Making the Church of the East

Christianity spread in the Persian Empire during the second and third centuries, when it became a major force, especially in western regions. Looking today at some of those early centers is multiply depressing, as they are today in the process of witnessing that ancient tradition being uprooted. From the fifth century through the fourteenth, the [Read More...]

Importing Christianity


In the third century, Christianity spread into the Persian Empire, where it  became a powerful presence. The means by which this auspicious event occurred are startling and even humbling for anyone who thinks in terms of deliberately planned missionary efforts. At least at first, many, perhaps most, of the Christians who found themselves under Persian [Read More...]

Persia’s Christian Roots


I have been exploring the history of Christianity within the Persian Empire, a subject very well known to specialists working on that area, but less so to their counterparts who study the story in its “mainstream” (Mediterranean and European) forms. Before writing about this in any more detail, it’s important to understand the geographical setting, [Read More...]

Shapur’s Great Persecution

I posted on the topic of early Christian martyrdom, arguing that the phenomenon was as widespread as Christian writers claimed, and that it truly was driven by religious motives. That was especially true in the Persian Empire. One of the great church historians of antiquity was Sozomen, who was born near Gaza, in Palestine, around [Read More...]

The Reality of Persecution

Rome was not the only empire in antiquity, nor the only one with a sizable Christian population. I stress that repeatedly because of the number of times we read about Christian engagement with the secular world, which seems to be defined as the Roman Empire. In fact, the Persian Empire also had plenty of Christians, [Read More...]

Angels from the East?


In the two or three centuries before Jesus’s time, Jews became highly interested in angels, to whom they assigned identities and personal names. That represents a major shift from the well-known scriptures of the sixth and fifth centuries BC that we find in the canonical Old Testament. Something had happened between those periods, but what? [Read More...]


patriarchs copy

Whether or not we like the fact, the fate of great religions is often shaped by political factors, by the rise and fall of empires and Great Powers. Just look for instance at the distribution of those thriving Catholic and Anglican churches across the former imperial possessions in Africa. When we write Christian history, though, [Read More...]