Arabia. —Arabia is the cradle of Islam and, in all probability, the primitive home of the Semitic race. It is a peninsula of an irregularly triangular form, or rather, an irregular parallelogram, bounded on the north by Syria and the Syrian desert; on the south by the Indian Ocean; on the east by the Persian Gulf and Babylonia; and on the west by the Red Sea. The length of its western coast line, along the Red Sea, is about 1,800 miles, while its breadth, from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, is about 600 miles. Hence its size is about one million square miles and, accordingly, it is about four times as large as the State of Texas, or over one-fourth of the size of the United States, and as large as France, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria-Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, Servia, Rumania, and Bulgaria all combined.
The general aspect of Arabia is that of a central tableland surrounded by a desert belt, sandy to the west, south, and east, and stony to the north. Its outlying circle is girt by a line of mountains low and sterile, although, towards Yemen and Oman, on the lower southwest and lower southeast, these mountains attain a considerable height, breadth, and fertility. The surface of the midmost tableland is sandy, and thus about one-fifth of Arabia is cultivated, or rather two-thirds cultivable, and one-third irreclaimable desert. According to Doughty, the geological aspect of Arabia is simple, consisting of a foundation stock of plutonic rock whereon lie sandstone and, above that, limestone. Arabia has no rivers, and its mountain streams and fresh-water springs, which in certain sections are quite numerous, are utterly inadequate, considering the immense geographical area the peninsula covers. Wadys, or valleys, are very numerous and generally dry for nine or ten months in the year. Rains are infrequent, and consequently the vegetation, except in certain portions of Yemen, is extremely sparse.
The most commonly accepted division of Arabia into Deserta (desert), Felix (happy), and Petra (stony), due to Greek and Roman writers, is altogether arbitrary. Arabic geographers know nothing of this division, for they divide it generally into five provinces: The first is Yemen, embracing the whole south of the peninsula and including Hadramaut, Mahra, Oman, Shehr, and Nejran. The second is Hijaz, on the west coast and including Mecca and Medina, the two famous centers of Islam. The third is Tehama, along the same coast between Yemen and Hijaz. The fourth is Nejd, which includes most of the central tableland, and the fifth is Yamama, extending all the wide way between Yemen and Nejd. This division is also inadequate, for it omits the greater part of North and East Arabia. A third and modern division of Arabia, according to politico-geographical principles, is into seven provinces: Hijaz, Yemen, Hadramaut, Oman, Hasa, Irak, and Nejd. At present, with the exception of the Sinaitic peninsula and about 200 miles of the coast south of the Gulf of Akaba which is under Anglo-Egyptian rule, Hijaz, Yemen, Hasa, and Irak are Turkish provinces, the other three being ruled by independent Arab rulers, called Sultans, Ameers, or Imams, who today as of old are constantly fighting among themselves for control. Aden, the island of Perim, in the Strait of Bab-el-Mendeb, and Socotra are under English authority.
The fauna and flora of Arabia have not been as yet carefully investigated and studied. The most commonly known flora-products are the date palm, of about forty varieties, coffee, aromatic and medicinal plants, gums, balsams, etc. The fauna is still more imperfectly known. Among the wild animals are the lion and panther (both at present scarce), the wolf, wild boar, jackal, gazelle, fox, monkey, wild cow, or white antelope, ibex, horned viper, cobra, hawk, and ostrich. The chief domestic animals are the ass, mule, sheep, goat, dog, and above all the horse and the camel.
The actual population of Arabia is a matter of conjecture, no regular or official census having ever been undertaken. According to the most modern and acceptable authorities, the population cannot be less than eight, or more than twelve, millions, all of whom are Mohammedans. The personal appearance of the Arab is rather attractive. He is, as a rule, undersized in stature, dark in complexion, especially in the South, with hair black, copious, and coarse; the eyes are dark and oval, the nose aquiline, and the features regular.. and well-formed. The ordinary life of the Arabs is simple and monotonous, usually out-of-doors and roving. They are usually peaceful, generous, hospitable, and chivalrous, but jealous and revengeful. In later times, however, they have greatly deteriorated.
MODERN EXPLORATIONS OF ARABIA.—Up to a century and a half ago our information concerning Arabia was based mainly on Greek and Latin writers, such as Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, and others. This was meagre and unsatisfactory. The references to Arabia found in the Old Testament were even more so. Hence our best sources of information are Arabic writers and geographers, such as Hamadani’s “Arabian Peninsula”, Bekri and Yaqut’s geographical and historical dictionaries, and similar works. These, although extremely valuable, contain fabulous and legendary traditions, partly based on native popular legends and partly on Jewish and rabbinical fancies. The cuneiform inscriptions of Assyria have also thrown great and unexpected light on the early history of Arabia. But above all, mention must be made of the researches and discoveries of scholars like Halevy, Muller, Glaser, Hommel, Winckler, and others. The first European scientific explorer of Arabia was C. Niebuhr, who, in 1761-64, by the order of the Danish government, undertook an expedition into the Arabian peninsula. He was followed, in 1799, by Reinaud, the English agent of the East India Company. The Russian scholar U. J. Seetzen undertook a similar expedition in 1808-11, and for the first time copied several South-Arabian inscriptions in the district of Himyar. In 1814-16, J. L. Burckhardt, a Swiss, and probably the most distinguished of Arabian explorers, made a journey to Hijaz and completed the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Burckhardt’s information is copious, interesting, and accurate. Captain W. R. Wellsted made (in 1834-35) a journey into Oman and Hadramaut; and Ch. J. Cruttenden completed, in 1838, a similar journey from Mokha to Sana, copying several South-Arabian inscriptions, which Rodiger and Gesenius attempted to decipher.
Then came the German, Adolf von Wrede, who, in 1843, visited Wady Doan and other parts of Hadramaut, discovering and copying an important inscription of five long lines. In 1843 Thomas Joseph Arnaud made a very bold and successful journey from Sana to Marib, the capital of the ancient kingdom of the Sabeans, and collected about fifty-six inscriptions. In 1845-48, G. Wallin travelled through Hayil, Medina, and Taima, proceeding from west to east. In 1853 Richard Burton, the famous translator of the “Arabian Nights”, undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, and, in 1877 and 1878, twice visited the land of Midian, in North Arabia. In 1861 a Jew from Jerusalem, Jacob Saphir, visited Yemen, where he found several Jewish settlements, and other parts of Arabia; while in 1862-63, the English ex-Jesuit, W. Gifford Palgrave, made his memorable tour from the Dead Sea to Qatif and Oman, visiting the great northwestern territory between the Sinaitic peninsula, the Euphrates, Hayil, Medina, Nejd, and practically the whole of central Arabia, till then unknown to scholars and travellers. Colonel Pelly visited central Arabia in 1865, and in 1869 Joseph Halevy, the great French Orientalist and the pioneer of Sabean philology, in the guise of a poor Jew from Jerusalem, explored Yemen and south Arabia, copying about 700, mostly very short, inscriptions. He advanced as far as the South-Arabian Jof, the territory of the ancient Mineans. In 1870-71, H. von Maltzan made a few short trips from Aden along the coast, and in 1876-78 Charles Doughty made his famous tour to Mada in Salih, Hayil, Taima, Khaibar, Boraida, Onaiza, and Tayif, where he discovered several Nabat ean, Lihyanian, or Tamudic, Minean and so-called proto-Arabic inscriptions. In 1877-80 the Italian Renzo Manzoni made three excursions to Sana, the Turkish capital of Yemen. In 1878-79, Lady Anne Blunt, Lord Byron’s granddaughter, together with her husband, Sir Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, made a tour from Damascus through the North-Arabian Jof, the Nefud desert, and Hayil. In the years 1882-84 the Austrian explorer, Edward Glaser, made his first and very fruitful expedition to southern Arabia, where he discovered and copied numerous old Arabian inscriptions; and in 1883-84 Charles Huber, together with Julius Euting, the Semitic epigraphist of Strasburg, undertook a joint expedition to northern Arabia, discovering the famous Aramaic inscriptions of Taima (sixth century B.C.). In 1884-85, Ed. Glaser made his second journey to southern Arabia collecting several Minean inscriptions; and in 1887-88 made his third expedition, which proved to be the most successful expedition yet undertaken, as far as epigraphical results are concerned.
The inscriptions discovered and copied were over 400, the most valuable among them being the so-called “Dam-inscription”, of 100 lines (fifth and sixth centuries of the Christian Era), and the “Sirwah inscription”, of about 1,000 words (c. 550 B.C.). His fourth expedition took place in 1892-94, and was fruitful and rich in Arabic epigraphy. Leo Hirsch, of Berlin, visited, in 1893, Hadramaut, and so did Theodore Bent and his wife in 1893-94. In 1896-97, the distinguished Arabic scholar, Count Carlo Landberg, visited the coast of South Arabia, making special studies of the modern Arabic dialects of those regions, besides other geographical and epigraphical researches. In 1898-99 the expedition of the Vienna Academy to Shabwa was organized and conducted by Count Landberg and D. H. Muller, which, however, owing to several difficulties and disagreements, did not accomplish the desired results. Other expeditions have since engaged in the active work of exploration. The results of all these expeditions have been threefold: geographical, epigraphical, and historical. These results have opened the way not only to fresh views and studies concerning the various ancient South-Arabian dialects, such as Minean, Sabean, or Himyarite, Hadramautic, and Katabanian, but have also shed unexpected light on the history of the old South-Arabian kingdoms and dynasties. These same discoveries have also thrown considerable light on Old Testament history, on early _ Hebrew religion and worship, and on Hebrew and comparative Semitic philology.
ARABIA AND THE OLD TESTAMENT.—The Old Testament references to Arabia are scanty. The term Arab itself, as the name of a particular country and nation, is found only in later Old Testament writings, i.e. not earlier than Jeremias (sixth century B.C.). In older writings the term Arab is used only as an appellative, meaning “desert”, or “people of the desert”, or “nomad” in general. The name for Arabia in the earliest Old Testament writings is either Ismael, or Madian (A. V., Ishmael, or Midian), as in the twenty-fifth chapter of Genesis, which is a significant indication of the relative antiquity of that remarkable chapter. The meaning of the term Arab can be either that of “Nomad”, or “the Land of the Setting Sun”, i.e. the West, it being situated to the west of Babylonia, which was considered by the Biblical record of Gen., xi, as the traditional starting point of the earliest Semitic migrations. By the ancient Hebrews, however, the land of Arabia was called “the Country of the East”, and the Arabs were termed “Children of the East”, as the Arabian peninsula lay to the east of Palestine.
According to the genealogical table of the tenth chapter of Genesis, Cham’s (A. V., Ham) first-born was Chush. Chush (A. V., Cush) had five sons, whose names are identical with several regions in Arabia. Thus the name of Sebha—probably the same as Sheba, or Saba—situated on the west coast of the Red Sea, occurs only three times in the Old Testament. The second is Hevila in northern Arabia, or, as Glaser prefers, in the district of Yemen and al-Kasim. The third is Regma (A. V., Raamah), in southwestern Arabia, mentioned in the Sabean inscriptions. The fourth is Sabatacha, in southern Arabia, and as far east as Oman. The fifth is Sabatha (A. V., Sabtah), or better Sabata, the ancient capital of Hadramaut, in South Arabia. Regma’s two sons, Saba and Dadan (A. V., Sheba and Dedan), or Daidan, are also two Arabian geographical names, the first being the famous Saba (A. V., Sheba) of the Book of Kings, whose Queen visited Solomon, while the second is near Edom or, as Glaser suggests, north of Medina. In v. 28 of the same Genesiac chapter, Saba is said to be a son of Jectan (A. V., Joktan), and so, also, Elmodad, Asarmoth, Hevila, Ophir (A. V., Almodad, Hazarmaveth, Havilah, etc., which are equally Arabian geographical names), while in chapter xxv, 3, both Saba and Dadan are represented as grandsons of Abraham.
The episode of Sarai’s handmaid, Agar (A. V., Hagar), and her son, Ismael (A. V., Ishmael), is well known. According to this, Ismael is the real ancestor of the majority of Arabian tribes, such as: Nabajoth, Cedar, Abdeel, Mabsam, Masma, Duma, Massa, Hadar, Thema, Jethur, and Cedma (A. V., Nebaijoth, Kedar, Abdeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur. Naphish, and Kedemah, respectively). Equally well known are the stories of the Madianite, or Ismaelite, merchants who bought Joseph from his brethren, that of the forty years’ wandering of the Hebrew tribes over the desert of Arabia, of the Queen of Saba, etc. In later Old Testament times we read of Nehemias (A. V., Nehemiah), who suffered. much from the enmity of an Arab sheikh, Gossem (A. V., Geshem), or better Gashmu or Gushamu [Nehemiah (in Douay Version, II Esdras), ii, 19; vi, 6], and he also enumerates the Arabs in the list of his opponents (iv, 7). In II Paralipomenon (A. V., Chronicles) we are told (xvii, 11) that the Arabians brought tribute to King Josaphat (A. V., Jehoshaphat). The same chronicler tells us, also, how God punished the wicked Joram by means of the Philistines and the Arabians, who were beside the Ethiopians (II Paral., xxi, 16), and how he helped the pious Ozias (A. V., Uzziah) in the war against the “Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal” (xxvi, 7). The Arabians mentioned here are in all probability the Nabataean of northern Arabia; as our author wrote in the second or third century B.C.
THE NORTH-ARABIAN MUSRI AND THE OLD TESTAMENT MISRAIM.—The cuneiform inscriptions of Assyria have thrown considerable light on various geographical localities in North Arabia, having important bearing on the history of the ancient Hebrews and on the critical study of the Old Testament. The importance of these new facts and researches has of late assumed very bewildering proportions, the credit for which unmistakably belongs to Winckler, Hommel, and Cheyne. It is needless to say that however ingenious these hypotheses may appear to be they are not as yet entitled to be received without caution and hesitation. Were we to believe, in fact, the elaborate theories of these eminent scholars, a great part of the historical events of the Old Testament should be transferred from Egypt and Chanaan into Arabia; for, according to the latest speculations of these scholars, many of the passages in the Old Testament which, until recently, were supposed to refer to Egypt (in Hebrew Misraim) and to Ethiopia (in Hebrew, Kush) do not really apply to them but to two regions of similar names in North Arabia, called in the Assyro-Babylonian inscriptions Musri or Musrim, and Chush, respectively. They hold that partly by means of editorial manipulation and partly by reason of corruption in the text, and in consequence of the faded memory of long-forgotten events and countries, these two archaic North-Arabian geographical names became transformed into names of similar sound, but better known, belonging to a different geographical area, namely, the Egyptian Misraim and the African Chush, or Ethiopia.
According to this theory, Agar, Sarai’s handmaid (Gen., xvi, 1), was not Misrite or Egyptian, but Musrite, i.e. from Musri, in northern Arabia. Abraham (Gen., xii, 10) did not go down into Misraim, or Egypt, where he is said to have received from the Pharaoh a gift of menservants and handmaids, but into Misrim, or Musri, in northern Arabia. Joseph, when bought by the Ismaelites, or Madianites, i.e. Arabs, was not brought into Egypt (Misraim), but to Musri, or Misrim, in north Arabia, which was the home of the Madianites. In I Kings (A. V., I Sam.), xxx, 13, we should not read “I am a young man of Egypt [Misraim], slave of an Amalecite”, but of Musri in north Arabia. In III Kings (A. V., I K.), iii, 1; xi, 1, Solomon is said to have married the daughter of an Egyptian king, which is extremely improbable; for Misrim in north Arabia, and not the Egyptian Misraim, is the country whose king’s daughter Solomon married. In I Kings (A. V.), iv, 30, the wisdom of Solomon is compared to the “wisdom of all the children of the east country [i.e. the Arabians] and all the wisdom of Egypt”. But the lastmentioned country, they say, is not Egypt but, as the parallelism requires, Madian, or Musri, whose proverbial wisdom is frequently alluded to in the Old Testament. In III Kings, x, 28 sq., horses are said to have been brought from Egypt; but horses were very scarce in Egypt, while very numerous and famous in Arabia. The same emendation can be made in at least a dozen more Old-Testament passages. The most revolutionary result, however, would follow if we applied the same theory to the famous sojourn of the Hebrews in Egypt; for it is self-evident that if the Israelites sojourned not in the Egyptian Misraim, but in the north Arabian Musri, and from thence fled into Chanaan, which was nearby, the result to ancient Hebrew history and religion would be of the most revolutionary character. Similar emendation has been applied with more or less success to the many passages where Chush, or Ethiopia, occurs, such as Gen., ii, 13; x, 6; Num., xii, 1; Judges, iii, 10; II Kings (A. V., II Sam.), xviii, 21; Isa., xx, 3; xlv, 14; Hab., iii, 7; Ps., lxxxvi, 4; II Par. (A. V., Chron.), xiv, 9; xxi, 16, etc.
Another important geographical name frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, and in all instances referred, till recently, to Assyria, is Assur (abbreviated into Sur). A country of similar name has also been discovered in Arabia. In this last view Winckler and Cheyne are warmly supported by Hommel, by whom it was first suggested. Cheyne, furthermore, has pushed these identifications to such extremities as to transplant the whole historical and religious life of Israel to the Nejeb, the country of Jerameel, in northern Arabia. According to him the prophets Elias, Eliseus, Amos, Osee (A. V., Hosea), Ezechiel (A. V., Ezekiel), Joel, and Abdias (A. V., Obadiah) are all North-Arabians; and all the rest of the prophets either came from that country or have it constantly in view. Isaias (A. V., Isaiah), xl-lv, was, according to him, composed in northern Arabia; Ezechiel also suffered imprisonment and prophesied there; and hundreds of personal and geographical proper names in the Old Testament are, according to him, intentional or accidental corruptions of Jerameel, Arabia, and Nejeb. However great our appreciation of Winckler’s and Cheyne’s ingenuity and learning may be, and allowing that their theories are not entirely lacking in plausibility, yet they have/received, so far, little support and encouragement from the majority of Biblical scholars and critics. It is true that the new theories, in some of their applications, give highly satisfactory results, but in their extreme form they are, to say the least, premature and ultra-radical.
EARLY HISTORY OF ARABIA TILL THE RISE OF ISLAM.—To the historian, the earliest history of Arabia is a blank page, little or nothing being historically known and ascertained as to the origin, migrations, history, and political vicissitudes of the Arabian nation. Mohammedan traditions concerning the early history of the peninsula are mostly legendary and highly colored, although partly based on Biblical data and rabbinical traditions. Hardly less unsatisfactory are the many references found in Greek and Latin writers. The mention of Arab tribes, under the various forms of Arabi, Arubu, Aribi, and possibly Urbi, frequently occurs in the Assyrian inscriptions as early as the ninth century B.C., and their country is spoken of as seldom or never traversed by any conqueror, and as inhabited by wild and independent tribes. We read, e.g., that in 854 B.C. Salmanasar II (A. V., Shalmanezer) met in battle a confederation in which was Gindibu the Arab with one hundred camels. A few years later Theglathphalasar III (A. V., Tiglathpileser) undertook an expedition into Arabia; and in the latter half of the eighth century B.C. we find Assyrian influence extending over the northwest and east of the peninsula. One century later a number of Arabian tribes of inner Arabia were defeated by Asarhaddon (A. V., Esarhaddon) at Bazu. Assurbanipal also repeatedly speaks of his various successful expeditions into and conquests in the lands of Musri, Magan, Meluhha, and Chush in Arabia. In the Behistun inscription of the Persian king Darius, Arabia (Arabaya) is mentioned as a subject land. The numerous South-Arabian inscriptions thus far discovered and deciphered by Halevy, Winckler, D. H. Muller, Hommel, Ed. Glaser, and others do not throw much light on the early history of Arabia. But the epigraphic evidences and the many ruins still extant in various parts of that peninsula unmistakably show that a highly developed civilization must have existed among the ancient Arabs at a very early age.
The two most important kingdoms of ancient Arabia are that of the Mineans (the Hebrew: YNM of the Old Testament) and that of the Sabeans, whence the Queen of Saba came to pay her homage of respect and admiration to King Solomon. A third kingdom was that of Kataban, a fourth, Hadramaut, as well as those of Lihyan, Raidan, Habashah, and others. The Minean Kingdom seems to have flourished in southern Arabia as early as 1200 B.C., and from the various Minean inscriptions found in northern Arabia they seem to have extended their power even to the north of the peninsula. Their principal cities were Main, Karnan, and Yatil. The Sabean, or Himyaritic, Kingdom (the Homeritae of the classics) flourished either contemporarily (D. H. Muller) or after (Glaser, Hommel) the Minean. Their capital city was Marib (the Mariaba of the Arabian classics), famous for its dam, the breaking of which is often mentioned by later Arabic poets and traditions as the immediate cause of the fall of the Sabean power. The Sabeans, after two centuries of repeated and persistent attacks, finally succeeded in overthrowing the rival Minean Kingdom. Their power, however, lasted till about 300 A.D., when they were defeated and conquered by the Abyssinians.
The Katabanian state, with its capital, Taima, was ruined some time in the second century after Christ, probably by the Sabeans. Towards the beginning of our Era the three most prominent and powerful Arab states were the Sabean, the Himyarite, and that of Hadramaut. In the fourth century the Himyarites, aided by the Sassanian kings of Persia, appear to have had a controlling power in southern Arabia, while the Abyssinians were absolute rulers of Yemen. These, however, although pressed by Himyar and temporarily confined to the Tehamah district (A.D. 378), succeeded, in 525, with the help of the Byzantine Emperor, in overthrowing the Himyarite power, killing the king and becoming the absolute rulers of South Arabia. In 568 the Abyssinians were finally driven out of Arabia, and the power restored to the Yemenites; this vassal kingdom of the Persian Empire lasted until the year 634, when it was absorbed, together with all the other Arabian States, by the Mohammedan conquest.
Such was the political condition of southern Arabia previous to the time of Mohammed. Of central Arabia little or nothing is known. In northern and northwestern Arabia there flourished the Nabataean Kingdom, the people of which, though Arabian by race, nevertheless spoke Aramaic. The Nabataean must have come from other parts of Arabia to the North some time about the fifth century B.C., for at the beginning of the Machabean period we find them already well established in that region. Shortly before the Christian Era, Antigonus and Ptolemy had in vain attempted to gain a footing in Arabia; and Pompey himself, victorious elsewhere, was checked on its frontiers. During the reign of Augustus, Aelius Gallus, the Roman Prefect of Egypt, with an army composed of 10,000 Roman infantry, 500 Jews, and 100 Nabataean, undertook an expedition against the province of Yemen. He took by assault the city of Nejran, on the frontier of Yemen, and advanced as far as Marib, the capital of Yemen, but, owing to the resistance of the Arabs and the disorganization of his army, which was unaccustomed to the heat of the tropical climate of Arabia, he was forced to retreat to Egypt without accomplishing any permanent and effective conquest. Later attempts to conquer the country were made by Roman governors and generals under Trajan and Severus, but these were mostly restricted to the neighborhood of the Syrian frontiers, such as Nabatea, Bosra, Petra, Palmyra, and the Sinaitic peninsula.
Another North-Arabian kingdom was that of Hira, situated in the northeasterly frontier of Arabia adjoining Irak, or Babylonia. Its kings governed the western shore of the lower Euphrates, from the neighborhood of Babylon down to the confines of Nejd, and along the coast of the Persian Gulf. It was founded in the second century of the Christian Era and lasted about 424 years, i.e. till it was absorbed by the Mohammedan conquest. The kings of Hira were more or less vassal to their powerful neighbors, the Sassanian kings of Persia, paying them allegiance and tribute. Another Arabian state was that of Ghassan whose kings ruled over a considerable part of northwestern Arabia, lower Syria, and Hijaz. It was founded in the first century of the Christian Era and lasted till the time of Mohammed. The Kingdom of Ghassan was frequently harassed by Roman and Byzantine encroachments and by unequal alliances. In both these kingdoms (i.e. Hirah and Ghassan) Christianity made rapid progress, and numerous Christian communities, with bishops, churches, and monasteries, flourished there. (For CHRISTIANITY IN ARABIA, see below.)
Another Arabian kingdom was that of Kindah, originally from Irak, or northeastern Arabia, and Mesopotamia. This rather shortlived and weak kingdom began about the fifth century of the Christian Era and ended with Mohammed, i.e. about one century and a half later. Its power and authority extended for a time over the whole northern section of Nejd and as far south as Oman. Besides these independent kingdoms, various Arab tribes, such as that of Koreish, to which Mohammed belonged, Rabeeah, Qays, Hawazin, Tamim, and others, were constantly endeavoring to assume independent power and authority. But their efforts and hopes were finally and permanently shattered by the Mohammedan conquest, which put an end to all tribal factions and preponderances by uniting them all into one religious and political kingdom, the Kingdom of Islam.
CHRISTIANITY IN ARABIA: The origin and progress of Christianity in Arabia is, owing to the lack of sufficiently authenticated historical documents, involved in impenetrable obscurity, and only detached episodes, in one part or another of the peninsula can be grouped together and studied. References to various Christian missionary enterprises in the north and south of the country, found in early ecclesiastical historians and Fathers, such as Eusebius, Rufinus, Socrates, Nicephorus, Metaphrastes, Theodoret, Origen, and Jerome, are valuable, but to be used with caution, inasmuch as a lamentable confusion, common to all writers of that time between Arabia proper and India, or Abyssinia, seems to have crept into their writings.
Furthermore, no proper discrimination is made by any of them among the various traditions at their disposal. More abundant and trustworthy information may be gathered from Nestorian and Jacobite writers, as each of these sects has had its own sphere of influence in the peninsula, and particularly in the northern kingdoms of Hira and Ghassan. Arabic historians (all of post-Islamic times) are very interesting in their allusions to the same, but are at variance with one another. Indigenous ecclesiastical literature and monuments, except perhaps one inscription of the fifth century after Christ found by Glaser, and the ruins of a supposed church, afterwards turned into a heathen temple, are utterly wanting. Christianity in Arabia had three main centers in the northwest, northeast, and southwest of the peninsula. The first embraces the Kingdom of Ghassan (under Roman rule), the second that of Hira (under Persian power), and the third the kingdoms of Himyar, Yemen, and Najran (under Abyssinian rule). As to central and southeast Arabia, such as Nejd and Oman, it is doubtful whether Christianity made any advance there.
North-Arabian Christianity.—According to the majority of the Fathers and historians of the Church, the origin of Christianity in northern Arabia is to be traced back to the Apostle Paul, who in his Epistle to the Galatians, speaking of the period of time immediately following his conversion, says: “Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned to Damascus” (Gal. i, 17). What particular region of Arabia was visited by the Apostle, the length of his stay, the motive of his journey, the route followed, and the things he accomplished there are not specified. His journey may have lasted as long as one year, and the place visited may have been either the country of the Nabataeans or the Sinaitic peninsula, or better, as Harnack remarks, “not to the desert, but rather to a district south of Damascus where he could not expect to come across any’ Jews” (Expansion of Christianity, 1905, II, 301). Jerome, however, suggests that he may have gone to a tribe where his mission was unsuccessful as regards visible results. Zwemer’s suggestion [Arabia, the Cradle of Islam (1900), 302-303], that the Koranic allusion to a certain Nebi Salih, or the Prophet Salih, who is said to have come to the Arabs preaching the truth and was not listened to, and who, consequently, in leaving them said: “O my people, I did preach unto you the message of my Lord, and I gave you good advice, but ye love not sincere advisers” (Surah vii), refers to Paul of Tarsus—this theory need hardly be considered.
In the light of the legend of Abgar of Edessa, however, and considering the fact that the regions lying to the northwest and northeast of Arabia, under Roman and Persian rule respectively, were in constant contact with the northern Arabs, among whom Christianity had already made fast and steady progress, we may reasonably assume that Christian missionary activity cannot have neglected the attractive mission field of northern Arabia. In the Acts of the Apostles (ii, 11) we even read of the presence of Arabians on the day of Pentecost, and Arabs were quite numerous in the Parthian Empire and around Edessa. The cruel persecutions, furthermore, which raged in the Roman and Persian Empires against the followers of Christ must have forced many of these to seek refuge on the safer soil of northern Arabia.
Christianity in Ghassan and North-West Arabia.—The Kingdom of Ghassan, in northwestern Arabia, adjacent to Syria, comprised a very extensive tract of territory and a great number of Arab tribes whose first migrations there must have taken place as early as the time of Alexander the Great. Towards the third and fourth centuries of the Christian era these tribes already formed a confederation powerful enough to cause trouble to the Roman Empire, which formed with them alliances and friendships in order to counterbalance the influence of the Mesopotamian Arabs of Ilira, who were under Persian rule. The kings of Ghassan trace their descent from the tribe of Azd, in Yemen. Gafahah, their first king, dispossessed the original dynasty, and is said to have been confirmed in his conquest by the Roman governor of Syria. Their capital city was Balka till the time of the second Harith, when it was supplanted by Petra and Sideir. Although living a nomadic life and practically independent, with “no dwelling but the tent, no intrenchment but the sword, no law but the traditionary song of their bards”, these Arabs were under the nominal, but quite effective control of the Romans as early as the time of Pompey. Such Syrian Arabs always looked upon the Romans as their best and most powerful defenders and protectors against the Sassanian dynasty of Persia, by which they were constantly oppressed and molested.
The Nabataean Kingdom, which comprised the Sinaitic peninsula, the sea coast to the Gulf of Akaba, to Al-Haura, and as far as Damascus and Hijaz, and which was annexed to the Roman Empire in A.D. 105, comprised also many Arab tribes which were for a long time governed by their own sheikhs and princes, their stronghold being the country around Bosra and Damascus. These sheikhs were acknowledged as such by the Roman emperors, who gave them the title of phylarch. The ever-increasing number and importance of these tribes and of those living in the Ghassanide territory were such that in 531, by the consent and authority of the Emperor Justinian, a real Arab-Roman kingdom was formed under the rule of the kings of Ghassan, whose power and authority extended over all the Arabs of Syria, Palestine, Phoenicia and northwestern Arabia. Another Syro-Arabian Kingdom, in which Arab tribes were very numerous, is that of Palmyra, which retained for a long time its independence and resisted all encroachments. Under Odenathus, the Palmyrene kingdom flourished, and it reached the zenith of its power under his wife and successor, the celebrated Zenobia. After her defeat by Aurelian (272), Palmyra and its dependencies became a province of the Roman Empire.
Christianity must have been introduced among the Syrian Arabs at a very early period; if not among the tribes living in the interior of the Syro-Arabian desert, certainly among those whose proximity brought them into continuous social and commercial contact with Syria. Rufinus (Hist. Ecclesiastica, II, 6) tells us of a certain Arabian Queen, Mavia, or Maowvia (better, Mu’awiyah), who, after having repeatedly fought against the Romans, accepted peace on condition that a certain monk, called Moses, should be appointed bishop over her tribe. This took place during the reign of Valens (about 374), who was greatly inclined to Arianism. Moses lived a hermit life in the desert of Egypt, and accordingly he was brought to Alexandria in order to be ordained bishop, as the Bedouin queen required. The Bishop of Alexandria was then a certain Lucius, accused of Arianism. Moses refused to be ordained by a heretical bishop, and was so obdurate in his refusal that it was necessary for the emperor to bring from exile a Catholic bishop and send him to the queen.
Caussin de Perceval (Histoire des Arabes avant l’Islamisme, etc., II, 215) affirms that towards the beginning of the fourth century, and during the reign of Djabala I, Christianity was again preached, and accepted by another Arab tribe. Sozomenus, in fact, relates that before the time of Valens an Arab prince, whom he calls Zacome, or Zocum, having obtained a son through the prayers of a Syrian hermit, embraced Christianity, and all his tribe with him. Lequien (Oriens Christianus, II, 851) calls this prince Zaracome and places him under the reign of Constantine or of one of his sons. No prince of such name, however, occurs in any Arabic historian, although Caussin de Perceval suggests his identification with a certain Arcan, of the tribe of Giafnah, who was in all probability a prominent chief of Ghassan.
Another source of Christian propaganda among the northern Arabs was undoubtedly the many holy hermits and monks scattered in the Syro-Arabian desert, for whom the Arab tribes had great respect, and to whose solitary abodes they made numerous pilgrimages. Jerome and Theodoret explicitly affirm that the life and miracles of St. Hilarion and of St. Simeon the Stylite made a deep impression on the Bedouin Arabs. Many tribes accepted Christianity at the hands of the latter Saint, while many others became so favorably disposed towards it that they were baptized by the priests and bishops of Syria. Cyrillus of Scythopolis (sixth century), in his life of Saint Euthymius, the monk of Pharan, tells the story of the conversion of an entire Arab tribe which, towards 420, had migrated from along the Euphrates into Palestine. Their chief was a certain Aspebaetos. He had a son afflicted with paralysis, who at the prayers of the saint completely recovered. Aspebaetos himself was afterwards ordained bishop over his own tribe by the Patriarch of Jerusalem (see below). These detached facts clearly indicate that during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries of the Christian Era, Christianity must have been embraced by many Arabs, and especially by the tribe of Ghassan, which is celebrated by Arab historians and poets as being from very early times devotedly attached to Christianity. It was of this tribe that the proverb became current: “They were lords in the days of ignorance [i.e. before Mohammed] and stars of Islam.” (Zwemer, Arabia, the Cradle of Islam, 304.)
The numerous inscriptions collected in northern Syria by Waddington, de Vogue, Clermont Ganneau, and others also clearly indicate the presence of Christian elements in the Syro-Arabian population of that region and especially around Bosra. In the days of Origen there were numerous bishoprics in the towns lying south of the Hauran, and these bishops were once grouped together in a single synod (Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, II, 301). As early as the third century this part of Syro-Arabia was already well known as the “mother of heresies”. Towards the year 244 Origen converted to the orthodox faith Beryllus, Bishop of Bosra, who was a confessed anti-Trinitarian (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VI, 20); and two years earlier (242) a provincial synod of Arabia was held in connection with the proceedings against Origen, which decided in his favor. This great teacher in the Church was also personally known at that time to the Arabian bishops; for about the year 215 he had travelled as far as Arabia at the request of the Roman governor, before whom he laid his views (Eusebius, op. cit., VI, 19, and Harnack, op. cit., 301). In 250 the same teacher went to Arabia for the second time to combat certain heretics who taught that the soul died with the body, but that it would rise up again with it on the Judgment Day (Eusebius, op. cit., VI, 39).
The “Onomasticon” of Eusebius and the Acts of the Council of Nicaea (325) also indicate the presence of Christians, during the days of Eusebius, in Arabia, along the Dead Sea, and around Qariathaim, near Madaba (Harnack, op. cit., 302-303). At the Council of Nicaea there were present six bishops of the province of Arabia: the Bishops of Bosra, Philadelphia, Jabrudi, Sodom, Betharma, and Dionysias (Wright, Early Christianity in Arabia, 73; and Harnack, op. cit., 303). One tradition makes an Arabian bishop of Zanaatha (Sanaa?) attend Nicaea. The sheikh-bishop Aspebaetos was present at the Council of Ephesus (431), and one of his successors, Valens by name, became, in 518, a suffragan bishop of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Duchesne, Les eglises separees, 343). A certain Eustathius, called “Bishop of the Sarrasins”, assisted at the Council of Chalcedon. In 458 he was still Bishop of Damascus. At the second Council of Ephesus (449) there was present another bishop of the “allied Arabs”, named Auxilaos. Another Arabian bishopric was that of the island of Jotabe, near the Gulf of Akabah; and a Bishop of Jotabe, by the name of Anastasius, was present at the Council of Jerusalem (536). At the First and Second Councils of Constantinople we read of the presence of the Metropolitan of Bosra, whose authority is said to have extended over twenty churches or bishoprics (Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, III, Part II, 598 sqq.). Many of these Arabian bishops were undoubtedly infected with Arianism, and later on with Monophysitism, the latter sect having been greatly favored and even protected by the Ghassanide princes.
The above sketch clearly shows that Christian Arab tribes were scattered through all Syria, Phoenicia, and northern Arabia, having their own bishops and churches. But it is doubtful whether this North-Arabian Christianity formed any national Church, as many of their bishops were dependent on the Greek Metropolitans of Tyrus, Jerusalem, Damascus, and on the Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Antioch.
Christianity in Hira and North-East Arabia.—According to Arabic writers and historians, the first Arab migration into Hira took place about A.D. 192 by the tribe of Tenukh and under the leadership of its chief, Malik ibn Fahm. This tribe was shortly afterwards followed by other tribes, such as those of Iyad, Azd, Quda`ah, and others, most of whom settled around Anbar, and who afterwards built for themselves the city of Hira, not far from the modern Kufa on the Euphrates, in southern Babylonia. We know, however, that as early as the time of Alexander, and towards the first century of the Christian Era, northern and southern Mesopotamia were thickly inhabited by Arab tribes, who, about the third century, formed more than one-third of its population. These tribes were, of course, governed by their own chiefs and princes, subject, however, to Persia.
Tradition relates that under one of these princes of Hira, Imru’ul Qais I, who reigned from 288 to 338, Christianity was first introduced into Hira and among the Mesopotamian Arabs. This, however, is not correct, for, from the Syriac Acts of the Apostles Addai and Mari, and other Syriac documents, we know that Christianity was introduced into Mesopotamia and Babylonia, if not at the end of the first, certainly towards the middle of the second century. The Acts of the Persian martyrs and the history of the Christian Church of Persia and Madain (i.e. Seleucia and Ctesiphon) unmistakably show that Christianity, although fiercely persecuted and opposed by the Sassanian kings of Persia, made rapid progress in these and the neighboring regions, and, consequently, the Arabs of Kira cannot have entirely missed the beneficial effects of the new religion. We know also that during the reign of Hormuz I (271-273) several hundred Christian captives were brought from Syria and other Roman provinces into Irak and Babylonia. According to Tabari (ed. Noldeke, 24), the Christians of Hira were called `Ibad, or “Worshippers”, i.e. “worshippers of God”, in opposition to “pagans” (Labort, Le Christianisme dans l’ empire perse sous la dynastie sassanide, 1904, 206).
The condition of the Christian Church in Persia and Mesopotamia in the early centuries is well known to us from the numerous Acts of martyrs and other Syriac documents still extant, but that of the Christian Arabs of Hira is very obscure. We know, however, that towards the end of the fourth, and the beginning of the fifth, century Christianity attained there considerable success and popularity. Nu’man I, King of Hira, who reigned from 390 to 418, is said to have been, if not a follower of Christ, certainly a great protector of his Christian subjects. During his reign the Kingdom of Hira rose to great power and celebrity, for his domain extended over all the Arabs of Mesopotamia, over Babylonia, along the Euphrates down to the Persian Gulf, and as far south as the islands of Bahrein. He caused great and magnificent buildings to be erected, among which were the two famous castles of Khawarnig and Sidir, celebrated in Arabic poetry for their unsurpassed splendor and beauty. The city of Hira was then, as afterwards, called after his own name, i.e. “the Hira of Nu`man”, or “the city of Nu`man”, and his deeds and exploits are justly celebrated by Arab writers, historians, and poets. Before and during the reign of this prince, the Persian monarchs, from Shapor to Kobad, had relentlessly persecuted the Christians, and their hatred for the new religion was naturally imparted to their vassal kings and allies, principal among whom was Nu`man.
In 410 St. Simeon the Stylite, who was in all probability of Arab descent, retired to the Syro-Arabian desert. There the fame of his sanctity and miracles attracted a great many pilgrims from all Syria, Mesopotamia, and northern Arabia, many of whom were Nu`man’s subjects. The pious example and eloquent exhortations of the Syrian hermit induced many of these heathen Arabs to embrace Christianity, and Nu`man began to fear lest his Christian subjects might be led by their religion to desert to the service of the Romans. Accordingly, he forbade all pilgrimages to the Syrian saint and all intercourse with the Christian Romans, under penalty of instant death. On the night of the issue of the edict, St. Simeon is said to have appeared to him in a dream, threatening him with death if he did not revoke the edict and allow his Christian subjects absolute religious freedom. Terrified and humbled, Nu`man revoked the order and became himself a sincere admirer of Christianity, which his fear of the Persian King did not permit him to embrace. When the change of sentiment that had taken place in their prince was publicly known, the Arabs of his kingdom are said to have flocked in crowds to receive the Christian faith. This memorable event seems, to all appearances, to be historical; for it is related by Cosmas the Presbyter, who assures us that he heard it personally from a certain Roman general, Antiochus by name, to whom it was narrated by Nu`man himself (Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, I, 247; and Wright, op. cit., 77). Hamza, Abul-Faraj of Isfahan (the author of Kitab-al-Aghani), Abulfeda, Nuwairi, Tabari, and Ibn Khaldun (quoted by Caussin de Perceval, Histoire des Arabes, etc., III, 234) relate that Nu`man abdicated the throne and retired to a religious and ascetic life, although he is nowhere expressly said to have become a Christian. (See also J. E. Assemani, Acta Martyrum Orientalium, II, and Bibl. Orient., I, 276-278.)
The greatest obstacle to the spread and success of Christianity in Hira was the immoderate hatred of the Sassanian monarchs towards the Christians of their empire and the fierce persecutions to which these were subjected. Encouraged and incited by these suzerains, the princes of Hira persecuted more than once their Christian subjects, destroyed their churches, and sentenced to death their bishops, priests, and consecrated virgins. One of these princes, Mundhir ibn Imru’ul-Qais, to whom Dhu Nuwas sent the news of the massacre of the Christians of Najran, in southern Arabia, sacrificed at the altar of the goddess Ouzza, the Arabian Venus, four hundred consecrated Christian virgins (Tabari, ed. Noldeke 171). His wife, however, was a fervent Christian of the royal family of Ghassan, Hind by name. She founded at Hira a famous monastery after her own name, in which many Nestorian patriarchs and bishops resided and were buried. Yaqut, in his “Geographical Dictionary” (ed. Wustenfeld), reproduces the dedicatory inscription which was placed at the entrance of the church. It runs as follows: “This church was built by Hind, the daughter of Harith ibn Amr ibn Hujr, the queen daughter of Kings, the mother of King Amr ibn Mundhir, the servant of Christ, the mother of His servant and the daughter of His servants [i.e. her son and her ancestors, the Christian kings of Ghassan], under the reign of the King of Kings, Khosroe Anoushirwan, in the times of Bishop Mar Ephrem. May God, to Whose honor she built this church, forgive her sins, and have mercy on her and on her son. May He accept him and admit him into His abode of peace and truth. That He may be with her and with her son in the centuries to come.” (See Duchesne, Les eglises separees, 350-351.)
The inscription was written during the reign of her Christian son, Amr ibn Mundhir, who reigned after his idolatrous father, from 554 to 569. After him reigned his brother Nieman ibn Qabus. This prince is said to have been led to embrace Christianity by his admiration of the constancy and punctuality of a Christian Syrian whom he had designed to put to death. “In a fit of drunkenness he had wantonly killed two of his friends, and when sober, in repentance for his cruelty and in remembrance of their friendship, he erected tombs over their graves, and vowed to moisten them once every year with the blood of an enemy. One of the first victims intended for the fulfilment of his vow was this Christian of Syria, who entreated the Mundhir to allow him a short space of time to return home for the purpose of acquitting himself of some duty with which he had been entrusted; the boon was granted on his solemn promise to return at an appointed time. The time came and the Christian Syrian was punctual to his word, and thus saved his life.” (Wright, op. cit. 143, from Pococke, “Specimen Histories Arabum”, 75). After his conversion to Christianity, Qabus melted down a statue of Venus of solid gold, which had been worshipped by his tribe, and distributed its gold produce among the poor (Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., VI, xxii). Following his example, many Arabs became Christians and were baptized.
Qabus was succeeded by his brother, Mundhir ibn Mundhir, during whose reign paganism held sway once more among his subjects, and Christianity was kept in check. After him reigned Nieman ibn Mundhir (580-595), who, towards the year 594, was converted to Christianity. His granddaughter, Hind, who was a Christian and of exceptional beauty, was married to the Arab poet `Adi ibn Zayd. He saw her for the first time during a Palm Sunday procession in the church of Hira, and became infatuated with her. Nu`man was one of the last kings of his dynasty that reigned at Hira. One of his sons, Mundhir ibn Nu`man, lived in the time of Mohammed, whom he opposed at the head of a Christian Arab army of Bahrein; but he fell in battle, in 633, while fighting the invading Moslem army.
The Christians of Hira professed both the Nestorian and the Monophysite heresies; both sects having had their own bishops, churches, and monasteries within the same city. Bishops of Hira (in Syriac, Hirtha de Tayyaye, or “Hira of the Arabs”) are mentioned as present at the various councils held in 410, 430, 485, 499, and 588. Towards the year 730 the Diocese of Hira was subdivided into three dioceses with three distinct bishops bearing the respective titles of Bishop of Akula, Bishop of Kuf a, and Bishop of the Arabs, or of the tribe of Ta’lab. From 686-724, Georgius, the famous Bishop of the Arabs, was still entitled Bishop of the Tanukhites, of the Tayyaites, and of the Akulites, i.e. of the tribe of Tanoukh, of Tay, and of the district of Akula [Assemani, Bibl. Orient., II, 459, 419; Lequien, Oriens Christianus, II, 1567, 1585, and 1597; Guidi, Zeitschrift fur deutsche morgenlandische Gesellschaft, XLIII, 410; Ryssel, Georgs des Araberbischofs Gedichte and Briefe, 44; Duchesne, op. cit., 349-352; Chabot, Synodicon Orientale (1902), 275; Labort, Le Christianisme dans l’empire Perse sous la dynastie Sassanide (1904), 206-207, 158, and passim].
South-Arabian Christianity: Himyar, Yemen and Najran.—According to Eusebius, Rufinus, Nicephorus, Theodoret, etc., followed by Baronius, Assemani, Tillemont, Lequien, Pagi, and others, the Apostle Bartholomew, while on his way to India (i.e. Ethiopia), preached the Gospel in Arabia Felix, or Yemen, which was then, especially after the expedition of Aelius Gallus, a commercial country well known to the Romans, and in constant mercantile and political communication with Abyssinia. Eusebius informs us that in the second century Pantaenus, master of the school of Alexandria, instructed the Indians (Ethiopians) in Christianity, and Jerome adds further that this missionary was sent to—them by Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria, in consequence of a request made by them for a Christian teacher. As the names India and Indians were applied by the Greek and Latin writers indiscriminately to Parthia, Persia, Media, Ethiopia, Libya, and Arabia, it may be reasonably inferred that the tradition in question is at the least vague and indefinite, although it is universally admitted that the India in question is Ethiopia, whence the Apostle may have easily crossed to Yemen; inasmuch as the Ethiopians and the Himyarites, or Yemenites, are both linguistically and ethnographically the same race.
According to Nicephorus, the field of Pantaenus’s mission was among the Jews of Yemen, whom we know to have settled in various centers of southern Arabia after the ruin of the second Temple in order to escape the Roman persecution. Jerome adds, furthermore, that Pantnus found among them the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew which they had received from their first Apostle, St. Bartholomew. Rufinus, Theodoret, and Eusebius assert that during the reign of Constantine the Great (312-337) a Tyrian philosopher named Meropius determined to visit the Himyarites in Arabia Felix. He was accompanied by two of his kinsmen (according to some, his two sons) and other disciples. On their return they were captured as enemies and were either slain or made captives, for at that time the Himyarites were in a state of warfare. Two members of the party, however, named Aedesius and Frumentius respectively, were taken before the King of Himyar, who became favorably disposed towards them, appointing the first his cupbearer, the other custodian of his treasures. At the death of the king, the two Christian Tyrians determined to return to their country, but were prevented by the queen regent, who requested them to remain and be the guardians of her infant son till he reached the proper age. They obeyed, and Frumentius, taking advantage of his power and position, caused a search to be made for the few Christians who, he had heard, were scattered in the Himyarite Kingdom. He treated them kindly and built for them churches and places of worship.
As soon as the young king ascended the throne, the two disciples returned to Tyre, where Aedesius was ordained priest. Frumentius went to Alexandria to inform the newly-elected bishop, Athanasius, of the condition of Christianity in Himyar, and begged him to send them a bishop and priests. Whereupon Frumentius himself was consecrated bishop and sent, together with several priests, to the Himyarites, where, with the aid and favor of the king, he increased the number of Christians and brought much prosperity to the Church. As Duchesne remarks [Les eglises separees” (1905), 311], the elevation of Frumentius must have taken place during the reign of Constantius, and either shortly before 340, or shortly after 346; for during the interval Athanasius was absent from Alexandria, and, as the stay of the two Tyrians at the court of Himyar cannot have lasted less than fifteen years, it follows that Meropius’s journey must have taken place between the years 320 and 325. The legend of Meropius and Frumentius, however, seems to refer to the evangelization of Ethiopia rather than to that of Himyar, or, if to that of Himyar, its conversion must. have been only of an indirect and transitory character. To the mission of Frumentius may also refer the testimony of two Arabic writers quoted by Ouseley, (Travels, I, 369-371; also Wright, Christianity in Arabia, 33), according to which the Arabs of Najran, in Yemen, were first converted by a Syrian Christian captured by some Arab robbers and taken to their country.
Another Christian mission to Himyar took place during the reign of Constantius (337-361), who, towards the year 356, chose Bishop Theophilus, the famous deacon of Nicomedia and a zealous Arian, to conduct an embassy to the court of Himyar. The eloquence of Theophilus so impressed the king that he became favorably disposed towards the Christians of his realm and built three churches for them, one at Dhafar (or Safar), another at Aden or at Sanaa, and the third at Hormuz, near the Persian Gulf. As the aim of the embassy was to ask the King of Himyar to grant freedom of worship to the Roman citizens in the Kingdom of Himyar, it follows that Christianity must have attained there a certain importance. According to Philostorgius, the king himself became a Christian, but this is improbable. At any rate, whether Theophilus succeeded in converting more Himyarites to the Christian faith or whether, as Assemani seems to believe, he simply perverted the already existing Christian population to the Arian heresy cannot be determined. From the facts that the latest royal Himyarite inscription, couched in pagan terms, bears the date of 281, that local Jewish inscriptions date from 378, 448, 458, and 467, and that the first Christian inscription, discovered by Glaser and considered by Hommel the latest Sabean inscription (it opens with the words: “In the power of the All-Merciful, and His Messiah and the Holy Ghost”), dates only as late as 542-543 [Glaser, Skizze der Geschichte Arabiens (1889), 12 sqq.], it does not follow that Christianity at the time of Theophilus had not attained any official position in Himyar, although it is undeniable that the two prevailing creeds were then Paganism and Judaism. Arab historians, such as Ibn Khallikan, Yaqut, Abulfeda, Ibn-al-Athir, and especially the early biographers of Mohammed, unanimously affirm that towards the fourth and fifth centuries of the Christian Era Christianity flourished in Hira, Himyar, and Najran, and among many tribes of the North and South, Quda’ah, Bahrah, Tanukh, Taghlib, Tay. We are far, however, from accepting all these ecclesiastical testimonies concerning the origin. and development of Christianity in South Arabia, as critically ascertained and conclusive. Fictitious. elements and legendary traditions are undoubtedly ingredients of the original narratives, yet it cannot be doubted that a certain amount of truth is contained in them.
Positive traces of ecclesiastical organization in southern Arabia first appear in the time of the Emperor Anastasius (491-518). John Diacrinomenos (P.G., LXXXVI, 212) relates that during this emperor’s reign the Himyarites, who had become followers of Judaism since the time of the Queen of Sheba, or Saba, were converted to Christianity, and received a bishop, Silvanus by name, who was that writer’s own uncle, and at whose instance he wrote his ecclesiastical history. It is not improbable that the testimony of Ibn Ishaq, the earliest and most authoritative biographer of Mohammed (d. 770), according to which the first apostle of Christianity in Yemen was a poor Syrian mason named Phemion, who with a companion named Said were captured by an Arab caravan and sold to a prominent Najranite, refers to this Silvanus. One of his first converts was a certain Abdallah ibn Thamir, who became a great miracle-worker and thus succeeded in converting the town of Najran to the religion of Christ (Tabah, ed. Noldeke, 178). According to Halevy (Archives des missions, VII, 40), even at the present time there is still a mosque in Najran dedicated to this Abdallah ibn Thamir. Ibn Khaldun, on the other hand, asserts that as early as the latter half of the third century, a certain Abd-Kelal, son of Dhu-1 Awad, who was King of Himyar and Yemen from 273 to 297, became a Christian through the teaching of a Syrian monk, but, on being discovered by his people, was killed (Caussin de Perceval, Histoire des Arabes avant l’Islamisme, III, 234). Assemani, followed by Caussin de Perceval, thinks that Christianity first entered Najran in the time of Dhu Nuwas (sixth century). This king, he says, was so alarmed by its advance that he ordered a general massacre of the Christians if they refused to embrace Judaism, to which he and his whole dynasty belonged. He identifies Harith, or Arethas, the Christian prince and martyr of Najran, with the twentythree Abdallah ibn Thamir, whose tribe’s name was, according to him, Harith or Arethas. This, however, is improbable, for at the time of Dhu Nuwas’s accession to the throne, Christianity was already flourishing at Najran, with its own bishop, priests, and churches.
What was the exact condition of Christianity in southern Arabia during the fifth and sixth centuries, we do not know; but from the episode of the martyrs of Najran it clearly appears that its spread was constant and steady. The principal and most powerful obstacle to the permanent success of Christianity in Yemen was undoubtedly the numerous communities of Jews scattered in that section of the peninsula, who had acquired so great a religious, political, and monetary influence that they threatened for a while to become the dominant power. They had their own poets and orators, synagogues, schools, princes, and even kings. Their power was constantly used to keep in check the progress of Christianity, and they were the direct cause of the almost entire annihilation of the Christians of Najran. “Like other religious communities which preach toleration when oppressed, they [the Arab Jews] became persecutors when they had acquired sovereignty.”—Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam (London,1905), 36. This persecution, which occurred in 523, and in which the Jews piled faggots and lit fires, and the Christians were burned, happened as follows.
About the beginning of the sixth century, the Kingdom of Himyar and Yemen was subject to Abyssinian rule. Kalib, King of Abyssinia, known by the Greek historians under the name of Elesbaan, or Hellesthaios, had succeeded, after a desperate struggle, in subjugating Himyar to the throne of Ethiopia. Though not a Christian, he was favorably inclined towards Christianity, as he was on friendly terms with the Romans. He is said to have vowed to become a Christian in the event of his conquering Himyar, a vow he in all probability fulfilled. Rabiah ibn Mudhar, the defeated Himyarite king, who, like all his predecessors of the same dynasty, was a Jew, was compelled to seek shelter in Hira, and was succeeded by a certain Yusuf Dhu Nuwas, likewise a Jew, but vassal to the Negus of Abyssinia. About the year 523 (not 560, as the majority of Arab historians believe), and as soon as the victorious Abyssinian army had retraced its steps, Dhu Nuwas revolted against Elesbaan and, instigated by the Jews, resolved to wreak his vengeance on the Christians. All who refused to renounce their faith and embrace Judaism were put to death without respect to age or sex. The town of Najran, to the north of Yemen, and the bulwark of South-Arabian Christianity, suffered the most. Dhu Nuwas marched against the latter city and, finding it impregnable, treacherously promised the inhabitants full amnesty in the case of their surrender.
On entering the city, Dhu Nuwas ordered a general massacre of all the Christians. “Large pits were dug in the neighborhood and filled with burning fuel, and all those who refused to abjure their faith and embrace Judaism, amounting to many thousands, including the priests and monks of the surrounding regions, with the consecrated virgins and the matrons who had retired to lead a monastic life, were committed to the flames. The chief men of the town, with their prince, Arethas [called by some Arabian writers Abdallah ibn Athamir], a man distinguished for his wisdom and piety, were put in chains. Dhu Nuwas next sought their bishop, Paul, and when informed that he had been some time dead, he ordered his bones to be disinterred and burnt and their ashes scattered to the wind. Arethas and his companions were conducted to the side of a small brook in the neighborhood, where they were beheaded. Their wives, who had shown the same constancy, were afterwards dragged to a similar fate. One named Ruma, the wife of the chief, was brought with her two virgin daughters before Dhu Nuwas; their surpassing beauty is said to have moved his compassion, but their constancy and devotion provoked in a still greater degree his vengeance; the slaughters were put to death before the face of their mother, and Ruma, after having been compelled to taste their blood, shared their fate. When he had thus perpetrated the tragedy of Najran, Dhu Nuwas returned with his army to Sanaa.”—Wright, op. cit., 54-55.
From here Dhu Nuwas hastened to inform his friends and allies, Kabad, King of Persia, and Al-Mundhir, Prince of Hira, of the event, urging them to imitate his example and exterminate their Christian subjects. Dhu Nuwas’s messengers arrived January 20, 524, at Hufhuf (El-Hassa), near the Persian Gulf, where Al-Mundhir was then entertaining an embassy sent to him by the Emperor Justin and composed of Sergius, Bishop of Rosapha, the priest Abramos, and many other ecclesiastics and laymen, among whom was the Monophysite Simeon, Bishop of Beth-Arsam, in Persia. Al-Mundhir received and communicated the news of the massacre to the members of the embassy, who were horrified. According to Ibn Ishaq, the number of the massacred Christians was 20,000, while the letter of the Bishop of Beth-Arsam said there were 427 priests, deacons, monks, and consecrated virgins, and more than 4,000 laymen. This Monophysite Bishop of Persia, immediately after his return to Hira, wrote a circumstantial account of the sufferings of the Christians of Najran and sent it to Simeon, Abbot of Gabula, near Chalcis. In it he asks to have the news communicated to the Patriarch of Alexandria, to the King of Abyssinia, to the Bishops of Antioch, Tarsus, Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Edessa, and urges his Roman brethren to pray for the afflicted Najranites and to take up their cause. A certain Dhu Thaleban, who escaped the massacre, fled to the court of Constantinople and implored the emperor to advocate the cause of his persecuted countrymen. In the meanwhile the news of the massacre had spread all over the Roman and Persian Empires; for in that same year, John the Psalmist, Abbot of the Monastery of Beth-Aphtonios, wrote in Greek an elegy on the Najranite martyrs and their chief, Harith. Bishop Sergius of Rosapha, the head of the embassy, wrote also a very detailed account of the same events in Greek. Even in the Koran (Surah lxxxv) the event is mentioned, and is universally alluded to by all subsequent Arab, Nestorian, Jacobite, and Occidental historians and writers.
The news of the massacre weighed heavily on Elesbaan, King of Abyssinia, who is said to have now become a very fervent Christian. He determined to take revenge on Dhu Nuwas, to avenge the massacre of the Christian Najranites, and to punish the Yemenite Jews. Accordingly, at the head of seventy thousand men and a powerful flotilla, he descended upon Himyar, invaded Yemen, and with relentless fury massacred thousands of Jews. Dhu Nuwas, after a brave fight, was defeated and slain, and his whole army routed. The whole fertile land was once more a scene of bloodshed and devastation. The churches built before the days of Dhu Nuwas were again rebuilt on the sites of their ruins, and new bishops and priests were appointed in the place of the martyrs. An Abyssinian general, Esimephaeus, was appointed King of Himyar, and during his reign a certain Dhu Giadan, of the family of Dhu Nuwas, attempted to raise the standard of revolt, but was defeated. A few years later the Himyarites, under the leadership of Abramos, or Abraha, a Christian Abyssinian, revolted against Esimephieus, and in order to put down the revolution the King of Abyssinia sent an army under the command of one of his relatives, Arethas, or Aryat. The latter was slain, however, by his own soldiers who joined the party of Abramos. A second Abyssinian army took the field, but was cut to pieces and destroyed. Abramos became King of Himyar, and from Procopius we know that he, after the death of Elesbaan, made peace with the Emperor of Abyssinia and acknowledged his sovereignty.
During the reign of Abramos Christianity in South Arabia enjoyed great peace and prosperity. “Paying tribute only to the Abyssinian crown, and at peace with all the Arab tribes, Abraha was loved for his justice and moderation by all his subjects and idolized by the Christians for his burning zeal in their religion.” Large numbers of Jews were baptized who were said to have been converted to Christianity by a public dispute between them and St. Gregentius, the Arabian Bishop of Dhafar. In this dispute the Jews were represented by Herban, one of their most learned rabbis, and Christ is said to have appeared in Heaven. Many idolaters sought admission to the Church; new schemes of benevolence were inaugurated, and the foundations were being laid for a magnificent cathedral at Sanaa, where is said to have existed a picture of the Madonna, afterwards moved by the Quraishites and placed in the Caaba, at Mecca (Margoliouth, op. cit., 42).
In short, South-Arabian Christianity, during the reign of Abramos, i.e. in the first half of the sixth century, “seemed on the eve of its Golden Age” (Zwemer, Arabia, the Cradle of Islam, 308). The king is also said to have framed, with the assistance of Bishop Gregentius, his great friend, admirer, and counsellor, a code of laws for the people of Himyar, still extant in Greek, and divided in twenty-three sections. The authenticity of this code, however, is doubted by many, as it is more ascetic and monastic in character than social. The whole career, in fact, of St. Gregentius and his relations with Elesbaan, Abramos, and Herban are interwoven with legend (Duehesne, op. cit., 334-336). In 550, Abramos’s glorious reign came to a disastrous end. According to Arab historians, the event took place in 570, the year of Mohammed’s birth; but, as Noldeke has shown, this is simply an ingenious arrangement in order to connect the rise of Islam with the overthrow of the Christian rule in Yemen; for the latter event must have taken place at least twenty years earlier (Tabar, I, 205). Abramos’s defeat is reported by all Mohammedan historians with great joy and satisfaction, and is known among them as the “Day of the Elephant”. Mohammed himself devoted to it an entire surah of his Koran. This defeat forms the last chapter in the history of South-Arabian Christianity and the preface to the advent of Mohammed and Islam. It was brought about as follows.
Towards the first half of the sixth century the temple of Caaba, in Mecca, had become, as of old, the Eleusis of Arabia. It was sought and annually visited by thousands of Arabs from all parts of the peninsula, and enriched with presents and donations of every kind and description. Its custodians were of the tribe of Quraish, to which Mohammed belonged, and which had then become the most powerful and illustrious one of Hijaz. Abramos, the Christian King of Himyar, beheld with grief the multitudes of pilgrims who went to pay their superstitious devotions to the heathen deities of the Caaba, and, in order to divert the attention and worship of the heathen Arabs to another object, he resolved to build a magnificent church at Sanaa. The edifice was completed, and far surpassed the Caaba in the splendor of its decorations. To attain his object, Abramos issued a proclamation ordering the pilgrims to relinquish their former route for the shorter and more convenient journey to the Christian church of Sanaa. The object was attained, and the Quraish found themselves reduced to a precarious financial and politico-religious condition. To avenge themselves and to depreciate in the eyes of the Arab tribes the Christian church of Sanaa they hired a certain man of the Kenanah tribe to enter the church and defile it by strewing it with dung, which was enough to make the Arabs look at the place with horror and disgust. The desecration was successfully effected, and its criminal agent fled, spreading everywhere in his flight the news of the profanation of the Christian church. The act was a signal of war and vengeance, and Abramos determined to destroy the tribes of Kenanah and Quraish, and to demolish the Caaba. Accordingly, at the head of a powerful army, accompanied by numerous elephants, he invaded Hijaz, defeated all the hostile tribes in his way, and approached Mecca.
The chief of the tribe of Quraish and the guardian of the Caaba was then the venerable Abdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim, the grandfather of Mohammed. This chief, at the news of the approach of the Himyarite army, sought peace with Abramos, offering him as a ransom for the Caaba a third part of the wealth of Hijaz; but Abramos was inflexible. Despairing of victory and overwhelmed with terror, the inhabitants of Mecca, led by Abdul-Muttalib, took refuge in the neighboring mountains that overhung the narrow pass through which the enemy must advance. Approaching the city by way of the narrow valley, Abramos and his army, not knowing that the heights were occupied by the Quraishites, fell beneath the numberless masses of rock and other missiles incessantly poured upon them and their elephants by the assailants. Abramos was defeated and compelled to retreat. His army was almost annihilated, and the king himself returned a fugitive to Sanaa, where he died soon after, as much of vexation as of his wounds.
Mohammedan writers attribute the defeat of Abramos and the victory of Quraish to supernatural intervention, not unlike that which defeated the army of Sennacherib under the walls of Jerusalem. Be this as it may, by the defeat of the Himyarite army Quraish became supreme in command and authority. In the meanwhile, Yaksoum and Masrouq, sons of Abramos, had succeeded him in turn, but their power had so much declined that they had to seek alliance with the Sassanian kings of Persia, which caused a general revolt in southern and central Arabia. In 568, two years before Mohammed’s birth, a Persian military expedition invaded Yemen and Oman and brought the Christian Abyssinian dynasty and that of Abramos to an end. A tributary prince was appointed over Himyar by the Sassanian kings, in the person of Saif dhu Yezen, a descendant of the old royal race of Himyar. This prince, during the reign of Masrouq, and at the instigation of some noble and rich Himyarites who had assisted him with money and all the means available, repaired to Constantinople and appealed to Mauricius, the Byzantine emperor, for assistance in delivering Himyar from the Abyssinian yoke. Mauricius refused to help him, on the ground that the unity of Christian faith between the Abyssinians and the Byzantines prevented him from taking any such action. Saif, disappointed and hopeless, went to Nu`man ibn al Mundhir, Prince of Hira. This prince presented Saif to Khosroes Noushirwan, King of Persia, to whom he explained the object of his mission. Khosroes at first was unwilling to undertake so dangerous an enterprise, but afterwards, won over by the promises of Saif and the advice of his ministers, sent an army of 4,000 Persian soldiers, drawn from prisons, under the command of Wahriz and accompanied by Saif himself.
The army advanced to Hadramaut, where it was joined by Saif’s own adherents, 2,000 strong, and attacked Masrouq, who was defeated and slain in battle. Saif was installed king over Himyar but subject to Khosroes Noushirwan. His first act was to expel from Himyar most of the Abyssinian residents, among whom were many Christians. Subsequently, Saif was murdered by some Abyssinian members of his own court; and after his death no more native Himyarite princes were placed on the throne. He was succeeded first by Wahriz, leader of the Persian army, then by Zin, Binegan, Chore, Chosrau, and Badhan, the last of whom was the governor of Himyar at the time of Mohammed’s conquest of Arabia. With the overthrow of the Abyssinian dynasty in the south, the increase of factional rivalries between the Byzantine and the Persian Empires in the north, and the advent of Islam, Christianity in Arabia came to an end. It must not be imagined, however, that this violent end came without heroic resistance. The famous church, built by Abramos at Sanaa, was still in a flourishing condition at the time of Mohammed, who speaks of his own visit to it, and of listening to the sermons of its famous and eloquent bishop, Quss ibn Saida. The Christians of Najran successfully resisted, during the life of the Prophet, all attempts at Islamic proselytism, although, under `Omar, Mohammed’s second successor (634-644), they were finally compelled to embrace Islam; many refused to do so and were expelled. These migrated to Kufa and Hira, on the Euphrates, where, towards the end of the eighth century, the Nestorian patriarch, Timotheus I (778-820), appointed over them a bishop with both native and Nestorian clergy, schools, and churches.
Christianity, in the time of Mohammed, under one form or another, must have had also some followers in Hijaz, the stronghold of Islam, and especially around Mecca. Slaves were not infrequently Christian captives brought in by the trading Arabs in their journeys to Syria and Mesopotamia. An Arab poet, quoted by Wellhausen (Skizzen and Vorarbeiten, IV, 200), says: “Whence has Al-A’sha his Christian ideas? From the winetraders of Hira of whom he bought his wine; they brought them to him.” These Christian influences are clearly visible in the Koran. Among the early friends and followers of the Prophet were Zaid, his adopted son, who was of Christian parentage, and many others, who, like the three famous hanif (which is translated by many as “hermits”, “monks”, etc.), abandoned Christianity for Islam. One of these, W’arga, is credited by Moslem writers with a knowledge of the Christian Scriptures, and even with having translated some portions of them into Arabic. Father L. Sheikho, S.J., of the Catholic University of Beirut, Syria, has made a good collection of extracts from ante-Islamic and immediately post-Islamic Arabic poets, in which Christian ideas, beliefs, and practices are alluded to. (See “Al-Mashriq” in “The Orient” of 1905, also published separately.)
At Medina, the Prophet is said to have received repeated embassies from Christian tribes. His treatment of the Christian Arabs was distinctly more liberal and courteous than that accorded by him to the Jews. He looked on the latter as a dangerous political menace, while he regarded the former not only as subjects, but also as friends and allies. In one of his supposed letters to the Bishop Ka`b of the tribe of Harith, to the Bishop of Najran, and to their priests and monks, we read: “There shall be guaranteed to you the protection of God and His Apostles for the possession of your churches and your worship and your monasteries, and no bishop, or priest, or monk, shall be molested, so long as you remain true and fulfil your obligations.” To Bishop Yuhanna ibn Ruba and to the chiefs of the people of Ayla he wrote: “Peace to you. I commend you to God besides Whom there is no God. I would not war against you without first writing to you. Either accept Islam or pay poll tax. And hearken to God and His Apostle and to these envoys.
If you turn my envoys back and are not friendly to them, then I will accept no reparation from you, but I will war against you and will take the children captive and will slay the aged.. If you will hearken to my envoys, then shall you be under God’s protection and Mohammed’s and that of his allies.”—W. A. Shedd, Islam and the Oriental Churches (1904), 103. To the heathen Arabs he held out no compromise; they had either to embrace Islam or die; but to the Christians of his country he always showed himself generous and tolerant, although the Mohammedan tradition tells us that on his deathbed he changed his policy towards them and is said to have commanded that none but Moslems should dwell in the land. In one of his controversies with the Christian tribe of Taghlib, Mohammed agreed that the adults should remain Christian but the children should not be baptized (Wellhausen, op. cit.). The feelings between the Christian and the Mohammedan Arabs were so friendly at the time of the Prophet that many of the latter sought refuge with the former on more than one occasion. Under `Omar, however, Mohammed’s second successor, the policy of Islam towards the Christians completely changed, as can be seen from the so-called “Constitution of `Omar”, which, though generally regarded as spurious, cannot be entirely disregarded.
`Omar’s policy practically put an end to Christianity in Arabia, and certainly dealt a deathblow to the Christian religion in the newly conquered West-Asiastic provinces. This extinction and dissolution was violent, but gradual in the peninsula, where many Christians, moved by the wonderful success of the Moslem arms, abandoned their religion and accepted Islam. Some preferred to pay the poll tax and retain their faith. Others, like the Najranites, in spite of the promise of Mohammed that they should be undisturbed, were forced to leave Arabia and settled partly in Syria and partly near Kufa, in lower Mesopotamia (Muir, History of the Caliphate, 155; and Arnold, Preaching of Islam, 44 sqq.). The tribe of Taghlib was true to its faith, and Bar-Hebrus tells us of two of its chieftains who later suffered martyrdom (Chronicon Syriacum, 112, 115). We continue to hear for a long time of Jacobite and Nestorian bishops of the Arabs, one even being Bishop of Sanaa, Yemen, and Bahrein, and of the border regions [Bar-Hebraeus, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, I, 303; III, 123, 193; and Thomas of Marga, Book of Governors (ed. Budge, 1893), II, 448 sqq.].
Under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs, Christianity enjoyed, with few exceptions, great freedom and respect throughout all the Mohammedan Empire, as can be seen from the facts and data collected by Assemani and Bar-Hebrus, according to which many Nestorian and Jacobite patriarchs from the seventh to the eleventh centuries received diplomas, or firmans, of some sort from Mohammed himself, from Umar, Ali, Merwan, Al-Mansur, Harounal-Raschid, Abu Ja’far, and others. (Shedd, op. cit., 239-241; Assemani, De Catholicis Nestorianis, 41-43 sqq.; Bar-Hebraeus, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, I, 309, 317, 319, 325; II, 465, 625; III, 307, 317, 229, 433, etc.; and Thomas of Marga, op. cit., II, 123, note.)
In conclusion, a few words may be said of the various sects and creeds to which the Christian Arabs of the north and of the south belonged, as well as of their practical observance of the Christian religion and duties. We have already seen how that part of Arabia adjacent to the Syrian borders was, from the third century on, regarded as the “mother of heresies”. The religious and political freedom of the Arab tribes opened the door to all creeds, errors, and heresies. Before the rise and spread of Nestorianism and Monophysitism, the Arian heresy was the prevailing creed of the Christian Arabs. In the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries Arianism was supplanted by Nestorianism and Monophysitism, which had then become the official creeds of the two most representative Churches of Syria, Egypt, Abyssinia, Mesopotamia, and Persia. Like the Arabian Jews, the Christian Arabs did not, as a rule, particularly in the times immediately before and after Mohammed, attach much importance to the practical observance of their religion. The Arabs of pre-Islamic times were notorious for their indifference to their theoretical and practical religious beliefs and observances. Every religion and practice was welcomed so long as it was compatible with Arab freedom of conscience and sensuality; and, as Wellhausen truly remarks, although Christian thought and sentiment could have been infused among the Arabs only through the channel of poetry, it is in this that Christian spirituality performs rather a silent part (op. cit., 203).
Arabian Christianity was a seed sown on stony ground, whose product had no power of resistance when the heat came; it perished without leaving a trace when Islam appeared. It seems strange that these Christian Arabs, who had bishops, and priests, and churches, and even heresies, of their own, apparently took no steps towards translating into their language any of the Old and New Testament books; or, if any such translation existed, it has left no trace. The same strange fact is also true in the case of the numerous Jews of Yemen (Margoliouth, op. cit., 35; and Harnack, Expansion of ‘Christianity, II, 300). Of these Emmanuel Deutsch remarks that, “acquainted with the Halachah and Haggada, they seemed, under the peculiar story-loving influence of their countrymen, to have cultivated the latter with all its gorgeous hues and colors” [Remains of Emmanuel Deutsch, Islam (New York), 92]. As to the Christians, at least the bishops, the priests, and the monks must have had some religious books; but as we know nothing of their existence, we are forced to suppose that these books were written in a language which they learned abroad, probably in Syria.