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Re‐dating the seven early Chinese Christian manuscripts : Christians in Dunhuang before 1200

Mr. J. Sun defended his thesis on 21 March 2018.

Sun, J.
21 March 2018
Leiden Repository

Ever since the seven so-called earliest Chinese Christian manuscripts were removed from Dunhuang Cave 17 in 1900 and published by the first generation of scholars, they were quickly recognized as sources used by the Tang church, an offshoot of the Church of the East that entered China in 635 and allegedly disappeared after 845. This empirical, technical and philological work, however, finds: The putative earliest manuscripts made in the 640s, The Messiah Sutra and On One God, might be the latest sources that were created between 800-1010s. The only two dated sources, Kojima Manuscripts A and B, are modern forgeries. Only two manuscripts, Mysterious Bliss Sutra and Sutra of Origins of Daqin Jingjiao, are actual Tang documents that may be made between 745 and 787. Manuscript P.3847 is the work of post-Tang Christians. All the findings, as a whole, give us food for thought, encouraging us to rethink the traditional historiography of Christianity in China before 1200. It compels us to draw a picture of a local Dunhuang Christian community. It also prompts us to alter our current thinking about the institution known as the Tang church. Moreover, it challenges the present consensus that Christianity was extinguished after 845.

Supervisors: Prof. dr. H.L. Murre-van den Berg, prof. dr. A. de Jong and prof. dr. B. ter Haar

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