CT: Christianity in China

This morning “Christianity Today” (CT) reported the following on Christianity in China:

Did You Know?

In 635, a Christian leader from Persia named Alopen arrived in Chang’an, the capital of the Tang dynasty. Christianity was at first welcomed by the Chinese. But two centuries later, imperial persecution forced Christians to flee mainland China. A nine-foot-tall limestone monument in Chang’an, erected in 781, commemorates the “Luminous Religion” brought by Alopen and his fellow missionaries. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/index.html#didyouknow viewed 08/03/09)

Now, what they failed to mention is that these Christians were Sabbath-keepers, nor did they share many of the Greco-Roman church doctrines that CT still promotes.

Apparently no later than the seventh century, history records that there were Sabbath-keepers in China who claimed Christianity.

The following excerpt provides some proof of this:

The Chang-An Monument

“It was in the year 1625; the Jesuits had infiltrated the fabric of the Chinese cultured classes, when a sensational discovery was made. A large monument stone inscribed with nineteen hundred Chinese characters, and fifty Syrian words, was unearthed just outside the walls of Chang-An, the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty. The news of this discovery caused a bustle of excitement in the ancient metropolitan city, and thousands were anxious to know what information about their cultural heritage was hidden in the writing.

The Jesuits, who were regarded as the teachers and scholars, were immediately summoned to decipher the inscriptions. To the astonishment of these haughty priests, there before their eyes, was a description of the prestigious position, and vast extent of the seventh-day Sabbath-keeping Christian Church of the East of a millennia before!

The ancient Chinese characters were inscribed in 781 AD, at the command of Emperor Tae-Tsung, to honor the arrival of an Assyrian missionary and his companions to the capitol in the year 635 AD from Ta Tsin, or Judea. The stone revealed beliefs and practices of the primitive Christian church, which were unrelated and out of harmony with the Roman Catholic beliefs.

One of the passages reads:

“On the Seventh Day we offer sacrifices after having purified our hearts, and received absolution from our sins. This religion, so perfect and so excellent, is difficult to name, but it enlightens darkness by its brilliant precepts.”

In a state of shock, the Jesuits, and the Mandarins, a class of scholarly religious Chinese rulers, worked to alter the Chinese characters to reflect the Catholic doctrines, for if the expectant population were to learn what the stone really said, it would greatly damage their beliefs in the Catholic doctrines, and diminish the influence of the Mandarins.

But something very different than the expected resulted. Today, after carefully comparing the known facts of history with an examination of the historical and doctrinal facts written on the stone, a fraud is obvious.

The Chang-An Monument, or the “speaking stone,” as it is called, is considered to be as important a find as the Rosetta Stone, for it had the inscriptions in more than one language. The truth was preserved because the Jesuits were not able to read the inscription that was in Syrian.

From the reading of the stone today an irrefutable fact of history quickly becomes obvious.  That ancient Sabbath-keeping Christianity had been very prominent and extensive throughout the Orient as late as the eighth and ninth centuries. ” (Excerpt  from “Our Sabbath Heritage” by James Arrabito. Sabbath Sentinel. September-October 2000).

How long some in China kept the Sabbath is unclear. But what is clear is that they did. And since that monument dates from the eighth century to commemorate the arrival from Judea of missionaries in 635, it is certainly possible that Sabbath-keeping occurred well after the monument was made. It is also possible that Sabbath-keeping occurred in China previous to that particular missionary trip and that no records were made (or at least found) as well.

Here is more information about this period:

The earliest record of any Christian mission to China is found inscribed on the Nestorian monument in Sianfu, erected in A.D. 781. Sianfu was the capital of the T’ang empire (A.D. 618-906) and the center of the then-greatest civilization in the world. This monument recorded the visit to the T’ang court of a band of Christians led by Alopen from Ta-chin (Syria). Alopen brought with him the “true scriptures.” They were given to T’ang T’ai-tsung who commanded that they be translated in the royal library. These Christians flourished under royal sponsorship until A.D. 845, when they suffered persecution, and soon afterward, near extinction…

In 1908 other Christian documents were found…Sir Aurel Stein, a British archaeologist, purchased these ancient manuscripts, one of which was dated 641 A.D., and is thus the oldest Chinese translation of any gospel portion. It is thought that these documents were written by the same Christian group as those in Sianfu (Kang C.H., Nelson E.R. The Discovery of Genesis: How the Truths of Genesis Were Found Hidden in the Chinese Language. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 1979, p. 28).

FWIW, even Wikipedia admits that the “Nestorian” group of Christians was in China prior to the Catholics of Rome, but it also reports that the Romans were able to basically take over after some time.  Sadly, apostasy has happened in all lands.

It is also possible that the Apostle Thomas made it personally to China (or at least as far east as Malaysia), with an earlier falling away as well.

But be that as it may, Sabbath-keeping Christians were apparently the first Christians in China.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

China, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 1: Genesis and Chinese Characters This article provides information showing that the Chinese peoples must have known about various accounts in the Book of Genesis up until their dispersion after the Tower of Babel.
China, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 2: The Sabbath and Some of God’s Witness in China When did Christianity first come to China? And is there early evidence that they observed the seventh day sabbath?
The Dramatic Story of Chinese Sabbathkeepers This reformatted Good News article from 1955 discusses Sabbath-keeping in China in the 1800s.
Asia in Prophecy What is Ahead for Asia? Who are the “Kings of the East”? What will happen to nearly all the Chinese, Russians, Indians, and others of Asia? China in prophecy, where? Who has the 200,000,000 man army related to Armageddon?
The Pergamos Church Era was predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D. An especially persecuted Church.
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja viva do deus? Tambien Español: Cuál es fiel: ¿La iglesia católica romana o La Iglesia del Dios Viviente? Auch: Deutsch: Welches zuverlässig ist: Die Römisch-katholische Kirche oder die lebende Kirche von Gott?

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