A balanced, accessible, and thorough history of Jingjiao, the first Christian church in China
Many people assume that the first introduction of Christianity to the Chinese was part of nineteenth-century Western imperialism. In fact, Syriac-speaking Christians brought the gospel along the Silk Road into China in the seventh century. Glen L. Thompson introduces readers to the fascinating history of this early Eastern church, referred to as Jingjiao, or the “Luminous Teaching.”
Thompson presents the history of the Persian church’s mission to China with rigor and clarity. While Christianity remained a minority and “foreign” religion in the Middle Kingdom, it nonetheless attracted adherents among indigenous Chinese and received imperial approval during the Tang Dynasty. Though it was later suppressed alongside Buddhism, it resurfaced in China and Mongolia in the twelfth century. Thompson also discusses how the modern unearthing of Chinese Christian texts has stirred controversy over the meaning of Jingjiao to recent missionary efforts in China.
In an accessible style, Thompson guides readers through primary sources as well as up-to-date scholarship. As the most recent and balanced survey on the topic available in English, Jingjiao will be an indispensable resource for students of global Christianity and missiology.
Table of Contents
List of Tables Foreword by Samuel N. C. Lieu Introduction: A Story That Needs Telling—Correctly 1. The Syriac Church and Its Eastward Mission 2. The Stele from Chang’an 3. The Jingjiao Is Planted and Grows 4. New Evidence Emerges 5. The Teachings of the Jingjiao 6. The Jingjiao under the Tang 7. The Yelikewenjiao Revival under the Yuan Epilogue: So What? Appendix 1: The Chang’an Stele Appendix 2: Figures and Maps Select Bibliography Index
Glen L. Thompson is professor emeritus of New Testament and historical theology at Asia Lutheran Seminary in Hong Kong. He has retired to Milwaukee, where he researches, works with students, and expands his Fourth-Century Christianity website.
“When and how exactly did Christianity reach China? Was it really brought by Western imperialists or opium sellers? What and how do Jingjiao (Luminous Teaching) and the Syriac-speaking church contribute to Chinese Christianity? In this volume, church historian Dr. Glen Thompson offers a fascinating narrative that uncovers an important piece of history, addressing these questions and providing a corrective to frequent misunderstandings of the origin of Christianity in China.” —Chloe T. Sun, Fuller Theological Seminary
“A concise and up-to-date account of the once-forgotten earliest history of Christianity in East Asia by a lucid writer of Asian theology. Highly recommended!” —Huaiyu Chen, Arizona State University
“Jingjiao: The Earliest Christian Church in China brilliantly combines primary texts, up-to-date scholarship, and impassioned storytelling. Glen L. Thompson’s particularly fresh and insightful reading of the earliest Christian writings in Chinese makes this book an indispensable resource for further study of Jingjiao theology.” —Matteo Nicolini-Zani, Catholic monk of the ecumenical Monastic Community of Bose, Italy
“This groundbreaking volume catapults forward the scholarship about the earliest church in China by over a century, filling in lacunae and correcting many inaccurate previous understandings about the beginnings of Chinese Christian contextualization. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that this book is the authoritative new word on the subject. Those contextualization principles remain just as relevant today as ever, thus this is also a significant contribution to understanding the Majority World Church both past, present, and future.” —Allen Yeh, Biola University
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