The scene of the birth of Christianity

First of all, we must remind ourselves again that the basin of the Mediterranean, the region in which Christianity came into being, in which it had its first great triumphs, and in which it long had most of its strength, embraced only a small fraction of the earth's surface. Moreover, when Christ was born it was the home of considerably less than half of civilized mankind. Culturally it presented a great variety, but in general it was dominated by two traditions, those of Greece and Rome. To the east lay Mesopotamia and Persia. Both made their contributions to the Graco-Roman world, but they were quite distinct from it. For centuries the Roman and Persian Empires were deadly rivals, with Mesopotamia, the scene of one of the oldest of the civilizations of mankind, as debated ground which was chiefly in possession of Persia. More remote was India, and still farther away was China. India exerted but little influence on Greece and Rome, and China still less.

Since it had its birth, its first triumphs, and its initial chief stronghold in the Graco-Roman world, Christianity was profoundly moulded by it. In organization and in thought it conformed in part to it. It came to be largely identified with what is called the Occident, that portion of mankind which is the heir of Greece, Roman, and itself. Only occasionally did it spread extensively among non-Occidental peoples. Not until recently has it gained substantial footing in all the other great cultural units and among the majority of the primitive groups of mankind. Only within the past few decades has it become actually world-wide. It still has its main centres in the Occident. While lately it has made tremendous strides towards becoming universal, it has not yet divested itself of the integuments which it acquired during its Occidental pilgrimage.

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