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Author Topic: Origin of the Syrian Church.  (Read 3806 times) Average Rating: 0
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paul2004
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« on: June 21, 2004, 02:21:58 PM »

History teaches us that early Syriac church originated and flourished in Edessa and surrounding regions. So, it is reasonable to believe that the Edessan Church is the mother of all Syrian Churches.

Now, when we read the Doctrine of Addai (canonical document preserved in St. Petersburg Library, Russia as well as other manuscripts available), it is clear that the Edessan church originated from the works of Apostle Thomas along with Apostle Thaddaeus. It was Apostle Thomas who sent St. Thaddaeus (Mar Addai) to Edessa. This a church was formed there.

St. Thomas proceeded further East (to India) and St. Thaddaeus also did work in Armenia. In the first Syriac chuch of Edessa, St. Thaddaeus ordained St. Aggai as his successor bishop in the 'throne'.

This lineage continues until today as the 'Catholicose of the East'.

Churches in the West were not completely Syriac in nature. In Antioch, for example, there were many Greeks and Hebrews. Many fathers of Antioch wrote only in Greek.

So, the real Syrian church is the Church founded by Apostle Thomas. Syriac schools flourished in Edessa and surrounding regions, and in the jurisdiction of Catholicose of the East.

Since this ancient Syrian Church was outside the Byzantine empire, they did not enjoy the previleges of Churches within Byzantine empire.  If this ancient church of the East was within Byzantine empire, their Apostolic throne also would have gained high importance like other churches within Byzantine empire.


-Paul

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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2004, 03:29:05 PM »

The only problem with what you wrote is that until the rise of Islam, Edessa was part of the Eastern Roman province of Syria.  Therefore Edessa was a Byzantine city, and as I recall the place where St. John Chrysostom was sent to exile.
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2004, 04:26:43 PM »

It is difficult to say that Edessa and the Syriac Church of the East enjoyed the previleges of other cities and churches within Byzantium. We cannot claim that Edessa had a permanent position within Byzantine empire.

The city of Edessa was the capital of Kingdom of King Agbar, who was converted by Apostle Thaddaeus. This kingdom was established by Arabic tribes form North Arabia, and lasted from 132 B. C. to A. D. 244.

It was at first a protectorate of the Parthians, then of the Romans., The Romans established connection with Edessa from 115 to 118 under Trajan, and from 216 to 244.

There in AD 260, Shapur I of Persia defeated Emperor Valerian and took him prisoner. Edessa was a center of Christianity by the third century and became one of the major religious centers.

It was again taken over by Romans and Emperor Justin called it Justinopolis.  It was taken by Persian in 609 and, soon retaken by Heraclius.

Arabs captured the city in 640 and it remained with them until captured by the Crusaders in 1098. Baldwin I of Jerusalem became the ruler of Edessa. The city was captured by  Muslims in 1144 and passed
to the Ottoman Empire by 1637.

Nisibis and Edessa are close to the borders of Persia. These important centers of Syriac Christianity did not enjoy a permanent position within Byzantine empire.

There were three major schools, the school of Antioch (Anthiocian theology) and the two Syriac schools of Nisibis and Edessa.

The Antiochian school was not purely Syriac, as it had Greek influence from early centuries. But Anthioc enjoyed greater previleges from the Roman emperor.

St. John Chrysostom was sent exile to a place in the North-Eastern region of Turkey, close to Armenia called Pontus.

I still believe that the Syriac churches owe their origin to the works of Apostle Thomas and Thaddaeus. Even the Armenian church which is greatly influenced by the Syriac church of Nisibis considers St. Thaddaeus as one of the first Archbishops in the lineage. In a similar way the Church of the East also believe in the Syriac origin.

Byzantine influence in minimum in Syriac churches of the East, a good example is the use of Iconography. Both Armenian Church, Church of the East and Indian churches do not have a strong iconographic tradition, though they are not (except perhaps the Assyrian church of the East) againt Iconography.

It is reasonable to believe that Apostles Thomas and Thaddaeus founded the Syriac church in the East.

-Paul


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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2004, 09:00:16 PM »

OK, Paul2004, the validity or non-validity of your assertions aside, what's your point?

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« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2004, 12:07:07 AM »

Paul 2004,
what is the difference between the role of the Catholicos and the Patriarch, I know there is a Syriac Partiarchate of Antioch, as well as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. Is the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch also the Catholicos?? are they seperate offices and persons??

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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2004, 09:56:21 AM »

Spiros, The Syriac Church has two parts, the Eastern Church and the Western Church.   This is one way of understanding.  The Western Church (centered at Antioch) also had Greek influence from early centuries, being within Byzantine empire. The Eastern church developed in Persia (Iraq), India etc.

The Synod of the Western Church is headed by the Patriarch of Antioch. This Church now exists as three major churches, the Greek Orthodox (Antiochian Greek Orthodox), Syrian Orthodox (Antiochian Syrian Orthodox) and the Syrian Catholic Church.  Thus there are three Patriarchs of Antioch (Oriental Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic).

The Synod of the of the Eastern Syrian Church is headed by the "Catholicos of the East". This church is founded by Apostles Thomas and Thaddaeus. Today there are three major Churches, Orthodox Syrian Church of the East (i.e. Orthodox Church in India),  Assyrian Church of the East, and Catholic Chaldean Church of the East. There is also an old calendar 'Ancient Church of the East'.  There is no Greek Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox) Catholicos in the East. Existing Catholicoi are Oriental Orthodox, Nestorian and Roman Catholic.

-Paul


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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2004, 01:50:31 PM »

Hi Paul,

Are there ever meetings or consultations by all of the various Apostolic Syrian factions?  What I mean is, do the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Assyrian Church of the East, ever all get together to discuss common matters of faith, etc., for the Syrian faithful?

Also, I know that the Maronites are now under Rome.  Are they also considered to be Syrians?  

Could you also tell me a little more about the old calendar "Ancient Church of the East".  Who are they?  I heard that some Assyrians in Iraq at one time placed themselves under the Russians.  Is this them?

Finally, could you clarify the terms Syrian, Assyrian, Aramaean, Chaldean, etc., for me?  I think I have an idea of what each term means, but I'd like to hear your definitions.

Thanks,

Nick
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2004, 01:54:02 PM »

AN:  www.cired.org  click on Pro Oriente Consultation
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2004, 02:09:41 PM »

Thanks Anastasios.  Its going to take me a little while to read all of the various statements and addresses, but I'll get back to you as soon as I finish.  After a quick perusal, I get the impression that this particular dialogue was just between the RC (and its Syrian affiliates) and the ACE, despite the title  “Orthodoxy and Catholicity in the Syriac Tradition with Special Attention to the Theology of the Church of the East in the Sasanian Empire”.  Did EO and OO Churches of the Syrian tradition participate as well?
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« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2004, 02:16:56 PM »

OO participated, but not EO, in most of the sessions.

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« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2004, 02:31:33 PM »

Thanks Anastasios.  Also, to anyone who is interested in learning about Edessa, I would recommend a great little book called "Edessa, The Blessed City" by J.B. Segal.  I read it about three years back, and when I get around I'm going to read it again.
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2004, 01:57:40 PM »

"I heard that some Assyrians in Iraq at one time placed themselves under the Russians.  Is this them?"

Antonious,
My understanding is that in the 1800's some Assyrians physically moved from the Mosul area of northern Iraq  to Russia, and were received into the Moscow Patriarcate.
I think there was another thread about this someplace on the board. Assyrians have long been persecuted by the Kurds.  
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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2004, 06:18:23 PM »

Thus there are three Patriarchs of Antioch (Oriental Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic).

Five on the throne of Antioch.  Scratch out 'Roman Catholic' and replace it with three Catholic hierarchs: Syrian Catholic, Maronite, and Greek Melchite Catholic.  Antioch is crowded, as you can see.  In the distant past, there was a Latin Patriarch of Antioch, but that office has been abolished.

Quote
The Synod of the of the Eastern Syrian Church is headed by the "Catholicos of the East". This church is founded by Apostles Thomas and Thaddaeus. Today there are three major Churches, Orthodox Syrian Church of the East (i.e. Orthodox Church in India),  Assyrian Church of the East, and Catholic Chaldean Church of the East. There is also an old calendar 'Ancient Church of the East'.  There is no Greek Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox) Catholicos in the East. Existing Catholicoi are Oriental Orthodox, Nestorian and Roman Catholic.

Also within that group can be found the Malabar and Malankar Catholic Churches.  The title of 'Catholicos' does not exist in Eastern Orthodoxy.  The Armenian Church is the best example of a structure with catholicoi and patriarchs (the former outrank the latter in honour).  It has its spiritual head, the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin.  There is also the Catholicos of Cilicia; these guys speak Arabic (some even eventually become catholicoi of Etchmiadzin; I believe the present C. of E. was head of Cilicia prior to his election as Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians).  There are two Armenian patriarchs: that of Jerusalem and that of Constantinople.

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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2004, 06:38:18 PM »

Are there ever meetings or consultations by all of the various Apostolic Syrian factions?  What I mean is, do the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Assyrian Church of the East, ever all get together to discuss common matters of faith, etc., for the Syrian faithful?

This might interest you:

The Middle East Council of Churches

http://www.mecchurches.org/default.asp

Quote
Also, I know that the Maronites are now under Rome.  Are they also considered to be Syrians?

Syriac (Sir'yani) in tradition, yes (though, alas, heavily latinised), but for the majority, do not ever attempt to suggest 'Syrian' (Soori) in the present-day national sense.  You might get a black eye.  Grin  

Quote
Could you also tell me a little more about the old calendar "Ancient Church of the East".  Who are they?  I heard that some Assyrians in Iraq at one time placed themselves under the Russians.  Is this them?

Otherwise known as the Nestorian Church--the Assyrians.

Quote
Finally, could you clarify the terms Syrian, Assyrian, Aramaean, Chaldean, etc., for me?  I think I have an idea of what each term means, but I'd like to hear your definitions.

Syrian or Syriac: the Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Catholic Churches (in the wider sense of tradition, rather than proper name, 'Syriac' also includes the Maronites, Indians, and Iraqis of the East Syrian tradition).  Byzantine Antiochians do not belong to this class.

Assyrian: Ethnicity aside, only the Assyrian Church* of the East (Nestorian).

Chaldaean: The Assyrians' Catholic counterparts, and the larger of the two in size.  The name was adopted on the pretence that it was a more accurate ethnic designation.

Aramaean: No Church carries that name.  When speaking of the liturgical language of Churches that use Aramaic in the Liturgy, the more accurate term, 'Syriac', is used.

*There are actually two due to a schism.  The situation is similiar to ROCOR/ROCIE and the Ethiopian schism in one aspect: one of the contesting patriarchs is a former patriarch who does not recognise the election of his successor.  Cired.org is the website of the synod of Mar Dinkha (I believe this is the synod recognised by the Catholic Church in terms of diplomatic relations).

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« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2004, 12:25:56 AM »

History teaches us that early Syriac church originated and flourished in Edessa and surrounding regions. So, it is reasonable to believe that the Edessan Church is the mother of all Syrian Churches.

Now, when we read the Doctrine of Addai (canonical document preserved in St. Petersburg Library, Russia as well as other manuscripts available), it is clear that the Edessan church originated from the works of Apostle Thomas along with Apostle Thaddaeus. It was Apostle Thomas who sent St. Thaddaeus (Mar Addai) to Edessa. This a church was formed there.

St. Thomas proceeded further East (to India) and St. Thaddaeus also did work in Armenia. In the first Syriac chuch of Edessa, St. Thaddaeus ordained St. Aggai as his successor bishop in the 'throne'.

This lineage continues until today as the 'Catholicose of the East'.

The Church of the East headed by the Catholicos of Seleucia-Ctesiphon separated from the rest of Christendom in the 5th cent. He was clearly a subordinate to the Patriarch of Antioch as decided by the Nicene Synod .

The Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch began to consecrate a Maphryono of the East in AD 628 for the Syrian Orthodox Christians in Persian empire. This was not a continuation of the line of succession of the Catholicoii of the East but a separate office that originated and existed exclusively in the SOC completely subordinate to the Patriarch of Antioch.

Even if the 1912 consecration of a Catholicos in Malankara (India) was by a legitimate patriarch, it is evident that a Syriac Orthodox Patriarch could not consecrate a successor to the Catholicos of the East in Seleucia-Ctesiphon. At best he could have created a Maphrianate.

So the lineage of 'Catholicose of the East' is not from the St. Aggai of Syriac chuch of Edessa.
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« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2004, 03:22:26 PM »

 The title of 'Catholicos' does not exist in Eastern Orthodoxy.  

Actually, I believe the head of the Georgian Church is Patriarch-Catholicos.  Or am I mistaken?

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« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2004, 03:25:08 PM »

Justin, I believe you may be right.  When I wrote that statement, I thought there was one exception, but couldn't quite place which Church in the communion.

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« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2004, 11:46:14 PM »

Quote
Actually, I believe the head of the Georgian Church is Patriarch-Catholicos.  Or am I mistaken?

Right, he's the Catholicos-Patriarch.
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« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2004, 08:18:53 PM »

SamB - Thanks for the wealth of information!  You really know your stuff.  In your footnote you said: "There are actually two due to a schism.  The situation is similiar to ROCOR/ROCIE and the Ethiopian schism in one aspect: one of the contesting patriarchs is a former patriarch who does not recognise the election of his successor..."  

How can there be a "former Patriarch"?  Was he deposed?  Otherwise, he has to die, right?  In the Ethiopian situation, the legitimate Patriarch (Abune Theophilos) was jailed by the communists, and his illegitimate communist appointed successor (Abune Mercurios) was not recognized by any of the Oriental Orthodox Churches.  Then, the Ethiopian Holy Synod elected Abune Paulos to replace (the by then deceased) Abune Theophilos, while the illegitimate patriarch (Abune Mercurios) was still alive.  And here is where the whole "two patriarchs" thing rose up.  What are the details in the Assyrian situation?


Thomas Daniel - Thanks for all the info!


"I heard that some Assyrians in Iraq at one time placed themselves under the Russians.  Is this them?"

Antonious,
My understanding is that in the 1800's some Assyrians physically moved from the Mosul area of northern Iraq  to Russia, and were received into the Moscow Patriarcate.
I think there was another thread about this someplace on the board. Assyrians have long been persecuted by the Kurds.  


Interesting Spiros.  I imagine that they had to repudiate their former faith and accept that of the MP right?

Actually, I believe the head of the Georgian Church is Patriarch-Catholicos.  Or am I mistaken?

Justin

This makes sense, since the Georgian Church was for a long time affiliated with the Armenian Church.  Perhaps this title was more widely used in the "East" (i.e. Caucasia, the Persian Empire, India, etc.) and not in the Roman/Byzantine territories.
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« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2004, 11:12:23 PM »

Antonious, let me apologise.  I faulted in saying what I did about the Assyrian schism, as I forgot the facts.  

The particulars of the schism are as follows:

The Assyrians had for a long time adhered to a system of hereditary succession in the management of in the patriarchal office.  In the sixties, a rival patriarch was elected to replace the reigning patriarch from the legitimate bloodline at the time.  Apparently, the Iraqi government also encouraged this act.  The present-day successor to this break-away line is Mar Addai.  The hereditary patriarch was assassinated, and the old system of inheritance through bloodlines was abolished with the election of his successor, today's being Mar Dinkha.  The former's synod is Old Calendar; the latter's is New Calendar.

If you look at it on the surface and accept the claims of Mar Dinkha's synod, the rival patriarch who started the schism did so in response to his rival's reform of the calendar.  Others assert the reason for the schism was issues of Church management and reform.

Your information on the Ethiopian schism is interesting.  I have seen lists of Ethiopian patriarchs that recognise Abune Paulos, but also have Abune Mercurios listed before him, which led me to believe that the latter is still acknowledged as a legitimate past patriarch.  I was not aware that he was never recognised by the Oriental communion.

Here's another bit of surprising information on the Assyrians, and I hope my memory serves me well enough to guarantee its accuracy.  Today's Assyrian Church is not directly descended from the Assyrian Church of many centuries ago without interruption.  I understand that all Assyrians today descend from the Chaldaean Church.  When a Catholic/Assyrian split resulted from a faction of Assyrians forging communion with the West (perhaps as a protest against making the patriarchal office hereditary, which I believe occurred around that time), the hereditary line eventually died out completely with the passage of time.  About a century later, a faction of Catholic Chaldaeans broke away and gave us today's Assyrians.

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« Reply #20 on: July 06, 2004, 08:40:53 AM »

Antonious,
I checked out <History of Eastern Christianity> by Aziz Atiya, He stated that Nestorian familes were crossing into Russia as early as 1827 and converting to Russian Orthodoxy. In 1898 a Nestorian Bishop and four priests made the journey, and the Russians had signifcant mission activities among the Nestorians,  claiming 20,000 converts. From the Nestorian vantage, they were awaiting the Tsar to save them from the Turks and Kurds.  I would guess they became indistinguishable from other Russian Orthodox over time.
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« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2004, 12:28:17 PM »

SamB - The office of the patriarch was a hereditary one in this Church?  Were the bishops allowed to marry, or was it their nephews or something that assumed the patriarchal dignity?

As to the Ethiopians, Abune Mercurios is still alive, and was never deposed as a heretic, so if he is the true patriarch how can Abune Paulos have succeeded him?  I know for a fact that the Coptic Church never recognized Abune Mercurios, as he was elected by a communist controlled synod while the true patriarch, Abune Theophilos, was being tortured in jail for his support of the Church and the Royal Family.  I believe that the rest of the Oriental Orthodox Churches sided with the Coptic Church in this.

Spiros - Thanks once again for that interesting info.  It is interesting how quickly they were willing to abandon their theological position to receive the earthly support of the Tsar.  BTW, Atiya is one of my favorite historians, and his History of Eastern Christianity is a great book. Grin
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« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2004, 02:18:44 PM »

I rely on your account of things for seeing the correct picture behind this matter concerning the Ethiopian Church, Antonious.  I know next to nothing about it, and so am not making any claims.

About the Assyrian Church, all I can tell you is that its history featured (when and for how long I haven't a clue) married bishops; it is the only Church I know that permitted such a discipline.  I don't know during what period this practice existed.  As I am not sure whether this period coincides with the time a hereditary patriarchate did exist, I cannot positively say that the direct progeny of the patriarch were the inheritors of the throne, but I would reckon so and it wouldn't surprise me if that were true.

Spiros, I understand that body of converts died out with time.  There are no Russian Orthodox Assyrians.

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« Reply #23 on: July 06, 2004, 04:10:59 PM »

This is very interesting, SamB.  I realize that you don't know exactly when this practice was in place, or when it died out, but it must have been within the time of living memory if Mar Dinkha was involved in the dispute, right?

I think I remember reading once about some Assyrians under Russian Orthodox authority residing in the USA, but I'm not sure if that community still exists.
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« Reply #24 on: July 06, 2004, 10:43:54 PM »

Interesting Link Re: Russian Assyrians
http://www.roca.org/chicagoanddetroit/bishop.htm

Also a google search for "russian orthodox assyrians" brings some interesting results. Seems to be a vestigal community in Armenia-5900 souls in 1989.
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« Reply #25 on: July 07, 2004, 02:12:14 PM »

Thanks Spiros!  This article about Bishop John Gevargizov (Memory Eternal!) was precisely what I had in mind when I referenced Russian affiliated Assyrians in my above post.  

Just as a point of interest, someone once told me that one of the largest crime families in Moscow is an Assyrian one.
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« Reply #26 on: July 09, 2004, 12:28:28 PM »

Here is a bit of information. St. Issac of Nineveh (Issac the Syrian) was a bishop ordained by Mar Gheevraghese (George), the Catholicose of the East. He was a monk from northern Iraq and was consecrated bishop of Nineveh in AD 670 by the Catholciose of the East.  Though ordained by the Syrian Church of the East, he is considered saint in the Eastern Orthodox calendar.

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Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Bishop of Myra


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« Reply #27 on: July 09, 2004, 02:48:51 PM »

Interesting Paul.  So just to be clear, are you saying that St. Isaac the Syrian was from the Nestorian Church?
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