The Church in Africa Pre-1600

Cradles of Christian Civilization

The excavated Faras Cathedral from the Nubian Christian civilization in the Upper Nile Region.  Depicted is the birth of Christ, with Mary reclining, surrounded by angels.  Photo credit:  Tadeusz Biniewski | CC3.0, Wikimedia Commons.  The story of Nubian Christianity is remarkable.  At around 540 AD, the warring kings and kingdoms of Nobatia, Makuria, and Alodia (all now Northern Sudan) became Christian at roughly the same time.  They reconciled their differences and merged their kingdoms.  This led to a flourishing literary and artistic culture in the Upper Nile region.  See what is known about the Kingdom of Makuria and artwork in the Faras Cathedral: the fiery furnace in DanielMary and Infant Jesus, the Cross and Four Living Creatures, and Madonna and Child with Bishop Marianos.  The Nubians resisted and/or survived Arab Islamic military advances until around 1500 AD.  Here are other Nubian Christian frescoes.  The National Museum in Warsaw, Poland has constructed the Faras Gallery to display the artwork. 


the church in africa: pre-1600

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel.

Messages and Papers on the Church in Africa Pre-1600

Children in the Early Church

Women in the Early Church part 1 and part 2

Women in Church Leadership part 1 and part 2

The Council of Nicaea, the Origin of "the Trinity," and the Limitations of Human Language on the linguistic, theological dimension; important because of the role of Athanasius of Alexandria and the later impact of the Chalcedonian Creed on Coptic Church

The Council of Nicaea, the Origin of "the Trinity," and the Role of Political Power on the political history; important because of the role of Athanasius of Alexandria and the later impact of the Chalcedonian Creed on Coptic Church

Christian Mysticism:  Are We Missing Something? These practices originated in Egyptian monasticism

Jesus and the Shaping of Desire: An Exploration of Early Church Spiritual Practices these practices originated in Egyptian monasticism

Free Will in the Patristics

Penal Substitution and Medical Substitution: A Historical Comparison an analysis of early church writings

Military Service According to Ambrose of Milan, and Just War Theory According to Augustine of Hippo (TBD)

Slavery in Christianity, Part 1: Slavery in the Bible, Slavery Today (and ppt)

Slavery in Christianity, Part 2: Christianity from the 1st to 15th Centuries 

Slavery in Islam: From the Seventh to Twenty First Century

Slavery in the Bible - Worksheet

The Impact of Jesus (and ppt)


The Theology of Marvel’s Black Panther (45 - 60 minute presentation, or 2 hour presentation with discussion) A fun exploration of the movie as social commentary, reliance on actual African and African-American history affected by Christian faith, and concepts of good and evil which are ultimately theological. Why is Wakanda like Ethiopia? How does the T’Challa vs. Killmonger dynamic play out like the MLK vs. Malcolm X dynamic?

Books and Articles on the Church in Africa Pre-1600

Wikipedia, Moses the Black (Wikipedia article) 330 - 405 AD

Wikipedia, Ezana of Axum (Wikipedia article) 320's - 360 AD, first Christian king of Ethiopia

Wikipedia, Abuna Yemata Guh (Wikipedia article) re: the Ethiopian monolithic rock churches in the northern, Tigray region of Ethiopia, hewn from the sixth century, honoring the Nine Saints (Wikipedia article) from Rome, Constantinople, and Antioch, and decorated with Ethiopian mosaics dating back to the fifteenth century.

Ambrose Andreano, The Desert Fathers (Patristics Project) re: the Egyptian Christian monastic movement which later spread throughout the world and became the Orthodox monasteries and Catholic orders, and even Protestant parachurches

Otto F.A. Meinardus, Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert (Amazon book, Feb 1, 1989)

Elizabeth Isichei, A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present (Amazon book, Feb 22, 1995)

Kwame Bediako, Jesus in Africa (Amazon book, Nov 30, 1999) republished as Kwame Bediako, Jesus and the Gospel in Africa (Amazon book, 2004)

Otto F.A. Meinardus, Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity (Amazon book, 1999)

Gay Byron, Symbolic Blackness and Ethnic Difference in Early Christian Literature (Amazon book, Jun 30, 2002)

Massimo Capuani, Christian Egypt: Coptic Art and Monuments Through Two Millennia (Amazon book, Sep 1, 2002)

Derek A. Welsby, Medieval Kingdoms of Nubia: Pagans, Christians and Muslims in the Middle Nile (Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2002) and Peter C. Nadig's book review

Linda M. Heywood and John K. Thornton, Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585-1660 (Amazon book, 2007) the remarkable story of how King Afonso of Kongo became a baptized Catholic in 1491, one year before Columbus set sail for the Americas, and laid the foundation for up to 20% of the West African people taken as slaves to the Americas were Catholic Christians; this means that church history had to be falsified in order for the Catholic Doctrine of Discovery to take effect; see also John Thornton, The Development of an African Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Kongo, 1491–1750 (The Journal of African History, Jan 1, 2009) and John Thornton and Linda Heywood, A Forgotten African Catholic Kingdom (The Root, Aug 12, 2011). This led to the Stono Rebellion of 1739 in South Carolina (Wikipedia article), led by Catholic Kongolese-Americans; see Lisa Vox, What Impact Did the Stono Rebellion Have on the Lives of Slaves? (Thoughtco, Jan 13, 2018)

David W. Phillipson, Ancient Churches of Ethiopia (Amazon book, 2009); see also Ezana (Abreha) (Ancient World History website)

John Gallagher, Byzantines Beat the Vikings to America by 500 Years (Diakonia, Jul 11, 2009) re: North African Orthodox Christians fleeing the Vandal invasion, landed in present day Connecticut

Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-and How It Died (Amazon book, Nov 3, 2009)

Aziz Atiya, History of Eastern Christianity (Amazon book, Jan 1, 2010) written by a Coptic Christian, surveys Copts and Ethiopians, along with other Oriental Orthodox Churches in Asia:  Syrians, Nestorians, Armenians, and Indians

Thomas C. Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity (Amazon book, Aug 23, 2010)

Thomas C. Oden, Early Libyan Christianity: Uncovering a North African Tradition (Amazon book, Oct 28, 2011)

Adam Lajtar, J. van der Vliet, Grzegorz Ochala, and Giovanni Ruffini, Nubian Voices: Studies in Nubian Christian Civilization, Journal of Juristic Papyrology Supplements (Amazon book, Oct 31, 2011)

Salim Faraji, Roots of Nubian Christianity Uncovered: The Triumph of the Last Pharaoh (Amazon book, Jul 25, 2012)

Philip Jenkins, Shenoute the Great (Patheos, Aug 9, 2013) re: the 4th century Coptic leader of the White Monastery in Upper Egypt

John R. Gresham, Jr., Athanasius: Relevance in the Black Church Today (blog, Jun 26, 2014)

Seraphim Danckaert, BBC Documentary on Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (Orthodox Christian Network, Jun 25, 2014)

Vince Bantu, Is Christianity the White Man's Religion? (Jude3 Project, Jun 20, 2016) about Christianity in Egypt from the 2nd to 7th centuries and Vince Bantu, Mis-Reformed, the Imperialism of Reformed Theology  (Urban Perspective, Feb 18, 2018)

Christian C. Sahner, Discoveries in the Ethiopian Desert (Marginalia, Mar 17, 2017) re: the Garima Gospels manuscripts

Ralph Lee, Symbolic Interpretations in Ethiopic and Early Syriac Literature (Amazon book, Oct 18, 2017) explores the influence of Syrian Christianity on Ethiopian Christianity in the earliest centuries

Dirshaye Menberu, Estifanos of Ethiopia (Dictionary of African Christian Biography) (1380 - c.1450 AD) an Ethiopian scholar and reformer of the Ethiopian Church who bears curious resemblances to the European Protestant Reformers.

Wikipedia, Walatta Petros (Wikipedia article) (1592 - 1642) one of the 21 female saints in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; Petros is celebrated for resisting the influence of Roman Catholicism in Ethiopia 

Wikipedia, Giyorgis of Segla (Wikipedia article) (c.1365 - 1425) an important Ethiopian Orthodox writer in the 15th century

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics