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Page:Early Christianity in Arabia.djvu/104

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EARLY CHRISTIANITY

SECTION VII.

The reign of Abrahah was favourable to the extension of Christianity over the kingdom of Hamyar; and, whilst the Abyssinian power was preserved by his moderation and justice, the church flourished under the care of St. Gregentius, the pious bishop of Taphar. The vindictive measures which had been enforced against the enemies of the Christian faith were succeeded by a milder spirit. The unbelieving Jews were challenged to a public dispute with St. Gregentius; after an appointed period of forty days, they met in the royal hall in the city of Taphar,[1] in the presence of the king and his nobles; and Herban, a rabbi learned in the law and the prophets, was chosen to advocate the cause of Judaism. The dispute was continued with obstinacy during three successive days, till at length the Jews, vanquished but not convinced, were obliged to retreat from the place of contest; while the good bishop fell on his knees, and in presence of the king and his assembled subjects, offered thanks to heaven for his success. As he concluded, we are told, loud peals of thunder were heard from the east, the

  1. Taphar, or Dhafar (Aphar in Diod. Sic.) became the second capital on the death of Hamyar, when the family of Kahlan ascended the throne.