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The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden by Philip(Author) Jenkins

By Philip(Author) Jenkins

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Extra resources for The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia - And How It Died LOST HIST OF CHRISTIANITY

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When we trace the history of Christianity, we emphasize the kinds of Christian belief that characterized the churches of the old Roman Empire, the Catholic and Orthodox, but they achieved their absolute hegemony only as a consequence of the (relatively late) fall of the older rival churches. Many mainstreams once flowed. In theology, for instance, the Catholic/Orthodox taught one particular approach to understanding the Incarnation, a fundamental belief from which thinkers strayed at peril to their lives, and later Protestants largely inherited this theology.

The Christian center of gravity, on the other hand, has shifted over time. For long centuries, the faith found its most active centers 26 The Lost History of Christianity in the Near East, but in later eras, the cultural and demographic heart of the church moved to Europe and the Atlantic world, and in our time appears to be shifting to the global South. But unlike Islam, Christianity has not retained its original foundation, in that its original homeland—the region where it enjoyed its greatest triumphs over its first millennium—is now overwhelmingly Muslim.

The city was notorious for producing idiosyncratic blends of different faiths, old and new. 2 Although well known to specialists, Merv’s story fits poorly with conventional assumptions about the development of Christianity. In a sense, the tale is both too ancient for our expectations, and too modern. It is too “ancient” in that it involves the survival of a Semitic Christianity into the second millennium. It is too “modern” in its portrayal of Christians living not as the intimate allies of a Christian king but as tolerated minorities; of a church in a multifaith society; and above all, of Asian Christians in a wholly non-European context.

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