Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian
Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The disciples
first called Christians in Antioch (Acts of the Apostles
11:26). Apostle Peter is believed to have established a church
in AD 37, the remnants of which are still in Antakya (the
modern name of Antioch), Turkey. After the martyrdom of Apostle
he was succeeded by St. Euodius and St. Ignatius Noorono
as shepherds of the flock in Antioch and in the writings of St.
find the evolution of the ecclesiastical order of bishops—ordained
successors of the Apostles in whom continued the spiritual
authorities vested by our Lord in the Apostles. The bishophric
was recognized in the ecumenical Synod of Nicea (AD 325)
as one of the Patriarchates of Christendom (along with that
and Rome). It produced a line
of succession (see right) beginning with Apostle Peter
which continues to this day in the Syriac Orthodox Church.
at the time of Christ the capital of the Roman province of Syria
and an important center of commerce. As a city imbued in the
hellenistic culture, Greek was the common language. But the majority
of the people in the region, especially outside the cities spoke
Syriac, the Edessene dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken
by our Lord.
Addai, Mari, Aggai and Apostle Thomas, are believed to have spread
the Gospel in the regions north east of Antioch, of Edessa (Urhoy)
and Nisibis and further to upper northern Mesopotamian plains
between Rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The Syriac Doctrine of Addai
recounts how Christ send Addai, one of the Seventy Disciples,
to King Abgar of Edessa. It is believed that Apostle Thomas went
further east arriving in what is today India in AD 52. Many important
and influential centers of Syriac speaking Christians emerged
in the cities such as Edessa (Urhoy),
Adiabene (Hadyab), and Nisibis (Nsibin).
While Antioch was the seat of the bishophric, Edessa is often
considered the cradle of Syriac Christianity.
of Antioch played a significant role in the early history of
Christianity. It played a prominent role in the first three Synods
held at Nicea (325) , Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431),
shaping the formulation and early interpretation of Christian
doctrines. In AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon and its Christological
position resulted in a schism that divided the faithful under
the Apostolic See of Antioch into two—one today known as
the `idto suryoyto treeysath shubho (Syrian
or Syriac Orthodox Church) and the other the Eastern Orthodox
(or Rum Orthodox) Church of Antioch. The latter had the support
of the Byzantinian Emperor Justinian who convened the Council
of Chalcedon. The years that followed resulted in a struggle
over the Apostolic See, with bishops of both persuasions assuming
the position of Patriarch of Antioch. In 518, Patriarch St. Severus
was exiled from Antioch. The seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch
of Antioch moved to different monasteries including Qartmin,
Qenneshrin (Chalkis, near Aleppo), Malatya, and Amid (Diyarbakir),
and finally settled in 1293 in Dayro
d-Mor Hananyo (also known as Kurkmo Dayro in Syriac and Deir
Zafaran in Arabic) in Mardin. It remained at this monastery until
1933 when the political circumstances forced its migration to
Homs, Syria, and later to Damascus in
of the Syriac Orthodox emerged in former Persian territory, that
of the so-called Easterners (Syr. Madnehoyo).
The Syriac Orthodox community there was partly a result of the
Persian abduction of the Syrian population during the wars with
Byzantium and forced settlement on Persian territory and partly
of Christians in Persia who reacted against political imposition
of the doctrines of the Church of the East. In the period of
the Sassanids, the Easterners for practical reasons, established
an ecclesiastical organization of their own, recognizing the
metropolitan of Tagrit on the River Tigris as their head in 629.
Later in the eleventh century, the title came to be known as
the Maphryono (literally "one who bears fruit" or "consecrator").
He was elected by the eastern bishops, just as the Patriarch
was elected by those of the west, but was ordained by the Patriarch.
Later, this office gained such importance that Maphryonos ordained
the Patriarchs, but at the same time, the Maphryonos ceased to
be elected and from 793 (with the Maphryono Sarbelios) they were
nominated by the Patriarchs. Among the Maphryonos, was the illustrious
author Mor Gregorius
Bar `Ebroyo (1226-186). Dayro
d-Mor Mattay in Mosul served as the seat of the Maphryono
in many periods of history. Later, the Maphryono took residence
at the Patriarchate in Mardin. The last of the Maphryonos passed
away in 1848 and the position became defunct.
of the Syriac Orthodox Church is characterized by adversity.
Byzantinian oppression in the sixth and seventh centuries was
followed by the atrocities of the Crusaders in the 11th and 12th
centuries, then decimation at the hands of the Mongolians lead
by Tamerlane (1336-1405) in about 1400, and severe restrictions
under the Ottoman Sultanate. The growth of nationalism in the
waning years of the Ottoman Sultanate lead to the massacre of
about 25,000 in what is today South East Turkey in 1895-96. An
even greater calamity occurred in 1915, etched in the memory
of the Syriac Orthodox community as the Sayfo (Year
of the Sword), wiping out 90314 people (including 154 priests)
in 13350 families in 346 villages representing about a third
of the Syriac Orthodox population in the area (according to the
records compiled by Patriarch
Aphrem I). Further misery came with the Kurdish rebellion
in 1925-26, when the Kurds used the monasteries of Mor Malke
and Dayro da-Slibo and the churches in
Basibrin and near Hbob as bases. The immense suffering and destruction
from 1895 onwards resulted in the alteration of the demographics
of the community and mass emigration to other areas in the Middle
East, notably Syria, to the North and South Americas, to different
parts of Europe, and to Australia.
the adversity, the Church produced several illustrious saints
whose lives and works had such immense influence not only on
the Syriac tradition but much of Christendom. The rich liturgical
heritage of the Syriac Orthodox Church is but one of their legacies.
Scholars of the Church such as Mor Ya`qub of Edessa, George,
the Bishop of the Arabians, and Moses Bar Kepha played an important
role in transmitting Greek knowledge to the Arab world. Numerous
Syriac Orthodox authors have also recorded historiographical
accounts. Among them are such works as the Ecclesiastical History
of John of Ephesus, the Chronicle of Jacob of Edessa, the Chronicle
of Zuqnin (erroneously attributed to Patriarch Dionysius of Tel-Mahre),
the Chronicle of Patriarch Mikhayel Rabo, the Chronography and
Ecclesiastical History of Maphryono Gregorius Bar `Ebroyo.
Many of the
historical accounts recorded in English have been written by
authors affiliated with the Catholic Church and Church of England.
While many of these works provide a great deal of information
accessible to the English readers, denominational bias is evident
in these works.
links to recent historical accounts in English authored by Syriac
Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch.
materials in this page are reproduced by kind permission of the
authors/publishers of Syriac Orthodox Resources website.