Part 3: Expanding Around the World. lesson 3 of 10.
Lesson 11. Europe Restored
“Through today’s lesson, we hope you will be motivated to work toward the evangelization of your continent, the way the early believers devoted themselves to theirs.”
1.Germanic Tribes. During the 400’s, tribes from Eastern Europe entered the western Roman Empire. These tribes were called “Germans” or “Teutons.” They were not part of the universal church. Some came to plunder, but some were allies of the Romans, and came in as settlers; some served in the Roman army. Finally one of them took over the throne of the western Roman emperor in Italy, so that in 476, the Germans ended the “western” Roman Empire in Europe, England, and North Africa.
2,Destruction. The Germanic tribes had religions of their own, which included the worship of idols. The years of warfare due to conflicts with the local people destroyed the civilized life that had been established by the Roman Empire. Many believers were killed and many monasteries were plundered. Schools were closed, and the following generations did not learn how to read and write. These tribes became the rulers of all the peoples of Europe. Europe entered upon a stage of history known as the dark ages, because there is so little written material from the time. This era lasted from the 400’s to the 800’s.
3.Ireland. During the time that the Roman Empire ruled England, it did not rule Ireland. The Irish at that time worshiped idols. Early in the 400’s, a young English believer named Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland. After six years he escaped and returned to England. He became a Catholic priest and then a bishop. In 432 Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary, staying there for 30 years. The mission work in Ireland was difficult and dangerous, but by the time of his death most of the people of Ireland had come to faith in Jesus. One famous comparison used by Patrick was to explain that God is three-in-one by using a local three-leaved plant.²² Irish people have remained mostly Catholic up to today.
4.Europe Restored. The remarkable story from this time is the way that missionaries not only from Rome but also from Ireland brought the church back to Europe and also evangelized the conquering tribes. The people of Western Europe became believers in Jesus again by 750, and by 1100 the gospel had expanded to northern and eastern Europe. We can learn much from this process as we study the three ways that the gospel was brought to Europe: (1) through building monasteries; (2) through sending church workers as missionaries; (3) by the command of kings.
5.Monasteries. Many of the Irish believers joined together in monasteries, where the rules were strictly enforced and the monks put themselves through extreme physical hardships. Then, when the rest of Europe was overrun by the Germanic tribes, the Irish were not conquered, and through study and copying, they preserved much of the learning that had been lost on the European continent. The Irish then took on the task of bringing faith in Jesus back to the conquered places. They did this by establishing monasteries, first in Scotland, then England, and finally France. At the same time, other monks representing the pope were also establishing monasteries in Europe. Each monastery was a base for evangelizing the surrounding people and a place where local people who became believers could spend their lives centered on God’s Word. Many of the monasteries founded additional monasteries of their own, so that in a few generations western Europe was filled with monasteries. More details about monasteries are in lesson 28.
6.England. During the 400’s, some Germanic tribes had conquered England. They destroyed the churches and persecuted the Christians. It was the Irish who first brought the salvation message back to England, establishing many monasteries. Later the pope sent a mission team¹³ to England from Italy, so in 597 a king in England came to faith in Christ, (partly through the influence of his wife.) At a famous meeting²¹ in England in 664, a king who had been following certain customs of the Irish monasteries, such as which date to use for Easter, decided to accept the custom of the Roman Catholic church. The Catholic church continued to expand in England. In 1534 the King of England proclaimed himself as head of the church instead of the pope, thus starting the “Churh of England,” which became a Protestant Church.
7.Franks. Some of the invading Germanic tribes were attracted to the culture and religion of the more advanced civilization that they had conquered. Some had already accepted certain ideas of Christianity, but unfortunately many tribes adopted the wrong idea that Jesus is less than God, and the effort to bring them to the belief of the majority of church members took many years. One Germanic tribe that accepted the orthodox faith was called the “Franks.” The wife of the king came to Christ first. In 486 the king of the Franks himself accepted Jesus, and then invited missionaries to come and explain the gospel to all of their people. The Franks came to dominate central Europe, and through their influence the orthodox faith was protected and grew. The land controlled by the Franks became today’s France and Germany； in fact, the word “France” comes from the word “Franks.” There were still people in Europe who did not accept Christianity. In the 1200’s military power was used against a large group in southern France.¹¹
8.Germany. The Irish had established some monasteries among the people who lived in Germany, but the person who devoted his life to them was an English monk. In 719 the pope sent a missionary¹ to Germany. The Germans at this time worshiped spirits that they thought lived in trees. The story is that the missionary chopped down a tree that they worshiped, to show that Jesus was stronger than their spirits. More people in Germany turned to faith in Christ. He was so successful that he is called the “apostle to the Germans.”
9.Charlemagne. In 768 Charlemagne became king of the Franks, and took control of all of Central Europe (today’s France, Germany, and Italy). His kingdom was often attacked by a tribe to the north called the Saxons that did not accept Jesus. After defeating them and adding them into his kingdom, they received baptism. However, they often revolted. Charlemagne fought them for 32 years. He forced them to obey church teaching, and punished them when they worshipped idols. Charlemagne’s advisors criticized him for these methods. In time the Saxons became earnest believers. Martin Luther, for example, was a Saxon. The Christmas tree received its present meaning from German Lutherans. The tree was part of a play about Adam and Eve that was usually performed on December 24: the tree was called a “paradise tree” and was hung with apples. The German houses also had a cabinet with shelves to hold Christmas items like candles (symbolizing the light of Christ) and a star (the star that was over the baby Jesus). Around 1605 the modern Christmas tree was invented when the Christmas items were placed onto the Paradise tree. It began to be popular in the rest of the world in the mid-1800’s. Various countries contributed different kinds of things to hang on the tree to symbolize celebration and the birth of Christ
10.Slavic people. After the Germanic tribes had invaded Europe and destroyed that part of the Roman Empire, the Slavic peoples migrated from Asia and settled in Eastern Europe. They did not have much opportunity to learn about Jesus until 863, when (as noted in lesson 5) two brothers² were sent to the Slavs and created an alphabet for them by making some changes from the Greek alphabet. The peoples of Eastern Europe eventually became believers in Jesus, and after the “Great Schism” of 1054 some Slavic countries²³ affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox branch. At that time, the church services in Western Europe were held in the Latin, language. The Eastern Orthodox Churches held worship services in the languages of their own countries. Since 1962, Roman Catholic churches are also allowed to have worship services in the languages of their own countries.
11.Vikings. There were setbacks to the spread of the faith in Europe. The Vikings were people from Norway and Denmark who came by boat to trade and attack the civilized world. They did not know Jesus. Starting in 793, the Vikings made raids in Europe. They burned cities, plundered monasteries, killed many people and set back civilization. They destroyed the work of the Irish in Ireland, Scotland, and England. They captured the eastern part of England and the northern part of France. After a few generations, these invaders became believers and settled down. England was reunited in 1015. The Vikings in northern France learned to speak French and were called Normans (which means north-men, people from the north). In 911 the Normans accepted the authority of the king of France and gradually came to faith in Jesus, through the influence of the believers they had conquered. The Normans in northern France were very important to history In 1066 the king of the Normans invaded England and became the king of England. Other Norman families invaded and occupied southern Italy. Later, the Normans took a leading role in the crusades.
12.Feudalism. When the Normans captured a country, they divided it among family members and generals, who had to swear that they would be loyal to the king. Thus they led the way in establishing feudalism in Europe. Feudalism was in effect in Europe for about 600 years, finally giving way to a market economy in the 1700’s. Feudal times in Europe centered around a single fighter with his own horse, called a knight. He was pledged to protect the weak and fight for his lord.
13.Scandinavia. The home lands of the Vikings also settled down and came to Christ. In 945 the King of Denmark believed in Jesus, in 994 the king of Norway believed in Jesus, and in 1008 the king of Sweden believed in Jesus.
- Russia. There is more to say about the influence of the Vikings. One group of Vikings, from Norway, traveled up and down the rivers of Russia to plunder and trade. Finally in 862 a Viking leader captured a major city and so became ruler of the Russian people. One of the later rulers³decided that the Russian people ought to select one of the large world religions. He sent people to investigate Islam, Buddhism, and faith in Jesus. The visitors were most impressed by the worship services in Constantinople, and gave an enthusiastic report, soaround 998 the ruler declared that the people of Russian would accept faith in Jesus, The alphabet invented for the Slavic peoples was brought to Russia, and is still used today to write Russian. Through this alphabet and the influence of the Church, both civilization and religion came to the Russian people. After the Great Schism of 1054, the Russian church was part of the Eastern Orthodox branch. By 1453 Russia had become the land with the greatest number of Eastern Orthodox believers, and took the place of the Byzantine empire as the country that would sponsor and support the orthodox church, since in that year the Turks had destroyed the Byzantine empire. In 1917, after Lenin took over Russia, the church was suppressed, but when Russia restored religious freedom in 1990, it was soon obvious that many people had kept their faith in Christ during the years of repression.
- Spain. Spain had come to faith in Jesus while it was ruled by the Roman Empire, but it was captured by one of the invading Germanic tribes¹¹ in the 400’s. In 596 the German king of Spain became a believer,but in 711 most of Spain was conquered by the Arab Muslims¹². The believers who remained gradually took Spain back from the Muslims during the next 700 years. In 1492 the Catholic King of Spain conquered the last remaining Muslim area of Spain. Jews and Muslims were ordered to leave Spain. Some of them did not leave, but rather chose to become Christians. However, there was some doubt whether they were true Christians. Therefore in1478 the king and queen of Spain asked the church to bring the “inquisition” into Spain. These were special courts to find and punish people who were not real believers. Torture was sometimes used. The main target was to find church members who were secretly still continuing to practice Judaism or Islam. In 1834 the inquisition in Spain finally ended. The Inquisition is now considered to be an act that the church should not have done. In 2000 the pope² apologized to the world on behalf of the Catholic Church for carrying on the inquisition.
Footnotes: 1) Boniface 波尼法修 或 卜尼法斯 2) Cyril and Methodius. the alphabet is called “Cyrillic.” 3) Vladimir 11) These non-Christian people in France were called the Cathars (related to the word “pure”) because they taught that human flesh was evil, and so Christ could not have been human and therefore could not have died for our sins.) They are also called Albigenses, named after the city they lived near. 12) 异端裁判. The inquisition was also used in France against the Cathars. In 1995 the pope (John Paul II) apologized for people who were burned. See a list of apologies online. 13) The missionary who headed the group sent to England was named Augustine of Canterbury. 21) The Synod of Whitby. 22) called a shamrock 23) Poland and Czech Republic are Roman Catholic; Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece are Eastern Orthodox. In Eastern Orthodox countries, some Roman Catholic churches are allowed by the pope to use the Eastern Orthodox worship service.
Word List. Feudalism 封建 Germanic tribes (Teutons) 日耳曼人 Patrick 帕提里克