Dear George: The Jacobite Church is a descendant of …
Comment posted Lifestyle of Kerala Syrian Christians by John Mathew.
The Jacobite Church is a descendant of the Church of Antioch (the other main one being the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch; there are others that claim descent from the Church of Antioch as well–they are all Catholic). Antioch was an interesting part of the world where various cultures mixed, the Greeks, Romans, and various Semitic peoples (including the Jews). I think they mixed, not only culturally, but also genetically: remember, Alexander the Great (the progenitor of Hellenism) was big on mixing peoples together, and that resulted in people being less mindful of “caste” or “purity”. Probably that was how the Jews started to become a mixed race (which is another thing that makes the Knanaya claims so laughable: racial “purity” never really existed except in the minds of people like the Nazis, etc.).
Now for the early Church fathers, remember one thing: that era was after Christianity became a Gentile religion—it was after the era of the Jewish Christians (the Jewish Christians having lost the battle to Gentile Christianity). So the fathers of the Church (the “One Apostolic Catholic/Orthodox Church” of the Nicene Creed) were of many races: mainly Greeks, some Syrians (Assyrians/Arameans), some Romans, some Ptolomeic Egyptians, and probably some descendants of Jews. They were not solely (or even mainly) Jewish Christians, in general. That is why, in some of my earlier posts, I harp on the fact that it is funny that (1) some Nasranis like to amplify Jewish/Hebrew heritage while (2) belonging to Churches that are descendants of the very people that destroyed (or at least reduced) Jewish Christianity.
Dr. Grant was referring to those members of the Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorians) that were stuck up in Urmia. They are not the only Nestorians, but perhaps they were a special community of Nestorians that claimed some kind of origin from Jewish ancestors. Similarly, the Jacobites consisted of many different groups of peoples, including the Assyrians and the Arameans (who are not Jewish—they were the descendants of the ancient conquerors of Israel who—among other things—replaced Hebrew with the foreign language Aramaic.
Now, for the names of the Assyrian Church of the East’s prelates, you’ll be happier to know that they are from a far less Hellenized culture … some did come from Greek-speaking areas, including their hero Nestorius. And they certainly revere the early Nicene fathers who were predominantly Greek (with some Syriacs, and a few Romans too). But, since they were in the anti-Greek anti-Roman Persian Empire, they were free from Greek-envy. So some of their fathers’ names are: Mar Babai (their great teacher), Mar Isaac, Mar David, Mar Joseph, Mar John, Mar Simeon … you get the picture: bona fide eastern (non-Greek) and Old Testament names. You can surf the web for “Catholicos-Patriarch of the East” to find a list of names. You will definitely be happy when reading them.
Although the names don’t point to a genetically Jewish origin, they do point to a culture of people who really liked the Old Testament. The Assyrians felt they were the descendants of people like the Ninevites (people whom YHWH was angry with), and rather than be ashamed of such a pagan past, they honored it and took it upon themselves to atone for the sins of their fathers by rigorously observing fasts like the Rogation of the Ninevites (us Jacobites and the Syro-Malabar Catholics continue to observe this fast: I personally observe it even more rigorously than Lent…).
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