Christianization of the Kerak Plateau in Ancient Times

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Title: Christianization of the Kerak Plateau in Ancient Times
Author: Hardin, Sherry Michelle
Advisors: S. Thomas Parker, Committee Chair
Abstract: ABSTRACT HARDIN, SHERRY MICHELLE. The Christianization of the Kerak Plateau in Ancient Times. (Under the direction of S. Thomas Parker.) Historians of both the Roman Empire and early Christianity have long debated the pace and extent of Christian conversion. This thesis attempts to add a significant new contribution to this debate. Conversion to Christianity was a complex process that moved differentially from region to region. This paper attempts to understand when and why Christianity penetrated the Kerak Plateau in Jordan by examining the full range of environmental, documentary, and archaeological evidence from the plateau itself as well as from adjacent regions that may offer instructive parallels to this process. Christianity was slow to make significant inroads to the Kerak Plateau until the sixth century for many reasons. Its geographical isolation and thriving polytheistic community acted as a deterrent for Christianity. Archaeological and literary sources provide several lines of evidence for this, including a lack of churches before the sixth century and a lack of bishops before the fifth century. Out of a corpus of 135 dated Christian tombstones from the Kerak Plateau, seventy-four percent are dated from the mid-sixth to mid-seventh centuries, which fall in line with dated churches in the area. In addition there is both literary and archaeological evidence for polytheistic practices being tenacious. In addition to this evidence, there is also evidence that though the Roman government had switched its support to Christianity, it could not enforce its laws against polytheism. Two hundred years after Constantine converted to Christianity, emperors were still issuing edicts against polytheism.
Date: 2008-11-26
Degree: MA
Discipline: History

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