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Christianity in the 6th century

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  Spread of Christianity to 325   Spread of Christianity to AD 600
  Spread of Christianity to 325
  Spread of Christianity to AD 600

In 7th-century Christianity, Roman Emperor Justinian launched a military campaign in Constantinople to reclaim the western provinces from the Germans, starting with North Africa and proceeding to Italy. Though he was temporarily successful in recapturing much of the western Mediterranean he destroyed the urban centers and permanently ruined the economies in much of the West. Rome and other cities were abandoned. In the coming centuries the Western Church, as virtually the only surviving Roman institution in the West, became the only remaining link to Greek culture and civilization.

In the East, Roman imperial rule continued through the period historians now call the Byzantine Empire. Even in the West, where imperial political control gradually declined, distinctly Roman culture continued long afterwards; thus historians today prefer to speak of a "transformation of the Roman world" rather than a "Fall of Rome." The advent of the Early Middle Ages was a gradual and often localised process whereby, in the West, rural areas became power centres whilst urban areas declined. Although the greater number of Christians remained in the East, the developments in the West would set the stage for major developments in the Christian world during the later Middle Ages.

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Transcription

Hi there my name’s John Green, this is Crash Course: World History and today we’re going to talk about Jesus. This is a Roman coin from around the time Jesus was born in the Roman Empire, and it calls Augustus, the emperor, the son of God. So let’s just state at the outset that in 4 BCE, being the son of God, or at least being the son of a god was not such an unusual thing. But a poor Jew being the son of God— that was news. [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] Any understanding of Christianity has to start with Judaism, because Jesus was born a Jew, and he grew up in the Jewish tradition. He was one of many teachers spreading his ideas in the Roman province of Judea at the time, and he was part of a messianic tradition that helps us understand why he was thought of not only teacher but something much, much more. Let’s go straight to the Thought Bubble today. The people who would become the Jews, were just one of many tribal peoples eeking out an existence in that not-very fertile crescent world of Mesopotamia after the agricultural revolution. The Hebrews initially worshipped many gods, making sacrifices to them in order to bring good weather and good fortune. But they eventually developed a religion centered around an idea that would become key to the other great western religions. This was monotheism, the idea that there is only one true god (or at least that if there are other gods around, they are total lameoids). The Hebrews developed a second concept that is key to their religion as well: the idea of the covenant, a deal with God. The main man in this, the big macher was Abraham. Not to make this too much of a scripture lesson, but it’s kind of hard to understand the Jews without understanding Abraham, or Abram as he was known before he had his big conversation with God, recorded in Genesis 17: When Abram was ninety years and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." And I’m a make a covenant with you and a bunch of cool things will happen like you’re gonna have kids and your descendants will number the stars and you can have all the land of Canaan forever, it’s gonna be awesome. I’m paraphrasing by the way, Thought Bubble. So God promised that Abram would have kids with his wife even though the dude was already like 99, but there was a catch: This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. Keep it PG-13, Thought Bubble. Now that is asking a lot from a guy, especially a 99 year old geezer like Abram living in a time before general anesthesia. But those were the terms of the deal, and in exchange God had chosen Abraham and his descendants to be a great nation. From this we get the expression that the Jews are the Chosen people. Thanks for keeping it clean, Thought Bubble. So, some important things about this god: 1. Singularity. He—and I’m using the masculine pronoun because that’s what Hebrew prayers use—does not want you to put any gods before Him. He is also transcendent, having always existed and he is deeply personal – he chats with prophets, sends locusts, etc. But he doesn’t take corporeal form like the Greek and Roman Gods do. He is also involved in history, like he will destroy cities, and bring floods, and determine the outcomes of wars, and possibly football games. Stan, no! FOOTBALL games! Probably most important to us today, and certainly most important to Jesus, this god demands moral righteousness and social justice. So, this is the god of the Hebrews, Yahweh, and despite many ups and downs, the Jewish people have stuck with him for- according to the Hebrew calendar, at least- over 5700 years. And he has stuck by them too, despite the Jews being, on occasion, something of a disappointment to him, which leads to various miseries, and also to a tradition of prophets who speak for God and warn the people to get back on the right path lest there be more miseries. Which brings us back to our friends, the Romans. By the time that Jesus was born, the land of the Israelites had been absorbed into the Roman Empire as the province of Judea. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Judea was under the control of Herod the Great, best known for building the massive temple in Jerusalem, that the Romans would later destroy. And by the time Jesus died, an expanded Judea was under the rule of Herod Antipater. Also, unhelpfully, known as Herod. Both Herods ultimately took their orders from the Romans, and they both show up on the list of rulers who are oppressive to the Jews, partly because there’s never that much religious freedom in an empire. Unless you are, wait for it... The Mongols or the Persians. Also, they were Hellenizers, bringing in Greek theater and architecture, and rationalism. And in response to those Hellenistic influences, there were a lot of preachers trying to get the Jews to return to the traditions and the godly ways of the past, including the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, and the Essenes, and the Zealots. And one of those preachers, who didn’t fit comfortably into any of these four groups, was Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was a preacher who spread his message of peace, love and, above all, justice, across Judea over the course of his actually average-length life for his time. He was remarkably charismatic, attracting a small but incredibly loyal group of followers, and he was said to perform miracles—although it’s worth noting that miracles weren’t terribly uncommon at the time. Jesus’s message was particularly resonant to the poor and downtrodden and pretty radical in its anti-authoritarian stance. He said it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven, he said the meek were blessed, that the last would be first and the first would be last— All of which was kind of threatening to the powers that be, who accordingly had him arrested, tried and then executed in the normal method of killing rebels at that time, crucifixion. Also, just to put this question to bed, the Romans that crucified Jesus, because he was a threat to their authority. Later traditions saying that the Jews killed Jesus? Very unfortunate. Also, very untrue. We’re not going to discuss Jesus’s divinity, because 1. This isn’t a theology class, and 2. Flame wars on the Internet make me so uncomfortable I have to turn to camera 2, Hi there camera 2, I’m here to remind you that 3. Fighting over such things, like fighting over whether the proverbial cake is a lie, rarely accomplishes anything, Plus 4. What matters to us is the historical fact that people at the time believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the son of God. And they believed that he would return some day to redeem the world. Which leads us to two questions about Christianity: First, Why did this small group of people believe this, and Why and how did that belief become so widespread? So why would people believe that Jesus was the Messiah? First, the Jews had a long tradition of believing that a savior who would come to them in a time of trouble. And Judea under the rule of Herod and the Romans… definitely a time of trouble. And many of the prophecies about this savior point to someone whose life looks a lot like Jesus'. For instance, Isaiah 53 says the person will be misunderstood and mistreated, just like Jesus was: “He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we didn't respect him.” And a lot of the prophecies like Daniel 7:14, for instance, explained that when the Messiah comes there will be this awesome new, everlasting kingdom. And that had to sound pretty good to people who’d had their autonomy taken away from them. So some religious Jews saw Jesus in those prophecies and came to believe either during his life or shortly thereafter, that he was the messiah. Most of them thought the new everlasting kingdom was right around the corner, which is probably why no one bothered to write down much about the life of Jesus for several decades, by which time it was clear that we might have to wait a bit for this brilliant new everlasting kingdom. I should note, by the way, that the idea of a messiah was not unique to the Jews at the time. Even the Romans got in on the action. For Instance, the Roman poet Vergil wrote of a boy who: “Shall free the earth from never-ceasing fear. He shall receive the life of gods, and see Heroes with gods commingling.” Sound familiar? But Vergil was writing about Emperor Augustus in that poem, not Jesus, which points again to the similarities between the two. Both called sons of God. Both sent to free the earth from never-ceasing fear. But one ruled the largest empire in the world; and the other believed that empire, and the world, needed to change dramatically. So why did the less wealthy and famous son of God become by far the more influential? Well, here are three possible historical reasons: Reason #1: The Romans continued to make things bad for the Jews. In fact, things got much worse for the Jews, especially after they launched a revolt between 66-73 CE, which did not go well. By the time the dust settled, the Romans had destroyed the Temple and expelled the Jews from Judaea, beginning what we now know as the Jewish Diaspora. And without a Temple or geographic unity, the Jews had to solidify what it meant to be a Jew and what the basic tenants of the religion were. This forced the followers of Jesus to make a decision; Were they going to continue to be Jews following stricter laws set forth by rabbis, or were they going to be something else. The decision to open up their religion to non-Jews, people who weren’t part of the covenant, is the central reason that Christianity could become a world religion instead of just a sect of Judaism. And it probably didn’t hurt that the main proponent of sticking with Judaism was James, Jesus’s brother, who was killed by the Romans. Reason #2: Is related to reason number 1 and it’s all about a dude named Saul. No, not that Saul. Yes, Saul of Tarsus, thank you. Saul, having received a vision on the road to Damascus, became Paul and began visiting and sending letters to Jesus followers throughout the Mediterranean. And it was Paul who emphatically declared that Jesus followers did NOT have to be Jews, that they did not have to be circumcised or keep to Jewish laws or any of that stuff. This opened the floodgates for thousands of people to convert to this new religion. And the other thing to remember about Paul is that he was a Roman citizen. Which meant that he could travel freely throughout the Roman Empire. This allowed him to make his case to lots of different people and facilitated the geographic spread of Christianity. Oh, it’s time for the open letter? Alright. An open letter, to the fish. But first, lets see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, Stan. [JCSS-esque music briefly plays] It’s my favorite album Jesus Christ Superstar, finally available in my favorite format, the cassette. Did I color-coordinate my shirt to Jesus Christ Superstar? Yes. Dear Ichthys, So check this out: In the first century when it was still super underground and hipster to be a Christian, you were a secret symbol of Christianity, used to kind of hide from the Romans. Ichthys, the Greek word for fish was an acronym and it was a super clever way to talk about religion without anyone knowing that you were talking about it. But you’ll never guess what happened- even in places where it’s completely fine to talk about Christianity now and to use, you know, regular Christian symbols, like the cross You have had a huge resurgence thanks to the plastic automobile decal industry. I mean seriously, Ichthys, I haven’t seen a comeback like this since Jesus. Best wishes, John Green And lastly, Christianity was born and flourished an empire with a common language that allowed for its spread. And crucially, it was also an Empire in decline. Like even by the end of the first century CE, Rome was on its way down. And for the average person, and even for some elites, things weren’t as good as they had been, if fact they were getting worse so fast that you might have thought the end of the world was coming. And Roman religion offered no promise of an afterlife, and a bunch of squabbling whiny gods- sorry if I offended adherents to Roman religion, but seriously, they squabble. So even though early Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire and sometimes fed to the lions and other animals, the religion continued to grow, albeit slowly. But then as the Roman decline continued, Emperor Constantine allowed the worship of Jesus and then eventually converted to Christianity himself. And then the religion really took off. I mean, Rome wasn’t what it used to be, but everybody still wanted to be like the Emperor. And soon enough there was a new son of God on coins. Thanks for watching. See you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself and our graphics team is Thought Bubble. As only 62 million of you guessed last week, the Phrase of the Week was "Chipotle Burrito" if you want to guess at this week’s Phrase of the Week or suggest future ones, you can do so in Comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered, hopefully, by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. Ow... again.

Contents

Second Council of Constantinople

Prior to the Second Council of Constantinople was a prolonged controversy over the treatment of three subjects, all considered sympathetic to Nestorianism, the heresy that there are two separate persons in the Incarnation of Christ.[1] Emperor Justinian condemned the Three Chapters, hoping to appeal to monophysite Christians with his anti-Nestorian zeal.[2] Monophysites believe that in the Incarnate Christ there is one nature, not two.[3] Eastern patriarchs supported the emperor, but in the West his interference was resented, and Pope Vigilius resisted his edict on the grounds that it opposed the Chalcedonian decrees.[2] Justinian's policy was in fact an attack on Antiochene theology and the decisions of Chalcedon.[2] The pope assented and condemned the Three Chapters, but protests in the West caused him to retract his condemnation.[2] The emperor called the Second Council of Constantinople to resolve the controversy.[2]

The council met in Constantinople in 553, and it has since become recognized as the fifth of the first seven Ecumenical Councils. The council condemned certain Nestorian writings and authors. This move was instigated by Emperor Justinian in an effort to conciliate the monophysite Christians, it was opposed in the West, and the popes' acceptance of the council caused a major schism.[4]

The council interpreted the decrees of Chalcedon and further explained the relationship of the two natures of Jesus; it also condemned the teachings of Origen on the pre-existence of the soul, and Apocatastasis. The council, attended mostly by Eastern bishops, condemned the Three Chapters and, indirectly, the Pope Vigilius.[2] It also affirmed the East's intention to remain in communion with Rome.[2]

Vigilius declared his submission to the council, as did his successor, Pelagius I.[2] The council was not immediately recognized as ecumenical in the West, and the churches of Milan and Aquileia even broke off communion with Rome over this issue.[4] The schism was not repaired until the late 6th century for Milan and the late 7th century for Aquileia.[4]

Eastern Church

In the 530s the second Church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) was built in Constantinople under Justinian. The first church was destroyed during the Nika riots. The second Hagia Sophia became the center of the ecclesiastical community for the rulers of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium.


Western theology before the Carolingian Empire

When the Western Roman Empire fragmented under the impact of various 'barbarian' invasions, the Empire-wide intellectual culture that had underpinned late Patristic theology had its interconnections cut. Theology tended to become more localised, more diverse, more fragmented. The classic Christianity preserved in Italy by men like Boethius and Cassiodorus was different from the vigorous Frankish Christianity documented by Gregory of Tours, which was different from the Christianity that flourished in Ireland and Northumbria. Throughout this period, theology tended to be a more monastic affair, flourishing in monastic havens where the conditions and resources for theological learning could be maintained.

Important writers include:

Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory I the Great was pope from September 3, 590 until his death. He is also known as Gregorius Dialogus (Gregory the Dialogist) in Eastern Orthodoxy because of the Dialogues he wrote. He was the first of the popes from a monastic background. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and one of the four great Latin Fathers of the Church. Of all popes, Gregory I had the most influence on the early medieval church.[5]

Monasticism

Benedict

Saint Benedict, father of Western monasticism and author of Rule of St Benedict. Detail from fresco by Fra Angelico, c. 1437–46.
Saint Benedict, father of Western monasticism and author of Rule of St Benedict. Detail from fresco by Fra Angelico, c. 1437–46.

Benedict of Nursia is the most influential of Western monks. He was educated in Rome but soon sought the life of a hermit in a cave at Subiaco, outside the city. He then attracted followers with whom he founded the monastery of Monte Cassino around 520, between Rome and Naples. In 530, he wrote his Rule of St Benedict as a practical guide for monastic community life. Its message spread to monasteries throughout Europe.[6] Monasteries became major conduits of civilization, preserving craft and artistic skills while maintaining intellectual culture within their schools, scriptoria and libraries. They functioned as agricultural, economic and production centers as well as a focus for spiritual life.[7]

During this period the Visigoths and Lombards moved away from Arianism for Catholicism.[8] Pope Gregory I played a notable role in these conversions and dramatically reformed the ecclesiastical structures and administration which then launched renewed missionary efforts.[9]

Little is known about the origins of the first important monastic rule (Regula) in Western Europe, the anonymous Rule of the Master (Regula magistri), which was written somewhere south of Rome around 500. The rule adds legalistic elements not found in earlier rules, defining the activities of the monastery, its officers, and their responsibilities in great detail.

Ireland

Irish monasticism maintained the model of a monastic community while, like John Cassian, marking the contemplative life of the hermit as the highest form of monasticism. Saints' lives frequently tell of monks (and abbots) departing some distance from the monastery to live in isolation from the community.

Irish monastic rules specify a stern life of prayer and discipline in which prayer, poverty, and obedience are the central themes. Yet Irish monks did not fear pagan learning. Irish monks needed to learn Latin, which was the language of the Church. Thus they read Latin texts, both spiritual and secular. By the end of the 7th century, Irish monastic schools were attracting students from England and from Europe. Irish monasticism spread widely, first to Scotland and Northern England, then to Gaul and Italy. Columba and his followers established monasteries at Bangor, on the northeastern coast of Ireland, at Iona, an island north-west of Scotland, and at Lindisfarne, which was founded by Aidan, an Irish monk from Iona, at the request of King Oswald of Northumbria.

Columbanus, an abbot from a Leinster noble family, traveled to Gaul in the late 6th century with twelve companions. Columbanus and his followers spread the Irish model of monastic institutions established by noble families to the continent. A whole series of new rural monastic foundations on great rural estates under Irish influence sprang up, starting with Columbanus's foundations of Fontaines and Luxeuil, sponsored by the Frankish King Childebert II. After Childebert's death Columbanus traveled east to Metz, where Theudebert II allowed him to establish a new monastery among the semi-pagan Alemanni in what is now Switzerland. One of Columbanus' followers founded the monastery of St. Gall on the shores of Lake Constance, while Columbanus continued onward across the Alps to the kingdom of the Lombards in Italy. There King Agilulf and his wife Theodolinda granted Columbanus land in the mountains between Genoa and Milan, where he established the monastery of Bobbio.

Mosaic of Justinian I in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy
Mosaic of Justinian I in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

Spread of Christianity

Christians and Pagans, a painting by Sergei Ivanov
Christians and Pagans, a painting by Sergei Ivanov

As the political boundaries of the Western Roman Empire diminished and then collapsed, Christianity spread beyond the old borders of the empire and into lands that had never been Romanised. The Lombards adopted Catholicism as they entered Italy.

Irish missionaries

Although Ireland had never been part of the Roman Empire, Christianity had come there and developed, largely independently from Celtic Christianity. Christianity spread from Roman Britain to Ireland, especially aided by the missionary activity of Saint Patrick. Patrick had been captured into slavery in Ireland, and following his escape and later consecration as bishop, he returned to the isle to bring them the Gospel.

The Irish monks had developed a concept of peregrinatio.[10] This essentially meant that a monk would leave the monastery and his Christian country to proselytize among the heathens, as self-chosen punishment for his sins. Soon, Irish missionaries such as Columba and Columbanus spread this Christianity, with its distinctively Irish features, to Scotland and the continent. From 590 onwards Irish missionaries were active in Gaul, Scotland, Wales and England.

Anglo-Saxon Britain

Although southern Britain had been a Roman province, in 407 the imperial legions left the isle, and the Roman elite followed. Some time later that century, various barbarian tribes went from raiding and pillaging the island to settling and invading. These tribes are referred to as the "Anglo-Saxons", predecessors of the English. They were entirely pagan, having never been part of the empire, and although they experienced Christian influence from the surrounding peoples, they were converted by the mission of St. Augustine sent by Pope Gregory I.

Franks

Saint Remigius baptises Clovis.
Saint Remigius baptises Clovis.

The largely Christian Gallo-Roman inhabitants of Gaul (modern France) were overrun by Germanic Franks in the early 5th century. The native inhabitants were persecuted until the Frankish King Clovis I converted from paganism to Roman Catholicism in 496. Clovis insisted that his fellow nobles follow suit, strengthening his newly established kingdom by uniting the faith of the rulers with that of the ruled.

The Germanic peoples underwent gradual Christianization in the course of the Early Middle Ages, resulting in a unique form of Christianity known as Germanic Christianity. The East and West Germanic tribes were the first to convert through various means. However, it was not until the 12th century that the North Germanic peoples had Christianized.

9th-century depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior (Stuttgart Psalter, fol. 23)
9th-century depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior (Stuttgart Psalter, fol. 23)

In the polytheistic Germanic tradition it was even possible to worship Jesus next to the native gods like Wodan and Thor. Before a battle, a pagan military leader might pray to Jesus for victory, instead of Odin, if he expected more help from the Christian God. Clovis had done that before a battle against one of the kings of the Alamanni, and had thus attributed his victory to Jesus. Such utilitarian thoughts were the basis of most conversions of rulers during this period.[11] The Christianization of the Franks lay the foundation for the further Christianization of the Germanic peoples.

Arabia

Cosmas Indicopleustes, navigator and geographer of the 6th century, wrote about Christians, bishops, monks, and martyrs in Yemen and among the Himyarites.[1] In the 5th century a merchant from Yemen was converted in Hira, in the northeast, and upon his return led many to Christ.

Tibet

It is unclear when Christianity reached Tibet, but it seems likely that it had arrived there by the 6th century. The ancient territory of the Tibetans stretched farther west and north than the present-day Tibet, and they had many links with the Turkic and Mongolian tribes of Central Asia. It seems likely that Christianity entered the Tibetan world around 549, the time of a remarkable conversion of the White Huns. A strong church existed in Tibet by the 8th century.

Carved into a large boulder at Tankse, Ladakh, once part of Tibet but now in India, are three crosses and some inscriptions. These inscriptions are of 19th century. The rock dominates the entrance to the town, on one of the main ancient trade routes between Lhasa and Bactria. The crosses are clearly of the Church of the East, and one of the words, written in Sogdian, appears to be "Jesus". Another inscription in Sogdian reads, "In the year 210 came Nosfarn from Samarkhand as emissary to the Khan of Tibet". It is possible that the inscriptions were not related to the crosses, but even on their own the crosses bear testimony to the power and influence of Christianity in that area.

Timeline

6th century Timeline


See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Nestorianism" and "Three Chapters." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Three Chapters." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  3. ^ "Monophysitism." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  4. ^ a b c "Constantinople, Second Council of." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  5. ^ Pope St. Gregory I at about.com
  6. ^ Woods, How the Church Built Western Civilization (2005), p. 27
  7. ^ Le Goff, Medieval Civilization (1964), p. 120
  8. ^ Le Goff, Medieval Civilization (1964), p. 21
  9. ^ Duffy, Saints and Sinners (1997), pp. 50–52
  10. ^ Padberg, Lutz v. (1998), p.67
  11. ^ Padberg, Lutz v. (1998), p.48
  12. ^ Price, Ira Maurice. The Ancestry of Our English Bible. Harper, 1956, p. 193.
  13. ^ Latourette, 1953, p. 333
  14. ^ Anderson, p. 347
  15. ^ Gailey, p. 41
  16. ^ Neill, pp. 58-59; Tucker, 46

Further reading

  • Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan. The Christian Tradition: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). University of Chicago Press (1975). ISBN 0-226-65371-4.
  • Lawrence, C. H. Medieval Monasticism. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2001. ISBN 0-582-40427-4
  • Trombley, Frank R., 1995. Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529 (in series Religions in the Graeco-Roman World) (Brill) ISBN 90-04-09691-4
  • Fletcher, Richard, The Conversion of Europe. From Paganism to Christianity 371-1386 AD. London 1997.
  • Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, book 1, chp.19
  • Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, book 3, chp. 1
  • Mingana, The Early Spread of Christianity in Central Asia and the Far East, pp. 300.
  • A.C. Moule, Christians in China Before The year 1550, pp. 19–26
  • P.Y. Saeki, The Nestorian Documents and Relics in China and The Nestorian Monument in China, pp. 27–52
  • Philostorgius, Ecclesiastical History.

External links

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