The Church in Asia Pre-1582

This is a Persian Nasrani cross from the 9th century.  It is used by many Mar Thoma Christians in Kerala, India, who are spiritual descendants of the apostle Thomas, who arrived there in 52 AD according to tradition.  See Chandran Nair, There’s a Place in India Where Religions Coexist Beautifully and Gender Equality Is Unmatched (Huffington Post, Apr 6, 2016) re: Kerala, India.  Photo credit: Jogytmathew | CC3.0, Wikimedia Commons. The year 1582 AD is significant because Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci arrived in the Portuguese colony of Macau to begin Catholic missionary work in China.  Meanwhile, the Mongol kingdoms were in decline.


the church in asia pre-1582

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 Essays on the Church in Asia Pre-1582

Jesus in the Chinese & Chinese-American Experience (ppt)

Jesus in the Indian & Indian-American Experience (tbd)

Jesus in the Japanese & Japanese-American Experience

Jesus in the Vietnamese & Vietnamese-American Experience

Christian Faith in Asia and Asian-America: Filipino, Korean, Chinese

Books and Articles on the Church in Asia Pre-1582

The Church of the East 431 AD resources exploring the Syriac-speaking church that is sometimes seen through the lens of Nestorius, a characterization which has been recently challenged

The Oriental Orthodox Church 451 AD resources exploring the churches which upheld the Miaphysite language of Jesus’ one “physis” while the pro-Chalcedonian Churches (Constantinople and Rome) upheld two “physeis.” The selections below are guided by the attempt to understand the schism that occurred at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. This includes the Egyptian Coptic, Armenian, Syrian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Indian Malankaran Churches.

Singapore National Heritage Board, Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour (Google Arts and Culture) a beautiful collection of Christian art from Asia; see also Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour (Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore) now a series of YouTube videos presented by the Museum

Department of Nestorian Studies (website) primarily researching Kazakhstan

John M.L. Young, By Foot to China: Mission of the Church of the East to 1400 (book published 1984)

Sebastian P. Brock, The "Nestorian" Church: A Lamentable Misnomer (Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 1996) discusses the historical, theological, and linguistic background to the debates around the two natures of Christ

Samuel Hugh Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia, Volume 1 (Amazon book, Apr 1998) and Volume 2 (Amazon book, Mar 2005)

William Dalrymple, The Incredible Journey (The Guardian, Apr 14, 2000) about the apostle Thomas in India.  See the current lineage of the Saint Thomas Christians.  It is plausible that Thomas passed through Taxila, near Islamabad, Pakistan, and met with the fourth King Gondophares.  But the Taxila cross cannot be considered an indication of that history.

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

Daniel H. Bays, A New History of Christianity in China (Amazon book, 2012)

Pravoslavie, Burial of Nestorian Christians Discovered in China (Pravoslavie Orthodox Christianity blog, Jan 20, 2014)

Tjalling H.F. Halbertsma, Early Christian Remains of Inner Mongolia (Amazon book, 2008, 2015) a study of the Öngüt Christian remains in Inner Mongolia - Nestorian Christians ethnically related to the Mongols, who wrote in Syriac, Uyghur, and Chinese

Mar Bawai Soro, The Church of the East: Apostolic & Orthodox (Amazon book, Jun 5, 2014) re: the Assyrian Church from its origins in Mesopotamia to its missionary spread across Asia

Angela Ambrogetti, The Story of Japan's Hidden Christians Emerges from the Vatican Archives (Catholic News Agency, Sep 17, 2015)

Amir Abdukadir, Denis Dubrovin, Nurmahamat Amat, Wenxian Liu, Ayshamgul Hasim, Anwar Aikemu, Batur Mamtimin, Halmurat Upur, The Origins of Uyghur Medicine: Debates and Perspectives (Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences, Oct 2015) evidence of communication with the Greco-Roman people starting from the fourth century BCE to sixth century CE - partly the benefit of Christian missions and communication between Christians

Christopher Baumer, The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity (Amazon book, Nov 5, 2016) richly illustrated and well narrated, including its dialogue with Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Islam, Buddhist, and Taoism

Matthew Franklin Cooper, China's Peaceful Warrior (Heavy Anglo-Orthodox blog, Oct 20, 2017) re: Guo Ziyi, during the Tang Dynasty

Ron Choong, Silk Road Christianity (Academy for Christian Thought, Mar 18, 2018) lecture posted on YouTube involving the Church of the East from its origins in the Persian Empire, its missionary movement across Asia, its interaction with the Mongol Empire, and Princess Sorkaktani, a Nestorian Christian whose three sons were Emperors, of Mongolia, China, and Persia.

Lance Ralston, Rabban Sauma Part 1 (Communio Sanctorum, May 20, 2018) the Nestorian Turkic Christian who was a 13th century reverse "Marco Polo" as ambassador for the Mongolian Emperor to the Roman Pope and the kings of England and France.  See also:

Part 2 (Communio Sanctorum, May 27, 2018)

Part 3 (Communio Sanctorum, Jun 3, 2018)

Part 4 (Communio Sanctorum, Jun 10, 2018)

Part 5 (Communio Sanctorum, Jun 17, 2018)

Part 6 (Communio Sanctorum, Jun 24, 2018)

Part 7 (Communio Sanctorum, Jul 1, 2018)

Part 8 (Communio Sanctorum, Jul 8, 2018)

Part 9 (Communio Sanctorum, Jul 15, 2018)

Part 10 (Communio Sanctorum, Jul 22, 2018)

Part 11 (Communio Sanctorum, Jul 29, 2018)

Part 12 (Communio Sanctorum, Aug 5, 2018)

the church in asia: untold stories of church and empires

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics