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Eastern Christianity - John Mark - 28-09-2007

Dear all,

I am studying the topic of Eastern and Orthodox Christianity at University.
I am however faced with somewhat of a problem with gaining access to some of the reading material for my courses. Although the library is very good and the class sizes small; the material is rare and expensive to say the least. With that in mind I was wondering if any of the Fellowship members know of anywhere I could get hold of for a reasonable price or indeed borrow any of the following books;

Menachery, G. (ed.) St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, 2 vols., (Trichur: St. Thomas Encyclopedia of India: 1973)

Moffett, S., A History of Christianity in Asia, vol. 1 (San Franscisco: 1992)

Baum, W. & Winkler, D., The Church of the East. A Concise History (Routledge, London: 2000)

Baynes N.H. Constantine the Great and the Christian Church, 2nd ed., (Oxford: 1972)

Burkitt, F.C. Early Eastern Christianity. St. Margaret;s Lectures 1904 (Ann Arbour, London: 1979 (reprint 1904)

Griggs, W. Early Egyptian Christianity from its Origins to 451 C.E. (Leiden: 1990)

Grillmeier, A. Christ in Christian Tradition. Vol. 1 From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (451), 2nd ed. [trans.] (London: 1975)

Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Doctrines (5th ed., London: Contiunuum, 2004)

Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern (Cairo: 1977)

Neill, S. A History of Christianity in India: the Beginnings to A.D. 1701 (Cambridge: 1984)

Palmer, A. Monk and Mason on the Tigris Frontier: the Early History of Tur Abdin (Cambridge: 1990)

Stevenson, J. Creeds, Councils and Controversies AD 337 - 461 (London: 1966)

Trimingham, J. Christianity amongst the Arabs in pre-Islamic Times (London: 1979)

Wallace-Hadrill, D.S. Christian Antioch: A Study of Early Christian Thought in the East (Cambridge: 1982)

Watterson, B. Coptic Egypt (Edinburgh: 1988)

Weinandy, T.G. & Keating, D.A. The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria (Edinburgh: T & T, 2003)

Young, F. The Making of Creeds (London: SCM, 1991)

I realise it is quite a list, not all are essential by any means but even if you know of where to find one or two I would be in your debt. The condition of the books is not really an issue for me either as long as they are in English and I can read them!

with many thanks in advance,

In Christ,


Books needed for research - Severus - 30-09-2007

The library of the British Orthodox Church Secretariat in Charlton, London, SE7 has about three quarters of the books John Mark has on his list, as well as others not listed, which may still be helpful to him.

The books in the library here may not be borrowed but we do admit readers (by appointment only) to consult the books in the library here. If John Mark cares to contact the library by email: <!-- e --><a href=""></a><!-- e --> we will try to arrange a mutually convenient time for him to avail himself of this facility.

eastern and orthodox christianity at soas - kirk yacoub - 01-10-2007

Dear John Mark,
Yes, finding relevant material is difficult, not only because of their rarity in public libraries, but because of their exorbitant prices if available for sale.
I know two of the books you mention:
A. Atiya's History of Eastern Christianity is available from the Kent County Library at Springfield, Maidstone, Kent, and is worth reading but, unfortunately, although the author is a good authority on the Coptic Church, he is less knowledgeable on other Ortiental Orthodox Churches;
J. Trimingham's Christianity amngst the Arabs in pre-Islamic Times is also available from the Kent County Library, but I would not recommend it, the author displaying rather breathtaking ignorance and anti-Christian bias, regarding everything the Fathers said as being questionable.
Good luck with your studies,
Kirk Yacoub

- John Mark - 06-10-2007

Dear Kirk,

Yes Atiya's book is certainly strongest when he is writing about the Copts. Do you know if he is a Copt?

The Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity by Baumer and Suha Rassam's book on Christianity in Iraq are of a particularly high quality.

In Christ,


eastern and orthodox christianity at soas - kirk yacoub - 09-10-2007

Dear John Mark,
Yes, Atiya was indeed a Copt who accompanied Coptic Papal delegations abroad. He certainly knew what he was talking about!
Regarding the other book, just let me say that there is no such thing as Assyrian Christianity. The term Assyrian has been artificially inserted into the equation by Protestant missionaries to the middle east in the mid-nineteenth century onwards. The Patriarch of the Church of the East Eshai
Shamun XXIII was murdered in the USA in 1975 because he consistently refused to add the term "Assyrian" to the title of the Church. His sucessor
DinkhaIV did so immediately (!) The activities of the "Assyrian" nationalists, heavily backed by the (ir)religious right in the USA, would require a very long post to explain. Suffice it to say that they forget that
Christ told us that peacemakers would be called blessed, not war-mongers.
If you or anyone else would like, I could give a detailed explanation of why the term Assyrian is wrong, and why it is of great danger to Christians in Iraq in particular.

Kirk Yacoub

- Rick Henry - 09-10-2007

Quote:If you or anyone else would like, I could give a detailed explanation of why the term Assyrian is wrong, and why it is of great danger to Christians in Iraq in particular.

Dear Kirk,

I would be interested and grateful to understand this. Thank you.

In Christ,

eastern and orthodox christianity at soas - kirk yacoub - 13-10-2007

Syrian, not Assyrian. Part One.

The Aramaens of Mesopotamia (Aram-Naharaim in Hebrew) and Syria were the first pagans to adopt Christianity. Their language, Aramaic, has had a long and often glorious history, having been the lingua franca of the Persian Empire (538-331BC), was the language of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and, of course, is the language of great Christian spiritual writings.
After converting to Christianity the Aramaens began to call themselves Syrians (from the Greek Syrioi) to distinguish themselves from those speakers of Aramaic who were either Jews or still pagan. Today, in order to distinguish itself from the mainly muslim Syrian Republic, the Church has adopted the name Syriac. (There are those who advocate a return to the term Aramaen).
Of course, during the passage of two thousand years there have been converts to the Church from other ethnic backgrounds, but the fact that, generally speaking, the present day Syriac Christians (of all denominations) are direct descendants of the Aramaens is evidenced by many sources.
Poseidonios, a 1st century BC Greek philosopher and historian, a source used by the more famous Strabo, wrote: "The people we Greeks call Syrians, call themselves Aramaens." In his 'Antiquities', Josephus noted: "Aram had the Aramaens, which the Greeks called Syrians."
Eusebius, the father of Church history, wrote: "...and from Aram the Aramaens, which are also called Syrians."
Inevitably, Syriac Church Fathers bore witness to their nation's origins. The following is a small taster.
St Ephrem frequently referred to Aram-Naharaim as "our country." St Severus of Antioch, the Crown of the Syrians, stated: "We, the Aramaens, that is to say, Syrians." St Michael the Great, the 12th century Syriac Orthodox Patriarch and historian, refers to "the Aramaens, whom the Greeks call Syrians." That spiritual and intellectual giant, Bar Hebraeus, declared: "Wash my tongue with hyssop, so that I may speak in the Aramaic language in the manner of Ephrem, because this is the Syriac way of speaking..."
Those Syriac Fathers, and many others down the centuries, were simply stating an obvious and well-known fact. They never needed to argue against the term 'Assyrian', because the subject was never brought up. Nobody had invented this polemic yet. What did, and still does divide Syriac Christians, were the fierce Christological debates of the 5th century,
the Church being split into those who opposed the Council of Chalcedon (451), becoming wrongly labelled as 'monophysites', a rump of pro-Chalcedonians called 'melkites' (the King's men) and, further east, the so-called Nestorians. It is important to note that throughout these bitter and often violent disputes, the term 'Assyrian' was never used, neither as a term of reproof nor as one of defence.
If we read about the power struggle within the famous Syriac theological schools, every debate, in Syriac, is over Christology, not perceived errors in ethnicity. If we read of the 'Nestorian' Church of the East's extraordinary missionary work in Central Asia and China, we learn of inscriptions in Syriac (not Akkadian, the ancient Assyian language). If we read Thomas of Marga's Book of Governor's, a classic work of 'Nestorian'
spiritual history, we read not about 'Assyrians', but of Syriac language and culture.
It should surprise no-one, therefore, that contemporary scholars, including
Assyriologists, confirm that Syriac speaking Christians are descended from the Aramaens.
However, in the mid -19th century this hitherto undisputed fact was obtusely challenged by - God hlp us! - myth-making Protestant missionaries who discovered 'the Assyrians'.
Stand by for part two!!

Kirk Yacoub

eastern and orthodox christianity at soas - kirk yacoub - 13-10-2007

part two

In 1843 AH Layard, the archaeologist who uncovered the ruins of the Assyrian city of Nineveh, romantically and impulsively (but not rationally or scientifically) called the local Christian community "as much the remains of Nineveh and Assyria as the rude heaps and ruined palaces", which led the missionary Revd JP Fletcher to declare the Christians of what is now northern Iraq and north-west Iran "the only surviving human memorial of Assyria and Babylonia." His only 'evidence' being that, to his eyes, the local peasantry resembled the sculpted figures unearthed by archaelogists. This somewhat eccentric scratch has turned into gangrene.
"Yea, so I have stirred to preach the gospel, not where Christ was
named, lest I should build upon another man's foundations: But as
it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see; and
they that have not heard shall understand." (Romans15:20-21)
Ignoring St Paul's strictures the Protestant missionaries had an agenda of their own, deliberately undermining Christian foundations laid and sturdily built upon over an 1800 year period, they set Christian against Christian.
The Roman Catholic Uniates, known as Chaldeans ( another misnomer!)
could be ignored and vilified simply because they were Roman Catholics, the Syriac Orthodox Church was condemned as 'heretical',but the Nestorians were fawned over and idealized as 'long lost' Protestants!
The bitter irony is that Protestantism never really caught on, but because the missionaries' frenetic zeal fused quite nicely with the needs of British foreign policy, a new 'nationalism' was conjured up out of thin air on the outer edges of the Turkish Empire.
Not every missionary in the area swallowed the 'Assyrian'myth. The Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission to the Assyrians (sic) was the most prestigious grouping, but distinguished Syriac scholar JR Coakley reported Anglican missionaries as saying that the term 'Assyrian' was but "a fad of
His Grace, no-one else." Isabella Bird, in her memoir of her travels in the area at the time often recounts visits to outposts of the 'Mission to the Assyrians', but always refers to the mainly Nestorian Christians she met as, correctly, Syrians.
But Frankenstein created and nourished his monster, and today it has become yet another destabilising factor not only in Iraq, but in the ecumenical movement.
The 'Assyrians' plaster the word 'Assyrian' over everything. Not content with misnaming their Church by adding 'Assyrian' to it, they label the language every normal person calls 'Syriac' as 'Assyrian'. With not a word of logical argument or explanation, as if thousands of years of evidence does not exist, they simply say, "'Assyrian'...'Assyrian'... 'Assyrian'". If you dare to disagree you are lied about, vilified, slandered. Look at their Wikipedia entry for an example of crass indifference to truth, or read their abuse of the 120th Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Mor Afram Barsoum, a saintly man and an acknowledged great scholar.
Perhaps their most obscene lie is to label the massacre of Syriac Christians (of all denominations) in Turkey during and just after the First World War as a massacre of 'Assyrians'. This is a blasphemous attempt to gain kudos out of the martyrdom of thousands of non-Nestorian Christians.
Unfortunately there are some academics who, like most journalists, are only capable of repeating the last sentence they've heard, and 'Assyrian' is used all-too-often in the context of Iraq.
Before the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq the Christian denominations of Iraq were as follows:
'Chaldean' RC Uniates 200-300,000;
Syriac Orthodox Church - 80-100,000;
Syrian Catholics 40-45,000;
Nestorian 'Assyrians' 25-30,000.
The 'Assyrians' ignore these figures, claiming that Iraq has anything from 700,000 to 2 million Christians, all of them 'Assyrians', of course!
Those who know and state that they are not 'Assyrians' are labelled so against their will by this vociferous minority.
The USA has taken over the mantel of the British Protestants. Under pressure from 'born again' George W Bush - who also repeats the 'Assyrian' myth, because it accords with US strategic needs - the Iraqi president promised the 'Assyrians' an autonomous region in northern Iraq which is inhabited primarily by Kurds. A recipe for a bloodbath! When I emailed a US evangelical newspaper which had trumpeted this 'success' for the 'Assyrians', asking how a small minority in the itself small Christian minority could run the lives of those it wrongly names and lies about, in an area dominated by Kurds, without murder and mayhem occuring, the reply was - a stunning silence!
The Syriac Orthodox Church, whose faithful have suffered at the hands of Kurds in the past, as have all Christians in the area, has worked strenuously to build up a relationship of trust with the Kurds, whereas the 'Assyrians' seem hell-bent on carnage.
It would be interesting to know the attitude to this 'Assyrianization' of the Church of the East within the Church itself. Ecumenical material written by clergy of the Church of the East and published on an official website is very telling. The texts speak of "the Church of the East" and the Persian Church, but never 'Assyrian'.
The acute need for dialogue, the acute need for becoming peacemakers in, for example Iraq, will hopefully provide the opportunity for those who
are Christians inside the 'Assyrian' funny farm to pray, pray and pray again. It is our duty, whilst explaining the truth, that the real Assyrians no longer exist and that the modern day 'Assyrians' are hate-filled fanatics,
to pray with and for the Christian heart of the Church of the East.
It is my hope that the Syriac Orthodox Church in particular, because of the shared language and culture, be enabled to have ecumenical dialogue with their fellow Aramaens in the Church of the East.

Kirk Yacoub

Assyrians - John Charmley - 13-10-2007

Dear Kirk,

Very many thanks for this welcome corrective. The Western Churches inflicted a great deal of damage on the region where the Faith originated by their arrogant refusal to accept the local Christians as proper Christians.

There were those who took a more intelligent interest in these ancient Churches and wrote more accurately. The Rev. Horation Southgate's Narrative of a Visit to the Syrian [Jacobite] Church of Mesopotamia (1856) dismisses the labels of Monophysite and Eutychean, along with the designation of Jacobite, and shows the extent to which both Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries were actively using such labels to promote their own versions of Christianity.

Southgate wrote:
Quote:there is great reason to believe that the Syrians do not in reality differ from us [Anglicans] on the nature of Christ

There is much good sense, and good history, in Sebastien de Courtois' The Forgotten Genocide: Eastern Christians, the Last Arameans (2004).

Alas, I am sorry that presiding over an inaugural lecture at my own University will keep me from Dr. Fisher's lecture - but I would be interested to hear more about it.

Again, thanks to Kirk for an excellent exposition.

In Christ,