam Stephenos who was from the day of his enlightenment, years ago, a constant worker visiting and teaching from house to house. Being respected and trusted by men and women he had a powerful influence in maintaining and advancing the cause. Recently several members of one family whom Fam had instructed up to the time of his death were received into the church. His work still lives on. May the mantle of his zeal and constancy fall upon many of the rising generation.

Rev. C. Murch says this concerning his life and influence: “However long God may in his providence spare our lives to labor for Him, or however much success may through his blessing follow our labors, we shall never feel that we have lived too long or accomplished too much to be further benefited by the Christian association we had with one who in our day has no equal in the church in Egypt, nor can she soon have his peer.” [41]

We conclude with Watson:


All who have followed the history of the United Presbyterian Mission in Egypt, and read its reports from year to year, will recognize the name of Fam Stephanos. The first time he was brought to the notice of the missionaries was in 1860, as related in Egypt’s Princes. Rev. Makhiel el-Beliyani returned to the dahabiah one day, and, as Dr. Lansing says, “was in ecstasies about a man named Fam Stephanos whom they had found at Kus. […]” [42]

He was a man of fine physique, of strong mind, of wide reading and close thinking. He was bold, fearless and, what was rare then, was honest in the service of the government. He was enlightened by the reading of God’s Word, through the guidance of God’s Spirit.

He was the father of the congregation of Kus, a man of great firmness and decision of character, a born leader of men. His heart was set on religion, and it was his greatest delight to read the Bible and be told about its precious truths. The writer † of this well remembers spending a communion Sabbath in Kus in 1881, and being entertained at the hospitable home of Uncle Fam. As we parted, he literally fell on our neck and embraced us after the true Oriental style. He was then seventy years old, and must have been eighty when he died.” [43]

† Dr. W. W. Barr

In conclusion, this is the only place in the source material where we find any estimate of Fam’s age. As he died in 1890 (or 1891?) according to the Annual Reports, that means he must have been born around 1811.

Thus, he came into the world at the beginning of Muhammad ‘Ali’s reign, around seven years after Napoleon’s withdrawal from Egypt. He saw the slaughter of the Mameluks. He witnessed the completion of the Suez Canal, the fall of Isma’il Pasha, and the coming of the British Protectorate. When he was a young man, Protestant mission was in its infancy in the Middle East. He faced down the Patriarch and his allies in his middle age. When he died, the Protestant churches were well established and the 20th century loomed.

Throughout it all he had remained a pillar of the Protestant community of Qus.

Jon Aalborg


  1. The name is spelled variously “Stephanos,” “Stephanus,” and “Stefanos” in the sources. I use Stefanos in the text, but the source’s own spelling is used in direct quotes. The general problems of transliterating Arabic that are reflected in this need not be reiterated here.

  2. Julian Lansing, Egypt’s Princes (New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1865).

  3. The spelling of the village of Qus is variously given as “Qus,” “Kus,” “Koos,” and “Ghous.” I use Qus in the text, but again the source’s own spelling is used in direct quotes.

  4. Lansing, op. cit., p 235.

  5. Andrew Watson, The American Mission in Egypt - 1854 to 1869 (Pittsburgh: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1904), p 212.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid, pp. 212-213 (my italics).

  10. Ibid, pp. 213-220. Dr. Currie’s letter is printed in extenso in Watson’s text.

  11. Ibid, p. 214. This is interesting as it tells us that in the mid 19th century the Egyptian state could be held accountable for its conduct with regard to its own declared policies.

  12. Ibid, p 209. (Note the use of “sect” as a neutral label for “denomination” or “church.”)

  13. Ibid.

  14. Earl E. Elder, Vindicating A Vision - The Story Of The American Mission In Egypt, 1854-1954 (Philadelphia: Board Of Foreign Missions of the United Presbyterian Church of N. A., 1958), p. 45f.

  15. Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon (1821-1869), author of Letters From the Cape (London, 1864). She spent the last seven years of her life in Egypt for health reasons and was a prolific letter writer. (Lucie must not be confused with the Lady Lucile Duff-Gordon [1863-1935], herostratically famous as one of those first-class passengers of the Titanic who refused to fill the lifeboats as the ship sank.) - More on Lady Duff Gordon may be found in Paul Sedra, Ecclesiastical Warfare: Patriarch, Presbyterian and Peasant in Nineteenth-Century Assyut (Yale, 2002). [Database on-line: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, YCIAS,, pp. 301-302, 304-305.

  16. Elder, op. cit., pp. 46-47.

  17. See for example Matthew 5:1-5, Luke 18:9-13, Mark 2:13-17.

  18. Watson, op. cit., p. 396.

  19. Elder, op. cit., p. 47.

  20. Ibid.

  21. Sedra, op. cit., p. 396. The citation is referenced in a note to Sedra’s article. He found it in the series of annual reports called “Egyptian Missionary Association Minutes.” Ref. VMX48 Eg98ma, Archives of the Board of Foreign Mission of the United Presbyterian Church of N. A., housed at the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia. Unfortunately I have not had access to any such volume covering the period before 1870.

  22. Ibid., p. 291.

  23. See footnote n. 10.

  24. Hogg, op. cit., p. 160.

  25. Watson, op. cit., p. 240.

  26. Ibid, p. 241.

  27. Elder, op. cit., page 49.

  28. The “Mikhail” referred to here must be the same as the “Makhiel” the ex-priest or ex-monk, the first person reported by Lansing as meeting Fam and later again referred to by Watson (above). Thus we are seeing yet another example of the problems of transliteration.

  29. American Board of Mission, “1878-1879” in Annual Reports of the American Board of Mission 1870-1889, p. 59-60.

  30. We know very little about Demetrius III. Demetrius I, however, was the first Coptic Pope we know significantly more about than his name (e.g., the dates of his tenure). He occupied the see of Mark from 189-231, i.e., during the persecutions of the emperor Severus, and was a prime mover in establishing the authority of the Patriarchate in the early Egyptian church. He also battled with Origen on the latter’s ordination. See: Stephen J. Davies, The Early Coptic Papacy. The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2004), pp. 21-27.

  31. Sedra, op. cit., p. 291-292. Sedra here cites the following article: Samir Seikaly: “Coptic Communal Reform, 1860-1914” in Middle Eastern Studies 6, 1 (January 1970), p. 250. Seikaly contrasts Demetrius sharply to his predecessor Cyril IV, “Father of Reform.” However, see Sedra, op. cit., pp. 305-306 for an alternative viewpoint on Demetrius’ tenure.

  32. Rena L. Hogg, A Master Builder On The Nile (New York, et al.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914).

  33. Ibid., pp. 154.

  34. Ibid., p. 155.

  35. It is possible to argue alternative views on this; as it turns out, both Demetrius II and Cyril IV, his predecessor, actually built many “modern” schools and favored real education. Sedra, op. cit., pp. 306-307. Sedra’s paper describes the religious climate of Egypt at the time of the patriarchal investigation in some detail. It uses the incident as an example of “ecclesiastical warfare” involving the Coptic Church and Protestant missionaries. The paper is very readable and gives an insightful, thought provoking, and stimulating analysis of the driving forces of the power struggle between the Coptic Church and evangelical mission at the time. He uses arguments from post-modern theorists of discourse. The argument is that the implicit aim of the mission was to gain control of the peasant mind and convey (Western) values of industry, order, and discipline to what was perceived as a superstitious populace and that it did this through defining the terms of the conflict, making Demetrius’ opposition understandable.

  36. American Board of Mission, “1882” in Annual Reports of the American Board of Mission 1870-1889, page 10 (my italics).

  37. Lansing, op. cit., p. 235.

  38. Watson, op. cit., pp. 395-396.

  39. American Board of Mission, “1884” in Annual Reports of the American Board of Mission 1870-1889, p. 11.

  40. American Board of Mission, “1884” in Annual Reports of the American Board of Mission 1870-1889, p. 28.

  41. American Board of Mission, “1890-1891” in Annual Reports of the American Board of Mission 1890-1901, p. 52.

  42. Quoted from Lansing, op. cit., p. 235. The quote is identified in Watson’s book by an unnumbered footnote on p. 396, giving title and page, and by the author’s name given in the body text on p. 395.

  43. Watson, op. cit., p. 396.

Sources Consulted:

American Board of Mission, 1878-1879, 1882 and 1884, in Annual Reports of the American Board of Mission 1870-1889. Pittsburgh, PA: n.p., n.d.

American Board of Mission, 1890-1891 in Annual Reports of the American Board of Mission 1890-1901. Pittsburgh, PA: n.p., n.d.

Davis, Stephen J. The Early Coptic Papacy. The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2004.

Elder, Earl E. Vindicating a Vision - The Story of the American Mission in Egypt, 1854-1954. Philadelphia: Board of Foreign Missions of the United Presbyterian Church of N. A., 1958.

Hogg, Rena L. A Master Builder on The Nile. New York, et al.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914.

Lansing, Julian. Egypt’s Princes. New York, NY: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1865.

Sedra, Paul. “Ecclesiastical Warfare: Patriarch, Presbyterian and Peasant in Nineteenth-Century Assyut.” Database on-line.

Available from Yale Center for International and Area Studies, YCIAS., 2002.

Watson, Andrew. The American Mission in Egypt - 1854 to 1869. Pittsburgh: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1904.

In addition to the printed material consulted, the author had conversations with Coptic and Evangelical Egyptians, November-December 2005. These conversations concerned Arabic terminology and use of titles.

This story, received in 2006, was researched and written by Jon Aalborg, a student in the M.A.T.S. Program at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo as a requirement for a class on Middle East Christianity (III) under the supervision of Dr. David Grafton, DACB liaison coordinator.