The Coptic alphabet is the script used for writing the Coptic language, the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and is the final stage of the Egyptian language. The Coptic alphabet is an adaptation of the Greek alphabet, with the addition of some characters borrowed from the ancient Egyptian Demotic script. Today, while Coptic as a spoken language is nearly extinct, the Coptic alphabet is still used in the liturgy of the Coptic Church.
The Egyptian language evolved through multiple phases: Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic, and finally Coptic. By the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt, the older hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts were becoming less common, and the more cursive Demotic script was prevalent. With the Christianization of Egypt, the need for a script to write the newly adopted liturgical language arose. Thus, the Coptic alphabet was developed.
The Coptic alphabet consists of 24 letters from the Greek alphabet and an additional 6 to 7 characters that originated from Demotic to represent sounds not present in Greek.
There are multiple dialects of Coptic, but the two most prominent are Sahidic and Bohairic. Sahidic was the leading literary dialect in the pre-Islamic period, while Bohairic has become the liturgical standard for the Coptic Orthodox Church since the 11th century. While both dialects use the Coptic alphabet, there are slight differences in spelling and pronunciation.
The Coptic tradition offers a plethora of texts relevant to New Testament studies. These documents provide unique insight into early Christian thought, practices, and the reception of the New Testament. The Coptic alphabet, with its rich history and ties to the Egyptian past, is a testament to the endurance and adaptability of language and writing systems. Even as its usage becomes more specialized in the modern world, the script remains a vital link to the cultural and religious heritage of the Coptic community.