This introductory chapter provides a background of the religious history to the late antique and medieval Middle East. The great majority of Christians in the Middle East belonged to what church leaders referred to as “the simple.” They were overwhelmingly agrarian, mostly illiterate, and likely had little understanding of the theological complexities that split apart the Christian community in the region. As such, during this period, there was fierce competition for the loyalties of simple, everyday Christians among leaders of the various Christian movements in the Middle East. This competition helped fuel debates, the composition of polemics, the translation of texts, the creation of educational institutions, and the development of a Syriac-language syllabus of study in the seventh century. Ultimately, this book attempts to write a compelling and persuasive unified account that does equal justice to the religious landscape of the Middle East and to its changes under both Roman and Arab rule.
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