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David of Basra

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David of Basra, sometimes rendered Dudi of Basra[1] or David of Charax,[2] was a third- and fourth-century CE Christian Metropolitan bishop who undertook missionary work in India around the year 300[1] (295 in some sources).[3] He is among the earliest documented Christian missionaries in India,[1][4][5] perhaps later only than the the apostle Thomas, who may have visited India in the first century,[6] though sources for the period are fragmentary and sometimes confused.[1]

Sources

The account of David's mission comes from an originally Syriac language source that appears in the Arabic-language Chronicle of Seert, a history of the Nestorian Church. The Chronicle was compiled some time after around the ninth century CE from a number of Syriac sources,[1] and constitutes a major early source on the history of eastern Christianity.[7] The original document was also translated by the Assyrian historian Alphonse Mingana in his Woodbrooke Studies collection of early Christian Documents in Syriac, Arabic, and Garshuni.[8] It states that, during the patriarchate of Shahlupa and Papa, David visited and travelled throughout India, rather than settling there, and that he won converts to the Christian church.[8][9]

Historians have suggested that David's mission may have targeted communities in Southern India, on the assumption that an existing church there - either descended from the missionary work of the apostle Thomas, or of migrant Christians from elsewhere in the region - was in difficulties and required support.[2][8]

Mission context

Some sources describe David as an Arab;[10] others characterize him as a Persian doctor.[6] He came from the Sassanid empire, then a young and expanding polity under the rule of Narseh. Researchers have argued that David's mission should be seen in the context of that empire's expansionist political activities.[11] Though David's mission indicates the extension of the Persian church into India,[10] the Seert chronicle is the only surviving reference to David's activities and there is no evidence that his mission led to the establishment of a lasting Indian church in contact with Christianity elsewhere in the region.[6] Later evidence of a sustained Christian church on the subcontinent dates instead to at least 50 years after David's mission, with the somewhat contradictory reports of a Christian settlement on the Malabar coast led by the Syrian merchant Thomas of Cana.[6] This settlement is dated in some sources to around 350 CE, but in others is attributed to the eighth century.[1] Later in the fourth century, Byzantine sources attest to the dispatch, under Emperor Constantius, of one Theophilus as a missionary to India after 354.[1] David's mission was, though, an early sign of the nascent role of the diocese of Basra as a hub of missionary activity extending into southern Asia.[12]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Baum, Wilhelm; Dietmar W. Winkler (2003). The Church of the East: A Concise History. Routledge. p. 53. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=sRO4soRjVkYC. Retrieved 2 March 2009. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bremmer, Jan N. (2001). The Apocryphal Acts of St. Thomas. Peeters Publishing. p. 145. ISBN 9042910704. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=k20p2Shi20cC. 
  3. Symposium Syriacum 1972: Célébré Dans Les Jours 26-31 Octobre 1972 à L'Institut Pontifical Oriental de Rome : Rapports Et Communications. Pontificium Institutum Orientalium Studiorum. 1974. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=IBBiAAAAMAAJ&q=%22david+of+basra%22&dq=%22david+of+basra%22&lr=&pgis=1. 
  4. Piepkorn, Arthur Carl (1977). Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada. Harper and Row. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=eFIXAAAAIAAJ&q=%22david+of+basra%22&dq=%22david+of+basra%22&pgis=1. 
  5. Moffet, Samuel H. (1998). A History of Christianity in Asia. Orbis Books. p. 266. ISBN 1570751625. http://books.google.co.uk/books?lr=&id=Z1usVC77H7UC&dq=%22chronicle+of+seert%22&q=%22david+of+basra%22&pgis=1#search_anchor. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Irvin, Dale T. (2001). History of the World Christian Movement. Continuum International. p. 203. ISBN 0567088669. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=C2akvQfa-QMC. 
  7. Wilmshurst, David (2000). The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East, 1318-1913. Peeters Publishers. p. 89. ISBN 9042908769. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=jB8ir0ek8bgC. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Neill, Stephen (2004). A History of Christianity in India. Cambridge University Press. p. 41. ISBN 0521548853. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dbVNvsZWH5EC. 
  9. Missick, Stephen Andrew (2000). "Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India". Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies XIV (2): 33–61. http://www.aina.org/articles/missick.pdf. Retrieved 2 March 2009. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Baum, Wilhelm (2004). Shirin: Christian, Queen, Myth of Love. Gorgias Press. p. 9. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bgdRHNpHLeIC. 
  11. Kreider, Alan (2001). The Origins of Christendom in the West. Continuum International. p. 130. ISBN 056708776X. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hUJ0p0viVlUC. 
  12. Barrett, David B. (2001). World Christian Trends, AD 30 - AD 2200. William Carey Library. p. 114. ISBN 0878086080. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=IMRsJ1gnIYkC. 

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