First Christian Nation

When searching for information about the Armenian language, one fact about Mesrob Mashdotz drew my interest. The person who encouraged him to form the alphabet was Sahag the leader of the Armenian Christian Church. As early as the fourth century, Armenia had a growing Christian community and needed the Bible translated into its own language for its believers to flourish. By 433 A.D., scholars completed the translation of the Bible into Armenian. Hmm… How did Armenians even become Christians?

While I knew that the Book of II Kings (chapter 20, sentence 37) in the Bible mentions the land of Armenia (dating its existence around 681 years before Jesus’ birth) and the Book of Acts in the Bible describes the journeys of Paul, the Apostle, to cities of what is the western part of modern day Turkey, I had never learned how the people of Armenia became Christians. A little digging revealed the following story.

The few Armenians that heard about and practiced Christianity between 60 and 301 A.D. were persecuted by the Armenian kings. Late in the third century, a man named Grigor Lousavoritch went to Caesarea. While there, he became a Christian and brought his new faith back to Armenia. His attempts to share his faith landed him in the Armenian king’s dungeon. There Grigor languished for fifteen years. Grigor was suddenly released in 301 A.D. after the king’s sister had a dream. In her dream, an angel told her that their persecution of Christians must stop. Grigor was not only released, but he also baptized the king and his family at their request. Armenia became the first people to adopt Christianity as their national religion.

That means that prior to 1915, Armenians had identified themselves as Christians for one thousand six hundred fourteen years, long before Seljuk Turks invaded Armenia or the Turks even became Muslims.