Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ancient Chinese Christianity: Further Vindication of Church Tradition

I wrote this in honor of the Epiphany season but didn't post it then. This is ancient relief archeologists recently discovered on Chinese tombs in the Jiangsu Province dating from the first-second century (25-220) A.D. The manger is central, with the Three Wise Men bearing gifts on the left, shepherds following them in adoration. The men kneeling on the right-hand side are would-be assassins dispatched by King Herod.

The discovery has reinvigorated academic investigation about ancient Christian contact with China. I love it when archeology and history catch up with Church tradition.

The Synaxarion of Orthodox Chinese Martyrs:

According to an oral tradition, Christianity reached China through the Apostle Thomas.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The introduction of Christianity into China has been ascribed not only to the
Apostle of India, St. Thomas, but also to St. Bartholomew. In the third century,
Arnobius, in "Adversus Gentes", speaks of the Seres, with the Persians and the
Medes, as among the nations reached by "that new power which has arisen from the
works done by the Lord and his Apostles."

A quotation from Greek writer George Alexandrou, author of He Raised the Cross on the Ice (about St. Andrew):

[W]e have many written traditions from the second and third centuries A.D. that the apostles went to Middle Asia, to sub-Saharan Africa, to India, even to old Burma. They went to the land of Sogdiana, which is modern Uzbekistan/modern China...
When asked if this was the same region as the discovery linked above, he replied:

No, those tombs are at the other end of China, but there was possibly a Chinese disciple of St. Thaddeus of the Seventy, whose name is St. Aggai in the Syriac tradition...His name in the Chinese sources may have been Wang-Hai -- the important thing here is that according to the sources he was a silk producer, and we know that no one could be a silk producer at that time unless he was Chinese. So, perhaps St. Aggai was the first Chinese disciple of an apostle of Christ...There are also traditions from the Yellow Sea, near Shanghai, of St. Thomas having been in China. This is not physically impossible.
For more on the modern church in China, here's a link to the Hong Kong Metropolitanate and the Orthodox Church of Taiwan.


Blogger Peter C. said...

A most worthy endeavor: the Chinese Orthodox Translation Project

2:31 PM  
Blogger jean-michel said...

In French but with all English links, news of Orthodox Pascha in China in 2007, together with links for history of Orthodox Christianism in China from apostolic times to these days


11:47 AM  

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