Christianity: From AD 400 – 500

Political Milestones: 400 AD to 500 AD

The century started terribly for Rome. With the invasion of France and Spain by the Vandals, Suebi and Alans, these lands were lost to the empire forever.  Then, taking advantage of the western battles, Rome itself was sacked for the first time in 800 years by an invading army of Visigoths in 410 AD. Britain was abandoned in a vain attempt to save the capital, but to no avail. Taking advantage of this political vacuum, in 455 AD the invading Saxons crushed the Britons at the battle of Aylesford in Kent, England. This battle was an important step in the Saxon conquest of Britain. By 476 AD the Western Roman Empire was assigned to history and the Visigoth leader Odoacer became king of Italy.

Over in the Americas the Mayan, Teotihuacán and Zapotec empires were battling for control of Mexico, while the Moche, Huari, Nazca and Tihuanaco peoples were all creating South Americas first independent kingdoms, that would later be plundered by Spain.

European history in the middle of the century was dominated by one group of people, the dreaded Asiatic Huns. Under their brilliant leaders, The Huns first invaded Sassanid Persia, only to be pushed back. They then invaded the crumbling political structures in Europe under the fearsome Attila. It took until 451 AD for a European army to check their advance in the fields of France. By this time they had effectively conquered all of northern Europe, the Russian plains, and Central Asia all the way to Kazakhstan. To their east, the Mongolian empire of the Ruruans controlled northern China. This was the only time in history that Europe has been under the control of Asians.

After Attila’s death, and his son Ellac’s military defeat, the Huns quit Europe in 471 AD. Their influence was short-lived but historically marks the end of the Roman era. Not finished, the Huns next invaded India in 510 AD and defeated the powerful Gupta Empire. They ruled central Asia and the Indian sub-continent for the next hundred years.

Spiritual Milestones: 400 AD to 500 AD

The beginning of the century opened with about 25% of central Asia now Christian in what we now call the Nestorian, or Eastern Church. These believers would soon come under the control of the Huns. This branch of Christianity has now completely died out and one of the many reasons for this is the insistence they placed on all worship being in the Syriac language. Local languages were considered subservient. This prevented the indigenisation of the faith into Turkic and Iranian culture, a mistake that changed history. However, to their credit the Nestorians laid great emphasis on scripture reading, prayer and adaptation to host cultures. By 425 AD Herat in Afghanistan and Samarkand in Uzbekistan had their own bishops. Over in Europe, the Bible was finally translated into Latin in 404 AD.

In 410 AD the Gospel reached Yemen. In 420 AD the first Arab tribes became Christian through the efforts of the Nestorian church. Sadly, the Bible was never translated into Arabic until after the death of Muhammad. How would the story of the Arab Peninsula be different  if this one task had been completed?

In 432 AD, a Celtic Briton named Patrick took the gospel to Ireland. Thus was born the Celtic church, which became a repository of learning in a collapsing civilisation. In centuries to come this small branch or Christianity would eventually send missionaries all across northern Europe, seeing whole nations come to faith.

In 451 AD the Council of Chalcedon in Europe condemned the Nestorian doctrine that Jesus had two distinct natures. Thus the thriving Middle Eastern branch and European branches of Christianity were irrevocably and forever divided, one Catholic and the other Nestorian. Meanwhile, and in stark contrast to these debates, Christians were still dying in the hundreds of thousands for their faith in Persia.

In 478 AD the first Shinto shrine was built in Japan, marking the emergence of that nation’s current religion.

In 496 AD the Frankish king Clovis became a Christian in Rheims, France. His descendants would later become the only force capable of stopping the Muslims from conquering all of Western Europe in the Seventh Century.

The world’s population remained fairly static during this century at around 200 million. But the number of Christians continued to grow and some 20%, or 35-40 million people would call themselves “Christian” by the year 500 AD. Sadly, this term no longer specifically defined a person with a personal relationship with Jesus.  Half a million of these Christians would lose their lives four their faith during the century. The chief persecutors remained the Persians, but they were now joined by the Barbarians in Western Europe. The Armenians, as usual, continued to suffer greatly.

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