Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/742

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668

ARABIA


668


ARABIA


holy hermits and monks scattered in the Syro-Ara- bian desert, for whom the Arab tribes had great respect, and to whose sohtarj' abodes tliey made numerous pilgrimages. Jerome and Theodoret ex- plicitly affinn that the life and miracles of St. Hilar- lon and of St. Simeon the Stylite made a deep impression on the Bedouin Arabs. Many tribes accepted Christianity at the hands of the latter Saint, while many others became so favourably dis- posed towards it that they were baptized by the priests and bishops of Syria. Cyrillus of Scythop- olis (sixth century), in his hfe of Saint Euthymius, the monk of Pharan. tells the story of the conversion of an entire Arab tribe which, towards 420, had mi- grateil from along the Euphrates into Palestine. Their chief was a certain Aspebsetos. He had a son afflicted with paralysis, who at the prayers of the saint completely recovered. Aspebsetos himself was afterwards ordained bishop over liis own tribe by the Patriarch of Jerusalem (see below). These detached facts clearly indicate that during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries of the Christian Era, Christianity must have been embraced by many Arabs, and especially by the tribe of Ghassan, which is celebrated by Arab historians and poets as being from very early times devotedly attached to Christianity. It was of this tribe that the proverb became current: "They were lords in the days of ignorance [1. e. before Mohammed] and stars of Islam." (Zwemer, Arabia, the Cradle of Islam, 304.)

The numerous inscriptions collected in northern SjTia by Waddington, de Vogue, Clermont Ganneau, and others also clearly indicate the presence of Chris- tian elements in the Syro-Arabian population of that region and especially aromid Bosra. In the days of Origen there were numerous bishoprics in the towns lying south of the Hauran, and these bishops were once grouped together in a single synod (Har- nack, Expansion of Christianity, II, 301). As early as the tliird century this part of Syro-Arabia was already well known as the "mother of heresies". Towards the year 244 Origen converted to the ortho- dox faith Beryllus, Bishop of Bosra, who was a con- fessed anti- Trinitarian (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VI, 20); and two years earher (242) a provincial synod of Arabia was held in connexion with the proceedings against Origen, which decided in his favour. This great teacher in the Church was also personally known at that time to the Arabian bishops; for about the year 215 he had travelled as far as Arabia at the request of the Roman governor, before whom he laid his views (Eusebius, op. cit., VI, 19, and Harnack, op. cit., 301). In 250 the same teacher went to -Arabia for the second time to combat certain heretics who taught that the soul died with the body, but that it would rise up again with it on the Judgment Day (Eusebius, op. cit., VI, 39).

The " Onomasticon " of Eusebius and the Acts of the Council of Nictea (325) also indicate the presence of Christians, during the days of Eusebius, in Arabia, along the Dead Sea, and around Qariathaim, near Madaba (Ilamack, op. cit., 302-303). At the Coun- cil of Xica'a there were present six bishops of the province of Arabia: the Bishops of Bosra, Philadel- phia, JabrucU, Sodom, Betharma, and Dionysias (Wright, Early Christianity in Arabia, 73; and Harnack, on. cit., 303). One tradition makes an Arabian bisliop of Zanaatha (Sanaa'.') attend Nicaa. The sheikli-bishop .■Vspeba'tos was present at the Covmcil of l'4)hesus (431), and one of his successors, Valens by name, became, in 518, a .suffragan bishop of the Patriarcliate of Jcru.salem (Duchesne, Les dglises sC'par^'es, 343). A certain Ivustathius, called "Bishop of the Sarrasins", assisted at the Council of Chalcedon. In 458 he was still Bishop of Dama.scus. At the second Council of Ephesus (449) there was


present another bishop of the "allied Arabs", named Au.xilaos. -Another .Arabian bishopric was that of the island of Jotabe, near the Gulf of -Akabah; and a Bishop of Jotabe, by the name of .Anastasius, was present at the Council of Jerusalem (536). -At the First and Second Councils of Constantinople we read of the presence of the Metropolitan of Bosra, whose authority is said to have extended over twenty churches or bishoprics (.Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientahs, III, Part II, 598 sqq.). Many of these Arabian bishops were undoubtedly infected with Arianism, and later on with Monophysitism, the latter sect having been greatly favoured and even protected by the Ghassanide princes.

The above sketch clearly shows that Christian -Arab tribes were scattered through all Syria, Phoenicia, and northern Arabia, having their own bishops and churches. But it is doubtful whether this North- -Arabian Christianity formed any national Church, as many of their bishops were dependent on the Greek Metropolitans of Tyrus, Jerusalem, Damascus, and on the Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Antioch.

Christianity in Hira and Norlh-East Arabia. — -According to -Arabic writers and historians, the first -Arab migration into Hira took place about A. D. 192 by the tribe of Tenukh and under the leadership of its chief, Malik ibn Fahm. This tribe was shortly afterwards followed by other tribes, such as those of lyad, -Azd, Quda'ah, and others, most of whom settled around -Anbar, and who afterwards built for themselves the city of Hira, not far from the modern Kufa on the Euphrates, in southern Baby- lonia. We know, however, that as early as the time of -Alexander, and towards the first century of the Christian Era, northern and southern Mesopotamia were thickly inhabited by Arab tribes, who. about the third century, formed more than one-third of its population. These tribes were, of coiu-se, governed by their own chiefs and princes, subject, however, to Persia.

Tradition relates that under one of these princes of Hira, Imru'ul Qais I, who reigned from 288 to 338, Christianity was first introduced into Hira and among the Mesopotamian -Arabs. This, however, is not correct, for, from the Sj-riac -Acts of the -Apos- tles -Addai and Mari, and other SjTiac documents, we know that Christianity was introduced into Mesopotamia and Babylonia, if not at the end of the first, certainly towards the middle of the second cen- tury. The -Acts of the Persian martyrs and the liistoryof the Cliristian Church of Persia and MadSin (i. e. Seleucia and Ctesiphon) unmistakably show that Christianity, although fiercely persecuted and opposed by the Sassanian kings of Persia, made rapid progress in these and the neighbouring regions, and, consequently, the .Arabs of IJira cannot have entirely missed the beneficial effects of the new re- ligion. We know also that during the reign of Horrauz I (271-273) several hunilred Christian captives were brought from Syria and other Roman provinces into Irak and Babylonia. -According to Tabari (ed. Noldeke, 24), the Christians of Hira were called 'Ibdil, or "Worshippers", i. c. "worship-

Eers of God", in opposition to "pagans" (Labourt, e Christianisme dans 1' empire perse sous la djTias- tie sassanide, 1904, 206).

The condition of the Christian Church in Persia and Mesopotamia in the early centuries is well known to us from the numerous .Acts of martyrs and other Syriac documents still extant, but that of the Christian -Arabs of Hira is very obscm-e. We know, however, that towards the end of the foiu'th, and the beginning of the fifth, century Christianity attained there considerable success and popularity. Nu'mdn I, King of Hira, who reigned from 390 to 418, is said to have been, if not a follower of Christ, cer- tainly a great protector of his Christian subjects.