This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #175, titled, “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 2.”
When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our Scripture for today is Matthew 24:14 which reads: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Origen. He said: “What good does it do me if Christ was born in Bethlehem once if He is not born again in my heart through faith?”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms, Part 2” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
The Visigoths–another Germanic group and one of two main branches of the Goths mentioned above–defeated the Romans at the battle of Adrianople [AY-DRI-AN-O-PUHL] in 378, then swept through the Balkans, and took Rome in 410. By 415 they were in Spain, and they ruled that country until they were overthrown by the Muslims early in the eighth century. The political history of their kingdom was chaotic. Only fifteen of their thirty-four kings died of natural causes or in the field of battle. The rest were either murdered or deposed. They too were Arian [EH-REE-UHN], but they did not persecute the orthodox in their territories to the extent that the Vandals did in theirs. It soon became evident that the orthodox descendants of the conquered inhabitants were the guardians of ancient culture, and that their participation was necessary in order to provide the kingdom with a measure of stability. This led to the conversion of the Visigothic King Recared [RIK-AH-RED] (586-601) to Nicene Orthodoxy, which he solemnly embraced at a great assembly in Toledo [TOH-LAID-OH], in 589 CE. After the king, the vast majority of the nobles became Catholic, and Arianism [EH-REE-UHN-ISM] soon disappeared.
The outstanding Christian leader of the entire history of the Visigothic kingdom was Isidore [EE-ZEE-DAWR] of Seville [SE-VEE-YA]. He was a scholar who sought to preserve as much as possible of ancient culture. His book Etymologies is a veritable encyclopedia that shows the state of knowledge at his time, not only in religious matters, but also in astronomy, medicine, agriculture, and practically every other field of knowledge. Although one of the best, it is typical of the writings of the time, for all Isidore [EE-ZEE-DAWR] could do was to collect and classify the wisdom of the past, with very little by way of original thought. Yet, it was through the works of scholars such as Isidore that the Middle Ages learned of the glories and the wisdom of antiquity.
After the conversion of Recared [RIK-AH-RED], the church played the role of legislator for the Visigothic kingdom. In this it provided a measure of order, although in reading the decrees of its councils one cannot but cringe at the injustice and the inequalities that reigned. For instance, a council gathered at Toledo [TOH-LAID-OH] in 633 decreed that priests could only marry with their bishops’ permission, and that if any disobeyed, the priest was to be condemned to “do penance for some time,” while his wife was to be taken away and sold by the bishop.
The legislation regarding Jews was similar. The same council–whose president was Isidore of Seville [SE-VEE-YA], the most enlightened man of his time–decreed that Jews should not be forced to convert to Christianity, but that those who had been forcibly converted earlier would not be allowed to return to the faith of their ancestors, for this would be blasphemy. Furthermore, such converts were forbidden any dealings with Jews who retained their ancient faith, even if they were their closest relatives. And if any of them were found to be observing some of their traditional practices, particularly “the abominable circumcisions,” their children were to be taken away from them. Furthermore, any Jew who was found to be married to a Christian woman had to choose between conversion and leaving his wife and children. If the case was reversed, and the wife was Jewish and refused conversion, the marriage was void, and she had to leave the children with the father.
Even after the conversion of Recared [RIK-AH-RED], and in spite of the efforts of the church, the Visigothic kingdom continued to be politically unstable and plagued with violence and arbitrariness. King Recesvinth [RE-SES-VINTH] (649-672), for instance, killed seven hundred of his enemies, and distributed their wives and children among his friends. Finally, under King Roderick [ROD-ER-ICK] (710-711), the Muslims invaded Spain and put an end to Visigothic rule. By then, however, Christianity had become so rooted in the country, that it became the rallying point in the long struggle to re-conquer the peninsula from the Muslim Moors.
Next time, we will continue looking at “The Germanic Kingdoms.”
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.