The Course Of The Church Through The Centuries
800 to 1071 AD
About the beginning of the ninth century the fire of persecution became enkindled which rose from year to year. In 813 the Christians in Cappadocia were also exterminated through mass executions, those in Armenia fearfully decimated. When at the attempt to seize a group of fleeing believers in the passes of the Taurus Mountains two imperial commissioners were pushed into the precipice in the panic and perished, entire churches fled as one to the region of Mohammedan feudal lords in Aserbeidschan and Kurdistan so that, at their being sheltered by the Emir of Argaum, the city Tephrika had to be built close to the Byzantine boundary. The walls and battlements of this city, which the Byzantine persecutors of heretics themselves called "Christianopolis" (City of the Christians), became the protective castle of all the persecuted, no matter what their religion was. For besides the Christians, there were fleeing to this stronghold on the border also adherents of false doctrines: Manicheans, Jacobites, Nestorians, Messalians, Bardaisanites; for the persecution by the emperors and bishops of Anatolia raged fearfully against all who did not submit to the state church, for they were considered as allies of Islam which was knocking at the doors of the empire. According to estimates of Armenian and Byzantine chroniclers, up to the year 843 some 100,000 heretics in Asia Minor and Northern Syria were executed or perished in flight.
The close coexistence of Christians and confused believers of all shades in the emirate of Malatia led necessarily also to apostasy, division, and weakening of the transmitted faith of the apostles. Antinomistic movements—that is, movements which declared that with the taking away of the Mosaic law the end of all law had come and therefore no true Christian could sin any longer—such movements won adherents among even the elders of the churches; thus the surviving Galatian church had to withdraw from their last surviving elder Baanes for these reasons. However, the opinions clashed together the hardest concerning the use of weapons. Up to that time it had been self-evident that one must not become violent toward evil men, even for self-protection, after their understanding of Matthew 5:38, 39. But now, after the news of the horrible extermination of entire families from the suckling infant to the old man in the adjoining imperial provinces, there arose voices, even in the ranks of the members of the churches, who proposed that "liberating marches" be undertaken into the Byzantine empire in order to rescue these unfortunate ones with the sword. With the agreement of the Mohammedan authorities they set up a "Christian army", whose commander was one of the most beloved elders, Karbeas. The church of those who did not believe in using violence had to state to the sword-bearing brethren that by this action they had placed themselves outside of the people of God, for "the Holy Spirit who (you know) only takes from him and shares with us what Christ in his testament has revealed to us, will never demand of us that we ever fight with others with any but spiritual weapons; and Christ forbids us to battle, not only for the kingdoms of this world, but also for the kingdom of God."
As always, when the decisions of the New Testament seem to contradict human understanding, it is only the minority that represents this consistent point of view of not resisting evil. The great majority greeted with cheers the marching out of sword-bearing Christians, greeted with shouts of joy the report of the saving of a number of Galatian and Phrygian churches from complete annihilation, rejoiced when Karbeas’ son-in-law had reached the old Ephesus on the Aegean Sea with his Kurdish cavalry, and this same majority was saddened to death when the message came that when the victorious army was marching back home with several hundred fugitives in the passes of the Taurus Mountains in the year 871, it fell into an ambush and was annihilated up to the last man. Those who had seized the sword—even if for the best and noblest purpose in the world—had perished by the sword. The church in the district of Malatia did penance, and many of the sword-devotees reconciled themselves again with God. But that did not please Kurdish the Emir at all, for he had wished to use these Christians as an important stone on his political chessboard. And now began the chicaneries on the part of the Moslems. The tax, which all non-Mohammedan subjects had to pay, was tripled for the churches of the Lord, herds were seized as security, lands and homes were expropriated, forest pastures were taken away from them.
The persecution was announced. Soon the first martyrs fell under the swords of the Seldschukken. Like a message from heaven the emigrants heard at this moment the report that the emperor had authorized the return of all Christians to Asia Minor provided they would solemnly renounce any use of violence, and a few months later more than 80,000 Christians returned to Phrygia, Galatia, and Lycaonia.
Only the especially cautious ones stayed behind in some hiding places in the mountains of northern Armenia and in the district of Thondrak, where even to this day they have maintained themselves as a small group of 28 families. Their feeling had not betrayed them: seventy years after their return from the Islamic sphere of power, the Byzantine emperor had all the heretical churches of his Asiatic part of the empire deported to Thrace and settled there near Philippolis close by the military border just across from the Bulgarians, who were still heathen. They were to serve in a certain way as a buffer between the warlike barbarian peoples of the Balkans and the imperial city on the Bosporus. However, they were sternly forbidden to solicit for their "heretical faith". In spite of this the life and simple worship of these settlers made the deepest impression upon the inhabitants of their new home. Even before the turn of the millennium (first thousand years after Christ) the priest Jeremias of the eastern church had himself baptized; under the code name of Theophilus (Friend of God) he displayed a zealous activity among his countrymen and even among the mystic circles of the monks in the hermitages of the Athos Mountains. Under the name "Bogomiles" he entered into the church history of the great sects.
Old Slavic belief in the gods and Finnish-Ugrian Schamanism of the Bulgarian lordly rank merge in many parts of the eastern Balkans with Gnostic-Manichean conceptions which non-Christian groups of heretics had brought with them, groups that had been deported at the same time as the Christians. In numerous discussions the brethren and sisters tried to protect themselves against the reproach that they had had anything at all to do with these dualistic groups of ascetics; it was all without avail. The hundreds of earnest disciples of Christ who because of their proclamation of the doctrine of the Lord (just as it had been preached by him on the mountains of Galilee) had had to mount the funeral piles both in Constantinople, the residence of the emperor, and also in Tirnowo, the residence of the Bulgarian Grand Khan, were burned to death as "adherents of the faith in two gods".
The Course Of The
Church Through The Centuries
1071 to 1143