GOSPEL in the WHOLE WORLD
far did Christianity's first-century preaching extend?
said: "the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be
preached to all the nations". (Luke 24:47) One expects this to include
the Roman Empire and countries named in the Old Testament such as India
and Sudan. (Esther 1:1)
"the whole world" also include Australia and America?
Pentecost, 33 CE the Apostle Peter addressed a gathering of:
164, 2015 September)
as it [the gospel] is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world,
so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves… (Colossians 1:6)
…Jews from every
nation under heaven living in Jerusalem … [from] Persia, Media, Elam,
Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya,
Rome, Crete, and Arabia. (Acts 2:1-14)
preaching that day resulted in 3000 baptisms. (Acts 2:41) These
converts accepted Jesus as the prophesied Messiah, saviour, and
world-ruler. Many would have returned home to foreign lands and
informed relatives and neighbours. Paul on his missionary journeys
encountered Jews who knew about Jesus which means the message preceded
Simon also known as Peter and Cephas
Iscariot was replaced by Matthias. An important criterion for Matthias'
selection was his support during the entire ministry of Jesus. (Acts
Bible mentions other apostles who were not of the Twelve. These include
Paul, Timothy and Sylvanus. (I Thessalonians 2:6; 1:1) Possibly
Andronicus and Junia. (Romans 16:7). The Church at Corinth had apostles
(I Corinthians 12:28) — the phrase "us as apostles" (4:9) may include
Sosthenes (1:1) and Apollos (1:12). At Philippi, Apaphroditus was an
apostle. (Philippians 2:25)
— persons effective at preaching to the unconverted — were a separate
office to apostle (Ephesians 4:11) but some men had both positions. (II
Timothy 4:5) Mark may have been an evangelist — he travelled with Paul
to Antioch. Tradition has him later in Venice and Egypt where he
founded a congregation and was martyred.
and evangelists followed the trade routes and established congregations
in cities. Acts focuses on Paul and his missionary journeys around
Palestine, Turkey, Greece and finally to Rome. Paul established more
than 20 congregations.
information on the Twelve Apostles after Pentecost is sparse but
supplemented by tradition:
Andrew his brother
James son of Zebedee
John his brother
Bartholomew (= Nathanael)
Matthew the tax collector
James son of Alphaeus, also called James the Less
Thaddaeus also called Judas Lebbaeus and Jude
Simon the Canaanite "the zealot"
THOMAS and INDIA
it is believed, went to India in 52 CE. He could have travelled via
Persia with traders using overland trade routes, or gone by ship across
the Indian Ocean.
sea route has a long history. Alexander the Great returned part of his
army from India to Babylon on ships in 325 BCE. Queen Cleopatra of
Egypt tried to escape to India by sea after her defeat by Rome in 31
BCE but was thwarted by Arabs who burned her ships.
annexed Egypt in 30 BCE and soon 120 Roman vessels annually sailed to
India and returned with spices, fabrics, gemstones, and exotic animals.
Pushed by Monsoons the trip took 70 days one way.
Keay (2000) writes:
- Peter preached in
Jerusalem, Greece (I Corinthians 1:12), Turkey (I Peter 1:1), Italy and
Rome, and died by crucifixion.
- Andrew preached in
Greece and Ukraine and died by crucifixion.
- James, son of
Zebedee, was executed in Jerusalem by order of Herod Agrippa (Acts
12:1-2) governor of Palestine.
- John was exiled to
Patmos Island near Turkey and there wrote the book of Revelation.
- Philip preached in
Phrygia and was crucified in Syria. [Philip the Apostle is not Philip
the evangelist (Acts 6:5; 8:1, 5-6; 21:8) who preached in Samaria.
- Bartholomew possibly
preached in Turkey, Armenia and India. Tradition says he was flayed,
- Thomas took the
gospel to India.
- Matthew wrote the Book of Matthew.
- James the Less was
beaten to death.
- Thaddaeus went to
Persia and converted the city of Edessa.
- Simon the Zealot was
martyred in Persia.
- Matthias was stoned
The emperor Augustus
claims to have received 'frequent' Indian embassies … and it was during
his reign (31BC – 14AD) that Europe's first concerted bid for the
exotic produce of the East saw fleets making annual sailings from the
Red Sea. Crewed by Greeks and Egyptians, they were familiar with the
monsoon trade winds and headed straight for the steamy ports of India's
Konkan and Malabar coasts. (p. 121)
(2010) writes: "At the height of the Roman Empire hundreds of merchant
ships left Egypt every year to voyage through the Red Sea into the
Roman temple has been found at Muziris in Kerala. Emperor Trajan who
ruled 98-117 CE established a Roman fort and naval units at the Farasan
Islands near the southern end of the Red Sea to protect trading vessels
the 2nd century Roman ships sailed to Sri Lanka, eastern India, Burma,
Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra, Vietnam and Chinese territory. Roman trade
voyages also headed along Africa's coast to an outpost called Rhapta
(2011) reports on thousands of Roman coins found in numerous locations
in India. One discovery in 1946 amounted to 1407 coins of which 368
were minted in the reign of Augustus and 1039 during the reign of
(2000) writes of India:
examples of Roman pottery, including wine-impregnated amphorae, have
been found … and hoards of Roman coins have been unearthed in Tamil
Nadu, Kerala and elsewhere… (p. 121)
trading stations handling trade with Rome are known in 1st century
India — four on the west coast, six on the east, seven inland.
Thomas had landed at
… Kerala's coconut coast. From converts made there, some sections of
Kerala's still thriving Syrian Christian community claim descent.
Thence the apostle had proceeded overland to the east coast. A trail of
Roman finds extends across the peninsula from Cranganore, otherwise the
Roman port of 'Musiris' (near Cochin), to Arikamedu and the mouth of
the Kaveri … (p. 122)
Thousands of Roman
traders, and their Egyptian and Arabian representatives, came to India,
occasionally accompanied by artisans and craftsmen from Mediterranean
lands. Many of these merchants and craftsmen even settled in India…
includes a map showing trading cites in Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, Oman,
United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India.
Islam (2013) suggests a Roman trading station existed in Bangladesh
60km NE of today's capital, Dhaka.
THOMAS and INDIA
of Thomas, a third-century Syriac book, tells of the conversion of King
Gondophares in India by Thomas. Archaeology indicates that a
"Gondophares" first reigned in 20-10 BCE and other kings of same name
after him in NW India. (Wikipedia)
NW India Thomas travelled by ship to Malabar (SW India). He established
seven congregations in Kerala, the first in 52 CE. Probably his first
converts were Jewish proselytes and descendants of Jews who went to
India after Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BCE.
was killed in Mylapore, now a suburb of Chennai (formerly Madras),
after living 20 years in India. In Madras, Christians still venerate
the cave in which they believe Thomas lived, the hill on which he died,
and his grave.
of Christianity in ancient India is indirect:
stories about the Indian deity Krishna show similarity to Jesus. The
relevant Indian literature is estimated to be 2nd or 3rd century in
origin but the Gospels 1st century. This suggests Christianity reached
India in the 1st century and opponents countered Christian influence by
attributing details about Jesus to Krishna.
websites mention a "Bar-Daisan" (154-223 CE) who wrote of Christians
living in north India but don’t supply references or details.
existed in 2nd-century Persia since the Persian prophet Mani reworked
New Testament material for the religion he founded — Manichaeism. When
Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 CE suppression of
Christianity followed in Persia — which suggests Christianity was
widespread enough to be considered a threat. Persia and the Middle East
in turn had contacts with India. Bishop David of Basra undertook a
preaching mission to India around 300 CE. In 345 CE Thomas of Cana, a
Mesopotamian merchant, brought 400 Christians to India to escape
persecution by King Shapur II of Persia.
trade, Christ-Krishna parallels, Persian Christianity, Christian
tradition, and the Acts of Thomas make plausible that Thomas preached
friar Jordanus Catalani arrived in India in 1321; various Portuguese
missionaries by 1500; and Francis Xavier in 1542. They encountered
"Thomas Christians" who believed Thomas founded their Church.
first Protestant missionaries came in the 18th century.
SHEEP AMONG WOLVES
words "I am sending you out just like sheep into the midst of wolves"
(Matthew 10:16) are confirmed by the grizzly deaths of the Apostles and
extensive martyrdoms of Christian civilians and missionaries ever
Sultan (1750-1799), ruler of Mysore (in India), destroyed the Catholic
community in Mangalore starting in 1784 by property-seizures,
demolishing churches, and deportation. About 70,000 were forced to walk
300km over the Western Ghat Mountains from Mangalore to Tippu Sultan's
capital, Seringapatam. About 20,000 died during the march. Afterwards
30,000 were forcibly converted, the girls compelled to marry Muslim
men. Catholic males who resisted had noses, ears and upper lips cut
off, and those who escaped and were caught forfeited ears, nose, feet
and one hand.
2008 Hindu nationalists murdered sixty Christians in Orissa State and
60,000 were displaced. Randeep Ramesh reported in the Guardian:
The persecution of
Christians shames India
prime minister Manmohan Singh today made a heartfelt plea over the
spread of anti-Christian violence in India. The sight of Hindu mobs
smashing churches and prayer halls while Christians in the country are
killed or left cowering under tarpaulin sheets in refugee camps is, as
Dr Singh rightly described, a "national shame". There are calls from
within the ruling Congress party, which relies on the votes of
Christians and Muslims in India, to ban Hindu extremist organisations
such as the Bajrang Dal, which uses force…
Hindu anger centres on the idea that India's rise will see an explosion
of Christians in the country – a takeover by a foreign ideology…
“takeover” is feared the danger is Islam — in 1951 Muslims numbered
9.8%, Hindus 84.1%; in 2011 Muslims 14.2%, Hindus 78.4%.
needs to remember that God promised to "bless all the nations of the
earth" through the descendants of Abraham — Genesis 18:18.
New Testament identifies the descendants of Abraham as Jesus and
Christianity, and the blessing involves teaching people to leave their
"wicked ways". (Acts 3:25-26)
In India Christianity opposed the
standards that promoted poverty such as the caste system, widow
burning, infanticide, child mutilation, illiteracy, and self mutilation
in the name of religion. Christianity helped bring modern medicine to
India, hospitals, modern education, science, British law, democracy,
and principles of business practice and economics. Christian churches
today run thousands of schools and hospitals in India.
result is that India is "blessed" and has become a great nation.
statement "in the whole world" (Colossians 1:6) includes the Roman
world – but how much further?
before the 1st century merchants and sailors travelled extensively.
For the king
[Solomon] had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of
Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to
come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. (I Kings 10:22)
BBC History magazine says: "New
evidence suggests that merchants were crossing the Indian Ocean between
Africa and India some 4,000 years ago." Scientists from University
College (London) found evidence of African crops being grown in India
by 2000 BCE — the seeds probably brought to India by Bronze Age
merchants who sailed the Indian Ocean.
bananas — which originated in Indonesia — were grown in Pakistan by
2000 BCE which suggests trade links between these regions.
(2013) quotes Herodotus:
Pharoah Necho II
[ruled 610-595 BC] sent some Phoenicians out in ships sailing down the
Red Sea with orders to keep voyaging until they managed to return to
Egypt through the Pillars of Heracles [Straits of Gibraltar] to our
[Mediterranean] sea. The Phoenicians sailed south; every autumn they
would come ashore, plant some crops wherever in Libya [Africa] they
happened to be, and then reap the crops the following harvest before
continuing their voyage. In this manner two years went by; but in the
third year the sailors rounded the Pillars of Heracles and made their
return to Egypt. (Histories 4.42)
plausibility of this circumnavigation of Africa is supported by its
recent repetition. In 2007-2008 a Phoenician-style ship was built,
using as a model the recovered wreck of a ship that sank in 510 BCE.
The Phoenicia set sail in 2008 from near Syria and circumnavigated
Africa in 26 months. (Beale & Taylor 2012) It veered far into the
India Ocean to avoid Somali pirates and far into the Atlantic to take
advantage of ocean currents.
theory is that some Carthaginians escaped in ships when Roman legions
demolished Carthage in 146 BCE. The escapees sailed to South America,
up the Amazon, and settled in Peru.
Pratt argues for Roman links with North and South America. He refers to
discoveries of Roman amphorae (storage jars) off the coast of Maine,
Honduras, and Rio de Janeiro. Also Roman coins, a 1st century Roman oil
lamp, and other items: — http://davidpratt.info/americas1.htm
(2014) reports on "The untold story of long-distance trade in the
Indian Ocean more than 2,000 years ago." A ship-wreck discovered
3km off Sri Lanka in 2003 was 2000 years old and provided evidence for
a "maritime highway … glimpsed only rarely in historical documents."
coins have been discovered in Sumatra:—
The Huffington Post (June 23, 2013)
reported on "Artefacts From Roman Empire" discovered in a tomb in Japan.
trade around SE Asia was dominated by Odisha a state along India's NE
coast. Its trade links reached from Rome to Bali. Apparently Hindus
from Odisha established a colony in Java in 75 BCE and brought Hinduism
Roman and Odisha ships reached Indonesia perhaps they could also reach
Australia but that remains unconfirmed. During WWII 900-year-old coins
from Kilwa (an island near Tanzania) were discovered in Arnhem Land
(Australia). McIntosh (2014) asks: "Did the coins implicate Australia's
Aboriginal peoples in the Maritime Silk Route, an ancient Indian Ocean
trading network that linked … East Africa with Arabia, Persia, India,
China and Indonesia?" McIntosh suggests the coins came with an
Indonesian shipwreck survivor in the 19th century. Extensive trade
between Makassar (Sulawesi) and Arnhem Land is known from the 16th to
19th centuries but nothing earlier.
Go therefore and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything
that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the
end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Apostles believed they had the most important message on Earth — the
Messiah foretold in the Old Testament had arrived and brought
salvation. What is known about ancient trade routes and other travels
may indicate how far the message reached, since where trade, merchants
and sailors could go preachers could presumably also go.
Paul's zeal and missionary journeys described in the Bible were typical
of other evangelists, then some may have travelled even further than
Paul, even "To the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
P. & Taylor, S. 2012 Sailing
Close to the Wind, Lulworth Press
J. Sailing close to the wind, Minerva,
October/September 2013, 34-37
R.A Family's Passion, Archaeology,
November/December 2013, 53-58
J. 2000 India A History,
Harper Perennial, pp 121-122
D. Ancient oceanic trade revealed, BBC
History , March 2008, p. 9
Seafaring in Ancient Sri Lanka, Archaeology,
November/December 2014, 43-47
I. The Ancient African Coins of Arnhem Land, Australasian Science, May 2014,
R. The Lure of the Orient, History
Today, August 2010, pp 10-17
S. Rome's sea route to India, Minerva,
September/October, 2010, pp 28-31
S. Symbols of an Ancient Sea Trade, Minerva,
September/October, 2011, pp 22-24
A. In The Footsteps of the Apostles, National
Geographic, March 2012, 38-65
The plausibility and
accuracy of the Bible is investigated on this website: