The Coptic Church which traces itself back to St. Mark is proud of the fact that Jesus lived among them as a child, that he drank the water of the Nile and that they sheltered Him from the fury of Herod who was trying to kill Him. They recognized this as the fulfillment of the prophecy as Hosea wrote,
"Out of Egypt have I called My Son". (Hosea 1:1)
St. Mark is reputed to have brought the faith in Christ to Alexandria in Egypt in 45 A.D. The story is told that his sandal strap broke at the gate of the city and that Ananius, a shoemaker repaired it and became his first convert to Christ. Since the enemies of St. Mark were getting closer, he appointed Ananius bishop, ordained three priest and seven deacons and left the city. When he returned years later, he found a thriving Christian community. In 68 A.D. his enemies cast him into prison and the next day tied a rope to his neck and dragged him in the city streets till death. St. Mark is revered as the founder and first martyr of the Christian Church in Egypt.
St. Mark found in Egypt a culture with its eyes fixed on attaining unending life. All around him were signs of this, the pyramids, the elaborate mummification of the dead and the mythological gods of the underworld, Isis, Osiris and Horus whom the Egyptians worshipped.
Inscriptions in the tomb of King Pepi who died in 2300 B.C. read as follows:
"Raise yourself. You have not died. Your life force will dwell with you forever."
"Oh my heart that I have had when on Earth, don't stand up against me as a witness, don't make a case against me beside the great god."
The above reads, "I have come forth in this day-time in my true form as a living spirit. The place of my heart's desire is among the living in this land forever." (National Geographic:Death on the Nile)
St. Mark proclaimed to the Egyptians the good news of salvation from sin. The Son of God had become man, born of the Virgin Mary. He had proclaimed that he was the way to eternal life. Christ had died at the hands of men, was buried and rose from the dead and would come at the end of time to finalize God's Kingdom.
This message must have awakened a recognition in Egyptian consciousness. Had they heard a like story before? O yes, the story of Isis, Orisis and Horus. Before recorded history, Osiris had been the first god-king of Egypt who married his sister Isis. His brother Set, the evil one, hated him and managed to kill him and cut his body into 14 pieces. Isis gathers his pieces and by magic reassembled him. Isis takes the form of a kite and with her wings creates the breath of life reviving Osiris long enough to impregnate her thus giving birth to Horus. Then Osiris became Lord of the Underworld. Eventually Horus and Set struggle for the kingship of Egypt and Horus gains superiority of power.
No doubt some Egyptians considered St. Mark's account a variation of their Isis-Orisis myth. This mysterious myth was but a shadow of things to come. St. Mark most surely pointed out the difference between the two accounts. Christ had really come into history while the myth of Isis and Orisis was a human construct attempting to fulfill the longings of the human heart. Some believed that Christ was truly the Son of God who had come to bring them Eternal Life. Others began to hate St. Mark because he was gradually eroding the faith in their pagan gods and the priestly power they had.
Isis to Mary