Summary comment

We must note that in the vast area covered by this brief chapter and especially in Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, we appear to see one of the striking failures of Christianity. Here was a major reverse, indeed, the major territorial reverse of all the history of the faith. Here Christ had lived, died, and risen again. Here the Gospel was first preached, here the original Christian churches came into being, and here the name Christian was coined. Here were three of the five great patriarchal sees of the Catholic Church — Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria — and the earliest creative theological thinking. It was here that monasticism arose, with its daring and resolute dream of the complete attainment of the Christian ideal. Yet here Christians were more divided than anywhere else in the first thousand years of the faith and fell further short of the ideal of the unity of love than elsewhere. In some areas the majority adopted the Christian name but much of this was superficial and could not stand the test of adversity. When Islam came, borne by conquering Arabs, the churches shrank and slowly became fossilized and sterile. To be sure, some converts were made to the east of the Arab domains, notably by the Nestorians, but they were usually small minorities. Yet more than any other religion in Islamdominated lands, Christianity displayed the ability to survive and to reach out into new areas and propagate itself.

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