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How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind

Chapter 4

One Faith, Two Africas

Key Names, Places and Terms

Africa In ancient times the term “Africa” referred to the indigenous people of coastal Mediterranean Africa in modern northeastern Tunisia. While in earlier times the term “Africa” referred to the peninsula we today call Tunisia, it gradually became applied to all of Mediterranean Africa west of Egypt. During the first Christian millennium Africa was the provincial term designating all the lands from Cyrenaica (now eastern Libya) all the way to the Atlantic (Morocco) -- from Cyrene to Tangiers (Tangis). In due course the whole continent of Africa would derive its name from a location and tribe of peninsular Tunisia. For centuries “Africa” was distinguished from “Egypt” on the maps, but in due course was applied to the whole continent, as the larger continent became more fully explored

The obstacle With the exception of Coptic and Ethiopian Christianity, the vast majority of the near half billion Christians in emerging Africa have not yet found their way into a serious engagement or study of the early African patristic intellectual heritage.

Questions:

  1. What are the arguments for two-Africas? What are the arguments for one Africa? What is loss by viewing Africa as one continent? What is gained?
  2. In the ancient world the differentiation in Africa was between North Africa and Egypt. After Muslim expansion throughout Mediterranean Africa, Egypt and North Africa were viewed as one. How do you think the Arabization of North Africa has shaped our views of two Africas?
  3. In Ethiopia the Christian tradition has continuously existed for 1650 years. The Nubian Kingdom (located in modern northern Sudan) officially converted to Christianity about 540 CE. For a number of centuries, Christian kings of Nubia withstood the military pressure of Islamic rulers of Egypt. Early in the fourteenth century Nubia succumbed to Islamic rule. Yet recently discovered archaeological evidence suggests that sub-kingdoms of Nubia were still functioning as Christian kingdoms as late as 1484. Most scholars now would agree that Christian Nubia, at least politically, ended sometime near 1500 CE. How do these lands with very early Christian histories serve as important “bridges” between the “two” Africas?
  4. Oden suggests there are seven theses that need to be debated and established for fruitful communication between the two Africas to exist. Pick one or two of these and discuss.