John Philip Jenkins
The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died
New York: HarperCollins, 2008
“No one has been sent to us Orientals by the Pope. The holy apostles aforesaid taught us and we still hold today what they handed down to us.” — Rabban Bar Sauma, c. 1290
“Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.” — Benjamin Disraeli, reply to a taunt by Daniel O’Connell
There are two strikingly parallel discussions going on in two very different places. Among the dissident Right, one frequently hears that Christianity is somehow essential to European identity; that whatever its origins, and however “alien” its mentality may be from primal Aryanness, it has through force of circumstance become at one with us: Europe now “is” its cathedrals, its Bach cantatas, its Christmas holidays, and so on. A smaller group would beg to differ, and imagines a Christ-rein future for the Whitopia.
A symmetrical discussion goes on among the Christian community itself; Christianity is, at least by the numbers, “becoming” Hispanic, African, even Asian. This much is undisputed. What disagreement exists is among those who welcome, or at least acquiesce in, this change, and seek to “make Christianity less white,” while a smaller group grouses about giving in to the “PC police” and Leftist theological fashions.
Comes now Philip Jenkins – “One of America’s top religious scholars” (Forbes) – to suggest that both sides are arguing from a false premise: Christianity isn’t becoming non-white; historically, from the get-go, it always already was. As he quotes scholar Andrew Walls:
It was not until comparatively recent times – around the year 1500 – that the ragged conversion of the last pagan peoples of Europe, the overthrow of Muslim power in Spain, and the final eclipse of Christianity in central Asia and Nubia combined to produce a Europe that was essentially Christian and a Christianity that was essentially European.
Amazon says that the book under review:
Explores the extinction of the earliest, most influential Christian churches of China, India, and the Middle East, which held the closest historical links to Jesus and were the dominant expression of Christianity throughout its first millennium.
So, for our first disputed question, is Christianity Europe, and Europe Christianity?
For most nonexperts, Christian history after the earliest centuries usually conjures images of Europe. We think of the world of Charlemagne and the Venerable Bede, of Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi, a landscape of Gothic cathedrals and romantic abbeys. We think of a church thoroughly complicit in state power – popes excommunicating emperors, and inspiring Crusades. Of course, such a picture neglects the ancient Christianity of the Eastern empire, based in Constantinople, but it also ignores the critical story of the religion beyond the old Roman borders, in Africa and Asia. (Jenkins, pp. 46-47)
And our second, praise or worry about the “Third World” Church?
But such questions are ironic when we realize how unnatural the Euro-American emphasis is when seen against the broader background of Christian history. The particular shape of Christianity with which we are familiar is a radical departure from what was for well over a millennium the historical norm: another, earlier global Christianity once existed. For most of its history, Christianity was a tricontinental religion, with powerful representation in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and this was true into the fourteenth century.
Christianity became predominantly European not because this continent had any obvious affinity for that faith, but by default: Europe was the continent where it was not destroyed. Matters could easily have developed very differently. (Jenkins, p. 3)
In terms of clear, direct links to the apostles, numbers, geographical extent, and importance in world affairs, the Church of the East was clearly the gold standard, the mètre étalon, of Christianity, from 200 to about 1400.
You don’t have to be the proverbial “man from Mars” to see this; Jenkins proposes a simple thought experiment. You likely think of Christianity emerging in Judea, moving east to Rome, from thence across the continent, beating back pagans, barbarians, and later Muslims, and then leaping over to the New World and later Australasia. Almost as an afterthought, some missionaries began to penetrate Asia and Africa. Oh, and then maybe there were some guys in Constantinople, but they got wiped out. This sort of thinking is reflected in most maps of “Christendom,” which are not even centered on Jerusalem but Rome.
Glance now at the cover of Jenkins’ book, which shows one of the “symbolic world maps that Christians commonly used through the Middle Ages and the early modern period.” Such maps, Jenkins notes, resulted not from the ignorance of cartographers – they were perfectly able to produce precise nautical charts – but rather reflect the relative position and importance geographical place held in the medieval mind. Here, we see “the three continents [Europe, Asia, and Africa] as [equal] lobes joined together in Jerusalem.”
Indeed, this rather overstates the importance of Europe:
By the fifth century, Christianity had five great patriarchates, and only one, Rome, was to be found in Europe. Of the others, Alexandria stood on the African continent, and three (Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem) were in Asia.
Still in the eighth century, Rome itself was a remote outpost of an empire based in Constantinople, and the popes operated within a Byzantine political framework. The papacy was as thoroughly Eastern in language and culture as anywhere in Asia Minor, with the dominance of Greek (which was by now known as the “Roman” language) and Syriac.
Instead of placing a vital early Syrian center like Edessa on the distant eastern fringes of Europe, it makes at least as much sense to locate it at the far west of an Asian map.
Or consider a historical thought experiment. Around the time Charlemagne was beheading 4,500 Saxons who were resisting forced conversion to what we are now pleased to call “Christendom,” a bishop Timothy became patriarch, or catholicos, of the Church of the East, located in Seleucia, Mesopotamia. He was 52, but would live well into his 90s:
At every stage, Timothy’s career violates everything we think we know about the history of Christianity. In terms of his prestige, and the geographical extent of his authority, Timothy was arguably the most significant Christian spiritual leader of his day, much more influential than the Western pope, in Rome, and on a par with the Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople. Perhaps a quarter of the world’s Christians looked to Timothy as both spiritual and political head. At least as much as the Western pope, he could claim to head the successor of the ancient apostolic church.
Iraq and Syria were the bases for two great transnational churches deemed heretical by the Catholic and Orthodox – namely, the Nestorians and Jacobites. Nisibis and Jundishapur were legendary centers of learning that kept alive the culture and science of the ancient world, both of the Greco- Romans and of the Persians.
Jenkins provides numbers as well. As late as the eleventh century, Asia had about one-third (17-20 million) and Africa one-tenth (5 million) of all Christians (p. 4). And at that point in history, the Asia/Africa wings of the Church were stronger and better established than in the West. He argues that they were still “the leaders” even at that late date:
Any reasonable projection of the Christian future would have foreseen a bipolar world, divided between multiethnic churches centered respectively in Constantinople and Baghdad.
Timothy would probably have felt little hope for the future of Christianity in western Europe. Perhaps history would ultimately write off the Christian venture into western Europe as rash overreach, a diversion from Christianity’s natural destiny, which evidently lay in Asia. Europe might have been a continent too far.
Well, what was this “lost” Christianity” Jenkins speaks of?
First of all, we need to rethink the idea of the “Dark Ages.” Things may have sucked in Western Europe, but then they always did. Protestant and Mormon LARPers must face the fact that the Church of the East represents an unbroken continuity with the apostolic church. On the other hand, pagan proponents must acknowledge that Classical culture continued unabated in the East.
Indeed, Jenkins should warm the hearts of many “Walls of Vienna” types when he goes on to demolish the comfy myth of “Islamic contributions to science”:
This cultural strength starkly challenges standard assumptions about the relationship between the two faiths. It is common knowledge that medieval Arab societies were far ahead of those of Europe in terms of science, philosophy, and medicine, and that Europeans derived much of their scholarship from the Arab world; yet in the early centuries, this cultural achievement was usually Christian and Jewish rather than Muslim. It was Christians – Nestorian, Jacobite, Orthodox and others – who preserved and translated the cultural inheritance of the ancient world . . . and transmitted it to centers like Baghdad and Damascus. Much of what we call Arab scholarship was in reality Syriac, Persian, and Coptic, and it was not necessarily Muslim. Timothy himself translated Aristotle’s Topics from Syriac into Arabic, at the behest of the caliph. Syriac Christians even make the first reference to the efficient Indian numbering system that we know today as “Arabic” . . .
[It was during Timothy’s time as well that] Baghdad became a legendary intellectual center, with the caliph’s creation of the famous House of Wisdom, the fountainhead of later Islamic scholarship. But this was the direct successor of the Christian “university” of Jundishapur, and it borrowed many Nestorian scholars. One early head of the House of Wisdom was the Christian Arab Hunayn, who began the massive project of translating the Greek classics into Arabic: the works of Plato, Aristotle, and the Neoplatonists, as well as medical authorities like Hippocrates and Galen. Such were the Christian roots of the Arabic golden age.
Moreover, “Christians played . . . a critical role in building Muslim politics and culture, and they still had a near stranglehold over the ranks of administration.” For centuries, it seems, Christians were the “model minority” of the East.
In fact, these Near Eastern Ned Flanderses were so nice, they may have been responsible for inventing Islam itself: “Only by understanding the lost Eastern Christianities can we understand where Islam comes from, and how very close it is to Christianity.”
In some of Jenkins’ most fascinating – or disturbing, to some – passages, we learn that features of Islam that strike Europeans and Americans as “weird” are actually derived from the (remember: larger, longer-established, rooted in apostolic tradition) Church of the East. For example, those mosques may look “alien” in France or Dubuque, but:
Mosques look as they do because their appearance derives from that of Eastern Christian churches in the early days of Islam. Likewise, most of the religious practices of the believers within those mosques stem from the example of Eastern Christians, including the prostrations that appear so alien to modern Westerners. The severe self-denial of Ramadan was originally based on the Eastern practice of Lent.
And the rabbit hole goes deeper:
The Quran itself often shows startling parallels with Eastern Christian scriptures, devotional texts, and hymns, and some scholars have even argued that much of the text originated in Syriac lectionaries, collections of readings for church use.
Even the dizziest spiritual heights of Islam are derivative:
No worthwhile history of Islam could omit the history of the Sufi orders, whose practices so often recall the bygone world of the Christian monks. It was the Christian monastics who had sought ecstasy and unity with the divine by the ceaseless repetition of prayers, a practice that would become central to the Sufi tradition.
Of course, it should also be noted that the same is true for so-called Western churches:
Repeatedly, we find that what we think of as the customs or practices of the Western churches were rooted in Syria or Mesopotamia. Eastern churches, for instance, had a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, derived partly from popular apocryphal Gospels. This enthusiasm gave rise to a number of new feasts such as the Purification and the Annunciation, as well as commemorations of Mary’s birth and passing, or Dormition.
Eastern churches also produced the musical traditions that are such a glory of Catholic culture. When modern Catholics and Episcopalians sing the Agnus Dei in their liturgy, when they invoke the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” they are following the Syrian custom imported to the Western church by Pope Sergius [from Antioch, in Syria].
The first hymnbook, the Odes of Solomon, was produced in Edessa; so-called “Gregorian chant” is a later synthesis of local musical traditions from Syria, while the Ambrosian Chant of Milan was “ordered ‘to be sung in the Syrian manner.’”
So, let’s all sing “Kumbaya!” A glance at the Middle East today, to say nothing of Asia, tells us things didn’t work out as Timothy might have thought they would.
Well, what happened? It happened at first slowly, then all at once. Two phases: first, the Islamic conquests reduced Christian communities to minorities. Then, after centuries of relatively peaceful coexistence, a number of factors, mostly political (the conversion of the hated enemy Mongols to Christianity didn’t help) led the Muslims to exterminate the Christians.
A brutal purge of Christianity, most spectacularly in Asia, left Europe as the geographical heart of the Christian faith, and as the only possible base for later expansion.
This “uprooting” created the Christianity that we commonly think of today as the true historical norm, but which in reality was the product of the elimination of alternative realities.
This purge, Jenkins emphasizes, continued fitfully until fairly recently, within the last (writing in 2008) century, and continued well into the twentieth century:
If we look at the whole Middle East, broadly defined, from Egypt to Persia, from Turkey to Arabia, then by 1900 this region had about 5 million Christians in total. This made up a pathetic 0.9 percent of the world’s Christian population . . .
By the 1920s, the survivors of this once-vast Nestorian Church, which once attracted the loyalty of Tibetans and Mongols, were reduced to “a miserable community of about forty thousand refugees” in northern Iraq. . . . Timothy’s distant successor today – the catholicos patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East – is based not in Baghdad, but in Chicago.
This left the Middle East as free of Christians as parts of Europe were left free of Jews after the Second World War. Indeed, the last great purge, in Armenia, led to the coining of a new word for it:
So shocking were the anti-Christian purges that they demanded a new legal vocabulary. Some months afterward, Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin used the cases of the Assyrians, and the Christian Armenians before them, to argue for a new legal category to be called crimes of barbarity, primarily “acts of extermination directed against the ethnic, religious or social collectivities whatever the motive (political, religious, etc.).” Lemkin developed this theme over the following years, and in 1943 he coined a new word for this atrocious behavior – namely, genocide. The modern concept of genocide as a uniquely horrible act demanding international sanctions has its roots in the thoroughly successful movements to eradicate Middle Eastern Christians. Lemkin recognized acutely that such acts might provide an awful precedent for later regimes: as Hitler asked in 1939, “Who, after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Violent Islam – aha! I knew it! – says someone like Robert Spencer. Not so fast; Jenkins is a scholar, and labors to be fair to all sides. For Jenkins, a look at the historical record shows that Islam is not always violent, and when violent, is not that different from most other faiths.
In stressing the role of conflict with Islam, we should not exaggerate the intolerant or militaristic nature of that religion. Some egregious examples of church extinction were perpetrated by other faiths, by Buddhists or followers of Shinto, or by Christians themselves, most thoroughly in the case of the Cathars. Nor did the spread of Islam chiefly result from force and compulsion at the hands of Muslim soldiers who supposedly offered a crude choice between the Quran and the sword. For several centuries after the original conquests, the great majority of those who accepted Islam converted quite voluntarily.
Nothing in Muslim scriptures makes the faith of Islam any more or less likely to engage in persecution or forcible conversion than any other world religion.
Islam also grew later on because Muslim regimes encouraged the immigration of fellow believers from other lands, who quickly outnumbered the older, native populations. Although religious change is commonly discussed in terms of conversion, it is often a matter of population transfer rather than of the transformation of personal convictions.
But Jenkins is equally harsh on those peddling an Islam of sweetness and light:
This stress on coercion is striking in light of the modern belief in the essentially tolerant nature of Islam through most of its history, an image that is often associated with idealized pictures of the friendly coexistence that supposedly prevailed in medieval Spain, the convivencia.
But coexistence in some times and places does not preclude persecution in others.
Anyone who believes that boundless aggression and ruthless tyranny over minorities are built into the DNA of Islam needs to explain the quite benevolent nature of Muslim rule during its first six centuries; but advocates of Islamic tolerance must work just as hard to account for the later years of the religion’s historical experience.
For example, another of those TV scholars feels Jenkins’ lash:
Karen Armstrong regularly contrasts Muslim tolerance with the bigotry so evident in Christian history. Writing of Islamic Spain in the ninth century, for instance, she remarks: “Like the Jews, Christians were allowed full religious liberty within the Islamic empire and most Spaniards were proud to belong to such an advanced culture, light years ahead of the rest of Europe. . . . As was customary in the Muslim world, Jews, Christians and Muslims had coexisted there for centuries in relative harmony.” The persecutions would also surprise the many Americans who derive their view of Muslim tolerance from the widely seen PBS documentary Empires of Faith, or the film Kingdom of Heaven, about the First Crusade. In reality, the story of religious change involves far more active persecution and massacre at the hands of Muslim authorities than would be suggested by modern believers in Islamic tolerance. Even in the most optimistic view, Armstrong’s reference to Christians possessing “full religious liberty” in Muslim Spain or elsewhere beggars belief.
Here is where the Counter-Currents reader is likely to find the most relevance: what happens to Christian, if not exactly European, communities when Muslims become the majority, and how this can shape our response to the Islamic threat. Jenkins himself is most interested in the theological question of how to understand the eclipse and occlusion of churches and whole religions in the light of God’s plan. Since his conclusion is essentially “it happens in a number of ways and who can say what it means,” one wonders why he even bothers: “Too little adaptation means irrelevance; too much leads to assimilation and, often, disappearance.” On the Muslim question, though, he does have advice, though it seems dangerously naïve: “Observing the decline and ruin of Christian communities offers many lessons for modern Western societies, although not in the directions commonly favored by the far Right – namely, as a deadly warning against the Islamic threat.”
While his discussion of Muslim expansion and oppression, as we’ve seen, is even-handed and based in history (though it is precisely this that won’t satisfy the “Islam is a terrorist death cult!” fanatics), and he also adds here that no Muslim regime has matched the record of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot, here his PC instincts seem to have taken over:
Many Europeans worry that a decline of Christian loyalties will be followed not by a nonjudgmental secular utopia, but by a society increasingly dominated by harsh forms of Islam, reinforced by threats of armed terror and mob violence.
There is no plausible prospect of a Muslim regime anywhere in western Europe, or of the re-creation of the social order on the lines of Muslim law.
Realistically, people of Muslim background will constitute a substantial minority of the European population rather than a majority, and it is far from clear that most will define themselves primarily according to strict religious loyalties.
No one seriously believes that the West would lose in a confrontation with Islam – just look at what Israel has accomplished against the Arab world. And terrorism is really a minor annoyance, mostly used by Western governments to justify expanding their own powers domestically. But there are other ways of conquest.
In fact, when defending the initial expansion of Islam as mostly peaceful, he notes that one such peaceful method is . . . population replacement:
Islam also grew later on because Muslim regimes encouraged the immigration of fellow believers from other lands, who quickly outnumbered the older, native populations.
Although religious change is commonly discussed in terms of conversion, it is often a matter of population transfer rather than of the transformation of personal convictions.
Whatever may have been “realistic” ten or more years ago, when Jenkins was writing this, the reader should judge for himself whether the contemporary situation in Europe would lead one to predict that “people of Muslim background will constitute a substantial minority of the European population rather than a majority, and it is far from clear that most will define themselves primarily according to strict religious loyalties.” The tipping point, for one thing, is likely far less than an outright majority.
On a more personal note, Constant Readers know that I’ve frequently discussed the teachings of Neville Goddard, which are based on the esoteric Biblical interpretations he received from a mysterious figured named Abdullah, whom he calls a “black, Ethiopian rabbi.”
Since we modern Euro-Americans have an equally distorted image of Ethiopia, this may seem implausible, or it may be that this Abdullah chap is just another conman or heretic, like the Black Hebrews or Rastafarians. Jenkins proves otherwise:
Ethiopia, or Abyssinia . . . was in fact converted even before Constantine accepted the faith. The kingdom’s ancient center was Aksum, which had historically been a key point of contact with pharaonic Egypt, and by 340 this was the kingdom’s main Christian see. Over the next three centuries, the Bible and liturgy were translated into the local language of Ge’ez. From the late fifth century, Syriac Christians were credited with introducing monasticism, which led to the foundation of many houses across northern Ethiopia. When Europeans discovered the country in the seventeenth century, they were astounded by the degree of Christian devotion. Even an author from Counter-Reformation Portugal, where religious houses were far from scarce, asserted that “[n]o country in the world is so full of churches, monasteries and ecclesiastics as Abyssinia; it is not possible to sing in one church without being heard by another, and perhaps by several . . . this people has a natural disposition to goodness; they are very liberal of their alms, they much frequent their churches, and are very studious to adorn them; they practice fasting and other mortifications . . . [they] retain in a great measure the devout fervor of the primitive Christians.”
So rich is Ethiopia’s Christian heritage, as it now enters its eighteenth century of existence, that it is impossible to describe it in any detail, but we should stress how absolutely Christian tradition has become established within the East African landscape. When Ethiopians read or hear the Bible, they do not need to imagine that the events are at all distant in time or space. Aksum is, after all, the reputed home of the Ark of the Covenant. The sacred landscape is no less apparent at Lalibela, New Jerusalem, the setting for the cluster of awe-inspiring rock-hewn churches built in the thirteenth century that are among the miracles of medieval architecture. The medieval ruling dynasty claimed descent from Solomon and the queen of Sheba, and this history was elaborated in the fourteenth-century chronicle the Kebra Nagast. With so much evidence to hand, who could doubt that Ethiopia was the true Israel?
The remark that “When Ethiopians read or hear the Bible, they do not need to imagine that the events are at all distant in time or space” is especially interesting, as Neville insisted over and over that:
The Bible has no reference at all to any persons who ever existed or to any event that ever occurred upon earth. The ancient story tellers were not writing history but an allegorical picture lesson of certain basic principles which they clothed in the garb of history, and they adapted these stories to the limited capacity of a most uncritical and credulous people. Throughout the centuries we have mistakenly taken personifications for persons, allegory for history, the vehicle that conveyed the instruction for the instruction, and the gross first sense for the ultimate sense intended.
It may seem shocking to the naïve contemporary Christian, or something promoted by “those damn’d modern Bible scholars,” but this was the teaching of the Church of the East, as Jenkins describes it: “Well into what Europeans call the high Middle Ages, [Eastern] scholars approached the scriptures with what seems to a modern readership like good sense.”
Jenkins quotes Soloman of Basra (1220s) “responding wearily to the painful literalism” of some Bible readers:
The things which certain stupid men invent, who indulge their fancy, and give bodily form to the punishment of sinners and the reward of the just and righteous, and say that there is at the resurrection a reckoning and a pair of scales, the Church does not receive; but each one of us carries his light and his fire within him, and his heaviness and his lightness is found in his own nature. But only an idiot understands these images in the sense of real, literal gates, scales, or fires instead of thinking spiritually how sins shaped one’s destiny.
Since Jenkins also emphasizes how “Biblical” the very landscape is in the East, it would seem, ironically, that precisely this is what prevents the kind of imaginative LARPing to which European Christians are so prone; with Jerusalem before ones’ own eyes, it’s clear the Bible is talking about something else.
Jenkins also offers some clarity on Abdullah’s claim to be a “rabbi.” He notes that in the Church of the East, “Monks and priests bore the title rabban, teacher or master, which is of course related to the familiar rabbi.” Was this Abdullah’s real title, perhaps distorted after centuries of assimilation?
Jenkins’ book is a fascinating account of an almost completely unknown, yet undoubtedly real, historical era; sort of like discovering that the wars of The Lord of the Rings actually took place somewhere here on Earth.
But it also has a practical lesson – and an unsettling one – for Counter-Currents readers. Is Christianity a part of Europe? Is Christianity an ally in the battle against the rising tide of immigration, and against Islam in particular?
When it’s pointed out that Christianity has a Semitic origin, the response is usually to reply well, yes, of course, but it has long since been adapted and assimilated into Europe. Jenkins shows the same process happened for millennia throughout the Middle East and Asia as well, all the way along the Silk Road to Japan. Thereby, one might think he proves too much; Christianity is a treacherous ally, ever ready to assimilate to whatever the dominant trends are.
Although Jenkins warns of “global-South” churches teaching a “gospel of prosperity” that could become “dangerous” if (if!) “Muslim regimes and forces won conspicuous victories,” the real threat comes from his own Anglican communion (including the American Episcopal Church), which, being the religion of the well-educated WASP, or SWPLs with a taste for liturgical theatrics, has, like them, basically sworn allegiance to the Democratic Socialist Party. And as for a defense against Islam, consider this:
The Archbishop of Canterbury tonight prompted criticism from across the political spectrum after he backed the introduction of sharia law in Britain and argued that adopting some of its aspects seemed “unavoidable”.
Rowan Williams, the most senior figure in the Church of England, said that giving Islamic law official status in the UK would help achieve social cohesion because some Muslims did not relate to the British legal system.
Indeed, and why not? After all, as Jenkins establishes, Islam itself is in a sense just another form of Christianity – a heresy perhaps, but a Christian one. In the wider historical perspective, Christianity and Islam are not adversaries, but brothers in arms, truly Isaac and Ishmael.
Another reason to distrust the value of Christianity to the struggle lies in the loss of the Eastern churches: since these are the natural home of Christianity, the religion has no center; unlike Islam, which, however far it spreads, is firmly centered in its natural home, conducting its affairs in its ancestral language, Arabic. Thus Islam firmly imposes itself wherever it spread, while Christianity meekly assimilates to whatever is the local custom.
And in the widest perspective? Forget about the “History” Channel searching for the Ark; the more reputable Discovery Channel had a show once speculating that the dinosaurs did not become extinct, but rather evolved into the birds we see around us today. Those who rely on Christianity to define and defend the West could be helping to confine us in some religious Jurassic Park of the not-too distant future.
 Quoting from Andrew F. Walls, “Eusebius Tries Again,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 24, no. 3 (2000), pp. 105-11.
 The geography of Dante’s Inferno also assumes Jerusalem as the center of the planet’s surface.
 Frithjof Schuon and other Traditionalists have a Whiggish notion that the current arrangement just happens to reflect the “spirits” of various people; Islam was kicked out of Spain and halted at Vienna because its natural homeland is Arabia, and so on. Actual history would suggest Europe is not the natural home of Christianity.
 For a forceful statement of the traditional view, see Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), reviewed here.
 “One Byzantine Emperor mocked Latin as ‘a barbarian and Scythian language,’ unworthy to be spoken in the civilized ambience of Greek and Syriac: it was scarcely fit for Christian use.”
 “These churches also had a claim to a direct tradition from the apostolic age at least as strong as those boasted by Rome and Constantinople. In the Roman and Byzantine worlds, of course, Christianity adapted to accommodate the dominant cultures, and was increasingly distanced from its Semitic roots. In contrast, the Nestorians, Jacobites, and others stemmed from Syria and Mesopotamia, and their culture was founded in a Semitic tradition that would have been intimately familiar to the apostles. The more we look at the world of these Nasraye [Nazarenes, i.e. Christians] the more despairing we should feel, in contrast, about any modern effort to “get back to the world of the New Testament,” to restore the values or character of apostolic times . . . The Eastern churches felt that the places in which they lived were exactly the sites in which the prophets and apostles had walked. The Syriac-speaking churches had a surprisingly plausible claim to a direct link with Jesus’s first followers, and with the very earliest leadership of the emerging church.”
 Hat tip to Jason Reza Jorjani.
 It’s not surprising that the secret-Sufi Traditionalism of Frithjof Schuon continually looked to Eastern Orthodoxy for its model of Christianity, and even today such Traditionalists usually wind up converting from Catholicism or Anglicanism to some form of Orthodoxy (usually blaming women priests or homos taking over). It was also on this basis that Schuon claimed a true initiatory character for Christianity, which Julius Evola disputed as being merely “sporadic elements found mostly in Eastern Orthodoxy.” See Frithjof Schuon, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, trans. Peter Townsend (London: Faber & Faber, 1951), esp. pp. 180ff; and Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World, trans. Guido Stucco (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions: 1995), p. 281, note 1.
 Jenkins dismisses the claim of popular scholars like Elaine Pagels, as well as cable TV conspiracy theorists, that various apocryphal writings were suppressed by the Church, or by the Emperor, arguing that the Church of the East was fully aware of them but ignored them as well. However, although they operated outside the Western Empire, they were certainly churches, and their hierarchies could have had the same motives as the Western churches. Nevertheless, it is interesting that like the Gnostics, and modern scholars, they also dismissed the so-called Pastoral and Catholic epistles (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude) as well as the Book of Revelation (as did Martin Luther).
 “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.” — Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises. It’s often attributed to Mark Twain or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or misquoted as something like, “At first you go bankrupt slowly, then all at once.” But the theme is the same.
 “Only around 1300 did the axe fall, and quite suddenly.”
 As in the Democrats’ strategy of electing a new people through Hispanic immigration.
 Somebody, somewhere – Zman? – estimated that only 25-30 percent would be enough for high-trust European societies to start caving in to Muslim demands for “accommodation.”
 See “The (Not So) New Thought of Neville Goddard” and “Lord Kek Commands! A Look at the Origins of Meme Magic” in Magick for Housewives: Essays on Alt-Gurus (Manticore, 2018). For the latest research on the nature and reality of Abdullah, see Mitch Horowitz’s essay, “Neville Goddard: A Cosmic Philosopher,” in his edition of Neville’s first book, At Your Command (New York: Tarcher Cornerstone Editions, 2016).
 “The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant, or Tabot, in Axum. The object is currently kept under guard in a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. Replicas of the Axum tabot are kept in every Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church, each with its own dedication to a particular saint; the most popular of these include Mary, George and Michael. . . . On 25 June 2009, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, Abune Paulos, said he would announce to the world the next day the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant, which he said had been kept safe and secure in a church in Axum, Ethiopia. The following day, on 26 June 2009, the patriarch announced that he would not unveil the Ark after all, but that instead he could attest to its current status.”– Wikipedia. This has become a favorite theme of the “History” Channel, when not covering “Ancient Astronauts.”
 “The Kebra Nagast was composed to legitimise the Solomonic dynasty, which ruled the Ethiopian Empire following its establishment in 1270. It narrates how the real Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I with divine assistance, while a forgery was left in the Temple in Jerusalem. Although the Kebra Nagast is the best-known account of this belief, it predates the document. Abu al-Makarim, writing in the last quarter of the twelfth century, makes one early reference to this belief that they possessed the Ark. ‘The Abyssinians possess also the Ark of the Covenant’, he wrote, and, after a description of the object, describes how the liturgy is celebrated upon the Ark four times a year, ‘on the feast of the great nativity, on the feast of the glorious Baptism, on the feast of the holy Resurrection, and on the feast of the illuminating Cross.’” Wikipedia, op. cit.
 Neville Goddard, “Consciousness Is The Only Reality,” which is Lesson One, page 1 of his foundational course of lectures Five Lessons: A Master Class (1948); reissued with a bonus chapter by Mitch Horowitz (New York: Tarcher/Perigree, 2018) and reviewed here.
 Jenkins notes that many important centers of the Church of the East in Iraq have recently become “newsworthy,” such as Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, as well as Saddam Hussein’s home village, Tikrit.
 In “A Parabolic Revelation” (June 6, 1969), Neville talks about David and Saul not being historical personages, but psychological states of ourselves; if you regard them as such, you “see Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, or any of the characters of scripture as men of flesh and blood and external to yourself in the pages of history.” Historical figures can be imitated, and LARPing is much more fun than working on oneself.
 Jenkins mentions that in western Europe, Jesus became a “blue-eyed warrior king;” he cites James C. Russell, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), without apparently realizing Russell is one of us, one of those “far Right” spooks he deplores.
 Jenkins is an ex-Catholic turned Anglican, so it’s no surprise that he singles out Pope Benedict for badthought on Islam, and sneers at preachers of the “prosperity gospel,” while never mentioning the C of E.
 This is why Dante, whose Inferno draws heavily on Islamic sources rather than anything Christian, places Muhammad in the circle of heretics.
 Mythologically, of course, these are the progenitors of Judaism and Islam; I suppose to continue the metaphor, Christianity is entirely assimilated to Islam and drops out of consideration, leaving the final battle between the younger and older brothers.