A book on christianity in the lands of the Arab World is always welcome. Since 2002, Penn State scholar Philip Jenkins has been describing in several books the changes and the faces of global Christianity for the 21st century, with membership growth and ecumenical power shifting to the Christians in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But his newest book, "The Lost History of Christianity," travels back nearly 1,500 years to a forgotten empire of Christian churches in the Middle East and Asia, co-existing with non-Christian regimes, but eventually falling prey to persecution and ethnic/racial cleansing. Here a book review.
"Given the breadth of the empire, church leaders frequently engaged in dialogue with heads of other world religions, including Islam and Judaism, but also Buddhism, Daoism and Zoroastrianism," said the Penn State historian. "Most eastern Christians had lived under Muslim political power, largely flourishing although subject to legal disadvantages."
In addition, the major contributions of Eastern Christians to the scholarship of medieval Arab societies are not well known. Nestorian, Jacobite, Orthodox and other Christians preserved and translated the science, philosophy and medicine of the ancient world to centers such as Baghdad and Damascus.
"Much of what we call Arab scholarship was in reality Syriac, Persian and Coptic, which is not necessarily Muslim," Jenkins noted. "They were the Christian roots of the Arabic Golden Age."