History of the Syriac Orthodox Church
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Chronological List of Patriarchs: 37 A.D. to 2003 A.D.
Reproduced, as is, by kind permission of the authors.
Copyright © Syriac Orthodox Resources. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts of the Apostles 11:26). Apostle Peter is believed to have established a church in Antioch in AD 37, the remnants of which are still in Antakya (the modern name of Antioch), Turkey. After the martyrdom of Apostle Peter, he was succeeded by St. Euodius and St. Ignatius Noorono as shepherds of the flock in Antioch and in the writings of St. Ignatius we 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 of Antioch was recognized in the ecumenical Synod of Nicea (AD 325) as one of the Patriarchates of Christendom (along with that of Alexandria and Rome). It produced a line of succession (see right) beginning with Apostle Peter which continues to this day in the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Antioch was 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.

The disciples 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.

The Church 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 1959.

Another center 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.

The history 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.

Amidst all 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.

Following are links to recent historical accounts in English authored by Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch.

References:

    1. Brock, Sebastian and David G.K. Taylor (ed.s), The Hidden Pearl: The Syrian Orthodox Church and Its Aramaic Heritage. (Rome: Trans World Film Italia, 2001).
    2. Patriarch Ignatius Aphram I Barsoum, The History of Syriac Literature and Sciences. tr. Matti Mousa. (Pueblo, CO: Passeggiata Press, 2000).
    3. Mor Clemis E. Kaplan, The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch: A Brief Introduction. (Unpublished manuscript, 1996).
    4. Witowski, Witold, The Syriac Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre. (Uppsala: Studia Semitica Upsaliensia, 1987).

    The chronological spiral on the Patriarchal throne at Dayro d-Mor Hananyo. Click here for an enlarged drawing based on this spiral.

All materials in this page are reproduced by kind permission of the authors/publishers of Syriac Orthodox Resources website.

Copyright © Syriac Orthodox Resources. All Rights Reserved.


Phoenicia.org Editor's note:

This is to note that the author of the Phoenicia.org site, Salim George Khalaf, carries the same lastname, KHALAF as Patriarch Ignatius KHALAF who was a patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church between 1455 and 1483. Please see Chronological List, right.

For additional reading on the status of persecution of Eastern Christians, please read detailed accounts in this site "Shattered Christian Minorities in the Middle East," "Persecution of Maronites and other Eastern Christians," "The Syriacs," "The Palestinian Christian: Betrayed, Persecuted, Sacrificed," and in the Assyrian site: "Genocides Against the Assyrian Nation" 1 or in the "CopticWeb dedicates to the persecuted Copts of Egypt".

Syriac/Aramaic Resources

Syriac Resouces in this site:

 

 

 

Patriarchs of Antioch: Chronological List

Traditionally, lists of patriarchs have been drawn in a spiral form. Such a spiral can be found on the Patriarchal Throne at Dayro d-Mor Hananyo (Deir az-Za`faran). As is not uncommon with historical accounts, sources for the chronological lists of the Patriarchs differ on dates. The source for the following list is: Ishaaq Saaka, kaniisatii as-Suryaaniyya. (Damascus: 1985).

A personal communication from Touma Issa (dt. 15 Jan 1998) noting errors in the following list was received. Errors verified have been corrected. As resources permit, SOR will verify the other observations and revise the list.

1 St. Peter the Apostle 37-67
2 St. Evodius 67-68
3 St. Ignatios I Nurono (the Illuminator) 68-107
4 St. Heron 107-127
5 St. Korneilos 127-154
6 St. Heros 154-169
7 St. Theophilos 169-182
8 St. Maximos I 182-191
9 St. Seraphion 191-211
10 St. Ascelpiadis the Confessor 211-220
11 Philitus 220-231
12 Zbina 231-237
13 St. Babulas the Martyr 237-251
14 Fabius 254-551
15 S. Demetrianos 254-260
16 Paul I of Samosate 260-268
17 Domnus I 268-273
18 Timos 273-282
19 Cyrille I 283-303
20 Tyrannos 304-314
21 Vitalis 314-320
22 St. Philogone 320-323
23 Paulinos of Tyre 323-324
24 Ostatheous 324-337
The Arians took control of the See of Antioch and appointed the following Patriarchs:
Eulalius 331-333
Euphornius 333-334
Philaclus 334-342
Stephanos 342-344
Leonce 344-357
Eudoxyos 358-359
Euzoios 360
25 Malatius 360-381
26 St. Flavin I 381-404
27 Porphyros 404-412
28 Alexander 412-417
29 Theodotos 417-428
30 John I 428-442
31 Domnus II 442-499
32 Maximos II 449-455
Maximos abdicated and the Chalcedonians seized control over the See of Antioch and appointed the following Patriarchs:
Basil 456-458
Aqaq 458-459
33 Martoros 459-468
34 Peter II the Fuller (Qassar) 468-488
35 Bladius 488-498
36 Flavin II 498-512
37 St. Severius the Great 512-538
The Chalcedonians took control of the See of Antioch in 518 and sent Mor Severius to exile and appointed the following Patriarchs whose line continues in the Byzantine (Rum/Antiochine Orthodox) Patriarchate:
Paul the Jew 518-521
Euphrosius 521-528
Ephrem of Amid 528-546
Six years after the death of Mor Severius, Sargius of Tella became the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch.
38 Sargius of Tella 544-546
During this turbulent time, the Holy See remained vacant for 4 years.
39 Paul II the Black of Alexandria 550-575
He was deposed in 575 for joining the Chalcedonians. The Holy See remained vacant for the next few years.
40 Peter III of Raqqa 581-591
41 Julian I 595-591
42 Athanasius I Gammolo 595-631
43 John II of the Sedre 631-648
44 Theodore 649-667
45 Severius II bar Masqeh 667-681
46 Athanasius II 683-686
47 Julian II 686-708
48 Elias I 709-723
49 Athanasius III 724-740
50 Iwanis I 740-754
After the death of Iwanis, two Patriarchs were appointed at the behest of the Caliph:
Euwanis I 754-?
Athanasius al-Sandali ?-758
51 George I 758-790
52 Joseph 790-792
53 Quryaqos of Takrit 793-817
54 Dionysius I of Tellmahreh 817-845
55 John III 846-873
56 Ignatius II 878-883
57 Theodosius Romanos of Takrit 887-896
58 Dionysius II 897-909
59 John IV Qurzahli 910-922
60 Baselius I 923-935
61 John V 936-953
62 Iwanis II 954-957
63 Dionysius III 958-961
64 Abraham I 962-963
65 John VI Sarigta 965-985
66 Athanasius IV of Salah 986-1002
67 John VII bar `Abdun 1004-1033
68 Dionysius IV Yahya 1034-1044
Due to internal conflicts within the Church, the Holy See was vacant for the next few years.
69 John VIII 1049-1057
70 Athanasius V 1058 -1063
71 John IX bar Shushan 1063-1073
72 Baselius II 1074-1075
After the death of Baselius, John Abdun got himself appointed Patriarch and caused trouble in the Church. He was deposed but continued causing trouble until 1091.
73 Dionysius V Lazaros 1077-1078
74 Iwanis III 1080-1082
75 Dionysius VI 1088-11090
76 Athanasius VI bar Khamoro 1091-1129
77 John X bar Mawdyono 1129-1137
78 Athanasius VII bar Qutreh 1138-1166
79 Michael I the Great 1166-1199
80 Athanasius VIII 1200-1207
81 John XI 1208-1220
82 Ignatius III David 1222-1252
83 John XII bar Ma`dani 1252-1263
84 Ignatius IV Yeshu 1264-1282
85 Philoxenos I Nemrud 1283-1292
86 Michael II 1292-1312
87 Michael III Yeshu 1312-1349
88 Baselius III Gabriel 1349-1387
89 Philoxenos II the Writer 1387-1421
90 Baselius IV Shem`un 1421-1444
91 Ignatius Behnam al-Hadli 1445-1454
92 Ignatius Khalaf 1455-1483
93 Ignatius John XIII 1483-1493
94 Ignatius Nuh of Lebanon 1493-1509
95 Ignatius Yeshu I 1509-1512
96 Ignatius Jacob I 1512-1517
97 Ignatius David I 1517-1520
98 Ignatius Abd-Allah I 1520-1557
99 Ignatius Ne`met Allah I 1557-1576
100 Ignatius David II Shah 1576-1591
101 Ignatius Pilate I 1591-1597
102 Ignatius Hadayat Allah 1597-1639
103 Ignatius Simon I 1640-1659
104 Ignatius Yeshu II Qamsheh 1659-1662
105 Ignatius Abdul Masih I 1662-1686
106 Ignatius George II 1687-1708
107 Ignatius Isaac Azar 1709-1722
108 Ignatius Shukr Allah II 1722-1745
109 Ignatius George III 1745-1768
110 Ignatius George IV 1768-1781
111 Ignatius Matthew 1782-1817
112 Ignatius Yunan 1817-1818
113 Ignatius George V 1819-1837
114 Ignatius Elias II 1838-1847
115 Ignatius Jacob II 1847-1871
116 Ignatius Peter IV 1872-1894
117 Ignatius Abdul Masih II 1895-1905
Abdul Masih was deposed in 1905.
118 Ignatius Abd Allah II 1906-1915
119 Ignatius Elias III 1917-1932
120 Ignatius Afram I Barsoum 1933-1957
121 Ignatius Jacob III 1957-1980
122 Ignatius Zakka I Iwas 1980-
 
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