A Pope from Libya?
One of the best scholars on early church history these days is Thomas Oden. He was formerly with Drew University and is now the director of the Center for Early African Christianity at Eastern University.
In his new book, Early Libyan Christianity (IVP Academic), Oden traces the roots of Christianity in ancient Libya and shows us that, at one time, there was a thriving Christian community in Libya in the first five centuries after Christ. At one time, there were hundreds of churches and tens of thousands of believers. Today, in contrast, less than 1% of Libyan citizens are Catholic Christians. There is also a tiny scattering of Protestants and Pentecostals.
Oden tells us that there are at least a dozen historic archaeological sites, relating to the early church, in Libya. He reminds us that important Christian writers and leaders, such as Tertullian and Synesius of Cyrene, were from Libya. We even learn that one of the early popes was from Libya: Victor 1st (AD 189-198). Oden also shows us that some famous heretics, such as Arius and Sabellius, were also from Libya.
Christians were finally expelled from Libya in AD 643 by the Arab Muslim invaders. But the remains of a thriving church are still in the ground—and still in our history books, if we look closely. They are a reminder that God’s faithfulness abounds throughout all generations and among all peoples.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor