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The Early Church First Five Centuries Spread of Christianity Beyond the Roman Empire.

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1 The Early Church First Five Centuries Spread of Christianity Beyond the Roman Empire

2 Spread of Christianity  For most Christians today, regardless of denomination, the word ‘missionary’ conjures up images of European or North American Catholics and Protestants working – often in a culturally insensitive way – amongst the peoples of Africa, Asia, and South America. Indeed, many of the Christians of Europe and North America presume that all branches of Christianity other than their own are the products of such missionary activity, and that such churches thus date back to the sixteenth century at the earliest, but more probably to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Such perceptions are not only politically dangerous (allowing ancient, often pre-Islamic, communities to be caricatured as the remnants of European colonial interference), and theological detrimental (depriving world Christianity of a wealth of profound insights into the relationship of humanity with the divine), but they are also fundamentally flawed. By the early fourteenth century the most widespread church on earth was not that of Latin Christianity, which is still largely confined to western Europe, but Syriac Christianity which spread from Egypt in the West to Beijing (Peking) in the East, and from the tips of Arabia and India in the South to Lake Baikal in Serbia in the North. Although much of this was eclipsed of the Syrian churches is still of great relevance for contemporary Christianity.  Ewa Bablicka-Witakowski, Sebastian P. Brock, David Taylor, Witold Witakowski, The Hidden Pearl, The Heirs of the Ancient Aramaic Heritage (Trans World Film Italia, 2001), 167.

3 Spread of Christianity  Jerusalem  Antioch/Syria  Alexandria/Egypt  Rome/Italy  Asia Minor/Cappadocia, Constantinople  N. Africa (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria)  Persia/Iran/Iraq/East & West Syria  India  Armenia  Egypt  Ethiopia  China

4 Persian Church Church of the East- Nestorian Seleucia -Ctesiphon Edessa Nisibis

5 Persian Church Church of the East- Nestorian  Capital of Persian see – Seleucia-Ctesiphon  Martha – daughter of the covenant  Benai – Qiama (sons & daughters of the Resurrection)  Monasticism sustain faith. They provide: Safe haven Worship and prayer Texts copied and preserved Place for theological debate

6 Persian Church (cont) Aphrahat – The Persian Sage  Head of Mar-Mattai monastic community- in Mosul on Tigris River  In dialogue w/ Jewish Persian Rabbis Biblical interpretation Meaning of Messiah Place of Gentiles in history of salvation  Work free of Hellenistic philosophy  Represents orthodox Christianity in the East  Feminine nature of Holy Spirit.

7 Persian Church (cont) Ehprem the Syrian (306-73) – Harp of the Spirit  Constant change of frontiers between Romans and Persians  Ephrem resettled in Edessa after Roman retreat from Nisibis [363 Julian lost war]  Deacon – teacher- malphano  Social involvement – food drive after famine- hospital

8 Persian Church (cont) Ehprem the Syrian (306-73) – Harp of the Spirit  Writings: Homilies, commentaries, theological treatises Polemics against Marcion, Mani, Bardaisan (teacher of Mani) Hymns – Hymns on Paradise. Hymns sung to present day in Syriac Liturgies Writings translated to Greek and Latin (during his life time) and later to Coptic, Armenian, & Slavonic.

9 Persian Church (cont)  409: Shah Yazdegerd I issued edict of tolerance for Christians  410: Synod of Isaac- indicates a well established Church in north and central Asia (bishops from frontier city of Samarkand present) Adopt Nicean Creed Adopt liturgical calendar Establish major bishoprics Seat in Seleucia-Ctesiphon Head of Church – Catholicos  424: Synod of Dadyeshu Catholicos equal in authority to bishop of Rome and Alexandria (Nicea 325) and Constantinople (381) Christians = melet Syriac culture No images and crosses without crucifix

10 Persian Church (cont) The School of Edessa (imp by 5 th c)  Before 431: two nature Christology language of Antioch  Persian and Syrian students attend school  Scriptural exegesis – central in curriculum  Strong translation efforts Greek → Syriac  Diodore of Tarsus-Theodore of Mopsuestia (2 nature Christology)  After 431: Bishop Rabbula follows Cyril of Alexandria in school of Edessa  After 451: School of Edessa totally Cyrillian in language  Liturgy and sermons reflect theology

11 Persian Church (cont) The School of Nisibis  After 450: Bishop Hiba exiled, migrated to Persia w/ Barsauma (d 496) and Narsai (c. 399-503) and established school in Nisibis (1000 students)  Curriculum: scripture (influenced by Theodore of Mopsuestia – 2 nature Christology)  Accept Nicea & Chalcedon w/ emphasis on 2 nature Christology)

12 Persian Church (cont)  Independent church – office of bishop confirmed by shah  No state support  Monasteries imp to support church  Monasteries: Religious centers Educational centers Medicine (influential in court and mission) Translation of Greek medical texts into Syriac Monastic educational institutions taught: Philosophy (Aristotle) Theology Medicine Other sciences such as Mathematics, astronomy.

13 Persian Church (cont) Christians in Persia: Christian burial practices polluted water Christians not participate in sun and fire worship Christians practiced celibacy, marriage (no polygamy and incest) Ascetic spirituality [bishop Barsauma married to comply w/ Persian social practices – later abolished]

14 The Indian Church MALABAR (KERALA) INDIA

15 The Indian Church  Thomas the Apostle (1 st cent)  David, Bishop of Basra – traveled to India as missionary (before year 300)  Thomas of Cana – Persian Christian merchant Might be of Armenian descent Catholicos of Persia (Seleucia-Ctesiphon) established Indian Church hierarchy (bishop, priests, & deacons)  Theophilus Indian missionary to South Arabia Visited indigenous Christians in South India  Bishop of Rewardashir [near Persian Gulf] (early 5 th cent.) Metropolitan w/ authority on Church of India

16 The Indian Church (cont)  Liturgical language – Syriac  Christianity spread through: intermarriage slaves merchants as evangelists  Christians: an Indian cast  Cosmas Indicopleustes (the Indian navigator): 6 th cent Egyptian monk Reports of Christians in Ethiopia, India, Coast of Malabar, and Sri Lanka

17 The Indian Church (cont)  By the 6 th century Christians in India integrated in the society to the extent they had a separate caste. Indigenous Christians became part of the Church under Persian ecclesiastical authority  By the 8 th century Persian records indicate that the Indian Church had a metropolitan elected from their community & ordained in the presence of other bishops  According to Persian tradition, metropolitans were established with at least 6 bishops & there is no reason to doubt that this was applied to the Indian Church

18 The Indian Church (cont)  Indian sources indicate that two Armenian brothers came to India as missionaries in the 9 th century  9 th century records record the king grants land to the local Christian community  9 th century witnessed Christian immigration from Persia to India fleeing the Islamic persecution. They settled in Malabar (S. India). Indication of marriage between Persian & Indian Christians  They used the Syriac liturgy – used rice cake & palm wine  This helped maintain a distinct Christian identity & not be absorbed in the Indian religious world


20 West Syrian Church  Adopt Alexandrian One-Nature Christology though it is the Church of Antioch [source of 2 nature Christology]  Syrian Christians became non-Chalcedonians (i.e. accept the one nature Christology)  Syrian monastics more powerful than bishops  Simeon the Stylite Lived on a pillar of 40 years Healer Teacher Man of prayer

21 Church of Armenia ARMENIA

22 Church of Armenia  Armenia – buffer zone bet. Roman and Persian empires  Founder of Christianity in Armenia = Gregory the Illuminator Exiled to Roman Empire – convert to Christianity Convert his relative King Tiridates III, baptized on Jan 6, 303  Nation converts to Christianity  First Christian nation – before Constantine  In 439: patriarch Sahak (d. 439) & Mesrop the scribe (362-440) created alphabet, translated Bible, liturgy, & theological texts into Armenian  Catholicos of Armenia confirmed by Persian Shah

23 Church of Armenia (cont)  440s Shah force Zoroastrianism on people  451 people led by Christian priests confronted the Zoroastrian priests and Persian army  Christian faith imp role in Armenian identity & history (Arabs, Turkish holocaust, & Soviets)  Patriarch Hovsep executed in 454 followed by decades of martyrdom  Armenian church looks towards Constantinople  Armenian church accepts the one-nature Christology  Accept Emperor Zeno (d. 491) Henoticon (document of unity to unit Chalcedonians and non- Chalcedonians)

24 Church of Armenia (cont)  Synod of Dvin (506-508?) Bishops of Armenia and Georgia convene Reject 2-nature Christology Reject Nestorius and Tome of Leo  Constantinople rejects Henoticon  Georgia followed Constantinople (Chalcedon)  Armenia accepts Alexandrian One-Nature Christology

25 Church of Egypt EGYPT Alexandria

26 Church of Egypt  Athanasius: Anti-Arian, Nicene Creed – homoousious  Monasticism = the source of cross cultural and spiritual exchange in Christianity  Arab invasion 641  Hard times for Christians, 8 th century increased persecution Taxes Marginalized, invisible minority Arabic language official No new churches

27 Church of Egypt Monasticism  St. Anthony  Marin of Tours 4 th  Jerome 4 th  Paula 4 th  Eustochium 4 th  Melania the Younger 4 th  Patrick 5 th  Redegunde of Gaul 6 th  St. Pachomius  Etherea of Spain  Melania of Rome  Jerome  Rufinus  John Cassian  Basil the Great  Benedict of Nursia

28 Church of Egypt Monasticism  Shenouda the Archemandrite (d. 450)  Macarius the Great (300-90)  Sayings of the Desert Fathers  Gnostic books of Nag-Hammadi (Gospel of Judas )

29 One Nature Christology  Rise of power of the church of Constantinople (close to the Emperor)  Importance of Egyptian Church Wealth of Egypt – the grain basket of the whole Roman Empire Powerful spiritual & theological contribution 1. Monasticism 2. Athanasius – triumph in Nicea 3. Cyril of Alexandria – triumph in Ephesus – against Nestorius & theotokos

30 One nature Christology  St. Cyril of Alexandria’s theological formula: One nature of God the Word Incarnate

31 St. Athanasius The Word bore the infirmities of the flesh, as His own, for His was the flesh; and the flesh ministered to the works of the Godhead, because the Godhead was in it, for the Body was God’s.

32 St. Athanasius When there was need to raise Peter’s mother in law, who was sick of a fever, He stretched forth His hand humanly, but He stopped the illness divinely. And in the case of the man blind from birth, He gave forth from the flesh a human spittle, but divinely did He open the eyes through the clay. And in the case of Lazarus, He gave forth a human voice as man; but divinely as God, did He raise Lazarus from the dead.

33 For the One and Only Christ is not twofold, although He is understood as constituted out of two different elements into an inseparable unity; just as man also is understood to consist of soul and body, and yet is not twofold, but one out of both. But if we think aright we shall hold that both the human sayings and the Divine were spoken by One Person. Third Epistle of St. Cyril

34 Athanasius and Leo When there was need to raise Peter’s mother in law, who was sick of a fever, He stretched forth His hand humanly, but He stopped the illness divinely. And in the case of the man blind from birth, He gave forth from the flesh a human spittle, but divinely did He open the eyes through the clay. And in the case of Lazarus, He gave forth a human voice as man; but divinely as God, did He raise Lazarus from the dead. To feel hunger, thirst, and weariness, and to sleep is evidently human; but to satisfy thousands of men with five loaves, and to bestow living water on the Samaritan woman, the drinking of which would cause her who drank it to thirst no more; to walk on the surface of the sea with feet which did not sink, and to allay the “rising billows” by rebuking the tempest, is without doubt Divine. As then, to omit many other examples, it does not belong to the same nature to weep in an emotion of pity for a dead friend, and to raise that same friend from the dead with a word of power, after the stone over the tomb where he had been for four days buried had been removed; or, to hang on the wood and, changing the light into darkness to make all elements tremble; or, to be pierced with nails and to open the gates of Paradise to the faith of the robber; so it does not belong to the same nature to say, “I and the Father are One,” and “the Father is greater than I.”

35 One Nature Christology  Council of Chalcedon (451)  Depose Bishop Discours of Alexandria  Emperor appointed Proterius as bishop of Alexandria by military force  Alexandrian population elected Timothy Aelurus as bishop of Alexandria

36 One Nature Christology  In 482 Emperor Zeno issued the Henoticon drafted by Acacius bishop of Constantinople Cyril’s theology standard of orthodoxy Condemned Nestorius Avoided Chalcedon and Tome of Leo  Rome rejects Henoticon & excommunicates Acacius of Constantinople  Egyptian and Syrian churches did not accept Henoticon  After failure of Henoticon, Emperor & patriarch of Constantinople accepted Chalcedon  First division of the Universal Church

37 Church of Ethiopia (& Nubia) ETHIOPIA Eritrea Somalia Kenya NUBIA

38 Church of Ethiopia (& Nubia) Nubia Also known as Kush Imp city of Meroë attacked in 325 by Blemmyes and Nobatae Nubia Christianized by 500

39 Church of Ethiopia (&Nubia) Ethiopia:  Abyssinian or Ethiopian kingdom – capital Axum  Ethiopian church – independent – neither Roman nor Persian influence  Matthew first Apostle to Ethiopia  Acts 8:27 – an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury (Candace, queen of city of Meroë)  Story debated by Biblical scholars  Axum takes of Meroë  No account of Christianity till 4 th cent.

40 Church of Ethiopia Conversion of Ethiopia:  Meropius of Tyre – the teacher of Frumentius and Aedesius  Frumentius and Aedesius captured, sold into slavery to the King of Axum when ship was at an Ethiopian port  Frumentius tutors King’s son  Queen and son free Frumentius and he travels to Alexandria  In 347 Athanasius ordained him bishop on Ethiopia (known as Abba Salama)  Court convert to Christianity  Ordains priests, opened schools, translate LXX into Ge’ez.

41 Church of Ethiopia  The Nine Saints (Teseatu Keddusan) Syrian monks in Egypt fled the Chalcedonian persecution and founded monasteries following Pachomian rule  Coptic Church and Ethiopian Church Ethiopian Church recognize authority of pope of Alexandria Till 20 th cent Coptic popes ordained Ethiopian bishops.

42 Church in China OXUS RIVER Silk Route CHINA Babylon Chang’an (Xian)

43 Church in China  Records of 5 th cent. Persian synods consistently lists churches along the Oxus River.  Samarkand, capital of province of Sogdianna & last city in the Persian Empire  Beyond the Persian frontier lived the Huns & Turkish tribes. Further north were the Mongols  To the east of the Oxus River was Kushan (Afghanistan, Tajikistan, & Pakistan)  The Silk Road connected these areas w/ the great Chinese civilization in addition to contact w/ Rome & Alexandria. They became the meeting place of culture & religion  Alexander the Great conquered these lands & established the Greek kingdom of Bactria

44 Church in China  Balkh, the capital of Bactria, is the birth place of Zoroaster  Zoroastrianism persisted to the 7 th cent in Balkh, Merv, Samarkand, & northeast Asia & 100 Buddhist monasteries remained in northwestern Persia  Presence of tribal religions such as Shamanism among the Turks, Huns, & Mongols  By the 7 th cent. 4 important religions were in Asia: 1. Zoroastrianism 2. Buddhism 3. Manichaeanism (not a religion) 4. Christianity 5. Islam

45 Church in China  Christian presence began w/ monasteries located in or near cities  Monasteries were connected w/ trade of Christian merchants  Monasteries provided shelter, religious services to merchants & monastics  The East Syrian Church is known for its physicians many of whom were priests & monks  Monasteries in the East often provided local medical care  Burial inscriptions give evidence of elementary & advanced education in these cities.  The cities on the Silk Road were permanent Christian communities

46 Church in China  By the 5 th cent, the Huns & Turks began to be identified as Christians  The king of the Huns requested a bishop  Turkish war prisoners had crosses tattooed on their foreheads  The Turkish king requested (781) a metropolitan (> bishops) for the episcopal see of Samarkand  Letters indicate churches, monasteries, & episcopal sees in Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Tajikistan, & Tibet

47 Church in China  7 th cent Christianity reached cities of Tunhuang, Turfan in western China  Christians in Tunhuang & Turfan were Persians, Turkish, Mongols, & Chinese  Books found in libraries included worship books, homilies, biblical commentaries, lives of saints & martyrs, medical treatises, & philosophical works  A highly educated community

48 Church in China China:  The T’ang dynasty is one of the greatest in Chinese civilization & culture  Two million people in its capital Ch’ang-an (largest center of its time)  Very organized political administration, political & social stability, borders extended to Vietnam, Korea, & Manchuria, & central Asia  Canton (Kuan-chou) large seaport, hosted 100,000 foreign merchants  T’ang made Confucianism political ideology of the state

49 Church in China  A Confucian university in the capital provided necessary scholars for imperial bureaucracy  China was in touch with the rest of the world & hosted other religions such as Taoist, Buddhist, Manichaean, & Zoroastrist religions  635 Syrian Christian monks were part of the plethora of religions in China

50 Church in China  By the 5 th cent there were Armenian & Persian merchants in China  In 635 the Chinese imperial court has record of hosting East Syrian missionaries  By the 7 th cent there is evidence of translated Christian texts in Chinese & even Christian texts composed in Chinese

51 Church in China  Alopen, first monk from Balkh, to arrive to arrive in the capital Ch’ang-an  Information about this mission comes from a 3x1 meter black stone discovered in the 17 th cent in Xi’an (ancient Ch’ang-an)  At the top of the stone is a large cross  Stone includes texts of basic Christian belief  It describes the One and Triune God followed by a description of 150 years of East Syrian Christian mission (in Syrian & Chinese)  The date of the stone is AD 781

52 Church in China  The inscription describe the arrival of Alopen, & the emperor authorizing him to translate Christian texts into Chinese for the imperial library  Three years later emperor investigates the Christian doctrines & approves it  The emperor ordered a monastery to be built within the capital; funded by the state  21 priests ordained & attached to the monastic community

53 Church in China  Other Christian texts from the 7 th cent were discovered in the caves of Tunhuang & Turfan  Jesus-Messiah Sutra (638) & Discourses on Monotheism [3 texts] (641)  The inscription mentions that monasteries were built throughout the country [though historical evidence lacking]

54 Church in China  In 691, Empress Wu Chou declared Buddhism the official religion of the empire; this led to the persecution of the Christian minority  Two major assaults on Christian monasteries by Buddhists in 698 & by Taoists in 712  In 712 a new tolerant emperor came into power. Monasteries were repaired, altars restored, & new emperor portraits displayed in monasteries  New bishops & monks come from Persia & Syria arrived to China. This seemed to strengthen the Christian community

55 Church in China Texts inform us of two interesting figures: I-ssu (Jesus) from the city of Balkh. He was a lieutenant governor, a scholar, & an ordained Christian priest. He was married w/ children Ching-Ching (Adam) a bishop. Prolific scholar, translated > 30 books to Chinese, several of them portions of Scripture  By the 8 th cent churches were worshiping in Chinese & Syriac

56 Church in China  The translated texts borrowed heavily from Buddhist vocabulary. This close identification w/ Buddhism brought the rapid decline of Christianity by the 9 th century  In 845 an imperial decree reduced drastically number of monasteries in China  Christian & Zoroastrian religions banned; foreign religionists were expelled  >3000 Christian & Zoroastrian monks & priests forced to abandon their vocations  Christianity was unable to recover from this drastic persecution  After 860 little evidence of Christians or monasteries  Bishop of Baghdad sent monks to put the churches of China in order. Monk reports, in 987, no Christians found.  By 7 th cent Christians in China were in dialogue with Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrian, & Confucian religion [religious apology & dialogue]


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