Frequently Asked Questions
Why the Center for Early African Christianity?
See our blog post on this subject.
Was Early African Christianity really "African"?
The simple answer is yes, and yet we know the answer is not that simple. Geographically Africa is a continent. Culturally it was (and still is) a vast medley of diverse cultures and languages. Among historic cultures known in ancient North African times were Nilotic, Berber, Libyan, Numidian, Nubian, and others dating back to prehistoric times. Greek was the prominent language in the Eastern part of Africa in cities like Alexandria. Latin was prominent in the Western part of Africa in cities like Carthage, and Hippo Rhegius. Did this make their inhabitants Greek or Latin? Yes – and No. Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, Athanasius, Didymus, Cyril, Augustine were more than the subtotal of their language. The question or project and this website is asking is: what did it mean for these giants of spiritual and intellectual prowess to grow up on the continent of Africa? How did Africa shape their mind and the Christian mind throughout the world?
What period of history in Africa are you interested in?
We are largely interested in the African Christian Church of the first millennia. The earliest layers of African Christianity date back to a time contemporaneous with the New Testament in figures like the Gospel writer Mark and the Apostle Peter. We extend our time frame through the Golden Age of Patristic writers up to the time of the Arab conquest in North Africa. The Ethiopian Church, however, affords an opportunity to also explore African Christianity during the time of the Middle Ages, which will be the subject of future research.
How Far South did Christianity Venture in Early African Christianity?
Farther than we may realize. African Christianity is well attested in the regions around the Mediterranean. We hear of the convert from Ethiopia in Acts 8 who may have been from Ethiopia or from Nubia or the Sudan. We also know that Christianity followed the Nile south through Egypt and into the Sudan. It was prevalent in Ethiopia at least by the fourth century when Athanasius ordained Frumentius. How far early Christianity penetrated south into Africa is a subject that is continuing to be studied by scholars associated with the Center.
More questions to come!