Luke Clossey

Published On


Page Range

pp. 129–161


  • English

Print Length

33 pages

7. Expansion of the Jesus Cult

  • Luke Clossey (author)
The fifteenth century saw Christian expansion northward to the Lithuanians, Sámi, and Komi peoples, westward to the Caribbean and Brazil, and southward to central Africa, alongside a Muslim expansion eastward into maritime southeast Asia. Legally, the Christian expansion rested on an old debate about whether non-Christian leaders could hold dominion, the right to rule. The traditional argument held that all earthly rulers yielded their dominion to Jesus at his birth, which prohibited non-Christians from holding any authority. A medieval counterargument, renewed in this century by John Wycliffe and Paweł Włodkowic, turned to the plain ken: Dominion was not absolute, but depended on the ruler being in a state of grace, and so the Christian right to conquest was not an eternal truth but one contingent on human actions in time. A recurring theme in the Christian expansion was the importance of the cross as technology; many Indigenous peoples already made use of crosses, and were attracted by the possibility of an updated version.


Luke Clossey

Associate Professor of Global History at Simon Fraser University

Luke Clossey is an associate professor of global history at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. His first book, Salvation and Globalization in the Early Jesuit Missions (Cambridge UP, 2008), won the Canadian Historical Association's Ferguson Prize for best work of non-Canadian history; a chapter from it won a paper prize from the World History Association. His writings on global religion, the history of ideas, and history methodology have appeared in the Journal of World History, the Journal of Global History, the Journal of Early Modern History, the Sixteenth Century Journal, Global History Review 全球史评 论 , History Compass, the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature, and The Cambridge World History.