V. CHRISTIAN MISSION BETWEEN RISING ISLAM
1. From Europe’s Latin - Celtic to Europe’s Latin-German Church (503-800 AD:
1.1 The Timeline of Mission from 503--800 A.D.
1.2 Papal Authority and Influence.
1.3 From the Latin-Celtic to the Latin-German Church Mission Church
1.4 Missionaries in Europe (503-800 A.D.)
1.5 The Latin-Celtic Mission Church’ Secret
1.6 The Concept of Mission Among Ancient Germans & Slavs (400-800 AD)
1.7 The Latin-Celtic / Latin-German Churches Challenge Rising Islam
1.8 Results of Latin-Celtic / Latin-German Churches Mission Ministries
2. The Multi-Lingual Rite Church of the East and Islam (503-800 A.D.:
2.1 Introduction & Timeline of the “East Church” (503-800 AD)
2.2 Establishing Functioning Structures for Missionfields in the East.
2.3 The East- Church’ Influence in England
2.4 The Ministry of Nestorian (and Jacobite) Churches in Minor (Arab Peninsula) Central-, East - (China, Korea, Japan) & South Asia (India).
2.5 The East Church Mission Efforts
3 The African Church Expanding and Fighting Islam (503-800 AD)
3.1 From Early Christian Mission to Strong Church Traditions
3.2 The Christians in Nubia
3.3 Christian Mission in Aksum
3.4 Theology in Egypt
3.5 Bible Translation into the local Language
3.6 African Church’ Mission Efforts
4. Islam Helps Christian Mission To Reflects Roots of Faith (503-812 A.D.)
4.1 Results of the Latin-Celtic / Latin German Churches Mission Ministries
4.2 Results of the East Church Mission Efforts during 503-800 AD
4.3 Results of Mission Efforts in Africa
4.4 Bible Translations between 503-800 A.D.
4.5 Result of Christian Mission Efforts from 503-800 AD
1. THE LATIN-CELTIC CHURCH ESTABLISHED (590-800 A.D.)
1.1 The Timeline of World Mission from 504-800 AD
500 - Clovis, the founder of the Frankish state, conquers most of France and Belgium, converting his territories to Western Catholic Christianity.
508 - Philoxenus of Mabug begins translation of the whole Bible into Syriac.
528 - Benedict of Nursia destroys the pagan temple at Monte Cassino (Italy) and builds a monastery.
535 - The Hephtahalite Huns - nomads living in northern China, Central Asia, and northern India who were also known as the White Huns - are taught to read and write by Nestorian missionaries.
542 - Julian (or Julianus) from Constantinople begins evangelizing Nubia accompanied by an Egyptian named Theodore.
563 - Columba sails from Ireland to Scotland where he founds an evangelistic training center on Iona.
565 - The first report of a Loch Ness monster after the Irish missionary Columba visits the Loch. Columba described an animal that broke the surface of the 800 foot-deep loch with a loud roar and an open mouth.
569 - Longinus, Bishop of Nobatia, evangelizes Alodia (in what is now Sudan).
592 - Death of Irish missionary Moluag (Old Irish Mo-Lu).
596 - Gregory the Great sends Augustine and a team of missionaries to (what is now) England, to reintroduce the gospel. The missionaries settle in Canterbury and within a year baptize 10,000 people.
600 - First Christian settlers in Andorra (southwestern Europe, between France and Spain).
604 - Pope Gregory, originally a Benedictine, creates a religious policy for western Europe by fusing the Roman papacy with Benedictine monasticism.
612 - The Irish monk Gallus builds a hermitage in Steinach, Switzerland, bringing Irish Christianity to Eastern Switzerland, laboring among the Suevi and Alemanni.
629 - Amandus of Elnon is consecrated as a missionary bishop. He evangelized the region around Ghent (Belgium) and went on missions to Slavs along the Danube and to Basques in Navarre.
631 - Conversion of the East Angles (one of the seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy).
635 - Aidan of Lindisfarne begin evangelizing in the heart of Northumbria (England).
637 – The Lombards, a German tribe living in northern Italy, become Christians.
650 - First church organized in Netherlands.
673 - Irish monk Maol Rubha founds a training center at Aprochrosan that would serve as a base for missionary outreach into Scotland.
689 - Pagans kill Irish missionary Kilian near Würzburg in what is now Germany. His remains are buried in a Benedictine abbey in Würzburg.
692 - Willibrord and 11 companions cross the North Sea to become missionaries to the Frisians (The modern day Netherlands).
697 - Muslims overrun Carthage, capital of North Africa.
700 - Benedictine missionaries complete the conversion of England begun by St. Gregory the Great.
720 Muslims take Spain.
720 - Caliph Umar II puts heavy pressure on the Christian Berbers to convert to Islam.
722 - Boniface goes to Germanic tribes.
724 - Boniface fells pagan sacred oak of Thor at Geismar in Hessen (Germany).
732 Europeans turn back the Muslims at the Battle of Tours.
740 - Irish monks reach Iceland.
750 - Irish monks establish early-medieval art. The greatest surviving product of these monks is the Book of Kells, a Gospel book of decorative art.
751 - St. Boniface anoints Pepin as divinely sanctioned king, and the Frankish monarchy is fused into the papal order.
768 September 24, - Death of Pippin III (Pippin the Short) at Saint Denis. Son of Charles Martel and father of Charlemagne, in 759 Pippin captured Narbonne, the last Muslim stronghold in France, and thereby drove Islam out of France. Pepin's son, Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne), succeeds his father.
787 - Liudger begins missionary work among the pagans near the mouth of the Ems river (in modern day Germany).
800 - On Christmas Day, Charlemagne is crowned emperor by pope Leo III in Rome.
1.2 Introduction: Papal Authority and Influence.
Gregory I, bishop of Rome (590-604 A.D.), becomes the first real pope in the sense of authority and influence. He gains control over the churches of Gaul, Spain, Belgium, Britain, Africa, and Italy by sending Roman missionaries there and handpicking the bishops. He befriends the emperor of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, who calls him "head of all the churches." He makes the Roman church the wealthiest and the virtual political ruler over the province around Rome. He helps develop the concepts of purgatory, transubstantiation, and the worship of saints; claims that church tradition equals the authority of the Bible; and strongly supports monasticism.
In 800 A.D. the growing dominance of Roman Latin Church was pieced together to the “Holy Roman Empire of Germanic Nation”, when Charlemagne was crowned and thus became the first Emperor and architect of an European Empire, uniting most of the European nations, he tried to establish a European culture of Christianity under papal orders under the influence of Augustin’s amillenial theology. Charlesmagne’s reign is the cultural high point of the Early Middle Ages. He instructed priests to make sure that their church members knew all of the following:
* The Ten Commandments, which Charlemagne wanted Christians to know as basic guidelines for what is right and what is wrong.
* The Lord's Prayer, Charlemagne felt, could be learned by even the simplest persons, to bring them closer to God.
* The Nicene Creed, which Charlemagne believed to contain the most important beliefs of the Church. Even though many Christians would not understand all its subtleties, memorization of the creed would provide a solid foundation for anyone.
Charlemagne wanted to Christianize the people of his empire. He sought to establish Augustine's City of God on earth. Also he wanted every Christian to be instructed in the essentials of the Christian faith, as based on certain key teachings.
1.3 From the Latin-Celtic to the Latin German Mission Church
1.3.1 The Merovingian Dynasty. In the year 500A.D. Clovis, the founder of the Frankish state, conquers most of France and Belgium, converting this territories to Roman Catholic Christianity. He founded the Merovingian dynasty and passed his kingdom on to his sons, who began fighting one another for additional territory. –
1.3.2 Pope Gregory sends Roman missionaries to southern England to convert the Anglo-Saxons to the Roman brand of Christianity. The Celtic Christians oppose this intrusion so strongly that the Anglo-Saxon king convenes a meeting in 664 A.D. to decide which brand of Christianity will be the sole one allowed in England. He chooses Rome because it claims to have the keys to heaven. Other areas convert to Roman Catholicism: the Visigoths in Spain in 589 A.D., Belgium and Holland, the Lombards of southern Italy by 675 A.D., and much of Germany by 718 A.D. With the rising power of the German Frankish state a new empire took shape, based on the alliance between the Frankish monarchy and the Roman Latin Church, providing the image of Western cultural unity for Europeans. Although it did not last long, but it still shifted the center of missionary life and mission from the Celtic islands and its monasteries to places of German tribes on the continent.
1.3.3 The Carolingian Dynasty. In 768 A.D. Pepin's son, Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne), followed his father’s empire, known as the Carolingian dynasty, including the greater section of central Europe, northern Italy and central Italy, in addition to realms already conquered by Frankish rule. Prior to this revival of learning, practically the entire realm (with the exception of Benedictine England) is illiterate due to the decay of the Roman Empire. The director of the "renaissance" is Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Alcuin, who receives his learning from a student of Bede. Alcuin sets up schools, sees to the copying of classical Latin texts and develops a new handwriting. When in 800 A.D.- on Christmas Day, Charlemagne was crowned emperor by the pope in Rome, this indicated an autonomous Western culture based on Western Christianity and Latin linguistics. Charlemagne established schools in all bishoprics and monasteries under his control using Latin. Thus Frankish German and popular Latin mixed easily one byproduct in those formerly predominantly Latin speaking areas was the creation of some new languages like French, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, Raeto-Roman (Switzerland), Romanian, Flemish (Belgium).
1.3.4 The Donation of Constantine. In the 700s A.D. an official-looking document (The Donation of Constantine) appears in Western Europe. It claims that in the 300s, Emperor Constantine gave the bishop of Rome supreme authority over all Europe, even above the emperors. It declares the Roman church supreme over all others and the Roman bishop the supreme bishop, gives the Roman bishop the emperor’s palace in Rome plus the clothing and insignia of the emperor, and moves the capital to Constantinople so as not to interfere with the imperial rights of the Roman bishop in Europe. The Roman church gains great power through this document until it is discovered to be a fraud in the 1400s.
1.3.5 Mission fused into Politics. During the late 700s Charlemagne, king of the Franks, amasses the most territory ruled by one man in Western Europe since the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire. On Christmas Day, 800 A.D., the pope crowns Charlemagne "emperor of the Romans." This act revives imperialism in the West, gives birth to the idea that political rulers must receive their crowns from the pope, obligates political rulers to aid the pope when in trouble, and instigates the following new philosophy in Europe: The Kingdom of God has two arms; the spiritual, with the pope over human souls, and the political, with the emperor over human physical life. Thus the pope and emperor are to give each other mutual support. This philosophy sets the stage for conflict between popes and emperors for the rest of the Middle Ages.
1.4 Missionaries in Europe (503-800 A.D.)
1.4.1 Columba (7 December 521 - 9 June 597). Columba was one of the most prominent Irish Saints among the Gaelic missionary monks. He introduced Christianity to the Kingdom of the Picts during the Early Medieval period. He became a monk and was ordained as a priest. In 563 Columba traveled to Scotland with eleven companions, where according to his legend he first landed at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, near Southend. However, being still in sight of his native land he moved further north up the west coast of Scotland. In 563 he was granted land on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland which became the centre of his evangelising mission to the Picts. Later he Christianized Britain.
Iona (picture: Iona Abbey from the Water ) and Armagh together became the most influential monasteries in Ireland. St Fursa preached in East Anglia (eastern England) in the 6th century before travelling to Gaul (France) and setting up churches there. He subsequently played a major role in the politics of the country. He was also very energetic in his evangelical work in founding several churches in the Hebrides. He was a renowned man of letters, having written several hymns and being credited with having transcribed 300 books. - One of the few, if not the only, times he left Scotland after his arrival was toward the end of his life, when he returned to Ireland to found the monastery at Durrow. He died on Iona and was buried in the abbey he created (see picture).
Columba is credited as being a leading figure in the revitalization of monasticism, and "[h]is achievements illustrated the importance of the Celtic church in bringing a revival of Christianity to Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire". Columba is historically revered as a warrior saint, and was often invoked for victory in battle.
Aside from the services he provided guiding the only centre of literacy in the region, his reputation as a holy man led to his role as a diplomat among the tribes. There are also many stories of miracles, which he performed during his work to convert the Picts.
He visited the pagan king Bridei, king of Fortriu, at his base in Inverness, winning the king's respect.
1.4.2 Columbanus (543-615) was an Irish monk born in Leinster and educated at the Bangor Monastery in Northern Ireland. He went to Gaul in 591 and founded 2 monasteries in Luxeuil and Fontaine (Gaul, France) before travelling through modern Germany, Switzer-land and Italy. He is buried in a monastery he founded at Bobbio, in northern in Lombardy, Italy. His surviving Latin writings include letters to Popes Gregory and Boniface III and IV as well as sermons. By the 8th century, Irish scholars followed the missionaries and managed to gain important academic roles in the courts of Kings such as Charlemagne of the Franks. Irish foundations can be found in France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy and their influence was been left in places as far a field as Vienna, Rome and eastern Germany.
1.4.3 Gallus (550 in Irland; † 16. October 640). His name means „The Celtic“. Aaccording to some writers one of the twelve brethren who accompanied Columbanus on his mission journey from the monastery of Bangor in Scottland over Luxeuil in Gaul over Zurich and Tuggen to the lake of Constance. In Brigantium (today Austria) he met a Christian church, which spiritually had fallen back into old pagan habits again. In Arbor Felix (today Arbon/ Switzerland) he found a Christian community as well. Columban apparently, after some disputes with Gallus, went to Italy on his own. Through prayer the daughter of the Aleman king Gunnar is healed. As a result he calls in a synode of clerics and wants to make Gallus the bishop of Constance. Because he can not speak Aleman German he refuses. Gallus died in Arbon. This day is remembered in special by believers in Alsace and North-East Switzerland, the main place of his mission ministries. In 719 A.D. the Aleman priest and influential missionary Othmar gave the monastery at his grave site the name “Sanct Gallus”, (from him the beautiful city St. Gallen derives its name).
1.4.4 Fridolinus from Ireland (482- 538). St. Fridolin was an Irish Benedictine monk best known for rebuilding monasteries in France and Germany. He was called the Apostle of the Upper Rhine. He also built one of the earlierst monasteries in German Europe and a school at Säckingen in what is now the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg. (For Fridolins Journey through Europe please see the map). He was a wandering missionary coming from Ireland. - Later he spent much of his time at the Lake of Constance, from where he was also involved in mnistries in Graubünden and Glarus (Switzerland). Among the new converts were two nobleman from the town Glarus, the brothers Ursus and Landolph. Ursus afterward led a godly life and bequeathed all his wealth to the monastery of Seckingen founded by St. Fridolin. But after his death the avaricious Landolph laid hand on the legacy. The monk applied to the royal district court at Rankweil. But the judge, who was corrupted by Landolph, demanded an irrefutable proof. So Fridolinus went to Glarus, summoned Ursus - who had died two years before - out of his grave and led him by the hand all the way back to Rankweil (which is a distance of approximately 75 kilometers!). There the corpse started to speak and accused his brother of his evil deed. Landolph was so astonished by this token of the powers of the Lord, that he not only handed out the legacy but also donated his own wealth to the monastery. Fridolinus afterwards led Ursus back to his grave at Glarus. According to the panel this miracle happened 1500 years ago in 498 AD.
1.4.5 Augustinus (died 613) and his 40 monks. Pope Gregor sent him with 40 monks to England. They arrive at the city Kent. In 597 King Ethelbert and a large number of his people wanted to be baptized. Within a year Augustinus could report more than 10,000 baptisms. In 601 he was made Canterbury’s first archbishop.
1.4.6 Willibrord (657-738), a well educated English missionary and strongly influenced by his church, became known as the Apostle to the Frisians in modern Netherlands. He began his work in 690 with 12 coworkers. Pippin sent him to Rome where he was appointed to be Bishop of Utrecht. He died at Echternach, Luxembourg, November 7.
1.4.7 Bonifacius or Winfried (680-754). Converting the German tribes to Christianity was not an easy task. Bonifacius (the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk Winfried, later renamed Bonifacius by Pope Gregory II), was called the apostle of the Germans (ca. 680-754), and he preached Christianity in the country of the East Franks, in Thuringia, Hesse, and Friesland. Bishop since 722, archbishop without a fixed bishopric since 732, under the government of Pippin the Short Bonifatius brought all newly-founded bishoprics and monasteries under strict jurisdiction of the Papal Chair. In 742, at the Concilium Germanicum, recognition of the Pope as head of the Church was proclaimed. In 748 Bonifacius became the first archbishop of Mainz. Within 20 years he baptized over 100,000 people. Before heathen were allowed for baptism they had to answer the following questions:
• Do you renounce the devil and his evil tools like Donar, Wotan, Saxnot, etc ?
• Do you believe in God the Almighty?
• Do you believe in Jesus Christ his Son?
• Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
Bonifatius’ disciple Sturm founded the monastery Fulda, which Bonifacius visited every year. The Saxons hated him and tried to destroy the monastery several times. In 754 he went back to the Friesians where he was martyred by the heathen Friesians in Dokkum, Friesland at the beach of the Zuidersee, Holland. As deeper research in the history of missions reveals behind all those “big” names were hundreds of unknown men and woman trained and equipped by the growing number of monasteries and working as wandering missionaires through the areas of Western Europe. Among the woman, one very oustanding missionary was Lioba, a coworker of Bonifatius.
1.4.8 Lioba, a Female Coworker of Bonifatius (700 - 28. September 782). Lioba was the daughter of one of Bonifatius’ friends and a female relative. She was borne in Wessex, trained by St. Tetta in the monastery of Wimborne in Dorsetshire, and lived in the monasteries of Kent and Wessex which were supporting the missionwork of Bonifatius’ among the Frankish in Germany. She was well aquanted with Bonifatius work and developed a well going friendly correspondence. In 735 Bonifatius asked her to join him, because he believed her high Angel-Saxon education would be helpful in founding monasteries for female monks.
In 750 he called her to Fulda to lead the local monastery. Lioba founded a number of monasteries and a school in Tauberbischofsheim. Lioba, short for Liobgetha, was sent with twenty-nine companions to become abbess of Bischofheim Monastery in Mainz, Germany She founded other houses as well and served as abbess for twenty-eight years.
Her influence to Charlemagne went through his wife, St. Hildegard, which she met towards the end of her life. She died on a visitation of this school.
1.4.9 Other important Missionaries:
Severinus (500): Preacher around Vienna
St. Goar (550): A wandering preacher at the Rhine
Amandus (650): Apostle of Belgians. He was very strict. The Frisians hated him. He went to the Basques and Danube-Slavonian. In 647: Archbishop of Maastricht.
Eligius (660): Preacher and church-builder in the Netherlands.
During their work the Frankish missionaries usually would use offical documents of their king, which often hindered the spread of the gospel, while the German mission had to fight against gallows, human sacrifice, alcoholism, blood revenge, gambling, simonie, etc. and therefore used preaching and education as a means to change the culture.
One hundred years before Bonifacius came to Thuringen, Celtic missionaries were already evangelising. They refused the idea of a life in monasteries, were married and preached to the people in their native tongue, while living a strictly biblical lifestyle. They ate honey and drank milk, but did not eat bread. Bonifacius called them “predessesor of the Anti-Christ and tools of the devil.”
1.5 The Latin Celtic Church Secret: “Love Christ More than your Country”
1.5.1 The Latin Celtic and the Latin Roman Church’s Merger.
Towards the end of the pre-Christian period, as the Roman Empire and its colony in Britain declined, the Irish took advantage of and began raiding western Britain. In time, the Irish church matured and by the 500s a number of monasteries were set up. Initially intended to be places of retreat from the world, they attracted the patronage of the kings and the rich and became influential institutions in their own right. Many extended control over other monasteries, with Armagh ultimately claiming primacy over all churches in Ireland. The network of buildings that eventually grew up on monastic settlements - the hired workers, craftsmen and artisans - were, in a sense, the first 'towns' in Ireland. A Celtic monastery was not of the church-and-cloisters type that appeared in the Middle Ages. Rather, it usually consisted of an enclosure with a small stone church and a number of cells were the monks lived individually. The map aside shows the principal monasteries in Ireland as they were around the year 650: The Irish church was fairly simple, because the hierarchical structure of the continental church was found to be incompatible with the network of small kingdoms in Ireland. However, Roman missionaries had arrived in Southern England and there were disagreements between the Celtic church and the Roman church.
This was resolved at the Synod of Whitby of 664 in which it was decided that the church in Britain would follow the Roman practices. However, the people in Ireland resisted the changes and so Romanism did not have much impact in Ireland.
1.5.2 Celtic Mission Work in West Virginia, U.S.A
Brendan, an Irish monk, sailed to America in a small boat. An expedition in 1976 led by Timothy Severin set out to prove that 6th Century technology and seamanship did have the ability to traverse the Atlantic. He set sail in a small leather-hulled boat to duplicate St. Brendan's voyage using 6th Century methods. His success proved beyond question that such a trip was indeed possible.
Then in 1982 archeologists and ancient language experts unlocked the key to understanding a petroglyph that had been merely a puzzling curiosity since its discovery in 1964. A “petroglyph” is simply a carving of words in stone. This one, located in a rock recess in Wyoming County, West Virginia, U. S. A., was recognized by language expert Barry Fell to be written in ancient Irish Celtic Ogam, in current use in the 6th Century in Ireland.
Map: Christian messages carved in an ancient alphabetic script called ogham by Irish monks around 700 AD.
Celtic Petroglyphs in West Virginia. The translation of this 6th Century Celtic Christian petroglyph reads:
At the time of sunrise a ray grazes the notch on the left side on Christmas Day. A feast-day of the Church, the First season of the (Christian) year. The season of the Blessed Advent of the Savior, Lord Christ (Salvadoris Domini Christi). Behold, he is born of Mary, a woman.
On another panel of the petroglyph there is a remarkably significant, though very short, inscription in the Algonquian language, which asserts, “Glad Tidings.” We have here compelling evidence that the Christian gospel had come to the Algonquian Indians as early as the 6th Century! And it came to them from Ireland! This was a full millennium before the English missionary John Elliot, funded largely by the support of the English Chemist Sir Robert Boyle, would once again bring the gospel to the Algonquian Indians.
Of course, that early Celtic Christian faith disappeared entirely from America somewhere in that intervening millennium, and we're not sure just when, or why. But it was here, for these American Natives, as early as the 6th Century!
Another petroglyph of the same time period and Celtic Ogam script was found in Boone County West Virginia in the vicinity of Horse Creek. The Horse Creek petroglyph reads:
A happy season is Christmas, a time of joy and goodwill to all people. A virgin was with child; God ordained her to conceive and be fruitful. Ah, Behold, a miracle! She gave birth to a son in a cave. The name of the cave was the cave of Bethlehem. His foster-father gave him the name Jesus, the Christ, Alpha and Omega. A Festive season of prayer.
St. Brendan, according to the monastic records, made two successful voyages across the Atlantic, and returned to Ireland to found the monastery of Clonfert in County Galway in 561. We know that his voyages were complete before he founded the monastery, so there is a strong historical probability that the Christian presence evidenced in America dates before AD 561. So here, as a result of the Celtic Church, we have a church present in America, which is totally independent of the Roman Catholic, a millennium before the Reformation.
1.6 The Concept of Mission among ancient Germans & Slavonians (400-800 AD)
1.6.1 The Target Culture
In the opening of his letter to the Romans, Paul refers to the spiritual need of those peoples who were not a part of the Graeco-Roman cultural sphere. "Barbarians" is the way King James Version translated the Greek label for those peoples living to the north of the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Warriors from those northern areas eventually began to invade the crumbling Roman Empire and destroyed it. It is fascinating to see that among those peoples of central and northern Europe the religion of the people to the south whom they had conquered became -- in a relatively short period of time - the religion of the conquerors themselves. Some keys to understanding the evangelization of the Germanic and Slavic peoples (the barbarians or "bearded ones") can be found in their culture. At least two cultural factors facilitated the acceptance of Christianity by those peoples living to the north of the borders of the sphere of Graeco-Roman culture:
• First: The tribal composition of the barbarian groups
• Second: The disintegration of those cultures that occurred upon their impact with Graeco-Roman civilization.
One might think that the opposite would have happened, that is, that the Christianity of the Roman Empire would have given way to the gods of the conquering Germanic and Slavic tribes. Latourette asserts that as the barbarians militarily overran most of the Roman Empire, the barbarians' own way of life or cultures, "including their religions," began disintegrating upon impact with what was left of Graeco-Roman civilization.
Thus, Christianity did not find itself in head-to-head competition with entrenched religious beliefs tightly bound into a stable culture. Rather, Christianity found itself moving into a developing vacuum. The interest of the northern victor to learn culturally from the long time governing enemy of the south prepared the adoption of its religious concept between 400 A.D. to 800 A.D.
1.6.2 The Tribal Character of the Germanic cultures
The culture of central and northern Europe was tribal in nature. When a tribal chief or key elder embraced Christianity, mass conversions within that tribe often followed. Traditionally, notes Latourette, religion among the barbarians "had been a community affair." When a Germanic tribe did become Christian, it often did so en masse. While this may make -- from our western point of view -- for a certain superficiality of conversion, it does help us understand the dynamics of the conversion of the "non-Greek speakers" in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries.
1.6.3 The Cultural Disintegration.
The cultural disintegration came about, some anthropologists would say, because of the impact the "higher" culture had on the "lower" one. This is not a pejorative judgment. It is recognized that the barbarians had not built cities. They didn't have the kind of art -- painting and sculpture and ceramic work -- that was characteristic of the Greco-Roman world. Reading and writing were almost unknown to the barbarians. As any such culture encountered the Greco-Roman world which had all of those things, it would tend to disintegrate.
In this situation, Christianity may have made the rapid advances it did because it was able to serve as a positive force in spurring cultural advances. Latourette says, "As it won over the barbarian invaders from the north, Christianity became a major stimulus in stirring them to produce an advanced civilization." Thus, Christianity may have won relatively quick acceptance because it served as a catalyst in cultural rebuilding.
Rather than being a destructive threat, Christianity had become a friend to the barbarians' culture. It was thus something to be embraced rather than fought against.
1.7 The Latin-Celtic / Latin-German Churches in light of Rising Islam
At the end of the 8th century the Latin-Celtic Misision not only has merged with the Latin Roman Church, but was also on the way to become a Latin german Church. Obviously the hard discipline of the Irish monks had left its deep impression on Latin German Christianity and encouraged a daily life in the presence of God. Between 660-800 A.D. the organized church lost Palestine, Asia Minor, Egypt, and North Africa to Islam. Since Muslims regard all images and pictures as idolatry, the eastern segment of the church changed its way to reach Muslims for Christianity.
After considerable controversy, in 787 A.D. the Eastern Church decided as follows: Pictures are allowed in worship; most images are abolished; only what the pictures and images represent is to be worshiped.
The Roman bishop becomes more powerful because some of his rivals in the East come under Muslim domination or lose much of their domains.
1.8 Results of The Latin-Celtic / Latin-German Churches Mission Ministries
The results of the missionwork during this period of time were not as significant. The church as it stands today in U.K., the Netherlands, Switzerland (Aleman and Seuves), North Italy (among the German Lombards) and Germany (except Preussia) were planted during this period of time. A lot of new tribes were migrating to Europe.
Islam enters Western Europe over the Iberian Peninsula and Gaul, but was fought back by Charles Martell at the battle of Tours. Between 540- 720 AD there were several outbreaks of pandemics, hampering mission efforts but also defending Christian strongholds against the invading army of Muslims.
2. The Church of the East – And Rising Islam (503-800)
2.1 Introduction and Timeline of the “East Church”.
2.1.1 The “Church of the East” is defined as is known under different names such as: “Nestorian Church”, “Persian Church”, “East Syrian Church”, “Chaldean Syrian Church” in India only, “Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East”, “Assyrian Church of the East”. Below records from the East church with its various names are listed. – Its theological blueprint was composed by Mar Babai the Great in the sixth century A.D., a noted theologian of the Church as follows:
One is Christ the Son of God,
Worshiped by all in two natures;
In His Godhead begotten of the Father,
Without beginning before all time;
In His humanity born of Mary,
In the fullness of time, in a body united;
Neither His Godhead is of the nature of the mother,
Nor His humanity of the nature of the Father;
The natures are preserved in their Qnumas ,
In one person of one Sonship.
And as the Godhead is three substances in one nature,
Likewise the Sonship of the Son is in two natures, one person.
So the Holy Church has taught.
In addition, the Eastern churches are also the result of an accident of a political development that has made it possible to divide the Christian world. The root of this division is, roughly and broadly speaking, the division of the Roman Empire made first by Diocletian (284-305), and again by the sons of Theodosius I (Arcadius in the East, 395-408; and Honorius in the West, 395-423). It was made permanent by the establishment of the first German empire in the West (Charlemagne, 800). In other words, the division of Eastern and Western Churches, then, in its origin also corresponds to the political changes in East and West during over more than 750 years of mission history till Charlemagne.
2.1.2 Timeline of Missionary Efforts in the East
500 - The Arabs of Najran (southern Arabia) become Christians.
508 - Philoxenus of Mabug begins translation of the whole Bible into Syriac.
519 - Constantinople repudiates the Henoticon, ending its schism with Rome.
522 - Beginning of the persecution of Christians by Jewish Himyarite kings of Yemen.
523 - The Ethiopians invade Arabia in response to pleas for help from Christians in Najran.
The Himyarites defeat the Ethiopians and massacre the Christians of Najran.
527 - Jacob Bardaeus arrives in Constantinople.
535 - The Hephthalite Huns learn to write, as a result of the work of Nestorian missionaries.
540 - The Persians, under Shah Khosro I, sack Antioch.
540-552 - Patriarchate of Mar Aba I, greatest Nestorian patriarch under the Sassanids.
542-578 - Jacob Bardaeus wanders throughout Syria, consecrating Monophysite priests and bishops.
544 - Sixth General Synod of the Persian Church (Synod of Mar Aba I) adopts the creed and decrees of the Council of Chalcedon Some persecution of Persian Christians.
549 - Bishop consecrated for the Hephthalite Huns.
550 - Chronicle of Edessa written.
552 - The Turks destroy the Juan-juan Empire and establish the Turkic Khaganate, nominally divided into Western and Eastern Khanates.
553 - The Ecumenical Council of Constantinople condems Theodore of Mopsuestia.
553-68 - The Turks and Persians ally to destroy the Hephthalite Empire.
554 - The Seventh General Synod of the Persian Church (Synod of Yusuf) appoints metropolitans for Merv and Rewardashir.
566/7 - The Eighth General Synod of the Persian Church.
570 - The Battle of the Elephant, in which the Meccans defeat the invading army of Christian Ethiopia.
571 - Henana becomes director of the school of Nisibis and proceeds to deviate from Nestorian orthodoxy.
572-91 - The Turks and the Byzantines ally against the Persians.
575 - Yemen becomes a Persian province with some probable conversion of Christians there to Nestorianism.
578 - Conversion to Christianity of An-numan III, last of Lachemids (Arab princes).
579 - Reference to a Nestorian Mar Sergius settling in China.
581 - Turkish prisoners captured by Persians discovered to have crosses tatooed on their foreheads.
582 - The Turkic Khaganate officially breaks up into Western and Eastern Khanates.
585 - The Ninth General Synod of the Persian Church (Synod of Yeshuyab I) disapproves Henana's teachings.
586 - Death of Abraham of Kaskar.
591-602 - Detente between Constantinople and Persia.
596 - The Tenth General Synod of the Persian Church (Synod of Sabaryeshu) condemns Henana's teachings, resulting in breakup of School of Nisibis.
602 - Al-Numan, last king of the Christian Lakhmid Arabs, dies.
607 - The Persians capture Edessa.
610 - Heraclius becomes Emperor in Constantinople as the Persian Empire is attempting the takeover of Byzantine civilization. The rule of Heraclius generally marks the beginning of Byzantine history.
611 - The Persians sack Antioch again.
615 - The Persians capture Jerusalem, massacring thousands, burning churches and carrying off "the true cross".
618 - Establishment of the T'ang dynasty in China.
622 - Mohammed's flight from Mecca to Medina, the beginning of Islam.
622 - Constantinople pushes the Persians back from the Mediterranean.
627 - Roman armies reach Dastegherd, causing the Persian Emperor Khosro I to flee.
628/9 - Maruta named as first maphrian (chief bishop) of Jacobite church in Persian Empire.
628-643 - Patriarchate of Yeshuyab II, during which metropolitans are appointed for Herat, Samarkand and possibly India.
632 - The Death of Muhammad. Arab conquest of Mesopotamia.
635 - First Christian missionaries (“Nestorian” monks, including Alopen, from Asia Minor and Persia) are arriving in Beijing. Nestorian Christianity had reached the heart of China.
636 - The Arabs defeat both the Persians and the Byzantines.
637 - Seleucia-Ctesiphon falls to the Arab armies.
638 - Emperor Tai Tsung issues Edict of Toleration for Christians in China and first Chinese Church is built at Chang'an - The Arabs capture Jerusalem and conquer Syria.
642 - Arab conquest of Egypt and defeat of Persian Shah Yazdegird III at the Battle of Nahavand - Synod of the Persian Church (Synod of Yeshuyab II) establishes Halwan as a metropolitanate.
644 - Eliyah, Metropolitan of Merv, converts a Turkish king and his army.
649 - Arab conquest of Persian Empire completed.
650-660 - Patriarchate of Yeshuyab III, at which time there are two metropolitans and more than 20 bishops beyond the Oxus River and a metropolitanate is possibly established for India.
651 - The Death of Yazdegird III, last Sassanid shah.
652 - The Arabs first capture of Khurasan.
661 - Assassination of 'Ali at Kerbala, Iraq and beginning of Sunni-Shi'ite rift. Begining of the Umayyad caliphate, based in Damascus.
667 - The Arabs cross the Oxus River for the frist time.
670 - Canons of Shimun (Simon), Metropolitan of Rewardashir, written in Pahlavi and later translated into Syriac.
673/74-704 - Arab raids across the Oxus in an attempt to capture Bukhara and Soghdiana.
680 - First translation of Christian Scriptures into Arabic.
691 - The re-establishment of the Eastern Turkic Khanate in the Tarim Basin.
698-705 - Persecution of Chinese Christians under Empress Wu.
705 - The Arabs, under Qutayba ibn Muslim, launch a holy war against Transoxiana from Merv.
709 - The Arabs capture Bukhara and Samarkand.
711 - Islam has spread from India to North Africa. All of North Africa is under Islamic control.
711 - The Arabs capture Khiva.
712 - First mosque built in Bukhara, later the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca - The Arabs subdue Khwarezm and recapture Samarkand.
712-728 - Patriarchate of Saliba-Zalkha, during which metropolitanate of China possibly created.
713 - The Arabs sack Kashgar.
714 - The Chinese, under emperor T'ai-tsong, defeat the Turks at Lake Issiq-kul.
715 - The end of the Arab conquest of Transoxiana as a result of the death of Qutaiba.
724-748? - Visit of Christian physicians to Japan and reported conversion of Empress (according to tradition).
726-787 - The iconoclastic controversy. Emperor Leo III attacked the use of images. John of Damascus defended the use of icons in worship by differentiating between veneration and worship. He also argued that the use of images is an affirmation of Christ's humanity, because a real person can be depicted. The opposition responds that images of Christ are not valid depictions because they can only represent his humanity, but not his divinity.
728 - Arab attempt to forcibly convert Transoxiana to Islam, resulting in general revolt.
744 - Arrival of new Nestorian missionaries in China - Formation of the Uighur Empire in Mongolia.
750 - Overthrow of the Umayyad caliphate and beginning of the 'Abbasid caliphate, based in Baghdad.
749 - d. John of Damascus.
751 - The Arabs defeat the Chinese at the Battle of the Talas River and discover the secrets of making paper and silk from captured prisoners.
755 - Jacob, son of the Christian king of the Uighurs, joins with Kuang, son of the Chinese emperor Hsuan-Tsung, to put down the rebellion of An-Lu-Shan.
756 - Turkish general Tsz-i, a Nestorian Christian, defeats the rebel Amroshar.
760-790 - Possible writing of a letter purported to be by Philoxenus, which mentions Christianity among the early Turks.
762 - Uighurs adopt Manichaeism as state religion - 'Abbassids move capital of the Caliphate to Baghdad.
775 - Patriarchate moved from Seleucia-Ctesiphon to Baghdad.
779-823 - Patriarchate of Timothy I, greatest Nestorian patriarch under the Arab Caliphate, during which metropolitans are appointed for Armenia and Syria and the Kaghan of the Turks is said to have been converted.
779 or 781 - Nestorian monument erected in Hsi-an-fu.
781 - Nestorian Stele erected near Xi'an (China) to commemorate the propagation in China of the Luminous Religion, thus providing a written record of a Christian presence in China.
781 - Timothy I debates the Caliph al-Mahdi - Bishops consecrated for the Turks and for Tibet.
787 - Council of Nicea supports the decision of John of Damascus concerning icons. This decision was not well recieved in the West because John's words for veneration and worship were difficult to translate.
2.2 Establishing various Structures for different Missionfields (503-800 AD)
2.2.1 The Imperial Byzantine Church. By the fifth century, the ecclesiastical system of the church had evolved to a hierarchical system of five patriarchates, with a settled order of precedence. Rome, as the ancient center and largest city of the empire, was understandably given the presidency or primacy of honor within the pentarchy into which Christendom was now divided. There was nothing inherently divine in its origin. None of the five places possessed its authority by divine right. Though it was and still held that the patriarch of Rome was the first among equals. The original Pentarchy of the ancient Roman Empire: East and West.
* Rome (Peter & Paul) the Pope, the only Pentarch in the Western Roman Empire.
* Alexandria (St. Mark), currently in Egypt
* Antioch (St. Peter), currently in Turkey
* Jerusalem (St. James), currently in Israel
* Constantinople (St. Andrew), currently in Turkey
It is important to note that two Patriarchs are noted to have been founded by St Peter, the Patriarch of Rome and the Patriarch of Antioch. The Eastern Churches accept Antioch as the church founded by St Peter (see the Syriac Orthodox Church).
For the Imperial Byzantine Church a group of concern were the Eastern and Southern Slavs. The Slavs were among the last of the European peoples to become Christianized. Adoption of Christianity was a long and complex process. The neighboring lands had become Christian centuries before and the paganism of the Slav nations stood out in sharp contrast against this Christianized milieu. - The Roman churches held their liturgy in Latin whereas the Greek churches held their liturgy in Greek.
The Slavs resisted adopting Christianity in a language foreign to them. In the ninth and tenth centuries, Christianity made great inroads into Eastern Europe mainly in Bulgaria, including Kievan Rus'.
The evangelization, or Christianization, of the Slavs was initiated by one of Byzantium's most learned churchmen - the Patriarch Photius. Photius has been called the "Godfather of all Slavs". For a period of time, there was a real possibility that all the newly baptised South Slav nations: Serbs, Bulgars, Croats would be placed under Roman, i.e. Papal, spiritual jurisdiction. In the end, only the Croats wound up in the Roman Catholic Church.
2.2.2 The East (Nestorian) Church Influence for England & Continental Mission.
It is a mistake to think of Syriac Christianity’s influence as confined to the Holy Land and points to the East; it has been of importance at various times in the Anglican Church as well.
There were Christians in Britain during the Roman Empire. There seem to have been bishops in London and York, at least. This Church was poor and seems to have been small. Obviously they had dwindled to the point that, by the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), visited the island to him at least, England seemed to be in need of being reconverted. Afterwards Pope Gregory sent Augustine of Canterbury to Kent, where he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church in England revived, but was still in an uncertain state.
Refreshing Educational input from the East. In 664, with some turmoil setting in, Pope Vitalian thought it best to send another archbishop from Rome to settle things down. He tried to send a monk named Hadrian (“an African by race”, Bede called him) but instead settled on an elderly (66 years old) monk from Tarsus (Saint Paul’s home) called Theodore. (Hadrian came as one of his companions, so the group was very international in its make-up.) The new archbishop who arrived in the rugged western island was a scholar from the Middle East. To everyone’s surprise he stayed more than 22 years as archbishop!
Influence through Syriac Theology. Theodore is likely to have begun his theological study in Antioch, where Greek and Syriac were in common use at that time. He may even have been to Edessa. Theodore set up a school in his monastery in Canterbury and manuscripts of notes on Scripture that were written by his pupils, have survived. Often, the particular comments are clearly labeled as coming from Theodore or Hadrian. At a number of points, scholars have identified comments as having been drawn from the works of Saint Ephraem the Syrian. One of these comments even mentions Saint Ephraim by name, which shows that the English students in the school (where the language of instruction was Old English) knew that they were being taught the doctrine of the great Syriac Doctor.
Scholars think that Theodore knew Syriac. Some of the passages from Syriac writers that are reflected in the students’ commentary notes are not known from contemporary existing Greek or Latin translations. This would mean that, unless translations were made and all trace of them is now lost, we have evidence of direct influence of Syriac Christianity on what was taught to Anglo-Saxon students in Canterbury and then, presumably, through preaching and teaching, to their laity. Some scholars think that Theodore brought Syriac books with him for his own use when he arrived in England.
2.4 The Syriac (Nestorian, Assyrian) Church and its Influence in Central Asia
2.4.1 The Great Time of Mission The great period of expansion of the Nestorian church was from the 7th to the 10th cent., with missions to China and India. A famous monument in Xi'an, China, was constructed (781) by Chinese Nestorians. This shows a rough outline of the Silk Road. You can see something of the barrier that Inner Asia affords to those who wish to cross it as you look at these next two views of that part of the continent. This map emphasizes the mountain ranges in the center of the continent.
2.4.2 Centers of the Church of the East (Nestorians) and Central Asia (500-800 A.D.)These Eastern or "Nestorian" Christians were versatile and diligent propagators of their faith. With the flight of the Edessa theological school to Nisibis, outside the farthest borders of the Roman Empire, and the opening of another in Djondishpur, with a hospital also in the latter city, many Syrian Christians began to move eastward into Persia and revived the spirits of the harassed Church. The third center of Christian scholarship was Merv, where many translations were made from Greek and Syriac into languages spoken in Samarkand and Bokhara." The "Nestorians" were firm believers in Christian education. Every bishop endeavored to maintain a school in connection with his church, realizing the necessity of such education in a land where all government education was pagan. "The chorepiscopos of every diocese," wrote Wigram, "appears to have had education as his special charge." Below is a map of Asia with routes of travel marked on it. It is precisely along these lines that we can trace the spread of the Syriac Church.
Scribes and doctors were highly honored. The school of Nisibis formed a self-governing corporation, which could own property, and was extradiocesan, its head being apparently subordinate only to the patriarch. It was quartered in a monastery, the tutors being brethen of the same.... Education was free, but students were expected to maintain themselves; begging was forbidden; but students might lend money to one another at one percent, and the steward had a number of bursaries in his gift. The course was purely theological, the sole textbooks being the Scriptures, and more particularly the Psalms.... The Church services also formed a part of the regular course; and no doubt all the approved theological works of the Church were to be found in the library. The students lied in groups of five or six in a cell, where they ate in common.... The college in Sabr-Ishu's day contained eight hundred pupils.
During the year preceding the Mohammedan conquest, Babai was the leader of the church in Persia, though there was no patriarch at the time as the king wanted a "Jacobite," a mono-physite. Babai was an aggressive spiritual leader, and under him schools in sixty places were restored or built. Many books were translated or written to supply these schools, and missionaries and traveling evangelists were sent to many places. The statement has been made that more than 2,000 books and epistles or letters, written by prominent leaders of the time, were circulating among the Christians. In 503 a bishop's seat was established in Samarkand.
In the area of the salt sea in Turkestan called Lake Issyk-kul, over 600 tombstones with crosses on them were found in two ancient cemeteries. The oldest date was 858 and the latest 1342. The inscriptions on many were in the Syriac script but the names indicate that these people were native converts. One inscription reads, "This is the grave of Pasak--The aim of life is Jesus, our Redeemer." Another writer states, "This is the tomb of Shelicha, the famous Exegete and Preacher who enlightened all the cloisters with Light, being the son of Exegete Peter. He was famous for his wisdom, and when preaching his voice sounded like a trumpet." Among the names are those of "nine archdeacons, eight doctors of ecclesiastical jurisprudence and of biblical interpretation, 22 visitors, three commentators, 46 scholastics, two preachers and an imposing number of priests." A chorepiscopus is also buried there with mention that he came from a nearby city. This last resting place of the saints of 700 years ago is mute witness of a past genuine Christian presence. As Stewart says of it, "Only in the grave stones from Semiryechensk (its Russian name) do we find evidence of the rich and varied Christian life which prevailed in one tiny corner of these extensive areas, filled as they once were with Christian communities."
The missionaries kept moving northward, with perhaps their greatest success being the great Kerait conversions of the eighth century, with 400,000 families converted. The Onguts and Uigurs also were largely converted.
2.4.3 The Nestorian Church and the Turks (500-800 A.D.)
By the end of the eighth century the Church of the East had expanded to great distances with at least 25 metropolitans and one hundred and 50 bishops. Six bishops were the minimum to support a metropolitan. They were all under the patriarch of Bagdad, who had moved from Ctesiphon-Selucia in 763 to the newer city a few miles up the Tigris. So vast was this patriarchate that metropolitans in the outer regions were not required to attend regular synods and had to report in writing only every six years. Zernov describes as one of the patriarch's activities that "He sent out missionaries to Tibet and to various nomadic tribes and consecrated bishops for them who moved with their flocks over the vast open spaces of central Asia."
The location of some of these 25 metropolitans is pointed out by Stewart, who cites the Synodicon Orientale, translated by J. B. Chabot. There the metropolitan of the Turks is placed tenth in the list and is followed by those of Razikaye, Herat, Armenia, China, Java, India and Samarkand. He also cites information, concerning the spread of the gospel in this period to the Turko-Tatar tribes, from a new manuscript translated by Mingana.
This material is in the form of a letter from a Mar Philoxenus, of the eighth century, to the governor of Hirta, and makes frequent reference to Christian Turks throughout the area south of Lake Baikal. Mingana gives evidence to support his belief that the manuscript really has two parts, the latter written sometime between 730 and 790 A.D. It is this section that speaks of the many Christian Turks in central and eastern Asia. The writer states they were divided into strong clans, living nomadic lives with tents, though very wealthy, and that they ate meat, drank milk, had clean habits and orthodox beliefs. They used a Syriac version of the Bible but in their worship services translated into the Turkish language so that the people could understand the gospel.
The manuscript also mentions that these Turko-Tartars had four great Christian kings who lived at some distance from each other. Their names are given as Gawirk, Girk, Tasahz and Langu. Mingana believes that they were the heads, or Khakans, of the four tribal confederacies of the Keraits, Uigurs, Naimans and Merkites. The populace of each king is said to have been over 400,000 families. If there were five persons to a family, this would mean two million per king for a grand total of eight million . If only half that many represented the actual population, it would still represent a Christian community so great it would be a tremendous witness to the zeal of those early missionaries.
Mingana declares that the credit for carrying the gospel of Christ to these tribes of central and eastern Asia belongs entirely to the untiring zeal and the marvelous spiritual activities of the Nestorian church, the most missionary church that the world has ever seen.
We cannot but marvel at the love of God, of man, and of duty which animated those unassuming disciples of Christ, who were literally exploring all the corners of the eastern globe "to sow in them the seed of true religion as it was known to them."
2.4.4 The Church of the East (The Nestorians) Early Mission Ministries in China.
During the patriarchate of Mar Ishu Jahb II, 636, Syrian missionaries went to China, and for 150 years this mission was active. There were 109 Syrian missionaries working in China during 150 years time of Chinese mission. They went out from Beth Nahrin, the birthplace of Abraham, the father of all believers. The missionaries traveled on foot; they had sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hands, and carried a basket on their backs, and in the basket were the “Holy Writ” (Holy Writings) and the cross. They took the road around the Persian Gulf; went over deep rivers and high mountains, thousands of miles. On their way they met many heathen nations and preached to them the gospel of Christ.
During those early centuries of the Christian era, as the missionaries of the Church of the East were working their way eastward, the great Chinese Empire had not been inactive in making western contacts. Hirth, in his compilation of all the references to the Western nations in the Chinese historical annals begins with a quotation from 91 B.C.
When the first embassy was sent from China to An-Shi (Parthia), the king of An-Shi ordered 20,000 cavalry to meet them on the eastern frontier.... After the Chinese embassy had returned they sent forth an embassy to follow the Chinese embassy to come and see the extent and greatness of the Chinese Empire. They offered to the Chinese court large birds' eggs, and jugglers from Li-kan.
Another quotation, of 120 A.D., speaks of another embassy going to Ch'ang-An, the capital of China, and offering "musicians and jugglers. They said of themselves: 'We are men from the west of the sea; the west of the sea is the same as Ta-ts'in'," (the sea being the Gulf of Persia). From then on the designation Li-kan is seldom used, and Ta-ts'in, with a later spelling of Ta-Ch'in, becomes the usual designation. Since the early Christians in China, as the famous Monument inscription of 781 indicates, were called Ta-Ch'in Chiao, Ta Ch'in Religion, as we shall see shortly, it is important to determine where Ta-Ch'in was. One of the early Chinese records is worth quoting at some length:
The country of Ta-ts'in is called Li-chien (Li-kin) and, as being situated on the eastern port of the sea, its territory amounts to several thousand li. Their kings always desired to send embassies to China, but the An-Shi (Parthians) wished to carry on trade with them in Chinese silks, and it is for this reason that they were cut off from communication.
The country of Fu-lin, also called Ta-ts'in, lies above the western sea. In the southeast it borders on Po-ssu (Persia). The emperor Yang-ti of the Sui dynasty (A.D. 605-617) always wished to open intercourse with Fu-lin, but did not succeed. In (643) the king of Fu-lin, Po-to-li, sent an embassy. [Then mention of embassies in 667, 701, and 719 are followed by this statement.] A few months after, he further sent ta-to-sheng [great-virtuous-priests, a term like Reverend, doubtless for Nestorians who arrived then] to our court with tribute.
Saeki identifies An-tun with the Roman emperor Marcus Antonius. Hirth states, "We may say, in a few words, Ta-ts'in was Syria as a Roman province; Fu-lin was Syria as an Arab province during the T'ang dynasty (618-907), and as a Seldjuk province during the Sung dynasty (960-1280)." Saeki believes that the etymological derivation of Fu-lin is from E-fu-lin for Ephraim, between Jerusalem and Samaria. This opinion is corroborated by the reference in the first Chinese Christian document of 638, "The Jesus Messiah Discourse," of which we will take note later, in which we read, "Just about that time, the One (Jesus Messiah) was born in the city of Jerusalem in the country of Fu-lin (Ephraim)." Hirth also states it is his view "that all the first embassies sent from Fu-lin during the T'ang dynasty were carried out by Nestorian missionaries. The Nestorians enjoyed a great reputation in Western Asia on account of their medical skill."
The Chinese records give a graphic picture of the long trade routes across their country, around the south of the Gobi desert, to the Oxus River, into Parthia and on to Mesopotamia. The Chinese either turned their goods, chiefly silks, over to the Arabs here, or over to the Parthians at the Oxus River, the latter then bringing them to Hira. There they were transshipped around the Arabian penninsula, up the Red Sea to Solomon's Ezion-geber or the Aelana (modern Akabah) of the Romans; from there caravans carried them to Petra, the great market city, to sell them to the western traders. Of Petra Hirth writes:
During the first two centuries A D., Petra or Rekem, was the great emporium of Indian (and, we may add, Chinese) commodities, where merchants from all parts of the world met for the purpose of traffic. Under the auspices of Rome, Petra rose, along with her dependencies, to an incredible opulence. This prosperity was entirely dependent upon the caravan trade, which at this entrepot changed carriage, and passed from the hands of the southern to those of the northern merchants.
It was not until the seventh century that two events brought about the demise of this great trading center. The first was the smuggling of silkmoth eggs into Syria, concealed in a bamboo cane, the presumption being that it was done by "Nestorians," with the result that "by the end of the sixth century (Syria) appears to have been meeting the west's demand for the raw material." The other was the fall of Petra to the Mohammedans after 640. It was without doubt through these early oriental traders that the Syrian Christians of "Ta-Ch'in" first heard of the greatness of the Chinese Empire and determined to take the gospel there. It is even very likely that they arranged to go with returning merchants. We know that the time was early in the T'ang dynasty, when the empire had its widest extent, its soldiers governing 811 the way to the Oxus River, for the Nestorian Monument declares the year of their arrival at the capital of Ch'ang-An (or Hsi-an-fu) to be 635 A.D.
2.4.5 Evidence of Early Christianity in China.
There is striking evidence of the activity of the Christian missionaries in China which have come to light in the era of modem history none has been more dramatic than the report of the discovery of the "Nestorian" stone Monument by a Jesuit priest in 1625. When Trigault, the first Roman Catholic missionary came to see it, took rubbings it had been moved to Hsi-an-fu, probably late in 1624. It is still there today, while an exact replica exists in the Vatican museum, with still another in Japan at the Shingon (True Word) Buddhist Temple on Koyasan.
The stone itself (see picture “THE NESTORIAN MONUMENT” ) stands over nine feet high, three feet wide, and one foot thick, with two dragons carved over the top edge, a small "Nestorian" cross near the top center, and nine large Chinese characters below it reading, "A Monument Commemorating the Propagation of the Ta-Ch'in Luminous Religion in the Middle Kingdom (China)." The names of some 70 missionaries are given in Chinese and Syriac at the end of the 2000-word inscription. The inscription describes how the missionaries arrived in 635, were welcomed by the emperor, and instructed to put some of their writings into Chinese. They were given permission by proclamation in 638 to stay and teach, and a monastery was built for them outside the city in the I-ning ward.
The discovery of the Christian site has dramatically changed all this. The
Church is in the center of the Imperial area of the Tang Dynasty and its
location is what is particularly bringing amazement to experts on the Silk
Road. With the Church in the center of the imperial area it confirms for the
first time the stories that have long been passed down and appear
frequently in Chinese narratives, which tell of a major Church in China in
the Tang Dynasty from 618-877.
According to articels “The Cross” and “The Lotus” by Lee Shiu Keung in 635, Bishop Alopen from The Church of the East began his mission in Chang Ang, present day Christianity had first come to China in the year 64 when the Apostle Thomas came to Sian, China from India where he had come in the year 52. Other believers are believed to have brought the gospel on to Japan by the year 70 AD.
The Church had lost contact with the rest of the world through the cutting off of the Silk Road by the people of Turkestan and the restoration of the links brought great joy and strength to the Church in China, Japan and the rest of Asia as contact was once more restored with the rest of the Church. In 630, however the Silk Road was restored and travel between the East and the West resumed. The Tang Dynasty was a very special period in Chinese history where there was a broad policy of tolerance and interest in fostering foreign religions. Alopen completed the first Christian book in Chinese The Sutra of Jesus the Messiah in 638.
Sian, China. The oldest Christian site in Asia has been discovered dating back to 638 AD. The site which is near the ancient Chinese capital of Sian has shattered previous understanding of the role of Christianity in China, Japan and Asia.
As we can see much speaks for Christianity as an integral part of Imperial China’s society. In appreciation for the good of the Eastern Christians an Imperial Decret was proclaimed that gave permission to build a church. Later another Imperial Decret to the The Church of the East was issued promoting Alopen to be Great Spiritual Lord, Protectorf the Empire, Metropolitan of Chang An. The names of the T'ang emperors are mentioned and praised as benefactors, some sending their portraits to be hung in the monastery and providing generous patronage. In return, the priests prayed for them and their ancestors daily. The arrival of 17 reinforcements from TaCh'in in 744 is mentioned which is in harmony with a Syrian church record of the departure. The nine Chinese manuscripts and two Syriac ones found in China--some of them found in a cave sealed in 1036 in Tun-huang With one claiming that it was 641 years since Jesus Messiah was born and another giving the Chinese dating corresponding to 717--are also strong evidence of the presence of the Christians in China. These manuscripts will be described and examined for their theological content later.
Striking evidence of these early Christian times is presented by the remains of the monastery built at Chou-chih where the Monument vas found.
Further, tombstones with "Nestorian" crosses on them, in areas where the local records indicate they date from the Tang era of the eighth and ninth centuries, have been found in different places in China.
The Tun-huang cave of western China, sealed, as mentioned earlier, in 1036 and not opened until about 1900, contained over 2,000 manuscripts, including some Christian ones. Also it had a painting on its walls of a Christian bishop on horseback, carrying a bishop's rod with a "Nestorian" cross on the end. In addition there was in the cave a silk screen painting of a robed man wearing a crown with a gold cross, with two other crosses around his neck, holding a bishop's rod. It seems to be beyond doubt a painting of an Oriental Christian bishop of the pre-1000 A.D. era.
2.4.6 The East (Nestorian) Church and India (34-800 A.D.)
All the traditions we have about the coming of the Gospel to India agree that it came from or through Mesopotamia to get there. It is clear that Syrian Aramaic Christianity is what was offered to converts in North and South India. This map shows the locations of known early Christian sites in India and Sri Lanka. There is a controversy about the existence or influence of the Assyrian Church of East (Nestorians) in Malabar (Kerala) before the 15th century. Some say that this Church (Nestorian) had been in India, as early as 4th century itself. The Jacobite Syrian Church strictly rejects such an influence by Nestorians as false records, probably due to a wrong perception what the Nestorianians really believed. As the Nestorian Confession of faith shows they indeed believed in the death of Christ on the cross. Jacobinit Kottapparambil uses such this as his main argument against early Nestorian activity in India.
2.4.7 Nestorian Churches in Bahrein:
Interestingly, it was during the 3rd or 4th centuries A.D. that many inhabitants of Bahrain appear to have adopted the new Christian faith. It is a fact that the Nestorian group of Christianity was well-established in Bahrain and on the Arabian side of the Gulf by the early 5th century. Church records show that Bahrain was the seat of two of the five Nestorian bishoprics existing on the Arabian side of the Gulf at the time of the arrival of Islam. It is uncertain when the two bishoprics were dissolved though they are known to have survived until 835A.D.
2.4.8 Proofs for Early Nestorian (Assyrian) Christianity in Japan
Scholars say Christianity arrived in Japan centuries before Xavier came. Contrary to popular view, Christianity in Japan dates back centuries before the 1549 arrival of Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier, a Christian evangelist and other researchers claim. - American Reverend Ken Joseph claims that Christianity first came to the Far East roughly 1,800 years ago along the "Silk Road," passing through China to Nara, central Japan. - Evidence of this according to Reverend Joseph is a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew in old Chinese script, dating back to the ninth century, found inside the Koryuji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, near Nara. - This temple is cited by at least one historian as having been built about 818 atop a Christian building erected in 603 that was destroyed by fire . –
According to Joseph, "many Buddhist temples were built on top of old, burned down Christian churches left in ruins. Diligent research today can still uncover these lost relics." - Researcher M.L. Young says that one of the most sacred objects of the Nishi Honganji Buddhist Temple, founded by Kobo Daishi in 806 after his contact with a Nestorian Christian monastery in Beijing, is "the Lord of the Universe's Discourse on Almsgiving," a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount and other Matthean passages. - Christianity was referred to as the "luminous religion" in Chinese records referring to Nestorian missioners.
Also, several artifacts and statues that once had Christian crosses carved into them, but which had been subsequently been erased or modified by Buddhist followers, can be found even today. Nestorian Christianity dates back to the first century of the Christian era. Japanese researchers say that the first bearers of Christianity to Japan were the people from the (Nestorian) Assyrian Church of the East who came to Japan from the Silk Road cities of Mesopotamia, and Persia starting around the fifth century onwards.
In both Japan and Korea, evidence of a past early Christian presence is visible. Two beams of an ancient temple, dating from the late seventh century, with crosses on them and having inscriptions identified by professor Sayce as being "in an alphabet akin to Syriac," are in the Tokyo National Museum. In northwest Japan is a large tomb, dating from about the same time, known to the local people as "the tomb of Jesus." In all probability it is the tomb of a "Nestorian" Christian who preached Jesus, perhaps even bore His name, who was buried there in the tomb period. Elsewhere in Japanese history the Persian is referred to as Rimitsu, the physician. The Empress Komyo was very much influenced by his teaching and later built a hospital, an orphanage and a leprosarium, works of mercy typical of the "Nestorian" practical Christianity, but not of the Buddhism of that day.
One of the most sacred objects of the Shingon sect of Buddhism at the Nishi-Honganji Temple in Kyoto, founded by Kobo Daishi after he returned in 806 from China's capital and contact with the "Nestorian" monastery there, is a copy of the early missionary manuscript, "The Lord of the Universe's Discourse on Almsgiving," a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount and other Matthew passages. It is said that Shiriran spent hours daily studying this Christian document.
The oldest structure in ancient Kyoto is the Lecture Hall of the Koryuji Buddhist Temple, rebuilt in 1165. According to Teshima, the original building was not Buddhist but Christian, erected in 603. This building burned down and was rebuilt about 818 as the Koryuji Buddhist Temple. When this writer visited it in 1976, he was given a pamphlet describing something of the temple's history but nothing of its possible Christian origin.
Amazingly, however, the pamphlet had on the cover page as the first two of five Chinese ideographs the characters Tai Shin, the same being the first two on the famous Nestorian Stone (in Chinese Ta Ch'in) indicating the Mediterranean-Mesopotamian area homeland of the missionaries. Immediately following the Tai Shin, in parentheses, was uzu masa in Japanese hira gana script. Saeki claims that the ethnic origin of these two, non-Japanese words (the meaning of which Japanese scholars can only speculate) is the Aramaic Yeshu Meshiach, Jesus Messiah. Remarkably the temple thus bears the names of its original identity, Tai Shin, the place of origin of the religion and the missionaries who brought it, and of Jesus Christ, the One once worshipped at that ancient church. The identification of Uzu Masa with the God of gods and Lord of the earth could not be clearer.
The most revered object in the Koryuji Temple is the pine carving of a sitting Miroko (Maitreya) Buddha, brought over from North Korea in the ninth century. The features, including a large, thin nose, are Semitic, not Far Eastern. This is the Buddha of the next coming, whose return to earth will bring marvelous deliverance to all living beings, a concept that arose in Buddhism about the beginning of the fourth century A.D. in India, at a time when Christianity had made great progress there. Maitreya is held to be the Hindi version of the Greek word Metatron, change of time, denoting the time of the coming Messianic deliverance and new age. The concept of welfare and charity was almost non-existent in Japan’s Buddhism; Buddhism was the religion for the country and the rulers of those days. Further inspection of Buddhism in Korea and China reveals that the practice of welfare or charity work was totally unknown. On other hand, this kind of welfare and charity work was widely practiced by Keikyotos throughout the Silk Road. They built aid support centers/facilities like the "Seyaku-in," Ryobyo-in," "Hiden-in," and "Kyoden-in." According to Professor Sakae Ikeda of Kyoto University, indeed there was a Keikyoto aide to Shotoku Taishi. During the time of Shotoku Taishi, there were some Keikyotos unofficially present in Japan.
Professor Ikeda says the name of this Keikyoto was "Maru Toma." In Aramaic "Maru" means teacher and "Toma" means Thomas. The name is derived from the Apostle Thomas, the other more common name used was Keikyotos. Those Maru Thoma or Keikyotos influenced the welfare and charity work of Shotoku Taishi. The Keikyo also touched Kukai and Shinran, who are well known names in the Japanese Buddhist world. When we read their writings, one cannot help but think, that "this is close to teachings of Christianity."
This too is the reason why Japanese Christian scholars believe, Keikyotos have influenced Japanese culture and tradition in an immeasurable way long before Latin rite Christianity arrived in Japan.
2.4.9 Proofs for Early Nestorian (Assyrian) Christianity in Korea
In southwest Korea there is a cave with an entrance said to be in the pattern of the Christian cave-churches of Syria. Some 16 stone plaques are built into the walls with figures and implements carved on them which do not represent Koreans or their culture but rather seem similar to Syrian Christian scenes. The cave was built in the seventh century in honor of a "black monk" who is believed to have come to Korea the previous century. Dr. Holdcroft continued that in the ancient Korean literature, which is all written in the Chinese character, there are even references to God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). `But,' said he, `I have never found any Korean scholar who knew where those quotations came from'."
The Korean alphabet, a very simple one to learn, is held to have been a gift of Christian missionaries over a millennium ago, to have been revived by a Korean king some 500 years ago and then discarded, only to have been revived again by Protestant missionaries for the gospel's propagation during the past century. In the providence of God, the gospel was indeed preached throughout Asia but through compromise, ignorance of Scripture, and distortion, it became so perverted as to become almost indistinguishable from paganism and was lost to the peoples to whom it came.
2.5. The East Church Mission Efforts
During the years 503-800 A.D., the East Church in its form as Nestorian church according to Gibbon has had its greatest extent of "Nestorian" Christianity by the beginning of the ninth century. He says," its numbers, with those of the Jacobites, were computed to surpass the Greek and Latin rite communions."
Its emphasize on teaching, learning, medical aid and the development of local resources for the sake of demonstrating Gods eternal power (even sometimes with poor results) was a strong blueprint of this period of its mission efforts.
Map: From Central Asia – Korea, Japan: Nestorian Churches /Missioncenters
3. The African Church Expanding among Fighting Islam (503-800)
3.1 The Traditions of African Christian Mission Churches
3.2 The Egyptian Coptic Church
3.3 The Christian Kingdom of Aksum
3.4 The Nubian Christian Kingdom and its Unions
3.5 African Church’ Mission Efforts: ___________________________________________________________
3.1 The Traditions of African Christian Mission 503-800 A.D.)
3.1.1 Time-line of African Churches (500-800)• 500 North Africa is in the hands of Vandal rulers, adherents of a form of Christianity called Arianism. The Vandals are few in number, however, and rely on the Romanized African elite to maintain local institutions. The Western Church based in Rome remains powerful, with the Latin language dominant. Cities founded under Roman rule begin to lose vitality, as the urban population dwindles and civic buildings fall into disrepair.
• 533 The Byzantine commander Belisarius leads an army into North Africa and conquers it for Emperor Justinian I within a year. An edict of 535 establishes the power of the Church of Rome over the region, although disputes persist over matters of doctrine and leadership. The Byzantines assert their rule by restoring some North African cities and even building new churches, for example, at Leptis Magna and Timgad (ancient Thamugadi). Nomadic raiders on the margins of their domain, however, present a constant threat. The Byzantines dismantle the ruins of cities near the border and reuse the stones in defensive fortresses.
• 644–656 Muslim Arab armies, under the reign of the Rightly Guided Caliph cUthman ibn cAffan, launch raids into and conquer parts of North Africa.
• 670 Under the leadership of Arab warrior cUqba ibn Nafic, Muslim armies fight local Berber tribes and conquer an area stretching from present-day northern Tunisia to Tangier (ancient Tingis) in Morocco, establishing the Umayyad dynasty in North Africa. Ibn Nafic founds the city of Kairouan (al-Qayrawan, Tunisia).
• 800 Sijilmasa (in present-day Morocco) is founded as the departure point for caravans between North Africa and the western Sudan.
3.1.2 Integrating African Christian Traditions into a Changing Global Church.
This period of time is characterized by the effects of the Calcedoneon Church Councils, forcing the Coptic Orthdox Church of Egypt to go its own way. Africa was not separate from the Near East or the Mediterranean. Some connections across the Mediterranean were stronger than those within Africa. The Latin-speaking West, including Latin-speaking North Africa, was more closely aligned with Rome than its eastern neighbor in Africa, Egypt. The transformation of the Roman Empire into a Christian state, the Byzantine Empire, and the transfer of the capital from Latin-speaking Rome to the Greek-speaking East, to Constantinople, previously called Byzantium, ultimately led to the separate developments of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches and after Chalcedon to the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, called heretic and “monophysite”. As a result of that all those branches (The Latin Catholic and the Byzantine Greek Melkite Church and later the Syrian Nestorian Churches, pending on personnel, economics and political framework tried to bring in their traditions. – The Latin - Greek and Syrian Rite Traditions (the later through the close connection of Christian churches of Ethiopia with the Arab Peninsula Syriac [Nestorian] churches) all influenced North East African Christian churches. This on the long run weakened the churches. Since the so called “differences” in Christianity were based on misunderstandings, the local Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches integrated most of those other traditions in their traditions.
3.2 The Egyptian Coptic Church:
The name Copt comes from the early Greek name for Egypt, Aigyptos. The Coptic Church has given the world St. Cyril, the philosopher Origen, and began the monastic tradition in Christianity. While the Coptic Church has flourished and spread around the world, it does maintain its own Papal Leadership separate from that of Rome and is often categorized as one of the Eastern Orthodox faiths. The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church Ths the portion of the Church of Alexandria, which broke from the Byzantine churches in the wake of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451. Sharing a common heritage before with the Chalcedonian Church of Alexandria, it traces its origins to the Apostle Mark. The church is one of the Oriental Orthodox churches. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria cares for about 18 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt and abroad, besides being the Mother Church of both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches.
The Catechetical School of Alexandria is the oldest catechetical school in the world. St. Jerome records that the Christian School of Alexandria was founded by St. Mark himself. Around 190 A.D. under the leadership of the scholar Pantanaeus, the school of Alexandria became an important institution of religious learning, where students were taught by scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement, Didymus, and the native Egyptian Origen, who was considered the father of theology and who was also active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies. Origen wrote over 6,000 commentaries of the Bible in addition to his famous Hexapla.
The Coptic Church Doctrine: The Coptic Church regards itself as having never believed in monophysitism the way it was portrayed in the Council of Chalcedon, but rather as having always believed in miaphysitism (a doctrine that Oriental Orthodox Churches regard as correct and orthodox). In that council, monophysitism meant believing in one nature of Jesus Christ. Copts believe that the Lord is perfect in his divinity, and he is perfect in his humanity, but his divinity and His humanity were united in one nature called "the nature of the incarnate Word," which was articulated by Cyril of Alexandria. Copts believe in two natures "human" and "divine" that are united in one "without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration" (from the declaration of faith at the end of the Coptic divine liturgy).
The Coptic Church regards herself as having been misunderstood at the Council of Chalcedon.
Many Egyptian Christians went to the desert during the 3rd century, and remained there to pray and work and dedicate their lives to seclusion and worship of God. This was the beginning of the monastic movement, which was organized by Anthony the Great, Paul, the world's first anchorite, Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Pachomius the Cenobite in the 4th century. Coptic Christian Monasticism was born in Egypt and was instrumental in the formation of the Coptic Orthodox Church character of submission, simplicity and humility, thanks to the teachings and writings of the Great Fathers of Egypt's Deserts.
Egyptian monasticism attracted the attention of Christians in other parts of the world, who visited Egypt, many bringing monastic ideas home with them, and spreading monasticism through the Christian world. St. Benedict of Nursia founded monasteries in the 6th century on the model of Pachomius, but in a stricter form A great number of these monasteries are still flourishing and have new vocations to this day.
3.3 The Christian Kingdom of Aksum (Abbyssinia later called Ethiopia)
At about the same time, Ezana became the first Christian emperor of the powerful and wealthy kingdom of Abbyssinia (Ethiopia) that held sway over the horn of Africa and the Red Sea region, an extremely important region for long-range trade. Ezana’s capital at Axum was the first Christian center in Ethiopia. The Aksumites were a people formed from the mix of Kushitic speaking people in Ethiopia and Semitic speaking people in southern Arabia who settled the territory across the Red Sea around 500 BC. The Aksumites lived in the Ethiopian highlands near the Red Sea, and so enjoyed a strategic position in the trade routes between Yemen (in the south of the Arabian penninsula) and the cities of Nubia. They spoke a strongly Semitic language and wrote in Semitic characters.
King Ezana I was the paramout king of a large empire that included Axum, Arabia, Saba, Abyssinia, Beja, and Moroe. Few kings in ancient times could have found a more powerful group of nations to rule. The whole region that included all these countries was later called Axum. As a great as Ezana I was, he still followed in the traditions of the kings of Nubia and Egyptin at least one way. He still fought the Beja people who live in the desert. Ezana, one of the greatest of the Aksumite rulers, conducted a number of successful campaigns in the early fourth century, and described them in a series of stone inscriptions which were written in Sabaean, Ge'ez and Greek. In these texts his expeditions to several parts of the country, including lowland areas (where camels were the principal means of transport) and lofty Samen mountains, as well as westwards to the confluence of the Blue and White Niles in what is now the Sudan.
The next important ruler of Aksum was King Kaleb. In the 523 A.D. he undertook an expedition to the south Arabia, to avenge the persecution of Chritians there. One of the results of this expedition was that part of South Arabia was brought under Aksumite control and remained so until its occupation by the Persians half a century or so later. The Aksumite kingdom began to decline about the 900 c.e.
At this time another kingdom emerged much further south in Lasta. A new ruling dynasty, named the Zagwe, gained power there. Their capital was at Roha, which was later renamed Lalibala, after king Lalibala, the most notable ruler of this dynasty. He is believed to have built the mayority of the town's twelve famous rock-hewn churches which have been said to rank among the wonders of the world.
3.3 The Nubian Christian Kingdom und Nubian Kingdom Unions (503-800)
3.3.1 The Christian Kingdom of Nubia
Nubia was one of the few countries in the ancient world converted to Christianity without a prior experience of Roman rule… The Nubians used the liturgy of St. Mark, and decorated the walls of their churches with murals that showed their royals dressed in Byzantine style.
Ancient Map: Lower and Upper Nubia w. Cities.
By the sixth century, three states had emerged as the political and cultural heirs of the Meroitic kingdom. Nobatia in the north, also known as Ballanah, had its capital at Faras (now Egypt); the central kingdom, Muqurra, was centered at Dunqulah, the old city on the Nile about 150 kilometers south of modern Dunqulah; and Alwa, in the heartland of old Meroe in the south, had its capital at Sawba According to tradition, a missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora arrived in Nobatia and started preaching the gospel about 540.
The process of conversion began earlier, however, under the aegis of Coptic missionaries from Egypt, who in the previous century had brought Christianity to the Abyssinians.
The Nubian kings accepted the Monophysite Christianity practiced in Egypt and acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Coptic patriarch of Alexandria over the Nubian church. A hierarchy of bishops named by the Coptic patriarch and consecrated in Egypt directed the church's activities and wielded considerable secular power. The church sanctioned a sacerdotal kingship, confirming the royal line's legitimacy. In turn the monarch protected the church's interests.
The emergence of Christianity reopened channels to Mediterranean civilization and renewed Nubia's cultural and ideological ties to Egypt. The church encouraged literacy in Nubia through its Egyptian-trained clergy and in its monastic and cathedral schools. The use of Greek in liturgy eventually gave way to the Nubian language, which was written using an indigenous alphabet that combined elements of the old Meroitic and Coptic scripts. Coptic, however, often appeared in ecclesiastical and secular circles. Additionally, early inscriptions have indicated a continuing knowledge of colloquial Greek in
Picture: Old Nubian Language Scripture Text
Nubia as late as the twelfth century. In the early 600’s the Arabs conquered Egypt, but they did not conquer Nubia. They were repelled by Nubia’s brilliant archers and formed a treaty, recognizing them as an independent, Non-Muslim state. After the seventh century, Arabic gained importance in the Nubian kingdoms, especially as a medium for commerce. Muslim Arab invaders, who in 640 had conquered Egypt, posed a threat to the Christian Nubian kingdoms. Most historians believe that Arab pressure forced Nobatia and Muqurra to merge into the kingdom of Dunqulah sometime before 700. Although the Arabs soon abandoned attempts to reduce Nubia by force, Muslim domination of Egypt often made it difficult to communicate with the Coptic patriarch or to obtain Egyptian-trained clergy. As a result, the Nubian church became isolated from the rest of the Christian world. The Christian Nubian kingdoms, which survived for many centuries, achieved their peak of prosperity and military power in the ninth and tenth centuries. As late as around 1400 the Christian Nubians were converted to Islam.
Map: Today’s Nubia
After the conversion of the Nubian peoples to Christianity in the sixth century A.D., there began a period of cultural and political advance in the Sudan, and gave cohesion to the riverain kingdoms already existing before the arrival of the missionaries. Combining with the underlying native culture, new elements from the Mediterranean produced an intellectual and artistic activity, shown in the archaeological remains, which contradicts the impression of barbarism gained from reading the mainly hostile Arabic accounts of the country.
3.3.2 The Christian Kingdom of Noba / Nobatae
In the year A.D. 297 the Roman Emperor Diocletian called in a people known as the Nobate from the oases of the western Egyptian desert, to defend the southern frontier of his Empire at Aswan from the raids of the Blemmyes, who are probably the Beja of the Red Sea Hills. These Noba and Nobatae settled along the river, and soon the original population had intermarried with them and adopted their language. The Blemmyes were defeated, as is known from the Greek inscription of Silko at Kalabsha which may be dated about A.D. 530. Here Silko, who calls himself 'Basiliskos', or kinglet of the Nobatae, describes fighting the Blemmyes from Ibrim to Shellal and extracting an oath of submission from them. In the account of John of Ephesus, two missions set out from Constantinople in about the year A.D. 540, one representing the orthodox or Melkite party and under the patronage of the Emperor Justinian, the other, supported by the Empress Theodora, was of the Monophysite theology, which had been declared heretical a hundred years before at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451).
3.3.2 The Christian Kingdom of Makuria
In the 6th century the majority of the Nubians were converted to Christianity, inlcuding the kingodm of Makuria. Makuria (Arabic: مقرة; al-Mukurra or al-Muqurra) was a kingdom located in what is today Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt, between the kingdoms Alodia in the south and Nobatia in the north . It was one of a group of Nubian kingdoms that emerged in the centuries after the fall of the Kushite Kingdom, which had dominated the region from approximately 800 BC to AD 350. Makuria originally covered the area along the Nile River from the Third Cataract to somewhere between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts. It also had control over the trade routes, mines, and oases to the east and west. Its capital was Dongola (or Dunqulah), and the kingdom is sometimes known by the name of its capital.
22.214.171.124 Dongola Becomes Capital of Makuria and Nobatia (650-710 A.D.) At some date between A.D. 650 and A.D. 710 the two countries of Nobatia and Makuria became one. The conditions under which this unification came about, and its exact date, are obscure. If the king Merkurios, who has left an inscription in the temple at Taifa, which is in the territory of Nobatia, dated A.D. 710, is the same as the Merkurios king of Dongola, who is referred to as the "New Constantine", then it would seem that Makuria had conquered the northern kingdom. But about this time also took place the complete winning of the country to the Monophysite Church, and it seems unlikely that a victory of Makuria, which had long championed the Melkite faith, would lead to the triumph of the rival church of the defeated country.
126.96.36.199 Shortage of Melkite Bishops: The victory of Monophysitism became inevitable after the Arab conquest of Egypt, when the Melkites were considered as supporters of the Byzantine Empire, whilst the nationalist (Coptic) church was favoured by the conquerors and, during a period of nearly a hundred years, from about A.D.637 to 731, there was no Melkite patriarch in Egypt. Consequently the Nubians were unable to get Melkite Bishops, and the Monophysites took advantage of this to assert their supremacy.
This unification was of importance for Nubia, as it enabled a stronger resistance to Arab raids, and the ending of political and religious strife facilitated cultural development. Although now under one king, Nobatia, or Maris, as it also seems to have been called, maintained its own identity and had a governor appointed by the king of Nubia, known to the Arabs as sahib el jebel, "Lord of the Mountain ", and to the Nubians by the Greek title of " Eparch ". A representation of one of these officials is to be seen in a painting in the church at Abd el Qadir, near Wadi Halfa.
3.3.3 The Christian Kingdom of Alodia or Alwa
It was the southernmost of the three kingdoms of Christian Nubia; the other two were Nobatia and Makuria to the north. Much about this kingdom is still unknown, despite its thousand year existence and considerable power and geographic size. Due to fewer excavations, far less is known about Alodia than its northern counterparts. Most of what is known about Christian Nubia comes from contemporary Egyptian sources and the intensive archaeological work done in Lower Nubia prior to the flooding of many sites by the Aswan High Dam. Neither of these sources shed much light on what went on the Upper Nubia during this period. Alodia's location in modern Sudan rather than Egypt has also hampered excavations as the greater instability of that country has long hampered work.
The origins of the kingdom are little known. The first reference to the Alodia might be a Meroitic stella from the reign of Nastasen, that mention a region known as Alut that might be a reference to Alodia. The first concrete reference is made by Pliny the Elder who includes Alwa on his list of towns in Nubia. How Alodia is related to the ancient kingdom of Meroe is one of the most important questions. Alodia was centered on what was the heart of the Meroitic Empire. By the time of Ezana of Axum it seems that Alwa was controlled by the Noba rather than the Kushites.
Alodia was converted to Christianity in the 6th century by missionaries sent by Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. Monophysite Christianity flourished in Alodia, more so than other Christian sects. Alodia was centered south of the great bend in the Nile river and south into the Gezira with its capital at Soba. P.L. Shennie mentions that the name of a king David, who died in 1015, was learned from a recently recovered tombstone. At some points in time it seems as though Alodia and Makuria merged into one state, perhaps as a result of the close dynastic links between the two. If the two states did merge at certain times, Alodia regained its independence.
Alodia was the furthest of the Nubian states from the influences of Egypt and thus that last of the Nubian states to be converted to Islam. The conventional date for the final destruction of Alodia is the Funj conquest of the region in the early sixteenth century. Archaeological evidence seems to show that the kingdom was in decline as early as the thirteenth century. Near the end of this century al-Harrani reports that the capital had been moved to Wayula. Later Mamluk emissaries reported that the region was divided among nine rulers.
Alodia seems to have preserved its identity after the Funj conquest and its incorporation into the Kingdom of Sennar. The Alodians, who became known as the Abdallab, revolted under Ajib the Great and formed the semi-autonomous Kingdom of Dongola that persisted for several centuries.
4. Islam Forces To New Ways of Christian Mission (503-812 A.D.)
4.1 Results of the Latin-Celtic / Latin German Churches Mission Ministries
4.2 Results of the East Church Mission Efforts during 503-800 AD
4.3 Results of Mission Efforts in Africa
4.4 Bible Translations between 503-800 A.D.
4.5 Result of Christian Mission Efforts from 503-800 AD
4.1 Results of the Latin-Celtic / Latin German Churches Mission Ministries As the Roman empire had collapsed, this period was characterized by two major movements, the rising mission movement of the Irish monks in the West, which began to fill in the spiritual vacuum of the victorius “barbarians of Europe” and the rising movement of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa. When the Roman Empire capital Rome was conquered by German tribes, Christian mission ministries had to face new challenges. New tribes with unknown languages entered Europe. The time, between 500-800, was characterized by large scale migrations. Islam found its way to Europe through the Iberian penninsula. Mohamend, its founder, taught blind fanatism. His followers used military means to fight and by doing so destroyed several holy Christian places in areas and cities like:
1. Syria: 635
2. Palastina 636
3. Egypt 640
4. Persia 651
5. Carthago 697
6. Tarik 711
7. Spain 718
After all, Charles Martell fought the battle against the Muslim invaders at Tours and Portiers (732 A.D.) and threw them back. By doing so, Europe was probably saved from Islam and Islam was pushed back from the Iberian penninsula. Although Charlemagne made many mistakes, we should not forget he understood his kingdom as God-given. He was the first to use the wording ”by God’s Grace” in his documents. Everyone was forced to go to church on Sunday by the time the bell would ring and to pay 10% of his income to the church. All newborn children had to be baptized by the time their first year of life was finished. Also the outer conversion of the Saxon tribe later changed inwardly.
4.2 Results of the East Church Mission Efforts during 503-800 AD
As the Roman Catholic Church in the west and the Islam in the East increased their mission efforts, the Byzantine Church, after its split with the African partner, focused north into the Balkan and Russia. The area east of the German tribes and the Adriatic Sea was populated by a rich assortment of peoples, mostly Slavs who had migrated westward and southward as well as various nomaid groups (Avars, Bulgars and Magyars), who had moved in from Asia. The Salvs were divded into three linguistic sub groups: western (Czechs, Moravians, Slovaks), and eastern (Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians, Ruthenians). The Syriac rite East Church enjoyed fast growth. The Syriac rite Nestorian and Jacobite churches spread the gospel to Central Asia, China (Tang Dynastie) and even as far as Korea and Japan. The Jacobite Church sent missionaries to India. In the Middle East, at the beginning Islam promised especially Syriac rite Christian churches protection, but this quickly became just politics. On the horizon church leaders already could see dark coulds rising.
4.3 Results of Mission Efforts in Africa
The Coptic Church increasingly began taking care of the North-Eastern African churches. – The kingdom of Aksum lost much of its strength while defending its interests on the Arab Peninsula to protect Christian villages against invading Muslim tribes. Arrangments for peaceful coexistence with Islam in Egypt did not pay off for Christian mission. The absence of a secular juridical system forced the churches to abide to unfair conditions like paying more taxes than Muslim did in order to be left unharrassed. Pressure against Christianity began to grow. The fight to defend Christian values increased, missionary zeal was challenged as times of war quickly limited the daily resources and projects of evangelism and expansion with the main exception of Nubia, which through trade, despite big challenges, managed to gain influence and establish a Christian culture.
4.4 Bible Translations between 503-800 A.D.
4.4.1 Within the Latin Rite Church:
Gospel of John (Old English, 735), Old High German (Gospel of Matthew, 748).
During the Early Middle Ages translation, particularly of the Old Testament was discouraged. However, there seem to have been some fragmentary Old English Bible translations, notably a lost translation of the Gospel of John into Old English written by the Venerable Bede, prepared shortly before his death around the year 735. Though, there is no proof for it. An Old High German version of the gospel of Matthew dates to 748 A.D. Charlemagne in ca. 800 A.D. charged Alcuin with the revision of the Latin Vulgate.
4.4.2 Within the Syriac Rite Church:
The Syrohexapla. The name Syrohexapla was given to the translation from Origen’s revised Septuagint, while the the Peshitta an earlier Syriac Bible was given the status of a "standard version" of the Bible amidst a variety of other Syriac texts. The name Peshitta was first used by Moses bar Kepha (d. 903), maybe to distinguish it from this new, but more complex Syriac version, translated ca. 616. The Peschita was written before Syrian Christians divided into two communities in 431 and therefore this Syriac version was accepted by both the Jacobites (Monophysites) and the Nestorians.
4.4.3 Within the Greek Rite Church. During this period of time no further translation was made by the Greek Rite / Byzantinian Church.
4.5 Results of Christian Mission Efforts from 503-800 AD
Christianity at many places had taken roots at the same time the Western and the Byzantine Church tried to secure its existence through a close bond with the government. The church at many places tended to become a political instrument for secular rulers. –
The bubonic plague and the continued unrest at the borders of the former Roman Empire lead to a liason of those border nations against Christianity. Islam can be seen as an answer to the cruel time of the Roman Empire and failed attempts to restrict political minded church leaders from schisms within Christianity. The church grew on all continents. The North African Christianity by calling them “monophysites and “heretics” followed by massacres among Coptic Christians executed by the Melkite (Greek Rite) Church. The price for this mistake of the old church leadership was very high. From then on the Latin Rite, and the Byzanz Greek Rite (Orthodox) churches were challenged to review their doctrines and mission methods and to first root the gospel in uneducated, uncivilized tribes and nations, before they could regain enough resources for large-scale cross-cultural mission efforts. At the same time through Islam the communication channels between East and West were beginning to suffer. For the vast areas of newly converted tribes and nations in Central and East Asia times as the trade routes dried up normal mission work support the Nestorian teaching centers became increasingly difficult. And yet at the same time the East church for the first time in history so many Asians had turned to Christianity and were reading God’s word in their mother tongue. It did not seem as more cooperation with the Western or Byzanz churches would even be necessary. Nobody believed that their situation would dramatically change soon.