structures of power. They were forced to develop their own institutions without state subsidies. Their faith sometimes brought opprobrium and death.

Another difference from the Byzantine-controlled Christian areas is found in the Asian Christian approach to the intellectual life. Where institutions of higher learning and research were developed, such as at Edessa, Nisibis, Merv and some monasteries of the Tur Abdin in what is now southern Turkey, theologians and their debates had a more central role. However, beyond those centres, Christianity was defined primarily by the liturgy, kinship structures, spirituality and ethics. Therefore the Bible (and reflection on the biblical texts), the liturgy, lives of saints, wisdom sayings and synodal acts appear to have been more central to Christian life. In theological texts west and south of the areas of direct Byzantine influence, there is less precision of theological language. It was not that the writers were less capable; they were merely not directly involved in the struggles for power that were prevalent in Byzantium.

Throughout Asia, there were problems posed by the relation of Christianity to other religious traditions. Sometimes it was a matter of definition. In much of northern Mesopotamia, Marcionism was for perhaps two centuries the dominant expression of the Christian tradition. It is unclear when Asian Christians came to understand themselves as totally distinct from Judaism. Mani and the Manichaeans certainly understood themselves in continuity with the Christian tradition and had their roots in earlier Christian/Jewish baptistic traditions in Parthia and India that knew and honoured the story of Jesus ofNazareth, seeing him in continuity with the Jewish prophets and Mani as a continuation of that tradition. Developing as it did outside the orbit of Roman Christianity, Manichaeism developed structures and theological traditions that were quite different. Mani's tradition and the other Asian baptistic traditions were never accepted by Western Christians who considered them to be heretical competitors. The relations with Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Confucianism and other local religious traditions were more complicated and the evidence for that interaction generally more subtle.

Finally, a history of early Christianity in Asia or in East Africa during this period cannot be written in the same ways as histories of the Western church where practitioners and their texts, from the fourth century onward, entered privileged places in the imperial culture. In Asia and Africa, there is less, and more episodic, documentation - more, as it were, a series of vignettes than a complete record. The amount of documentation varies significantly. Syriac, Armenian and Georgian sources are extensive, while the extant sources for important Christian presences such as those of Soghdia, China and India are few and suggestive. Those for other places, including much of Central Asia

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