Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frumentius the West Syrian Bishop Came to India?

When studies are conducted on St.Thomas Christians, the historians make their conclusions according to their whims and fancies. They try to uphold not only their own traditions In this short essay I wish to point out some realities of the ancient Indian Church history. Frumentius was the saint of Ethiopian Church. But all of the ancient historians mentioned he visited in India. So in this essay I wish to focus some realities.

Frumentius the West Syrian Bishop came to India
Frumentius was a Syrian bishop, from Tyre (West Syrian City, now situated in Lebanon).( JOHN AIKIN, General Biography,Vol.4, London, 1803.p.254). He was ordained by Athanasius Patriarch of Alexandria. (----STANLEY BURSTEIN, ‘ The Introduction of Christianity to Axum’, Ancient African Civilizations, New Jersey 1997. p.96----, ) He came to India (JOSIAH CONDER, The Modern Traveller: A Description, Geographical, Historical and Topographical of the various countries of the Globe, Vol.7, James Duncan, London, 1830. p. 143.)with one West Syrian Philosopher named as Meropius. Frumentius was the nephew of Meropius. He had done a lot of missionary works in Malabar including establishment several churches. ….(WALTER CHAPIN, The Missionary Gazetteer, Comprising a view of the Inhabitants and a Geographical description of the countries and places, where protestant Missionaries have laboured; Alphabetically arranged and so constructed as to give a particular and general History of Missions throughout the World with an Appendix containing an Alphabetical List of missionaries, their Stations, the Time of Entering Removal or decease, David Watson,Woodstock, 1895. p. 343-344.)

Let us see the historian’s opinions:-

1…… “The Greek Manuscript says:- A philosopher of Tyre about this period, desiring to penetrate into the interior of India, set off for this purpose with his two nephews. …..…..His nephews were conducted to the king. The name of the one was Edesius, and of the other Frumentius.” (EVAGRIUS & THEODORET, ‘The Conversion of the Indians’, History of the Church from A. D. 322 to the Death of Thedore of Mopsuestia, A.D. 427, Translated from Greek. London 1854. p.60.)

2. ……….. “Athanasius of Alexandria consecrated him and bade him return in the Grace of Goid whence he had come. And when he had arrived in India as a bishop,….”. (STANLEY BURSTEIN, ‘ The Introduction of Christianity to Axum’, Ancient African Civilizations, New Jersey 1997. p.96)

3. …………… “The period was one of more mobility and geographical exploits than it is generally given credit for Meropius, a Christian of Tyre in Syria, went to India and took two young men along, Adesius and Frumentius….” ( BENGT SUNDKLER & CHRISTOPHER STEED, A history of the Church in Africa, Cambridge, 2000, p.35.)

4…………… “Edesius and Frumentius, two youths of Tyre, accompanied Meropius the philosopher into India, where being taken by the natives, they were presented to the king of the country, who pleased with their persons and their parts, made one of them, his butler, the other (Frumentius) the keeper of his records, or as Sozomen will have it, his treasurer and major-domo, committing to his care the government of his house. For their great diligence and fidelity the king at his death gave them their liberty, who thereupon determined to return to their own country, but were prevailed with by the queen to stay, and superintend affairs during the minority of her son. Which they did, the main of the government being in the hands of Frumentius, who, assisted by some Christian merchants that trafficked there, built an oratory, where they assembled to worship God according to the rites of Christianity, and instructed several of the natives, who joined themselves to their assembly. The young king, now of age, Frumentius resigned his trust, and begged leave to return ; which being with some difficulty obtained, they presently departed, Edesius going for Tyre, while Frumentius went to Alexandria, where he gave Athanasius, then bishop of that place, an account of the whole affair, showing him what hopes there were that the Indians would come over to the faith of Christ, withal begging of him, to send a bishop and some clergymen among them, and not to neglect so fair an opportunity of advancing their salvation. Athanasius, having advised with his clergy, persuaded Frumentius to accept the office, assuring him he had none fitter for it than himself. Which was done accordingly, and Frumentius being made bishop, returned back into India, where he preached the Christian faith, erected many churches, and being assisted by the divine grace and favour, healed both the souls and bodies of many at the same time.” ( WILLIAM CAVE, The History of the Lives, Acts, Death and Martyrdoms, Philadelphia, 1810. p.353.)

5…………. “Early Indian Church historians opinion:- Frumentius, the Apostle of Abyssinia, who had resided a long time in India, and spoke the language remarkably well, preached the Gospel in the southern parts, where he had great influence, and was highly respected, having been for many years prime minister, of the Kings, during his minority. There he converted many Hindus, and built many churches, and then went to Abyssinia. He came to India with his brother Adesius, along with their paternal uncle, a native of Tyre, who was a Christian, and a very learned man. He travelled into the interior parts of India as a philosopher, and having satisfied his curiosity, he re-embarked on his way back with his two nephews; but, happening to put into a certain harbour, in order to get a supply of water, they were, at their landing, suddenly attacked by the natives. 'Many perished, and the rest were carried into captivity. Among the former was the uncle; but his two nephews were presented to the King, who took particular notice of them, and they were afterward raised by him to the first dignities of the state. They obtained leave to revisit their native country, when Frumentius was ordained a bishop, and in that character went back to India.” (CAPTAIN F. WILFORD, Origin and Decline of the Christian Religion in India. Asiatic Researches , Vol. X, London, 1810. p. 69-70)

6….. “Meropius, say they, a merchant of Tyre (West Syria), proceeding to India, …….; and dying there, left two youths, by name Frumentius and Edesius;……….” (SAMUEL GOBAT, Journal of a Three years Residence in Abyssinia, London, 1834.p.3)

7………. “FRUMENTIUS, a saint in the Romish calendar…….was a native of Tyre, and flourished in the fourth century….” (JOHN AIKIN, General Biography,Vol.4, London, 1803.p.254)

8……… “Frumentius was a native of Tyre, and flourished in the fourth century.” (JOHN GORTON, General Biographical Dictionary, New Edition Vol1, London, Whittaker and Co, 1838 p.FRY-FUL)

9…….Edwards says: “The Bishop of India was present, and signed his name at the council of Nice, in 325. The next year Frumentius was consecrated to that office by Athanasius, of Alexandria, and founded many churches in India. The Syrian Christians enjoyed a succession of bishops, appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch, from the beginning of the 3rd century, till they were invaded by the Portuguese. They still retain the Liturgy anciently used in the churches of Syria, and employ in their public worship the language spoken by our Saviour in the streets of Jerusalem.” (BELA BATES EDWARDS, The Missionary Gazetteer, William Hyde & Co., Boston, 1832. p.162; ‘Syrian Christians in Travancore’, Introduction to the Eclectic Reader, Perkins & Marvin, Boston, 1833. p. 40.)

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