Almost half of the world’s population lives in Asia. The two largest populations are in China and India, and with a few other densely populated countries, Asia has almost four and a half billion.
In the historical times described in the Bible, China probably had between 25 and 40 percent of the world’s population. India and other Asian places also had huge populations.
So, what happened in those places when Bible history happened? The Magi, the ‘wise men from the East’ in the Christmas story, probably came from Iran or Afghanistan, known as Parthia in ancient times. There is also a possibility that they came from north India. Some things are not clear.
Apparently, Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, traveled to south India and started a Christian community, known as the Mar Thoma Church. We can’t verify some of the history, but that group still exists in India, today.
The Christian community expanded first in the Roman Empire, and into neighboring places like Armenia and Ethiopia. There is a Bible story about one of the first Christians, Phillip the Evangelist. Phillip met an Ethiopian Government official who was traveling home from Jerusalem. In their conversation, the Ethiopian decided to be a follower of Jesus, and was baptized. After that, he returned to his home in Africa.
The place that is missing in this ancient history, is China, the country with the largest population in the world.
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied that kings would travel to Israel, apparently on good-will visits:
“Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” (Isaiah 49:12).
We don’t know where “Sinim” was located. Some think it is a place in Africa, but in the time of Isaiah, the Medes and Persians, Iranians, had contact in the west with places like Israel, and in the East, with China. Possibly Isaiah was referring to China.
We know that, at the time of Jesus and the first Christians, the Romans and the Chinese tried to contact each other, over huge distances. Chinese silk was popular in Rome, for those who could afford it.
Also, the Chinese were very good at keeping written records, and some of the ancient documents have survived.
Recently, some scholars have claimed that the Chinese recorded some historical events, from the time of Jesus. Ancient Chinese writers seemed to believe that something unusual was happening in the world. There are records of something like an eclipse, and that happened when Jesus died on a cross.
In the Bible story: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” (Matthew 27: 45) That event was also mentioned by writers who were not Christian, and it seems clear, something happened to the sun, on that day.
In the Chinese records, there may also be claims that humans are now free from their sins:
So, what can we do with this information?
There will be arguments and debates about the Chinese documents, and what they really mean, but the issue will not go away. We can expect more information about this.
From the Roman side, John the Apostle wrote the last book of the Bible, ‘Revelations’ or the Apocalypse. John was a follower of Jesus, and he prophesied about armies traveling to Israel, from the east:
“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.” (Revelation 16: 12)
John also prophesied that a huge army would come from the East. The numbers of soldiers were too huge for John’s time, and today, only two countries in the world could field armies that large, India and China, both from the east of Israel. China has a military today that could match those numbers. They may have seemed like a fantasy, two thousand five hundred years ago, but they are very possible today:
The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. (Revelation 9: 16 yo 16)
One country, in the east, has a military that large, and John seemed to describe something like modern mechanized warfare, with tanks.
So, what can we know? Ancient records that were fantastic and impossible are true today. Before 1948, the nation of Israel did not exist, and most Bible prophesy were impossible. The Bible predicted a world with Israel.
Now, we also have huge armies and mechanized warfare, as prophesied, and the largest is to the east of Israel, as prophesied. It is uncanny.
Most of the discussion about China in the Bible is speculation, but scholars are beginning to see that the old prophecies are now possible.
Possibly, someday, we will have a better understanding of what the Chinese writers described.
It’s an interesting topic, in our modern times.