Surviving Vestiges of Assyrian Cultural Influence in Mongolia
The Assyrian Church of the East was for a time, widespread among various Mongol tribes. This was especially true during the time of Mongolian ascendency in the thirteenth century. Although the Assyrian Church of the East has died out among the Mongols, certain vestiges of Assyrian Christianity have survived. This is particularly seen in the Mongolian alphabet, which is derived from the Syriac script used by the Assyrians. The similarity of the Mongolian alphabet to the Syriac alphabet from which it is derived is obvious. (In the past, the Assyrian Church of the East has been called the Nestorian Church and its teachings "Nestorianism." This terminology is used in older references and in important historical sources such as the writings of Marco Polo. Assyrians have, in the past, called themselves Nestorian. However, this is now viewed as a misnomer because the Church of the East clearly pre-dates the Nestorian controversy and with the discovery of the autobiography of Nestorius, it can be argued that neither Nestorius, nor the Church of the East, taught the "heresy" called Nestorianism. Nestorius is, however, viewed as a theologian in the Church of the East. The writings of Nestorius and his mentor Theodore of Mopsuestia have been reappraised and now Theodore and the Antiochan school to which he belonged and now viewed more positively by many theologians.)
The Syriac Script:
In Peter T. Daniel's and William Bright, Ed.'s "The World's Writing Systems" (New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996) there chapters on Aramaic scripts. This book describes the Syriac origins of the Mongolian alphabet. In the chapter "Aramaic Scripts for Altaic languages" it states that "Medieval Northern Iranians transmitted different forms of the Aramaic alphabet to the ancient Truks…Manichean Estrangelo (Aramaic) and Sogdian scripts were applied to the Turkic language of the Uygers and other Truks who were Manicheans or Nestorians." In the prior chapter it is stated "Iranian languages were written in varieties of the Syriac scripts: the Manichean script developed from Estrangelo, used to write Parthian, Middle Persian, Sogdian, and Bactrian, and the Christian Sogdian derived from the Nestorian Script." (By the way, "Estrangelo" is the "classical" form of the Syriac alphabet and it is still used by the Church of the East and by the Syrian Orthodox Church.
On the cover illustration of this newsletter there is a picture of the Syriac script which is written horizontally. Then I have a picture of the Mongolian script, which is obviously very similar to the Syriac script-but written vertically.
Lamaistic Buddhism and the Assyrian Church
The original religion of the Mongols was a form of shamanism. The Mongolian god was named Tengril. During the time of Genghis Khan, the Mongols were religiously diverse. The dominant faiths were "Nestorian" Christianity, Shamanism, Buddhism, Zoroasterianism, and Islam. Today, the dominant faith of Mongolia is Lamaistic or Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is well known due to the fame of the Dali Lama. However, vestiges of Assyrian Christianity can be found in Tibetan Buddhism. Oddly, certain New Age sects have argued that during Christ's 18 missing or silent years that he went and studied Buddhism in Tibet. (The Gospels do not describe the events of Christ's life from his twelfth until his thirtieth year. This has led to a lot of conjecture and the creation of many apocryphal tales as can be seen in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.) The fact of the matter is that Tibet was not Buddhist at the time of Christ and that Assyrian Christians planted churches in Tibet before Lamaistic Buddhism was able to firmly take over. This explains why references to Jesus have been found in Tibetan texts-Assyrian Christians had actually arrived there first! (The most likely explanation of Christ's "silent years" is that he was working in his carpentry shop and studying the Scriptures during that time period.) In The History of Eastern Christianity by Aziz S. Atiya (U niversity of Notre Dame, Indiana, published 1968) it states, "One relic of Nestorianism in the heart of Asia is said to be the survival of its ritual in a debased form in the Lamaism of Tibet. The striking resemblances with Lamaist Monasticism, the use of holy water, incense and vestments of a similar character to Nestorian practices, must be traced to the days of the Nestorian missionary in the high Middle Ages. It has been suggested that Jesus came to Central Asia, from where He carried back those Buddhist teachings shown to be identical with Christianity from Tibetan Lamaism. Since Buddhism did not reach Tibet until 640, it is unnecessary for the historian to waste his time refuting a baseless argument. Of more interest is the fact that a officiating lama recalls a Nestorian bishop celebrating the Nestorian liturgy."
What happened to the Mongolian Christians?
Various factors led to the disappearance of the Church of the East in Mongolia. I would say that there were three main factors.
- The Black Plague-devastated already small groups of Christians
- Islamic persecution caused their numbers to dwindle
- Persecution and other difficulties facing the "mother church" in Mesopotamia made it impossible for the church to send out missionaries and bishops-the church was forced to abandon its missions. Due to hardships the Church of the East at the time lacked the resources to maintain its churches abroad.
However, it does seem that one community of "Nestorian" Christians survived until the twentieth century. On page 305 of "Christians in Asia before 1500" by Ian Gillman and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit states that "Remnants of Nestorianism could still be found among the Mongolian Erkut at the beginning of this [the twentieth] century." They are referencing words by A. Mostaert (1934) and G. J. Ramstedt ((1951). These articles are written in French and German. Apparently, a Mongolian tribe living in Inner Mongolia in China maintained their ancestral traditions which were Nestorian rituals. I am uncertain if this Mongolian tribe were aware of their Christian origins or that their ancestoral traditions they maintained were Christian rituals. This tribe lived in the Ordos in China. It is interesting that a hoard of Nestorian crosses from the Yaun (Mongolian) dynasty period was found in this region. They are called the "Ordos Crosses." It is unknown, but possible that this Nestorian Mongolian Community still exists. Most likely they have died out-but I don't know that anyone has gone to Ordos to visit the Erkut to verify that.
Moses and the Excluded
In Mark 11:15-19, we have Jesus' cleansing of the Temple. Please note verse 17. Jesus says, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations-but you have made it into a den of thieves." In this passage, Jesus was quoted two texts from the Old Testament. First, Isaiah 56:7 and then Isaiah 7:1-15. Please look at these texts. In Isaiah 7, the Lord is speaking about two groups of people who were excluded from worship in the Temple. This was eunuchs and gentiles. The passage concludes with God speaking and saying that these people are to be welcomed into the inner courts of His temple. (Some Bible scholars suspect that Nehemiah may have been a eunuch. Jesus discusses eunuchs in his teachings. He speaks of those who were born eunuchs and those who had been made eunuchs by men and then he talks about those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In ancient times, many men were made eunuchs. Usually, eunuchs were used in the royal courts. Muslims used eunuchs to guard the sultans harem. A few years ago, the last surviving man who had been made a eunuch in order to serve in the Imperial Court in China died.) God is welcoming these people, eunuchs and gentiles, into His courts because they were denied entry by the Law of Moses. The context alluded to here by Isaiah is Deuteronomy 23:1-7 and Leviticus 21:17-20. Anyone with any "blemish" was not allowed to worship in the Temple. Someone who was illegitimate (a "mamzer") was not allowed to worship in God's Temple. So, who according to the Law of Moses was not welcomed in the house of the Lord? Dwarves, hunchbacks, anyone descended from a Moabite and others. (So, technically, David, who was descended from Ruth the Moabitess, should not been allowed to worship in the sanctuary.) These commandments that say that those who were born illegitimately, or have gentile descent, or any physical blemish should not be able to worship in God's holy temple are part of the 613 commandments of Moses. So, what Isaiah is speaking of here, is opening up worship to those who were excluded by the Law of Moses-eunuchs, gentiles and those with physical defects. It should be remembered that the Law of Moses is NOT anymore inspired that Isaiah, Jeremiah or the rest of Scripture.
A few years ago, a gang of Orthodox Jews was arrested. Around the same time, orthodox Jewish boys were arrested for abusing and selling drugs. Their point of view was that the 613 commandments of Moses did not specifically say that you can't snort cocaine or be involved in organized crime-so they were!
The Pharisees taught-you cannot commit adultery-but you can look! Jesus taught otherwise in Matthew 5:27. (Bill Clinton said that oral sex isn't specifically condemned as sin in Scripture and so therefore, in his view, it was permissible and didn't count as adultery!)
Vitiligio, a non-contagious skin de-pigmentation condition, could fit the description of "leprosy" in the Bible. However, the intent was to prevent the spread of a potentially fatal condition. However, if this law was applied today-people with abnormal pigmentation conditions, including albinoism, would be shunned from all human contact-save with others who were "unclean."
Jesus taught against divorce-which was allowed by the Law of Moses. (However, in Malachi God says "I hate divorce.") Polygamy and slavery were also allowed in the Law of Moses.
But, the New Testament describes the Law of Moses as "Holy and Just and Good." In Romans 7:12.
What does it mean to be filled by the Spirit? Is the spirit filled about life observing holidays, about observing a diet, wearing distinctive clothing and having a particular haircut? You can do all these things and be lost. So the answer is NO according to Galatians 3:5, the people received the Holy Spirit without observing the Law of Moses and Paul describes the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. If the Spirit filled life is strict torah observance then Paul was wrong and the entire Pentecostal movement was not of God.
What then is the Law about? The Law is about Jesus! It's whole purpose is to bring us to Christ.
BUT-the Messiah is greater than the Law. The Ebionites believed that we don't believe in the Scriptures because they testify of Jesus (which they do) we believe in the Scriptures because Jesus testified of them. This means that Jesus is greater than all the Scriptures-even the Law of Moses. Moses did not teach his followers how to pray. Moses promised blessings and curses in this life-but he did no promise eternal life (which is why the Sadducees denied it. (But Moses did teach his students how to ritually purify themselves after having a nocturnal emission.) There is no spiritual warfare in the Law of Moses.
Jesus, Peter and Stephen all state that Moses wrote about Jesus. The Torah is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). But Christ is what the Law is all about. He and not the Torah is the full expression of the perfect will of God (Colossians 1:10). Jesus is superior to the Law of Moses. According to the author of Hebrews, Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6).
Aramaic, Jewish Roots and the Church Fathers: Complutensian Polyglot Bible
I have complained before about how certain Evangelicals and Messianic teachers often bemoan the treatment of Jews in the Christian west. I don't believe we should gloss over certain aspects of history. But, I believe that the positive encounters and cooperation between Christians and Jews is often ignored by the polemicists. A case in point is the Complutensian Polyglot Bible. Here we have the Roman Catholic Church creating a parallel Bible that included the Aramaic Rabbinic Targum version of the Old Testament! So, the Catholic Church did engage the Jewish community in a positive way and did avail itself of Aramaic resources at the time. The Complutensian Polyglot Bible is the name given to the first printed polyglot of the entire Bible, initiated and financed by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (1436-1517). It includes the first printed editions of the Greek New Testament, the complete Septuagint, and the Targum Onkelos. Of the 600 printed six-volume sets, only 123 are known to have survived to date. With the rise of the printing press in the 1450s, the Bible could be propagated much more efficiently. At great personal expense, Cardinal Cisneros acquired many manuscripts and invited the top religious scholars of the day, including Hernán Núñez, to work on the ambitious task of compiling a massive and complete polyglot "to revive the languishing study of the Sacred Scriptures." The scholars met in the city of Alcalá de Henares (in Latin, Complutum), at the Cardinal's own University of Alcalá. Work on the project began in 1502 under the direction of Diego Lopez de Zúñiga, and continued there for fifteen years. The New Testament was completed and printed in 1514, but its publication was delayed while work on the Old Testament continued, so they could be published together as a complete work. In the meantime, word of the Complutensian project reached Desiderius Erasmus in Rotterdam, who produced his own printed edition of the Greek New Testament. Erasmus obtained an exclusive four-year publishing privilege from Emperor Maximilian and Pope Leo X in 1516. Erasmus' text became known as the Textus Receptus, and later editions were the basis for the King James Version of the New Testament. The Complutensian Old Testament was completed in 1517. Because of Erasmus' exclusive privilege, publication of the Polyglot was delayed until Pope Leo X could sanction it in 1520. It is believed to have not been distributed widely before 1522. Cardinal Cisneros died in July of 1517, five months after the Polyglot's completion, and never saw its publication. The Complutensian Polyglot Bible was published as a six-volume set. The first four volumes contain the Old Testament. Each page consists of three parallel columns of text: Hebrew on the outside, the Latin Vulgate in the middle, and the Greek Septuagint on the inside. On each page of the Pentateuch, the Aramaic text (the Targum Onkelos) and its own Latin translation are added at the bottom. The fifth volume, the New Testament, consists of parallel columns of Greek and the Latin Vulgate. The sixth volume contains various Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek dictionaries and study aids. For the Greek text, the minuscules 140, 234, and 432 were probably used. Jerome's version of the Old Testament was placed between the Greek and Hebrew versions, thus the synagogue and the Eastern church, as the preface explains it, are set like the thieves on this side and on that, with Jesus (that is, the Roman Church) in the midst. A magnificent full size (folio) facsimile edition was published in Valencia 1984-87. It is reproduced for the Bible text (volumes 1-5) from the copy in the Library of the Jesuit Society at Rome; the rare sixth volume with dictionaries has been reproduced from the copy in the Madrid University Library. The typeface devised for the Complutensian by Arnaldo Guillén de Brocar has been regarded by typographers such as Robert Proctor as the apex of Greek typographical development in early printing, before Aldus Manutius' manuscript-based typefaces took over the market for the next two centuries. Proctor based his 1903 Otter Greek typeface on the Polyglot; the Greek Font Society's
GFS Complutensian Greek is likewise based on the Polyglot.
BIG IDEA: Why not go after the philosophy of Islamism instead of reacting to threats when they arise? America reacts to incidents. We need to be preemptive. That I am saying is that if believes Muslims have are motivating Muslims to murder Christians then we need to challenge these Islamic beliefs-it is our right and our duty to do so-especially if doing so can save lives.
KING OF ISRAEL: featuring me: Stephen Andre Missick!
COPTIC CHURCH: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UyEAhSl3cE
The Christians of Egypt unite! Totally awesome! Also-important insight into the direction that American culture is headed:
WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN ARAMAIC?
Frederick E. Greenspahn "An Introduction to Aramaic," Alger F. Johns "A Short Grammar of Biblical Aramaic," and Miles V. Van Pelt "Basics of Biblical Aramaic."
These books do have answer keys that are sold separately. However, the answer key to "The Basics of Biblical Aramaic" is downloadable from the internet.
There is also "Introduction to Syriac" by Trackston. It also has an answer key that is sold separately. Syriac is an Aramaic dialect very similar to Biblical Aramaic.
Even those in the left fear that war with Iran is impending. Now, this is why I voted for McCain, although I didn't like him. He had a military background and therefore understands national defense. By projecting strength one protects his country. Obama projects weakness and thereby names us vulnerable. Also, Mr. Obama promotes Islamist government abroad. His motivations are explored in the book "The Roots of Obama's Rage." By his actions and his policy I am convinced that Obama is indeed a Muslim. Iran's raid of the British Embassy in Tehran is troubling. The developments in Egypt are troubling as well. Now, 60% of parliament is Islamist or soon will be. Most likely, a state of war will be declared upon Israel by Egypt and they will pull out of the Camp David peace accords. So, what will the Islamists do? Hopefully fail. The government of Egypt has been inching towards Islamism for some time so it is curious what changes they will make. They will most likely attempt to make life harder for Coptic Christians. If they try to implement strict Sharia law, I think that we will see fighting in the streets between Muslims and Christians and between moderate/secularist Muslims verses more fanatical Muslims. 40% of Egypt doesn't want Islamist law. Egypt is about 10% or so Christian so that means there is 30% of Muslims who don't want strict Islamist law. So, war is brewing in the horizon and Mr. Obama's policies have made the world a much more dangerous place. It looks like America is going to discover how terrible the consequences of electing a left-wing member the radical leftist fringe into the highest office on earth can be.