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Conclusion

There are similarities in the fragmentary stories of the development of Christianity in Asia and Eastern Africa during the fourth to sixth centuries. As it had from the beginning, it followed the trade routes as merchants and missionaries took with them their faith. Because of this people to people transmission, there was a high degree of comfort with cultural and theological diversity that was not found to the same degree in Byzantium or in the remnants of the Latin West. There was also an interconnectedness of historical experience and influences along the trade routes and in the intellectual centres. On the other hand, international politics and religious strife separated communities along primarily national and cultural lines. Creeds intended to unify thought and practice within the Byzantine empire had the opposite effect. There was also, in much of Asia, a common alienation from political and social power. In both the Asian Christian heartlands of Mesopotamia and Persia, there was no pretence to real cultural power or influence. When church and state merged, it was as part of an effort to ensure the political survival and cultural identity of the ethnic group. There were apparently few dreams of empire among Christians in Asia. Survival, the opportunity to follow one's religious practices, and the opportunity to confess one's faith to one's neighbours, were central values. The fragmentary nature of the textual and material culture evidence for the stories of the lives of these communities is due to these larger cultural realities.

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