The aim of this study is not to evaluate how successful the Christian mission in Cappadocia was in the first three centuries—which is at the base of Harnack’s masterpiece Mission und Ausbreitung, a work which reflects his own cultural and intellectual formation—but to update and, where possible, integrate new evidence and to understand the different and changing relationships that were formed between the followers of the gospel and the existing forms of paganism and Judaism. These themselves represented mixtures and syncretisms deriving from the encounter between Jewish and indigenous religious ideas. In particular, the worship of Theos Hypsistos came in contact with or confronted the messages of the Gospels not as a winner or a loser but as a co-protagonist in a variegated and nuanced cultural canvas. Harnack concluded that by the time of the Council of Nicaea Christianity, although not prevalent everywhere, had nevertheless subordinated the rival syncretisms. Early Cappadocian Christianity, however, was poised between paganism and Judaism and struggled to impose itself in the distinctive social environment of the region. It is almost impossible to draw a clear boundary between the ‘henotheistic’ and Judaizing pagan survivals.
The contribution provides an overview of the early Christian epigraphic evidence from the island of Cyprus divided into its main categories. After a survey of earlier studies and the Christian tradition on the island, the study focuses on significant or newly discovered documents, which highlight the characteristics, peculiarities and difficulties presented by the Christian epigraphic habits in Cyprus.