Saturday, July 1, 2017

Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church’s Perspective on Particular Church, Local Church and Universal Church: Special reference between Local Church and Universal Church

The Syrian Orthodox Church in India is known as the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, together with all Churches belonging to the Nazarani Christian community of Kerala, traces its origin to the mission of St. Thomas the Apostle of Christ. It is under the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church is a semi-autonomous Church with a local head called the Catholicose duly consecrated by the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. This paper is an attempt to elaborate the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church’s understanding about the ‘Particular Church,’ ‘Local Church’ and ‘Universal Church’ and a special comparison between Local Church and Universal Church.
1. Particular Church
The idea of a Particular Church, in its New Testament meaning, continued to prevail in the following early Christian literature, though it did not cease to imply Universality of the Church.[1] The two ideas, however, as it was mentioned, did not receive any significant theological development. They became embodied in the way that the Church organized itself. By the end of the first millennium, the western Christianity became more inclined to the idea of a Universal Church, while the eastern Christianity, to the idea of Particular Church. Both Churches, however, departed quite far from the original meanings of the universal and the particular.  In the eastern tradition, the idea of particularity of the Church became prevailing. It did not however facilitate developing any significant 'ecclesiology of particularity,' similar to the Roman theological reflections on universality. It rather embodied itself in the structures and identities of 'local' eastern Churches. This eastern inclination to particularity had its own historical reasons.
The Catholic Church uses the term ecclesia particularis (“Particular Church”) in a dual sense. The documents of Vatican II identify a particular Church as a Church led by a bishop and his presbytery in a specific place.[2] In other passages, the council also calls a union of several dioceses a particular Church, which, despite individual theological and legal traditions, maintains unity with the universal Church, for instance the Churches of the Latin rite.[3]
Pope John Paul II extended the concept by saying that the Universal Church subsists in the Particular Churches:
The Catholic Church herself subsists in each Particular Church, which can be truly complete only through effective communion in faith, sacraments and unity with the whole body of Christ…It is precisely because you are pastors of Particular Churches in which subsists the fullness of the universal Church that you are and must always be in full communion with the successor of Peter.[4]
The bishop is a visible source and foundation of the unity of the Particular Church entrusted to his pastoral ministry. But for each Particular Church to be fully Church, that is, the particular presence of the Universal Church with all its essential elements, and hence constituted after the model of the Universal Church.
1.1. Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church is a Particular Church?
Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church does not have the understanding of ‘Particular Church’ like in Catholic Church. It has its own particularities which are quite different from Catholic Particular Church. Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church as an integral part of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church in India functions as an inseparable part of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. Today the Patriarch of Antioch, the successor of St. Peter, is the supreme head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church. The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church is the local Church under the Patriarchate of Antioch.
2. Local Church
The word ‘local’ is derived from Latin locus meaning ‘place’. It is used both literally and figuratively in modern European languages. Its application in geographical, political, economic and cultural contexts always assumes the particularity of a certain place. Since locus (place) is primarily a geo-spatial reality it implies territory. The dictionary meaning of the word does not indicate anything directly geographical. But in ecclesiastical language since the word local, obviously referring to place, is correlated to universal, the latter seems to have assumed an enlarged geographical sense. In the Roman Catholic Church the notions of ecclesia localis and ecclesia universalis have been used according to the part-whole logic. Thus the Local Church was understood as part of the Universal Church. However, in light of the development of communion ecclesiology and the evolution of the concept of ‘individual Churches’ this logic is no longer valid.[5]
The Local Church has everything it needs to be a Church on its own: it confesses the apostolic faith; it proclaims the Word of God in scripture, baptizes its members, celebrates the Eucharist and other sacraments; it affirms and responds to the presence of the Holy Spirit and his gifts, announces and looks forward to the Kingdom, and recognizes the ministry of authority within the community. All these various features must exist together in order for there to be a Local Church within the communion of the Church of God. The Local Church is not a free-standing self-sufficient reality. As part of a network of communion, the Local Church maintains its reality as Church by relating to other local Churches.[6]
2.1. Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church’s Perspective on Local Church
The Local Church is a community of professing believers in Jesus Christ who meet in some particular location on a regular basis. A Local Church is normally defined as a local assembly of all who profess faith and allegiance to Christ. Most often, the Greek word ekklesia is used in reference to the local assembly (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 11:8). There is not just one specific Local Church in any one area, necessarily. There are many Local Churches in larger cities.[7] The Local Church is not an administrative or juridical sub-section or part of the Universal Church. In the Local Church the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is truly present and active.[8] The local Church is the place where the Church of God becomes concretely realized. It is a gathering of believers that is seized by the Spirit of the Risen Christ and becomes Koinonia by participating in the life of God.[9]
3. Universal Church
The Universal Church is the name given to the Church worldwide. In this case the idea of the Church is not so much the assembly of believers but those believers constituting the Church. The Church is the Church even when it is not holding the status of a parish church or diocese. In Acts 8:3, one can see that the Church is still the Church even when its members are scattered in different places. In Acts 9:31, the Churches in Judea, Galilee and Samaria should actually be the singular Church, which describes the Universal Church, not just Local Churches.
The Church is universal, gathering all believers together in the unity of faith. Just as there are no distinction within the love of God, so the Church stretches out her arms to the world “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).  This Universal Church brought together the Jews and Gentiles, as well as all nationalities, peoples, and tongues in one faith. Being universal, the Church held ecumenical councils, like the that of the Apostolic councils  (Acts 15:1-35), calling together the leaders of the Church to study and define a matter of faith, and decide certain issues regarding the Church organization so that all Churches might follow one doctrine. The first thee ecumenical councils the Universal Church brought together all the Local Churches into one Church embracing all, in one creed, under uniform Church laws. This Universal Church brings all believers together in communion, in one faith, in the holy sacraments, and in partaking from one altar. St. Cyril of Jerusalem gives an expanded explanation of the sense in which the term ‘universal’ has been applied to the Church, saying:
The Church is called ‘Universal’ because it extends through all the world, from one end of the earth to another. Also, because it teaches universally and without omission all the doctrines which ought to come to man’s knowledge, about things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly; and because it brings under the sway of true religion all classes of men, rulers and subjects, learned and ignorant; and because it universally treats and cures every type of sin, committed by means of soul and body, and possesses in itself every kind of virtue which can be named, in deeds and words, and spiritual gifts of every kind.[10]
4. Local Church and Universal Church Comparison
The position and status of a Local Church according to Syrian Orthodox tradition can be the best explained through a comparative study. We will compare the Orthodox ecclesiology with the Catholic ecclesiology and will try to find out the difference. The difference is in the understating of the structure of the Church. The ecclesiology of the Catholic Church begins with the view of a Universal Church and then tries to explain the meaning and existence of the Local Church.  The Local Church is understood only as a part of the one Universal Church carrying all the consequences and deficiencies as part of the whole.  The apostolic throne of St. Peter is theoretically and practically the starting point.  The Roman Catholic ecclesiology begins from the top and goes down to the bottom.  This way of thinking is called the deductive way of approach.[11]
            The Orthodox Churches on the other hand have got a different way of approach. For them the starting point of ecclesiological thinking is not the Universal Church but the Local Church. From the bottom i.e. from the Local Church, they reach the top – the Universal Church.   This way of thinking can be called the inductive way of approach.  According to Orthodox ecclesiology, every Local Church is an expression of the Universal Church.  All the qualities and attributes of the Universal Church are imminent in the Local Church too.[12]
The Local Church, formed is allied to the Universal Church.  The relation manifests through the appointment of priest representing bishop as spiritual father and shepherd of the various parishes in the diocese. The appointment of the priests for various parishes is done by the bishop of the diocese in the Local Church.  The Fifth Meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, states:
The bishop acts not as an individual but represents his local church in the communion of churches. He is the source of unity with in his local church or diocese and has collegial responsibility for the unity of faith and for the communion of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.[13]
The priestly order is conferred upon a person through ordination in which the important aspect is the apostolic laying on of hand by the bishop.  Therefore the authority of the priest is closely linked with apostolic succession prevalent in the Universal Church.  In the bottom, at the basic level the parish priest becomes the bearer of apostolic succession of the Universal Church and mediator of the spiritual graces conferred upon all believers. The priests through the sacraments and other services bestow all the blessings of the Universal Church upon all the parishes established in every nook and corner of the world.  From this, it is unequivocally clear that the bishops represent the significant and crucial link between the Local Church and the Universal Church. A Local Church in any corner of the world is linked to the Universal Church through the bishop.  In short, the link between the Universal Church and the Local Church is established through the apostolic succession exercised by the bishop and the local parishes.[14]
4.1. Orthodox Churches’ Understanding on Universality
As far as I know the Roman Catholic understanding of universality or catholicity refers mainly to the quantitative and geographical extension of the Church in the whole world under one head the Pope, who is enthroned as bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter. Here the emphasis is on the quantitative aspect of universality. In the case of the Orthodox Churches on the other hand the emphasis on the qualitative and theological aspect of universality. In the sense each Orthodox Church under its supreme head is a Universal Church. An Eucharistic ecclesiology is put into practices in the Orthodox Churches. When the supreme head of an Orthodox Church celebrates the holy Eucharist, he represents Jesus Christ the head of the body-the church and therefore then and there the Universal Church is manifested. Here the emphasis on the qualitative and theological aspect of universality. The supreme head of an Orthodox Church is not its supreme authority. The supreme authority of an Orthodox Church vests in the holy episcopal synod and supreme head only acts as president of the college of bishop and as first among equals. Paulose Mar Gregorious explains as:
The Roman Catholic Church, for example, believes in a universal organizational structure for the Church with one particular bishop, namely the Bishop of Rome or the Pope, holding a unique position in the whole world. … So the Orthodox have no Pope.[15]
4.2. Universality of Syrian Orthodox Church
The basic ecclesiological standpoint of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church must be understood first. Then only we can grasp the disposition of Syrian Orthodox Church in India, since the Church in India is a part of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church. The Universality of the Church is an inseparable part of the profession of the Church. Since the Syrian Orthodox Church too is Catholic, it can only remain Universal transcending territorial boundaries. Though Universality is mainly a qualitative attribute, the quantitative and geographical aspect cannot be ignored. The ecclesiological stand point of the Syrian Orthodox Church is special when compared to the standpoints of other Orthodox Churches.[16] Syrian Orthodox Church is the only Church in the family of Orthodox Churches which believes and follows the notion of Petrine primacy similar to the Catholic Church. This stand point of the Syrian Orthodox Church is unique in comparison with the other orthodox Churches. The Syrian Orthodox Church emphasis that both the quantitative as well as the qualitative aspect of the universality of the Church. In this sense Patriarch of Antioch as supreme head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church represents the universality of the Church qualitatively and quantitatively and the throne of St. Peter at Antioch
Local Church is an integral part of the Universal Church. Without local Church there is no existence of the Universal Church.  An acceptable understanding of the Local Church is grounded in the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ following the Pauline metaphor. The holistic nature of the life of the body does not isolate or negate the identity of its members. Instead the profound and subtle interconnectedness within the body manifests its fullness in every part of the body. In the normal, healthy body of a living organism, the integration of all its parts is so perfect that there is no awareness of division or separation. An objective and profound inquiry on the Local-Universal Church affiliation in Syrian Orthodox Church and Catholic Church can give us much insight on the similarities and dissimilarities between the two. And I anticipate that these resemblances shall open neo-arenas for a fruitful dialogue between the two Churches.

[1] After the NT period, we find in the letters of Ignatius Churches in cities presided over by a single bishop with presbyters and deacons. The Didachȇ is clearly descriptive of a local Church with its ordinances both moral and liturgical. From the time of Irenaeus it is clear that the Ignatian model of Church order was to be found everywhere. Cfr. O'Donnell, Christopher. Ecclesia: a Theological Encyclopedia of the Church. (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press 1996), 270-271. 
[2] LG 23.1; 27.1; 45.2.
[3] LG 13.4.
[4] Address 12th September 1987. The text can be found in Origins 17:16 (Rome: October 1987), 258.
[5]K. M. George, “Beyond the Local and the Universal: Search for New Paradigms in Ecclesiology,” OIC July 08, 10.
[6] “Appendices-Study Documents of the Joint Working Group the Church: Local and Universal,” Information Service, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, N. 74, III (1990), 75-84.
[7] John Mac Arthur, The Master's Plan for the Church, (Chicago: Moody Publishers 2008), 17-75.
[8] “Appendices-Study Documents of the Joint Working Group the Church: Local and Universal,” Information Service, 75-84.
[9] Michael E. Putney, "Come Holy Spirit, Renew the Whole Creation: Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches", Theological Studies 52 (1991), 607-635.
[10]Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 18.23; Cfr. Maged Attia, The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Movement, (Cairo 2001), 2.
[11]Adai Jacob Cor-Episcopa, “A local Church as microcosm of the Universal Church:  Theological foundation for the concept Local Church”, 2-4.
[13]“Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church,” The Fifth Meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, The Unpublished Document, (Maarrat Saydnaya, Syria, January 27 to February 2, 2008), 9.
[14]Adai Jacob Cor-Episcopa, “A local Church as microcosm of the Universal Church:  Theological foundation for the concept Local Church”, 4.
[15] Paulose Mar Gregorios, "How Different is The Eastern Orthodox Church?", Collection of Articles of Paulose Mar Gregorios, (Kottayam: 1991), 1-2. Also cited in
[16]Adai Jacob Cor-Episcopa, The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in India, (Mulanthuruthy, Seminary Publications 2015), 10.s

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is Syriac Orthodox Church is Monophysite?

The Church was established in AD 37 by St. Peter, the chief of apostles in Antioch. Syriac is the liturgical language of the Church. Syriac Orthodox Church occupies an important position among the ancient independent churches of the world. The Syriac Patriarchs of Antioch are successors of St. Peter and the head of the Syrian Orthodox church. It uses Syriac as its liturgical language and keeps the ancient liturgical tradition of the church of Antioch. In this article I would like to discuss the Christology of the Syrian Orthodox Church especially the two terms ‘Monophysitism’ and ‘Miaphysitism’.
Christological controversy in 451
Syriac Orthodox Church rejected the Fourth Ecumenical Council of AD 451 which is known as the Council of Chalcedon. This council was summoned by the bishops not to define Christology, but to fine tune it and to examine the extreme "monophysite" heresy of the Alexandrian Eutyches who took the Christology of St. Cyril to an extreme seeing in Christ a humanity which was lost, swallowed up in a see of divinity. The Syriac Orthodox Church Fathers (Not only Syriac orthodox church fathers, but also the all Oriental Orthodox Church fathers) rejected not only Eutyches, but also the definitions and acts of Chalcedon due primarily to the Tome of Leo, which "separated' the activities of Christ according to human or divine, thus tending strongly toward the dangers and errors of Nestorius.
The main reason of the controversy
The main reason for this controversy is the affirmation by the Chalcedonian (Eastern Orthodox Churches) of “two natures two wills and two energies hypostatically united in the one Lord Jesus Christ”. While the Syrian Orthodox church and other Oriental Orthodox Churches affirm “one united Divine-Human nature, will and energy in the same Christ without confusion, without change, without division and without separation from the very movement of His descent to the Virgin’s womb where He took to Himself from her a human body with a human rational soul and made Himself one with the manhood which He took from her as formulated by St. Cyril as “One Incarnate nature of God the Word”. Syrian Orthodox fathers and St. Cyril appeared to be an especially strong opponents of the council of Chalcedon.
Is Syriac Orthodox Church Monophysites?
Some non oriental orthodox peoples believe that the Syrian Orthodox Church subscribes to the Monophysite doctrine. (Greek word ‘mono’ means one, ‘physis’ means nature). This is incorrect. Monophysitism is a Christological heresy that originated in the 5th century A.D. Its chief proponent was the monk Eutyches, who stated that in the person of Jesus Christ the human nature was absorbed into the divine nature. Eutyches refused to confess that Christ partook of our humanity teaching that He was solely divine. The doctrine of Monophysites believes that “Jesus was not human, but exclusively divine, and God himself, therefore he could not have died.” And this doctrine is not Orthodox.
Miaphysite Christology of the Syriac Orthodox Church
Miaphysitism is the Christology of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Miaphysitism holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one "nature", the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration. The Syrian Orthodox Church considered as central the Christology is Miaphysis. What is the difference between ‘mono’ and ‘mia’.? ‘Mono’ is one in the sense of a numerical one, whereas ‘mia’ is one in the sense of a united, or composite, one. The word "Miaphysite" was taken from St. Cyril's famous phrase "Mia Physis tou Theo Logos Sesarkomene," and thus this has been adopted by Syrian Orthodox Church Fathers along with its theological implications. The Syriac Orthodox Church abides by the formula "The one Incarnate Nature of God the Word", on which St. Cyril of Alexandria increasingly insisted upon, a formula which was accepted as correct by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D and which, after the Council of Chalcedon, the Chalcedonian side in the East itself admitted. The expression "One Nature" does not indicate the Divine nature alone nor the human nature alone, but it indicates the unity of both natures into One Nature which is "The Nature of the Incarnate Logos".
What is the Christology of Syrian Orthodox Church?
According to Church fathers, we can thus summarize the Christology of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
  • The belief of Syriac Orthodox Church is that "mia" one, but not "single one" or "simple one," but unity, one "out of two natures".
  • According to the non oriental orthodox Christians "one nature" of Christ means only one of two probabilities: the natures had been absorbed or confusion between the divine and human nature happened to produce one confused nature. But Syriac Orthodox Church confirmed that no confusion or absorption had occurred but a real unity.
  • The Word became truly man. He is at once God and man. The manhood of Jesus Christ was perfect. And he had a body and also a soul. Jesus Christ’s manhood was not formed before the incarnation. Moreover the manhood did not exist then the Godhead dwelt in it afterwards.
  • The Syrian Orthodox believe that, they receive the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Communion. These belong to man, humanity, and we know that Jesus Christ is God, the Divine.
  • Syrian Orthodox Church believe the Divinity and humanity of Christ are manifested, and the co-equality of Jesus Christ with God the Father.
  • Jesus Christ was at the same time perfect God and perfect man. This is the union of the natures in the Incarnation. Jesus Christ was no longer in two natures after the union and He is not two persons. But one Person, one incarnate Nature of God the Son, with one will, but being at once divine and human. The two natures became united into one nature without separation, without confusion and without change.
Syriac Orthodox are often mistakenly considered Monophysites by many Latin Catholics and Byzantine Orthodox. The Syriac Orthodox, being Miaphysite, reject the ecumenical council of Chalcedon, and anathematize Nestorianism, and thus accept Ephesus; they do not accept any other ecumenical councils but the first three. In recent times, the Pope of Rome has made progress in resolving doctrinal differences of the Roman Catholic Church with the Syriac Orthodox Church and other Oriental Orthodox Churches, and have together signed Joint Christological Statements saying we believe in the same thing about Christology expressed differently. This has greatly helped to overcome a disagreement that had been started over 1,500 years ago. Such dialogues and encounters fostered healthy situation of mutual understanding and recovery of the deeper spiritual communion based on the common faith in the nature of Jesus Christ that they have been given through the Gospel of Christ.
V.C. Samuel, The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined: A Historical Theological Survey; Indian Theological library, No.8, Christian Literature Society (C.L.S), Madras, India, 1977.British Orthodox Press, London, UK, 2003; Tadros Y Malaty, Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church, Alexandria, 1993;Robert Betts, Christians in the Arab East, Lycabbetus Press, Athens, 1978; John Binns. An Introduction to the Christian Orthodox Churches, Cambridge University Press, 2002; R. H. Charles, The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu: Translated from Hermann Zotenberg's Ethiopic Text., Evolution Publishing, 1916. Reprinted 2007; Stanley Harakas. The Orthodox Church; 455 Questions and Answers. Light and Life Publishing Company, 1988; Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, 1997; Mebratu Kiros Gebru. Miaphysite Christology, Gorgias Press, 2010; Gorgorios, General Church History, Addis Ababa, 1978; Sirgiw Hable Sellassie, Ancient and Medieval Ethiopian History to 1270. Addis Ababa: united Printers, 1972; W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement: Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries, Cambrige University Press, Cambridge, 1979; John A. McGuckin, St. Cyril of Alexandria :The Christological Controversy, St. Vladimir's Press, Crestwood, 2004.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Main Early Heretical Teachings: Gnosticism, Docetism, Ebionitism


The history of the Christian Church, the Christians have believed that Jesus Christ is truly man and truly God, and He is the Son of God, whom we worship and who is our savior, as the Holy Bible teaches. Historically, the basic doctrine experienced a lot of struggles in its growth in the early history of Christianity. Looking back on the past of the Christological developments, we can see the Christian Church faced a lot of heretical teachings about the Person of the Jesus Christ. In this article I would like to briefly explain about four major heretical teachings which were affected by the early Church.


The word "Gnosticism" comes from the Greek word "Gnosis" which means "knowledge. Gnosticism traces its roots back just after the beginning of the Christianity. But some Scholars state that evidence of its existence even predates Christian religion. This heretic teaching presented a major challenge to the early Christian religion. Gnosticism was an eclectic phenomenon, which arose out of a mixture of Jewish, Hellenistic, Oriental and Christian factors, and at the same time employed philosophical language as a terminology but not as a basic structure. To its supporters, this heretical sect taught as “Salvation is by knowledge.” They considered Jesus as a heavenly messenger and seem to have looked upon Christ as a liberator or revealer, rather than a judge or savior. So, the Gnostics rejected the idea of God becoming incarnate, dying and rising bodily. Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. These sects believe that whoever entered Jesus at his baptism left him before he died on the cross. Gnostics defined Jesus’ resurrection as occurring when the spirit of Christ was liberated from his body. Gnostics reasoned that a true emissary from the Highest God cannot have been overcome by the evil of the earth, and to have suffered and died. These heretics did not consider in the perfection of Jesus Christ as God and human, for them Jesus was only a mediator between the material world and good God. For them the knowledge about the good God, Jesus and material world is important. The important Gnostic leaders were Marcion, Basilides and Valentinus. The famous Gnostic documents are Treatise on the Three Natures, the Gospel of Truth, the Letter to Rheginus, the Gospel of Matthias, Apocalypse of Adam, Gospel of Philip, Acts of Thomas and Acts of Peter. Early Church fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Ireneaus, etc. wrote against this heresy.


Docetism was developed around last of first century. Docetism name is derived from “Dokesis” which means semblance or appearance, because these heretics taught that Christ only “seemed” or “appeared” to be a man, to have been born, to have lived and suffered. They refused to acknowledge Christ’s humanity and only believed in His divinity. They thought that Christ did not actually have a physical body, but only appeared to have flesh and blood. Patriarch Ignatius Noorono wrote against Docetism in his letter to the Smyrnaeans. Other detailed criticisms were given by Tertullian and Irenaeus.


Ebionitism was originated in the last of 3rd century to a heretic sect of early Jewish Christianity who retained much of teachings of Jewish religion in their beliefs. It was a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. While these heretics accepted the Old Testament in its integrity, they rejected the New Testament. For them Jesus was merely a human being on whom the Holy Spirit had descended on at His baptism. These heretics denied both the divinity of Christ and at least some of them denied His virgin birth and physical resurrection. They believed that Jesus was mere man, who became the Messiah only by his good works and strict maintaining of the law. He became conscious of his Messiah identity and received the Holy Spirit when he was baptized. A lot of church fathers like Eusebius, Epiphanius, Ireneaus, etc. wrote against this heresy.


Marcionism is a Christian heresy of the second and third centuries A.D. This heretical teachings originated in the teachings of Marcion at Rome around the 2nd century. Marcionism rejected the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament books, including the accounts of the incarnation and the resurrection. They denied the God’s incarnation in Jesus as a human. They believed the Old Testament God was vengeful, petty, spiteful, and fell short of the perfection of the New Testament God. Marcionism had to account for the existence of the Old Testament and Marcionism accounted for it by postulating a secondary deity, a ‘Demiurgus,’ who was god, in a sense, but not the supreme God; he was just, rigidly just, he had his good qualities, but he was not the good God, who was Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Marcionism placed the good God of love in opposition to the creator of the world. This good God has only been revealed in Christ. Good God was absolutely unknown before Christ, and men were in every respect strange to him. The good God of love appeared in Christ and proclaimed a new kingdom. Marcionism has accepted an altered version of the Gospel according to Luke and ten of the Epistles of St. Paul. The early Church Fathers wrote against Marcionism. The first mention of Marcionism was in Apologia by Justin Martyr, a contemporary of Marcionism. Irenaeus also describes a confrontation with Marcionism in ‘Adversus Haereses.’


Above mentioned heretical teachings rejected by the Church. The Church Fathers of the Church summarize their faith according to the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Three in One.” The true doctrine of our church is cited in the Bible which thought that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Son of Man, and God, who was born by Morth Mariam through the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus Christ came to this world to give salvation to mankind through his crucifixion on the cross. After the death of Jesus Christ, He was buried for 3 days in a tomb, and on the third day he resurrected. He appeared to his disciples relatives, and others. After fifty days, Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven. The Church maintains that Christ is perfect God and perfect man, at once consubstantial with the Father and with us; the divinity and the humanity continuing in him without mixture or separation, confusion or change. He is one and the same person both in his eternal pre-existence and also in the economy, in which he performs the redeeming work of God on behalf of man, from the indivisible state of union of Godhead and manhood.


David Salter Williams, “Reconsidering Marcion's Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 108 (1989): 477-796; I. Matter, Histoire Critique du Gnosticisme, Paris, 1828; Mansel, The Gnostic Heresies, London, 1875; A. Hilgenfeld, Ketzergesch. des Urchristenthums, Leipsic, 1884; A. Dietrich, Abraxas, Leipsic, 1891; G. Aurich, Das Antike Mysterienwesen in Seinem Einfluss auf das Christenthum, Göttingen, 1894; G. Wobbermin, Religionsgesch. Studien zur Frage der Beeinflussung des Urchristenthums Durch das Antike Mysterienwesen, Berlin, 1896; G. R. S. Mead, Fragmente eines Verschollenen Glaubens (German transl. by A. von Ulrich), ib. 1902. Kaesemann, Ernst. The Testament of Jesus, trans. Gerhard Krodel Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968; Philip Schaff (ed.), A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd ed. (1894); W.H.C. Frend, "Marcion," Expository Times 80.11 (1969): 328-332; Robert M. Grant, "Notes on Gnosis 1. Marcion and the Old Testament," Vigiliae Christianae 11 (1957): 145-51.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jacob Baradaeus: The defender of Oriental Orthodox faith.

Jacob Baradaeus, a Bishop well schooled in Greek and Syriac with a reputation for austerity and discipline, secluded himself in a monastery in Constantinople. Though an opponent of Chalcedonian Christology. He is a saint who is revered highly by the church. In this short essay I am trying to give a small description about the Jacob Baradaeus.
He was born in the city of Tall Mawzalt in Turkey, and was son of a priest named Theophilos Bar Mano. Depending on the wishes of his parents, the child was placed at a young age at local monastery, where he did a solid study under the leadership of Father Eustathius who taught him Greek and Aramaic culture. At a young age he was ordained a monk in the monastery of Fsilta, and subsequently he became the principal of that monastery. On the death of his parents, he inherited the family land and property as well as some slaves, at least he chooses to free them and give them all his possessions. Their choice would be a good idea. So it seemed in distress, Baradaeus was one of those who ultimately ensured the survival not only of the Oriental Orthodox Church but also its dramatic revival. For nearly thirty years, he tirelessly traveled the roads of Syria, Arabia Petrea, Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt and Persia. Preaching to crowds, visiting churches and monasteries, ordered under the authority of apostolic ready, bishops and patriarchs.
He was educated in the monastery of Phasilta near Nisibis, lived for fifteen years as a monk in Constantinople, and was consecrated bishop in 541 or 543. Clad in rags, he then wandered from Egypt to the Euphrates and to the islands of the Mediterranean for nearly forty years, expounding his doctrines, ordaining deacons and priests, and consecrating bishops, doing his work in the daytime and traveling at night sometimes forty miles to a new place of labor. He is said to have consecrated two patriarchs and twenty-seven bishops, and to have created 100,000 priests and deacons. He died at Edessa in 578.

He wore a simple cloth which reflected his humbleness. He wore the same clothing all his life, and every time a part of his clothing was ripped off, he put it together. That is reason he is called "Burd'ono" which means "fixed". One of his most famous words are "Better for the soul to be lifted by the serenity of the good deeds than to be lost in what leads to everlasting suffering". During this time the Emperor Justinian had continued and even step up its campaign to eradicate Oriental Orthodox doctrines. Baradaeus was took refuge from his imperial persecutors at the court of the Ghassanid Christian king . In Seleucia he is said to have visited the court of Chosroes I 559 to gain tolerance for the Oriental Orthodox Christians.

He was a great and educated theologian, who spent most of his time praying and fasting, in order to be able to convey the word of God to the people. In the monastery he did theological studies, learned the Syriac and Greek languages, and read books that concerned the hermit life. He struggled very hard to keep the Syrian Orthodox faith pure from all the heretical thoughts. He wanted everybody to understand that the faith was the most important in a Christian life. He was also known for his God-fearing and humbleness. He was preached for the theology of Oriental Orthodox Church. (Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His divinity, perfect man with respect to His humanity. In Him His divinity is united with His humanity in a real, perfect union without mingling, without confusion, without alteration, without division, without separation.)
At this critical stage, God raised up an in¬defatigable man to protect the church. Through his efforts to preserve the Oriental Orthodox faith in the time of persecution.


Rustum, A. The Church of the City of God, Great Antioch, 3 vols. Beirut, 1966..,R. Duval, La Literature syriaque, Paris 1900; E. Sachau, Am Euphrat und Tigris, Leipsic, 1900., J. B. Chabot, Chronique de Michel le Syrien, patriarche jacobique d'Antioche (1166-1199), 2 vols., Paris, 1900-04; F. C. Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity,London, 1904; L. Silbernagl, Verfassung und gegenwrtiger Bestand s�mtlicher Kirchen des Orients, Regensburg, 1904; Harnack, Dogma, passim; KL, xi. 1124-34; the periodicals mentioned in the last paragraph above, together with Echos d'orient; and the literature under EUTYCHIANISM; MONOPHYSITES. On Jacob Baradaeus consult H. G. Kleyn, Jacobus Baradeus, Leyden, 1882; DCB, iii. 328-332.Atiya, A. S. A History of Eastern Christianity. London, 1967;Chebot, J. B., ed. and trans. Chronique de Michelle Syrien, patriarche jacobite d'Antioche 1166- 99, 3 vols. Paris, 1899-1903;Honigmann, H. Evêques et évêchés monophysites d'Asie antérieure au VIe siècle. CSCO 127, Subsidia, Vol. 2. Louvain, 1951;Kleyn, H. G. Iacobus Baradeus--de Stichter der Syrische monophysitische Kerk. Leiden, 1882.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Persian Catholicate and Nestorianism

Persian Church is the one of the ancient churches which is early controlled by the Patriarchate of Antioch. Later the Nestorian heresy swallowed in that church, the church of Persia divided into two groups. In that groups one group under the Nestorian Catholicose and the other group under the Patriarch of Antioch. In this short paper I would like to describe the Origin or Persian Catholicate and its division and the establishment of Persian Maphrianate.

1. Establishment of Persian Catholicate
The need of the establishment of the Persian Catholicate was the political problems of Persia. The political barriers between the Persian and Roman Empires and the bitter rivalry of its rulers made intercommunications between the two regions much more difficult and dangerous[1]. There were instances where clergy from Persia who were ordained by the Patriarch of Antioch were put to death alleging to be spies. The rulers of Persian Empire treated Christians as the spies of Roman emperor.[2]
Fr. Placid says:
The Bishop or Metropolitan of Seleucia used to receive Episcopal consecration from Antioch. But owing to the dangers attending on the journey to Antioch, the bishops of the East were given powers to consecrate him.[3]
It therefore, became necessary for the Patriarch to vest authority in an ecclesiastical dignitary to carry on the administration in the Persian region. Mosheim says that “the Patriarch of Antioch voluntarily ceded a part of his jurisdiction to Seleucia.”[4] So the Catholicos of Seleucia acted as the deputy of the Patriarch of Antioch[5], in the Persian Empire, with some exclusive privileges to consecrate bishops on behalf of the Patriarch.
Gibbon says:
The Catholicos were elected and ordained by their own suffragans ; but their filial dependence on the patriarchs of Antioch is attested by the canons of the oriental church.[6]
Neale says:
Still later, Nestorianism swallowed up the Catholicate of Chaldaea, which was, in a mannaer, dependent on Antioch.[7] The See of Antioch allowed that of Seleucia to consecrate its own Prelates, who were thenceforward called Catholici, i.e. Procurators-General, of Antioch[8].
Bernad says:
The St. Thomas Christians were receiving bishops sent by the Catholicos (Katholicos) of Seleucia who was subordinate to the See of Antioch. But when that See became Nestorian, they used to receive only those Bishops who were sent by that Catholicos who as before was subordinate to the See of Antioch. The See of Seleucia was subordinate to the See of from the very beginning. There is evidence for it in Canon II of the Council of Constantinople (381) which places the eastern dioceses (beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire) under the Patriarch of Antioch, who used to appoint an Archbishop, entitled Catholicos (Primatial Archbishop) to govern the Christians of India, Persia and other countries.[9]
From the above mentioned matters we understand that the Persian Catholicate was under the Patriarchate of Antioch and he had accepted the subjection of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

2. Nestorianism in Persian Church
In the previous section we have seen that the Catholicos of Persia obeyed and respected the Patriarch of Antioch[10]. When the Persian church was under Antioch, Nestorianism crept into the Persian Church.

2.1. Nestorius and Barsauma
In 428 A.D., Nestore was a bishop of Constantinople.[11] He showed great zeal against the few remaining advocates of the Arian heresy. But while combating one heresy, he fell into another. He had allowed Anastasius, a newly ordained priest of Constantinople to preach against the heretics. In one of his sermons, Anastasius said that it was improper to give Mary the title ‘Theotokos’ or Mother of God. ‘Let no one’, said he, ‘designate the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of God. Mary was merely human and God cannot be born of a human creature’.[12] The council of Ephesus in A.D.431[13], examined the writings of Nestorius, discussed the term ‘Theotokos’, and finally the Council unanimously condemned the doctrines of Nestorius. The writings of Nestorius, however, found favour with some influential persons, and two of them, Ibas and Thomas Barsaumaa, were obliged to leave the school of Edessa for their advocacy of the Nestorian heresy.[14] Barsauma was the bishop of Nisibis in (435-489).[15] The Nestorians, who had been turned out of their homes at Edessa, were protected by him. In 498, Babaeus, whom Barsumas had won over to Nestorianism, ascended the throne of Seleucia. The following year he held a synod in which the Nestorian party was organised.[16]
E.M. Philip says about this topic:
From the chronicles of Gregarious Bar Hebraeus, an intelligent and well-informed writer of the thirteenth century; we learn that Nestorianism was forced upon Seleucia by a treacherous act of Bar Souma, Bishop of Nisibin. The Catholicos, who was an orthodox deputy of the See of Antioch, was invited to a Provincial Synod to be held at Antioch. In reply, he communicated to his superior the dangers consequent upon his leaving his station. The letter contained some references to the hostile attitude of Pheroz, King of Persia, towards the Orthodox Church. This letter fell into the hands of Bar Souma, who availed himself of the opportunity to instigate Pheroz against the orthodox. The result was that the Catholicos was martyred, and a nominee of Bar Souma was elevated to the See of Seleucia. Not long after this, in a Council held in A.D. 498, Seleucia adopted the teachings of Nestorius, and its Head declared himself independent assuming the title of Patriarch of Babylon[17]

3. The Division of the Persian Catholicate
The Catholicos of Seleucia adopted Nestorianism in A.D. 498[18], and its Head declared himself independent, assuming the title of ‘Patriarch of Babylon’.[19] As a result of Nestorianism there are two groups aroused in Persia at the same time.[20] Many church under the Catholicos, some clung fast to the old and primitive faith, while others became converts to Nestorianism.[21] At that time of these disputes, there was a movement by Jacob Bardaeus.
See Mosheim says about Jacob Bardaeus’ work:
When the Monophysites were nearly in despair, and very few of their bishops remained, some of them being dead and others in captivity; an obscure man, Jacobus surnamed Baradaeus or Zanzalus, to distinguish him from others of the name, restored their fallen state. This indigent monk, a most indefatigable and persevering man, being ordained bishop by a few bishops who were confined in prison, travelled over all the East, on foot, constituted a vast number of bishops and presbyters, received every where the depressed spirits of the Monophysites, and was so efficient, by his eloquence and his astonishing diligence, that when he died, in the year 578, at Edessa, where he had been bishop, he left his sect in a very flourishing state in Syria, in Mesopotamia, in Armenia, in Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia, and in other countries. He extinguished nearly all the dissensions among the Monophysites; and as their churches were so widely dispersed in the East, that the bishop of Antioch could not well govern them all, he associated with him a Maphrian or primate of the East, whose residence was at Tagritum on the borders of Armenia. His efforts were not a little aided, in Egypt and the neighbouring regions, by Theodosius of Alexandria. From this man as the second father of the sect, all the Monophysites in the East are called Jacobites.[22]
In A.D. 559 Jacob Bardaeus consecrated Abudemmeh[23] as Catholicos of Seleucia, and the new dignitary bore the same relation to the Patriarch of Antioch as the Catholicos of Seleucia did to that See before the introduction of Nestorianism.[24]

3.1. Establishment of Persian Maphrianate in Tigrit
The Patriarch of Antioch established the Maphrianate. The Maphrian[25] owed allegiance to the Patriarch and was considered as the vicar of the Patriarch in Persia.[26]The title ‘Maphrian’ came into usage since AD 629. The office of the ‘Maphrian of the East’ was founded to take care of the orthodox faithful, living in the dioceses of the ancient territory of the Persian Sassanid Empire and who were under the Patriarchate of Antioch.[27] The transition of the title, from ‘Catholicos’ to ‘Maphrian’, was effected by the Syrian Jacobites to maintain their identity and distinctiveness from those who embraced Nestorianism. Tigrit was originally the main centre of the members of the Jacobite community and also the eastern head quarters of the Church.[28]

When we analyse this topic, Catholicose was Persian Origin and Maphrianate was only under the Patriarch of Antioch. We can explicitly say that the reestablishment of the Catholicate is protecting from the influence of the Nestorianism. And this re establishment helps to the protection of true Orthodox faith in that time

Foot Notes
[1] IORWERTH EIDDON STEPHEN EDWARDS, The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998. p.411-413
[2] AUGUSTUS NEANDER, General History of the Christian Religion and Church, By JOSEPH TORREY, Crocker &Brewster, Vol.2, Boston, 1854. p.105.
[3] Fr. PLACID T.O. C.D., The Syrian Church of Malabar, K.E.JOB (Ed.), Changanacherry, 1938; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur, 1998. p. 364.
[4] JOHN LAWRENCE VON MOSHEIM, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern, JAMES MURDOCK, Vol.1, New York, 1854. p.324.
[5] FR.BERNAD, A brief sketch of the History of the St.Thomas Christians, ROMEO THOMAS(Ed.), St.Joseph Press, Mannanam, 1924; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur,1998. p.295.
[6] EDWARD GIBBON, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman empire, J&J Harper, Vol. III, New York, 1831.p.270.
[7] JOHN MANSON NEALE, A History of the Holy Eastern Church, Part1, London, 1850. p.124.
[8] JOHN MANSON NEALE, A History of the Holy Eastern Church, Part1, p.141.
[9] FR.BERNAD, A brief sketch of the History of the St.Thomas Christians, ROMEO THOMAS(Ed.), St.Joseph Press, Mannanam, 1924; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur,1998. p. 296.
[10] Fr. PLACID T.O. C.D., The Syrian Church of Malabar, ICHC, p.364.
[11] JOHN C.L. GIESELER, A Text book of Church History, Harper Brothers Publishers, Vol.1, New York, 1857. p.340.
[12] JOHN ALZONG, Universal Church History, Vol. I. Dublin, 1895, p.415-416; Cited in JOSEPH C. PANJIKARAN, The Syrian Church in Malabar, St. Joseph Industrial School Press, 1914; Reprinted by GEORGE MENACHERY, The Nazranies, The Indian Church History Classics,Vol.1, SARAS, Trissur,1998.p.280-281.
[13] THOMAS MILNER, History of the seven Churches of Asia, London, 1832. p.192.
[14] JOSEPH C. PANJIKARAN, The Syrian Church in Malabar, ICHC, p.280-281.
[15] JOHN C.L. GIESELER, A Text book of Church History, Harper Brothers Publishers, Vol.1, New York, 1857.p.354.
[16] JOSEPH C. PANJIKARAN, The Syrian Church in Malabar, ICHC, p.280-281.
[17] E.M.PHILIP, The Indian Church of St. Thomas, Kottayam, 1908, Mor Adai Study Centre, Cheeramchira, 2002. p.72-73.
[18] ELI SMITH, H.G.O. DWIGHT, (Eds.), Missionary Researches in Armenia: Including a Journey Through Asia Minor, and into Geogrgia and Persia, with a visit to the Nestorian and Chaldean Christians of Oormiah and salmas, George Wightman and Paternoster Row, London, 1834. p. 363-365.
[19] E.M.PHILIP, The Indian Church of St. Thomas, Kottayam, 1908, Mor Adai Study Centre, Cheeramchira, 2002. p.73.
[20] FR.BERNAD, A brief sketch of the History of the St.Thomas Christians, ICHC, p.295.
[21] P.T. GHEEVARGHESE, Suriyani Kristhiyanikal Nestoriar ayirunno? (Where the Syrian Christians Nestorians?),Mal., Parumala, 1907; Seminary Publications, Mulanthuruthy, 1994. p.24.
[22] JOHN LAWRENCE VON MOSHEIM, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History ; Ancient and Modern, By JAMES MURDOCK, Vol.1,New York 1854. p.417-418.
[23] G.CHEDIATH & G. APPASSERY, Bar Ebraya-Sabha Charithram-Randam Bhagam,(Mal.), Vadavathoor, OIRS, 1990. p.49.
[24] JOHN MANSON NEALE, A History of the Holy Eastern Church, Part.1, General Introduction, London, 1850. p.152.
[25] The term ‘Maphrian’ is derived from the Syriac word ‘afri’, meaning, “to make fruitful”. In the mid 13th century the title ‘Catholicos’ was adopted by some occupants of the Maphrianate. It is this title that is being used in India today, while the title ‘Maphrian’ is no longer used.
[26] DAVID DANIEL, The Orthodox Church of India, Rachel David, New Delhi, 1986. p.85.
[27] E.R.HAMBYE, Dimensions of Eastern Christianity, Vadavathoor, OIRS, 1983. p.65.
[28] Dr.CURIAN KANIYANPARAMBIL, Suriyanisabha Charithravum Viswasa Sathyangalum (Mal.), Seminary Publications, Mulanthuruthy, 2003. p.788.

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