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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part I

                           Christianity in Ancient Africa: Part I
                                  copyright 2014 K. Omodele

With political friction sparking in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt over the past few years, religious tribalism ignited when fanatics claiming Islam attacked Christians, and destroyed Melkite and Coptic churches in these ancient lands. Wait! Hold up! Christians in Egypt? Soon as we hear the word "Christianity," many of us begin thinking: Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, even Mormon. Say "Christianity in Africa" and certain images jump up in our minds: European missionaries converting villagers, fattening them up for the colonial kill.

Yes, Eurocentric Christian traditions are definitely perpetuated in the West. However, Egypt in the First Century A.D. was home to many of the early scholars and thinkers who shaped Christian concepts. African Christian societies existed in Aksum (Axum) and Nubia long before most Europeans even heard of Yeshua*. And when we learn the plight of grass root Egyptians under Graeco-Roman rule, we get a firmer understanding of Egyptians' embracing Christianity.

Egypt Under Graeco-Roman Rule
In 332 B.C., the Greek army of Alexander conquered and colonized Egypt, enforcing a tax system on the Egyptian peasantry that was much harsher than the one imposed by the Egyptian pharaohs. Then when the Romans took over Egypt around 30 B.C., their system was even more rigid and exploitive. The Roman Empire ruled without regard for the humanity of the Egyptian peasant. The abject oppression had many Egyptians marooning from their fields- rather turn into a bandit in defiance than beggar or a slave to the Roman system. It was in this setting, in the First Century A.D., that the Apostle Mark established one of the earliest Christian diocese.

Christianity quickly garnered appeal amongst some of those Egyptians most subjugated by the Romans, offering a sense of hope to the down-trodden, promising deliverance to sufferers who endured affliction in life. Early Christians in Egypt shunned the materialism perpetuated by the Roman Empire and preferred living in isolated communes. They developed a tradition of self reliance. They prayed and meditated intensely, contemplating the complexities of the human spirit.

The Romans definitely considered these early Christians an extremist sect. Being Christian those days meant being viewed as a rebel, a subversive element, a threat to the status quo- the Roman way of life. They were deemed radicals against the Roman machine; so, thousands of these early Christians were persecuted mercilessly, martyred through centuries until the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and established it an official religion. In 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, Constantine then called for the the Roman church to follow one common doctrine.

*Yeshua is Hebrew (the man was Jewish). The Greeks called him Iesous, which became Jesus to the Romans. Jesus is the Latin derivation of Iesous which came from Yeshua, his actual Hebrew name.

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part II- The Egyptian Coptic Church; Christianity in The Kingdom of Aksum (Axum)

Christianity in Ancient Africa Part III- Christianity in Nubia (the Kingdoms of Noba, Makurra and Alwa)


  1. Africans were the first to inhabit the earth. Fossil records as well as DNA analysis give scientific evidence to support this fact. Therefore, the first woman to give birth was a Black African woman. It is from us that all humans have come. The other races of humankind all evolved from Black Africans. I liked your blog, Take the time to visit the me and say that the change in design and meniu?

  2. The hard and sad truth on the origins of early Christianity...

    I love the way you worded this:

    "European missionaries converting villagers, fattening them up for the colonial kill."

    Excellent choice of wording... It boldly painted a picture in the readers mind of sheep's being led to slaughter, so to speak...One can also analogize it with willie lynch's the making of a slave... Christianity version....literally the same set up, just different demographics of people...Then again, it's the same system set up to colonize African slaves in the Americas and other parts of the diaspora...using Christianity and Jesus's teachings to keep slaves in their place, going for the Romainian means of discipline should the slaves rebel in any way.

    Yes, it is a form of mind control....It was a systematic structure to keep a demographic or sect of people restrained and "pure. Lest we forget how much the bible has been botched over the centuries...and even more so with the distribution of "The Good News" around the world as with the modifying of translations came the morphing of some teachings, omitting certain people and stories from the original text so that it could better suit the customs of that particular culture it was translated in...then we have this image of Jesus who is said to be a painting of Michaelangelo's brother, brother in law or something like that, who had a history of being on the wrong side of the law....So every time one prays to Jesus and in that name, this European image comes to mind...along with the name being spelled with a J which is not in the Hebrew alphabet....So it makes one wonder, just who exactly ARE we praying to? I still believe in God and worship God....but the bible and Jesus I still tend to give a side eye to because the teachings and the motives behind the revisions of those teachings over the generations leave me in doubt and sometimes confusion... Can it even be seen as a form of paganism, given the perversive illusion of the real truth in which we are suppose to adhere to?

    As always, my friend, a great eye opening post...This was very educational and well written....excellent choice of words used to drive home your point... I respect what you have to say (write) and where you're coming from on your protests to Christianity.... I get it... no judgement here. :-)

  3. Hi Arose, thanks again for commenting. The main point is that there is a distinction between Eurocentric Christianity and what the earliest Christians practiced and developed. My intent was to show that Christianity existed in Africa (in Egypt and Aksum) before it existed as a state religion I. Rome and England, which is where most Christians derive their denomination.
    By the time Europeans brought their brands of Christianity to West Africa, Christianity had already been thriving in Northeast Africa for over a thousand years. If you are of African descent or African Christian, I think its vital that we understand that the twenty-fifth of December is a Roman creation, a European creation. Many Christian practices that Black people uphold are actually European traditions that had nothing to do with Christ or the earliest Christians.


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