Today in Christian History

April 17

April 17, 1492: Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella give Christopher Columbus a commission to seek a westward ocean passage to Asia. Though he was also interested in wealth, Columbus saw himself as a "Christ-bearer" who would carry Christ across the ocean to people who had never heard the gospel (see issue 35: Christopher Columbus).

April 17, 1708: Ambrose, Archbishop of Moscow from 1768-1771 is born. In 1771, in the middle of an outbreak of the plague, Ambrose (who is known for his translations of the Hebrew psalter and some Greek and Latin fathers) was martyred by a mob when he removed an icon from the church to prevent the spread of infection.

April 17, 1937: With Mussolini's troops occupying Ethiopia, Sudan Interior Mission missionaries who had started a small church among the previously devil-worshiping Wallamo tribe are forced to leave the country. "We knew God was faithful," one missionary wrote. "But still we wondered—if we ever come back, what will we find?" The missionaries returned in July 1943 to find that, despite severe persecution by Italian soldiers, the Christian community had grown from 48 members to 18,000.

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June 28, 195: Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (France) and one of the most important Christian writers of the second century, dies. He argued that tradition is key in sustaining orthodoxy, and he was instrumental in raising the authority of the Roman bishop. He was also the first to add the four Gospels to a list of apostolic writings, calling them "Scripture" with the Old Testament. Many consider him the first theologian of the Christian church, since others were more apologists than theologians.

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