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Syriac Christianity comprises multiple Christian traditions of Eastern Christianity. With a history going back to the early centuries of Christianity, in modern times it is represented by denominations primarily in the Middle East and in Kerala, India. Services in this tradition tend to feature liturgical (ritualistic) use of ancient Syriac, a dialect related to the Aramaic of Jesus.[1]

Syriac Christianity is divided into two major traditions: East Syrian, centered in Mesopotamia, and West Syrian, centered in Antioch. The East Syrian tradition was historically associated with the Church of the East, and is currently employed by the Middle Eastern churches that descend from it, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church, as well as by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of India. The West Syrian tradition is used by the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Maronite Church, and churches that descend from them, as well the Malankara churches of the Saint Thomas Christian tradition in India.

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History

Celebration at a Syriac Orthodox monastery in Mosul, Ottoman Syria, early 20th century.

Syriac Christian heritage is transmitted through the Syriac language, a dialect of Aramaic. Unlike the Greek Christian culture, Syriac culture borrowed much from early Rabbinic Judaism and Mesopotamian culture. Whereas Latin and Greek Christian cultures became protected by the Roman and Byzantine empires respectively, Syriac Christianity often found itself marginalised and persecuted. Antioch was the political capital of this culture, and was the seat of the Patriarchs of the church. However, Antioch was heavily Hellenized, and the Mesopotamian cities of Edessa, Nisibis and Ctesiphon became Syriac cultural centres.

The early literature of Syriac Christianity includes the Diatessaron of Tatian (most probably); the Curetonian Gospels and the Syriac Sinaiticus; the Peshitta Bible; the Doctrine of Addai and the writings of Aphrahat; and the hymns of Ephrem the Syrian.

The first division between Syriac Christians and Western Christianity occurred in the 5th century, following the First Council of Ephesus in 431, when Christians of the Sassanid Persian Empire were separated from those in the west over the Nestorian Schism. This split owed just as much to the politics of the day as it did to theological orthodoxy. Ctesiphon, which was at the time the Sassanid capital, became the capital of the Church of the East.

After the Council of Chalcedon in 451, many Syriac Christians within the Roman Empire rebelled against its decisions. The Patriarchate of Antioch was then divided between a Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian communion. The Chalcedonians were often labelled 'Melkites' (Emperor's Party), while their opponents were labelled as Monophysites (those who believe in the one rather than two natures of Christ) and Jacobites (after Jacob Baradaeus). The Maronite Church found itself caught between the two, but claims to have always remained faithful to the Catholic Church and in communion with the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Over time, some groups within each of these branches have re-entered into communion with the Roman Catholic Church, becoming Eastern Catholic Churches.

Churches of the Syriac tradition


Syriac Christians were involved in the mission to India, and many of the ancient churches of India are in communion with their Syriac cousins. These Indian Christians are known as Saint Thomas Christians.

In modern times, various Protestant denominations began to send representatives among the Syriac peoples. As a result, several Protestant groups, including the "Assyrian Pentecostal Church" have been established. However, such groups are not normally classified among those Eastern Churches to which the term "Syriac Christianity" is traditionally applied.

Relationship of the Nasrani (Saint Thomas Christian) groups


See also

Notes

  1. ^ Allen C. Myers, ed (1987). "Aramaic". The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans. p. 72. ISBN 0-8028-2402-1. "It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common language of Palestine in the first century A.D. Jesus and his disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of Jerusalem (Matt. 26:73).". Israeli scholars have established that Hebrew was also in popular use. Most Jewish teaching from the first century is recorded in Hebrew.

References

  • Baum, Wilhelm; Winkler, Dietmar W. (2003). The Church of the East: a concise history. Routledge. ISBN 9780415297707. 

External links

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