The Cretans and the Early Church

                                                    By

                                                 Dr Ley

 

In the Hellenistic era Crete came under the influence of the Ptolemaic dynasts of Egypt, who established a garrison and naval base at Itanos and ties with other cities. Crete was administered as a joint province with Cyrene from at least the time of Augustus until 295-7. Shortly thereafter, Constantine made it a senatorial province under a consularis [latin] (a Roman governor of a province) in the Diocese of Macedonia in the Prefecture of Illyricum. This arrangement lasted until the seventh century, when the Arabs began their assault on Crete from North Africa.

   Of particular significance for the history of Christianity in Crete is the sizable Jewish population which no doubt formed the basis of the early church there. Numerous ancient authorities attest to Crete's status as one of the flourishing centers of the Diaspora. I Macc. 15:23, for example, cites Gortyna as one of the cities to which the Roman Senate sent its proclamation of 139 BC warning against the molestation of Jews. Philo counted Crete among those regions of the Empire with important Jewish communities; and Josephus, who married a woman from a Cretan Jewish family, considered the Jews of Crete sufficiently numerous to mention them as supporters of the imposter who sought to succeed Herod the Great by impersonating his son, Alexander (Antiquities of the J ews bk.17, 324-8).

 

 

 

The earliest reference to Christianity in Crete is Acts 2:1-41, which describes the conversion of Cretan Jews who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost. A second account is found in the Letter to Titus, where we are told that Paul left Titus on the island (ca. 57) with instructions to organize the church and "appoint elders in every town" (1:5). Titus also describes the qualifications for church leaders and refers to false teachings which threatened their congregations; e.g., "Jewish myths" (1:14) and "genealogies" (2:9). But the extent to which the letter reflects the actual roles of Paul and Titus and the circumstances of the church in the mid-first century is called into question by the majority of NT scholars who consider it a post-Pauline composition. Apart from ancient local tradition which assumed Paul's mission to Crete, regarded Titus as its first bishop and ultimately venerated his relics at Gortyna (Ferguson, 904), we have no other sources for Cretan Christianity in the first century.

Though limited, the historical record suggests that the church in Crete enjoyed steady growth from the second century until the Arab conquest and that the bishops of Gortyna quickly established themselves as its leaders. Gortyna's importance is also indicated by its many ancient churches and status as Crete's richest source of Christian inscriptions.

Our earliest post-biblical source is Eusebius, who refers to the second-century correspondence of Bishop Dionysius of Corinth with the Cretan bishops Philip of Gortyna and Pinytus of Knossos. Eusebius describes Philip as the author of a "very elaborate treatise against Marcion" (HE 4.25) who presided over a church both noted for its virtue and, according to Dionysius, endangered by the errors of heretics (HE 4.23). Of Pinytus, Eusebius tells us that he was a "learned" and "orthodox" theologian who was urged by Dionysius to reconsider the wisdom of the "heavy and compulsory burden" of chastity he had imposed on his congregation (HE 4.23). Eusebius' reference (HE 4.23) to the "other dioceses" in Crete to which Dionysius wrote indicates that Christianity had spread well beyond Gortyna and Knossos by the end of the second century.

The martyrdom of The Ten at Hagioi Deka ("Ten Saints") in the region of Gortyna during the Decian persecution of 250-51 also points to the growth of Christianity in Crete. According to an episcopal letter of 458, the martyrs represented all regions of the island (Schwartz, v. 2, epist. 48, pp. 96-7; Detorakes, 53-94). The participation of Cretan bishops in church councils offers additional evidence. Three bishops -- from Hierapytna, Cydonia and Kissamos -- attended the Council of Sardica in 343. Seven were present at Chalcedon in 451, though four additional sees not represented there are known to have existed by that time. By the eighth century there were twelve dioceses: Gortyna, Hierapytna, Chersonisos, Siteia, Arcades, Sybrita, Knossos, Eleutherna, Lappa, Cydonia, Kissamos, and Kantanos. These included more than seventy churches.

But the eighth century also saw the beginning of important changes. Emperor Leo III's reorganization in 732-3 removed Crete from direct papal authority and brought it within the see of Constantinople. A century later the Arab conquest brought the suppression of Christianity and the destruction of many of the island's churches. In 961 Crete was reclaimed by the Byzantine Empire, only to fall later into the hands of the Venetians. Thus, in the Middle Ages its religious life was shaped by both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox influences.

 

The most notable figure in the early history of Cretan Christianity is St. Andrew of Crete (ca. 660-740), who distinguished himself as an orator, hymnographer and theologian. Born at Damascus, he was a monk in Jerusalem and a deacon in Constantinople before coming to Crete, where he was elected metropolitan between 692 and 713.

Nearly sixty of his sermons and hymns are known (Geerard, 8170-8228). The former display considerable oratorical skill and refer to the invasions of the Scythians (Bulgarians) and Arabs as well as to Leo III's persecution of the Jews. Andrew's most famous hymn is the "Great Canon" (canon magnus), a lengthy penitential hymn in 250 strophes. As a theologian, Andrew is best known for his interest in the Virgin Mary and, in particular, his view that she was in a unique way a daughter of God. We know, too, that he defended the veneration of images before the Emperor Constantine Copronymos.

The Christian epigraphy of Crete includes more than one hundred Greek inscriptions, nearly all of which belong to the period 300700. Most are sepulchral and tend to offer more information than pagan tombstones about the deceased. About one-fifth are ecclesiastical and give evidence of ancient bishops, archbishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, presbyters, monks, nuns, readers and a cantor.

While the inscriptions do not offer a coherent picture of early Cretan Christianity, they do indicate certain of its features. Many demonstrate belief in the intercessory powers of the of the Mother of Christ (e.g., Bandy, nos. 9, 85, 86) and the saints (e.g., Bandy, nos. 24, 85, 112). A few tell us the locations of religious communities (at Gortyna, Biannos and Lappa) and preserve the names of monks and nuns ( Bandy, nos. 2, 36, 56, 88, 93). Others give us the occupations of Christians (e.g., horse-doctor, tailor, archive-keeper) and reflect the rise of Christians to such prominent positions as "consul" and "father of the city" in the period after Constantine.

 

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YUP: President Trump Signs Great And Beautiful Trump Border Wall During Tour In San Diego

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President Donald Trump visited the San Diego border on Wednesday to show off a newly constructed portion of the wall after a fundraising trip in California.

“It’s an amazing project,” Trump said, pointing to the 30-foot high barrier constructed with steel and concrete, noting that it also went six feet underground.

“If you think you’re going to cut it with a blow torch, that doesn’t work, because you hit the concrete, and then if you think you’re going to go through the concrete, that doesn’t work because we have very powerful rebar inside,” Trump said.

The president traveled via motorcade after a fundraiser to Otay Mesa, a community outside San Diego on the United States -Mexico border to review the latest constructed physical barrier.

He pointed out the new wall structure to the press, which was 24 miles of primary and secondary wall at the border.

“We have it covered underground, we have it covered overground,” Trump said.

The president was joined by acting Department of Homeland security Kevin McAllen and several other border security officials.

He said that over 44,000 bollard panels had been set up for the wall, which was then filled with concrete and rebar.

Trump admitted that he envisioned a solid concrete wall when he campaigned for president, but he was told by border officials that they preferred a wall constructed by concrete-filled bollards so they could see through it.

“It’s hardened concrete, very powerful concrete,” Trump said, pointing to the structure.

He added that the steel wall was designed to retain heat, making it harder to climb, plus having an anti-climbing system at the top.

“You can fry an egg on that wall,” he said. The president also acknowledged to reporters that he wanted the wall to be painted black and have spikes but said it was cheaper to let it remain naturally rust-colored.

“We can paint it later,” he said.

The president discussed his growing understanding of border barriers, noting that the Southern border would not need much more than 500 miles of wall to secure the border. He cited the existence of natural mountain and river barriers that prevented criminals from crossing. He did not rule out building additional barriers in the future but said it would depend on whether it was needed.

One border patrol agent spoke about the importance of the border wall to all of the agents, thanking the president for pushing forward on construction.

Trump said he met with Border Patrol prior to constructing the wall, picking the most effective structures to protect the border.

One border security official scoffed at the idea that the wall was a “vanity” project for the president.

“There’s a false narrative out there that this wall is the president’s vanity wall,” he said. “I’m here to tell you right now that that is false.”

He thanked Trump for listening to border patrol agents during the planning and construction process.

“You listened to the agents and you gave them exactly what they asked for,” he said.

One official with Trump confirmed that the structure was funded with regular Congressional appropriations in the FY 2017 and FY 2018 and that that the new wall replaced an inferior structure.

Trump said that he still considered the situation on the border a national emergency, but as more wall went up he could withdraw military forces.

“I hope you’re impressed,” he told reporters as he took questions about the project.

One worker told Trump of a tradition of workers signing the wall if they worked on the wall.

“I’ll sign it,” Trump said, and went to the wall and signed the steel barrier with a marker before encouraging other officials present to do the same.

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