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Asia

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(Ασία, referred by the Greeks to a person, Herod. 4:45, but by moderns to an Eastern, usually Shemitic etymology, comp. Bochart, Phaleg, 4:33, p. 3379; Sickler, Alte Geogr. p. 89; Wahl, in the Hall. Encycl. 6:76 sq.; Forbiger, Alte Geogr. ii, 39; Hitzig, Philist. p. 93), a geographical name which is employed by the writers of. antiquity to denote regions of very different extent, designating as early as the time of Herodotus (iv, 36) an entire continent, in contrast with Europe and Africa (comp. Josephus, Ant. 14:10, 1), the boundaries of which have been clearly defined (Forbiger, Alte Geogr. ii, 39) since the descriptions of Strabo (i, 35) and Ptolemy (iv, 5); in the Roman period, however, it was generally applied only to a single district of Western Asia (Asia Minor). It is in the latter sense alone that the word occurs in the Apocrypha (1 Maccabees 8:6; 1 Maccabees 11:13; 1 Maccabees 12:39; 1 Maccabees 13:32; 2 Maccabees 3:3; 2 Maccabees 10:24) and New Test. (Acts 2:9; Acts 6:9; Acts 16:6; Acts 19:10; Acts 19:22; Acts 19:26-27; Acts 20:4; Acts 20:16; Acts 20:18; Acts 21:27; Acts 27:2; Romans 16:5 [where the true reading is ' Ασίας ]; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:11).

1. CONTINENT OF ASIA. The ancient Hebrews were strangers to the division of the earth into parts or quarters, and hence we never find the word Asia in any Hebrew book. It occurs first in Biblical writers in the books of the Maccabees, and there in a restricted sense. In its widest application, however, as designating in modern geography a leading division of the globe, it is of the deepest interest in sacred literature. This part of the world is regarded as having been the most favored. Here the first man was created; here the patriarchs lived; here the law was given; here the greatest and most celebrated monarchies were formed; and from hence the first founders of cities and nations in other parts of the world conducted their colonies. In Asia our blessed Redeemer appeared, wrought salvation for mankind, died, and rose again; and from hence the light of the Gospel has been diffused over the world. Laws, arts, sciences, and religions almost all have had their origin in Asia. (See ETHNOLOGY).

I. Geographical Description.-Asia, which forms the eastern and northern portion of the great tract of land in the eastern hemisphere, is the oldest known portion of the globe, and is usually called the cradle of the human race, of nations, and of arts. It is separated from Australia by the Indian and Pacific Oceans; from America on the north-east by Behring's Straits, and on the east by the great Eastern or Pacific Ocean; from Africa by the Arabian Sea (at the west by the Mediterranean Sea) and by the Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea, with the Straits of Babelmandeb; from Europe by the Kaskaia Gulf (at the extreme north-west), by the Caspian Sea and the River Ural, by the Black Sea and the Bosphorus, by the Sea of Marmora and the Dardanelles, and by the Grecian Archipelago. It is united with Africa by the desert Isthmus of Suez, and with Europe by the lofty Caucasian Mountains and the long Ural range. The area is, about 16,175,000 square miles.

The inhabitants of Asia (whose number is variously estimated at from 500,000,000 to 800,000,000) are divided -into three great branches: The Tatar-Caucasian, in the Western Asia, exhibits the finest features of our race in the Circassian fom; the Mongolian race is spread through Eastern Asia; the Malay in Southern Asia and the islands. The north is inhabited by the Samoiedes, Tchooktches, and others. The following tribes, of different language and origin, may be distinguished, some of which are relics of scattered tribes of nomades: Kamtschatdales, Ostiacs, Samoiedes, Koriacks, Kurilians, Aleutians, Coreans, Mongols, and Kalmucks, Mantchoos (Tungoos, Daurians, and Mantchoos Proper), Finns, Circassians, Georgians, Greeks, Syrians and Armenians, Tatars and Turks, Persians and Afghans, Thibetans, Hindoos, Siamese, Malays, Annamites (in Cochin China and Tonquin), Burmese, Chinese and Japanese, besides the indigenous inhabitants of the East Indian islands, Jews and Europeans. The principal languages are the Arabian, Persian, Armenian, Turkish, Tatar, Hindoo,,Malayan, Mongol, ai antchoo, Chinese, and Sanscrit. The principal reliions which prevail are Mohammedanism in the western parts, the worship of the Lama of Thibet in the central region, Buddhism in the Burmese territory, and Hindooism or Brahminism in India. For farther details and statistics of the Asiatic countries, see each in its alphabetical place, especially Turkey, Persia, China, and India.

From this great continent must undoubtedly have issued at some unknown period that extraordinary emigration which peopled America. It cannot be questioned that the inhabitants of the north-eastern parts of Asia, little attached to the soil, and subsisting chiefly by hunting and fishing, might pass either in their canoes in summer, or upon the ice in winter, from their own country to the American shore. Or a passage of this kind may not be necessary, for it is by no means unlikely that the Straits of Behring were formerly occupied by the land, and that the isthmus which joined the old world to the new was subverted and overwhelmed by one of those great revolutions of nature which shake whole continents, and extend the dominion of the sea to places where its waters are unknown. Dr. Prichard, in his Researches into the Physical History of Man, is decidedly of opinion that America was peopled by an Asiatic migration; and in the examples he gives of the coincidences of words, he has fully established the fact of an intercourse between the nations of Northern Asia and those of America, long before the very existence of the latter continent was known to modern Europe. Later investigations have, almost without exception, tended to confirm this conclusion.

The Scriptures make no mention of many of the empires and nations of Asia, such as the Chinese empire, the Hindoos, and the numerous tribes inhabiting the extensive region of Siberia or Asiatic Russia. India is mentioned in the Book of Esther, but only in reference to- the extensive dominions of Ahasuerus. The Medo-Persian branch of the Indo-European nations who inhabited Asia, of whom were-the Medes and ancient Persians, Parthians, and Armenians, are, however, mentioned in sacred history; and among the nations of Asia Minor we have the Phrygians, the Mysians, and the Bithynians. Of the ancient western Asiatic nations, those connected with sacred history are the Elamites, or descendants of Elam; the Assyrians, or descendants of Ashur; Hebrews and Idumaeans, or Edomites; Beni-Jaktan, or Arabs; the Chasdim, or Chaldaeans; the Aramaeans, who inhabited Syria and Mesopotamia; the Phoenicians, or descendants of Canaan; the Mizraim, or the Egyptians; the Cushites, or Ethiopians; and the Philistines. Of the ancient empires mentioned in the Scriptures, the Assyrian is the earliest, so called from Asshur, the son of Shem. Out of the empire founded by Naimrod at Babylon sprung the Babylonian or Chaldaean, the capital of which was Babylon, while that of Assyria was Nineveh. The empire of the Medes also sprung, from the Assyrian, and was at length united by Cyrus with Persia, a country which, previous to the reign of that great prince, did not contain more than a single province of the present extensive kingdom, and a hich continued to rule over Asia upward of two centuries, until its power was overthrown by Alexander the Great. Elam, which originally denoted the country of the Elymaei in the modern Khusistan, afterward became the Hebrew term for Persia and the Persians, who were allied to the Madai or Medes. The other nations of Asia mentioned in the Scriptures have each their appropriate designations, such as the Arphaxad, or Arph-Chesad, supposed to be the Chaldzeans; the Lud or Ludim, alleged by Josephus and Bochart to be the Lydians; and the Aramites or the Syrians. The Asiatic countries more especially mentioned as the scenes of great events and important transactions are Arabia, Armenia, Assyria, Babylonia, Syria, and Judaea or Palestine, Phoenicia and Persia. See each in its alphabetical order.

II. Church History.-Christianity spread rapidly in the first centuries in Western Asia, which, after the times of Constantine, belonged among the Christi n countries. The apostolic churches of Antioch (q.v.) and Jerusalem (q.v.) received along with Rome and Alexandria the rank of patriarchates. The diocese of Asia, of which Ephesus was the metropolis, was reckoned next in rank to the four patriarchates up till the council of Chalcedon, which subordinated the diocese to the Patriarch of Constantinople. In the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries the Nestorians and Monophysites were excluded by ecumenical synods from the Church, and organized themselves as independent denominations, which still exist. (See NESTORIANS); (See ARMENIANS); (See JACOBITES).

Down to the twelfth century the churches of Western Asia were still in a moderately flourishing condition; but about that time the Saracens succeeded in establishing several principalities, which were the cause of sad desolation to the Church. The Turks, who succeeded, completed the wreck. For the Church history of the following centuries, we refer, besides to the articles already mentioned, to (See TURMEY); (See GREEK CHURCH).

Also in other portions of Asia the Gospel was early proclaimed, and Christianity flourished for some time in Persia, till it succumbed to the rising power of Mohammedanism. The outposts of Christianity in China and India, which probably reach back to an early period, were lost sight of by the Latin and Greek churches. The Roman Church, in the Middle Ages and modern times, made great effort to unite with itself the churches of Western Asia, and to convert the pagans in various Asiatic countries. She succeeded in most of the Portuguese and Spanish possessions, and founded a number of dioceses in other countries. The history of Protestantism begins with the establishment of the rule of the East India Company; and in the nineteenth century its missions have developed on so large a scale that the time appears to be near when it will have the ascendency in a large portion of Eastern Asia. For more details on the history of both the Roman and the Protestant churches, we refer to the articles (See PERSIA); (See CHINA); (See INDIA); (See FARTHER INDIA); (See INDIAN ARCHIPELAGO); (See JAPAN).

III. Ecclesiastical Statistics.-The following tabular survey of the total Christian population is taken from the latest accessible sources (1880), the number of Mohammedans in Asia being about 115,144,000.

Countries

Sum.

Rom.Cath

Protestant

Eastern

Russia

13,471,000

51,000

15,000

5,941,000

Turkey

16,170,000

260,000

25,000

3,000,000

Persia

7,000,000

10,000

3,000

50,000

China and Depend-encies

435,000,000

483,000

50,000

5,000

Japan

34,338,000

21,000

4,000

6,000

Burmah

21,000,000

480,000

 

 

Siam

5,750,000

25,000

4,000

6,000

British possessions

243,898,000

1,264,000

2,600,000

400,000

French "

2,770,000

300,000

 

 

Spanish "

6,300,000

5,501,000

 

 

Portuguese "

882,000

350,000

 

 

Dutch "

26,745,000

80,000

170,000

 

Other Countries

17,443,000

 

 

 

Totals

834,767,000

8,830,000

2,868,000

9,402,000

 

The Greek Church is the largest Christian body in Asiatic Russia and Asiatic Turkey, and is at present spreading, together with Russian influence, in Central Asia and China. Armenians are numerous in Russia, Turkey, and Persia, and scattered in India. Nestorians and Jacobites are mostly found in Turkey and India, the former also in Persia. By many it is believed that there are still numerous descendants of Christians in various parts of Asia as yet unknown to the rest of the Christian world. In 1859 it was asserted that 30,000 native Christians had been discovered in the island of Celebes. Buddhism, Brahminism, and the other religious systems of India, China, and Japan, count together a population of about 600 millions. Mohammedanism prevails in Asiatic Turkey, Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, Beloochistan, and Tartary, and is, in general, professed by a population of about 50 millions. The Jews in Asiatic Turkey are estimated at about 350,000; small numbers live scattered in nearly every country. The rest belong to a great variety of pagan systems.

2. ASIA MINOR was the name anciently given to the region nearly inclosed by the Euxine, AEgaean, and Mediterranean Seas, and now forming a part of Turkey. Respecting the Biblical notices of this district we have to remark:

(a) Antiochus the Great is called king of Asia in 1 Maccabees 8:6; a title that he assumed as master (not only of Syria, but also) of the greater part of Asia Minor (which had passed over to the Macedonian princes as a Persian province), but was compelled (B.C. 189) to relinquish all the Asiatic districts west of the Taurus to the Romans (Liv. 38:38; 1 Maccabees 8:8), who committed Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia to Eumenes (II), king of Pergamus (Liv. 37:55; 38:39). Hence

(b) the kingdom of Pergamus was called the Asiatic empire, although the Syrian Seleucidae, who only occupied Cilicia, likewise (perhaps only out of empty pretence) assumed this title (1 Maccabees 12:39; 1 Maccabees 13:32; 2 Maccabees 3:3), and so the empires of Egypt and Asia are found in contrast (1 Maccabees 13:13).

(c) By the will of Attalus (III) Philometor (q.v.), the kingdom of Pergamus passed over (B.C. 133) as a province into the hands of the Romans, in whose diplomatic phraseology Asia was now termedc simply 'Asia cis Tanurum" (comp. Cicero, Flacc. 27; Nep. Attic. 54; Plin. 40), i.e. including the districts Mysia, Lydia, Phrygia, and Caria (which last the Rhodians obtained after the conquest of Antiochus the Great). It was governed by a praetor until the Emperor Augustus made it a proconsular province. In this extent it is styled Asia Proper ( ἰδίως καλουμένη Ἀσία, Ptolem. v, 2; comp. Strabo, 12:577). To this connection appear to belong the following passages of the N.T. Acts 6:9 (where Asia and Cilicia are names of Roman provinces in Asia Minor); 20:16; 1 Peter 1:1 (see Steiger, in loc.); Revelation 1:4; comp. 2 and 3, where letters to the Christian communities in the seven cities of (proconsular) Asia designate those in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (q.v. severally) (see Lucke, Ofenbar. Joh. p. 201; comp. T. Smith, Septemn Asice ecclesiar. notitia, Lond. 1671, Utr. 1694; Arundell, Visit to the Seven Churches of Asia, Lond. 1828). On the other hand, in Acts ii, 9 (comp. 16:6; see Wiggers, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1838, i, 169), it appears to denote Phryia, or, as the commentators will have it, only Ionia (see Kuinol, in loc.); but it is not certain that in Roman times Ionia was called Asia by pre-eminence (see Pliny, v, 28; comp. Solin. 43). The extent in 2 Corinthians 1:8, is uncertain, and, moreover, the boundaries of Asia Minor varied at different periods (see Mannert, VI, ii, 15 -sq.; Wetstein, ii, 464). Thus it may be retarded as pretty well settled:

(1.) That "Asia" denotes the whole of ASIA MINOR, in the texts Acts 19:26-27; Acts 21:27; Acts 24:18; Acts 27:2; but

(2.), that only ASIA PROPER, the Roman or Proconsular Asia, is denoted in Acts 2:9; Acts 6:9; Acts 16:6; Acts 19:10; Acts 19:22; Acts 20:4; Acts 20:16; Acts 20:18 [Romans 16:5]; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:11. ASIA MINOR comprehended Bithynia, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Pamphylia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, Mysia, Troas (all of which are mentioned in the New Testament), Lydia, Ionia, AEolis (which are sometimes included under Lydia), Caria, Doris, and Lycia. ASIA PROPER, or Proconsular Asia, comprehended the provinces of Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, and Lydia (Cicero, Ep. Fam. ii, 15). But it is evident that Luke uses the term Asia in a sense still more restricted; for in one place he counts Phrygia (Acts 2:9-10), and in another Mysia (Acts 16:6-7), as provinces distinct from Asia. Hence it is probable that in many, if not all, of the second set of references above, the word Asia denotes only Ionia, or the entire western coast, of which Ephesus was the capital, and in which the seven churches were situated. See generally, Usher, De Asia proconsulari (Lond. 1681); id. De episcop. metropol. in Asia proconsulari (Lond. 1687); Carpzov, De Asice ecclesis (Lips. 1698); Cellarius, id. (Hal. 1701); Conybeare and Howson's St. Paul, i, 237; Penny Cyc. s.v. Anatolia; Smith's Diet. of Class. Geogr. i, 232 sq., 238 sq.; Texier, Asie Mineure (Paris, 1863); Le Bas and Cbheron, Hist. Ancienne de I'As. Min. (Par. 1864); Perrot, Voyage en As. Min. (Paris, 1864).

3. PROCONSULAR ASIA, therefore, seems to be usually that designated in the New Test., being a Roman province which embraced the western part of the peninsula of Asia Minor, and of which Ephesus was the capital. This province originated in the bequest of Attalus, king of Pergamus, or king of Asia, who left by will to the Roman Republic his hereditary dominions in the west of the peninsula (B.C. 133). Some rectifications of the frontier were made, and "Asia" was constituted a province. Under the early emperors it was rich and flourishing, though it had been severely plundered under the republic. In the division made by Augustus of senatorial and imperial provinces, it was placed in the former class, and was governed by a proconsul. (Hence ἀνθύπατοι , Acts 19:38, and on coins.) It contained many important cities, among which were the seven churches of the Apocalypse, and it was divided into assize districts for judicial business. (Hence ἀγοραῖοι, i.e. ἡμέραι, Acts, ibid.) It is not possible absolutely to define the inland boundary of this province during the life of the' Apostle Paul; indeed, the limits of the provinces were frequently undergoing change; but generally it may be said that it included the territory anciently subdivided into AEolis, Ionia, and Doris, and afterward into Mysia, Lydia, and Caria. (See MYSIA); (See LYCIA); (See BITHYNIA); (See PHRYGIA); (See GALATIA). These were originally Greek colonies (see Smith's Smaller Hist. of Greece, p. 40 sq.). Meyer (in his Comment. on Acts 16:6) unnecessarily imagines that the divine intimation given to Paul had reference to the continent of Asia, as opposed to Europe, and that the apostle supposed it might have reference simply to "Asia cis Taurum," and therefore attempted to penetrate into Bithynia. The view of Meyer and De Wette on Acts 27:2 (and of the former on Acts 19:10), viz. that the peninsula of Asia Minor is intended, involves a bad geographical mistake; for this term "Asia Minor" does not seem to have been so applied till some centuries after the Christian era. Neither is it strictly correct to speak of Asia in the N.T. as being at that time called A. proconsularis; for this phrase also was of later date, and denoted one of Constantine's subdivisions of the province of which we are speaking. (See Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul, ch. xiv; Marquardt's Roim. Alterthiimer, iii, 130-146.) (See ASIARCH). 4. SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA. These, celebrated in the Apocalypse, in the apostolic times, and in ecclesiastical history, were, as they are classified by the writer of the book of Revelation (ch. i-iii), Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, which see under the respective names. (See ASIA MINOR) (No. 2, above); see REVELATION.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Asia'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/a/asia.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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