Bible Verse: “As for the remnant of the Aramaic people, they shall be as the Glory of the Children of Israel, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Isaiah 17: 3)
Twenty-One Centuries of Aramaic Christianity
First Century (1-99 AD)
The Life and Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth in the Roman Province of Syria.
Thomas, Thaddeus and Mari minister in Mesopotamia.
The Odes of Solomon written. Thomas preaches in India and Socotra.
The Old Testament Peshitta is translated by Christian Jews.
Fleeing persecution by the Jews, the Mandeans migrate to southern Iraq.
Second Century (100s AD)
The prophet Elchasai writes a book of prophecies in the Aramaic language.
Tatian the Assyrian, the disciple of St. Justin Martyr, composes “Oration against the Greeks” and “The Diatesseron” which is a harmony of the four Gospels. Tatian returns to Beth Nahrain and founds the Encarites, an ascetic community.
Third Century (200s AD)
Fourth Century (300s AD)
After Constantine ceases the persecution of Christians, Persia, distrusting its Christian subjects, begins to persecute them.
Aphrahat (died 345) and Ephrem the Syrian (died 373)
Fifth Century (400s AD)
431Nestorius unjustly condemned as a heretic. Assyrian Christians accept the theological stance of Nestorius and are thereafter called, incorrectly, Nestorians. (The problem is that not all members of the Assyrian Church are, or were, Assyrians. Indians and Chinese are not Assyrians, although they were members of the Assyrian Church of the East. For this reason sometimes I use the title “Nestorians.”)
Sixth Century (500s AD)
Cosmas Indicopeustes, a Nestorian from Egypt, visits Assyrian churches and writes of Aramaic and other eastern Christians who lived in Sri Lanka, India, Ethiopia and Socotra in 550 A.D.
Seventh Century (600s AD)
“Al-lo-pan,” an Assyrian missionary, is received with honor by the Chinese emperor in 636.
Assyrian Christian Isaac of Nineveh (died 700) who is canonized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, lives, writes and ministers
Eighth Century (700sAD)
781 the Nestorian monument is erected in China containing a proclaimation of the Gospel written by Adam Ching-ching.
Ninth Century (800s AD)
Timothy I “the Great” serves as Patriarch. Confounds the Muslems in debates.
Tenth Century (900s AD)
Important Aramaic Christian graveyard in Turkistan is in use.
Eleventh Century (1000s AD)
Mongolian Keriat Tribe is converted to Assyrian Christianity.
Twelfth Century (1100s AD)
Assyrian Christianity continues to spread among Mongolian tribes in central Asia.
Thirteenth Century (1200s AD)
In 1254 William of Rubruck visited with Nestorian Christians in Mongolia and China. He held them in great disdain.
In 1298 Marco Polo meets with Rustichello da Pisa and together they write “The Travels of Marco Polo” in which Marco Polo describes visiting Nestorian churches in central Asia, China and India.
Fourteenth Century (1300s AD)
Mar Yaballaha III, the Mongol, serves as Assyrian Patriarch.
Fifteenth Century (1400s AD)
Timur the Lame, Islamic warlord, devastates Eastern Christian communities in his Islamic Jihad.
Sixteenth Century (1500s AD)
Yuhannan Sulaka initiates the “Chaldean” schism in 1552.
Seventeenth Century (1600s AD)
After suffering under persecution from the Roman Catholic Holy Office of the Inquisition, Indian Christians break free from Catholic oppression and become Syrian Orthodox.
Eighteenth Century (1700s AD)
Joseph Simon Assemani (1687-1768) popularizes Aramaic in Europe.
Nineteenth Century (1800s AD)
Presbyterian missionaries aide Assyrian communities in Iran.
Twentieth Century (1900s AD)
During the World War I era many Assyrians are massacred along with the Armenians.
Assyrians fight for the Allied cause in World War 1 and 2.
George Lamsa popularizes Aramaic and the Assyrian Christian tradition in the United States.
November 6, 1975, Mar Simon was assassinated in San Jose, California. The bishop of Tehran, Iran, was elected Patriarch in 1976 and adopted the name Mar Dinkha IV. He took up residence in the United States.
Twenty-first Century (2000s AD)
Patriarch Mar Dinkha leads the Assyrian Church into conversion to Roman Catholicism. The end of the Assyrian Church.
(See “About Syriac” at www.bethmardutho.org and Catholic Near East Welfare Organization www.cnewa.org, under Eastern Christian Churches where they have “The Eastern Christian Churches, A Brief Survey by Ronald Roberson available. See also “Christians in Asia Before 1500” by Ian Gillman and Hans-Joachim Kliemkeit and “By Foot to China” by John M. L. Young.)
The Fall Feasts
We have just come through the Jewish Fall Feasts or “High Holy Days.” This includes the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Aramaic plays an important part with these Fall Festivals. The primary “day of atonement” prayer is in Aramaic. This is the “kol nidre” or “all vows:
Kol nidrey ve-esarey va-ha-ramey v-konamey v-hinu-yey v-kinusey u-shavuot, di-n’darna u d’ish-t’vana, u-d’ahrimna, v’di-asarna al naf-sha-tana, mi-yoom kipurim sheh-avar ad youm kipurim zeh ha-ba aleynul’tovah, kol-hon ih-ratna v-hon, kol-hon y’hon sharan. Sh’vikin, shi’vitin, b’teylin u-m’vutalin, la shririn v’la kay-yamin. Nidrana la nidrey, ve-esarana la esarey, u-sh’vuatana la sh’vuot.
All vows, oaths, and promises which we made to God and were not able to fulfill-from last Yom Kippur to this Yom Kippur-May all such vows between ourselves and God be annulled. May they be void and of no effect. May we be absolved of them and released from them. May these vows not be considered vows, these oaths not considered oaths, and these promises not be considered promises.
The idea behind this is to begin a new year (Jewish “New Year” is Rosh Hoshana) with a “clean slate” before God and man.
I have had to deal with claims that the Bar Kokba letters (written 100 years after the time of Christ) somehow “prove” that Jesus spoke ONLY Hebrew and NO Aramaic. I finally got “Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome” by Yigael Yadin. In this book Yiguel Yadin says “It is interesting that the earlier documents are written in Aramaic while the later ones are in Hebrew. Possibly the change was made by a special decree of Bar-Kokhba who wanted to restore Hebrew as the official language of the state.” The “Sukkot,” Feast of Tabernacles, letter written for Bar-Kokhba is written in Aramaic. It deals with a request of Bar Kokhba to be supplied with the “four kinds”-the lulav (palm branch), ethrog (citron), hadas, (myrtle) and avara (willow). (Jews are required to have these “four kinds” in order to celebrate “Sukkot” in accordance with the Law of Moses. The Bar Kokba letters show that even radical Jewish groups such as the movement of Bar Kokhba, groups that had a strong preference for Hebrew also used Aramaic. The Bar Kokhba letters do not prove that Jesus spoke only Hebrew and no Aramaic.
The Yezidis: Who they are and why they matter
In Iraq there exists a strange tribe called the Yezidi. They are also known as the “Kurdish Devil Worshipers.” They have a bizarre religion that is a curious mixture of Zoroasterianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Their veneration of the devil is unclear. They seem to believe that the devil repented and is no longer evil. They also venerate a golden statue of a peacock that they call Malek Tulas. There was a recent attack on the Yezidis in which over 100 were killed.
Al-Qaida in Iraq has promised more violence against the Yezidi.
Iraq needs total religious freedom. All Iraqis ought to be able to worship in security. If the rights of the Yezidi are not protected then what about the rights of the Aramaic Chrisitans? (see Assyrian International News Agency www.aina.org.)
Assyrian Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts for talking with Evangelicals
Say you are an Assyrian and you meet with an American Evangelical and he or she is very interested in your cultural heritage. Here are some “dos” and “don’ts.”
Mention Aramaic in the words of Jesus-know a couple of examples to illustrate that Jesus spoke Aramaic such as the words from the cross, the “Maranatha” prayer or names such as Cephas-Kepha-Peter.
Mention how the Muslems have persecuted the Assyrians-you will get a sympathetic ear.
Mention the story of Jonah and what Jesus said about the Ninevites (meaning “Assyrians”). Also, refer Evangelicals to Isaiah 19:25 and show how God pronounced a special blessing on the Assyrians.
Emphasize that Assyrians are Christians and were converted by Thaddeus and Thomas.
To evangelicals mentioned how Assyrian missionaries planted churches in China and India before the year 700 AD. Evangelicals will admire the Assyrians for that.
Point out somewhere where curious people can get more information.
Don’t attack the Old Testament (which is actually a heresy called “Marcionism.”) or make anti-Jewish comments. This will create a bad impression of you and will cause the Evangelical to have a negative image of all Assyrians. (If you, as an Assyrian, don’t like the Old Testament, sit down and read parts of it, such as Genesis or Psalms. (The Old Testament isn’t “Jewish” at any rate-its part of the Bible.) This way you will have an informed opinion. Frankly, I believe Judaism is a false religion. However, if you have anti-Jewish feelings, I think you ought to read “This is My God” by Herman Wouk. Once you know a little about Judaism-then you can go ahead and criticize the religion-but please don’t do so to an Evangelical.)
Avoid talking about any conspiracy theories-especially ones involving Jews. Racism is frowned upon in American culture. Many Americans think that people who believe that secret societies control the world are crazy and paranoid.
Don’t glorify too much in the pagan past. Pride in the ancient Assyrians is good but worshiping their gods is odd. Why would you want someone to think you are an idolater and have a weird religion? Westerners abandoned the worship of Zeus and Thor and other such false gods a long time ago. Assyrians trying to resurrect the worship of idols is harmful to the community. Assyrians are one of the first Christians and were extremely enthusiastic Christians. Assyrians haven’t worshiped idols in 2,000 years. Why start again now?
Here are more facts about the Roman Catholic scandal I encountered during the Assyrian Convention in San Diego.
(News from September 7, 2007) The Roman Catholic Dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino announced a settlement Friday with 144 sexual abuse victims for a total of $198.1 million. It is the second-largest legal settlement made by a diocese surrounding sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy since such scandals began erupting in the Catholic Church in 2002. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles it agreed last July to a settlement on 508 cases of sexual abuse for a total of $660 million. The Diocese of San Diego, with nearly 1 million Catholics and holdings throughout San Diego County, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the wake of the sexual abuse claims. Sexual abuse cases involving Roman Catholic priests have cost the U.S. church over $2.3 billion since 1950, according to the Associated Press.
If your Roman Catholic, I guess that is your tithes and offerings at work. I don’t understand why some Aramaic Christians would want to merge with the Roman Catholic Church when Roman Catholicism is so badly in need of reform-and yet so resistant of needed and positive change. Pope Benedict seems to be taking the correct stand in dealing with Islam and has written a book “Jesus of Nazareth” in which, correctly, the focus is on Jesus and the Bible. However, he has also made provocative and inflammatory comments against other Christian churches.
News from Syria
Sept. 19, 2007: Antione Ghanem, 64, an anti-Syrian lawmaker from the Christian Phalange Party, is killed in a blast in Beirut. Six other people also die. This is the seventh major assassination of a Lebanese leader since the murder of Hariri. What is happening is that the Islamic extremist government of the Syrian president Bashir Assad is murdering all Christian or pro-Christian leadership in Lebanon. These assassinations of Christians have actually been going on since Syria took over Lebanon in the early 1990s.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION REFUSES TO PROTECT IRAQI CHRISTIANS
According to a BBC report, the Pope of the Catholic Church has refused to have meeting with Bush Administration officials do to the unwillingness of President Bush to protect Iraqi Christians. According to the BBC report, the Pope refused to meet with Bush cronies because
…the US has responded in a manner considered unacceptable at the Vatican to the protection of the rights of Iraqi Christians under the new Iraqi constitution.
The Bush administration has told the Vatican that as coalition forces have not succeeded in securing the whole territory of Iraq, they are unable to protect non-Muslims.
See, “Pope refused audience for Rice” by David Willey, BBC News, Rome Wednesday 19 September 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/europe/7002988.stm
Aramaic and dying languages
Thousands around the world on the brink of extinction, languages that embody the history and traditions of people are dying, researchers have said. While there are an estimated 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, one of them dies out about every two weeks, according to linguistic experts struggling to save at least some of them. Five hotspots where languages are most endangered were listed Tuesday in a briefing by the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society. “When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday." According to K. David Harrison. Harrison is associate director of the Living Tongues Institute based in Salem, Ore. He and institute director Gregory D.S. Anderson analyzed the top regions for disappearing languages.Anderson said languages become endangered when a community decides that its language is an impediment. The children may be first to do this, he explained, realizing that other more widely spoken languages are more useful.The key to getting a language revitalized, he said, is getting a new generation of speakers. He said the institute worked with local communities and tries to help by developing teaching materials and by recording the endangered language. Harrison said that the 83 most widely spoken languages account for about 80 percent of the world's population while the 3,500 smallest languages account for just 0.2 percent of the world's people. Languages are more endangered than plant and animal species, he said.
For more information “Researchers say many languages are dying” by Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press Writer, Tuesday September 18, 2007
Why is this important? Because Aramaic is a dying language. It is hard to say how much longer the language has to survive. I would say, that if human history continues and things continue as they are now, Aramaic could be a dead language within 50 years. (God forbid.) Now, it has been very tenacious. Also, if people learn to speak fake languages like Klingon and Elvish, why can’t we take steps to preserve a historically important language like Aramaic? The National Geographic article says nothing about threatened languages of the Middle East and Arab world-and there are some, such as Berber, Socotri and South Arabian non-Arabic languages spoken in the southern regions of the Arabian peninsula. A sad fact is that National Geographic has a liberal and a pro-Islamic agenda. I wish it wasn’t true because I enjoy their magazine. But consider this, this year they had an anti-American article put out on the 400th year anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Also, National Geographic has been out for over 100 years and they constantly have published pro-Islamic articles. So, how many articles have they published on Coptic Christians or the Assyrians? NONE!!! Don’t they exist to put out articles about unique tribes? They have done multiple articles on the Kurds and many other Islamic tribes, and also several articles glorifying “Islamic Civilization”- but none on ancient Christian minorities in the Islamic world-not one article in one hundred years! I feel National Geographic is pro-Islamic and anti-Christian.
Remember John Booko and his books. He has written “The Assyrian Revelation” and “Assyria: The Forgotten Nation in Bible Prophecy.” (See insert.)
Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth
My new book is coming along. I will post a portion of it on the Aramaic Herald Blog soon. This book will have a DVD edition and will also be posted in its entirety on the Internet and will also be available from Barnes and Nobles and Amazon.com.
The November and December editions of the “Aramaic Herald” will be will contain comic book portions. The November edition will be a re-telling of the story of the Maccabees. The December edition will be about the Battle of Tours.
Hopefully, before the next month is over I will have a DVD, or two, available. The first will be “Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth” and the second is “James the Just, the Brother of Jesus.” The DVD is produced by William Brooks of “Big Blue Windmill” productions. The “Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth” DVD is available for free (once it is available) and I intend to post it up on “youtube.”
Contact Stephen PO Box 882 Shepherd TX 77371 www.aramaicherald.blogspot.com