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Christianity in the 7th century

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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

The Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) divisions of Christianity began to take on distinctive shape in 7th-century Christianity. Whereas in the East the Church maintained its structure and character and evolved more slowly, in the West the Bishops of Rome (the popes) were forced to adapt more quickly and flexibly to drastically changing circumstances. In particular, whereas the bishops of the East maintained clear allegiance to the Eastern Roman emperor, the Bishop of Rome, while maintaining nominal allegiance to the Eastern emperor, was forced to negotiate delicate balances with the "barbarian rulers" of the former Western provinces. 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.

During the 7th century an Arabian religious leader named Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh began to spread the message of the Qur'an (Koran), which includes some traditions similar to those of the Christian and Jewish faith. This new faith, called submission or الإسلام (al-’islām) in Arabic, proclaimed the worship and obedience of a purely monotheist God or Allah in Arabic as the purpose of life, and Islam would ultimately prove to be the greatest challenge that the Christian Church would face during the Middle Ages. By the 630s Muhammad had united the entire Arabian peninsula under Islam, including the formerly Christian kingdom of Yemen. Following Muhammad's death a Muslim empire, or caliphate, emerged which began efforts to expand beyond Arabia. Shortly before Mohammad's death the Roman Empire and Sassanid Persian Empire had concluded decades of war, leaving both empires crippled.

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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

Ecumenical Councils

Third Council of Constantinople

The Third Council of Constantinople (680–681): repudiated monothelitism and affirmed that Christ had both human and divine wills. It is considered one of the first seven Ecumenical Councils.

Quinisext Council

The Quinisext Council or Council in Trullo (692) has not been accepted by the Roman Catholic Church. Since it was mostly an administrative council for raising some local canons to ecumenical status, establishing principles of clerical discipline, addressing the Biblical canon, and establishing the pentarchy, without determining matters of doctrine, the Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider it to be a full-fledged council in its own right; instead it is considered to be an extension of the fifth and sixth councils.

Western theology

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 in the 7th and 8th centuries. 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:

Monasticism

Western

Wealthy lords and nobles would give the monasteries estates in exchange for the conduction of masses for the soul of a deceased loved one. Though this was likely not the original intent of Benedict of Nursia, the efficiency of his cenobitic rule in addition to the stability of the monasteries made such estates very productive; the general monk was essentially raised to a level of nobility; for the serfs of the estate would tend to the labor while the monk was free to study. The monasteries thus attracted many of the best people in society, and during this period the monasteries were the central storehouses and producers of knowledge.

Eastern

Of great importance to the development of monasticism is the Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai. The Ladder of Divine Ascent was written there by John Climacus (c.600), a work of such importance that many Orthodox monasteries to this day read it publicly either during the Divine Services or in Trapeza during Great Lent.

At the height of the Byzantine Empire, numerous great monasteries were established by the emperors, including the twenty "sovereign monasteries" on Mount Athos,[1] an actual "monastic republic" wherein the entire country is devoted to bringing souls closer to God. In this milieu, the Philokalia was compiled.

Spread of Christianity

England

Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England began around 600, influenced by the Gregorian mission from the southeast and the Hiberno-Scottish mission from the northwest. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, took office in 597. Arwald, the last pagan Anglo-Saxon king, was killed in 686.

Germanic peoples

7th-century Frankish depiction of Jesus from Niederdollendorf in Germany.
7th-century Frankish depiction of Jesus from Niederdollendorf in Germany.

Colombanus, Boniface, Willibrord, and others took Christianity into northern Europe and spread Catholicism among the Germanic and Slavic peoples.[2] The Synod of Whitby of 664, though not as decisive as sometimes claimed, was an important moment in the reintegration of the Celtic Church of the British Isles into the Roman hierarchy, after having been effectively cut from contact with Rome by the pagan invaders.

The Alamanni became Christians after a period of syncretism during the 7th century, by gradual emulation of the new religion of the Merovingian elite.

Christian missionaries to the Anglo-Saxons include:

China

When Christianity was first introduced to China, three major religious systems, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, were already popular there, woven into the ancient traditions and customs of the people. The average Chinese did not regard himself as an exclusive adherent of any one of the three but rather as a follower of a general Chinese religion made up of both animistic and polytheistic elements which represented a syncretistic conglomeration of ideas. Thus the Christian church with its divisive and exclusionist policies had some difficulties. Only in the periods of the Tang (618-906) and Yuan (1206–1368) dynasties did the gospel enterprise have any considerable degree of success. The ancient Breviary of the Syrian church of Malabar written during 17th century states that "By the means of St. Thomas the Chinese...were converted to the truth...By means of St. Thomas the kingdom of heaven flew and entered into China...The Chinese in commemoration of St. Thomas do offer their adoration unto Thy most Holy Name, O God."

Active trade for centuries between China and the West could have brought Christian missionaries at an early date. But aside from one rather obscure reference in the Adversus Gentes by Arnobius (303) to "the Chinese as among those united in the faith of Christ,[1] there is little or no evidence of Christians in China before the 7th century. But from then on the evidence of Christianity in China during the T'ang Era (618-906) are numerous, including references in Chinese writings, imperial edicts, and in particular the famous inscriptions on the so-called "Nestorian Monument". During the Tلng period conditions were favorable for the introduction of foreign faiths: the lines of international communication were wide open; foreign trade flourished; the government was tolerant toward all faiths; all foreigners were welcome in various capacities. It was in this T'ang Era that Christianity first came to be known as the "Luminous Religion" (Jǐng Jiào, ¾°½ج).

Following this is an account of how Alopen of Dà-chيn (the Near East, especially Syria or Persia) arrived in Ch'angan in 635 bearing the Scriptures. He was welcomed by Emperor T'ai Tsung, the founder of the Tang Dynasty. The emperor, having examined the sacred writings, ordered their translation and the preaching of their message. He also directed the building of a Christian monastery in his capital. According to the inscription, his successor, Emperor Kao Tsung, also encouraged Christianity and ordered the building of a monastery in each province of his domain.

The second part of the monument was written in Syriac and listed some sixty-seven names: one bishop, twenty-eight presbyters, and thirty-eight monks. Some of these have been verified from Assyrian church records. The inscription displays considerable grace of literary style, and the allusions and phraseology reveal competence in both Chinese and Syriac and familiarity with both Buddhism and Taoism. Ancient Christian manuscripts were also discovered at Dunhuang from about the same period and are written in the literary style of the Monument. These include a "Hymn to the Trinity" and refer to at least thirty Christian books, indicating that considerable Christian literature was in circulation.[2]

The 250-year span of the Christian movement in the T'ang period was characterized by vicissitudes of imperial favor and prosperity, persecution and decline. Christianity fared badly during the reign of Dowager Wu (689-699), who was an ardent Buddhist. However, several succeeding emperors were favorable, and the missionary forces were reinforced from time to time.

Northeast Asia

The trade routes of the Silk Road are also known to have reached Korea, Japan, and what is today eastern Russia by this time, contributing to these exchanges. Against this background it is from China, in particular from Chang-an during the Tang Dynasty, that Christianity also first came to Korea and Japan. In the case of Korea, where Christianity seems to have been present, evidence has been found in the Korean Chronicles Sanguk Yusa and Sanguksa, for the presence of Nestorian Christianity during the united Silla Dynasty (661-935).[3] This is not unexpected in the light of the known presence of Koreans at the tang capital, Chang-an, in the 7th to 9th centuries.

Middle East

The Muslim presence in the Holy Land began with the initial Muslim conquest of Syria in the 7th century. The Muslim armies' successes put increasing pressure on the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire.

Early Muslim conquest of these lands in the 7th and 8th centuries did not introduce direct persecution. However, Muslim apostasy was curbed by threat of death, and many nominal Christians began to gradually defect to Islam to avoid discrimination and heavy taxation. This type of subtle oppression stifled Christian growth, backed the church into ghetto communities, and discouraged evangelism. Muslim governments eventually gained control of the great trade routes, and the Islamic world became virtually closed to the proclamation of the gospel.

In 644, Abdisho had succeeded in drawing a large number of Turks, beyond the Oxus River, into the Church of the East. Colleges were established in Merv, and a monastery was founded there in the 8th century.

In fact, so successful were the missionary efforts that it appeared that Christianity might become the dominant faith in the whole region between the Caspian Sea and Xinjiang in northwest China. The largely animistic and polytheistic religions there offered little or no effective resistance to the higher faith. Moreover, Islam at first made little headway in that area, and the dualistic faith of Manichaeism also had scant appeal.

Christian Turks visiting Ctesiphon in connection with the election of a new metropolitan about this time were described as people of clean habits and orthodox beliefs and as readers of the Scriptures in both Syriac and their own language.

Byzantine and Muslim conflict

The Roman-Persian Wars

Lasting from 92 BC to 627 AD, the conflict between the Persian and Roman Empires was a protracted struggle which was arguably a continuation of the Greco-Persian Wars. The Roman-Persian Wars led to weakening of the neighboring Arab states to the South and East of the Eastern Roman Empire. The conflict so drained both the Persian and Byzantine empires that once the conquests of Muhammad started, neither could mount an effective defense against the onslaught. Persia fell to the Muslims.

Byzantine-Arab Wars

Age of the Caliphs   Expansion under Muhammad, 622–632   Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphate, 632–661   Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750
Age of the Caliphs
  Expansion under Muhammad, 622–632
  Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphate, 632–661
  Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750

Following the death of Muhammad in 632, there was a vigorous push by the Arab Muslims to conquer Arab tribes of the East such as the mostly Christian Ghassanids. The Byzantine-Muslim Wars were a series of wars between the Arab Muslims Caliphates and the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire. These started during the initial Muslim conquests under the Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs and continued in the form of an enduring border tussle until the beginning of the Crusades. As a result, the Byzantines saw an extensive loss of territory.

The initial conflict lasted from 629-717, ending with the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople that halted the rapid expansion of the Arab Muslim Empire or Umayyad dynasty into Asia Minor.

After the Arab conquest of North Africa in the 7th century the Eastern Orthodox Church of Egypt in Alexandria were a minority even among Christians and remained small for centuries.

Timeline

Timeline of Christianity in the 7th century

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Both Mount Sinai and Mount Athos are referred to as "the Holy Mountain" in Orthodox literature,
  2. ^ Collins, The Story of Christianity (1999), pp. 84–86
  3. ^ http://www.roperld.com/RoperLord.htm
  4. ^ a b c http://ecole.evansville.edu/timeline/index.html
  5. ^ Anderson, p. 16
  6. ^ Neill, 81
  7. ^ Anderson, p. 8
  8. ^ Barrett, p. 24
  9. ^ Gaelic Society of Inverness. Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, The Society, 1985, p. 161
  10. ^ Herbermann, p. 639
  11. ^ Kane, p. 41

Further reading

  • Lawrence, C. H. Medieval Monasticism. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2001. ISBN 0-582-40427-4
  • Fletcher, Richard, The Conversion of Europe. From Paganism to Christianity 371-1386 AD. London 1997.
  • Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, book 1, ch.19
  • Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, book 3, ch. 1
Parthia and Persia
  • Mingana, The Early Spread of Christianity in Central Asia and the Far East
The Great Persecution
  • Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 1
  • Eusebius, Life of Constantine 4:56
  • Aphrahat, Demonstrations 5
  • Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History 2, 9-10
China
  • A.C. Moule, Christians in China Before The year 1550
  • Arthur Lloyd, The Creed of Half Japan
  • Catholic Encyclopedia, 3:667
  • P.Y. Saeki, The Nestorian Documents and Relics in China and The Nestorian Monument in China

External links

History of Christianity: The Middle Ages
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Christianity in
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