Thursday, February 28, 2002

FASCINATING: The first Christian chuch in China was founded back in the 7th century? Wow. It's discovery changes what we thought we knew about Christianity and China, says Martin Palmer, the guy who discovered it:

"It immediately changes our picture of the church in China. Western scholars had said that it was a heretical church, that it had no impact on Chinese culture. And here we see that it was given an incredibly honored position."

Mr. Palmer has long been interested in this Church of the East, whose followers were concentrated in Persia and scattered across the ancient trading routes to China, from Baghdad to Samarkand. Little evidence of their existence survives. The Nestorian Stone, an eighth- century tablet in the Museum of Stone Inscriptions in Xian, tells the story of Christian missionaries arriving in the capital of Changan (now Xian) in A.D. 635 from present-day Afghanistan. And scrolls found in the caves of Dunhuang, on China's northwestern frontier, recount a version of the gospel in Chinese, melding Christian, Taoist and Buddhist imagery

"The scrolls describe a church in which men and women were equal and slavery was forbidden," Mr. Palmer said. "Its version of the Ten Commandments instructed Christians in vegetarianism and forbade the taking of any life. It taught the Taoist notion of original goodness, rather than original sin, and it said the answer to karma and the fear of perpetual reincarnation is Christ."

Palmer also wrote this book (read the reviews there too, they're interesting.) He says later:

He also plans to create a Museum of the West in China. "Just as, sadly, a lot of people in the West view China as a monolithic, totally foreign entity, so many Chinese feel the same way about the West," he said. "The purpose of the museum would be to challenge these views, to say the West has been in China for 1,400 years. It helped shape China and China helped shape the West."

They also bring up the theory that Christianity was tolerated when it was as a bulwark against the spread of Islam. Short but good read. Via the Christianity Today Weblog.

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