witnessed in the 1840s the birth of the Baha'i faith. Small but ancient communities of Jews were found in almost all cities of the Middle East, while Palestine started to welcome growing numbers of Jewish immigrants from the West.

The Christians ofthe Middle East, afterthe Muslims the biggest single group, consisted of many different denominations. Of these, the Coptic Church in Egypt, the Armenian Church in the Ottoman empire and Persia, and the Syrian Orthodox Church in northern Mesopotamia represented the miaphysite opposition to the Council of Chalcedon (451), whereas the (Assyrian) Church of the East, in northern Mesopotamia and north-western Persia, represented the continuation of the Church of Persia which had identified with the theologies of Nestorius and Theodore ofMopsuestia in the same period. The Chalcedonian tradition was represented by the Greek Orthodox or 'Rum' Church, mainly to be found in the western provinces of the Ottoman empire.1 In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Roman Catholic missionaries in Aleppo and other cities of the Ottoman empire had successfully laboured for the union of these churches with Rome, although only the Maronite Church (which had established strong links with the Roman Catholic Church during the crusading period) as a whole had accepted the authority of the pope. All other churches split over this issue and rival Catholic hierarchies were created.2 In general, the level of education of the members and clergy of the churches of the East was not high, and lay religious life was maintained primarily by oral transmission of the basic texts (in church as well as in informal settings outside the church) almost everywhere in the Middle East. Exceptions were found, however, especially in places with a long-established Catholic presence such as Aleppo or an international city like Istanbul. Churches that were located far removed from the centres of the day, like the Syrian Orthodox Church in eastern Turkey and the Church of the East in Persia, remained almost untouched by western influences.

It is to this world that Protestant and Catholic missionaries of the early nineteenth century directed their attention in a series of encounters that had lasting implications for the relations of Western Christians with Eastern Christians, Jews and Muslims.

1 See volume v. On the christological positions, see also Brock, 'The "Nestorian" Church'. The name 'Rum' ('Roman') refers to the historical connection of this church with the Byzantine Church in the East Roman empire.

2 See chapter 25 above. On the earlier Catholic missions, see Heyberger, Les chretiens du Proche-Orient.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment