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Ibadan Journal of Humanistic Studies

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Some Aspects of North African Christianity in Roman Times

Goke A. Akinboye

Abstract


Ancient North African religion evolved from the worship of local deities before the Phoenician, Punic, Roman, Semitic, Vandal and Arab influences. Christian religion arrived and spread in North Africa after the Romans took possession of the western Mediterranean region. The indigenous peoples of North Africa then practised a brand of Christianity, opposed to the normal practice of the Semitic faith that had originated from Judaism. What informed the deviation of the early North Africans from some known practices of the Christian faith? What aspects of the indigenous North African religion were assimilated with Christianity? To examine these questions, this paper, through a qualitative content analysis of both ancient sources (Herodotus, Augustine, Apuleius, Cyprian and Tertullian) and modern texts (Frend, Ilevbare, Brown, Jones and Ackah), examines how the indigenous North African peoples assimilated Christianity with their own native religion to create a brand of Christianity that was unique to Africa in the Roman era. The paper reveals that these peoples, indeed, assimilated Christianity with their local customs and beliefs in magic, mystery cults, paganism, human sacrifice and other expiatory processes. Surveying the period between 5th century B.C. and 3rd century A.D., the paper concludes that most modern religions owe their acceptability and survival to some ancient religions, whose traditional belief systems and practices are usually assimilated. As contemporary African Christianity assimilated some elements of African traditional spiritualties, so did the Ancient North Africans practise a brand of Christianity that owed its uniqueness to some aspects of Roman religion and earlier beliefs.

Keywords: Romans religion, Christianity, assimilation, Ancient North Africa,




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