Monday, November 1, 2010

The Lost History of Christianity, Philip Jenkins

I always mean to do more book reviews. I read every morning and I read such wonderful books. Despite my good intentions, lots of time goes by before I think of reviewing a book I have read. The above book, I have just finished and it was wonderful. The full title is The Lost History of Christianity, The Thousand – Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia – and How it Died.

I know that it is fashionable to think of Islam as the “peaceful” religion. We pretend either that the Middle East was never Christian or that the Muslims never did anything to force their religion on the people they conquered there. We barely even acknowledge that they were conquerors. To say the Arabs conquered the Middle East, we might have to imply that there was violence involved with their take over this area.

Also, European Christians certainly did not help the Middle Eastern Christians. European Christians were mostly Catholic until fairly recently and they mostly thought the Middle Eastern Christian were heretics or worse. Perhaps if the Crusaders had not attacked Byzantium, it might not have fallen to the Turks. Perhaps, the most shocking thing of all is that the Middle Eastern Churches did survive and they are still alive today.

The Christians survived fairly well until the 12 century. The main prosecutions of Christians (and Jews) really got off the ground in the 12th century. Non-Muslims were totally wiped out in North Africa in this century. In the following centuries, there were times when Christians could live well in the Middle East and times when they could not. It varied a lot across the Middle East, depending on the time and place. The last big push in the Middle East to get rid of Christian populations was in the early 20th Century.

This is not to say that the Arabs were the worst conquerors of the Middle East. The Mongols invasions were probably more destructive. The invasion by Tamerlane was no picnic either. If you go back to bible, there was always a lot of violence and invasions in this area. In the 14th Century, the Middle East suffered because of the Black Death, Little Ice Age and war. The population dropped dramatically and this certainly did not help the Christian populations.

So, what Middle Eastern churches have survived? The main Christian churches were the Nestorians, the Jacobite (or Syrian Orthodox) and connecting Maronites, and Coptics. To find out more on the Nestorians, see The Unofficial Website of The Nestorian Church/, or the Nestorian Pages. This church does not seem to have its own website. This church is also called the Syrian Church of the East or Chaldean Catholic Church. This church is currently called Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and is based on USA.

For the Jacobites, see their official site at Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, or Jacobite Syrian Church. The Syrian Church has lots of churches in North American. There are also churches in India, Europe and UAE. For information on the Coptic Church see Coptic or Coptic Church in Egypt.

Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University. To see him on YouTube, see Philip Jenkins by Fora TV. To see a reviews of this book, see book review by J. Peter Pham or book review by Derek Leman.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Jenkins. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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