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A characteristic trait of the Egyptian church was the dominant role of the bishop of Alexandria. The Alexandrian episcopate had under it the bishoprics of Libya we do not know when this relationship of dependence was established; in canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea, thus in a text of 325, it is said that this relationship conforms to an ancient practice and all of the Egyptian bishoprics. The Alexandrian episcopate prevented the formation of ecclesiastical metropolises in Egypt, and imposed on all the Egyptian bishoprics the obligation to send their candidates to Alexandria to receive episcopal ordination. Beginning with Dionysius mentioned above, the bishop of Alexandria sent an Easter letter to all the Egyptian bishops, in which he announced the date of the following Easter.

The Christian communities of Egypt, at least from the 3rd c. we know too little for the 2nd c., were composed of both Greek- and Egyptianspeakers i.e., what we traditionally call Coptic; the first translations of biblical texts into Coptic were made in the 3rd c.. There is no reason to think that the division between Christians and pagans coincided with the division between Coptic- and Greek-speaking citizens. The religious crisis that underlay the rapid spread of Christianity involved all social groups.

Christianity did not divide, and indeed united, the different social groups. Even the clear distinction between Alexandria and Egypt recall the expression Alexandria in Egypt no longer had meaning when considering Christian Alexandria. Considering what we now know of the culture of the 3rd and 4th c., we must admit that there is no basis to oppose as scholars often do Alexandria to Egypt. In the Alexandrian church there was place not only for the cultural lite for thinkers such as Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, but also for ordinary folk, Greek- or Coptic-speaking. And conversely, the Christian communities of Egypt were not made up only of peasants and artisans, to whom the theological subtleties of the Alexandrian masters were inaccessible and irrelevant. Many cities of the Delta and of the Nile valley had a significant level of cultural life, and among its participants were some who were interested in theology.

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