The Expansion of Christianity in the Pre-Islamic Middle East: From Edessa to 'Uman
AuthorAtchison-Day, Susan Lynn
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe purpose of this descriptive study was to examine the expansion of Christianity in the pre-Islamic Middle East, from Edessa to Mazun/'Uman on the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. This area today would include the peninsula occupied by Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Its name in the Pahlavi language was Mazun, but the Arab tribe first migrating there called it 'Uman. The study also introduced and discussed various influences that may have contributed to the disappearance of the church of Mazun from history in the late seventh century. The first bishop from Bet Mazunaye, the name for the ecclesiastical unit in Mazun, appeared first in history in 424, as a signator to the synod procedings of the Church of the East in that year; the last was in 676. The literature suggests three sources of Christians in 'Uman: converts or descendants of these converts, who were made by early missionaries;. refugees, who had fled persecution and prisoners of war taken then relocated by the Persians; and, finally, converts who resulted from the mingling of non-Christian tribes with those that were partially or totally Christianized. This last trail began at Ma'rib in Himyar with the migration of the Azd tribe to 'Uman, led by the semi-legendary figure Malik ibn Fahm. One legend has him continuing onward to Bahrain, then still further north where he formed an alliance with the Tanukh and, through marriage, merged the two tribes, giving birth to the Lakhmid Empire. These trails were recreated by examining and blending historical, documentary, and archaeological evidence, with information drawn from hagiographies, legends, traditions, and sacred texts into three somewhat overlapping narratives. Included is a list of suggestions for potentially fruitful investigation in the future, and a call for scholars to study Aramaic, Syriac, Pahlavi and Arabic to enable the expansion of available sources to future researchers.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Middle Eastern & North African Studies