Among the first converts to Christianity was a woman from the Sidon & Tyre area in Phoenicia whom Christ cured her daughter. Please see the story of the Syro-Phoenician or Canaanite woman in the New Testament. For further reading on the history of the early Church please see the related page in this site entitled Phoenician Christians, The First Converts Outside the Jews.
Phoenicia (cp. subscript, Nicea) is distinguished from Syria. An ecclesiastical province of this name existed in 231-232 A.D. is proved by Saint Jerome, cp. xxx. 4 who wrote c. 380 A.D.: "Damnatur Origenes a Demetrio episeopo exceptis Palaestinae...et Phoenicis atque Achaiae sacerdotibus."
As we learn from Acts. Christianity reached the cities of Phoenicia at a very early period. When Paul was converted, there were already Christians At Damascus (Acts x. 2, 12f., 19) ; for Christians in Tyre see xxi. 4. for Ptolemais see xxi. 7. for Sidon1 xxvii. 2, and in general xi. 19.
numquam siriste, itaque ergo stat semper presbyter, qui, episeopo graece dicente, siriste interpretatur, et omnes audiant quaeexponuntur. lectiones etiam, quaecumque in ecelesia leguntur, quianecesse est graece legi, semper stat, qui siriste interpretatur propterpopulum, tit semper distant. sane quicumque hie [se. in Jerusalem] latini sunt, i.e. qui nec siriste lice graece noverunt, ne contristentur, etipsis exponit episcopus, quia sunt alii fratres et sorores graecilatini,qui latine exponunt eis ("And as in the province of Palestine, one section of the population knows both Greek and Syriac, whilst another is purely Greek, and a third knows only Syriac. Therefore, since the bishop, though he knows Syriac, always speaks in Greek and never in Syriac, a presbyter always stands beside him to interpret his Greek into Syriac, so that the whole congregation may know what is being said. Also, as the readings from scripture in the church have to be in Greek, a Syriac interpreter is always present for the benefit of the people, that they may miss nothing of the lessons. Indeed, in the case of the Latins here [in Jerusalem], i.e. people who know neither Greek nor Syriac, that they should be put out, the bishop expounds to them by themselves. There are other brethren and sisters, Greco-Latins, who expound to them in Latin.”)
The metropolitan position of Tyre, that was the leading city in the East for manufactures and trade, made it the ecclesiastical head of the province; but it is questionable if this pre-eminence obtained as early as the second century for at the Palestinian synod on the Easter controversy, the bishop of Tyre, and Clarus, the bishop of Ptolemais, still took counsel with the bishops of Aelia and of Caesarea (Eus., H.E., v. 25), to whom they were accordingly, it may be, subordinate. On the other hand, Marinus of Tyre is mentioned in a letter of Dionysius of Alexandria (ibid., vii. 5. 1) in such a way as to make his metropolitan dignity extremely probable. Martyrs in Tyre,during the great persecution, are noted by Eusebius, viii. 7.1 (viii. 8), viii. 13. 3 (bishop Tyrannion), Mart. Pal., v. I (vii. 1). Origen died at Tyre and was buried there. It is curious also to note that the learned Antiochene priest Dorotheus, the teacher of Eusebius, was appointed by the emperor (Diocletian, or one of his immediate predecessors) to be the director of the purple-dying trade in Tyre (Eus., H.E., vii. 32). A particularly libellous edict issued by the emperor Daza against the Christians, is preserved by Eusebius (ix. 7), who copied it from the pillar in Tyre on which it was cut, and the historian's work reaches its climax in the great speech upon the reconstruction of the church at Tyre, "by far the most beautiful in all Phoenicia" (x. 4). The speech is dedicated to Paulinus, bishop of Tyre, in Shoshone indeed the whole of the tenth book of its history is written. Unfortunately we get no information whatever, from this long address, upon the Christian community at Tyre.
In Sidon the presbyter Zenobius (Eus.. H.K., viii. 13. 8) died during the great persecution, as did some Christians at Damascus (ix. 5).
Eleven bishops, but no chor-episcopi, were present at the council of Nicea from Phoenicia; namely, the bishops of Tyre, Ptolemais, Damascus, Sidon, Tripolis, Paneas, Berytus, Palmyra, Alasus2, Emesa, and Antaradus.3
Already (under Palestine) I have noted that Jewish Christians also resided in Paneas on which town (see, too, Eus., H.E., viii. 17. 18)4
Tripolis is mentioned even before the council of Nicea (in Mart. Pal., iii., where a Christian named Dionysius comes from Tripolis); the Apostolic Constitution (vii. 46) affirm that Marthones was bishop of this town as early as the apostolic age; while, previous to the council of Nicea, Hellanicus, the local bishop, opposed (Theodoret, H.E., i. 4), though Gregory, bishop of Berytus, sided with him (loc. cit.; for Berytus see also Mart. Pal. iv.).
Eusebius (viii. 13) calls Silvanus, at the period of the great persecution, bishop, not of Emesa but of "the churches round Emesa"5. Emesa then resembled Gaza; owing to the fanaticism of the inhabitants, Christians were unable to reside within the town itself, and had to quarter themselves in the adjoining villages. Anatolius, the successor of Silvanus, was the first to take up his abode within the town. With regard to Heliopolis we have this definite information, that the town acquired its first church and bishop, thanks to Constantine, after 825 A.D. (cp. Vita Constant., iii. 58, and Socrat., i. 18)6. The Mart. Syriacum mentions one martyr, Lucius, at Heliopolis. Christians also were deported (Mart. Pal., xiii. 2) by Daza to Lebanon for penal servitude.
One martyrdom makes it plain that there were Christians at Byblus. Further, and finally, we have to recall an interesting inscription, dated in the year 318-319 A.D. (630 of the Seleuc. era), which was discovered at Deir Ali(Kebab), about three miles south of Damascus, by Le Bias and Waddington. It runs as follows:
"The meeting-house of the Marcionists, in the village of Lebaba, of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Erected by the forethought of Paul a presbyter - - In the year 630."7,8
Thus there was a Marcionite community near Damascus in the year 318 (319) A.D. (Already, p. 260, we have found Marcionite bishop in Palestine about the same period.)
We have no information in detail upon the diffusion and density of the Christian population throughout Phoenicia. More general and satisfactory notices are to hand with regard to Syria, a province with which Phoenicia was at that time very closely bound up, for the Phoenician tongue had long ago been dislodged by Syriac.9 From the state of matters which still obtained in the second half of the sixth century, however, it is perfectly plain that Christianity got affirm footing only on the seaboard, while the inland district of Phoenicia remained entirely pagan in the main. Yet it was but recently, not earlier than the third century, that these Phoenician-Hellenic cults had undergone a powerful revival.
It is worthy of notice that the majority of the Phoenician towns where Christians or Christian bishops can be traced, lay on the coast; i.e. they were towns with a strong Greek population. In the large pagan cities of worship, Emesa and Heliopolis, on the other hand, Christians were not tolerated. Once we leave out inland localities where Marcionites and Jewish Christians resided, the only places in the interior where Christians can be traced are Damascus, Paneas, and Palmyra. Damascus, the great trading city, was Greek (cp. Mommsen’s Röm. Gesch., v. p. 473; Eng. trans., ii. 146), as was Paneas, and in Palmyra, the headquarters of the desert-trade, a strong Greek element also existed (Mommsen. pp.425 f.; Eng. trans., ii. 96 f.). The national royal house in Palmyra, with its Greek infusion, was well disposed towards the scanty indigenous Christians of Syria, as maybe inferred from the relations subsisting between Paul of Samosata and Zenobia, no less than from the policy adopted by home against him.
Church of Antioch and Coele-Syria -- hollow Syria
In accordance with its tendency towards universal dominion, Christianity streamed from Jerusalem as far as Antioch (Acts xi.), the greatest city of the East and the third city in the Roman Empire, ere a few years had passed over its head. It was in Antioch that it got its name, which in all probability was originally a nickname10; for Antioch was a city of nicknames and of low-class literature. Here the first Gentile Christian community grew up; for it was adherents of Jesus drawn from paganism who were called "Christians" (cp. pp. 15 f.). Here Barnabas labored. Here the great apostle Paul found his sphere of action, and ere long the Christian community became so important, possessed of such a vigorous self-consciousness and such independent activity, that its repute rivaled that of the Jerusalem church itself.11 Between the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch the cardinal question of the Gentile Christians was debated; it was the church of Antioch which took the most decided step forward in the history of the gospel; and as early as the second century it gave further expression12 to its church consciousness by designating the apostle Peter as its first bishop although, to judge from Gal. ii. 11 f., it was no glorious role that he had played in Antioch.
We know next to nothing of the history of Christianity in Coele-Syria during the first three centuries,13 but a whole series of data is available for its history in Antioch itself. We possess, for example, the list of the Antiochene episcopate,14 and the very names are instructive. Euodius, Ignatius, Heron, Cornelius, Eros, Theophilus. Maximinus, Serapion, Asciepiades, Philetus, Zebinus, Babylas, Fabius, Demetrianus, Paulus, Domnus, Timaus, Cyrillus. Tyrannus -- the large majority of these names are Greek, and Greek was the language of the church. Its fame is established by Ignatius, after Paul. Several features (though they are not many) in the contemporary situation of the church at Antioch can be made out from the epistles of Ignatius, who proudly terms it "the church of Syria." He, too, had been preceded by other writers, so it was given out-quite erroneously, of course-in a later age. The bishops, Theophilus, Serapion, and Paulus,15 however, were authors, as was the Antiochene presbyter Geminus (Jerome, de vir. ill., lxiv.).Famous schools of learning were held by the presbyter Malchion (Eus., H.E., vii. 29), the presbyter Dorotheus (vii. 28), and above all by Lucian. The church of Antioch also took its share in the great general controversies, the Montanist, theocrat, the baptismal, and the Christological, and it maintained a lively intercourse with other churches. It mediated between the church at large, which was substantially Greek, and the Syriac East, just as the Roman church did between the former and the Latin-speaking West.16 Further, unless the evidence is totally misleading, it was the church of Antioch which introduced into the cultus of Greek Christendom its strongly rhetorical element -- an element of display and fantasy. Once more, it was in this church that the dynamic Christology received its most powerful statement, that Arianism arose, and that the ablest school of exegesis flourished.
The central position of the church is depicted in the great synods held at Antioch in the middle of the third century. Dionysius of Alexandria (Eus., H.E., vi. 46) wrote to Cornelius of Rome that he had been invited to a synod at Antioch (251 A.D.) by Helenus of Tyre and the other bishops of the country, as well as by Firmilian of Cappadocia and Theoktistus, a Palestinian bishop (of Casarea). The outcome of the synod is described by him in a letter to Stephen of Rome (ibid., vii. 5): "Know that all the churches of the East, and even beyond it, which previously were divided, have once more become united. All over, the bishops are harmonious and unanimous, greatly delighted at the unexpected restoration of peace among the churches." He then proceeds to enumerate the bishops of Antioch, Caesarea, Aelia, 'l'yre, Laodicea, Tarsus, "and all the churches of Cilicia, besides Firmilian and all Cappadocia -- for, to avoid making my letter too long. I have merely named the most prominent among them. Add all Syria and Arabia [Jordan], with Mesopotamia, Pontus, and Bithynia." Setting aside the two last-named provinces, we may say that this forms a list of the provinces over which the influence of Antioch normally extended.17 To the last great synod at Antioch against Paulus, the Antiochene bishop, no fewer than seventy or eighty bishops gathered from all the provinces, from Pontus to Egypt;18 for it must be remembered, the Christological crisis, in which their metropolitan was the "heretic' of the hour, was of supreme moment to the church. Unfortunately we know nothing of the seats of these bishops.19
Although the information which we possess upon the appearance of Paul at Antioch in the role of bishop comes from a hostile pen, it throws light on the size and secular conformation of the local Christian community in the second half of the third century (Eus., H.E., vii. 30)20. "At an earlier period he was poor and a beggar. He neither inherited any means from his parents, nor did he make any money by any craft or trade whatever; yet he is now in possession of extravagant wealth, thanks to his iniquitous transactions, his acts of sacrilege, and his extortionate demands upon the brethren. For he officiously recommends himself to people who are wronged, promising to help them for a consideration. Yet all he does is to cheat them, making a profit for himself, without any service in return, out of litigants who are quite ready to pay money in order to get quit of a troublesome business. Thus he treats piety as a means of making some profit. He is haughty and puffed up; he is invested with secular dignities; he would rather be called 'ducenarius' [an imperial procurator of the second rank] than 'bishop'; he strides ostentatiously up and down the public squares, reading or dictating letters publicly in the middle of his walk, and having a numerous retinue who escort him in front and behind. Thus by his arrogance and insolence our faith wins ill-will and hatred from the public. In the assemblies of the church his inordinate ambition and vainglorious pride make him behave in an inexplicable fashion, and thus he captivates the minds of simple folks till they actually admire him. He has a platform and a high throne erected for himself; unlike disciple of Christ. Also, like secular officials, he has his private cabinet (secretum). He strikes his hand upon his thigh, stamps with his feet upon the platform, and inveighs with insolent insults against those who, instead of breaking out in applause of himself, or waving their handkerchiefs like the audience in a theatre, or shouting aloud and jumping like the men and women of his own company who behave in this indecent fashion, prefer to listen to him reverently and quietly as befits the house of God. Dead expositors of the word of God are assailed in public with coarse and vulgar taunts, while the speaker exalts himself in swelling terms as if he were a sophist or juggler and not a bishop. Hymns in praise of our Lord Jesus Christ he puts stop to, as too recently composed by modem men; whereas he has songs sung to his own praise and glory by women in the public congregation on the opening day of the paschal feast, songs which might well make any audience shudder. Similar notions are advocated, at his instigation, by the bishops of neighboring localities and towns who fawn upon him, as well as by the priests in their addresses to the people. Thus he will not acknowledge, with us, that the Son of God has come down from heaven... Jesus, he says, is from below. Whereas those who sing hymns in his own honor and publicly praise him, assert that he himself has come down as an angel from heaven; and instead of checking such outbursts, he is even presenting all his arrogance when they are uttered. Furthermore, he has 'virgines subintroductae' of his own, 'lady companions,' as the people of Antioch call them. So have the priests and deacons of his company, of which, as of all the rest of their pernicious errors, he is perfectly cognizant. But he connives at them, in order to attach the men to himself, and prevent them, through fear of personal consequences, from daring to challenge his own unrighteous words and deeds.
Even if he should have committed no act of immorality [with regard to the 'virgines'], still he ought to have eschewed the suspicion of it... He has indeed dismissed one such woman, but he still retains two in the bloom and beauty of their sex, takes them with him on his travels, and lives meanwhile in sumptuous and luxurious fashion. Such practices make everyone groan and lament in private. But no one dares to bring him to task, such is their dread of his authority and tyranny. Yet for such practices one would, call him to account [i.e. not condemning him outright, nor conniving at his actions], if he still held the catholic position and belonged to our own number."
I have quoted this passage in extenso, as I think it is extremely important for the spread and the position of the church in Antioch at that period. The best established feature in the whole description (for the malicious charges, which are a proof of Antiochene journalism, may be largely relegated to the background) is that the bishop had by this time assumed. or been forced to assume, the customs and forms of a high state-official, a feature which brings out very clearly the development and importance of the local Christian community. Besides, the relations between Paul and the royal house of Palmyra (Syriac by race), so far as these are known or may be conjectured.21 show that Christianity already played a political role in Antioch. Furthermore, the authentic document given by Eusebius tells us that Paul refused to admit his condemnation, nor did he evacuate his episcopal residence. Whereupon -- Zenobia meanwhile having been conquered by Rome, and the collateral rule of the house of Palmyra having been overthrown in Egypt and throughout the East -- the matter was laid before the emperor Aurelian, who ordered (A.D.27) the residence to be handed over to the bishop with whom the Christian bishops of Italy and Rome were in epistolary communion. This forms a conspicuous example of the political significance attaching to the church of Antioch.
It is impossible to make any statistical calculations as to the dimensions of the church about 320 A.D., but at any rate there were several churches in the city (Theod., H.E., i. 2),and if the local Christians were in the majority in Julian's reign, their number must have been-very large as early as the year 320. Diodorus and Chrysostom preached in what was substantially a Christian city, as the latter explicitly attests in several passages. He gives the number of the inhabitants (excluding slaves and children) at 200,000 (Hom. in Ignat. 4), the total of members belonging to the chief church being 100,000 (Hom. 85  c. 4.)22 Antioch in early days was always the stronghold of Eastern Christianity, and the local church was perfectly conscious of its vocation as the church of the metropolis. The horizon of the Antiochene bishop extended as far as Mesopotamia and Persia. Armenia and Georgia, and he felt himself in duty bound to superintend the mission and consolidation of the church throughout these countries. Similarly, he recognized his duties with regard to the defense of the church against heretics. It was from Antioch that the missionary impulse of Chrysostom proceeded. as well as the vigorous campaign against the heretics waged by the great exegetes, Diodorus and Theodoret, Chrysostom and Nestorius.
Outside the gates of Antioch, that "fair city of the Greeks" (see Isaac of Antioch's Carmen 15, ed. Bickell, i. 294), Syriac was the language of the people, and only in the Greek towns of the country was it displaced by Greek. The Syriac spirit was wedded to it, however, and remained the predominant factor in religious and in social life. Yet in the distinctively Syriac world, Christianity operated from Edessa (see below) rather than from Antioch, unless we are wholly mistaken. The wide districts lying between both cities were consequently evangelized from two centrifuging the third century; from Antioch in the West by means of a Greek Christian propaganda, and from Edessa in the East by means of one which was Syriac Christian. Hence we must infer that the larger towns practically adopted the former, while the country towns and villages went over to the latter. The work of conversion, so it would appear, made greater headway in Coele-Syria, however, than in Phoenicia. By about 325 the districts round Antioch seem to have contained a very large number of Christians, and one dated (331) Christian inscription from a suburban village runs as follows: "Christ, have mercy; there is but one God." In Chrysostom's day these Syriac villages appear to have been practically Christian. Lucian, the priest of Antioch, avows in his speech before the magistrate in Nicomedia (311 A.D.) that "almost the greater part of the world now adheres to this Truth, yea whole cities; even if any seems suspect, there is no doubt regarding multitudes of country folk, who are innocent of guile" ("pars paene mundi iam maior huic veritati adstipulatur. urbes integrae, aut si in his aliquid suspectum videtur, contestatur de hisetiam agrestis manus, ignara figmenti"); and although this may embody impressions which he had just received in Bithynia, there was substantially a basis for the statement to be found in the local circumstances of Syria. The numbers of the clergy in 803 throughout Syria are evident from Eus., H.E., viii. 6: An enormous number were put in prison at every place. The prisons, hitherto reserved for murderers and riflers of graves, were now packed everywhere with bishops, priests, deacons, lectors, and exorcists." The data at our command are as follows:
Acts (xv.) already tells of churches in Syria besides Antioch.
Ignatius, à propos of Antioch (ad Philad. 10), mentions "churches in the neighborhood" which had already bishops of their own. These certainly included Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch mentioned in Acts xiii. 4.
Apamea was a center of the Elkesaites (cp. above, vol. i. pp. 71, 465).
Dionys. Alex. (in Eus., H.E., vii. 5) observes that the Roman church frequently sent contributions to the Syriac churches.
The communication of the Antiochene synod of 268 (Eus. H.E., vii. 30), mentions, in connection with Antioch, "bishops of the neighboring country and cities.” From Eus., vi. 12, we know that by about 200 A.D. there was a Christian community (and a bishop?) at Rhossus which was gravitating towards Antioch.
Two chor-episcopi from Coele-Syria attended the council of Nicea. In Martyrol. Hieron. (Achelis, Mart. Hieron., p. 168), a martyrdom is noted as having occurred “in Syria vico Margaritato," as well as another (p. 177 i) "In Syria provincia regione Apameae vico Aprocavictu," but both these places are unknown.
The number of town-bishops from Coele-Syria who were present at Nicea was, relatively, very considerable representatives were there from Antioch, Seleucia, Laodicea, Apamea. Raphanea. Hierapolis, Germanicia (=Marasch), Samosata. Doliche, Balaneae (cp. Hom. Clem., xiii. 1), Gabula, Zeugrna, Larisa, Epiphania, Arethusa, Neocâsarea, Cyrrus, Gindarus, Arbokadama, and Cabbala (= Gaba ?). These towns lay in the most diverse districts of this wide country, on the seaboard, in the valley of heroines, in the Euphrates valley, between the Orontes and the Euphrates, and in the north. Their distribution shows that Christianity was fairly uniform and fairly strong in Syria about 325,23 as is strikingly proved by the rescript of Daza to Sabinus (Eus., H.E., ix. 9) -- for we are to think of the experiences undergone by the churches of Syriac Antioch and Asia Minor, when we read the emperor's words: "almost all abandoning the worship of the gods and attaching themselves to the Christian people ". This remark is not to he taken simply as a rhetorical flourish. For after speaking in one place about the first edict of Diocletian, Eusebius proceeds as follows: “Not long afterwards, as some people in the district called Melitene and in other districts throughout Syria, attempted to usurp the kingdom, a royal decree went forth to the effect that the head officials of the churches everywhere should be put in prison and chains." viii. 6. 8). Eusebius does not say it in so many words, but the context makes it quite clear that the emperor held the Christians responsible for both of these outbreaks (that in Melitene being unknown to history); which shows that the Christians in Melitene and Syria must have been extremely numerous, otherwise the emperor would never have met revolutionary outbursts (which in Syria and, one may conjecture, in Melitene also, originated with the army) with edicts against the Christian clergy.
All that we know about the earlier history of Christianity in the towns is confined to some facts about Laodicea (where bishop Thelymidres was prominent about 250 A.D.; Cp .Eus., vi. 46; he was followed by Heliodorus, vii. .5, and subsequently by Eusebius of Alexandria, and the famous Anatolius, vii. 32), Arethusa (cp. Vit. Constant., iii. 62), and Samosata (the birthplace of Paul of Antioch, though we do not know if he was of Christian birth). The bishop of Rhossus was not at Nicea (though Rhossus may also be assigned to Cilicia). But, as we have seen above, Rhossus did possess a Christian church about 200 A.D., which came under the supervision of the church at Antioch. There was Jewish Christian church at Beroea (Aleppo) in the fourth century (cp. p. 251)24
Finally, we have to take account of the pseudo-Clementine de virginitate, which probably belongs to the beginning of the third century, and either to Palestine or to Southern Syria.25 It contains directions for itinerant ascetics,and five classes are given of places where such people stayed and passed the night. (1) Places with a number of married brethren and ascetics: (2) places with married brethren but without ascetics; (3) places where there were only Christian wives and girls; (4) places where there was only one Christian woman; and (5) places where there were no Christians at all. The third and fourth classes are of special interest. They testify to what is otherwise well known, viz., that women formed the majority within the Christian communities. We also get an instructive picture of the state of morals and manners, in the directions given for the behavior of an ascetic in places where 110Christians were to be found at all. This account [for which see vol. i. pp. 254-255, note] has small country churches in view. And their number must have been considerable. Theodoret observes that his diocese of Cyrrus contained 800 parishes. By that time, of course, over a century had passed since the days of Constantine, but nevertheless, a number of these parishes were there earlier than that emperor's reign.
In the pseudo-Clementine Homilies, the island of Aradus (xii. 1), Orthosia (xii. I), and Paltus (xiii. 1), the frontier-town between Syria and Phoenicia, are all mentioned. Whether Christians existed there at that date is uncertain.
Where is this town to be sought for?
The last-named is not quite certain (see Gelzer, loc. cit, p. lxv. f.).Probably a twelfth still falls to be added, if the MSS. is genuine, and if we may identify it. with Thelsea near Damascus (ltin,. Ant., 196. 2).
This passage at any rate leads us to infer that Christians existed there, whether the well-known statue (see above, vol. i. p. 145) really was statue of Christ, or was merely taken to represent him. Vol ii.
In ix. 6 he is simply called bishop, and he is said to have been martyred by Daza after an episcopate of forty years.
Eusebius strongly emphasizes the unprecedented fact of a church being founded and a bishop being appointed at Heliopolis itself. Then lie proceeds: ' In his zealous care to have as many as possible won over to the doctrine of the gospel, the emperor gave generous donations for the support of the poor at this place also, so as even thus to stir them up to receive the truths of salvation. He, too, might almost have said with the apostle, 'Whether in pretence or in truth, let Christ anyhow be proclaimed.'" How tenaciously paganism maintained itself, however, in Heliopolis (which was still a predominantly pagan town in the sixth century) is shown by Sehultze, op. cit, ii. pp. 250 f. On the local situation towards the close of the fourth century, see the notice of Peter of Alexandria (Theod., H.E., iv. 19): ' In Heliopolis no inhabitant will so much as listen to the name of Christ, for they are all idolaters…The devil's ways of pleasure are in full vogue there …The governor of the city himself is one of the leading idolaters' (capsize, vii. 15). As lute as 57 the pagans were still in the majority at Heliopolis, but shortly before the irruption of Islam the local church had got the upper hand.
Insc. Grec. et Latines, iii. 1870, No. 2558, p. 582; cp. Harnack in Zeitscher. f. wiss Theol. (1876), pp. 10 f.
[i.e. of the Seleucid era.]
On Constantine's destruction of the temple of Aphrodite in Alpha, in the Lebanon, see Vita Constant., iii. 55.
According to Theophilus, ad Autol., i. 12, the pagans in Antioch even as late as 180 A.D. took the name "Christian” as a term of ridicule.
In this connection special moment attaches to Acts xi. 27 f. -- where the wealthier church of Antioch supports the brethren in Judea -- and further, to Acts xiii. 1 f1. At the very outset a certain Nicolaus (a proselyte from Antioch), appears as a guardian of the poor in Jerusalem.
As also by the device of placing a great apostolic synod at Antioch (see the Excursus to Chap. V., Book I.)
We know that a seat, or the seat, of the sect of the Elkesaites was at Apamea, whence the Elkesaite Alcibiades traveled to Rome (Hipp., Philos., ix 13).
Cp. my Chronologie, i. pp. 208 f. and elsewhere.
The Apology of pseudo-Melito (Otto's Corp. Apol. ix.), composed about the beginning of the third century, was probably written in Syriac originally (and in Coele-Syria), but it is the one Syriac writing which can be named in this connection. Investigations into the Acts of Thomas have not yet advanced far enough to enable us to arrive at any certain decision upon the question whether they belong to the province of Edessa or to that of Western Syria. The overwhelming probability is, however, that they were composed in Syriac, and that they belong to Edessa --and in fact to the circle of that great Eastern missionary and teacher, Bardesanes; cp. Noldeke in Lipsius: Apokr. Apostelgeschichten, ii. 2, pp. 423 f., and Burkitt in the Journal of Theological Studies, i. pp. 280 f. The gnostic Saturninus (Satornil) also belonged to Antioch (cp. Iren., 1. xxiv. I), and other gnostic sect sand schools originated in Syria.
It is instructive to observe how Cornelius of Rome plumes himself upon the greatness of Rome, in writing to Fabius of Antioch (Eus., H.E., vi. 43). He had good occasion to do so, in view of Antioch itself.
This also serves to explain the well-known passage in the sixth canon of Nicea: Likewise with regard to Antioch and throughout the other provinces, the churches are to have their due prerogatives secured to them").
Eusebius (H.E., vii. 28) speaks of thousands, Athanasius gives seventy (de synod. 43), and Hilarius (de synod. 86), eighty bishops. Basilius Diaconus (fifth century) gives a hundred and eighty.
The paper of the Antiochene synod to the bishops of Rome and Alexandria as well as to the whole church (Eus., H.E., vii. 30)mentions, in its address, the names of Helenus (Tarsus), Hymenaus (Jerusalem), Theophilus (?), Theoteknus (Caesarea), Maximus (Bostra), Proclus (?), Nicomas (?), Aelianus (?), Paulus (?), Bolanus(?), Protogenes (?), Hierax (?), Eutychius (?), Theodorus (?), Malchion (presbyter of Antioch), and Lucius (probably also presbyter of Antioch). Unfortunately, the bishoprics of the majority are unknown.
According to Oriental sources of information (cp. Westphal, Unler:.über die (Quellen und die Glaubwurdigkeit der Patriarchalchroniken ken des Mari ibn Sulaiman, etc., 1901, pp. 62 f.), Demetrianus. Paul's predecessor in the see of Antioch, was exiled to Persia. This tradition, which answers to the general situation and has nothing against it (it was unknown to me when I wrote my Chronology of Early Christian Literature), proves that about 200 A.D. both the church of Antioch and its bishop possessed some political weight.
Paul's entrance on his episcopate at Antioch fell at the very period, and probably in the very year, when the Persians captured Antioch. As soon as the Persians retreated, Gallienus appointed Odaenathus to what was really an independent authority over Palmyra and the East. Paul must have understood admirably how to curry favor with this ruler and his queen Zenobia, for, in spite of his episcopal position, he was imperial procurator of the second rank in Antioch.
Cp. Schultze (op. cit, ii. p. 263); Gibbon (The Decline and Fall, Germ, trans. by Sporachil, ii. p. 219) takes the 100,000 to represent the total of the Christians in Antioch itself.
The opposition offered to Christianity varied considerably in the various towns. In Apamea, it would seem to have been particularly keen. Even as regards e. 400 A. D., Sozomen (vii. 15) observes: I have been told that the Syrian inhabitants of Apamea often employed the men of Galilee and the Lebanon villages to aid them in a military defense of their temple, and that at last they actually went so far as to slay the local bishop") [who had had the temple demolished].
Of one bishop in Syria, Hippolytus relates (in Daniel, p. 230, ed. Bonwetsch; see above, p. 2:33) that his enthusiastic fanaticism seduced his fellow-members into the wilderness with their wives and children in order to meet Christ, the local governor had them arrested, and they were almost condemned as robbers, had not the governors wife, who was a believer, interceded on their behalf. Unfortunately Hippolytus does not name the locality. There were Novatian churches also in Syria (cp. the polemical lecture of Eusebius of Emesa, in the fourth century; Fabius of Antioch had sided with the Novatians). But we do not know where to look for them.
Cp. my study of it in the Sitzungsberichted. k.Pr. Akad. Wiss., 1891,pp. 361 f.
The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, 325 A.D. 271 by Adolf von Harnack, Professor of Church History in the University of Berlin, and Member of the Royal Russian Academy.
Translated and edited by James Moffatt, B.D., D.D. (St Andrews)
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