Today I’m flying to Malaga, Spain for our Relational Mission church planting conference. It’s an interesting time to be visiting Spain.
Spain has one of the longest Christian histories, we know that Paul wanted to go and minister there (Rom 15:24). Southern Spain was one six significant clusters of churches planted before AD 300 along with the ones we might expect such as North Africa, Asia Minor, Italy & the Levant.
According to Philip Jenkins this makes sense:
Such a Christian concentration in this area makes good sense in terms of the traditions of the Jewish Diaspora, which claimed prominent centers in the same territory, at Córdoba, as well as further north at the cities that would become Toledo and Mérida. Commonly, Christian and Jewish populations overlapped closely.
But despite this cluster of churches and its long history we know relatively little about early Christian Spain.
Just what was Spanish Christianity like in 150 or 225? Was there a whole lost cohort of Spanish Church Fathers? Did Spain in this era have its local equivalents of Irenaeus or Cyprian? Were there early Gnostic sects in Spain? We have no idea. If we knew more, might we be counting Córdoba and Mérida alongside Carthage among the spiritual powerhouses of the early Church? Early Christian Spain is a black hole.
And this is something of a problem:
What matters here is not specifically that we have lost the early history of Christian Spain, but that an area seemingly so thriving in the early Christian story could so totally have vanished into historical oblivion.
We’re praying that a fresh history for churches in Spain would begin.
Photo by sermarr erGuiri