Eastern Christianity comprises Christian traditions and church families that originally developed during classical and late antiquity in the Middle East, Egypt, Northeast Africa, Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of southern India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Major Eastern Christian bodies include the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches (which have re-established communion with Rome but still maintain Eastern liturgies), Protestant Eastern Christian churches who are Protestant in theology but Eastern Christian in cultural practice, and the denominations descended from the historic Church of the East. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.
Historically the term Eastern Church was used in contrast with the (Western) Latin Church, centered on Rome, which uses the Latin liturgical rites. The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with geographical divisions in Christianity mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic East and the Latin West, and the political divide of 395 AD between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. Since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the term "Eastern Christianity" may be used in contrast with "Western Christianity", which contains not only the Latin Church but also Protestantism and Independent Catholicism. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another.
Because the largest church in the East is the body currently known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similar fashion to "Eastern", to refer to specific historical Christian communions. However, strictly speaking, most Christian denominations, whether Eastern or Western, regard themselves as "orthodox" (meaning: "following correct beliefs") as well as "catholic" (meaning: "universal"), and as sharing in the Four Marks of the Church listed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (325 AD): "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic" (Greek: μία, ἁγία, καθολικὴ καὶ ἀποστολικὴ ἐκκλησία).[note 1]
Eastern churches (excepting the non-liturgical dissenting bodies) utilise several liturgical rites: the Alexandrian Rite, the Armenian Rite, the Byzantine Rite, the East Syriac Rite (also known as Persian or Chaldean Rite), and the West Syriac Rite (also called the Antiochian Rite).
Christians, especially Nestorians, contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayads and the among the wealthiest Christians in the United States. They also tend to be better educated than most other religious groups in America, having a high number of graduate (68%) and post-graduate (28%) degrees per capita.
Christians, especially Nestorians, contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayads and the Abbasids by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic. They also excelled in philosophy, science (such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Qusta ibn Luqa, Masawaiyh, Patriarch Eutychius, Jabril ibn Bukhtishu etc.) and theology (such as Tatian, Bar Daisan, Babai the Great, Nestorius, Toma bar Yacoub, etc.) and the personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrian Christians such as the long serving Bukhtishus. Many scholars of the House of Wisdom were of Christian background.
A hospital and medical training center existed at Gundeshapur. The city of Gundeshapur was founded in AD 271 by the Sassanid king Shapur I. It was one of the major cities in Khuzestan province of the Persian empire in what is today Iran. A large percentage of the population was Syriacs, most of whom were Christians. Under the rule of Khusraw I, refuge was granted t
A hospital and medical training center existed at Gundeshapur. The city of Gundeshapur was founded in AD 271 by the Sassanid king Shapur I. It was one of the major cities in Khuzestan province of the Persian empire in what is today Iran. A large percentage of the population was Syriacs, most of whom were Christians. Under the rule of Khusraw I, refuge was granted to Greek Nestorian Christian philosophers including the scholars of the Persian School of Edessa (Urfa), also called the Academy of Athens, a Christian theological and medical university. These scholars made their way to Gundeshapur in 529 following the closing of the academy by Emperor Justinian. They were engaged in medical sciences and initiated the first translation projects of medical texts. The arrival of these medical practitioners from Edessa marks the beginning of the hospital and medical center at Gundeshapur. It included a medical school and hospital (bimaristan), a pharmacology laboratory, a translation house, a library and an observatory. Indian doctors also contributed to the school at Gundeshapur, most notably the medical researcher Mankah. Later after Islamic invasion, the writings of Mankah and of the Indian doctor Sustura were translated into Arabic at Baghdad. Daud al-Antaki was one of the last generation of influential Arab Christian writers.
Arab Christians and Arabic-Speaking Christians especially Maronites played important roles in Al-Nahda, and because Arab Christians formed the educated upper and bourgeois classes, they have had a significant impact in politics, business and culture, and most important figures of the Al-Nahda movement were Christian Arabs. Today Arab Christians still play important roles in the Arab world, and Christians are relatively wealthy, well educated, and politically moderate.