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Author Topic: The Assyrian Church of the East Writings?  (Read 14922 times) Average Rating: 0
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Alveus Lacuna
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« on: April 03, 2009, 03:14:10 AM »

I am interested in English works on the history and theology of the Nestorian Church.  Any suggestions would be appreciated!  I know they are not "Orthodox" by their own definition, but they are from the Orient, so this seemed like the appropriate forum.
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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 07:38:27 AM »

There are lots of translated primary texts on archive.org, but a good source of modern secondary materials is available here, on the website that was run by Mar Bawai Soro before he fell into difficulties with other members of the hierarchy and recently joined the Catholic Church.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070930193405/http://www.cired.org/

He has also published a volume in English describing the position of the Church of the East on various issues.

http://stores.lulu.com/marbawai

I do have questions myself about the Christology of the Church of the East but believe that we should offer them the same respect which we wish to receive from others with whom we are ourselves in dialogue. I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 11:10:35 AM »

I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

Well, I think that is pretty telling about Latin priorities.  At this point, it's all about "communion with Rome" as the central doctrine of faith; forget all the rest!  Keep your own disparate theological traditions, they'll pay no mind!

For anyone else reading the thread, I am actually interested in printed books, not internet resources.  When I get down to business and really begin to read, I like to do it the old fashioned way.
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« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2009, 01:35:58 PM »

I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

What if the Church of the East is not really nestorian, but simply uses language differently than we do? Don't EOs and OOs assume the same about eachother?
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« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2009, 02:32:43 PM »

I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

What if the Church of the East is not really nestorian, but simply uses language differently than we do? Don't EOs and OOs assume the same about eachother?

I once posed this question to a theology professor at my seminary and his question was, "well, they don't believe the same thing just with different words. That is the problem."

I once wrote a commentary on the Anathemas of Nestorius against St Cyril on this site somewhere. It's pretty clear from them that they are not Orthodox.
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2009, 02:36:27 PM »

I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

What if the Church of the East is not really nestorian, but simply uses language differently than we do? Don't EOs and OOs assume the same about eachother?

I once posed this question to a theology professor at my seminary and his question was, "well, they don't believe the same thing just with different words. That is the problem."

I once wrote a commentary on the Anathemas of Nestorius against St Cyril on this site somewhere. It's pretty clear from them that they are not Orthodox.
Thank you for sharing, but I have read, from Ancient Assyrian Church of the East sources, that they are not truely nestorian in theology. They claim that they do not believe what they have been charged with believing.
However, if any ACOE claims to believe that Jesus is two persons, then the Catholic Church would reject that teaching.
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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2009, 02:46:27 PM »

They do not consider themselves Nestorian.  I should have avoided that term.  I think that came to be called that because they allowed some Nestorians to take refuge in their church, because they had compassion on them, but their breaking communion was not over Nestorianism.
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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2009, 02:59:05 PM »

I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

What if the Church of the East is not really nestorian, but simply uses language differently than we do? Don't EOs and OOs assume the same about eachother?

I once posed this question to a theology professor at my seminary and his question was, "well, they don't believe the same thing just with different words. That is the problem."

I once wrote a commentary on the Anathemas of Nestorius against St Cyril on this site somewhere. It's pretty clear from them that they are not Orthodox.
Thank you for sharing, but I have read, from Ancient Assyrian Church of the East sources, that they are not truely nestorian in theology. They claim that they do not believe what they have been charged with believing.
However, if any ACOE claims to believe that Jesus is two persons, then the Catholic Church would reject that teaching.

I've read what you read. Their argument is pretty weak. They commemorate Nestorius in their liturgy, confuse person and nature, and do not call Mary Theotokos, and deny communicatio idiomatum. They're not Orthodox.

Some of them tried to claim that they do not hold Nestorius up to be a doctrinal teacher, but rather a confessor; but what did he suffer for? Precisely for his heretical beliefs, which they did not anathematize.
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« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2009, 03:58:32 PM »

I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

What if the Church of the East is not really nestorian, but simply uses language differently than we do? Don't EOs and OOs assume the same about eachother?

I once posed this question to a theology professor at my seminary and his question was, "well, they don't believe the same thing just with different words. That is the problem."

I once wrote a commentary on the Anathemas of Nestorius against St Cyril on this site somewhere. It's pretty clear from them that they are not Orthodox.
Thank you for sharing, but I have read, from Ancient Assyrian Church of the East sources, that they are not truely nestorian in theology. They claim that they do not believe what they have been charged with believing.
However, if any ACOE claims to believe that Jesus is two persons, then the Catholic Church would reject that teaching.

I've read what you read. Their argument is pretty weak. They commemorate Nestorius in their liturgy, confuse person and nature, and do not call Mary Theotokos, and deny communicatio idiomatum. They're not Orthodox.

Some of them tried to claim that they do not hold Nestorius up to be a doctrinal teacher, but rather a confessor; but what did he suffer for? Precisely for his heretical beliefs, which they did not anathematize.
I must confess that I had similar feelings when I read their apologetics but I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt considering the fact that I am not an expert in their theological/philosophical language.
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« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2009, 04:14:31 PM »

I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

What if the Church of the East is not really nestorian, but simply uses language differently than we do? Don't EOs and OOs assume the same about eachother?

I once posed this question to a theology professor at my seminary and his question was, "well, they don't believe the same thing just with different words. That is the problem."

I once wrote a commentary on the Anathemas of Nestorius against St Cyril on this site somewhere. It's pretty clear from them that they are not Orthodox.
Thank you for sharing, but I have read, from Ancient Assyrian Church of the East sources, that they are not truely nestorian in theology. They claim that they do not believe what they have been charged with believing.
However, if any ACOE claims to believe that Jesus is two persons, then the Catholic Church would reject that teaching.

I've read what you read. Their argument is pretty weak. They commemorate Nestorius in their liturgy, confuse person and nature, and do not call Mary Theotokos, and deny communicatio idiomatum. They're not Orthodox.

Some of them tried to claim that they do not hold Nestorius up to be a doctrinal teacher, but rather a confessor; but what did he suffer for? Precisely for his heretical beliefs, which they did not anathematize.

Source:  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_11111994_assyrian-church_en.html

From the COMMON CHRISTOLOGICAL DECLARATION
BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
AND THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST

Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. In him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and operations. But far from constituting "one and another", the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.

Christ therefore is not an " ordinary man" whom God adopted in order to reside in him and inspire him, as in the righteous ones and the prophets. But the same God the Word, begotten of his Father before all worlds without beginning according to his divinity, was born of a mother without a father in the last times according to his humanity. The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour". In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of God" and also as "the Mother of Christ". We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.

This is the unique faith that we profess in the mystery of Christ. The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lord's Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings.

Whatever our Christological divergences have been, we experience ourselves united today in the confession of the same faith in the Son of God who became man so that we might become children of God by his grace. We wish from now on to witness together to this faith in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, proclaiming it in appropriate ways to our contemporaries, so that the world may believe in the Gospel of salvation.

***

It seems that, based on the statments above the Assyrians are now professing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is one person.
 

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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2009, 07:18:12 PM »


It seems that, based on the statments above the Assyrians are now professing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is one person.

I don't think that the Church of the East has ever stated that Christ is "two persons."  The issue is more subtle than that.  They use "two natures" and "one person," but seem to believe in more separation between the two natures than most EO's or Catholics would feel comfortable with.  I get the feeling that to really understand what they mean, one has to look at the Syriac terminology they use.  An Assyrian guy used to post here (ronyodish) and he explained it somewhat in this thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,16412.0.html





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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2009, 08:07:38 PM »

Fr. John Romanides in his amazing and quite lengthy paper on Theodore of Mopsuestia blamed the subtle difference of Christology on some form of Nestorian Christological and Eschatological Monotheletism, i.e. that their teachings put the human part of Christ no different than their teachings on prophets and saints in the general Resurrection.  While they may say they don't think that way, Fr. John Romanides gives textual proof on the Theodoran belief of the loss of freedom of will when we are deemed worthy to be in the presence of the Lord.  This is pretty much what they mean by unity in will, not natural unity, not hypostatic unity, but a personal unity in will.  The only difference between Christ and the prophets, says Fr. Romanides of Theodore's belief, that Christ had no distinct human will on his own from conception, whereas the saints and prophets achieve this after Resurrection.

I have not seen an article however that can confirm or debunk the claims made by Fr. John Romanides, but albeit a very very interesting assessment.
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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2009, 08:27:54 PM »

There are lots of translated primary texts on archive.org, but a good source of modern secondary materials is available here, on the website that was run by Mar Bawai Soro before he fell into difficulties with other members of the hierarchy and recently joined the Catholic Church.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070930193405/http://www.cired.org/

He has also published a volume in English describing the position of the Church of the East on various issues.



http://stores.lulu.com/marbawai

I do have questions myself about the Christology of the Church of the East but believe that we should offer them the same respect which we wish to receive from others with whom we are ourselves in dialogue. I do also find it a little troubling that the Roman Catholic Church can consider the Christology of the Church of the East the same as their own.

Father Peter


Thank you, Father, for the recommendations.  I'm thinking of getting the book.

If anyone wants to take a look at the table of contents and index, you can see it on amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Church-East-Apostolic-Orthodox/dp/160402514X/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t
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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2009, 10:17:07 PM »

This one looks pretty good as well:

The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity
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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2009, 02:11:44 AM »


It seems that, based on the statments above the Assyrians are now professing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is one person.

I don't think that the Church of the East has ever stated that Christ is "two persons."  The issue is more subtle than that.  They use "two natures" and "one person," but seem to believe in more separation between the two natures than most EO's or Catholics would feel comfortable with.  I get the feeling that to really understand what they mean, one has to look at the Syriac terminology they use.  An Assyrian guy used to post here (ronyodish) and he explained it somewhat in this thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,16412.0.html






Thanks for this information. I was under the impression that at one time they referred to "two hypostatises" with regard to Christ but that they no longer mean literally two persons.
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« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2009, 02:37:46 AM »

Thanks for this information. I was under the impression that at one time they referred to "two hypostatises" with regard to Christ but that they no longer mean literally two persons.

It's been a while since I really read ronyodish's posts in the thread I linked, but it seemed to me at the time he was shying away from using the phrase "two hypostases," relying instead on the Syriac terminology which had a different nuance.  I also don't think that the Church of the East has changed its Christology since the time of Theodore, although Babai the Great did evidently somehow rework it or systemize it.  In any event, they still venerate Theodore of Mopsuestia. 

I wish ronyodish still posted here so he could explain things further.
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« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2009, 05:30:57 AM »

I have also been concerned that the OO do not approach the ACE in a negative and polemical manner, but rather allow them to speak for themselves. I did contact Mar Bawai Soro at one time to see if he could put me in touch with a theologian to correspond with. But Mar Bawai Soro has had various problems to contend with, and it is not always easy to write in a positive manner about the ACE within an OO context, as this can be misunderstood for various kinds of liberalism.

In my own studies, and there are many modern academic writers on Theodore and Theodoret to turn to, I am sure that the Christology of Theodore, Theodoret and Ibas, as well as Nestorius, was always defective. If the ACE still depends on the teaching of these Fathers then it is a defective Christology. If it no longer does then there are questions about their veneration of these figures. I have tried to read as much as possible about the Christology of the modern ACE and at the best (I mean that positively) I was left with a series of questions that I wanted someone authoritative to answer. At the worst, I could see no difference between the Christology of the ACE and that of Theodoret for instance.

In the case of Theodoret, he never spoke of two persons, but understood Christ as the person of the union of the Word and Jesus. Jesus was not a mere man, because he was filled with God in an exceedingly great sense, but he was still essentially just a man and was not God the Word become truly flesh. Theodoret was able to say that he believed in the union of Divinity and humanity in Christ but he did not believe what we would believe by those words. He could never identify the identity of Jesus with that of the identity of the Word. He could say that Christ suffered on the cross, but never that the Word suffered on the cross.

I do think that we should be entirely open hearted towards the ACE, and that there are not many questions which need resolving, but they are important questions. And if, as I tend to think, there is a significant difference in Christology, that does not mean that we should deal with the ACE any less respectfully.

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« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2009, 06:33:21 AM »

Dear Fr Peter,

I recommend you get hold of a copy of HE Metropiltan Bishoy's A Documentary on the Nestorian Assyrian Church of the East: Its History, Present Condition and Doctrines.

His Eminence gives a commentary on the most recent ecumenical encounters with the ACE, including a recount of his own personal correspondence with Metropolitan Bawai Soro (before the latter 'defected').

His Eminence's research was ultimately the primary basis upon which the Holy Synod formally withdrew the Church's participation in ecumenical dialogue with the ACE. In a nutshell, the conclusion of His Eminence's research was that the current teachings of the Assyrian Church were defective and that the ACE was adament in persisting in those errors in respect of which the Church will not (and should not) compromise. It appears that some fickleness/deception on part of certain ACE authorities (along the lines of their recanting certain lofty promises earlier made) cemented our Church's tendency to shake the dust off our feet on the matter of OO-ACE reconciliation (at least as long as the ACE retains its present position on the relevant issues).
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« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2009, 10:14:25 AM »

Yes, I have read the work by H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy.

I do still think that a sympathetic and generous attitude is appropriate. We have nothing to fear from the very small ACE community, and it seems to me that there is value in honestly discovering difference as well as agreement.

As far as I can read the situation in the ACE, from the outside, it does appear that there were two parties within their Synod. One wishing to be more ecumenical and the other wishing to take a harder line position based on difference. This was what seems to have caused Mar Bawai Soro to be dealt with in what seemed a harsh and unfair manner, and then to have united his communities in the US with the RC.

I am not sure that the aim of ecumenical conversation must be or should be unity with the other party, rather to share fellowship as far as is possible and to uncover that which is held in common while understanding that which is a matter of disagreement and even controversy. It is always better to find more friends in the world rather than to persist in ancient enmities. Friendship does not require abandoning one's faith so it is not a cause of fear.

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« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2009, 04:38:15 PM »


In the case of Theodoret, he never spoke of two persons, but understood Christ as the person of the union of the Word and Jesus. Jesus was not a mere man, because he was filled with God in an exceedingly great sense, but he was still essentially just a man and was not God the Word become truly flesh. Theodoret was able to say that he believed in the union of Divinity and humanity in Christ but he did not believe what we would believe by those words. He could never identify the identity of Jesus with that of the identity of the Word. He could say that Christ suffered on the cross, but never that the Word suffered on the cross.

It seems that the ACE denies this very idea that you have stated above in their joint declaration on Christology with the Catholic Church.
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« Reply #20 on: April 04, 2009, 05:22:52 PM »


In the case of Theodoret, he never spoke of two persons, but understood Christ as the person of the union of the Word and Jesus. Jesus was not a mere man, because he was filled with God in an exceedingly great sense, but he was still essentially just a man and was not God the Word become truly flesh. Theodoret was able to say that he believed in the union of Divinity and humanity in Christ but he did not believe what we would believe by those words. He could never identify the identity of Jesus with that of the identity of the Word. He could say that Christ suffered on the cross, but never that the Word suffered on the cross.

It seems that the ACE denies this very idea that you have stated above in their joint declaration on Christology with the Catholic Church.

The problem with joint declarations like the one above is that they use language which sounds good to everyone, but may still ignore some real differences.  It's my understanding that if you "scratch beneath the surface," as they say, and look deeper, they believe in less of a union than we do.  They still do not fully embrace the phrase "Mother of God" for the Virgin Mary, even though they may allow it as a sort of title of honor.  They also will not say that "One of the Trinity suffered in the flesh."  From our point of view this means they really don't see Christ as "God the Word become truly flesh."  At least that is how I understand it from our point of view. 

Also, I will note that although your Church did enter into this joint declaration with the Church of the East, you still are not in communion with them.  Does this not indicate that your Church's leadership might on some level still have some problem with the Church of the East's Christology? 
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« Reply #21 on: April 04, 2009, 05:29:22 PM »

The joint statement clearly says that the divinity and humanity are united in the person of Christ. This was exactly what Theodoret said, and the person of Christ was the person of the union and not the selfsame Word of God.

Anytime I see someone from the in two natures tradition speaking of the person of Christ and not the person of the Word my radar does start itching.

This at least would be an area for further questions. Theodoret, holding an heretical Christology, would easily be able to sign up to the words of the joint statement. It is not restrictive enough. It is necessary to say, among other things, that the Word of God suffers and dies. Theodoret was never able to say that.

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« Reply #22 on: April 05, 2009, 12:06:57 AM »



Also, I will note that although your Church did enter into this joint declaration with the Church of the East, you still are not in communion with them.  Does this not indicate that your Church's leadership might on some level still have some problem with the Church of the East's Christology? 
Tis possible. But we have other doctrinal issues with the ACE as well.
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« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2009, 11:36:27 PM »

Father Peter,

What makes you think, that Bp Bawai Soro was dealt with harshly, certainly the ACE Synod does not seem to share that viewpoint.


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« Reply #24 on: April 06, 2009, 03:53:18 AM »

As an outsider it is hard to know what is really going on.

But I followed the issues for some time. It seemed that he was being very successful in his communities in the US, and was making substantial ecumenical progress. It seemed that some members of the Synod did not like this and he was told he could either become the Bishop of Iraq or retire as a bishop. It seemed that his communities resisted this and he had to find a home for them.

I have used the word seemed because I have only the various information which was posted on the web, legal decisions etc, statements from supporters. If it was only mostly true then he seemed to have been badly treated.

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« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2009, 02:03:13 AM »

Father Peter,

I too was trying to follow the issues , and I sort of came to understand that Bp Bawai Soro and his ecumenical overtures were primarily aimed at Rome ( esp since his time at the Pontifical Oriental), he did try to push for certian reforms, especially regarding the use of Arabic , English against the Syriac/Aramaic in the liturgy etc.
In any case, he does not seem to have the Synod with him .

Much of my interest is because, India is home to  ACE Metropolitanate , and Mar Aprem the Met. is well regarded and respected universally in India, regardless of the Christological issues.
I hope to directly write to H.E about this issue.

Suraj
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« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2009, 02:14:55 AM »

Father Peter,

I too was trying to follow the issues , and I sort of came to understand that Bp Bawai Soro and his ecumenical overtures were primarily aimed at Rome ( esp since his time at the Pontifical Oriental), he did try to push for certian reforms, especially regarding the use of Arabic , English against the Syriac/Aramaic in the liturgy etc.
In any case, he does not seem to have the Synod with him .

Much of my interest is because, India is home to  ACE Metropolitanate , and Mar Aprem the Met. is well regarded and respected universally in India, regardless of the Christological issues.
I hope to directly write to H.E about this issue.

Suraj


It seems to me also that the Indian and Syrian Orthodox churches have a more open relationship with the ACE than other OO's.
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« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2009, 03:29:38 AM »

Mina,

AFAIK, the seemingly good relationships has not resulted in any institutional dialogue or any thing like that, it results mostly in photo-ops and the like.

Some work is done at the Pro-oriente Syriac forum, I hope that at the Indian level something more substantial will take place.  Even if we never agree, it would be interesting to hear their perspective, study their liturgy etc in depth. 

Suraj Iype
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« Reply #28 on: April 12, 2009, 09:01:46 PM »

I am interested in English works on the history and theology of the Nestorian Church.  Any suggestions would be appreciated! 

BY FOOT TO CHINA

Mission of The Church of the East, to 1400

http://www.aina.org/books/bftc/bftc.htm


DEDICATED to the memory of the men of God who thirteen centuries ago first took the gospel to China - "the missionaries who traveled on foot, sandals on their feet, a staff in their hands, a basket on their backs, and in the basket the Holy Scriptures and the cross. They went over deep rivers and high mountains, thousands of miles, and on the way, meeting many nations, they preached to them the gospel of Christ."


An extraordinary online account and a must read.
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« Reply #29 on: April 12, 2009, 09:15:02 PM »

Here is a new book which seems to have a large portion devoted to the Church of the East.  I am dying to get hold of it, but will wait until I can pick it up secondhand.


The Lost History of Christianity
The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died
by Philip Jenkins
 
In the summer of 2002, I traveled in southeastern Turkey to meet with members of the two-millennia-old Syriac church, of whom only a few thousand are left in their homelands. Their language, Syriac-Aramaic, is as close as any living language to the one that Jesus spoke, yet they are forbidden by the Turkish government to teach it to their schoolchildren. We came to deserted villages such as Kafro, whose inhabitants had been driven out by the attacks of Turkish Hezbollah, and which were now sealed off by the military. We visited the monastery of Tur Abdin, a major center of Eastern Christianity, now dwindling under suffocating government restrictions. We met the only two monks remaining in the monastery of the village of Sare.
 
In Nisibis (now Nusaybin in southeast Turkey), where a famous Christian community dates back to the second century, and which nurtured Ephrem, the greatest of the Syrian theologians, there is a church dating from 439. It was locked and abandoned after World War I when the inhabitants, fleeing massacre, escaped into Syria. For 60 years there had been no Christians there, but now the diocese had sent a Christian family from a local village, who live in a small apartment in the church and try to keep it from falling apart.
 
We went into the crypt to see the tomb of Jacob of Nisibis, from whom the term "Jacobite" church is named, and while we studied his sarcophagus, our driver, unprompted, began to sing an ancient hymn. His strong voice filled the tomb. We asked him what the words meant, and he told us that the lyrics came from Ephrem himself:
 
Listen, my chicks have flown,
left their nest, alarmed
By the eagle. Look,
where they hide in dread!
Bring them back in peace!
 
Philip Jenkins's marvelous new book, The Lost History of Christianity, tells the largely forgotten story of Nisibis, and thousands of sites like it, which stretch from Morocco to Kenya to India to China, and which were, deep into the second millennium, the heart of the church. While Christians will be particularly concerned with this story, it will be of interest to, and significant for, far more than they.
 
After an already distinguished career as a historian, Jenkins has, during the last six years, produced a series of books designed to inform modern readers of the religious shape of the world we inhabit, a shape radically different from that of the popular, or even not-so-popular, mind. While much of what he has written will be of little surprise to specialists, he has a gift for clearly and cogently synthesizing and summarizing copious research. The Next Christendom (2002) described how Christianity's demographic center of gravity, in the 20th century, moved to the Third World. The New Faces of Christianity (2006) argued that, since their culture is closer to the Bible, Africans and Asians understand the book very differently from Europeans and North Americans, and find in it a great liberatory force. God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis (2007) found in Europe much more than fading Christianity and growing Islam.
 
The story usually told of Christianity is that, while it certainly also spread elsewhere, its major influence and home was in Europe. The church developed early, Europe became in some sense Christianized, and subsequently it set the pattern for the faith. With the discovery of America and the European voyages of exploration, as well as colonialism, Christianity then spread to the rest of the world largely as a Western export.
 
Jenkins demonstrates that this story is flat wrong--or as he more charitably puts it, "much of what we know is inaccurate."
 
For most of its history, Christianity was a tricontinental religion, with powerful representation in Europe, Africa and Asia, and this was true into the 14th century. Christianity became predominantly European not because this continent had any obvious affinity for that faith, but by default: Europe was the continent where it was not destroyed.
 
As late as the 11th century Asia was home to about a third of the world's Christians, Africa another 10 percent, and the faith in these continents had deeper roots in the culture than it did in Europe, where in many places it was newly arrived or still arriving.
 
About the time of Charlemagne's investiture in 800, the patriarch, or catholicos, of the Church of the East, often called Nestorian, was Timothy, based in Seleucia, in Mesopotamia. In prestige and authority, Timothy was "arguably the most significant Christian spiritual leader of his day," much more influential than the Western pope and on par with the Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople. Perhaps a quarter of the world's Christians looked to him as their spiritual and political head. His duties included appointing bishops in Yemen, Arabia, Iran, Turkestan, Afghanistan, Tibet, India, Sri Lanka, and China. A Christian cemetery in Kyrgyzstan contains inscriptions in Syrian and Turkish commemorating "Terim the Chinese, Sazik the Indian, Banus the Uygur, Kiamata of Kashgar, and Tatt the Mongol." The Church of the East may even have reached to Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and Korea.
 
The Asian church was also more intellectually accomplished: Its operating languages were Syriac, Persian, Turkish, Soghdian, and Chinese. Timothy himself translated Aristotle's Topics from Syriac into Arabic. Much of the "Arab" scholarship of the time, such as translations of Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, and others into Arabic, or the adoption of the Indian numbering system, was in fact done by Syriac, Persian, and Coptic (Egyptian and Nubian) Christians, often in the high employ of the Caliph.
 
It was also a church immersed in cultures very different from the Roman and Hellenic environments of the West. Timothy engaged in a famous dialogue with the caliph al-Mahdi, which still survives. The church's milieu was not only Jewish and Muslim but also, perhaps more so, Buddhist, Manichaean, Zoroastrian, and Confucian. This made for relations that defy many of our usual assumptions about history. Jenkins recounts how "in 782, the Indian Buddhist missionary Prajna arrived in the Chinese imperial capital of Chang'an, but was unable to translate the Sanskrit sutras he had brought" into Chinese or other useful local languages.
 
Hence, Prajna did the obvious thing and consulted with Bishop Adam, head of the Chinese church, who was deeply interested in understanding Buddhism. As a result, "Buddhist and Nestorian scholars worked amiably together for some years to translate seven copious volumes of Buddhist wisdom." These same volumes were taken back home by Japanese monks who had been in Chang'an, and became the founding volumes of Shingon and Tendai, the two great schools of Japanese Buddhism.
 
The Chinese also influenced the West. Around 1275, two Chinese monks began a pilgrimage to the Holy land. One, Markos, was probably a Uygur and the other, Bar Sauma, may have been an Onggud. In 1281, Markos was elected patriarch. He protested that he was not up to it, not least because his knowledge of Syriac was rudimentary. But the church fathers argued that the "kings who held the steering poles of the government of the whole world were the [Mongols], and there was no man except [him] who was acquainted with their manners and customs." Markos established his seat near Tabriz, then the capital of the Mongol Ilkhan dynasty.
 
Bar Sauma had an equally interesting life. In 1287 the Ilkhan overlord sent him on a diplomatic mission to Europe to enlist aid for a proposed joint assault on Mamluk Egypt: Kublai Khan in Beijing would also be a supporter. The Europeans were amazed to discover both that the church stretched to the shores of the Pacific and that the emissary from the fearsome Mongols was a Christian bishop, one from whom the king of England subsequently took communion.
 
Jenkins places the ending of this world, "the decisive collapse of Christianity in the Middle East, across Asia, and in much of Africa," not with the initial rise of Islam but in the 14th century. One trigger was the Mongol invasions, which threatened Arab Islam as never before. (The Crusades were a minor sideshow.) The Mongols sought alliances with Christians, and there were Christians among them, hence local believers were treated as a potential fifth column and often massacred.
 
Later, the Mongols themselves embraced Islam and turned on the Christians. Timur's subsequent invasions, among the most brutal in history, furthered the process, as did Seljuk and Ottoman advances and, further east, rising anti-Mongol Chinese nationalism. Between 1200 and 1500 the proportion of Christians outside Europe fell from over a third to about 6 percent. By 1500 the European church had become dominant "by dint of being, so to speak, the last men standing" of the Christian world.
 
The eastern communities were savaged again in a second great wave of persecution beginning in the 19th century, with the slaughter of the Armenians, and also the Syriacs, Nestorians, and Maronites. When the British took over Mesopotamia after the First World War, they judged the Assyrians' situation so desperate that they considered moving them to Canada. In 1930 there were proposals to transfer them to South America. Following massacres by Arabs in 1933, the British flew the patriarch to Cyprus for safety while the League of Nations debated moving them to Brazil or Niger. We may currently be in another such wave as Christians flee the Palestinian areas, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt. In 2003 in Iraq, Christians were some 4 percent of the population, but they have since comprised 40 percent of the refugees.
 
As Jenkins says, "We have forgotten a world." The "new" globalized Christianity "is better seen as a resumption of an ancient reality." He explores the pervasive influence of Christianity on Islam, and it is always good to see the woolly writings of Karen Armstrong and Elaine Pagels taken apart, albeit gently.
 
This book has few weaknesses. It would have been good to explore the major cultural effects of the different role of language in Christian and Islamic missions: the former seeking to bring the Word into the locals' languages, the latter seeking to bring the locals the Word in Arabic.
 
In the late 10th century a Nestorian monk from Arabia visiting China reported his horror at discovering that Christianity had, after centuries, by then become "extinct." But Christianity is now in its fourth phase of expansion in China: More people there go to church than do in Europe. Perhaps Ephrem's hymn and prayer will be answered: "Bring them back in peace."
 
Paul Marshall is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and the editor of Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion.

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« Reply #30 on: April 21, 2009, 06:05:27 PM »

Dear Fr Peter,

I recommend you get hold of a copy of HE Metropiltan Bishoy's A Documentary on the Nestorian Assyrian Church of the East: Its History, Present Condition and Doctrines.

His Eminence gives a commentary on the most recent ecumenical encounters with the ACE, including a recount of his own personal correspondence with Metropolitan Bawai Soro (before the latter 'defected').

His Eminence's research was ultimately the primary basis upon which the Holy Synod formally withdrew the Church's participation in ecumenical dialogue with the ACE. In a nutshell, the conclusion of His Eminence's research was that the current teachings of the Assyrian Church were defective and that the ACE was adament in persisting in those errors in respect of which the Church will not (and should not) compromise. It appears that some fickleness/deception on part of certain ACE authorities (along the lines of their recanting certain lofty promises earlier made) cemented our Church's tendency to shake the dust off our feet on the matter of OO-ACE reconciliation (at least as long as the ACE retains its present position on the relevant issues).

Christos Anesti.

                    May peace and grace be with your spirit.

                    I also have read His Emminence Metropolitan Bishoy's work regarding the Nestorians (ACE) {A Documentary on the Nestorian Assyrian Church of the East: Its History, Present Condition and Doctrines}and discussed it with HE and HE secretary during a recent trip to Damiette and the Monastery of St Demiana (2008) I must say that the position put forward by HE and undertaken by the Holy Synod is the -only- consistent response any Christian Church could take towards such behaviour, teachings and veneration undertaken by the Nestorians. Whilst dialogue and inter faith discussions may and do occur with other -Christian based- Churches, it must not occur with non-Christian sects or cults or those who are in denial of either the Blessed Holy Trinity or complete Divinity and Humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

                    Pray for me.

James+
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« Reply #31 on: April 21, 2009, 06:33:43 PM »

Welcome to the forum, Fr. James!
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« Reply #32 on: April 21, 2009, 06:38:37 PM »

Abouna James,

Alithos Anesti!

Thanks for your response.

You wouldn't happen to be the recently ordained (as of early this year) Fr James of Australian descent would you?
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« Reply #33 on: April 21, 2009, 06:49:12 PM »

Welcome to the forum, Fr. James!

Thank you dear Salpy, kindly remember me in your prayers.

James+
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« Reply #34 on: April 21, 2009, 06:52:41 PM »

Abouna James,

Alithos Anesti!

Thanks for your response.

You wouldn't happen to be the recently ordained (as of early this year) Fr James of Australian descent would you?

Asalam ya habibi,  Smiley

Tis I the Australian sinner. December 6th, 2008, St James the mangled, Ordained at the hands of HG Anba Daniel of Sydney, HG Anba Ashaiah of Tahta and in the presence of the Syrian Archbishop of Sydney HE Malki Malki.

Remember my weakness in your prayers.

James+
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« Reply #35 on: April 21, 2009, 07:01:55 PM »

A pleasant surprise to see you on here Abouna!

I was present (and in fact served) at your ordination (which took place in the Cathedral I regularly attend).

You probably don't remember me but I also had the honour of serving with you during my brief stay at St Shenouda's monastery which took place during your "preparation period."

I look forward to reading more posts from you. Please remember me in your prayers.
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« Reply #36 on: April 21, 2009, 07:15:39 PM »

A pleasant surprise to see you on here Abouna!

I was present (and in fact served) at your ordination (which took place in the Cathedral I regularly attend).

You probably don't remember me but I also had the honour of serving with you during my brief stay at St Shenouda's monastery which took place during your "preparation period."

I look forward to reading more posts from you. Please remember me in your prayers.

Thank you for blessing my weakness and serving alongside. Kindly remember me in your prayers and may the prayers of the saints be with us all.

James+
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« Reply #37 on: April 21, 2009, 09:01:11 PM »

Father Peter,

I too was trying to follow the issues , and I sort of came to understand that Bp Bawai Soro and his ecumenical overtures were primarily aimed at Rome ( esp since his time at the Pontifical Oriental), he did try to push for certian reforms, especially regarding the use of Arabic , English against the Syriac/Aramaic in the liturgy etc.
In any case, he does not seem to have the Synod with him .

Much of my interest is because, India is home to  ACE Metropolitanate , and Mar Aprem the Met. is well regarded and respected universally in India, regardless of the Christological issues.
I hope to directly write to H.E about this issue.

Suraj


It seems to me also that the Indian and Syrian Orthodox churches have a more open relationship with the ACE than other OO's.

Christ is Risen!

The Syriacs and Assyrians see themselves as one people, and the Indians have followed suit.
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« Reply #38 on: April 21, 2009, 11:46:04 PM »

The Syriacs and Assyrians see themselves as one people,

You mean ethnically, of course.   Smiley
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« Reply #39 on: April 22, 2009, 03:14:27 AM »

Your Reverence,

Welcome to the forums  Smiley

Mina, a NJ Copt (although not in NJ right now)

Pray for me.
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« Reply #40 on: April 22, 2009, 06:10:53 PM »


Welcome to the forums  Smiley

Mina, a NJ Copt (although not in NJ right now)

Pray for me.


Thank you Mina, the prayers of the saints be with you.

James+
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« Reply #41 on: April 22, 2009, 08:28:08 PM »

Here is a new book which seems to have a large portion devoted to the Church of the East.  I am dying to get hold of it, but will wait until I can pick it up secondhand.


The Lost History of Christianity
The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died
by Philip Jenkins
....
Hence, Prajna did the obvious thing and consulted with Bishop Adam, head of the Chinese church, who was deeply interested in understanding Buddhism. As a result, "Buddhist and Nestorian scholars worked amiably together for some years to translate seven copious volumes of Buddhist wisdom." These same volumes were taken back home by Japanese monks who had been in Chang'an, and became the founding volumes of Shingon and Tendai, the two great schools of Japanese Buddhism.

We see this process again happening over the past hundred years or so, with European (Christian) scholars publishing translations of Buddhist and Hindu texts, thus aiding in the revivals of these traditions.

What I wouldn't give for Bishop Adam's diaries! Grin
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« Reply #42 on: July 22, 2009, 08:24:12 PM »

Quote
I don't think that the Church of the East has ever stated that Christ is "two persons."  The issue is more subtle than that.  They use "two natures" and "one person," but seem to believe in more separation between the two natures than most EO's or Catholics would feel comfortable with.  I get the feeling that to really understand what they mean, one has to look at the Syriac terminology they use.  An Assyrian guy used to post here (ronyodish) and he explained it somewhat in this thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,16412.0.html

Quote
It's been a while since I really read ronyodish's posts in the thread I linked, but it seemed to me at the time he was shying away from using the phrase "two hypostases," relying instead on the Syriac terminology which had a different nuance.  I also don't think that the Church of the East has changed its Christology since the time of Theodore, although Babai the Great did evidently somehow rework it or systemize it.  In any event, they still venerate Theodore of Mopsuestia.

I wish ronyodish still posted here so he could explain things further.

Salpy,

Peace be with you!  Smiley

I only occasionally visit this website, and so I just found this thread.  I usually post at another website, but I'll try to contribute here as much as I can and have the time for, God willing.

I just wanted to clarify that in regards your first quote, though I am an Assyrian guy (Usually I refer to myself as an Assyrian-Chaldean, or Assyro-Chaldean, or Chaldean), I am not, thereby, a member of the Assyrian Church of the East.  I am a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church of the East, which is a Church of the East in full communion with Rome, a particular Church in the Catholic Communion of Churches.  I am therefore an Eastern Catholic.  However, we Assyro-Chaldean Catholics share the same basic Assyrian-Chaldean tradition with the Assyrian Church of the East, that is, we share a common theology, liturgy, spirituality, and disciplines.  Part of our common theology is a common Christology, or theology on Christ.

In regards to your second quote, it is true that we do not use Greek terms and concepts when we teach our particular Christology to our Assyrian and Chaldean people.  We use Aramaic terms and concepts.  It is only in ecumenical endeavors, where we try to explain our Christology to others, that we have to try and make comparisons between Aramaic and Greek, and other languages.  So, we do not confess two hypostases (Greek term, and how Greek-speakers understand the term), rather, we confess two Qnome (Aramaic term, and how we Aramaic-speakers understand the term in the Church of the East).  We understand Qnoma to mean a particular Nature.  We confess Jesus Christ to be one Person, the true Son and Word of God in His Divine Qnoma (the Son, not the Father, and not the Holy Spirit), and true Man in His Human Qnoma (the particular human body and human soul that was created and assumed), without division, without separation, without confusion, and without change.

Here is a statement from the Sunhados of the Church of the East, aka the Synodicon Orientale (ed., J. B. Chabot, Paris, 1892, appendix, Syriac text, p. 566), taken from this article: Is the Theology of the Church of the East Nestorian?

Quote
“Concerning this, we believe in our hearts and confess with our lips one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose Godhead does not disappear, and whose manhood is not stolen away, but who is complete God and complete man.  When we say of Christ ‘com­plete God’ we are not naming the Trinity, but one of the qnome of the Trinity, God the Word.  Again, when we call Christ ‘complete man’ it is not all men we are naming, but the one qnoma which was specifi­cally taken for our salvation into union with the Word.”

As far as our Church of the East Father Mar Babai the Great, here is a paragraph from Wikipedia on his Christology:

Quote
And most important, instead of breaking with Theodore because of some extreme interpretations of his teachings, like others did, Babai clarified his position to the point that differences with western Christology became superficial and mostly an issue of terminology. His Christology is built in great part on sound exegesis and an interesting anthropology and is far less dualistic than the one Nestorius seems to have presented. Babai in the 'Book of Union' teaches two qnome (hypostasis—not the Chalcedonian use of this term, essence), which are unmingled but everlastingly united in one parsopa (person, character, identity, also "hypostasis" in Chalcedonian usage.). It is essential to use the Syrian terms here and not any translations, because the same words mean different things to different people, and the words must be accepted in the particular sense of each. In Greek Christology, hypostasis is used specifically to refer to what would correspond to Babai's parsopa, and ousion would correspond to qnome. In the period in which Babai and others formulated their respective Christological models, words such as "hypostasis" and "ousion" had less specifically fixed definitions. Thus, it was possible for two individuals to honestly use a single term to mean two distinctly different things.

Finally, I really like this diagram which shows our Christology:


I hope this is helpful for the brethren here in understanding the basics of our Christology.

By the way, I'm going to be moving to another State in a few days, and will try and establish an internet connection there, so I might not be back at posting here for a while.  Incase anyone has any questions for me, I may not be able to respond for a while.

God bless,

Rony
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Salpy
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« Reply #43 on: July 22, 2009, 09:22:38 PM »

Thank you for your input and for explaining things!   Smiley
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #44 on: July 22, 2009, 09:26:45 PM »

I still just don't get it...

I'll try reading a few more times.
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