Nasrani History, Pantaenus, Saint Bartholomew - Tuesday, February 13, 2007 9:01 - 20 Comments
1. Mission of Pantaenus in India
About a hundred and twenty years ( ca.180 or 190) after the traditional date of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas the Apsotle, a second Christian mission is reported to have reached India. The great Church in Alexandria, center of Egyptian Christianity sent its most famous scholar, Pantaenus, head of the theological School in that city, “ to preach Christ to the Brahmans and philosophers there”, wrote Saint Jerome in the fifth century.1
A deputation from India reached Alexandria some time in 179 or 189 AD. Impressed by the erudition of Pantaenus, according to Saint Jerome, they asked Demetrius to send him to India for discussions with their own Hindu philosophers and it is to the credit of the good bishop that he judged the Christian world mission to be no less urgent a priority then the advancement of Christian learning. Without hesitation he took his most famous scholar from the theological school and sent him as a missionary to the East. Eusebius also gives an early account of this mission.
Both Eusebius and Saint Jerome has reported that Pantaenus found Gospel of Mathew reported to have left there in India by Saint Bartholomew. Some writers has suggested that having difficulty with the language of Saint Thomas Christians, Pantaenus misinterpreted their reference to Mar Thoma ( Bishop Thomas) as Bar Tolmai ( the Hebrew name of Bartholomew). Some others say Eusebius and Saint Jerome confused India with Arabia or Persia as was done by some other classical writers.
Interestignly, the pupils and successors of Pantaenus, Clement and Origen, write about India as if they know more of that land than passing myths and in no way confused it with Arabia and Persia. They may have heard this from Pantaenus himself. They speak of “Indian Brahmans” and “gymnosophists” and Clement writes discerningly of the difference between “Sarmanane” and “Brahmans” describing the former in terms that suggest the “hermits” or “holy men of India”.2
2.Mission of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle in India
Two ancient testimonies exist about the mission of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle in India. These are of Eusebius of Caesarea ( early forth century) and of Saint Jerome ( late forth century). Both these refer to this tradition while speaking of the reported visit of Pantaenus to India in the second century.
According to Eusebius, Pantaenus, “is said to have gone among the Indians, where a report is that he discovered the Gospel according to Mathew among some there who knew Christ, which had anticipated his arrival: Bartholomew, one of the Apostles, had preached to them and had left them the writings of Mathew in Hebrew letters, which writing they preserved until the afore-said time”
Saint Jerome would have that Demetric, Bishop of Alexandria, sent to him India, at the request of legates of that nation. In India Pantaenus “ found that Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, had preached the advent of Lord Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew, and on his return to Alexandria he brought this with him written in Hebrew characters..”
In these testimonies Eusebius appears to be not quite sure of what’s reported. Saint Jerome, while writing to Marcellus, acknowledge the primacy of Saint Thomas, the Apostle in India. Continue…
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