An article by Metropolitan Mar Aprem of the Assyrian Church of the East. This article is not about faith, but history and common Apostolic origin of the Eastern Syriac Churches (Edessan, Persian and Indian). Please do not confuse with Nestorian faith. Give importance only to the historic aspect in the article. The article gives valuable information about the common Apostolic origin of the Eastern in Edessa/ Iraq and India - founded by Apostle Thomas.
"In Urmia, in northern Iran, there is a strong tradition that St. Thomas preached there. There is a lake there, where, according to the oral tradition, St.Thomas performed a miracle throwing the water and making it stay in the air. The same tradition also exists about a pond in Palayur, near Trichur, Kerala. The identity of the two traditions is, in a way, another testimony to the connection between Persia and India from the early centuries of the Christian era."
"In many ancient sources there are references to the existence of Christianity in India from early centuries. The Doctrine of the Apostles (ca. 250 AD) locates the mission of St.Thomas to India. St. Ephraem the Syrian (Mar Aprem: 306-373 AD) has references to India. St Jerome, another great Church Father of the 4th century, refers to St.Thomas in India. Gregory of Nazianzus (397 AD), Paulinus of Nola (353-431 AD), Gaudentius of Brescia (410 AD), St. John Chrysostom (349-407 AD) and Gregory, Bishop of Tours (538AD) are some of the early writers who referred to St.Thomas Christians in India.
A Syriac codex preserved in the Vatican archives, written in Cranganore in 1301 AD, refers to the Apostle Thomas as the founder of the Indian Church."
"Spread of Syriac in IndiaSt. Thomas spoke the same language which Jesus spoke, namely Aramaic.
During the first centuries of the Christian era, South India had commercial relations with Mesopotamia and other countries of the Middle East where Aramaic was spoken. Aramaic was the' Lingua Franca' of oriental Christianity. Language is not a mere vehicle of abstract ideas, it is really the authentic expression of a way of life, the living manifestation of a culture.
In a cross-cultural situation like the one in India, the use of the native language is very important for the effective communication of the gospel. Nevertheless, the St. Thomas Christians in India used East Syriac, which they considered an inestimable treasure and a hieratic language. The Christians in India were attached to this language, which was intimately connected with their faith."
"The Church of the East's relationship with the Indian Church
According to the Malabar tradition, St. Thomas consecrated a certain Kepa as his successor and bishop. The same tradition holds that he ordained priests and deacons from several families and thus organized the church of Malabar before he left for Mylapore. Later, to carry out the ministry of the church, according to the tradition of the Church of the East there were the offices of metropolitan, bishop, archdeacon, corepiscopa, priests and deacons.
Some kind of relation between the Christians of India and the East Syrian Church existed from very early centuries in the church of the St. Thomas Christians in India, which is alleged to have had suffered, in the course of time, a decline. The common St Thomas-heritage, which Malabar church enjoyed along with churches such as Edessa and Seleucia-Ctesiphon brought them into closer relations.
From time to time, the Catholicos of the East would have consecrated and sent prelates to India. According to the testimony of Cosmas Indicopleustes (520 -525 AD), the Indian Church was hierarchically connected to the Persian Church. A clear and a precise picture of the relations between the two churches can be gathered from the letters of the Patriarchs Mar Ishoyahbh -III (647 - 650 AD) and Mar Timothy -I (780-823 AD) . These letters bear testimony to the fact that the Christians of India were jurisdictionally subject to the East Syrian church.
Tradition is unanimous in asserting that the prelates of the Thomas Christians came from the Church of the East for many centuries before the arrival of the Portuguese in India in 1498 A.D. Delegations were also being sent from India asking for bishops. Such a delegation was sent in 1490 AD, in which Joseph the Indian was a member. From the writings of the sixteenth century, especially from the decrees of the synod of Diamper of June 1599 AD, we understand that the East Syrian Church's prelates who reached India brought with them many East Syrian Church law-codes. These prelates visited India as a part of the East Syrian mission to propagate the Christian message. Their books were in Syriac language. The people in the Church in India was not keen to translate these books from Syriac to Malayalam."
"Alphonso Mingana, Chaldean priest from Mosul, Iraq who migrated to England and brought many Syriac manuscripts to England, was a strong supporter of the historicity of St.Thomas. Mingana argued:
There is no historian, no poet, no Breviary, no liturgy and no writer of any kind, who having the opportunity of speaking of St.Thomas does not associate his name with IndiaGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª. The name of Thomas can never be dissociated from IndiaGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª. Thomas and India are synonymous."