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May 21st - Lecture #5.doc

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Adam Lehto

May 21 st RLG203 Lecture #5 Living in the Muslim World - expansions of the churches in the Western Roman part of the world - relationship between geography and theology – not random o connected to regional, national, and even ethnic identities - Christianity has not learned how to maintain internal diversity very well - 3 zones of Christian experience – Arabic, Greek, Latin o Christians in the Muslim world stretched across the whole spectrum of geography  exception to the east/west progression - in these 3 zones, ordinary Christians might not have spoken any of those languages o distinction between the official language of the theology and the language spoken by the people - the most overlap between what the church’s language was and what the ordinary people spoke in Byzantine o opposed to the West - eastern Christians - Spain is an interesting case with its mix of Arabs, Roman culture, Jewish culture, Christian culture - relationship between Christians and Muslims th th - Christians in the Arab world before Islam – 4 to 6 centuries o not claiming Arab as a Christian phenomenon o before Muhammad, there was a very strong Christian and Jewish presence in Arab centers - perhaps the earliest Christian mission in the Arabian peninsula took place in the th 4 century – cannot reconstruct this fully, but some evidence - some sources indicate that there were monasteries being built by the…gulf? o tend to be in the north eastern part of the Arabian peninsula o closer to the administrative center of the church of the east  extension of the church of the East into Persia but also Arab  Persian empire before Islam - religious background in Arabia itself: o in the 3 century – time when the new Persian dynasty was being established – Zoroastrian was once again the state religion  not much longer before Constantine declares Christianity to be legal o evidence of a form of monotheism among an Arab kingdom in the Arabian peninsula known as the Himyarites  inscriptions in part of the ruins of a temple in Yemen shows a shift towards a more monotheistic orientation - for the Himyarites, the moon God is seen as the one true God rd o intriguing to think there is a native Arab development already in the 3 century towards monotheistic belief  not Christian or Jewish monotheism  not sure how to characterize it – moon God th - by the 4 century, we can read other inscriptions that no longer assign a name to God but describe him as ‘the merciful one’ o this is one of the most prominent names for the name of God in the Qur’an o can be traced back to pre-Islamic Arab culture - by the 5 century – the ‘passionate one’ o also another name for God in the Qur’an - sometime around 400, the ruler of the Himyarites kingdom converts to Judaism o Jewish kingdom in the middle of Arabia – hardly anyone knows about this – not in the public consciousness o Jews had been there for centuries – been there before the time of Christ  established communities – economically and culturally - Jewish monotheism in an Arabaic setting by the year 400 o what does this have to do with Christians? o about a century after his conversion, the Himyarite ruler at the time decides that he does not want any Christians in his kingdoms  persecution of Christians by the Jewish ruler in Arabia about 100 years before Muhammad (persecution happens in about 520’s)  thousands of Christians were massacred  seems like this was a sizeable number – ethnic/religious cleansing  an army from Ethiopia (across the Red Sea) comes to avenge the persecution of Christians and assassinate the Jewish king • why Ethiopia? – was a Christian nation – national identity with Christian theology • Ethiopia is in an alliance with Byzantine  Ethiopian army gets revenge on the Jewish Arab king • Now there is no longer a Jewish king, but a Christian King imposed on the Himyarites by the Ethiopians – for about 40 years - so now Arabian is full of Jews and Christians and has very interesting developments of monotheism and political tensions - inscription from 542 in Yemen – through the power, the glory and the grace of the Merciful One, his Messiah and the Holy Spirit o clear sign this is a Christian inscription – but it’s not God the father, it’s the Merciful One - so why do we need to know about the Himyarites? o polytheism  native monotheism  Judaism  Christianity o serves as a good reminder of the complex religious environment in Arabia before the emergence of Islam - the Arabs that were showing up brought with them monotheistic beliefs that had been shaped by … before Muhammad - just as you can’t understand Christianity without understanding Jewish context, you need to understand the Jewish and Christian background to understand Islam - a famous echo of this connection with other traditions is found in the story of Muhammad’s encounter with a Christian monk – Bahira o acknowledging Muhammad as a prophet o assertion that Islam has perfected previous traditions - the same story shows up in some Christian texts, but the value system is inverted o Bahira repents his acknowledgement of Muhammad because Islam is seen as a perversion of Christianity - how Christian authors understood the new religion – the rival monotheism they th th encountered in the early 7 and 8 century - the initial reaction of the Christians – struggling to make sense of this phenomena – trying to put it in already established categories o here was a movement that claimed to be favoured by God (Islam) – military success meant that God is on your side
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