|Joined: 09 Mar 2007
Location: Jbeil Byblos
| Roots of Christianity in Lebanon (Extract of book)
“…I hope that my work may deepen the knowledge of all Lebanese, especially the Christians, of the roots of their faith and heritage; I hope it will strengthen the essence of their identity, and help to unify their knowledge, since the consciousness of the partial self safeguards the whole self.”
To search for the roots means to look for elements of development and progress, seeking continuity and survival. The deeper the roots plunge into the earth, the more vigorous are the branches and the more abundant their bloom. To look for the Roots of Christianity in Lebanon means to search for the circumstances and the atmosphere wherein Christianity grew, the reasons for its continuity in our land, and the elements of its deep-rootedness in our soil; hence, its extension throughout our land and human geography as well as the extension of its shadow over the history of our country ever since our Lord Jesus Christ set foot on Lebanon's land, visiting, preaching, and performing his first miracle in Cana of Galilee, the “Galilee of the Nations”, becomes apparent.
Yet, was it because Jesus and the Apostles were Galilean that Christianity grew in our land as it did? Is this growth explained by the fact that the early believers were Galileans? Was it because the Lebanese were pre-disposed to embrace the message of Jesus and welcome his followers that they rushed towards Christianity more than those in the inner and Southern parts of the land, which was called the “Promised Land”, or the “Holy Land”?
I have divided my work The Roots of Christianity in Lebanon into three parts:
In Part One, I have dealt with the setting that the land of Lebanon has provided for Christianity as a doctrine, as rituals, as cultural mentality, and as philosophical thought, basing myself on historical texts and material evidence provided by archaeological data, especially concerning ancient religious sites and temples. I have adopted comparative methodology, explanation, and interpretation whenever clear scientific texts were not available.
In Part Two, I tried to put in the foreground the relationship between the “historical Jesus” and the land of Lebanon, between “the Galilean” and his geographic and cultural environment, relying on rational methodology, referring to biblical texts, investigating and concluding, provisionally at times, and being categorical at others, where evidence was available without however assuming infallibility.
In Part Three, I presented the track of Christianity in Lebanon by the Apostles and Disciples of Christ, starting from the South, i.e. Upper Galilee. I dealt with the role of the bishops of the Lebanese cities in defining the doctrinal principles and the organizational laws of the Church through their participation in the Ecumenical Councils, in particular the first five councils, in addition to the local and regional ones.
To complement the story of the diffusion of Christianity in Lebanon, I have tried to show how deeply rooted Christianity is throughout the various regions of Lebanon on the basis of scientific material and have confirmed the evidence provided by the archaeological sites of the ancient churches, most of which have been built on the remains of the temples of Baal and Ashtarut. All manifest a direct move from “paganism” to Christianity during the early stages of the latter, especially during the Byzantine era.
I have not presented an exhaustive survey of the archaeological remains of ancient Christian sites (churches, monasteries, hermitages, shrines, etc.) all over Lebanon, but have selected a limited number since many works have already delt with them; these are considered basic references, some of which I have cited in the context of my research.
I have tried to present The Roots of Christianity in Lebanon, historically and archaeologically, in the spirit of Vatican II emphasis on openness to all religion and culture and on the complementary relation between faith and reason. Thus, I have tried to awaken the sense of wonder that sometimes lies dormant in the collective subconscious, to raise some issues that are fettered by tradition, and to bring life back to some stagnant thought.
I hope I have achieved some of what I have sought to on the path of truth and righteousness, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John, 8:32). I hope that my work may deepen the knowledge of all Lebanese, especially the Christians, of the roots of their faith and heritage; I hope it will strengthen the essence of their identity, and help to unify their knowledge, since the consciousness of the partial self safeguards the whole self. The more man becomes knowledgeable and more conscious of his self and his cultural identity, the closer man gets to his brother in humanity. Knowledge stimulates love, and Christianity is the religion of love; “Without love there is no value in worship, bells or lent: if you do not love, you are not a Christian.” Love is, in essence, openness towards the other in a continuous dialogue, in order to discover one's self.
Lebanon, of which his Holiness, the late Pope John Paul II, said “is more than a homeland, it is a Message”, is the unique laboratory wherein all the elements of dialogue are to be found. Its crucible prepares for the fusion of spiritual values and rational ideals.
Hopefully, my work will shake off the thick dust of ignorance and neglect that has accumulated for various reasons and allow a genuine and deep-rooted Christian heritage to flourish. This heritage concerns not only the Lebanese, and the Christians in particular, but also every Christian in the world and whoever feels attached to universal human values; I offer this work in the service of truth and of Lebanon.
Antoine Khoury Harb Extract from the book The Roots of Christianity in Lebanon