While in nowadays Iran Shia Islam is the majority and state religion, Christianity in Iran has a long and significant history.

In 2003 about 0.3% of Iran's population are Christians. In 1975 Christians numbered about 1.5% of the total population.

Table of contents
1 Main denominations
2 History
3 Current Situation
4 The Bible in Iranian languages

Main denominations


According to the reports of the Acts of the Apostles there were Persians, Parthians and Medians among the very first new Christian converts at Pentecost. Since then there had been a continuous presence of Christians and Churches in Persia/Iran.

Christianity spread rapidly in Iran during the first 6 centuries after Christ. While Iran's state religion was throughout this time a modified form of Zoroastrianism, Persia's Shahs left Christians during the first four centuries largely in peace.

This changed with the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. Christians were now feared as a subversive and potentially disloyal minority. Discrimination and persecution set in culmination in two large waves of persecution in the 6th century. During this period an estimated number of over 100,000 Iranian christians were martyred, many others emigrated.

With the Islamic Conquest of Persia in the 7th Century A.D. and finally with the Mongol conquest in the 12th century persian Christianity shrunk into a small minority. Christians withdrew into ethnical ghettos (mostly Aramaic and Armenian speaking) and disengaged largely from main stream society. Most evangelism of non-christians ceased with the Muslim conquest or shortly thereafter. Christianity became an ethnic minority issue in Persia.

Fresh beginnings came with the Protestant mission movement in the 18th and 19th century. For the first time since the 6th century attempts were made to engage in an evangelistic manner with the mainstream Iranian Muslim communities. Today there are thriving churches in Persian language within and without Iran.

There has been extensive academic debate why Christianity did not prevail to a larger degree in Iran after the Islamic conquest. The most important reasons mentioned are the use of Aramaic instead of Persian in liturgy and teaching and the absence of a Bible translation readable by lay people. (The Bible was not translated into Persian until the 18th Century.) Another explanation offered is the fatigue induced by the continuous political and economic pressure by the government and Islamic authorities.

Current Situation

Due to the economic and political pressures in the years following the Iranian Revolution, periods of outright persecution and times of more latent discrimination many Iranian Christians have emigrated, mostly to the USA, Canada and Western Europe.

Several churches suffered government intrusion, expropriation of property, forced closure and persecution, particularly in the intial years after the Iranian Revolution.

Several Christian ministers and lay people were marrtyred by the Islamic government and fundamentalist groups close to the governmnet. Among these the most famous are Mehdi Dibaj and Haik Hovsepian, both martyred in 1994.

A new phenomen in Iran is the growth of churches largely composed out of converts from Islam.

The Jamiat-e Rabbani churches and the Anglican Church both are readily accepting converts from Islam and are subsequently growing in membership. About 80% of Jamiat-e Rabbani's members are currently converts from Islam.

The majority of other Christian denominations continues to shrink due to emigration.

The Bible in Iranian languages

Armenian and Assyrian Christians use Bibles in their own languages.

There are several contemporary translations of the Bible available in Farsi. The first Bible translation of modern times was conducted by Henry Martyn in the 18th century. Current commonly used translations are the "Tarjumeh-ye Tafsiri" (explained translation) and the more antiquated, but vastly more accurate Standard Version

Portions of the Bible are translated into Azeri (New Testament), Mozanderani (several gospels) and Kurdish (gospels).