The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries

by Adolph (von) Harnack
translated and edited by James Moffatt
Second, enlarged and revised English edition;
London: Williams and Norgate / New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1908 (from the 2nd German edition).
Theological Translation Library, volumes 19-20

From the German, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (1902, revised 1906, 1915, and finally 1924)

[experimental greek] ?????

[[Book 4, Chapter 3, section 3, location 5 (page 142 = 2nd German ed p. 117) (scanned and proofed, Elana Newberger 4/2004), edited RAK 5/2004; checked by Francisco Lameiro 2/2005; Greek added,  some ETs still needed]]



One of the most remarkable facts in the history of the spread of Christianity is the rapid and firm footing which it secured in Edessa (Urhâi).\2/ The tradition about the correspondence between Jesus and king Abgar "the Black," and about the local labors of Thomas or Thaddaeus (Eus., H.E.,1.13), is of course entirely legendary, while Eusebius is wrong in asserting (2.1.7) that the entire city had been Christian from the apostolic age to his own time.\3/ But the statement must hold true of the age at which he wrote. In part, also, it has an earlier reference. For there is no doubt that even before 190 C.E. Christianity had spread vigorously within Edessa and its surroundings,\4/ and that (shortly after 201 or even earlier?) the [[143]] royal house joined the church,\5/ so that Christianity became the state-religion; while even during the Easter controversy (c. 190 C.E.) "the churches in Osrhoene and the local towns" (implying that there were several bishoprics)\6/ addressed a communication to Rome.\7/ Christianity in Edessa, which was originally distinct from catholicism, starts with two persons, Tatian "the Assyrian" and Bardesanes (born 154 C.E.). The former compiled his volume of the gospels (or "Diatessaron") for the Syrian church, while the latter established and acclimatized Christianity by dint of his keenness in teaching, his fanciful theology, and his sacred songs. (Bardesanes was closely connected with the school of Valentinus. His party in Edessa was called the Valentinian party; cp. Julian's Ep. 43.). Neither was a "catholic" Christian. Measured by the doctrinal standards of the catholic confederation, both were [[144]] heretics. But they were "mild" heretics.\8/ And from the beginning of the third century onwards, the Edessene church came more and more into line, at least partially, with the church at large; henceforward, catholics (Palutians) and Bardesanists opposed each other in Edessa. Rome, in ending the royal house of Edessa, ended the state-religion also; but the number of local Christians was not diminished.

\1/ Cp. Map. 4. -- Mommsen's Geschichte, 5. pp. 339 f. (Eng. trans., 2. pp. 30 f.); Burkitt's Early Christianity outside the Roman Empire (1899), and his Early Eastern Christianity (1904; the best work on the subject which we possess); Duval's Hist. d'Édesse (1892); Labourt's Le Christianisme dans l'empire Perse sous la dynastie Sassanide, 224-632 (1904); and Chabot on "Synodicon Orientale" in Recueil des actes synodaux de l'église de Perse, Notices et extraits des MSS., tome 37, with Hallier's Untersuch. über die edess. Chronik. (in the Texte u. Unters., 9.1, 1892), and E. Meyer's article on "Edessa" in Pauly-Wissowa's Lexicon. Labourt also gives a map of the western provinces of the Persian empire (Mesopotamia).

\2/ An earlier parallel is the conversion of the royal house of Adiabene to Judaism in the reign of the emperor Claudius (see above, vol. 1., p. 2).

\3/ It still finds defenders, however. -- At a comparatively early date the tomb of the apostolic missionary was also shown at Edessa, but there was great diversity of opinion upon his identity (Judas Jacobi, Thomas, or Thaddæus?).

\4/ The strong local Judaism undoubtedly formed a basis for the spread of Christianity both here and still farther eastward to the bounds of Persia (cp. Schürer, 3, pp. 5 f., Eng. trans. 2.2, pp. 222 f.; Acts 2.9 f.; Joseph., Antiq. 11.5.2, 15.2.2, 15.3.1). Schürer thinks the Jews in these provinces numbered millions, not thousands; their headquarters were Nehardea (Νάαρδα) and Nisibis. --The Aramaic element always predominated in the population of Edessa; only a thin Greek stratum overlaid it (cp. Chrysostom's remark on Edessa, πολλῶν ἀγροικοτέρα εὐσεβεστέρα δέ, 2, p. 641). Caracalla put an end to the semi-regal native dynasty of the Abgars (semi-Syrian, semi-Arabian) in 216 C.E.; but Edessa had already been for long under the suzerainty of Rome, while Mesopotamia remained as it was till Septimus Severus. After 216, Edessa and [[143b]] Osrhoene were a Roman province till the Persian conquest in the seventh century. The names of the bishops from Edessa and Mesopotamia who attended the council of Nicæa show a mixture of Aramaic and Greek: Æithilas (Edessa), Jacobus, Antiochus, Mareas (Macedonopolis), and Johannes.

\5/ On the "Acta Edessena" see Tixeront's Les origines de l'église d'Édessa (1888), Carrière's La légende d'Abgar (1895), von Dobschütz's "Christusbilder" in the Texte u. Unters., N.F. 3, and my Litt.-Geschichte 1, pp. 533 f., 2.2, pp. 161 f. The great church-buildings were not erected till 313 (cp. the chronicle of Edessa in Texte u. Unters. 9.1, p. 93), but there was a Christian church as early as 201 (cp. ibid., p. 86). The same chronicle contains some other interesting items on the church and the church-buildings. Julius Africanus had already claimed the Christian king Abgar as his friend (cp. Eus., Chron., 2234-2235) while the Liber Pontific. preserves an ancient tradition (which was misunderstood and applied to Britain) to the effect that this Abgar corresponded with bishop Eleutherus of Rome (cp. my essay in the Sitzungsberichte d. Preuss. Akademie, 1904, pp. 909 f.)

\6/ According to the Liber Synod., there were eighteen of them.

\7/ In the Doctrina Addaei (p. 50; Phillips) Serapion of Antioch (192-209) is said to have consecrated Palut as bishop of Edessa. This may he, but Palut can hardly have been the first teacher and president in the see; he was simply the first catholic bishop. The beginnings of the Christianizing of Edessa may still be made out in vague outline from this native "Doctrina Addæi" (legendary material of the fourth century), the Acts of Scharbêl, and the martyrdom of Barsamya, together with the chronicle of Edessa (cp. Burkitt's Eastern Christianity, lecture 1.). First we have an apostolic missionary, subsequently identified with a well-known apostolic personality; then a native teacher and leader, Aggai; then bishop Palut. Catholicism now comes upon the scene, for Palut was ordained by Serapion, it is said, and Serapion was ordained by Zephyrinus of Rome. Palut was succeeded by bishop Abschalama, and he by bishop Barsamya. The last-named converted the great pagan priest Scharbê1, was a contemporary of [[144b]] Fabian the bishop of Rome (this is emphasized), and lived to see the Decian persecution. This emphasis on dates, when taken together with the statements that Eleutherus wrote to Abgar and that Palut was contemporaneous with Zephyrinus, and with the fact of Osrhoenic bishops sending a letter to Victor of Rome, is a sure proof that there was an ecclesiastical connection now between Rome and Edessa. Zephyrinus was insignificant (it is erroneous, of course, to allege that he ordained Serapion), and he would never have been mentioned had he not played some role in the life of Abgar and the origins of the church at Edessa. At the time of Diocletian's persecution, Qônâ was bishop of Edessa, and Schamona and Guria (cp. Nöldeke, "Über einige Edess. Märtyrakten," Strassburger Festschrift, 1901) were martyred then; under Licinius, the deacon Habbîb was martyred (cp. the old Syrian Kalendarium of 411 C.E.). Qônâ was succeeded by Sa'ad (died 324). -- The mission to Eleutheropolis in Palestine, under Tiberius, with which the Abgar-Addæus-Aggai legend commences, may be historical, but it belongs to the reign of Septimus Severus (so Burkitt, rightly), as is plain from the mention of Eleutheropolis and the name of Serapion of Antioch. As the legend puts only one teacher and missionary before Palut, the Christianizing of Edessa cannot have begun much before the middle of the second century. The legend antedates itself by far more than a century; as a result, it puts under Trajan what happened under Decius. In the chronicle of Michael the Syrian (died 1999) two bishops are mentioned before Palut in connection with Bardesanes, viz. Hystaspes, who is said to have converted Bardesanes and his predecessor Îzanî (Yaznai), besides another bishop who excommunicated Bardesanes, viz. Aquai, the successor of Hystaspes. The first two may have actually been Christian (though not catholic) leaders prior to Palut. In Aquai we may perhaps recognize Aggai; only, in that case, he is put too far down, and the account of him is unauthentic. Burkitt (pp. 34 f.) takes a somewhat different view.

\8/ "As heresies were increasing in Mesopotamia, Bardesanes wrote against the Marcionites and other heretics." This remark of Eusebius (4.30) displays astonishing ignorance. In the Philosoph. (7.31) of Hippolytus, Bardesanes is called "The Armenian." A distinguished pupil of Marcion, Prepon, is also mentioned and described as an "Assyrian"; he wrote against Bardesanes. -- See above, p. 127, for the probable connection of the Acta Thomae with the circle of Bardesanes.

Tatian's Diatessaron was retained by the catholic party in Edessa, although it was not entirely orthodox. The "Gospel of the Separated (ones)," which lies before us in the Syrus Sinaiticus and the Syrus Curetonianus, most likely originated within Edessa also. It came not long after the Diatessaron. Finally, [[145]] Burkitt has recently shown almost to a certainty that the Peshitta (of the gospels) also arose in Edessa, and was issued by bishop Rabbula about 420 C.E.\9/ It was Edessa, and not Antioch or any town in Cœle-Syria, which became the headquarters and missionary center of national Syrian Christianity during the third century.\10/ From Edessa issued the Syriac versions of early Christian literature, and thus Syriac, which had been checked by the progress of Greek, became a civilized and literary tongue, owing to Christianity.

\9/ Cp. Nestle's article on "'Translations of the Bible" in Prot. Real-Encykl.(3) 3, pp. 167 f.; and Merx, Die vier kanonischen Evangelien nach ihrem ältesten bekannten Texte 2.1 (1902), pp. 10. f. Burkitt (in his second lecture) shows that, prior to Tatian, Edessa probably had no version of the gospels at all (though the Peshitta of the Old Testament was probably earlier than Tatian), that the translation of "The Separated (ones)," Acts, and the Pauline epistles goes bach to Palut or to his age (the version of "'The Separated (ones)" is extant in Syr. Cur. and Syr. Sin.), and that the Peshitta is the revision completed by Rabbula. The differences in Syr. Cur. and Syr. Sin. show plainly how necessary a revision and adaptation of the current Greek text had come to be, but the Diatessaron was still the most widely circulated text of the gospels about 400 C.E. Syr. Sin. and Syr. Cur. have no liturgical traces; they were not liturgical texts at all.

\10/ Its influence was only remote and vague.

The Christian city of Edessa, which probably had a larger percentage of Christians among its population than any of the larger towns during the period previous to Constantine, was certainly an oasis and nothing more. Round it swarmed the heathen. A few Christians were indeed to be found at Carrhæ (=Haran), a town which was the seat of Dea Luna and contained numerous temples. This we know from the martyrdoms.\11/ But in the Peregrinatio Silviae, c. 20 (circa 385 C.E.) we read: "In ipsa civitate extra paucos clericos et sanctos monachos, si qui tamen in civitate conmorantur [in the country districts they were numerous], penitus nullum Christianum inveni, sed totum gentes sunt" ("In the city itself, apart from a few clerics and holy monks, who, however, stay inside its walls, I found not a single Christian; all were pagans"). Cp. also Theodoret (H.E. 4.15), who describes Carrhæ, in the reign of Valens, as (κεχερσωμένη) a barbarous place full of the thorns of paganism [[146]] (cp. 5.4, 3.26, and similar statements in Ephraem).\12/ The existence of Christian churches, previous to 325 C.E., can be verified accurately for Nisibis, Resaina, Macedonopolis (on the Euphrates, west of Edessa), and Persa (=Perra), as the bishops of these towns, together with their colleagues from Edessa, attended the Nicene councils.\13/ (For other evidence regarding Nisibis, see Theodoret, H.E. 1.7.)

\11/ No bishop, however, was permitted there. The name of the first bishop occurs under Constantius.

\12/ Haran was predominantly pagan even as late as Justinian's age (Procop., de Bello Pers. 2.13). Christianity could never get a firm foothold there (cp. Chwolson, Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, 1856).

\13/ (=Antiochia Mygdonia) where Ephraem, the famous Syrian author, was born of Christian parents at the beginning of the fourth century. A Christian school can be shown to have existed at Nisibis not long afterwards. By the middle of the fourth century the city was for the most part Christian. Sozomen (5.3.5) writes: Νισιβηνοῖς ὡς παντελῶς χριστιανίζουσι καὶ μήτε τοὺς ναοὺς ἀνοίγουσι μήτε εἰς τὰ ἱερὰ φοιτῶσιν ἠπείλησε (sc. the emperor Julian) μὴ βοηθεῖν, κ.τ.λ. ("He threatened that he would not help the people of Nisibis, since they were entirely Christian and neither opened their temples nor frequented the sacred places").

As regards the spread of Christianity\14/ in Mesopotamia and Persia, no store whatever can be set by the statement (Assemani, Bibl. Orient. 3.1. p. 611) that there were about 360 churches in Persia by the second century.\15/ There is no doubt, however, [[147]] that Epiphanius (Hœr. 62.1) speaks of many local Sabellians, or that Dionysius of Alexandria (circa 250 C.E.) not only knew churches in Mesopotamia, but mentioned their intercourse and relations with other churches (Eus., 7.5; they took part in the controversy over the baptism of heretics); while the dialogue of Philip, a pupil of Bardesanes ("On the Laws of Countries" -- circa 220), presupposes a considerable extension of Christianity, even among the natives, as far as the eastern districts of Persia (cp. Eus, Praep. Evang. 6.10.46),\16/ and Eusebius himself (8.12) mentions martyrs in Mesopotamia after the rise and conquests of the Sassanidæ, and during the persecution of Diocletian.\17/ Furthermore, the great Persian persecution during the fourth century\18/ points to a serious spread of Christianity in the course of the third century (cp. also the origin of Manichæism\19/ and the history of Mani in the Acta Archelai, which are of some use, though of course they are partly fictitious -- Archelaus himself being described by Jerome in the Vir. Illustr. 72. as bishop of [Kaschkar] Mesopotamia). Constantine writes thus to king Sapur: "I am delighted to learn that the finest districts in Persia also are adorned with the presence of [[148]] Christians."\20/ Finally, reference must be made to Aphraates. His homilies, composed between 337 and 345, reflect a Christianity which is substantially unaffected by the course of Greek Christianity, and which therefore occupied the same position before 325 as after.\21/ They also reflect, at the same time, a vigorous and far-reaching ecclesiastical system confronted by a large Jewish population and dependent on Jewish exegetical tradition.\22/ The number of organized churches in Mesopotamia [[149]] before 250 C.E. must have been small.\23/ In one or two localities we can definitely assume the presence of Christians before 325, as, e.g., at Amida (=Diarbekir; cp. the Abgar legend, Acta Thadd. 5; the retrospective inferences are certain), and above all at Gundêschabur (Beth Lapath), whither the captive Western Syrians were chiefly deported (Labourt, pp. 19 f.), and Seleucia-Ctesiphon (as may certainly be inferred from Aphraates, the history of bishop Papa, and the episcopal 1ists, which are not wholly useless).\24/ The Persian bishop at Nicæa, however, did not come from Seleucia.\25/ The existence of Christians at Batana, [[150]] previous to Constantine, may be deduced from the Silviœ Peregr. 19; and we may infer from the Acts of the Persian martyrs (edited by Hofmann\26/) that there were also Christians at Harbath Glal, Kerkuk (=Karkha dh Bheth Slokh), Arbela,\27/ Shargerd, Dara, and Lasom. This holds true perhaps (to judge from the Acta Archelai) of the village of Diodoris in Mesopotamia as well, and of Sibapolis (where there was a martyrdom).\28/ A Christian church may also be assumed to have existed at Kaschkar (Carchar) before 325.\29/

\14/ Reference may also be made to Acts 2.9 ("Parthians and Medes and Elamites and the dwellers in Mesopotamia"), but the results among those who were born Jews cannot have been large, here any more than elsewhere. A passage from the Jerusalem Talmud (cp. Graetz's Hist. des Juifs, 3. p. 51, quoted by Labourt, p. 16) seems to corroborate this. Hananias, a nephew of rabbi Joshua, is said to have attached himself to the Christian church in Capernaum, and, in order to withdraw him from Christian influences, his uncle sent him to Babylon. No reliable data can be got from the history of the Mandæans (cp. Brandt, Die mandäische Religion, etc., 1889) bearing on the history of early Christianity in Persia. All we learn is that this pagan sect was influenced by Christianity. But it is not necessary to assume that this took place in the second or the third century. Sozomen (H.E., 2.8.2) puts it cautiously: καὶ Περσῶν δὲ χριστιανίσαι τὴν ἀρχὴν ἡγοῦμαι, ὅσοι προφάσει τῆς Ὀσροηνῶν καὶ Ἀρμενίων ἐπιμιξίας, ὡς εἰκός, τοῖς αὐτόθι θείοις ἀνδράσιν ὡμίλησαν καὶ τῆς αὐτῶν ἀρετῆς ἐπειράθησαν ("I think the introduction of Christianity among the Persians was due to their intercourse with the people of Osrhoene and Armenia, in all probability; associating with these godly men they were incited to imitate their virtues also"). It is natural to suppose that after the conquest of Western Syria by the Persians, many Christians of the district (together with bishop Demetrianus of Antioch, cp. above, p. 130) were deported to Mesopotamia and Persia. For the "Messalians" in Mesopotamia, see the confused accounts in Epiph., Hœr. 80. (which include, perhaps, Mandæan traits).

\15/ The Nestorian patriarch Timotheus I. (died 823 C.E.) writes to the monks of St Maron (ep. Pognon, Une version Syriaque des aphorismes d'Hippocrate I., [[147b]] Leipzig, 1903, p. 28., in Syriac and French; German by Nestle in Zeitsch. f. k. Gesth., 26.95): "No one will believe that Nestorius converted or baptized all the districts and peoples under this patriarchate. We had our Christianity about 500 years (!) before Nestorius was born, and about twenty years after the ascension of our Lord." Which is absurd.

\16/ Οὔτε οἱ ἐν Παρθίᾳ Χριστιανοὶ πολυγαμοῦσι, Πάρθοι τυγχάνοντες, οὔθ’ οἱ ἐν Μηδίᾳ κυσὶ παραβάλλουσι τοὺς νεκρούς, οὐχ οἱ ἐν Περσίδι γαμοῦσι τὰς θυγατέρας αὐτῶν, Πέρσαι ὄντες, οὐ παρὰ Βάκτροις καὶ Γήλοις φθείρουσι τοὺς γάμους, κ.τ.λ. ("Nor are the Parthian Christians polygamists, nor do Christians in Media expose their dead to dogs, nor do Persian Christians marry their daughters, nor are those in Bactria and among the Gelæ debauched," etc.).

\17/ The Persians are referred to in Constantine's remark (Vit. Const., 2.53) that the barbarians nowadays boasted of having taken in the refugees from the Roman empire during the Diocletian persecution, and of having detained them in an extremely mild form of captivity, permitting them the unrestricted practice of their religion and all that pertained thereto.

\18/ Accordicp.cp.g to Sozom., 2.13 (cp. Marutha), the chor-episcopus Mareabdes was taken captive and killed by the Persians, in the persecution under Sapur, together with his bishop Dausas of Bethzabde and about 250 clerics.

\19/ Manichæism showed a decidedly anti-Christian and anti-catholic front from the very first, though some time afterwards it modified its anti-Christian tendency. Hence Christianity must have been already an important factor in Persian life.

\20/ Vit. Const. 4.13; cp. 4.8.1: πυθόμενος γέ τοι παρὰ τῷ Περσῶν γένει πληθύειν τὰς τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκκλησίας λαούς τε μυριάνδρους ταῖς Χριστοῦ ποίμναις ἐναγελάζεσθαι, κ.τ.λ. ("On learning that churches of God abounded among the Persians, and that thousands of people were gathered into the fold of Christ," etc.).

\21/ The place of their compostion (in Mesopotamia, within the Persian realm) is uncertain; possibly it was the monastery of Mar Mattai, about four hours north from the ruins of ancient Ninive (cp. Texte u. Unters. 3.3.4, pp. 17 f.).

\22/ His fifth homily shows plainly, as indeed we can easily understand, how the sympathies of the Syrian Christians in the territory of Sapur were entirely with the Romans in the Persian war. The characteristics and idiosyncrasies of the ancient Syrian church have been excellently described by Burkitt (in his third and fourth lectures; cp. also Labourt, pp. 31 f.), who has discovered fresh items (in the works of Ephraem and Aphraates) bearing upon the theology of the church, especially upon the doctrine of marriage and the sacraments. The primitive Jewish Christian substratum of Syrian Christianity cones out even in Aphraates; it confirms the opinion that during the brief initial epoch of Christianity in Eastern Syria (of which we know nothing), the converts were principally drawn from converted Jews. One very remarkable trait is that of sexual asceticism (derived from Tatian, of course, not from Judaism). Baptized persons are not to marry; any one who desires to marry is to abstain from baptism, for baptism is a spiritual marriage with Christ. Burkitt (p. 126) rightly speaks of "a deliberate reservation of baptism for the spiritual aristocracy of Christendom" (cp. also his conclusions upon the b'nai Q'yâmâ). This standpoint goes far beyond that of the Novatians, but it is quite in keeping with that of Eustathius of Sebaste; it denotes a conmon Oriental type of primitive Christianity, which probably was focussed at Edessa (cp., however, the account of the preaching of repentance at Caesarea Capadocia in Socrates, 5.22). A doctrinal and practical position of this kind must have made it difficult to oppose the Marcionites, who were numerous in Eastern Syria, for they too refused to baptize any except unmarried persons. From the works of Ephraem and the heresy-catalogue of Maruta of Maipherkat (Texte u. Unters. 19.1, 1899) we can judge how heresies swarmed in Eastern Syria and Persia even in the third century. -- Monasticism entered Mesopotamia at the latest under Constantine, thanks to Mar Awgin [Eugenius]; cp. Butler's Lausiac History of Palladius (1898), p. 218, and Budge's Book of the Governors, p. 44. Mar Awgin came from Egypt; he was a pupil of Pachomius and subsequently a friend of Jacob of Nisibis. He founded a monastery in the mountains near Nisibis. He died in 363, after living for more than thirty years in this monastery, which possibly was founded, as later Syrian witnesses assert, before 325 C.E.

\23/ Labourt, however, seems to me to go too far when he denies that there were any organized churches in Persia before the Sassanid dynasty ("Tout nous porte à croire qu'avant 1'avènement de la dynastie Sassanide, 1'empire perse ne contenait pas des communautés chrétiennes organisées," p. 17).

\24/ According to Ebed Jesu, both the bishop of Amida and the bishop of Gustra (=Ostra? cp. Bratke's Religiongespräch am Hof der Sassaniden, 1899, p. 264) were at Nicæa.

\25/ According to Greg. Barhebr., Chron. 3.22 f., and other legendary writers, Seleucia had three successive bishops who were relatives of Jesus (!). They were called Abres, Abraham, and Jacob. Which shows us what to make of them! On Mari, the founder of the patriarchate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, cp. Raabe's Die Geschichte des Dom. Mari (1893), and Westphal's Unters. über die Quellen u. die Glaubwürdigkeit der Patriarchenchroniken (1901), pp. 30 f.; and on an alleged correspondence of the catholicus Papa of Seleucia (died 326), see Braun in Zeitschr. f. kathol. Theol. 18. (1894), pp. 167 f. On Papa, see Westphal, op. cit., pp. 60 f., and Labourt, 20 f. The personality of this energetic and therefore sorely persecuted bishop, who died full of years, and perhaps the historicity of the synod which he convened (in 313-314 C.E.?), may be regarded as indubitable. His successor was Simeon bar Sabta'e, the martyr. Eusebius describes how at the consecration of the church in Jerusalem there was present one of the Persian bishops, who was a master of the divine oracles (παρῆν δὲ καὶ Περσῶν ἐπισκόπων ἱερὸν χρῆμα, τὰ θεῖα λόγια ἐξηκριβωκὼς ἀνήρ, Vit. Const., 4.43.3). Hence there must have been several of them. -- The aforesaid Mari may have been (so Labourt, p. 15) some actual bishop and missionary on the Tigris, but legend has treated him as if he were one of the twelve apostles, making him the founder of Christianity throughout the entire Eastern Orient. While the legends, which are connected with the central seat of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and which endeavor to throw a special halo round the episcopate as well as to claim apostolic origin (Thomas) for the Nestorian church, are exceptionally full of tendency and quite audacious, they are nevertheless transparent enough and mutually contradictory; their numerous discrepancies indicate every possible variety of ecclesiastical interests (connection by delegation with Antioch, with Jerusalem, with Jesus himself; complete independence; and so forth). Labourt has recently criticized these legends (pp. 13 f.). Even from falsified sources and unreliable traditions, however, we can still see, as I have pointed out, that the Persian church of Mesopotamia must have been loosely organized before the great persecution of the fourth century. Thus there were [[150b]]two bishops in Gundêschabur about the year 340, both of whom were martyred together; and this is not the only instance of the kind. Bishop Papa was probably the first to organize the Persian church.

\26/ Abh. z. Kunde des Morgenlands, 7.3., pp. 9 f., 46 f., 52, 268 (also Nöldeke, in Gött. Gel. Anz. 1880, p. 873, who opines that the first organized Christian church arose on the lower Tigris about 170 C.E.).

\27/ The bishop who attended Nicæa probably came from one or other of the two last-named towns (cp. Westphal, p. 66).

\28/ In regard to the spread of Christianity throughout the East, Nöldeke has been kind enough to write me as follows (Sept. 27, 1901): "It is a bold venture to attempt to exhibit the spread of Christianity in close detail, but you have certainly fixed a large number of points. Scarcely any serious aid is to be got from the East, as the few reliable sources which are older than the fourth century yield very little in this connection beyond what is generally known. Aphraates and the early Acts of the martyrs certainly suggest that in the districts of the Tigris Christianity was widely diffused, with an organization of bishops and clergy, about the middle of the fourth century; but it is a sheer fable to assert that these Persian Christians constituted at that period a definite church under some catholicus. Simeon bar Sabta'e was merely bishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon. The erection of churches, which subsequently became Nestorian, did not take place until the beginning of the fifth century, and at a still later period the Christian church of Persia (whose origin is unfortunately obscure) declined to submit to the catholicus. The stubborn adhesion of the people of Haran to paganism was partly due, perhaps, to a feeling of local jealousy of Edessa, which had early been won over to Christianity. It is a pity that none of the original Syriac writings of the pagans in Haran ('Sabians'), dating from the Islamic period, have been preserved." Mesopotamia was the birthplace of the monk Audius, who started a religious movement of his own in the days of Arius (cp. Epiph., Hœr. 70.1) -- The figures relating to the martyrs during the persecution of Sapur are quite useless, but it is remarkable to find that here the Jews are still described as the chief instigators of the persecution.

\29/ Cp. Westphal, p. 34; Labourt, p. 20. Kaschkar lay on the great canal between the Euphrates and the Tigris in the district Σπασίνου Χάραξ, and the discussions between Manichæans and Christians about 270 C.E. are said to have taken place there. In the Acta Archelai a village called Diodoris in the region of Kaschkar is also mentioned. One account of a martyrdom mentions a martyr in Sibapolis. Does this mean India (the god Siva?).

"Your investigation into the Christian names," Nöldeke now [[151]] writes to me," has moved me to examine the only large and ancient list of Christian Oriental names which is known to me, viz., that of the martyrs during Sapur's persecution (in Wright's Martyrologium, from the famous manuscript of 411 C.E.). It deals with clerics alone. There are over ninety persons mentioned. Aramaic names preponderate by far. It is not always possible to distinguish them accurately from the Persian names, especially as frequent conformations occur which admit of more than one interpretation. Several of the Aramaic names are palpably pagan, like those compounded with "Bôl" (so even in Palmyra), etc.; others are specifically Christian (according to the standard of the age), e.g., "'Abdiso," "servant of Jesus," which occurs five times. The Persian names include Hormuzd and Narse; perhaps their pagan meaning was no longer felt. Only a few are Greco-Roman: Longinus, Sabinus, and Menophilus (none of which I can find in the lists of Jewish teachers in the Mishna or the Talmud, where several other Greek and Roman names occur). I do not include among these Greco-Roman names "Andrew" (twice), which occurs alongside of Paul (thrice) and Peter (once); it was certainly chosen as an apostolic name. Similarly with John (six times), though it was a favorite local name of the Jews. Simon (thrice) is doubtful; the name does occur often among the pagans of Palmyra, as well as among Jews and Christians. Silas (twice) need as little be derived from the New Testament, since it was common among Jews and pagans alike, either in its fuller form <heb>ShAWLaA</heb> (Σἐ ιλας, Palmyra) or abbreviated into <heb>ShYLA</heb> (Gk. Σειλας, Σιλας). It is remarkable that Abraham, which the Jews of that age still refrained from using as a common name, appears five times here, with Isaac (five times) and Jacob (twice). The two latter were common among the Jews. The occurrence of an Ithamar, which is from the Old Testament but was not used by the Jews, is very remarkable. We cannot make much of the list with regard to the Jewish environment. I must admit I had expected more from it."

The Syro-Persian church deserves our unqualified sympathy. It was the only large church which never enjoyed the official protection of the state. It maintained the traditions of Antiochene [[152]] exegesis, it translated the works of Christian antiquity into Syriac with great assiduity, and it could pride itself on knowing Justin, Hippolytus, Methodius, Athanasius, Basil, the three Gregorys, Chrysostom, Diodorus, Amphilochius, Ambrose, and Theodore as well as the Greeks did themselves (cp. the evidence of the Nestorian patriarch Timotheus I., who died in 823). It also assimilated Greek philosophy and science, which it transmitted to the Arabians. At the present day it is crushed, impoverished, and down-trodden, but it can face its downfall with the consciousness that it has not lived in vain, but upon the contrary that it has filled a real place in the history of civilization.

In the third book of his commentary on Genesis, Origen alludes to a tradition that Thomas the apostle took Parthia as his missionary sphere, while Andrew's was Scythia (cp. Eus., H.E. 3.1). From this it may be inferred that Christians were known to exist there by the first half of the third century. The same holds true of India. Of course the India to which Pantænus journeyed from Alexandria (Eus., 5.10) may be South Arabia (or even the Axumitic kingdom). But the India where the early (third century) Acts of Thomas locate that apostle's work is the N.W. territory of our modern India (for it is only Cod. Pani, 1617, of the Martyrdom of Thomas, that drags in Axum; cp. Bonnet, p. 87). Andrapolis is mentioned in Acta Thom. 3 as the scene of the apostle's labors; for other localities mentioned there, see Lipsius, Apokr. Apostelgesch. 1. p. 280 (after Gutschmid). I pass over the traditions about Andrew, which mention various localities, as well as the traditions about Simon and Judas (cp. my Chronologie 1. pp. 543 f.). They are all posterior to Constantine.\30/ It cannot be shown that the "Thomas-Christians," discovered in India in the sixteenth century, go back to the third century.

\30/ Compare, however, the passage from Origen already quoted on p. 13: "Nec apud Seras nec apud Ariacin audierunt Christianitatis sermonem." -- Note that the first Protestant history of missions, published in Germany, was devoted to India, viz., M.V. La Croze, Hist. du Christ. des Indes, 1724 (cp. Wiegand in the Beiträge z. Förd. christl. Theol., 6.3. pp. 270 f.). La Croze, however, hardly touches the primitive age, as he regards the legends about Thomas as unauthentic.