Christians, The First Apostolic Converts Outside the Jews
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Phoenicians were the first converts to Christianity after the Jews; and the bishops
of major Phoenician (Lebanese) cities today still carry the honorary title, Metropolitan
of Phoenicia Maritima
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The Phoenician Church
is one of the most ancient or the original churches which came into
being during the Apostolic Age. Early Church Fathers and scholars left
written accounts of the valiant spirit which early Phoenician Christians
maintained in their new faith. At the beginning of Christ's ministry,
and later during the beginning of Apostolic evangelization, the new
faith was reserved for the Jews. Nevertheless, Phoenicians of all walks
of life accepted the new faith and the Church recognized them as valid
Christians particular after the first council of Jerusalem.
At least during
the first three or four centuries A.D., Phoenician Christians co-existed
with Phoenician Pagans. Further, after the conversion to Christianity
of Emperor Constantine the Great many more Phoenicians accepted the
new faith along with the Romans. Phoenicians of the coastal areas, being
exposed to the outer world and evangelization, readily accepted the
faith more so than in the mountainous areas. The latter became a prime
target for evangelization by a zealot group of persecuted Christians,
the followers of St. Maron who came from northern Syria. These assimilated
and were assimilated by the Phoenicians of the mountains and formed
what is now known as the Maronite Church.
Phoenicians of the
coastal regions were also exposed to foreign influences and became mixed
with the Roman (or Byzantine) society and other cultures from which
culturally different churches came into being. Further, during the first
six centuries A.D. there were many splintering of the Church into various
groups on doctrinal levels. Hence, a mosaic of churches was the product
which preserved the cultures of many ancient peoples.
For example, the
Church (or see "Who
are the Chaldeans") in Iraq, Georgia, Persia, and Turkey preserved
the cultures of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians; the Coptic
Church in Egypt preserved the culture of Pharaonic Egypt; the Syriac
Orthodox Church, (whose Patriach
Ignatius Khalaf 1455-1483 may have been my ancestor;
see also Suryoyo)
-- relative to Syriac language, dialect of Aramaic -- in Syria, Lebanon,
Persia and Iraq preserved the culture of the Syrian Jacobites/Phoenicians;
the Greco-Phoenician of the Byzantine Church (or see The
History of Melkites in this site and Greek
Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East and Greek
Catholic Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria and
All the East in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Israel/Palestine
preserved the Greek Byzantine culture; and the Maronite
Church in Lebanon, Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Cyprus preserved
the culture of the Phoenicians. Several of the aforesaid churches are
or have sister easter Catholic rites churches which did separate
from their original churches and came in communion with the Papacy (see
while the others remained in their Eastern
Orthodox tradition. Further, all of these churches and their cultures
have immigrant branches all over the world. For a detailed list of links
about the various peoples and churches mentioned herewith, please refer
to "Related resources and
links about Phoenicia and the Forgotten Christians of the East"
(Related Links About Phoenicia) on this website.
Branches of the original ethnic branches of the Apostolic Churches. Click to view a large version.
It must be noted,
in this brief summary, that a predominent majority of the Phoenician
Christian community which resided in cities of Phoenicia Maritima
became Byzantinized or took on "western" Byzantine
customes, dress, rites and liturgy. Meanwhile, Phoenician communities
of the mountains, which were cut off from contact with the outside world,
maintained a more authentic Phoenician Maronite and Syriac traditions,
customes, rites, language and culture.
Holy Liturgy, chants honoring Lebanese Greek Orthodox bishops and
archbishops continue to be recited to this day proclaiming them "Metropolitan
Archbishops of Phoenicia Maritima."
translations of the text of two of these Byzantine chants, as well
as link to their MP3 audio files.
Beirut, specifically composed and written to the late Metropolitan
Archbishop Eliya Saleebi:
of fathers and shepherd of shepherds, Eliya, most virtuously righteous
and most honorable, who is appointed by God as bishop of Beirut
and its suburbs. He who is most revered in graciousness and who
is most preeminent in leadership, Metropolitan of Phoenicia Maritima.
Our father and archbishop, may his years be many."
(performed with difficulty by the author* of this site) (MP3
* I used to
hear this chant when I went to Holy Liturgy at the Orthodox Monastery
in my hometown when archbishop Eliya Saleebi was the celebrant.
I am not absolutely sure of the right words but I believe I got
the hymnology as close to the original as I can remember.
Tripoli, specifically composed and written to the Metropolitan Archbishop
God the Lord Almighty keep for many years, his beatitude and most
revered graciousness, Metropolitan of Tripoli and all of Phoenicia
Maritima, our father and our master, Kyrios Elias. God keep for
many years." (performer unknown) (MP3
First Converts to Christianity
Jesus Christ started
his ministry among Jews and they were the first to accept his message.
However, the Phoenicians where among the first gentiles to accept the
Christian faith. Among the earliest record of this conversion appears
in Matthew 15:21.
Mattew 15:21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly."
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
25 The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
26 He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs."
27 "Yes it is, Lord," she said. "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."
28 Then Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed at that moment.
disciples started their evangelism by proclaiming the gospel to Jews
as this New Testament record indicates:
Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose
about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch,
preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only."
However, this initial
drive was changes and the whole world became target for the gospel.
The New Testament record details how the change came about:
- And certain men
which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye
be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When
therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation
with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other
of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about
this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they
passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the
Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when
they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and
of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God
had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the
Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise
them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles
and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when
there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them,
Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice
among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the
gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them
witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And
put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of
the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ
we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence,
and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and
wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. 13 And after they
had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken
unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the
Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this
agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,16 After this I
will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is
fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will
set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and
all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who
doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the
beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble
not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But
that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols,
and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21
For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being
read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22 Then pleased it the apostles
and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own
company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed
Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote
letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren
send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch
and Syria and Cilicia."
Paul Visits Tyre
The Phoenician Christian
community of Phoenician cities was a way station for the Apostles as
they went on their journeys of evangelism by land and sea to the North.
Saint Paul when
traveling from Rome to Jerusalem, after his third trip of evangelism,
stopped at Rhodes. After that he took a boat to Tyre where he found
a considerable Christian community: (Acts 21:1-7). The meeting of St.
Paul with the Christian community of Tyre took place in the year 58
A.D. This goes to prove that Christianity had established its roots
in this Phoenican metropolis at the beginnings of the Apostolic age.
The same can be
said about other Phoenician cities like Sidon, Berytus (Beirut), Byblos,
Botrys (Batroun) and Tripoli.
Peter Appoints Bishops of Phoenicia
the earliest records which indicate that Bishops of Phoenicia where
consecrated very early in the Christian era is the following by Pope St. Clement I (88-89 A.D.) disciple of St Peter. He wrote
that after the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, St. Peter appointed St. John Mark the Evangelist, one of the Seventy and disciple of St. Peter, Bishop of Byblos and also designated
a Bishop for Berytus (Beirut). Also, St. Peter appointed the first bishop on the archbishopric of Botris, Saint Silas (Silouan). Saint Peter set these bishops during his journey, together with the apostles, from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Although the Christian
communities in Phoenician cities, during the first 3 centuries of the
Christian Era, paganism remained preponderant until Constantine the
Great (306-337 A.D.). During these 3 centuries, the Christian Church
became radiant with many saints and martyrs. For example, Perpetua
and Felicity (203 A.D.), Christina of Tyre (martyred in 300 A.D.),
Theodosia of Tyre, Aquilina of Byblos (martyred in 293 A.D.), Barbara
of Baalbeck Heliopolis (martyred in 237 A.D.)
Starting from the
time of Constantine the Great, Christianity became predominant in Phoenician
cities of coast, paganism did not completely disappear until the 5th
Paganism was deeply
rooted in the mountainous region of Lebanon during the 4th, 5th and
6th centuries. This situation became the burden of the disciples of
St. Maron, founder of the Maronite (Eastern Catholic Church) to convert
From the 7th century
onward another group entered the country, the Maronites, a Christian
community adhering to the Monothelite doctrine. Forced by persecution
to leave their homes in northern Syria, they settled in the northern
part of the mountain and absorbed the Phoenician population to form
the present Maronite Church. Originally Syriac-speaking, they gradually
adopted the Arabic language although keeping Syriac for liturgical purposes.
Christians Suffer During the Roman Persecutions
In the early days
of the new faith, the Romans did not look at Christianity as a separate
religion but considered it another Jewish sect. Therefore, persecution
of Christians was equally applied to Jews and Christians when Jerusalem
was occupied in 70 A.D. and for a long time thereafter. Further, Christians
were singled out as enemies of Rome and a series of systematic persecutions
was carried out against Christians until 313 A.D. when Emps. Constantine
the Great and Licinius met at Milan and agreed to recognize the legal
personality of the Christian Churches and to tolerate all religions
equally. The agreement is sometimes referred to as the Edict of Milan
though reference is to be found in divergent forms in Lactantius (De
Mortibus Persecutorem, xlviii) and Eusebius (Hist. Eccl.,
of these persecutions in Phoenicia survive in the writings of Eusibius.
Here are some examples of these accounts:
The Bishops of
the Church that evinced by their Blood the Genuineness of the Religion
which they preached
"As for the
rulers of the Church that suffered martyrdom in the principal cities,
the first martyr of the kingdom of Christ whom we shall mention among
the monuments of the pious is Anthimus, bishop of the city of Nicomedia,
who was beheaded. Among the martyrs at Antioch was Lucian, a presbyter
of that parish, whose entire life was most excellent. At Nicomedia,
in the presence of the emperor, he proclaimed the heavenly kingdom
of Christ, first in an oral defense, and afterwards by deeds as well. Of the martyrs in Phoenicia the most distinguished
were those devoted pastors of the spiritual flocks of Christ: Tyrannion,
bishop of the church of Tyre; Zenobius, a presbyter of the church
at Sidon; and Silvanus, bishop
of the churches about Emesa.
them that were conspicuous in Palestine we know, as also those
that were at Tyre in Phoenicia. Who that saw them was not astonished
at the numberless stripes, and at the firmness which these truly wonderful
athletes of religion exhibited under them? and at their contest, immediately
after the scourging, with bloodthirsty wild beasts, as they were cast
before leopards and different kinds of bears and wild boars and bulls
goaded with fire and red-hot iron? and at the marvelous endurance
of these noble men in the face of all sorts of wild beasts?
Caesarea, when the persecution had continued to the fifth year, on
the second day of the month Xanthicus, which is the fourth before
the Nones of April, on the very Lord's day of our Saviour's resurrection, Theodosia, a virgin from Tyre,
a faithful and sedate maiden, not yet eighteen years of age, went
up to certain prisoners who were confessing the kingdom of Christ
and sitting before the judgment seat, and saluted them, and, as is
probable, besought them to remember her when they came before the
Lord. Thereupon, as if she had committed a profane and impious act,
the soldiers seized her and led her to the governor. And he immediately,
like a madman and a wild beast in his anger, tortured
her with dreadful and most terrible torments in her sides and breasts,
even to the very bones. And as she still breathed, and withal stood
with a joyful and beaming countenance, he ordered her thrown into
the waves of the sea. Then passing from her to the other
confessors, he condemned all of them to the copper mines in Phaeno
the city of Tyre, a youth named Ulpianus, after dreadful tortures
and most severe scourgings, was enclosed in a raw oxhide, with a dog
and with one of those poisonous reptiles, an asp, and cast into the
sea. Wherefore I think that we may properly mention him
in connection with the martyrdom of Apphianus."
additional materials on the status of persecution of Eastern Christians,
please read accounts in this site "Shattered
Christian Minorities in the Middle East", "Persecutions
of the Syriacs", "Persecution
of Maronites and other Eastern Christians" or in the Assyrian
Against the Assyrian Nation.
Christians Celebrate the End of Persecution
The Peace following
"BUT know now,
my brethren, that all the churches throughout the East and beyond, which
formerly were divided, have become united. And all the bishops everywhere
are of one mind, and rejoice greatly in the peace which has come beyond
expectation. Thus Demetrianus in Antioch, Theoctistus in Caesarea, Mazabanes
in Aelia, Marinus in Tyre, Heliodorus
in Laodicea , Helenus in Tarsus, and all the churches of Cilicia, Firmilianus,
and all Cappadocia. I have named only the more illustrious bishops,
that I may not make my epistle too long and my words too burdensome.
At the end of the
11th century Lebanon became a part of the crusaders' states, the north
being incorporated in the county of Tripolis, the south in the kingdom
of Jerusalem. The Maronite Church began to accept papal supremacy, while
keeping its own patriarch and liturgy.
Letter to the Council at Tyre
MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, to the holy Council at Tyre. "Surely it would
best consist with and best become the prosperity of these our times,
that the Catholic Church should be undivided, and the servants of Christ
be at this present moment clear from all reproach. Since, however, there
are those who, carried away by a baleful and furious spirit of contention
(for I will not charge them with intentionally leading a life unworthy
of their profession), are endeavoring to create that general confusion
which, in my judgment, is the most pernicious of all evils; I exhort
you, forward as you already are, to meet together and form a synod without
delay: to defend those who need protection; to administer remedies to
your brethren who are in peril; to recall the divided members to unity
of judgment; to rectify errors while opportunity is yet allowed: that
thus you may restore to so many provinces that due measure of concord
which, strange and sad anomaly! the arrogance of a few individuals has
destroyed. And I believed that all are alike persuaded that this course
is at the same time pleasing to Almighty God (as well as the highest
object of my own desires), and will bring no small honor to yourselves,
should you be successful in restoring peace. Delay not, then, but hasten
with redoubled zeal to terminate the present dissensions in a manner
becoming the occasion, by assembling together in that spirit of true
sincerity and faith which the Saviour whom we serve especially demands
from us, I may almost say with an audible voice, on all occasions. No
proof of pious zeal on my part shall be wanting. Already have I done
all to which my attention was directed by your letters. I have sent
to those bishops whose presence you desired, that they may share your
counsels. I have despatched Dionysius, a man of consular rank, who will
both remind those prelates of their duty who are bound to attend the
Council with you, and will himself be there to superintend the proceedings,
but especially to maintain good order. Meantime should any one, though
I deem it most improbable, venture on this occasion to violate my command,
and refuse his attendance, a messenger shall be despatched forthwith
to banish that person in virtue of an imperial edict, and to teach him
that it does not become him to resist an emperor's decrees when issued
in defense of truth. For the rest, it will be for your Holinesses, unbiased
either by enmity or favor, but consistently with ecclesiastical and
apostolic order, to devise a fitting remedy whether it be for positive
offenses or for unpremeditated errors; in order that you may at once
free the Church from all reproach, relieve my anxiety, and, by restoring
the blessings of peace to those who are now divided, procure the highest
honor for yourselves. God preserve you, beloved brethren!"
Helena and Jesus' visit to Maghdoushe (quote from Al-Mashrique)
of a booklet compiled by the Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Saba Dagher (of the Byzantine
Melkite Greek Catholic Savior Order)
on the Miraculous Shrine of our Lady of Maghdoushe, near Sidon. The booklet
references & contains material from this page.
Visit Maghdouche's al-Mantara Cave, now Chapel?
of the Romans, leaned forward with quickening interest as her son's
humble Sidonian subject, looking straight into her eyes, told his guileless
tale of Jesus' visit to Sidon.
"And when Our
Lord had finished teaching the multitude in
Sidon. He ascended
the mountain to rejoin His Mother, who was waiting"
said the Empress, gently.
resting there for the night, the Holy Personages returned on the morrow
to Galilee. Thus spoke our fathers and our fathers' fathers, admonishing
us always to hold sacred that spot."
my son. You have come a long way to bring us this news which we sought.
Await us without, and we shall give our answer to your elders."
The Phoenician peasant
kissed his Empress' extended hand and withdrew in awe.
"It is preposterous,
Your Majesty", cried the Keeper of the Privy Purse. "If you
continue to listen to everyone who comes to you from the Holy Land and
to endow every spot for which they advance any kind of fantastic claim,
the treasury will soon be bankrupt. All students of the holy writings
know that Our Lord's mission was in Galilee and Judea, not in Pheonicia."
patience. It was I who sent for this man, on hearing from the superintendent
in charge of building the nearby, signal fire tower that the simple
Christian folk of Maghdoushe village so venerated this spot. Do you
see any guile in this man? When the village elders heard why I had sent
for him, they asked that I join them in convincing their Bishop that
a little chapel should be consecrated at this holiest place in Phoenicia.
That is why I have summoned our Lord Bishop of Tyre." She motioned
to a chamberlain who conducted the Tyrian prelate to the council chamber.
"What is your
opinion of this matter, good Father" asked the Empress, after explaining
the villagers' tradition to him.
"It is possible,
Your Majesty, that the references which St. Mark makes (meaning III,
8 and VII, 24-31) could be interpreted to mean that Our Lord's mission
in Upper Galilee also extended to the southern cities of Phoenicia,
within our own see of Tyre and Sidon. Thus far, no miracle has ever
been reported at this spot, and we have no records, other than verbal
tradition, to indicate its holiness, only.. "
good Father ?"
these are good and honest folk. They have no doubt been Christians since
the time ol Our Lord, or certainly since St. Paul's ministry among them.
They keep faith with God and with man. There is no reason why they should
try to deceive us in this matter, and our Holy Mother the Church teaches
us that sacred tradition can have the weight of scripture in certain
cases. They ask for nothing but that I consecrate tne spot for holy
worship, to keep faith with their fathers' pious tradition. They ask
for no church, only for the blessing of the cave as a little chapel
in honor of the visit of the Holy Family. Till now I have hesitated,
doubting my capacity to so judge tradition, and for want of records
or of a miraculous happening, but... "
"But if we
endow a little chapel there, and provide it with a suitable ikon, what
harm is done ? If miracles be needed, God will provide them in His good
Majesty will sponsor this undertaking ? "
"It is our
wish. Let us summon the villager and give him our answer".
When the Sidonian
stood before her, the Empress spoke to him softly. "Our good Bishop
has consented to consecrate the holy place, and we shall send you an
ikon and some altar furnish- ings for the new chapel, in token of our
esteem. What ao your people call the spot today ?"
"We call it
the "Place of the Awaiting", Great Lady, for it was there
that Our Blessed Mother awaited her Son ", answered the peasant.
" Good. Do
you, Lord Bishop, consecrate it to " Our Lady of the Awaiting",
and we shall provide for it a likeness of the blessed Mother, and other
suitable objects, and the wherewithal to provide lamps and oil, and
other necessities, that our own faith be not less than that of our good
villagers of Maghdoushe".
And so it was.
At a date which
could not be far from the year 326, the Empress Helena forwarded to
the religious authorities of the province of Phoenicia Prima, an ikon
of the Virgin and Child, which, like so many other holy pictures known
to have been the gifts of Byzantine royalty, eventually came to be regarded
as miraculous, and was said to have been painted by the hand of St.
Luke himself. Funds were provided from the imperial purse for the upkeep
of the chapel during the remaining three centuries of Byzantine rule
in Phoenicia. The little shrine was known and visited by the Phoenician
Christians, but being overshadowed by the proximity of the major Holy
Places in Palestine, does not seem to have attracted foreign pilgrims
or undue fame.
In 636, Phcenicia's
last Byzantine sovereign, Emperor Heraclius, recoverer of the True Cross
from the Persians, was decisively beaten at the Battle of the Yarmuk
by Arab Generalissimo Khalid ibn al-Walid.
O Syria, and what an excellent land thou art for the enemy !" exclaimed
the Basilios, on being forced to abandon the eastern provinces of his
empire to the Caliph. The latter, Omar, a pious and humble man, spared
Christendom's holiest shrines, in Jerusalem and elsewhere, and showed
an inclination toward tolerance in dealing with his new Christian subjects.
Alas, it was not
so with Phoenicia, Prima. Less tolerant administrators laid heavy hands
on the Christian maritime cities of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, Byblos, Tripoli,
Latakia and even holy Antioch, where the very name "Christian"
had first been used.
A hard decision
now lay before the elders of Maghdoushe.
"It is not
that we object to being the Arab caliph's subjects", they reasoned,
"for our fathers had begun to speak Arabic and to adopt Arab customs
long before ibn al-Walid's Moslem armies swept over our land. But our
faith will be cha]lenged if we remain here in the foothills of Sidon.
Already most of the Sidonians have become Moslems, to enjoy privileges
and immunities. They will tempt our sons and daughters".
of Islam and Christians of the East
By Dr. George Khoury, Catholic
Information Network (CIN)
During his lifetime,
Muhammad reacted differently at different times to Jews and Christians
depending on the reception they accorded him and also on his dealings
with Christian states. At first, Muhammad favoured the Christians and
condemned the Jews because they acted as his political opponents.This
is reflected in Sura 5:85 : Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of
men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt surely
find the nearest of them in love to the believers are those who say,
"We are nasara"; that, because some of them are priests and
monks, and they wax not proud. (Sura 5:85; see also Sura 2:62; 5:69;
Later he turned
against them and attacked their belief that Jesus was God's son (Sura
9:30), denounced the dogma of the Trinity (4:17), and pointed to the
division of the Christians amongst themselves (5:14). Most often though,
Muhammad adopted an intermediate position: the Christians are mentioned
together with the Jews as "People of the Book," while their
claim of possessing the true religion is refuted. (See Sura :114; 3:135,
140; 9:29). And they will be punished by God.
Fight those who
believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His
Messenger have forbidden--such men as practice not the religion of truth,
being of those who have been given the Book until they pay the tribute
out of hand...That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with
the unbelievers before God. God assail them! How they are perverted!
They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from God,
and the Messiah's, Mary's son, and they were commanded to serve but
One God; there is no God but He (Suras 29-31).
During his lifetime
Muhammad settled his relations with Christian political entities by
treaties whereby they were allowed to keep their churches and priests,
and also had to pay tribute and render some services to Muslims.
During the period
of two hundred years following Muhammad's death, the attitude of Islam
to Christianity remained generally similar to what it had been during
the closing years of the prophet's life; Christianity was regarded as
parallel to Islam, but corrupt. To this extent, Islam was superior.
The outstanding consequence of this period, however, was the impressing
on the masses of ordinary Muslims the view that Christianity was corrupt
and unreliable.This, together with the death penalty for apostasy, kept
the Muslims in lands ruled by the scimitar effectively insulated from
Christian propaganda. Let us view this more closely, considering first
the period immediately following the death of the prophet in 633 A.D.
of Umar I (634-644)
The year after the
death of the prophet in Arabia, the stage was set for a full-dress invasion
of neighboring lands. In 634 the Arab forces won a decisive victory
at Ajnadayn, and Damascus surrendered to Khalid ibn-al-Waleed in September
635. Jerusalem capitulated in 638 and Caesarea fell in 640, and between
639 and 646 all Mesopotamia and Egypt were subjugated. The last links
connecting these Christian lands with Rome and Byzantium were severed;
new ones with Mecca and Medina were forged. In about a decade the Muslim
conquests changed the face of the Near East; in about a century they
changed the face of the civilized world. Far from being peripheral,
the victories of Islam proved to be a decisive factor in pruning life
and growth of Eastern Christianity.
After the Arab invasions
have stopped, there arose the problem of administering these new lands.
Umar ibn-al-Khattab (634-644) was the first man to address himself to
this problem. Despite the fact that later additions were made to it,
it is agreed that the surviving covenant represents Umar's own policy.
The conquered peoples were given a new status, that of dhimmis (or ahl-al-Dhimmi).
As dhimmis they were subject to tribute which comprised both a land-tax
(later kharaj) and a poll-tax (later jizyah) while they enjoyed the
protection of Islam and were exempt from military duty, because only
a Muslim could draw his sword in defense of Islam.
Greek Science Passed to the Arabs
The Christian community,
educated and civilized in the multicultural Byzantine east, was the
catalyst that brought modern education and learning to the invading
Arab tribes. By translating the works of the Greeks and other early
thinkers and by their own contribution, the Christian community played
a vital rule in transmitting knowledge. Later on, that flourished in
the major Arab contribution to the fields of science and art. Some names
of Eastern non-Arab Christians that should be remember for this often
forgotten and unappreciated fact are:
al-Qass, who translated Archemides lost work on triangles from a Syriac
version. He also made an Arabic of Galen's De Simplicibus temperamentis
et facultatibus. Qusta Ibn Luqa al-Ba'lbakki, a Syriac Christian,
who translated Hypsicles, Theodosius' Sphaerica, Heron's Mechanics,
Autolycus Theophrastus' Meteora, Galen's catalog of his books, John
Philoponus on the Phsyics of Aristotle and several other works. He
also revised the existing translation of Euclid. Abu Bishr Matta Ibn
Yunus al-Qanna'i, who translated Aristotle's Poetica. Abu Zakariya
Yahya Ibn 'Adi al-Mantiqi, a monophysite, who translated medical and
logical works, including the Prolegomena of Ammonius, an introduction
to Porphyry's Isagoge. Al-Hunayn Ibn Ipahim Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Khurshid
at-Tabari an-Natili, and the monophysite Abu 'Ali 'Isa Ibn Ishaq Ibn
Zer'a. Yuhanna Ibn Batriq, an Assyrian, who produced the Sirr al-asrar.
'Abd al-Masih Ibn 'Aballah Wa'ima al-Himse, also an Assyrian, who
translated the Theology of Aristotle (but this was an apidged paraphrase
of the Enneads by Plotinus). Abu Yahya al-Batriq, another Assyrian,
who translated Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. Jipa'il II, son of Bukhtyishu'
II, of the prominent Assyrian medical family mentioned above, Abu
Zakariah Yahya Ibn Masawaih, an Assyrian Nestorian. He authored a
textbook on Ophthalmology, Daghal al-'ayn (The Disease of the eye).
Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, an Assyrian. Sergius of Rashayn, "a celepated
physician and philosopher, skilled in Greek and translator into Syriac
of various works on medicine, philosophy, astronomy, and theology".
Other Monopysite translators were Ya'qub of Surug, Aksenaya (Philoxenos),
an alumnus of the school of Edessa, Mara, bishop of Amid.
For further details,
see book review: How Greek Science
Passed to the Arabs
The Ummayad caliphs
(661-750) lived as Arabs first and Muslim second. As a consequence,
their era was liberal in both political and religious matters. However,
during the rule of the Ummayad caliph Umar II (717-720) there arose
the concern to summon conquered peoples to Islam and to create favorable
conditions allowing an equitable or better participation of all Muslims
in the social and political life of the community. Umar was shocked
that non-Muslims should exercise authority over Muslims, and tried to
prevent it. In Egypt he removed some of the Coptic officials from their
positions and replaced them by Muslims, and it seems that he applied
this policy throughout the whole empire. He wrote to the governor of
Egypt: "I do not know a secretary or official in any part of your
government who was not a Muslim but I dismissed him and appointed in
his stead a Muslim." This policy of Umar II was translated during
the later Abbasid era into a major program due to the discontent of
many Muslims with the excesses and corruption of the liberal Ummayad
caliphs and the frustration that non-Arabian Muslims, especially Persian
Muslims, felt on being treated as second-class citizens. Also due to
external political circumstances and to the unruly and socially disruptive
conduct of some Christian groups, Umar II reacted with some vehemence
against the Christians. He abrogated the jizyah for any Christian who
converted, and imposed other demeaning restrictions:
Christians may not
be witnesses against Muslims. They may not hold public office. They
may not pray aloud or sound their clappers. They may not wear the qaba',
nor ride on a saddle. A Muslim who would kill a Christian would be liable
to a fine, not death. He abolished the financial arrangements whereby
churches, convents and the charities were maintained. Despite these
exceptions, Ummayd rule was characterized on the whole by political
as well as religious and intellectual liberalism. That is why Ummayad
caliphs, with the exception of Umar II, did not press for or even favor,
conversion to the Islamic faith.
With the Umayyad's
fall in 750 the hegemony of Syria in the world of Islam ended and the
glory of the country passed away. The coming to power of the Abbasid
dynasty marked a radical change in the balance of power within the caliphate.
In a vast and complex body such as the caliphate had now become, there
was an intricate network of party interests, sometimes conflicting and
sometimes coinciding. The recovery of the equilibrium was thus no simple
matter; and for the whole of this century, (i.e., the 8th century) the
caliphs had as a prominent aim the framing of a policy which would rally
the majority of the inhabitants behind it. In an Islamic environment,
it was inevitable that such a political struggle should have religious
implications. First, and vis-a-vis other Muslim groups, the Abbasid
caliphate touched a number of risings of Kharajites who refused to submit
to the new rule. There were also other opponents who questioned the
legitimacy of the Abbasids' claim to the caliphate. As for the Christians
as well as for the rest of ahl-al-Dhimmi, the Abbasid era would prove
to be less tolerant of non-Muslims and would either re-enact old anti-
Christian legislation or create new restrictions.
The Abbasids chose
Baghdad for headquarters, though for a short period of time al-Mutawakkil
(847-861) transferred his his seat back from Iraq to Damascus (885).
As the Melkites were few in numbers in Mesopotamia it was the Nestorians
and the Jacobites who under Abbasid rule shared more strongly in the
literary life of the country and brought greater contributions.The beginning
of the Abbasid caliphate until the reign of al-Mutawakkil (847-861)
marked the zenith of the Nestorian Church from mid 8th century to mid
9th century. This prodigious success was made possible by the great
number of zealous and educated monks, formed by the many schools existing
at the time. In Baghdad itself, there were apparently many important
monasteries, groups of professors, and students. There were, for example,
the school of Deir Kalilisu and Deir Mar Fatyun and the school of Karh.
In the last two
schools medicine and philosophy were taught along with the sacred disciplines.
Christian physicians and especially scribes exerted some kind of tutelage
within the Nestorian Church, and tried their best to obtain for their
community a more benevolent legislation from Muslim rulers. Though the
Abbasids showed tolerance towards the other religious, non-Muslim groups,
still their tolerance was displayed mostly vis-a-vis some of their coreligionists
who lived on the margins of traditional Islam.
especially the Melkites who lived in the eastern provinces of the empire,
had much to endure. Before, al-Mutawakkil Abu Gafar al-Mansur (754-775)
imposed many vexing measures upon the Christians. In 756, he forbade
Christians to build new churches, to display the cross in public, or
to speak about religions with Muslims. In 757, he imposed taxes on monks,
even on those who lived as hermits, and he used Jews to strip sacristies
for the treasury. In 759, he removed all Christians from positions in
the treasury. In 766 he had the crosses on top of the churches brought
down, forbade every nocturnal liturgical celebration and forbade the
study of any language other than Arabic. In 722, he required both Jews
and Christians to exhibit an external sign to distinguish them from
other believers. Abu Gafar al-Mansur also put in prison, for different
reasons, the Melkite Patriarch Theodoret, the Patriarch Georges,
and the Nestorian Catholicos James. Al-Mahdi (775-785) intensified the
persecution and had all the churches built since the Arab conquest destroyed.
The Christian tribes of Banu Tanuh, which counted 5000 fighters, were
forced to embrace Islam. Angered by the defeats he incurred at the hands
of the Byzantines, al-Mahdi sent troops to Homs in Syria, to have all
the Christians abjure their faith. However, many of these laws were
not enforced. For example, when Umar II tried to dismiss all dhimmis
from government services, such confusion resulted that the order was
The Barmakid viziers,
of Turkish origin, who were the strong arm of the Abbasid caliphs, seem
to have manifested a certain measure of benevolence towards ahl-al-Dhimmi
(the tributaries) and especially towards the Christians. It is only
at the end of the rule of Harun al-Rahid (786-809), i.e., after the
disgrace of the Barmakids, that some measures were taken against the
Christians. Harun al-Rashid re-enacted some of the anti-Christian and
anti-Jewish measures introduced by Umar II (717-720). In 807, he ordered
all churches erected since the Muslim conquest demolished. He also decreed
that members of tolerated sects should wear a prescribed garb. But evidently
much of this legislation was not enforced. Under his son al-Ma'mun (813-833)
there was in 814 a general persecution in Syria and in Palestine. Many
Christians and church dignitaries escaped into Cyrpus and into Byzantine
territories. Conditions under al-Watheq (842-847) did not improve and
were sad indeed for the Christians. Under al-Mutawwakil (847-861) there
was intensification of discontent on the part of Christians due to harsh
conditions imposed on them. In 850 and 854 al-Mutawwakil revived the
discriminatroy legislation and supplemented it by new features, which
were the most stringent ever issued against the minorities. Christians
and Jews were enjoined to affix wooden images of devils to their houses,
level their graves even with the ground, wear outer garments of yellow
color, and ride only on mules and asses with wooden saddles marked by
two pomegranates-like balls on the cantle. Basing their contention on
a Qur'anic charge that the Jews and the Christians had corrupted the
text of their scriptures (Surs. 2:70; 5:16-18), the contemporary jurists
ruled that no testimony of a Jew or Christian was admissible against
the law put the male dhimmi below the male Muslim in nearly every way.
It protected his life and property but did not accept his evidence.
Eight acts put the dhimmi outside the law: conspiring to fight the Muslims,
copulation with a Muslim woman, an attempt to marry one, an attempt
to turn Muslim from his religion, robbery of a Muslim on the highway,
acting as a spy or a guide to unbelievers, or the killing of a Muslim.
However, despite these stringent laws, the social status of Christians
was not that bleak. The consequences of this anti-Christian legislation
were mitigated to a certain degree by the number and influence of some
Christians in prestigious and vital professions, such as in medicine
and high positions of government; e.g., Abu l-Hasan Sa'id ibn Amr-ibn-Sangala,
who occupied the position of secretary under the Caliph al-Radi (934-40),
and who was as well appointed as special secretary for the two sons
of the Caliph in 935, and also Minister of Expenditure, and who rendered
inestimable services to the Christians. Because Islam prohibits the
practice of usury to Muslims, Christians exercised a certain monopoly
on the trades of goldsmith, jeweller, and money-lender. Consequently,
many Christians were rich and this stirred further feelings of jealousy
against them. On the whole, relations between Muslims and Christians
were peaceful and unfair laws were not always enforced.
However, the Christians
could not help but feel and endure the stigma of inferiority. Even the
literature of Islamo-Christian controversy should not mislead us on
their true condition in the land of Islam. The tolerance they enjoyed
was not the result of a state policy consistently upheld by all the
caliphs. On the part of the caliphs, it was mostly motivated by their
concern to protect and advance the sciences and the arts. The Islamization
of Syria and Iraq and other lands no doubt facilitated Arabization.
After the Arab military victory, there was the conquest and victory
of Islam as a religion when many Christians in Syria and other lands
converted to Islam to escape their oppressive and humiliating conditions.
Finally there was the linguistic victory as Arabic supplanted Greek
Christian dispersion and refuge in Mount Lebanon and Cyprus
The younger men
argued that the hills and valleys of Sidon were
rich and fruitful.
To withdraw into the inhospitable fastnesses of Mount Lebanon, to abandon
their sacred shrine, where the Holy Family had honored their village
alone of all Phoenicia would be cowardice. The chapel itself would be
their talisman and safeguard.
are evil days. There will come fanatics who will seek out our holiest
shrines to destroy them. The good Omar spared Jerusalem, but those who
followed him grow more bold and arrogant daily, and only God knows what
may some day happen to the Holy Sepulchre itself. It is best that we
conceal the place of Our Lady in Maghdoushe and go to the land of Christians,
in the interior, keeping the secret and our faith in our hearts until
we return here in better days".
According to the
patriarchal custom of the Arabs and of Mount Lebanon, the will of the
elders prevailed. Carefully they concealed the entrance to the ancient
grotto with stones, earth and vines. Little by little they sent their
herds and most prescious possessions back through obscure mountain paths
to the strongholds of Christian Lebanon. When the decided-upon day arrived,
the entire populace fled en-masse to the towns of Zahle and Zouk, from
whose secure heights strong Christian bands were successfully maintaining
themselves. Eventually the caliphal governors, wearying, of incessant
and fruitless punitive expeditions. advised the imperial court in Damascus
that the best way to control these stubborn "People of the Book"
would be to recognize them as autonomous communities, paying a fixed
tax, under their own religious leaders. It was thus that the Maronite
Patriarch of Antioch and of all the Orient became a virtual Prince-Bishop
of Mount Lebanon. The Greek Catholic followers of the Byzantine rite,
to which the Maghdoushe villagers adhered, were placed beneath the rule
of their owm metropolitans and of the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch.
As long as they stayed in their new mountain retreats they were unmolested,
but return to Maghdoushe they dared not.
The legend of Sayidet
al-Mantara; as Our Lady of the Awaiting is called in Arabic continued
to be passed down among the exiled Maghdoushians for the next thousand
years. It grew dim, but it persisted.
The community could
have returned in Crusader times, some half-thousand years later, save
for a new factor. The Crusaders, it so happened, were all of the Latin
rite, and although the Maronites and many of the Greek Catholics were
also in communion with Rome, they clung to their Oriental usage and
to their Syriac and Greek liturgies, refusing to subordinate themselves
to the Latin customs of the Franks, which the latter tried to impose
throughout their dominions. For their part, the Crusaders of Sidon,
or La Sagette, as they called it, spent most of the 12th and 13th Centuries
in the shadow of al-Mantara without ever suspecting the grotto chapel's
existence. In fact, they built a small castle, called La Franche Garde,
on top of the ruins of Empress Helena's tower, within a stone's throw
of the hidden entrance to the cave, without ever finding it.
Rediscovery of al-Mantara
had to await the reign of Lebanon's greatest ruler of all times, the
Druze prince, Fakhreddin II "the Great" (1572-1635), in the
early 17th Century. The diminutive mountaineer, paramount prince of
the followers of a secret Oriental religion which believes in strict
unitarianism and in the transmigration of souls, was perhaps the most
tolerant and enlightened Arab ruler of his day and age. With a Christian
(Maronite) Prime Minister, a Moslem Minister of the Interior, a Druze
army commander and a Jewish Finance Minister, it was
not surprising that
his non-sectarian state, where all religions flourished under the princely
patronage, soon became the most contented and prosperous principality
in the Ottoman empire.
Openly making treaties
with Tuscany, other Italian states, Spain and France, opening his ports
to foreign trade, welcoming Jesuit missionaries to open educational
missions in Mount Lebanon, Fakhreddin the Great created, for the first
time in a thousand years, the conditions of freedom and security which
alone could induce Maghdoushe's sons to return to their ancestral home.
Again the elders
announced their decision. Again the young men drove the flocks and herds
over mountain trails back to the pleasant rolling hilltops above Sidon.
But they could not
locate Sayidet al-Mantara, now only a dim, half-forgotten tradition,
even though for years they worked almost daily within a few yards of
the hidden grotto, as they pulled down La Franche Garde, stone by stone,
for building material for their new homes.
One day, as a village
lad was tending his goats in a bramble thicket near the ruined castle,
one of the kids fell down a chimney-like opening in the porous limestone
rocks typical of Mount Lebanon. He could hear the little goat bleating,
still alive, in some recess, far below. Good goatherd that he was, the
boy made a rope of vines, tied it to a small tree, and descended, somewhat
fearfully, into the black depths. Just before he reached the spot where
the goat was, his rope broker and he tumbled onto a flat rock floor,
but the little goat scrambled happily into his arms. When his eyes became
accustomed to the gloom, the lad ,was startled to see before him what
appeared to be a rock-cut altar, from whose niche came the faint glow
of a golden object Approaching it, the boy saw that it was a holy ikon.
Without touching it, he piled some nearby stones on the floor beneath
the hole through which he had fallen, and worked his way back up the
fissure, the little kid securely tied into his clothing. Running to
the village, he told the people of his discovery.
The next day a man
was let down into the cave with a torch. He found tha walled-up entranceway
and led a party to open it. The elders solemnly assured the younger
generation that this was indeed the holy spot of their ancestors, whose
memory had been one of the community's strong,est bonds of solidarity
while they were in exile.
"The ikon is
ours, given to us by Saint Helena. Let us enshrine it in our new church",
they said, sending a courier to the Bishop of Sidon to advise the prelate
of the momentous discovery. The holy picture was carried with reverence
to the towering new church of Crusader masonry in the center of the
town and placed on the sanctuary screen.
But when the Bishop
arrived, a day later, the ikon was missing from the church. Nevertheless,
His Excellency went to see the holy cave. There, on the rock-cut altar,
was the ikon !
said the Bishop, "but take it back to the church."
That night they
put a guard around the church, but in the morning the ikon was back
in the cave.
observed His Excellency, "it is clear that Our Lady does not wish
the holy ikon to leave the grotto. According to tradition, the cave
has already been dedicated as a place of worship, and this is substantiated
by the altar-stone. Therefore, we hereby rededicate it as the Church
of Sayidet al-Mantara and we order that the ikon remain perpetually
on its altar."
And thus it remains
today. A few pointed masonry arches were later built as a simple porch
for the church, whose main room is the chapel, with the contiguous grotto
chambers used for storage. The adjacent hilltop has now been converted
into Sidon's Greek Catholic cemetery, where Catholic Sidonians, and
others of their rite throughout Lebanon, may be buried near the spot
where they believe that Jesus and Mary once stood, looking down upon
Phoenicia's Queen of Clities, in the early days of the Roman empire.
The ikon itself,
which has never left the sanctuary since the 17th Century, is faded
and worn, with metallic haloes of gold and with silver hands affixed
to the wood over their painted sors. A leg of the Child, also of silver,
has been misplaced too far to the left, and the entire picture is now
encased in glass and almost impossible to photograph satisfactorily.
Under the circumstances, the painting has never been studied thoroughly
by competent experts, but those who have examined it superficially agree
that it seems to be of the early Byzantine type, if not older. The metallic
additions are modern, not antedating the 17th Century.
On the point of
the hill, where the shell of a World War II guard post obscures the
site of the castle's ruins, visitors now go to get a sweeping panorama
view of Sidon. During the late Ottoman period, workmen discovered the
door to an underground vault of the castle, but the village priest,
on instructions from his bishop, ordered it sealed and reburied for
fear that a Turkish expedition might come looking for treasure, with
dire results for both Sayidet al-Mantara and the villagers of Maghdoushe.
Renan, in 1860,
found one course of masonry still above the ground, but today ever,
that has disappeared. There are traces, however, of the rock-cut stairway,
100 yards long and three to four in with that ran up the hill from the
west to an esplanade in front of (south of) the castle, although the
modern highway now cuts through a large section of this grand staircase.
To reach al-Mantara
one may take a "service" taxi near the south end of Sidon's
main street (for 50 piasters, to Maghdoushe) asking to be let out at
Sayidet al-Mantara, or, if driving, follow the coast highway about 4
kilometers south (across the river Saitaniq), turning left, (inland)
on the branch paved road for an additional three kilometers or so.
- Lebanon, Bruce
Condè, second edition, Harb Bijjani Press, Beirut, 1960
reading on the status of persecution of Eastern Christians after the
Arab invasion and the subsequent occupations by Muslim forces, please
read a detailed account on this Assyrian
site. Further, the massacres of Eastern Christians in the late 1800s
is well documented in the "Massacres"
page on this site.
was the first historian of the Christian church. The outbreak of persecution
during the reign of Diocletian forced Eusebius to take refuge in Egypt,
but he was captured and imprisoned. Around 315 he was elected bishop
of Caesarea, in Palestine, and became embroiled in the controversy over
Arianism, in which he took the side of Arius. At the Council of Nicaea
(325 A.D.), he sought to reconcile the opposing parties. Although he
did not incline to the homoousios doctrine of Athanasius, which established
the full divinity and equality of Christ with the Father, he eventually
signed the formula approved at Nicaea, largely in deference to Emperor
Constantine, who had convened the council.
Eusebius was a writer
of immense productivity and learning. His Chronicle (c.303) and Ecclesiastical
History (c.324) are principle sources of early Christian history. The
History is both a political theology and a theology of history, the
first major attempt to explain the association of Christianity with
the Roman Empire and to take a historical approach in describing the
development of the church.
Eusebius, d. c.342,
was the bishop of Nicomedia and a leader of Arianism, a Christian heresy
denying the divinity of Jesus Christ. Little is known of his early history,
although it is likely that Eusebius and Arius were fellow disciples
of Lucian of Antioch. At first the bishop of Berytus, Eusebius moved
to Nicomedia, the seat of the imperial court. He signed the formula
approved at the Council of Nicaea (325; see Nicaea, COUNCILS OF) declaring
the full divinity and equality of Christ with the Father. After the
council, however, Eusebius advocated the views of Arias with renewed
zeal. Though Emperor Constantine I banished him, he was restored through
the favor of the empress, and he used his increasing political and ecclesiastical
ascendancy to procure the banishment of Athanasius, one of the leaders
at Nicaea, in 335. In 337 he baptized Constantine, the first Christian
emperor, and in 339 he was appointed bishop of Constantinople.
on the Splendor of Affairs
A Certain one of
those of moderate talent, who had composed a discourse, stepped forward
in the presence of many pastors who were assembled as if for a church
gathering, and while they attended quietly and decently, he addressed
himself as follows to one who was in all things a most excellent bishop
and beloved of God, through whose zeal the temple in Tyre, which was
the most splendid in Phoenicia, had been erected.
upon the building of the churches, addressed to Paulinus, Bishop of Tyre
Tyre was subsequently
under the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt and in 200 became part of the
Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom; it finally came under Roman rule in 68
BC. It was often mentioned in the New Testament and was famous in Roman
times for its silk products and for a purple dye extracted from snails
of the genus Murex. By the 2nd century AD it had a sizable Christian
community, and the Christian scholar Origen was buried in its
cathedral (c. 254). Under Muslim rule from 638 to 1124, Tyre grew prosperous
as part of the kingdom of Jerusalem, a crusader state in the 12th and
13th centuries. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, who died
on the Third Crusade, was buried in its cathedral (1190). Captured and
destroyed by the Muslim Mamluks in 1291, the town never recovered its
times it was in Qana (Cana) near Tyre that Jesus turned water into wine
at the wedding feast. (More to come regarding newly found archeological
of Paulinus discoverd in Tyre. (More to come regarding newly found archeological
What remains to
be said, in the coastal towns of Phoenicia the population became mainly
Sunnite Muslim, but in town and country alike there remained considerable
numbers of Christians of various sects. In course of time, virtually
all sections of the population adopted Arabic, the language of the Muslim
states in which ancient Phoenician (now Lebanon) was included.