Division and Rite
Churches, Division and Rite, Early Prelates, Modern History, Nasrani History, Syond of Diamper, Thomas Christians - Thursday, January 19, 2012 0:14 - 58 Comments
Patriarchate Of India- An Appraisal Of The Evolution Of The Episcopal Hierarchy Among Thomas Christians Of Malabar
Christianity in India
Thomas Christians of India are one of the most ancient Christian communities in the World. Apostle Thomas founded the Church in India in the first century itself. Tradition says that Apostle Thomas landed at Kodungalloor in AD 52 and founded 7 and half communities in the Malabar coast. Even though there is no solid historical evidence of this, considering the available historical, archaeological evidences and logical thought, many researchers and historians have concluded that the visit of Apostle Thomas is possible. There are solid grounds for believing that there was a Christian community that existed in Kerala in the very early period.
The arrival of Apostle Thomas in North West India is now, an accepted story, especially after the discovery of coins with the name of the Parthian King Gondophoros in the region, which validate the story in the apocryphal Acts of Judas Thomas.1 After a critical study about the apocryphal work ‘Acts of Judas Thomas’ J N Farquhar, who was a Professor of Comparative Religion in Manchester University argues that the legend of Thomas Apostle coming to Musiris where a large number of Jews, Greeks Romans and others lived and preached the Gospel and founded Christian communities among them, or in simple words, the Apostolate of Thomas in South India is on balance of probability, is distinctly on the side of historicity.2
The widespread presence of Pahlavi inscribed granite crosses in south India are the most ancient antiquities available about the history of Thomas Christians in the region. They denote the presence of a Christianity related to Persia. Eminent Pahlavi scholar B T Anklesaria has commented that the most ancient of these crosses, the one found at Alengadu could be of AD 340 or earlier but later than AD 302, (depending on the style of the letters and use of adjuncts, comparing to the styles seen in the ancient coins excavated, manuscripts and inscriptions). As the Pahlavi language died out by AD 650, many of the scholars put the age of these crosses as AD 650. 3
East Syrian Connection
Thomas Christians have always been under the jurisdiction of more advanced Christianity in Mesopotamia and Persia. There are hints from ancient literature that Apostle Thomas had sent letters to the Church in Edessa from India. Cureton in ‘Ancient syriac documents’ comments about Apostle Thomas’ letters received in the Church of Edessa. J N Farquhar, after critically analysing the possibilities, states that as there was a Bishop in Edessa from the time of Mar Addai, and there were no Bishops In India, the Christians would have corresponded with them and recognised the supremacy of Edessa.4
There is plenty of documentary evidence to show the connection of the Church in India to the Church of the East. Alphonse Mingana, after studying numerous ancient documents and manuscripts, commented that “any attempt to speak of early Christianity in India as different from the East Syrian church, is, in our judgement, bound to fail”.5
Early Christian Church.
It is believed that Aramaic was the language of our Lord Isho M’shiha and his disciples. It was the language of early Christians. The early Christians were Syriac speaking. But later, Christianity developed in Jerusalem and Antioch in a Hellenised culture and hence Greek became the official language.8 Greek language and hellenic culture, during the time of Isho M’shiha, was like English language and American culture today. Thus, the development of the primitive church was rooted in Greek language and hellenic culture. Alexandria and Constantinople were the Great Centres of Greek Christianity. Continue…
- 1. Pius Malekkandathil, Saint Thomas Christians: A Historical analysis of their origin and development upto 9th century AD, in Saint Thomas Christians, and Nambudiris Jews and Sangam Literature, Ed Bosco Puthur, LRC Kochi 2006, p 4 [↩]
- 2. J N Farquhar, Apostle Thomas in South India, Bulletin of John Rylands University Library, Vol xi 1927 p 49 [↩]
- 3.B T Anklesaria, The Pahlavi inscription on the crosses in Southern India, in The Journal of K R Cama Oriental Institute, Bombay, vol 39, 1958, p80 [↩]
- 4. J N Farquahar, Thomas in South India, Bulletin of John Rylands University Library vol XI 1927 p 37 [↩]
- 5.Alphonse Mingana, Early spread of Christianity in India, The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol 10 p440 [↩]
- 6 Archbishop Mar Joseph Powathil, ‘Syriac tradition; Authentically Asian form of Christianity’, Inaugural address of the World Syriac Congress at Kottayam,4th September, 1994 [↩]
- 7. Dietmar W Winkler, The “Apostolic Church of the east”, a brief introduction to the writing of church history and to terminology, in ‘The Church of the East; A concise History, Wilhelm Baum, Dietmar W Winkler Rutledge,p2 [↩]
- 8.J Oswald Dykes, From Jerusalem to Antioch, London, 1874, pp 412-415 [↩]
- Catalogue of ancient Nasrani Churches, their affiliations and population statistics in the background of division and attempts of Reconciliation- A review of Literature
- Kerala Syrian Christian, Apostle in India, The tomb of the Apostle, Persian Church, Syond of Diamper – Coonan Cross Oath, Subsequent divisions and the Nasrani People
- Divisions and Rite of the Churches- Syro Malabar Church, Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church ,Malankara Orthodox Syriac Church, Thozhiyur Church, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Syro Malankara Church, Chaldean Syrain Church.
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