The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 22
ORIENTAL CHRISTIANITY

Roman expansion eastward, p.410. Elkhasai the prophet, A.D. 100, p.411. The Ebionite heresy, p.412. The legend of Clement, p.414. The descent of the Christus, p.415. The martyrdom of St Symeon, A.D. 105-7, p.417. The episcopate in Jerusalem, p.418. The episcopate in Alexandria, p.420. The Gospel of the Hebrews, p.422. The 'Gospel of the Truth', p.423. The break with the Synagogue, p.424. Rabbi Akiba, p.426.


ROMAN EXPANSION EASTWARD

The year 100 saw the death of King Herod Agrippa II, the same who had heard St Paul preach in Caesarea forty years before, and had said, 'Do you expect to make a Christian of me so easily?' He ruled on both sides of the Lake of Galilee, where a few very aged people must still have remembered the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. After his death his kingdom was absorbed into the Roman province of Syria, which included Damascus now, and was being extended eastward towards Palmyra. A Romano-Syrian Hellenism was coming into existence in these regions, based on the increasing trade between east and west.

The years 105 to 108 saw the annexation of the old kingdom of the Nabatean Arabs with its strong cities of Bostra (Bozrah) east of Jordan, and Petra south of the Dead Sea, which were important trading centres on the caravan route which led further south to the Gulf of Akabah, and so by sea to India. The other route to India and farther east passed through Palmyra, which was situated to the north of the great desert which separated the Roman and the Parthian dominions. The Parthian empire, whose capital was at Seleuceia in southern Mesopotamia, was Persian in character, and professed a form of Zoroastrianism which had absorbed some features of the old Babylonian religion; this mixed form of 'monotheism' was accepted in turn by the Syrian cities and principalities, and combined with their own cults to create a tolerant solar monotheism which assumed a Hellenistic form in the second century.

The suppression of the Jewish kingdom completed the severance with the past. The bulk of the Jewish population was now in northern Palestine. The religious authority was vested in the rabbinic sanhedrin under its patriarch Gamaliel II, whose headquarters were at Caesarea, the

-410-

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