Multiplication Center

Thoughts about Our First Thousand Years

November 18, 2010

the lost history With the rapid expansion today of Christianity in China, certain pockets of India, and other Asianjenkins-phillip-bw countries, I’ve become curious about when people from these regions first heard the name of Jesus Christ and how they responded to it. Penn State history professor Philip Jenkins, author of such invaluable books as The Next Christendom (2002) and God’s Continent (2007), has written a  very accessible, enjoyable but provoking book titled The Lost History of Christianity. The subtitle is even more curious: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died.

Most people reading this blog have probably seen a map of the expansion of Christianity from Jerusalem westward across the Roman Empire. Perhaps you have a map like that in your Bible. Did you know that branches of the church equally spread south into Africa and east into Asia? In the first millennium, these continents had more people who claimed the name of Jesus than did Europe. These branches lasted about 1,000 years and then died for various reasons. Some had theology Westerners know little about, such as groups like the Jacobites and Nestorians. While we may question the biblical orthodoxy of what happened through groups like this, we should also be aware of their great influence on various cultures in Africa and Asia. It’s a fascinating history which few present-day Christians have even heard of.

I gained many insights, but most of all about the interface of faith and popular culture. Where Christianity affected such areas as art, academics, and politics, it seemed to last longer than when in areas where it was more isolated and independent of local culture. If any readers of this blog has also read the book, what applications do you see to present-day faith?


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