Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/741

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found by Glascr, and the ruins of a supposed cluircli, afterwards turned into a lieatlien temple, are utterly wanting. Christianity in Arabia had three main centres in the north-west, north-east, and south-west of the iicninsula. The first embraces the Kingdom of (Ihassan (under Roman rule), the second that of Uira (under Persian jHiwer), ami the third the kingdoms of llimyar, Yemen, and Najran (under Abyssinian rule). As to central and south- east Arabia, such as Nejd and Oman, it is doubtful whether Clirislianity ma<le any advance there.

North-Arabian Christianili/. — According to the majority of the Fathers anil historians of the Church, the origin of Christianity in northern Arabia is to be traced back to the .\|iostle Paul, who in his Epistle to the (ialatians, .speaking of the period of time immediately following his conversion, says: "Neither went I up to Jeru.salem to them which were apostles before me; but I went to .\rabia, and returned to Dama.scus" (Gal. i, 17). What partic- ular region of .Vrabia was visited by the .\|X)stle, the length of his stay, the motive of his journey, the route followed, and the things he accomplisheil there are not specified. His journey may have lastetl as long as one year, ami the jilace visited may have been either the country of the Nabatirans or the Sinaitic peninsula, or better, as Harnack remarks, "not to the desert, but rather to a district south of Damascus where he could not expect to come across any Jews" (Expan.sion of Christianity, 190.i, II, 301). Jerome, however, suggests that he may have gone to a tribe where his mission was unsuccessful as regards visible results. Zwemer's suggestion [Arabia, the Cradle of Islam (1900), 302-.mS], that the Koranic allusion to a certain Nebi Salih, or the Prophet Salih, who is said to have corne to the .Vrabs preaching the truth and was not listened to. and who, consequently, in leaving them said: "O my people, I diil preach unto you the message of my Loru, and I gave you good advice, but ye love not sincere ailvi.sers" (Surah vii), refers to Paul of Tarsus - — this theory need hardly be consiilered.

In the light of the legcml of Abgar of, however, anil consiilcring the fact that the regions lying to the north-west and north-east of Arabia, under Roman and Persian rule respectively, were in constant contact with the northern Arabs, among whom Christianity had already made and steady progress, we may reasonably a.ssume that Christian missionary activity cannot have neglected the attrac- tive mission field of northern Arabia. In the Acts of the Apostles (ii, 11) we even reail of the presence of Arabians on the day of Pentecost, and Arabs were quite numerous in the Parthian Empire and around The cruel persecutions, further- more, which raged in the Roman and Persian Em- pires against the followers of Christ must have forced many of these to seek refuge on the safer soil of nortfiern .\rabia.

Chri.ilianily in Ghnxsan and Xorth-Jf'cst Arabia. ■ — The Kingdom of Gha.ssan, in north-western Ara- bia, adjacent to Syria, comprised a very exten- sive tract of territory and a great number of Arab tribes first migrations there must have taken place as early as the time of .\lexancler the Great. Towards the third and fourth centuries of the Chri.s- tian era tribes already formed a confederation powerful enough to trouble to the Roman Empire, which formed with them alliances and friendships in order to counterbalance the influence of the -Mcsopotamian .\rabs of I.Iira, who were uniler Persian rule. The kings of Ghassan trace their de- scent from the tribe of Azd. in Yemen. Gafahah, their first king, dispos-sessed the original ilynasty, and is said to have been confirmed in his conquest by the Roman governor of Syria. Their capital city was Balka till the time of the second lidritli,

when it was supplanted by Petra and Sideir. .\1- though living a nomailic life and practically inde- pendent, with "no dwelling but the tent, no iiitrench- ment but the sword, no law but the traditionary song of their bards", Arabs were under the nominal, but quite elTective control of the Romans as early as the time of Pompey. .Such Syrian Arabs always looked upon the Romans as their best and most powerful defenders and protectors against the Sa.ssanian ilynasty of Persia, Dy which they wore constantly oppres.sed and molested.

'I he Nabata'an Kingdom, which compri.sed the Sinaitic peninsula, the sea-coast to the Ciulf of Akaba, to Al-llaura, and as far as Dama.scus and Ilijaz, and which was annexed to the Roman Em- pire in .\. D. 105, comprised also many .\rab tribes which were for a long time governeil by their own sheikhs and princes, their stronghold being the country around Bosra and Damascus. These sheikhs were acknowledged as such by the Roman emperors, who gave them the title of phylarch. The ever- increasing number and importance of these tribes and of those living in the Glia.s.sanide terriforj' were such that in ,'531, by the consent and authority of the Emperor Justinian, a real .Vrab-Roman kingtlom was formed under the rule of the kings of Ghassan, whose power and authority extended over all the Arabs of Syria, Palestine. Plicenicia and north-western Arabia. Another Syro-.\rabian Kingdom, in which Arab tribes were very numerous, is that of PahnjTa, which retained for a long time its independence and resisted all encroachments. Under Oilenathus, the Palmyrene kingdom flourished, and it reached the zenith of its power under his wife and successor, the celebrated Zenobia. After her defeat by .^ure- han (-72), Palmyra and its dependencies became a pro\-ince of the Roman Empire.

Christianity must have been introduced among the Syrian .Arabs at a very early period; if not among the tribes living in the interior of the Syro-Arabian de.sert, certainly among whose proximity brought them into continuous social and commercial contact with Syria. Rufinus (Hist. Ecclcsiastica, II, 6) tells us of a certain .Vrabian Queen, Mavia. or Maowvia (better. Mii'awiyali), who, after having reixjatedly fought against the Romans, accepted peace on conilition that a certain monk, called, should be appointed bishop over her tribe. This took place during the reign of Valens (about 374), who was greatly inclined to .\rianism. Moses lived a hermit life in the de.sert of l-^gj-pt, and accordingly he was brought to .Vlexandria in order to be ordained bishop, as the Bedouin queen required. The Bishop of Alexanilria was then a certain Lucius, accused of .\r;anism. Moses refusetl to be ordained by a heretical bishop, and was so obilurate in his refusal that it was necessary for the emperor to bring from exile a Cathohc bishop and send liim to the queen.

Caussin ile Perceval (Ilistoire des Arabes avant l'I.slamisme, etc., II, 21.5) affirms that towards the beginning of the fourth century, and during the reign of Djabala I, Christianity was again preached, and accepted by another .Vrab tribe. Sozomenus, in fact, relates that before the time of Valens an Arab prince, whom he calls Zacomc, or Zocum, hav- ing olitaincd a son through the prayers of a Syrian hermit, embraced Christianity, and all his tribe with him. Leciuien (Oricns Chnstianus, II, 851) calls this prince Zaracome and places him under the reign of Constantine or of one of his sons. No

firince of such name, however, occurs in any .\rabic listorian, although Caussin de Perceval suggests his identification with a certain Arcaii. of the tribe of Giafnah, who was in all probability a prominent chief of Ghassan.

.\nother source of Christian propaganda among the northern Arabs was undoubtedly the many