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The Resurgence of the Gospel, Part Two: Recharting the Christian World Mission

The Silk Road remains little changed after more than a thousand years.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

When the Eastern Christians of greater Syria and Armenia got underway toward central Asia they took a torturous route, a tradesman’s route which went through mountain passes. The Silk Road, they were called. Although they offered the best way through, the roads were still physical challenges, they had obstacles and natural barriers. These included the Pamir mountains where passes were heavily protected, such as Tashkurgan’s Stone Fort near Kashgar in the west of the Taklamakan Desert. The Silk Road traversed the Oxus River and went toward Bukhara. Bukhara had forbidding defensive walls. This was Mongol territory going toward Samarkand and Xinjiang in western China. The Nestorian Christian traders and occasional monastics, in the course of their travels and trade, established churches in Bukhara and Samarkand. Samarkand, in time, became the site of a Christian patriarchate as Baghdad also did back west in Iraq.

Over the course of time, after facing obstacles, opposition, and occasional persecution, the Christians of the Church of the East established themselves in every major settlement along the Silk Road, even Kashgar. In the sixth century, a Nestorian Christian named Abraham who lived from A.D. 491 to 586, initiated a revival in Kashgar and also established a monastery there.

Tashkurgan, the Stone Fortress, in 1909.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

How has this record been retained over the course of time? By Christians who have kept records and whose records have been kept safe within monasteries. These include John of Ephesus who lived in the sixth century and wrote his Lives of the Eastern Saints and an unknown Christian who wrote The Chronicle of Seert. Records of the Nestorian mission into the East have been kept in every century in monastic establishments. Many have been photographed, restored, and long preserved in libraries like St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai desert and other historic sites across the globe. The Church of the East, the Coptic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, The Roman Catholic Church, and Protestant Churches all have repositories of ancient records of the early growth of the Christian mission and how that mission was carried out.

 

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Coming in the Winter 2019 issue:

Exploding myths about early Arab-Christian relationships while identifying the reality of a Turkic-Moslem curtain that triggered the oceanic global mission to the Americas and beyond.

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Category: Church History, Fall 2018

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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