History and Geography
Chapter 1 A History of the Church of the East: Origins to the Eighteenth Century
A History of the Church of the East: Origins to the Eighteenth Century
The First Centuries
Christianity appeared in the Roman Empire, which incorporated both the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean world, with its capital, Rome, laying in the western part. There is a tendency to forget the fact that in the beginning the principal centres of Christianity were situated not only in Jerusalem and Antioch, but also in Edessa, an ancient city of Upper Mesopotamia.
It was at Antioch (today in south-east Turkey) that Christ’s disciples first received the name of Christians (Acts 11:19–26). Antioch, an apostolic see whose first primate was St Peter before he went to Rome, was a very important centre for the spread of Christianity in the region. Originally the Church of the East was tied to the see of Antioch, but its presence in Persian, not Byzantine, territory led, among other things, to its autonomy.
The city of Edessa (today Urfa in Turkey, about 260 km north-east of Antioch) and its environs were places principally of Syriac language and culture and remained so. Edessa at that time was situated on the crossroads of the commercial routes between the Roman and Parthian Empires. From Edessa Christianity spread eastwards into the Parthian Empire in Persia (an area covering modern Iran, Iraq and surrounding lands). It was in the Persia of the Parthians (247 BC–224 AD) and then of the...
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