Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD

Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD 4.43/5 (88.57%) 7 ratings

Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD

Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD

Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD

Both history and tradition testify that St. Thomas one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ came to India, preached the Gospel and founded a Church here. The origin of the Indian Church is an apostolic one. There are lot of opinions, views coupled with lack of documentary evidences which creates confusion about the early Nasrani Prelates proceeding the Apostle. This article focus on the prelates and missionaries of Nasranis continuing the Apostle, till the Syond of Diamper (Udayamperoor) convened on June 20, 1599 citing a number of sources.1

1. St. Thomas Christians & Church of East

“Doctrine of the Apostles” states that, “India and all its countries . . . received the Apostle’s hand of priesthood from Judas Thomas….”

Due to the common Apostolic origin and a number of socio cultural factors, from a very early period the Church of St. Thomas Christians came in to a life long relationship with the Church of Persia. According to early Christian writings Church of Persia was also established by St. Thomas the apostle. Primate or Metropolitan of Persia consecrated bishops for the Indian Church of St. Thomas Christians.

Church of the East traces its origins to the See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, said to be founded by Saint Thomas the Apostle. Other founding figures of Seleucia-Ctesiphon are Saint Mari and Saint Addai as evidenced in the Doctrine of Addai and the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari. Church of Persia traces its origin to the missionary activities of St.Thomas the Apostle.

There are documents which indicate that the Syrian Church of Malabar was dependent on the Church of Seleucia or better Seleucia-Ctesiphon, later on called the church of Babylon or Church of East. We do not know for certain when and how this dependence began. It appears that, through the Church of Persia, the Malabar Church was subject to Seleucia, which was under Antioch, which in turn was under Rome.2

Since the relations of the Malabar Church with the Church of Seleucia were done away with, only at the end of the 16th century, it will be useful to refer briefly to that Church, which had its headquarters in Seleucia and Ctesiphon, the chief cities of the Persian Empire.3

We shall now briefly examine the history of the Eastern Church, in order to see whether and how far the course of events that affected the history of this Church, produced corresponding results in the Indian Church which was united to it even from early times.

According to many ancient authors, the Bishop or Metropolitan of Seleucia used to receive episcopal consecration from Antioch.4

It should also be kept in mind that, Church of East declares Mar Thoma Shilkha, (Saint Thomas) (c. 33-c. 77) as the first Patriarch followed by Mar Tulmay (St. Bartholomew the Apostle) (c. 33), Mar Addai, (St. Thaddeus of Edessa), Mar Agai (c. 66-c. 87), Mar Abris (c. 121-c. 137) etc which seems in accordance with the particular nature of any other Eastern Church.

Towards the close of the second century, Ahad Abuei,who had been elected Bishop of Seleucia, went to Antioch to be consecrated. But he was attacked by the Persians, at the instigation of their king. He managed to escape to Jerusalem, but his companion Kam-Jesus fell into their hands and was put to death.5

On hearing this disastrous news, the Patriarch of Antioch allowed the bishop to be consecrated in Jerusalem, and declared that in future, bishops chosen for the see of Seleucia, might be consecrated in Seleucia itself, and that they need not go to Antioch for consecration.6

Soon after this concession, the Primate of Persia was consecrated Metropolitan of Great India. Both these facts are attested by the Council of Nice in 325. The former custom is recorded by the 33rd Arabic Canon of the Council.

“Let the See of Seleucia which is one of the Eastern cities be honoured likewise and have the title of Catholicon, and let the prelate thereof ordain Archbishops, as the other Patriarchs do, that so the Eastern Christians who live under heathens may not be wronged by awaiting the Patriarch of Antioch’s leisure, or by going to him, but may have a way opened to them to supply their own necessities; neither will any injury be done to the Patriarch of Antioch thereby, seeing that he has consented to its being thus, upon the Synod’s having desired it of him.”7

The latter custom is to be inferred from the signature of one of the prelates present at the Council. The prelate signs himself as “John the Persian [presiding over] the Churches in the whole of Persia and Great India.”

From several sources we find that the Malabar Church was under Persia.8

Persia, came under Seleucia in the 5th Century. But till the 8th Century the bishops of Persia (Fares) continued to resist against Seleucia, saying they had nothing to do with the see of Mari (i.e., Seleucia) since they were evangelized by St. Thomas.9

Owing to this resistance, some times episcopal succession was interrupted in India, as we gather from a letter of Jesujahb, Patriarch of Seleucia (650 660) written to Simon of Riwardashir in Persia. In Asseman,16 iii. 131, the long letter from the Patriarch Jesujabus Adjabenus who was Patriarch from 650 to 660 is reproduced. The Patriarch says:- “Not only India, which extends from the shores of the kingdom of Persia as far as Quilon, a space of more than twelve hundred parasangs, but also your own country of the Persians lies in darkness, deprived of the light of divine doctrine which shines forth through bishops of the truth.”

This state of affairs came to an end, only when Timothy I surnamed the Great, Patriarch of Seleucia, gave to Persia in the 8th century, a metropolitan with power to consecrate bishops.10

This same Timothy separated the Church of India from Persian jurisdiction, and constituted her into a province immediately subject to him.11

About this date one of the bishops in India obtained the rank of Metropolitan. The Patriarch Saliba- Sekha in the same century raised the Indian Church to the dignity of a Metropolitan Church, and Patriarch. From the passage in Asseman, iii. 346, it appears that this dignity was conferred by Saliba- Zacha who was Patriarch of Babylon from 714 to 728.

Theodosius in the next century gave her a sort, exemption with the obligation that she was to send him every sixth year, letters of communion and the dues for the sustenance of pastors.

The Council of Nicea ( AD 325) laid down a rule that all bishops should meet the Patriarch in an annual synod. This rule was from time to time relaxed and finally in a synod held under Theodosius, who was Patriarch from 852 to 858, the obligation upon the more distant Metropolitans was reduced to sending a letter and funds every sixth year. The words of the Synod are quaint:- “But other Metropolitans, that is to say, of the Chinas, of India, of Persia and of Samarcand, situated in very distant countries, hindered by mountain ranges infested with robbers and by seas fatal with shipwrecks and tempests, so that they cannot come to us so often as they otherwise might wish, shall take care to send, every sixth year, letters of consent and union and in the same letters to set forth any business of their countries which requires an opportune remedy: and they shall take trouble that from all cities, great and small, be sent to the Patriarch what is right according to the ability of each man and the Canons of the Fathers for the expenses of the Patriarch’s house.”12

Thus we find the Patriarchs of Seleucia claiming jurisdiction over the Indian Church in which, the Church of Malabar was included.13

2. Rough Chronology

52-72 AD St. Thomas the Apostle
72 AD Mar Kepha and Mar Paul ( according to tradition)
250-300 AD Mar David of Barsa
325 AD Mar Johannan of Persia
345 AD Mar Joseph of Edessa.
535 AD A Persian Bishop (whose name is unknown)
880 AD Mar Sabor and Mar Proth.
988 AD Mar Johannan.
1056 AD Mar Thomas
1119 AD Mar Johannan and his Suffragan Bishops
1222 AD Mar Johannan.
1231 AD Mar Joseph.
1285 AD Mar David.
1301 AD Mar Jacob
1407 AD Mar Jaballaha
1490 AD Mar Johannan and Mar Thomas.
1503 AD Mar Thomas (2nd time), Mar Jaballaha, Mar Denaha
1530 AD Mar Jacob Abuna [1503-1550]
1555-60 AD Mar Elia Hormes
1555-70 AD Mar Joseph Sulaka
1557-97 AD Mar Abraham, Archbishop of Angamali.
1578-83 AD Mar Simeon
1580-99 AD Archdeacon George of Christ, a native Syrian of Kuravilangadu, Bishop elect of Palur.

3. List of Early Prelates of Church of St.Thomas Christians

1. 52-72 AD- St. Thomas the Apostle, founder of the Church of St.Thomas Christians

The writings of the early Fathers and Doctors of the Church, such as Abdias 190 A.D., Dorotheus 254, St. Ephrem 373, St. Jerome 420, and St. Gregory of Tours 593 A.D., are in harmony with the tradition about the apostolate in India. Further, a statement in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and quotations from the accounts and letters of travelers and missionaries, such as Marco Polo (1288), John of Monte Corvino (1305), Friar Odoric (1321), the Pope’s legate Marignoli (1348), and St. Francis Xavier give us historical information in a line with the tradition of the preaching and martyrdom of St. Thomas in India.

The proofs alluded to above and more may be found in any book on the Apostleship of St. Thomas in India.

2. 72 AD- Mar Kepha and Mar Paul ( according to tradition)

There is a tradition which says that there were local Bishops in the beginning for Church of St. Thomas Christians. This side of the tradition is that the Apostle ordained two bishops, Kepha and Paul, respectively for Malabar and Coromandal (Mylapore). There are no factual records existing about this.

3. 250-300 AD- Mar David of Barsa

“The Chronicle of Seert”, an important East Syrian document of 7th century AD makes reference to a Bishop namely, Mar David of Barsa who arrived at Malabar between the period 250 – 300 AD.

According to certain traditions existing in India, St. Thomas, on his way to India, embarked at Basra in the Persian Gulf.14

In all probability, St.Thomas might have preached in Basra and its neighbourhood; and thus they also claimed him as the founder of their church which explains the presence of Mar David as Prelate for Church of St. Thomas Christians in Malabar.

4.325 AD- Mar Johannan of Persia.

The history of the Council of Nicea states that, Mar Johannan, the Bishop of Persia and Greater India, had attended the Council of Nice in 325 and put his signature to its decrees.15

The prelate signs himself as “John the Persian [presiding over] the Churches in the whole of Persia and Great India” in the council documents.

From this it is evident that in the beginning of the 4th century, Indian Church was governed either directly by Mar John himself, the Bishop of Persia and Greater India, or by another Bishop under him residing in South India.

South India was moreover at that time in close contact with Persia. St. Ephrem living at Edessa during the middle of the fourth century testifies that during his time “the Christian Community of India was in a flourishing state, and that many miracles were being wrought in the country by the Apostle St. Thomas, whose feast, the Indian Christians were celebrating with great pomp and magnificence.”16.

We have no physical proofs that Bishop John was the actual reigning prelate of Great India, and some say it is very improbable that a bishop could exercise direct and immediate jurisdiction over two such distant bishoprics as Persia and India. The signature of the bishop anyways implies the ultimate control he held over the Indian Church.

It is clear from the acts of the Council of Nicea that the Fathers of the Council gave Mar John no new title as Bishop of Great India but only accepted his former title as such. This clearly shows that India was subject to Persia from the Apostolic times, in ecclesiastical jurisdiction. This does not stand in the way of India to have had Indian priests and even Bishops. In this case Mar John might have been a superior Bishop.

5. 345 AD- Mar Joseph of Edessa.

Under Sapor II (313-381) there was a great persecution in the Persian Empire and many Christians, fleeing from the theatre of persecution settled down in Socotra, Ceylon, Malabar Coast, etc. The Christians of Sri Lanka, which Cosmas Indicopleustus mentions in AD 535 seems to be one among them.

There exist a strong tradition that Bishop Mar Joseph came to Malabar during the period, as Prelate for the Church of St. Thomas Christians along with many priests and deacons . Kuravilangad Martha Mariam church is believed to have been blessed by Mar Joseph of Edessa in AD 345.

6. 535 AD- A Persian Bishop (whose name is unknown).

Cosmas Indicopleustus mentions an anonymous Bishop in Malabar who was ordained from Persia, One among the former travelers to India, the Alexandrian Cosmas Indicopleustes who passed Malabar in AD 535, saw there, the Christians, Priests and Bishop.

In his “Christian Topography” he writes, “In the island of Taprobane to the interior India (ad interiorem Indiam), where the Indian Ocean is, there exists a Christian Church where clergy (clerici) and faithful are found; whether further also I do not know. So also is Malabar, as they call it, where the pepper grows. But (also) at Calliana (they call it thus) there is a bishop generally ordained in Persia “

7. 880 AD- Mar Sabor and Mar Proth.

Le Quien ‘Oriens Christianus’ Paris 1740 col. 1275 gives the year 880 as the date of Mar Sabor and Mar Prodh at Quilon as Bishops came from Persia as Prelates for the St. Thomas Christians. Le Quien and other historians make mention of them as workers of many miracles and Syrian Christians held them in great veneration.17

Le Quien says that “These bishops were Chaldaeans and had come to Quilon soon after its foundation. They were men illustrious for their sanctity, and their memory was held sacred in the Malabar Church. They constructed many churches and, during their lifetime, the Christian religion flourished especially in the kingdom of Diamper.”18

They led so saintly a life that many churches were dedicated in their name, and later on that Archbishop Menezes changed the names of such churches, and dedicated them to “All Saints” at the Synod of Diamper, for the only reason that they came from Babylon.

8. 988 AD- Mar Johannan.

About the year 1000 in the Church of Cranganore there lived a Bishop named Mar Johnnan as the Prelate before the coming of the Portuguese in India. He raised to life the sacristan of the said Church who died from a fall.19.

Le Quien col. 12757 says that after the death of Mar Sabor and Mar Prodh one Mar John, Mar Dua and Mar Thomas were consecrated as Bishops by Catholicus of Babylon, the first as Archbishop of Cranganore, second and the third as his suffragans Bishops of Socotra and Messina respectively.

9. 1056 AD- Mar Thomas

After the arrival of Mar Sabor and Mar Proth in the 9th century there came into Malabar, Mar Thomas as Prelate in 1056 as from Letters from Malabar feasty.

10. 1119 AD- Mar Johannan and his Suffragan Bishops.

Another Mar Johannan, Archbishop of India went with his suffragan Bishops to Rome and received the ‘Palluim’ from Pope Calixtus II in 1119. He exposed before the Pope and Cardinals all the miracles which are annually wrought by St. Thomas, the Apostle at his shrine in Mylapore.20

In the life of Pope Calixtus II, in the chronicle of Albericus written in the 13th century, in Le Quien and others, its mentioned that Archbishop Mar John of India, otherwise known as Patriarch of India, went with his Suffragan Bishops to Constantinople. There, at the court of John II Comnenus, he found the envoys whom Calixtus II had sent to promote the union of the Greek and Roman Churches. The Archbishop went with them to Rome, received the pallium, and exposed before the Pope and the Cardinals the miracles that were wrought at the tomb of St. Thomas in Mylapore.

11. 1222 AD- Mar Johannan.

Letters from Malabar feasty, writes about the arrival of Mar John (Johannan) as Prelate in 1222.21

12. 1231 AD- Mar Joseph.

Letters from Malabar feasty, writes about the arrival of Mar Joseph as Prelate in 1231.22

13. 1285 AD- Mar David.

Letters from Malabar feasty, writes about the arrival of Mar David in 1285 as Prelate for Church of St. Thomas Chrisitans.23

14. 1301 AD- Mar Jacob.

In AD 1301 Mar Jacob, was the prelate of Malabar Church. There is a book of Lessons from the Epistles of St. Paul for the Sundays of the year composed in Syro-Chaldaic in 1301 by deacon Zacharias son of Joseph from the town of Cranganore who was a disciple of Mar Jacob the then Archbishop of the Syrians in Malabar under the reign of Jaballa, Patriach of the East, and the book is still preserved in the Vatican Library.24

15. 1407 AD- Mar Jaballaha.

Letters from Malabar feasty, writes about the arrival of Mar Jaballa in 1407 as the Prelate for Church of St. Thomas Christians.25

16. 1490 AD- Mar Johannan and Mar Thomas.

Mar Simon, Patriarch of the East, at the request of the Indian Christians, sent them in 1490 two bishops, Mar Thomas and Mar Johannan as Prelates for St. Thomas Christians. Mar Thomas after a time returned to the Patriarch, leaving Mar Johannan alone to administer the Indian Church.

In 1504 certain bishops in India wrote a report to the Patriarch of Babylon and this Syriac report is in the Vatican Library, with a latin translation dated 1533 of the report and of an addition to the report, which addition gives the history of these bishops and of their companions.

From this document we learn that in 1490, three faithful Christian men set out from the remote regions of India to ask Mar Simon, Patriarch of the East, to give bishops for their provinces. One of the three travellers died but the two survivors, Joseph and George, appeared before the Patriarch and stated their errand.

Two monks were selected from the monastery of St. Eugene and were consecrated by the Patriarch under the names Thomas and John. The Patriarch furnished the two bishops with letters under his signature and seal and sent them forth with prayers and blessings to seek the shores of India. The four arrived safely and were received with great joy by the Christians who ran to meet them and carried before them the book of the Gospels, the Cross, torches and a thurible.

The two bishops consecrated altars and ordained a large number of priests, because for a long time there had been no bishop there. Mar Johannan, remained in India but Mar Thomas, with Joseph, returned to the Patriarch taking first fruits and offerings. In 1493 Joseph returned to India but Mar Thomas remained for some years in Mesopotamia.26

17. 1503 AD- Mar Thomas (2nd time), Mar Jaballaha, Mar Denaha

On the death of Patriarch of the East, Mar Simon in 1502, Mar Elias, his successor consecrated three monks from the monastery of St. Eugene under the names of Mar Jaballa, Mar Denha and Mar Jacob as Prelates for Malabar.

They started for India in company with Mar Thomas ( second time ) , and found the aged Mar John still living. These are the bishops alluded to by Mr. Mackenzie.

In 1504, these bishops sent a long report to their Patriarch. The full report may be read in Giamil.27

Few extracts from the report given in “ The Syrian Church in Malabar “ by J.C. Panjikaran,
“There are here thirty-thousand families common in faith with us, and they pray God for your prosperity…. Also the Church of St. Thomas is now again inhabited by Christians. It is distant a journey of 25 days, situated on the sea near a city called Meliapor in the Province of Silan….. Our province in which the Christians dwell is called Malabar, and has about twenty cities…. In all these, Christians live and churches have been built… About twenty Portuguese live in the city of Cannanor.

When we arrived from Ormuz at Cannanor, we presented ourselves to them, said that we were Christians and explained our condition and rank. They received us withgreat joy, gave us beautiful garments, and twenty drachmas of gold, and for Christ’s sake they honoured our journey more than it deserved.

We remained with them for two and a half months, and they ordered us that on a fixed day we also should perform the Holy Mysteries, i.e., should offer the Oblation.

They had prepared a proper place for prayer, which they called the Oratory, and their priests offer sacrifice every day and complete the Holy oblation; for that is their custom and rite. Whereof on Nosardel Sunday, after their priests had celebrated, we also were admitted and performed the holy sacrifice, and it was greatly pleasing in their eyes. We started thence and arrived among our Christians who dwell at a distance of eight days from that place.”

18. 1540 AD- Mar Jacob Abuna

From 1540 till his death in 1549 aged Mar Jacob ruled the Malabar Church.

In a letter to John III of Portugal, dated 26th January 1549, Francis Xavier makes mention of Mar Jacob, the only one still living of the five Bishops who had been sent by the Patriarch in 1502.28

“It is now five and forty years that a certain Armenian Bishop, by name Jacob Abuna, has served God and Your Highness in this country. He is a man who is about as dear to God on account of his virtue and holiness as he is neglected and despised by Your Highness and in general by all who have any power in India. God thus rewards his great deserts Himself, and does not think us worthy of the honour of being the instruments whom He uses to console His servants. …..While I have been writing this, I have seemed to myself to be serving and doing a favour not so much to that pious Bishop as to Your Highness…

For at present Your Highness is very greatly in want of the goodwill and intercession of a man very acceptable to God as he is…. This Bishop very greatly deserves such treatment on this account if on no other-that he has spent much labour in attending to the Christians of St. Thomas, and (even) now (et nunc) in his all but decrepit old age, he conforms himself most obediently to all the rites and customs of our holy Mother the Roman Church….I would urge Your Highness to write it (him a letter) full of all manner of expressions of your favour, esteem and affection.”

In a lithic inscription, in Holy Ghost Church at Muttuchira ( the site of one Mar Thoma Cross) of 1528, we read the names of Mar Tana & Mar Avu together with that of Friar George setting up a holy cross there. Mar Tana seems to be Mar Denha and Mar Avu seems to be Mar Jacob Abuna29

19. 1555-60 AD- Mar Elia Hormes

From 1555 to 1597 the Malabar Church was governed by the Chaldean Bishops Mar Elia, Mar Joseph and Mar Abraham who were sent to Malabar by Mar Abedjesus, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Assyria with the special approbation of Popes Julius III, Pius IV, Pius V, Gregory XIII and Xistus V.

They governed the Malabar Church under the characteristic contradiction and persecution of the Portuguese in India.30

The chief men among the Syro-Chaldean Christians in 1578, petitioning the Roman Pontiff, Gregory XIII, make mention that Patriarch Abedjesus had sent them Mar Elia and Mar Joseph of whom the latter was kept in prison by the Portuguese.31

20. 1555-1570 AD- Mar Joseph Sulaka

In 1549, the aged Mar Jacob died, and for the next six years the Syrian Church was without a Bishop. Meanwhile some changes were taking place in the Patriarchate of Babylon.

On the death of Simon Mama, of good memory, in 1551, many Chaldaeans, dissatisfied with the custom that had grown up of electing as Patriarch only candidates of the Bar-mama family, chose John Sulaka, a pious monk, and sent him to Rome. Pope Julius III consecrated him as Patriarch of the East. He returned home, but was put to death by the Turks in 1554.

His successor, Ebedjesus, followed his example, visited Rome, and assisted at the last session of the Council of Trent. He consecrated Mar Joseph, a brother of John Sulaka, as Archbishop of the Syrian Christians on the Malabar Coast.

As a prelate of the Syrian Rite sent by the Chaldaean Patriarch, Mar Joseph refused to ordain the students of the seminary at Cranganore who belonged to the Syrian Rite, but who had not been taught the Syriac language.32

This refusal lost him the favour and earned the ill-will of the Portuguese, who, from that time forward, never ceased to persecute him and his successors. Finding no reasonable grounds to send him out of the country, they had recourse to their favourite weapon a weapon, as we shall see, so often used with such disastrous effects that the Bishop taught the Nestorian heresy.33.

Before long, he was taken to Goa and thence deported to Portugal. On the voyage he spent his time in copying out portions of Syriac liturgy and the Carmen of Ebed-Jesus. A volume of his work dated Mosambique the 8th. July 1556 is in the Vatican Library.34

There he made so favourable an impression on Queen Catherine, Cardinal Don Henry and others, that he was naturally sent back to govern his people.35

The Portuguese authorities at Goa, however, did not allow him to proceed to his diocese, but detained him at Bassein. This was done on the groundless suspicion that he deceived the authorities at Portugal and was only permitted later to return to his diocese when Mar Abraham made his appearance in Malabar.

The aim of the Portuguese in doing so was purposely to make a division among the Syrians as it really turned out. The Portuguese again, on the charges made against Mar Joseph, as they afterwards did also in the case of Mar Abraham, arrested him and he was thus sent to Rome through Portugal in 1568.36

In Rome, by the order of Pope St. Pius V he was closely examined in which it was found that his faith was orthodox and Catholic and that he had no heresy in his teachings, as he had been caluminated and he was thus declared to be innocent .

In order to reward his great patience, sufferings, and injuries he bore for Christ Pope St. Pius V revealed his mind to raise him soon to the Cardinalate, but his enemies left no stone unturned to make this scheme an utter disappointment and the fact he died very soon after, was hailed as a victory by his enemies.

Even the author of the Oriente Conquistado (Part II. Conqui. I. Divi. II) admits the truth of these statements and says that Mar Joseph would have soon been raised to the purple, had he lived longer.37

21. 1557-97 AD- Mar Abraham, Archbishop of Angamali.

When Mar Joseph was deported to Portugal, the Chaldaean Patriarch, informed of these events, immediately sent Mar Abraham as Bishop of the Syro-Chaldeans. There is also a parallel theory that Mar Abraham has been send by Simeon VII Denkha (1552-1558 ) and that he moved over to Chaldean side.38

He escaped the vigilance of the ‘argus-eyed and many-handed’ agents of the Portuguese, by travelling in disguise and through circuitous roads, and arrived among the Syrian Christians of Malabar.

The Portuguese, deeming this a good opportunity to create dissension and discord in the community and win over one party to their interests, released Mar Joseph from his detention at Bassein and sent him to his diocese.

Soon after, however, Mar Abraham fell into their hands, and was shipped off to Portugal. He managed to escape at Mozambique, made his way to the Persian Gulf, and presented himself before the Patriarch relating to him his experiences in India.

He was sent to Pope Pius IV, who requested the Patriarch to consecrate Mar Abraham as Archbishop of Angamale, and to divide the Christians of St. Thomas in Malabar between Mar Abraham and Mar Joseph.39.

In 1568, Mar Abraham arrived at Goa with credentials from the Pope and the Patriarch, in which the Pope requested the Archbishop of Goa to receive Mar Abraham as a brother. The arrival of Mar Abraham disconcerted the Portuguese, for it threatened to subvert their designs, and they determined to prevent his return to the coast.

“The Archbishop, therefore, took upon him to declare the Pope’s briefs to be null and void, as having been obtained under false pretences,”40

Mar Abraham was confined in the Dominican Convent at Goa. He managed to escape, however, and reached his diocese. In 1578, he received a summons to attend the Provincial Council of Goa. He refused on the ground that he was responsible only to his Patriarch and that he had been ill-treated and twice thrown into prison at Goa.41

To this effect also he induced the Raja of Cochin to write to the Pope.42

Two years later the Pope wrote to the Archbishop of Goa, requesting him to “receive kindly our venerable brother the Archbishop of Angamale, and so to contrive that here and elsewhere he may experience your humanity and love.”43

The Pope also wrote to the King of Portugal recommending to his Majesty “the venerable brother the Archbishop of Angamale who had been grievously vexed by some persons,” and asking him to “order the Viceroy and Governors of India to take steps that he be not oppressed with any injury.” .”44

For the next fourteen years the relations between Mar Abraham and the Portuguese were normal, though not very friendly. At this time three Syrians, Abraham, Joseph and George Raisbander wrote a valuable letter to the Pope in which they expose the state of the Indian Church left without a sufficient number of Bishops, and request the Holy See to send letters to the Patriarch asking him to consecrate five Bishops for this Church as has been done by the Patriarch from the very beginning.45.

In 1579, Mar Abraham requested the pallium from the Pope, and there is a Memorandum on the subject in the Vatican Library. .46.

The Society of Jesus had been allowed by Mar Abraham in 1574 to work in his diocese. In 1581 they had opend a college, built a church and set up a printing press in Vaipicotta. Two years later, at their instance, Mar Abraham convoked a diocesan synod in which Mass was said in both Syriac and Latin.47

In 1584, a seminary was added to the college, and as both Syriac and Latin were taught in it, it was much frequented by the sons of the St. Thomas Christians. In a letter one of the Jesuit Fathers wrote to the Pope, he praises Mar Abraham and Archdeacon George, and suggests the latter as the fittest man for the administration of the diocese after the death of Mar Abraham.48

In the Provincial Council of Goa in 1585, Mar Abraham was asked to re-ordain some of the priests he had ordained according to the Chaldaean rite, because the Portuguese considered that the ordination of priests with the imposition of hands and with the empty chalice and paten was invalid, whereas this has been the recognized practice of Oriental Churches at all times.

The Council of Goa, in the 7th decree of the 3rd session, had ordered the translation of the Latin Mass into Syriac for the use of the St. Thomas Christians. Mar Abraham, as we have seen, had, at the earnest request of the Portuguese, consented to some changes in the ceremonies of the Qurbana, of ordination, and in the use of unleavened bread and wine of grapes. This he had done without consulting his Patriarch. The Patriarch, therefore, called upon him to submit an explanation of his conduct.

Mar Abraham answered that he did these things at the insistence of the Portuguese “who were over his head as a hammer over an anvil.” After this warning from the Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Abraham refused in 1590, to ordain the clerical students of the Vaipicotta Seminary, because he was asked to ordain them according to the Latin Ritual.49

Two years later he refused to attend the Fourth Council of Goa. Thereupon the Portuguese sent unfavourable reports of his conduct to the Pope, accusing him of Nestorian heresy. But Mar Abraham had now finished his life-work.

22. 1578-83 AD- Mar Simeon.

In 1578, there arrived on this coast, a Bishop Mar Simon, calling himself the Metropolitan of the St. Thomas Christians. The best authorities are agreed that he was a Assyrian Church of East Bishop.50

He fixed his seat at Kaduthuruthy and gathered some adherents. But the letter of Pope
Gregory XIII, dated March 1580, sent on the recommendation of Mar Abraham to the Syrian Christians,51

“to be obedient in the Lord to Mar Abraham, your Archbishop, and to George the Bishop of Palur, and in sincerity of faith and simplicity of manners, persevere and live in the unity of our Holy Mother, the Church” put an end to any prospect the Bishop had of influencing any considerable section of the people.52

As resolved in the third Council of Goa, 1585, he was arrested and sent through Goa to Portugal and thence to Rome. Before his arrest, however, he managed to appoint Jacob, a Syrian Priest, as his Vicar- General. Mar Jacob followed in the wake of his Superior and continued the activities for a space of twelve more years.53

When Mar Simeon arrived in Rome, Pope Sixtus V ordered an inquiry to be held into his case and pronounced a decision that Simeon should retire into a convent for instruction. Simeon was then handed over to Philip II who placed him in a convent at Lisbon. In 1594 when Archbishop Menezes was about to set out for India, the king offered Simeon to the Archbishop in case any use might be found for him in India, but the Archbishop would not have Simeon and left him in the Franciscan convent at Lisbon where he died in 1599.54

Archbishop Menezes refusal to take him to India, tells us that he had premeditated to give no power to Syrian Bishops and if possible to put an end to their existence and the Syrian rite in India.

24. 1580-99 AD- Archdeacon George of Christ, a native Syrian of Kuravilangadu, Bishop elect of Palur.

In 1566 Patriarch Abdisho, authorised Mar Abraham to ordain George of Christ as bishop and suffragan and successor to Mar Abraham. Mar Abraham too wanted this. Both he and the Jesuit fathers wrote to Rome about it. Pope Gregory XIII confirmed this nomination by his brief “Accepimus quod”, issued on 4 March 1580.55

Pope Gregory XIII in his letter to the clergy and the Christians of St. Thomas calls him as Bishop. Pope Gregory XIII directs another letter dated 5th March 1580, to the clergy and laity of the Christians of St. Thomas….exhorting to be obedient to their Prelates Mar Abraham the Archbishop of Angamale and George of Christ the Bishop of Palayor. But the archdeacon who, out of humility, had previously declined this honour seems to have not been consecrated even after the papal confirmation.

Giamil on p.603, says, “Mar Joseph having breathed his last and Mar Simeon having been deported to Portugal, Mar Abraham alone governed the Malabar Church till the year 1597 when he closed his life at Angamale from old age after having committed the Church to the charge of Archdeacon George of Christ.”

4. Reasons for lack of further documentary evidences

Even though comparing to other communities in India, a wealth of literature exist about Nasranis, we see that detailed ancient local literature are missing. This curious phenomenon can be attributed to the Indian situation. The lack of interest in history in ancient India has often been noted and contrasted with the situation in China and the West.56

The lacks of further documentary proof for early primates for St.Thomas Christians are due to a number of reasons.

1] The disastrous floods in Edesaa which destroyed many records57

2] The poor record keeping of the community58

3] Ban of Syriac books, burning and destruction of records during the Syond of Diampoor

4] The boat sinking resulting loss of old manuscripts during Tipu invasion.

How ever the major reason is the poor record keeping habit of the community. Because upon these meagre materials the various bodies of Christians have formed opinions wide as the poles asunder.59

5. Other missionaries

There are also numerous reference of other Prelates conducting missionary activities in India.

5.1 Early Period

Eusebius, the Father of Church History, speaks of Christians in India in 190 A.D.60

He says that, at their request, the philosopher Pantaenus was sent to India by Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria and Pantaenus bears witness to the fact that he saw with these Christians a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew.61

According to St. Jerome, a deputation from India came to Alexandria. Impressed with the scholarship of Pantaneus, they asked Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, to send Clement to India “to preach Christ to the Brahmans and philosophers there.”62

Theophilus (surnamed the Indian) an Arian, sent by Emperor Constantius (about 354) on a mission to Arabia Felix. He had been sent when very young a hostage a Divoeis, by the inhabitants of the Maldives, to the Romans in the reign of Constantine the Great. His travels are recorded by Philostorgius, an Arian Greek Church historian, who relates that Theophilus, after fulfilling his mission to the Homerites, sailed to his island home.

Thence he visited other parts of India, reforming many things — for the Christians of the place heard the reading of the Gospel in a sitting, etc. This reference to a body of Christians with church, priest, liturgy, in the immediate vicinity of the Maldives, can only apply to a Christian Church and faithful on the adjacent coast of India, and not to Ceylon, which was well known even then under its own designation, Taprobane. The people referred to were the Christians known as a body who had their liturgy in the Syriac language and inhabited the west coast of India, i.e. Malabar.

5.2 Latin Missionaries

The first Latin missionary who is known to have visited India was John of Monte Corvino, afterwards Archbishop of Cambalec in Cathay. Sent out by Pope Nicholas IV as a missionary to China, he on his way halted in India about the year 1291. In a letter which he wrote from Pekin in 1305 he says:- “I remained in the country of India, where stands the church of St. Thomas the Apostle, for thirteen months and in that reign baptised in different places about one hundred persons.” In a letter dated 1306 he speaks of Malabar and says:- “The people persecute much the Christians and all who bear the Christian name.

The next Latin missionary was a Dominican Friar named Jordanus, a Frenchman from near Toulouse. Perhaps as early as 1302 with other Dominican and Franciscan Friars he found his way to the Bombay coast where his companions were put to death by the Mahomedans. After various adventures Friar Jordan returned to Europe and wrote a small book called Mirabilia in which he briefly mentions the wonderful things he saw in the East. In 1328 Pope John XXII at Avignon consecrated Friar Jordan as Bishop of Quilon and sent him in 1330 with a Latin letter addressed to the chief of the Nasrani Christians at Quilon. The letter asked the goodwill of the Nasrani chief towards Bishop Jordan and his missionaries.

Another missionary , Friar Odoric, collected the bones of the martyred companions of Friar Jordan and in 1321 passed down this coast and touched at Quilon, where there were Christians, and at Mailapur, where were fifteen houses of Persian Christians.

John de Marignoli arrived at Quilon on his return journey from a mission to China. He says:- “On Palm Sunday, 1348, we arrived at a very noble city of India called Quilon, where the whole world’s pepper is produced. Now this pepper grows on a kind of vines which are planted just as in our vineyards. These vines produce clusters which at first are like those of the wild vine of a green colour and afterwards are almost like bunches of our grapes, and they have a red wine in them which I have squeezed out on my plate as a condiment.

When they have ripened they are left to dry upon the tree and when shrivelled by the excessive heat the dry clusters are knocked off with a stick and caught upon linen cloths and so the harvest is gathered.

These are things that I have seen with mine eyes and handled with my hands during the fourteen months that I stayed there. And there is no roasting of the pepper as authors have falsely asserted, nor does it grow in forests but in regular gardens, nor are the Saracens the proprietors but the Christians of St. Thomas. And these latter are the masters of the
public weighing office (qui habent stateram ponderis totius mundi ), from which I derived, as a perquisite of my office as Pope’s Legate, every month a hundred gold fanams and a thousand when I left.63

6. Catholicity and Orthodoxy of Nasranis

In support of the orthodoxy of the Nasranis, George Cathanar provides a passage from the Latin narration of Cardinal Maffeus, on the state of the Chaldean Church made before the assembled Cardinals in Rome on the occasion of the conferring of the Pallium to the Patriarch, Mar Simeon Sulaca, 20th Feb. 1553 reproduced by Giamil from Baronio:-

“As a matter of fact they (Chaldeans) seem to have had but the name of ‘Nestorians’ but not to have held Nestorian errors, for I see nothing in these men that are here, which may have a bearing on that sect. Envy seems to have found its entry among the Maronites, Jacobites, Coptes and other Christians of those regions likely both on account of the name, and on account of the fact that they outnumbered the other sects in population as well as in the state and frequenting of the Churches, for down to India their Churches extend”.64

The true faith which the greater part of the Christians in Malabar have preserved up to this date is a precious inheritance which their forefathers received from St. Thomas the Apostle and left to their posterity.65

7. Conclusion

On account of its antiquity, its wonderful preservation of the Syriac Scriptures and Liturgy, and the persecution its bishops suffered under the Portuguese, the Church of St. Thomas Christians has at all times, attracted the interest of the historian, academia, researchers, travelers and archaist.

Over the last few decades due to the denomination politics, internal church politics and westernization, the practices and customs of these Churches are turning out a mere replication of western pieties replacing the ancient tradition of forefathers. At times it happens with out fully grasping the real significance of certain historic events.

The pain, sufferings, patience and injuries, the early prelates of Nasranis had to face for the word of Christ should stand as an eye opener for heretic proponents of inculturation. This also reminds the Nasranis to preserve the Oriental nature of these churches as a witness for Christ.

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Footnotes
  1. This has been collected from a number of sources with the emphasis for a list of earlier prelates. Any error can be corrected if notified with sources. Questions like whether these Christians were Nestorians etc were not considered in detail. Online link to some of the books referred is included in Resources Section.
    Most of the contents are quotations from different sources and authors.The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid, Christianity in Travancore, Mackenzie, The Nazranis, Prof George Menachery, Different works of Asseman etc as quoted.

    For further reading please refer The Nazranis by Prof George Menachery, Volume I of Indian Church History Classic series which is a collection of most often quoted books.

    Note- This is not a conclusive list but a compiled collection from different books on the topic. []

  2. Please note that primacy, hierarchies dependence are different from the point of view of Church of East, different Patriarchs of Antioch and Bishop of Rome.

    Church of East declares Mar Thoma Shilkha, (Saint Thomas) (c. 33-c. 77) as the first Patriarch and claims to have an independent existence. Patriarchs of Antioch were considered as the most senior of the various Patriarchs of Christendom. When the early organization of the Church was developed, the Church of Antioch, owing to its origin and influence, could not fail to become a centre of special higher jurisdiction.

    By the end of the second century, certain churches which were usually principal sees that were associated with one or more of the apostle recognized as exercising leadership over the other local churches of an area. The bishops of these principal sees were preeminent over their fellow bishops. This relationship got further enforced in fourth and fifth centuries as a working relationship mainly to sort out disputes in church matters. The First Ecumenical Council held at Nicaea in AD 325 sketched out this relationship in regard to Rome, Alexandria and Antioch while granting an honorary precedence to Jerusalem after Antioch. With the Council of Chalcedon in 451 this arrangement of the principal sees, including Constantinople, developed into the Pentarchy.Rome was recognized as enjoying a certain primacy not yet adequately defined except in terms of guardian of orthodoxy. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Patriarch of the West was considered to be the first bishop in the Church.

    The Catholic doctrine of papal primacy upholds the divine authority of the Successor of St. Peter to rule over the entire Church with ordinary and immediate jurisdiction. Pope Boniface VIII, in his Bull Unam Sanctum (1302), spelled out the doctrine of the necessity of the Church for salvation and with it the necessity of submission to the Roman Pontiff. This same Pope convened the First Vatican Council, which in addition to defining papal infallibility also defined papal primacy.-Catholic Belief’ Chapter 27. pp. 108- 123) ‘The Faith of Our Fathers- Gibbons, London 1900-.Historically, the primacy of the Pope was largely accepted by all bishops of the Church, and he was at least considered to be the first in honor of all bishops. However, the supremacy of the Pope over all bishops has been challenged in history.

    Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of East, Protestants has different views on the subject which is out of the topic. In October of 2007, a joint commission of Orthodox and Catholic theologians agreed that the Pope has primacy among all bishops of the Church, something which has been universally acknowledged by both churches since the First Council of Constantinople in 381, though disagreements about the extent of his authority still continue. The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue reached the agreement in a meeting in Ravenna, Italy, where the Pope was said to have a primus inter pares role not complete authority as had been stated before. The commission went on to state that: “It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth” []

  3. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid []
  4. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid []
  5. Joseph Guriel, “Elementa Linguae Chaldaicae, et Series Patriarcharum Chaldaeorum,” p. 152, Rome, 1860. []
  6. Samuel Giamil, Op. cit., p. 542. []
  7. The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran, Hough, vol. I, p. 245. []
  8. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid, Juris Ecclesiastici Syro – Malankarensium []
  9. Early Christianity, Mingana, p. 33. []
  10. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid []
  11. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid , Bar Hebracus, Chronicon II 172. []
  12. Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore, p. 5, 6 []
  13. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid []
  14. William Yong, Handbook of Source Materials for Students of Church History Madras, The Senate of Serampore College and C.L.S, 1969, pp 26-27. []
  15. History of the Council of Nicea Lib.2, Cap. XXVII. Col.235 []
  16. St. Ephremi Syri Carmina Nisibena, Lipsiae 1866-quoted by Dr. Medlycott, pp. 27, 28, 29 []
  17. De Souza ‘Oriente Conquistado’ Lisbon 1710 II. Conq. I. div. II. para 16 []
  18. Le Quien ‘Oriens Christianus’ []
  19. Oriente Conq. II. 69 []
  20. Cronicle of Albericus, Helinando, Nauclero, Gesta Calixti II. Papae, Vetera analecta Mabilloni 468; Le Quien II 1275, Raulin Historia Ecclesiae Malabaricae, Rome, 1745 p. 435. []
  21. A synopsis of The history of The Syrian Church in Malabar By A Syrian Catholic []
  22. A synopsis of The history of The Syrian Church in Malabar By A Syrian Catholic []
  23. A synopsis of The history of The Syrian Church in Malabar By A Syrian Catholic. Further information about the prelates is not known. []
  24. Giamil’s “Genuinae Relationes” pp. 572, 573, Cod. Vat. Syr. N. XXII. []
  25. A synopsis of The history of The Syrian Church in Malabar By A Syrian Catholic []
  26. Joseph, one of the two men who went to the Patriarch in 1490, took passage for Europe with the Portuguese admiral Cabral, sailing from Cochin on January 10th 1501. Arrived at Lisbon, this Joseph was an object of much interest. He travelled to Rome, where he had an audience of Pope Alexander VI, to Venice, to Jerusalem, again to Lisbon and so back to India. From the information obtained by persons who talked to Joseph a book was published. Gouvea, p.5, says that it is in Latin and appended to Fasciculus Temporum. An Italian version appeared at Vicenza in 1507 called Paesi novamente retrovati, It is cited also as Novus Orbis or as The travels of Joseph the Indian. It gives a description of the Thomas-Christians which may be taken for what it is worth according to Mackenzie. []
  27. Op. cit. pp. 588-596. Also Asseman B.O. t3. pp. 589-92. []
  28. Life and Letters of St. Francis Xavier by Father Coleridge: vol. II. pp. 89-90, London, 1872. []
  29. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid []
  30. vide letters of Pope Pius IV dated 28th Feb. 1565 and others taken from the Vatican Library and published by Fr. Samuel Giamil, in his ‘Genuinae Relationes’ Rome 1902 pp. 69-100; 604-610 []
  31. They say that from the primordial ages of the Christian era,they had their liturgical prayers from the Apostle St. Thomas in Syro-Chaldaic. They want to receive their Bishops and Archbishops from the Assyrians of the East and that they had the orders of priesthood and deaconate from the same. On that account imploring the mercy of the Holy Father, they pray that they may not be left orphans, but he may vouchsafe to give the necessary orders to the Patriarch of the Assyrians or Chaldeans, that he may without further delay send out Bishops according to the ancient custom. The petitioners make mention that, Patriarch Abedjesus had sent them Mar Elia and Mar Joseph of whom the latter was kept in prison by the Portuguese. George Cathanar- Orthodoxy of St. Thomas Chrsitians []
  32. Travancore State Manual, vol. II. p. 162. []
  33. The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  34. Assemani iv 446 seventh line from footnote of page. []
  35. Travancore State Manual, vol. II. p. 162. []
  36. Mar Joseph trickishly was called to the town of Cochin by the Bishop of Cochin. The former who in the least suspected any treachery was arrested on the spot by the soldiers and sent first to Portugal, then to Rome.” (Giamil p. 602.).The tradition runs as follows :-Mar Joseph was invited to Cochin for a dinner party. []
  37. “Before he could undertake a new voyage to India, he died at Rome
    on the eve of being made a Cardinal, (Mackenzie p. 66 note 43.)

    “From Portugal he (Mar Joseph) was forwarded to Rome, where he ended his days; but in what way or how long after his arrival there, the historian, Gouvea has not recorded. The abrupt manner, however, in which he closes his account of this Bishop tends to awaken suspicion respecting the causes of his death.” (Hough’s history, vol. I. p. 260.)

    “Here, (Rome) the piety and erudition of the Bishop aroused a feeling in his favour and there was some talk that he would be created a Cardinal when his death put an end to any such project.” (Mackenzie. p. 18.) []

  38. Giamil in his book p.601 in a foot-note says:- “Here is an error to be corrected against the orthodoxy of our Abed- Jesus which Raulin together with some others, I regret to say, has committed in his ‘Historia Ecclesiae Malabaricae’ p.438, where referring to the mission of the above mentioned Mar Abraham to India, he says that ‘while Mar Joseph was away from India, the Christians of St. Thomas in Malabar obtained another Bishop Abraham from the Patriarch Abedjesus of the Nestorians, but the said Abedjesus was (contends Giamil), not only not a Nestorian Patriarch , but was even one elected by his Catholic Chaldeans as Patriarch in opposition to the Patriarch Simon of the Nestorians and one approved in the eternal city by Pope Pius IV.” N.B. From this it can be inferred that some historians especially westerners referring to the Chaldeans call them as Nestorians as a nation. []
  39. Giamil. Op. cit. pp. 69-71., The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  40. Hough. Op. cit, vol. I. p. 260, The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  41. “Mar Abraham complained to the Pope, ‘that the Fathers of the Society of Jesus and the Latin Portuguese’ tried to withdraw him from obedience to the Chaldaean Patriarch, and to persuade him to demand the pallium directly from the Pope. In this way, they sought to compel him to conform to the Latin Rite.” Catholic Encyclopaedia, vol. III Article ‘Chaldaean Christians.’ IV ‘Malabar Christians.’ p. 561. []
  42. Giamil. Op. cit. pp. 75-76. The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  43. Giamil. Op. cit. p 604. The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  44. Giamil. Op. cit. p 606. The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  45. Giamil. Op. cit. p pp. 85-86. The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  46. Giamil. Op. cit. pp. 74-75, The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  47. Trav. State Manual, vol. II, p. 170., The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  48. Giamil, Op. cit., pp. 79-82, The Syrian Church in Malabar by J.C. Panjikaran []
  49. Tranvancore State Manual, vol. II. p. 171. []
  50. There are historians who say that Mar Simeon was a Catholic Chaldean Bishop, though he was not recognised (on his arrival in Malabar) by the Pope, as the Bishop of the Syrians. []
  51. Oriente Conquistado, II, 75 []
  52. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid ,See the original documents in Giamil and Beltrami. []
  53. The Syrian Church of Malabar, Fr. Placid, Original documents in Giamil. []
  54. Mackenzie, on pp.20 & 21 []
  55. G.Beltrami, La Chiesa Caldeo, pp.196-7 []
  56. Notwithstanding the vast body of Indian literature in other fields, there is a remarkable dearth of historical writing in the period before the Muslim conquest and an associated indifference to historiography. It is both true and surprising that there was no real importance attached to history in ancient India. That’s the same case with Nasranis too. []
  57. The flood is mentioned in the writings of the court historian Procopius of Caesarea. Procopius states that about a third of the population were killed in one flood. The chronicle of Edessa also records that the flood destroyed the city for the third time. Asclepius (Chalcedonian) bishop of Edessa is reported to have fled to Antioch []
  58. Even today most of the historical buildings are being pulled down by guardians of faith. []
  59. These opinions may be arranged in four classes by G.T. Mackenzie, British Resident in Travancore & Cochin.:

    Firstly, many Protestant writers see in this ancient Church a Church of primitive simplicity of doctrine, forcibly compelled by the power of the Portuguese to submit for a time to Rome, but escaping when the Dutch shook the Portuguese supremacy and ever since that date striving to return to its pristine purity of doctrine and ritual.

    Secondly, the Latin Roman Catholics regard this Church as a Church which originally held the faith taught by the Apostles but fell into the Nestorian heresy and other errors because of the difficulty of communication with Rome. When that difficulty was removed by the arrival of the Portuguese this local Church willingly came into communion with Rome and has since remained in Communion with Rome, notwithstanding the defection of some of their number in 1653.

    Thirdly, some of the Syrian Catholics are so eager in their zeal for the dignity of their Church that they deny that their Church was ever Nestorian. They say that their Church, founded by an Apostle and using the language which Christ himself spoke when on Earth, always kept the Catholic Faith, was hindered only by distance from union with Rome, embraced the opportunity given by the arrival of the Portuguese to enter into union with Rome and has ever since that date remained a Church of an Oriental Rite in full communion with the Holy See.

    Fourthly, the Jacobites maintain that the Patriarch of Antioch has from early times included this coast in his Patriarchate and has therefore had jurisdiction over this Church.

    These opinions are put forward at the present day, not only in academic controversy but also as the basis of litigation for the possession of Church property and of Trust funds.

    There is some slight support in history for the contentions of Jacobites and Syrian Catholics.

    The case put forward by the Jacobite Syrians is that the Patriarchate of Babylon was under Antioch and, therefore, the church in this coast came under Antioch. Day in his Land of the Perumals, p.216, mentions a Jacobite bishop from Alexandria who came to India in 696. There are two passages in the India Orientalis Christian of Paolo a S.Bartolomeo. In a note on p. 25 it is said that Renaudot quotes Allatius as saying that the Patriarchs of Antioch claimed to have jurisdiction in India but that there is no record showing that they ever sent bishops here. On p. 94 Nilus Doxopatrius is quoted as saying in 1043 that the authority of Antioch extended over Asia, the East and the Indias, but that the Patriarch sent no bishops. There is also a passage in the Travels of Joseph the Indian, “ This Peter no sooner left Antioch to go to Rome than he appointed a Vicar at Antioch, and this Vicar govers the Eastern world, and is called Catholicus and holds the place of Peter.” Asseman, in discussing this passage says that the hearers who thought that Joseph spoke of Antioch toto coelo errabant were altogether wrong because Joseph must have been speaking of the Nestorian Patriarch. In 1652 the Jacobite Patriarch
    of Antioch sent a bishop named Ahatalla or Mar Ignatius and since then has sent bishops from time to time. The weak point in this case is that the Patriarch with whom they have had relations since 1652 is the Jacobite Patriarch. (Mackenzie ).

    The Syrian Catholics maintain that, there always was, even in the midst of the Nestorian country, a faithful remnant who held fast to the Holy Apostolic See of Rome. St. Thomas Christians of Malabar were in communion with the Catholic Patriarchs of Assyria and not with the Nestorian Patriarch. They maintain their position with number of quotations from history.

    Nicene Council II. in 787 praised the miracles of Persian Saints of fourth century. Surius (Life of Saints January 28 p. 799) shows the life of St. Jacob Tirus in 445 and (24 October p. 611) St. Aratheus with 340 companion martyrs in Arabia in the year 545. Joseph Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, Rome, 1728 IV 89- 528 says that in 528 the majority of Christians in Persia was Catholic and there were illustrious Catholic Bishops in Mesopotamia in the year 561.
    The Roman Emperors of Constantinople exerted their utmost to protect the Catholics of Persia during persecution. By the treaty which the emperor Justinian concluded with Kosroes the King of Persia in 531, the persecution was stopped; and the Catholics were given freedom of worship.

    St. Isac was Bishop of Ninaveth in 593. (Asseman i I. 444) . Sahaduna Bishop of Garmea, in 630 was received in the communion of the Catholic Church and many others in Assyria followed his example. (Assem. IV. 41-172). St. Anastasius with 70 companians was martyred, in 628, in Persia (Surius Jan. 21). Catholics obtained in 628 the Syrian Church of Edessa. (Assemani IV 94) . St. John Saba lived in 640, in the city of Ninaveth (Assemani I. 433). St. Hormisdas a Persian monk lived (in 650) with illustrious sanctity and miracles (Giamil ‘Genuinae Relationes’ Rome 1902 p. 82). Sicinius and Constantius, both Syrians were Popes of Rome from 708 to 715.Pope St. Gregory III (731-741) was also a Syro-Chaldean J. Guriel Elementa Linguae Chaldaicae Rome 1860 pp. 166-7-8. In the beginning of the 7th century the Emperor Heraclius defeated the King of Persia in battle and concluded a treaty with him, by which all the churches which the Nestorians had taken by force from the Catholics were restored to them. There was a Catholic Union of Assyrian Bishops of Capadocia, Media, Persia and both Armenia in the year 945 (Assem. IV 407). The Catholic Union of Nestorians and Armenians took place in 1145 (Assemani IV 94.) etc. There are also numerous documents on Patriarch of Seleucia acknowledging Roman Pontif. []

  60. Eusebius writes in Ecclesiastical History, 5:10- “Now at that time there was a man of great renown for learning named Pantaneus, who had charge of the school of the faithful at Alexandria, where it has been a primitive custom that a school for sacred studies should exist. This school has continued even to our day, and although we understand that it was filled with men of great learning and zeal for divinity, it is recorded that the said person was especially distinguished at that time, in as much as he had come from that sect of philosophers who are called Stoics. Now, it is said that he displayed such an ardent love and zeal for the divine word that he was appointed as a herald of the Gospel of Christ to the nations of the East, and that he journeyed even as far as the land of the Indians. For there were, yes, even still at that time, many evangelists of the word, desirous to contribute an inspired zeal, after the manner of the apostles, for the increase and building up of the divine word. Pantaneus also was one of these, and is mentioned as having gone to India; and the story goes that there he found, in the hands of some persons who had come to know Christ in that land, the Gospel according to Matthew, which had anticipated his arrival; for that Bartholomew, (Beth Thoma or Marthoma) one of the apostles, had preached to them and left behind the writing of Matthew in the actual Hebrew characters, and that it was preserved up to the said time. But to resume, Pantaneus after many good deeds ended by becoming the head of the school at Alexandria, where he expounded the treasures of the divine doctrines, both orally and by means of treatises. (East of the Euphrates: Early Christianity in Asia by T.V. Philip) []
  61. Mgr. Duchesne: “The Churches separated from Rome,” p.194, London,1907. []
  62. St. Jerome, Letter LXX, The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (second series), vol.vi, p.150. []
  63. Continuation of letter of John de Marignoli – “ There is a church of St. George there, of the Latin communion, at which I dwelt, and I adorned it with fine paintings and taught there the Holy Law. And after I had been there some time I went beyond the glory of Alexander the Great, when he set up his column. For I erected a stone as my landmark and memorial and anointed it with oil. In sooth, it was a marble pillar with a stone cross on it, intended to last till the world’s end. And it had the Pope’s arms and my own engraved on it, with inscriptions both in Indian and in Latin characters. I consecrated and blessed it in the presence of an infinite multitude of people and I was carried on the shoulders of the chiefs in a litter or palanquin like
    Solomon’s. So after a year and four months I took leave of the brethren (valefaciens fratribus).” Howard in his Christians of St. Thomas and their Liturgies, 9, note, says, “ Mr. D’ Albedhyll, the Master Attendant at Quilon, told me that he had seen this pillar, and that it was washed away only a few years ago. []
  64. Continuation-”Moreover nearly three hundred years back or upwards, according to the common suffrage of the nation a certain Maraus (Mar-Ara) was sent up to the Holy Apostolic See that he may be chosen their Patriarch. He was indeed created Patriarch by the supreme Pontiff and sent back to his own people. It is very likely that many reforms were made in the old religion to render the dogmas clearer and consentaneous to our Church” ((((George Cathanar, The orthodoxy of the St. Thomas Christians- see Giamil p. 480. []
  65. Reported by H. L. Dr. Lavigne S.J., then Vicar Apostolic of Kottayam. The Madras Catholic Directory of 1893 (p. 199. []

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50 Comments

  1. The statement that Selucia was under Antioch was under Rome is curious.

    Selucia was under Antioch because it was the Patriarch of Antioch who, originally, was responsible for ordaining the Bishop of Selucia. But to say Antioch was under Rome is inaccurate. Antioch, like the other members of the Pentarchy (Antioch, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem) was a head on it’s own right. Rome did not ordain Patriarchs of Antioch, nor vice versa. Of course, because of Rome’s prominence at the first capital of the Roman Empire (which was the dominant power), the Pope of Rome had primacy of honor among the Patriarchs—but it was not the “head” of the entire Church by any means. A similar situation exists in the Eastern Orthodox Church where the Patriarch of Constantinople has primacy of honor among the other Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs, without having any authority over the others. And similarly with the Oriental Orthodox where the Pope of Alexandria has primacy over the others, without any authority.

    To say that primacy of honor implies anything more than just honor is like saying New York is the capital of Earth, just because the seat of the United Nations is located there.

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  2. Dear John & Antony,

    Thanks ,I think that the only objection to my posting in ” General Talk ” is regards with the type of relations with Romans and non-Roman Prelates (I am using this term because it includes Alexandrians, Antiochians, Chaldeans , Farsian and what not).Since an excellent article is posted about prelates I need not to worry about details (though it is from Roman side)

    To understand the type relations which MALANKARANAZRANIES had with these prelates one should get some documents which related with their work .We have very limited details regarding prelates pre-8th century. From Mar DUDI to unknown bishop in Indicopleatus book (AD535) we get little information from references of related authors .In order to understand this situation one should analyse the Christendom with respect to ours. Every body knows that Apostolic period was with full of documentation .You get writings by Apostles, related writings by Pagans and other religious sects .Early church leaders period were also full of documentation. Theological explanations were done in this period, every body knows about Alexandrian school, Antiochene School, Cappadocian fathers, eastern school etc. Maximum Christian philosophical disputes were carried out in this period. Compare this with Malankara church and their brother prelates. Any documentation, any detailed letters, how do you explain it? When whole of Christendom was under turmoil over personality of Christ, role and the status of Mariam, what were the MALANKARANAZRANIES and their so called foreign Prelates doing? Did they only come for money and power?

    The other important source one should analyze is the travelers records from which we can get some light into the so called brother prelate’s work and time. One of them is JORDANUS CATALANI 1321 AD who reported to Rome directly. He discovered a small community of Christians in Quilon, also in Thana& Gujarat.”Persians had neglected them for long. He found these eastern Christians very susceptible to any form of Christian teaching. He went back to Europe and gave information to Pope& The King. He was consecrated as bishop of Quilon and sent back to India by POPE Johnxx11, with three letters (a) one for Christian of India (B) another to catholic converts from Pagans(c) third one address to Nazranies”! What it means?

    LUDOVICO DE VANTHEME an Italian traveler who visited Malabar in 1505AD noted that about every three years a priest from Babylon used to come to Kayamkulam (Brown L. W, Indian Christian of St. Thomas).The Nestorian patriarch Alexander II sent a petition to caliph of BAGDAD stating that the Catholicos under Patriarch of Antioch was sending Bishop for countries under him! (V.Nagamayya, Travancore state manual Vol. 2, p-24)Two instances deserve mentioning to understand the picture here.”YAZDAD was the metropolitan of Rewardisher (Fars) when the church of Seleucia turned Nestorian at the time of Acacius (485-498); he however did not contribute to the Nestorian faith and refused to accept Nestorianising decision .The other incident is reflected in the struggle between Patriarch ISHU YAHB III (650-660) and SHIMUN, metropolitan of FARS .The rebellion and schism of Shimun were alleged by patriarch eight letters. In one of his letters to Shimun he is accused of closing the door of Episcopal ordination in the face of many peoples of India and impending the gift of God for the sake of perishable gains which feed bodily desire .As far as your province is concerned, since your revolt against ecclesiastical canons, the priestly succession has been broken for the people of India” (Dr.Paulose Mar Gregorious: The Indian Orthodox church-An Overview).

    Now please analyse the situation. Whether the Patriarch of Antioch, or Chaldean Catholicos, or Bishop or Fars, all fought over MALANKARA NAZRANIES It is also interesting to note that none of these chairs helped us in creating a separate hierarchy. Why? It will be clearer if you read the history of ANTIOCHIAN, CHALDIAN&JERUSALEM church relations. Antiochians helped to consecrate Abrosius (185-201) as metropolitan of Seleucia based on request from eastern fathers .The next three heads were ABRAHAM (201-213), JACOB (213-231) and AHOD ABUEI (231-246).The first was consecrated at Antioch, and the other two at Jerusalem. In fact Ahod Abouei visited Antioch but could not consecrated due to enmity between Persian and Roman empires ,but Antioch sent letter to Jerusalem asking to ordain him. Jerusalem understanding the political environment went a step farther to raise the see a GREAT METROPOLITAN of the East-CATHOLICOS. This was recognized at council of Seleucia 410AD&Council of Markabta424AD.Political rivalry between two countries ended in death of QOM YESU –the metropolitan elect, forced the understanding fathers of Antioch &Jerusalem to rise above the situation and help the brothers in Christian love resulted in the creation of an independent see. This could have been applicable to MALANKARA, but did not happen, why? CHALDEANS never wanted us to be independent church rather a subjugated one under them.

    The same case is with prelates after the Portuguese .MAR JACOB (1503-1545), MAR JOSEPH (1556-1564), MAR ABRAHAM (1568-1597).Initially they sided with Nazranies, when they found out it is of no use in front of Rome they supported and helped Romans in Latinizing Nazranies .So what I wanted to state that the Church of the East is no better than the Church of Rome as far as MALANKARA NAZRANIES are concerned. I also wanted to state that I am not forgetting MAR SABHOR AND MAR PHROT that I do not consider them as foreign prelates since they come as a refugee to our beloved land of HINDUSTHAN where Jews held their head high(no where else in the world).

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  3. Dear Jeevan Philip:

    Could it be that the so-called foreign prelates from the Assyrian Church of the East were not actually foreigners, but our brothers? Suppose our community in Kerala is descended, in part, from immigrants from the Middle East — then these prelates would not have been foreign but rather one of *us*.

    The Assyrian Church of the East was not bigoted and did have bishops with varying ethnicities. I think one of their Patriarchs was Mongolian or Chinese at one point, as was one of their famous monks (Rabban Bar Sauma, I believe). So I don’t agree with the statements that many of the “Indian” Churches make against the West Asians — maybe not, several generations later, we seem different from Assyrians, but to our ancestors (at least our father’s father’s father’s … father) they may have been our brothers.

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  4. Dear Jeevan Philip:

    You included Alexandrians in your list of foreign prelates: could you please elaborate? Is there any report of Copts coming to Kerala (other than some early Christian explorers, merchants and traders) and setting up Churches?

    I know some claim that Mar Thoma I (Archdeacon Thomas Pakallomattam) sent appeals to Babylon, Antioch and Alexandria; however, I’ve never seen any solid evidence for this.

    Thanks.

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  5. After a long time…
    Hey John, read couple of your comments, nice to see you still on your stand. Whilst I find it hard to digest the above article, as most of the views of the admin are conventionally from A. E. Medlycott , J.N Farquhar and Jesuit J, Dahlmann’s priestly scribblings and vividness of their imaginations(these guys have no historical, statistical or scientific training as any of us here can effortlessly write a book on St.Thomas). It is important not to build structures which are heavier than it will bear. To put this way they never emphasised on historical credibilities. Bishop Medlycott has collected many references from Syriac breviaries, hymns and other non scientific liturgical sources.

    **************John the Persian [presiding over] the Churches in the whole of Persia and Great India” in the council documents.*********

    This solitary Persian at an assembly of Greek Bishops?
    Church historians may support the story of Nicaea, others may not. Many experts still believe that this was an invention intended to convey the truly ecumenical character of the great gathering. Eusebius of Caesarea who was present at the council, says that ‘a certain bishop from Persia took part in the synod’ but was not specific. It is of course possible that there were Christians in India at the time of the council of Nicaea. Probably they can be Persian or Mesopotamian merchants resident in for the purpose of trade rather than Christians of Indian ethnic origin. To assume the existence of flourishing Indian churches with bishops and clergy from among our own people goes beyond the scope of common sense. The reality is that, the rough chronology account is a mixture of fact and fantasy yet I praise the efforts of admin to congregate information and construct an article of this length.

    Let us take the scenario a bit further, may be to the Portuguese era. During this time there were 60 nasrani churches in kerala which can be said as parishes. It is unlikely that more than 600 on an average would have been attached to each parish, as a rough calculation a maximum of 36000 persons. Also nasranis were gathered in considerable numbers in Cranganore and in Quilon, these representing roughly the northern and the southern limits of the territory. Most were scattered far and wide over the hills, in many cases not more than three or four families were being found together. if the population is compounded back, I dont think anything of this sort needed to work out to keep a small christian community alive. Nasranis grew to millions only in the last two or three centuries.

    ************A letter send out by Eastern prelates in 1504****************
    “The catholicos… was please with them. One of them was called George and the other Joseph and the Catholicos ordained both of them bishops in the St. George church. After having prayed for them and blessed them he despatched them to India in the company of Indians. When these four came, the faithful were greatly pleased with them and went to meet them joyfully with Gospels, cross, thurible and candles and ushered them with great pomp and psalms and canticles. They consecrated altars and ordained many priests, because the Indians were for a long time with out bishops. Bishop John remained in india and Bishop Thomas, his companion returned after a short time to the Catholicos.

    Three of these bishops were shadowy figures, but Mar Jacob was destined to survive till 1549 and played a very important role in Nasrani life, also a controversial character in the pages of church history.

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  6. Dear John

    Historically I can quote many Popes who has exercised universal jurisdiction over every part of Christendom possible during their time before any division. But my quotation at the particular point in article, was more from a universal church on earth perspective.

    Patriarch of Constantinople and Pope of Alexandria primacy is later development after the split.

    I am a Catholic and for Catholics, Papel authority is a dogma.

    I do believe that it is essential to the constitution of the Church that one of her Bishops should be recognised supreme in authority, otherwise it would be next to impossible to stay threatening abuses which local Bishops might be unwilling or unable to correct, to apply a remedy if a Bishop of any diocese has become perverted in faith or morals, to settle matters in dispute which might arise between Bishop and Bishop or between Bishops and laymen.

    Without this supreme authority there would not be union or sympathy between one part of Christendom and the other.

    The extent of Primacy is debatable from a historic point of view considering Catholic and Orthodox arguments. Let’ s wait and see the findings of joint commission of Orthodox and Catholic theologians about this topic.

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  7. Dear Admin,
    It is not only in the ‘Catholic Chuch’ that one needs supreme apex leadership. It is there in many churches, business houses, institutions, military, potitics, family etc. Without this supreme ‘unquestionable’ leadership, things will not work.

    The above is from a human point of view, I suspect that from a puritan Christian spiritual leadeship, our above understanding of ‘Dogmatic Spiritual Leadership’ does not apply. Our human spiritual laws are always in conflict with divine spiritual laws. We are always, always in the wrong.

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  8. Dear Jeevan,
    You seem comfortable and even proud upon using the word ‘Hindusthan’ for India.
    I am not comfortable.
    It always reminds me that it was used by the muslims conquerors for ‘pagan India’. I even wonder why the Birlas shamelessly named their automobile company ‘Hindusthan Motors’ and why New Delhi named one of their largest and most sophisticated govt sector companu ‘Hindustan Machine Tools – HMT’.

    The name ‘Bharatham is better than Hindusthan.
    I even feel that Bharath is better than India.
    Am I not a sick fundamentalist? but I love to have our own clear cut identity.

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  9. Dear Admin:

    The Pope of Alexandria’s position predates that of the Pope of Rome. If you don’t mind, I would like to know of a Pope that did exercise universal authority over all other bishops (I’ve never heard of this). Since the formative years of Christianity was in the east with Greek and Syriac fathers contributing to a far greater degree than Latin fathers, I don’t believe that the Bishop of Rome had anything other than honorary significance as the Bishop of the place where Peter died. (And the Bishop of Antioch always retained his own honor as the Bishop of Peter’s first Church.)

    I don’t think that any of the joint Catholic-Orthodox dialog will ever amount to a universal recognition of the Pope of Rome as the supreme head (in anything other than *honor*). I think they are too busy working out the details of inter-communion (as more pressing issue).

    Remember, the Eastern Orthodox are quite stubborn in their belief that *they* represent the Universal Church, since the Church of Rome introduced additional dogma (“errors” in the Orthodox view) in the 10th and subsequent centuries — the EO believe that they are the only ones who are authentically continuous with the original faith. The Oriental Orthodox view the councils after the third as being either (a) introductions of errors (in the extreme case) or (b) unnecessary, and so view themselves as being the authentic descendants of the original Church. Personally, as an Oriental Orthodox, I concur with this perspective, and find the fact that the oldest Christian liturgies (that of Basil and James) and practices live only through the Oriental Churches: the Eastern and Roman Churches have modernized and innovated, while the Oriental Orthodox have retained their primitiveness (for better or for worse).

    I understand that you are a Catholic; but the doctrine of Papal Supremacy was only adopted by Catholics in 10th century or so. It is not a “dogma” from the early days, but an innovation.

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  10. Dear John,

    In the past, political power often went with religious power. So in that sense, the Pope in Rome would have exercised indirect or direct control over other bishops in other parts of the world. I would not give this matter much importance as far as spiritual leadership is concerned. But from a historic point of view, it may be considered important.

    I am reading a book by the late Marthoma Metropolitan ‘Alexander Marthoma’ titled ‘The Marthoma Church, Heritage and Mission’. In this he writes that the Malabari Church before the Portugeese period were more or less independent from the rest of world Christendom.

    The book is particularly interesting to me, as the Metropolitan wrote it while staying at my house in remote forested Peerumade/Idukki in the early 80s.

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  11. This article and countless other articles in this site tries to connect the syrian christians in kerala to Rome.When there is not even a shred of historical evidence to relate syrian christians to Pope before the arrival of Portuguese,exception being John of Monte Corvino.

    I believe such attempt to bring the whole syrian christian community under papal order would undermine the spirit of konnan kurishe .

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  12. Probably,but listening to what opinions other people hold is in itself a great education …..to become aware.

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  13. Dear George Mathew,

    The books written by the “metropolitans” of the Mar Thomite Church are not really based on actual history. The Mar Thomite hierarchy wants to justify its position as being an independent Church (i.e., one that is not recognized by any of the Catholic or Orthodox Churches as being in communion) by falsely claiming that the Malabar Church was *never* in communion with the rest of Christendom.

    Sorry, but this is bogus! There is quite clear evidence that we were part of the Church of the East before the Portuguese arrived. We were never a “primitive” Church, like how the Mar Thomite hierarchy likes to claim, but rather were an Apostolic Church in communion with the Mother Church in the Middle East.

    Perhaps the forests of Idukki help the imagination come up with great fiction — but as for history, they are obviously quite another thing!

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  14. Dear Admin,

    Understanding the priest hood of Malankaranazranies during apostolic times certainly will give some light in to authenticity of statements in the article. One must look into the apostolic practices that they followed to understand the church relations .

    It is found that churches planted by apostles primarily nurtured by them with help of respective elders (MOOPANS).We get information from letters of apostles to various churches during this period. The selection of Moopans were done with consensus of members giving importance to the opinion of respective apostles .It is obvious that the church of Antioch was not controlled by church of Rome or vice versa .This is also the case with Tesselonicians or Ephesus or any one else. The system practiced by apostles in Antioch, Rome or anywhere else can be applicable to Malankara .St. Thomas worked in Malankara also might have practiced the very system in the light of Christian love. He might have ordained some of the people to perform the duties.

    Those entrusted with duties might be headed by some Moopan since the local (tharakootangal) system was not alien to this practice. It is highly imaginative that Malankaranazranies were under Chaldeans or any other church when whole of Christendom developed independently .

    The fact is that the church of the east was not in a position to help us in early period at least up to 6th century. The assumption of getting priests or bishops from Chaldea every time is also going against early apostolic practice. May be presbyters from adjoining churches visited each other, which will not result in subjugation.

    Church took at least 5 centuries to turn itself into a structured form .Earlier it was built around leaders and excellent orators. You find the church turns into an organizational form during the synod at Nicaea (325) under the authority of Constantine. The issues discussed were included position of bishops and their area. This was an under standing reached not by consensus but with the power of Constantine.

    The statement in the article like ”several sources we find that the Malabar church was under Persia” goes against very essence of apostolic direction. One may not make such comments when churches in whole of Christendom evolved independently by the work of apostles .The subjugation of a sister church or authority over another church developed due to the geographical, political and economical aspects of respective region.

    Admin may be making the comment on the basis of signature by john the Persian in synod at Nicaea .He said to have been attented the synod on behalf of whole of Persia and greater India. Which is this greater India? One should need to have a detailed study on geographical understanding of people or nations during that period. World according to HERODOTUS (450BC), ERATOSTHENES (200BC), STRABO (18AD), PTOLEMY (150AD) should be consulted before jump into conclusions. India was a land of mystery to all part of civilized world .

    Every one was interested to trade with it. Every conqueror wants to explore the richness of India. Taxila, once the part of Parthian empire was very much known in whole civilized world as seat of knowledge. The region after the east of Parthian empire was called India .It is also noted that some part of Africa was also called India in those times .This was caused much confusion in understanding the right perspective. John the Persian might have been signed on behalf of greater India that was part of Parthian kingdom or eastern part of Parthia itself .It is also to be noted that Mar Papa the catholicos of Seleucia and bishop of Edessa were also attended the synod of Nicaea.

    The Pantaneous story is another report we get having reference to an Indian church. Pantaneous a Hebrew by nation, Sicilian by birth converted to Christianity from stoicism was head of the school in Alexandria .He became the first historical missionary to India (189or190AD).This story is known from the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome .He reported to have been brought a copy of book of Mathai from India which said to have been brought there by St.Bartholomew. This puts Nazranies in difficult situation that they have no oral tradition relating to Bartholomew .How do we analyze the situation here? Probably it indicates that ‘India’ of Pantaneous is another India which does not have any relation (or Brocken) with Malankaranazranies.

    Frumentius was the another Alexandrian prelate to ’India’(Hough).Rufinus was the authority for the story of Frumentius ,was born in Italy about 345AD .He spent many years in Palestine monastery with Jerome .He tell us that Meropius ,a philosopher of Tyre fired with the passion for travelling and encouraged by Metrodorus determined to pay a visit to India. He was accompanied on the voyage by his two young relatives, Frumentius & Eudesius .This Frumentius helped in building churches with the help of the queen. He returned but to ordained as bishop by our great Athanasius of Alexandria who had recently been placed in the chair of St. Mark(330AD).But other records we found from Athanasius book ‘apology to Constantius ‘the time serving son of the great Constantine show that the province he whose ecclesiastical administration under the Pope of Alexandria (Alexandrian patriarch has also been called Pope)was committed to Frumentius was Abyssinia; and it was Abyssinia that Rufinus and his follower Socrates, Sozomen and other historians called by the name of India.

    Philistogorius (364AD) a native of Cappadocia give us important story of Theophilus the Indian. The work of Philistogorius is not available, but we get documentation compiled by Photius who was appointed to the patriarch of Constantinople in 853AD.Theophilus the Indian under the orders of Constantius visited (354AD) Arabia Felix with gifts to the local king .He was put as the head of the mission and elevated as bishop, he built many churches and converted many people. Then he visited his home island which some say Maldives .Then he made his way to other parts of India .Here he said to have found Christians who listened the gospel in sitting posture ,and used other customs repugnant to the divine law. But Theophilous having corrected everything among them according to the religious rule confined the doctrine of the church.

    Now how do you analyze these historical facts? The story of Philistogorius is seemed to be more related to Malankaranazranies. When we read this along with other records, analyze with peculiar socio-customs (Malankaranazrani’s) we tend to reach a conclusion that there is a core difference existed in Christendom with respect to Malankaranazranies. Is it because of Essences, Hindus (Dravidians),Ebionites, Jains or Gnostics .we need to do a lot of research keeping away all our emotions, prejudices otherwise they will call us ‘KOOPAMNDOOKAMS’.

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  15. Did you know that the Madras Archdiocese is to produce a 50 crore picture on St Thomas.

    Rajnikant is to play Thiruvalluvar,Kamal Hassan and Ajit are also in the picture. Negotiations are on with Mel Gibson to direct the film.

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  16. Dear John ,

    You may please have your views from your perspective. Nobody ever said that the Malabar Nasrani’s were a primitive church.
    You remind me of a Pakistani freind who told me ‘Don’t you want India to be an ‘Industrial Superpower’? I replied ‘No!, I am not interested in seeing India an Industrial Superpower, as these are Western yardsticks to measure things, I want India to be like Bhutan, cultured and dignified.

    Similar is your usage of words like ‘Apostolic and Primitive Church’. Simply being an Apostolic Church in name only is meaningless and because there were no tall cathedrals or ‘thick colourful gold and red robes for our then leaders/bishops’ does not make us ‘Primitive Church’.

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  17. Mel Gibson ,well his credentials as director are impeccable.I dont think that even if he’s anti Jew(I dont think so) that will set a political tone for the film as basically the screenplay determines it.

    The screen play is by a father Paul Lourdusamy.Hes done a lot of research…I hope it based on reality and less on myth.

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  18. Dear Anoop,

    Mel Gibson is one of the most well known ‘Jew haters’. If he directs the film, I wonder in which directtion the movie of St. Thomas will go? Probably entirely about Hindus being converted to Christianity! You bet!!!
    It is strange that the Archdioce that you mentioned (I don’t know which) is negotiating with a very well known ‘Jew hater’. Why?

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  19. Dear George:

    “Primitive” has many meanings, and not all are negative. In the sense I used it (and the manner in which it is often used when discussing religion), I was referring to how the Mar Thomites and other Kerala Protestants want to make believe that the original Nasranis were “primitive” in that they were “fundamentalist” — i.e., unconcerned and unaware of mainstream Christianity, and instead, focussed on some form of “pure” Christianity. “Primitive” here is not used in a negative sense at all.

    But, regardless, those who argue this are wrong. The literary evidence (i.e., the docs that we have preserved from ancient times) suggests that we were in communion with the Church of the East: not a “primitive” Church, but one which had developed considerably, just like the rest of Christianity.

    And, I don’t know what you mean by “Apostolic in name only”. A Church is either Apostolic or not; the Protestants aren’t, the Orthodox/Catholic/Church of the East are. It has nothing to do with Cathedrals, robes, or whatever.

    Mar Thomite historians have a vested interest. If they acknowledge that we were directly connected with the old Syrian Churches in the past, then the question arises: why did the Mar Thomites *break* communion and enter into heresy. They can’t answer this in an honest manner, so they claim something totally absurd to justify their weak position.

    (Finally, a small point: it is nice for you, one who left Kerala for greener pastures in the Gulf/West, to argue that India ought to be like “Bhutan”, rather than develop materially. But I don’t see you putting your house where your mouth is… unless you’ve moved back to India for good. What’s that word again… hypocrisy?!?).

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  20. Dear Jeevan,

    This is regarding a couple of your earlier postings- June 18 (general talk)& July 6 under this heading.

    I think the point you are trying to make is- Church of the East was also not good for us, they made us under them, they did not elevate any of the nasranis to Bishops, they are similar to the Roman church. They chaldeanised us like the Roman church latinised us.

    You are right in your argument- none of the foreign churches came to Kerala- say Roman Catholic, Antiochian, Protestant- did not want to accept us as we were before. They wanted us to change our traditions, practices and liturgy !! I think all of them stamped us as Nostorians and wanted to purify us.

    We have no documentary evidence of the situation of our church in the early period. We do not know whether they used tamil or Aramaic as the liturgical language nor our early church was an Indian- hindu church. This is the same argument a section of western partisan priests in SMC used for the last 10-20 years to resist restoration.( Knanaites claim that it was the East syrian migrants who brought East Syriac Liturgy )

    We do know that we were using east Syrian liturgy for long time until the synod of Diamper. Even if it was because of invasion of east Syrian church over Mar Thoma Nasranis, there are no evidence of a resistance against the east Syrian liturgy at any time and our forefathers were very happy with that. But, when we were forced for latinisation, there was resistance, one group broke away, the group that remained alongside the roman church also showed huge amount of resistance that the Roman church had to compromise to allow them to keep the liturgy in syriac langualge and keep the east syriac liturgy with some modifications. That means the resistance was total !! ( even there was resistance in puthencoor against antiochianisation and it took many generations to complete –that too by injecting anti roman catholic ideas conjointly by all the other foreigners like English, dutch, etc.)

    So, whatever was our liturgy, practices etc in the apostolic time, our forefathers welcomed the east syriac liturgy and practices well. So, east syriac liturgy became our soul !!

    Again, being a Thomasine church, we were happy with connections with other Thomasine churches- Chaldean, Persian and Edessan- and the Thomasine Liturgy of Mar Addai and Mar Mari.

    I cannot understand why Church of the east did not bother to make local keralites bishops ?? Why our people did not want to become bishops ??

    All I can think is that we considered the arch deaconate as great. (The term archdeacon was also made by the Portuguese I think. The term was “jathikku karthavyan”- secretary/administrator of the caste). Even when there were many Bishops from Persia at the same time, there was only one “jathikku karthavyan” at a time- that was a Nasrani priest. He was administrating the community. The bishops from COE were a spiritual position only. Even I have read that one of the arch deacons when elevated as bishop, refused to take up the position.

    It should also be noted that arch deaconate was hereditary- just like the tradition of the kings of Kerala-Travancore, the nephew of the current arch deacon become the next archdeacon !!(matrilinear ) It was like a socio political position.

    Can anyone give us any thoughts why we did not have local Nasrani Bishops in the past rather than the Persian Bishops ?

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  21. Dear Thomas Antony,

    Thanks, you are agreeing with the points raised through my posting( june18th ).The second posting (June6th) is all about the authenticity of statements raised in the article .I am strongly against the view that Malankaranasranies were under church of the east or any other church from the beginning .This is totally against the apostolic teaching and directions. I have commented on the statements that the author describes in favor of this argument (John the Persian, Pantaneous and other).

    The points you raise (1) liturgical issues (2) Ordination of bishops. It is possible that malankaranazranies used Aramaic liturgy of St.James (Yacob’s taksa) from the beginning since it is the mother of all taksas. I am of the opinion that all taksas derived from it and included later church fathers teachings and prayers .It has also been influenced by practices and rituals of Jews and pagans. Malankaranazranies respected and associated with whoever came with same background .The deviation with respect to east or west Syriac was hardly a matter of contention .(it is also be noted that the development of east&west Syriac from Aramaic came much later) But some one with entirely different background , language, culture(like Rome, Protestants)they objected. The question of east Syriac or west Syriac prelate’s authority over Malankaranazranies is an imagination built by respective historians whom are very good in backward integration.

    To understand the resistance met by Rome from Romo-Syrians (smc) need more study about its formation by Latin missions. It is to be noted that the number of Romo Syrians were much feeble as compared to Malankaranasranies. The Latin missions win over the lesser proud Malankarnasraniesto its fold by money, authority &political gimmicks. You may get information with respect to this if you study the development of Romo-Syrians .They forced to wait for centuries to get a local hierarchy .(please remember the incidence of Pandari Paulose, Cariattil & Paremackil Thoma kathanar)The liturgical questions were not much important among Romo- Syrians. If that is not so how did they continue with Latin customs in their prayers, noyambu, and names? They never rejected renaming of Pallies in the name of Latin saints or Latinized Syrian saints instead of the Aramaic fathers (eg. Akaparambu pally, Udaiamperoor pally etc.)The construction of non east facing Pallies, non Madhubaha pallies, west facing worship ,usage of Latin capas(so many of them you could count)give credibility to my argument. The so called Syrian love affair started only much later. But it was too late to cover up with backward integrated historical writings.

    Compare this with Malankaranazranies; they still continue with their age old Aramaic traditions in their life culture, worship, pally architecture, burial rights ,avoidance of pig meat (Nowdays started in some homes, but not in functions like marriage) Antiochianisation is only started at the time of Palakkunnathu Methrachan who was very much fascinated by the dress, ceremonial practices and wanted to include this .I am not aware of any resistance by Malankaranazranies against so called Antiochianisation. You may please give details so that I could verify. Do you know why the difference; It is because of the attitude, cultural background, practices of these churches. Rome came with a colonial mind while Antiochians came as a sister church .That is why they helped Malankaranazranies to overcome the propaganda of Rome and continuous mental exploitation by prelates (COE) with respect to the episcopacy of Malankara moopan .The relation with Antiochians continued smoothly until they found money in Malankaranazranies pockets .When they started involve in temporal matters, the proud Malankaranazranies stood against it. Of course internal rivalry cleared the path to Mulamthuruthy synod which was inevitable to overcome more dangerous trend. But it is interesting to note that the rejection of Anthiochian interference never ended in rejection of beliefs or practices(liturgical or otherwise).Compare the two situation, one accepted the subjugation with complete obedience forgetting their own culture while the other march ahead with their freedom & culture.

    Please note that the anti Roman feeling is inbuilt in Malankaranazranies, not injected by any body .You may here that every Malankaranazrani proudly describe about the Koonen kurisu sathyam and argue that one should consider it as the FIRST INDEPENDENCE STRUGGLE OF INDIA (not the one taken place in 1857).

    On the subject of ordination of bishops, we need to look into the development of the position called ‘BISHOP’.You get a clear view from apostolic writings which describe about the Elder or Moopan. This was practiced by Malankaranazranies .The canonical practices and other rituals only formed much later after 6th century in Christendom. But our apostolic practices continued even after we have visits by foreign Prelates. It is also observed that the Malankara moopan continued to look after the Pallies temporal maters independently .The prelates who manipulated the position and renamed as arch deacon, which was never heard by Malankaranazranies to create a belief that the ordination given by St. Thomas was not up to the standard until unless it routed through them. There is no other example you get like Malankaranazranies who were misguided by these prelates to exploit them for their benefit. Take the example of COE history in my posting jun18th.Regarding the matrilineal thing we have very little information and the family which you say is again questionable.

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  22. RE: Aramean/Assyrian migrants to Kerala

    I apologize for my silly comment about heretics. On another note: does anyone have any information about Syrian immigrants to Kerala? We all know about Thomas of Cana (Kodungalloor) and Saphor Iso (Kollam).

    But what about more recent immigration?

    I’ll start it off:

    1. Mar Andrews (“Kallada Bava/Appoopan”) came to Kerala in the 17th century with his two brothers. One or both of those brothers (or their children) married locally. One of the most famous descendants of this family is Mar Gregorios of Parumala.

    2. Mar Ivanios Yuhakim came in the 18th century to help the Syriac Orthodox battle the Protestant infection (sorry George!). His brother married locally. In one of the greatest ironies of the Orthodox Church, his descendant is actually a Mar Thomite bishop (taking the same name, I think).

    3. Someone on NSC mentioned his Syriac ancestor “Tolani” (progenitor of the Tholanikunnel family) — no further details were provided.

    But is this all? Surely there must have been more immigrants, especially in the last 600 years as the Assyrian/Aramean peoples faced severe persecution in their native lands.

    Any info would be helpful!

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  23. Dear John,

    I have heard about Kallada Mooppan. He lived in Champakkulam church in 1676 period. It is said that he is from alvaya. ( Alvayakkaran anthrayose kasseessa-anthrayose kasseessa from alvaya.) I do not know whether alvaya represents Armenia or not. He arrived in Kerala in 1676. He stayed in Champakulam for some time and then moved to kallada. It is said that he was an alcoholic also. He was drowned in the Kallada river in 1682. He apparently had self claimed that he was a Patriarch consecrated by the Pope when the pazhayacoor were angry about the appointment of a non nasrani auxiliary bishop to Palli veettil chandy methran- Alexander De campo. This was proved as a fake claim and he had to move from Champakkulam.
    I found this information in the History of Archdiocese of Changanacherry with a reference Ka ni moo sa Bernardu Thoma, Mar Thoma christianikal. ( Fr. Bernardu Thoma CMI, St. Thomas Christians)

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  24. Does anyone have any details of a certain David of Basra.It seems he came to India in AD 354.Or of
    Theophilus who was sent by Byzantine Emperor Constantine around the same time.
    A doubt I have is we have limited number of tombs related to the Archdeacons.Where are the others?

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  25. RE: David of Basra.

    I guess you’d have to dig up the Chronicle of Seert and find out more… I’ll go check to see if I can get a copy.

    On a related note … any ideas about Mar Joseph and Thomas of Kana? I saw the fiction that some one wrote on Wikipedia, but I doubt it is true. After all, us Syrian Christians don’t possess any historical records that far back (the 7th century seems to be the furthest back we can go, and that only proves a connection to the ethnic Persian part of the East Syriac Church). So if there’s any info on Thomas/Mar Joseph, it must come from an outside source … so is there an outside source that speaks of Thomas of Cana? I doubt it, but I thought I’d ask …

    Regarding the tombs of the Archdeacons … perhaps the absence of older tombs points to the absence of that position in Malabar further back than the 13/14th centuries.

    Perhaps, the Malabar Christians had lapsed away from orthodox Christianity during the 10-13th centuries, and were revived in the 13th by some East Syriac clerics, who created/revived the Archdeaconate to help administer things. There are records of the Indo-Persian Christian colony in Malabar having elected a Metropolitan back in the 10th century or so — perhaps in the “old days” we didn’t have a mere Archdeacon, but a full Metropolitan.

    By the way, has any one from Pakallomattom tested their DNA? Do they have any Assyrian or Persian ties? That’s my bet … there are records of a East Syriac Patriarch authorizing the marriage of Indians and Persian Christians … given the “hereditary succession” that the East Syriacs adopted later on, I’d say it’s likely that the Pakallomattom are descendants of East Syriac (Persian or Assyrian) religious teachers, who maintained hereditary succession to ensure the “purity” of the faith.

    (And on a related note … when did all of this noise about the “Jewish Christianity’ of the Nasranis start? All the evidence I’ve seen points to a bonafide East Syriac Christian past. And the Syriac Christians were no great friends of the Jews… Is this a recent innovation in Malabar? Even the Kerala history books I’ve read from two decades ago, never spoke of this Jewish Christian angle. It seems to me to be Protestant propaganda — I think they have a vested interest in trying to establish that the Syrian Christians were “primitive” Christians, in the sense of Jewish Christianity. That was a trick that the early Low Church British Anglicans tried on the Puthenkoor, which ultimately resulted in the Mar Thomite Church … there are accounts by *British* historians, like Burnell, that discuss this falsification of facts by ignorant missionaries.).

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  26. How do Budhists perform the last rites of a dead person …by burying or by burning.Is it possible that the
    Nasranis followed these methods.If that is the case,then that would explain why not many tombs are found

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  27. Anoop:

    Perhaps. However, if we were canonical Christians, then I don’t think cremation or any other form other than burial would have been permitted by our religious clerics.

    It seems — at least from the English translations of letters from the various Patriarchs of the Church of the East from a thousand years ago, or so, that I’ve read — that our community was a mixture of ethnic Persian Christians (who were definitely canonical Christians) and Indians. E.g., there are letters that authorize the intermarriage of Persian Christians and Indians (… another example of how “endogamy” was definitely not one of our community’s characteristics … unlike the narrow-minded attitudes of some of our people!); our reverence for Pahlavi crosses, etc. So, I don’t see it as likely that a community with such composition (i.e., inclusive of canonical Persian Christians) would resort to non-Christian burial techniques.

    It is true that there are accounts of various Christian communities (even Persian Christian ones) embracing the local religions. Perhaps *they* may have engaged in cremation. But at the very least the Archdeacons must have been canonical Christians in close contact with their canonical fathers in West Asia. So I doubt they Archdeacons would have been cremated.

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  28. I have read somewhere that there were no cemeteries pre diamper. The cemetery burial was introduced by the portuguese. I will try to find out the references. Even though there were no cemetery burial, we did have east syriac services for the dead which seems to be preserved well in SMC without much latinisations compared with the latinisations on the Holy Qurbana.

    When there were no cemeteries, how come there are a few tombs of the Archdeacons together at Kuravilangadu ? Are they post diamper ?
    Or as the Archdeacons were from the same family, the family might have buried the Archdeacons at the same compound ? Why there are no other nasrani tombs preserved other than that of the Archdeacons ?
    When we did not have cemeteries, what was the practice of the Church of the East ?

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  29. I too have felt the service for the dead is the most well preserved part of SMC. It also seems to be well preserved in the Othodox/Jacobite community. I have felt more similarities in the service for the dead than in the liturgy. Similar thing for the marriage ceremonies.

    About tombstones, in my native parish (Thazhekad est around 800AD) till 30 years back there was a rule that no one is entitled to tomb stone, whether he is rich on poor in death they are the same and have to be buried without a tombstone. I am not sure how it is in other churches. Of course in recent times the church found selling of tombstones as convenient way to raise money.

    I have had an opportunity to visit the Jewish cemetery in Mala when I was young, and I was disppointed in seeing maybe just one or two tombstone without much marking on them.

    But when a important priest dies I believe they were buried inside the church, I think in East syrian church architecture they called it Beth Sahada or something to that manner, to indicate tomb of saint buried within the church.

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  30. Dear BG

    This is response to your post – 4736.

    If you are still around, none of the quotations in this article about Prelates are from A. E. Medlycott , J.N Farquhar and Dahlmann. I have given the sources as footnotes. I would add more and arrange it in a more comprehensible form later.

    Dr. Medlycott is a good source for learning Saint Thomas mission and references of the same in other Eastern Churches. Dr. Farquhar is a good source for the Acts of Thomas. Their books doesnot mention much about the Prelates in Malabar.

    Perhaps, if you have questions about Council of Nicaea itself, I will suggest that you refer Christian history from some good sources. Having Bishops and priests for an apostolic church in Malabar is nothing strange ( read Cosmas Indicopleustes and others). The number of Churches at the time of Syond of Udayamperoor in 1599 was 105 and it seems to me that your compounding of the population is based your own data. Can you mention the sources for the arithmetic or suggest some sources for a population compilation ?

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  31. Dear Jeevan Philip

    This is in response to your posts 4618, 4932 and 5500. Sorry that it took time to respond.

    I agree that we don’t have many documents prior the Portuguese to understand the situation before the sixteenth century. But at the same time, there are few which are already mentioned in the article sources/ comments and which will help us to arrive at conclusions.

    The spread of Christianity before the western colonization was on the basis of certain kind of regional grouping.

    William G Young, in the “Handbook of source material for students of Church history” writes,

    “ Asian Churches and their history should not be treated as if they were isolated countries. This is practically true in the first fifteen centuries, when the history of Christianity in Asian Churches is closely bound tighter. You can not treat the Church in China or India or Turkestan in isolation from that in Mesopotatnia and Persia – they all belong together. Their history should be seen as aspects of the one Church history, the one developing pattern.”

    So we see that the communion of faithful was centered in culturally and politically important cities where the Church had considerable strength such as Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Selleucia Ctesiphon etc. In the course of time the heads of such groupings assumed special titles such as Great Metropolitan, Patriarch etc with heads of other cities called Metropolitans and those of small regions called Bishops.

    It was in the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, these canonical norms got universal application. In the History of the Council of Nicaea written by Gelasius of Cyzicus ( AD 425), it is written that Council appointed thirteen Council fathers to communicate, the Symbol of faith and 20 Constitutions of Nicaea to the churches of respective region. The Mar John of Persia who was the great Metropolitan of India was one among them.

    After the Council of Nicaea, we see fairly unanimous attestation of Saint Thomas Apostolic mission in India by Early Church fathers. With the literatures we have, I think its safe to conclude that the Church fathers definitely knew the India they were mentioning. There is no reason to doubt the India in their reference to be different from Malabar just by assumptions.

    The problem about the mission of Saint Bartholomew, Pantaenus is that there are no local traditions recorded about this. (Medlycott is good source and I have already included this in the article)

    Its very true that there were no Malabar School in comparison to the Schools of Nisbis, Edessa etc . I certainly don’t think that this is because of any fault of the early Prelates. One possible reason would be that the ancestors did not feel the need to consider Mesopotamian Schools alien. A comparison of today’s situations would be very helpful before we blame the Chaldeans, as we have all kinds of ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Kerala now. The kind of schools we really have today are the great schools of Pentecostals/ Charismatic’s/ Incultralisation etc .

    Are we really in a position to blame the early Prelates that there were no early hierarchy in Malabar according to our fancy today ? We certainly didn’t preserve any information and have a schismatic nature. I think more than anyone it is the Christians here who are responsible for the situation of Christianity in India.

    There is an essay – “Was the Pre- XVIIth Century Church of the Thomas Christians of India ( Malabar) “A particular Church” ?” by Dr. Placid Podipara. I have greatly benefited by reading this article. In this essay, Fr. Placid compares the Church of Malabar with the elements that make faithful combine in to Particular churches ie, 1) Liturgy 2) Ecclesiastical discipline 3) Spiritual heritage- Canon Law, Asceticism, Monasticism, Theological System with due consideration to history, genius and temperament. I recommend this article.

    I have not read any documents or passages which mentions that the prelates prior to Sixteenth century came here for money. In fact if we look at the literature available, it talks about the good will of the Prelates prior to the sixteenth century. I have read that some bishops came to Malabar from Jacobite Patriarch after the Koonan Kurish Satyam for money and I have not verified these information.

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  32. Church of East and Malabar Church

    As I have mentioned in the article, it seems that the Church of Persia ( the Metropolitan with its center at Rew Ardashir ) was sending or ordaining or confirming the prelates of Malabar till 8th century. Also, we can not rule out the possibility of Indian Bishops amongst them. Ramban Pattu records the local tradition that Saint Thomas ordained Bishops. We also know some families emerged as privileged because of the hereditary succession followed from Apostolic times (as they claimed). In the 8th century letter of Chaldean Patriarch Timothy I, addressed to the Archdeacon, the Patriarch mentions about the election of the Metropolitan in India. In the same century, the status of the Church in India was raised as a Metropolitan subject to the Patriarch of Selleucia Ctesiphon. May be there were Indian bishops before 8th century. Unfortunately, we don’t have more information.

    The relationship is that of a hierarchical subordination to the Church of East. There are no evidences to call the Church of East prelates as visitors, unless you want to be blind with hasty generalization, with out justification to history. There are no evidences for any Antiochean connection or anything else.

    Consider the following which are already mentioned in the discussions and article,

    1. Bishop David of Basrah ( 295 AD) evangelized in India – Chronicle of Seert.

    2. Cosmas Indicopleustus ( 525 AD)- E R Hambye, interpreted the two passages in Cosmas Indicopleustus book and suggested that there were two Persian Bishops in India- One at Malabar and other at Kalyan near Mumbai.

    3. A letter of Patriarch Iso ‘Yahb II of Seleucia ( c. 650-660) speaks of absence of priestly succession in India. ( Mingana- Early Christianity in India- page 432) . The gist of the argument in the letters was that the Metropolitan of Fars ( Persia) had ordained Bishops for the sees in Fars ( eighteen suffragons) and India, but since he had broken ecclesial communion with Patriarch, these ordinations were invalid. Reference to your post – 4618, the inference from these letters of Patriarch is questioning the validity of ordination because of broken ecclesial communion between Metropolitan of Fars with its center at Rew Ardashir and Patriarch with his center at Selleucia Ctesiphon. This is not suggesting that Bishops are not been send or ordained in India.

    4. To break up the rebellion, Fars was bifurcated and two new provinces for Qatar and India was created directly dependent on Patriarch of Selleucia Ctesiphon. Either the, Patriarch Iso ‘Yahb III ( 658) or Patriarch Sliba Zka ( 714-728), hence raised the status of Indian Church to a Metropolitan dignity. ( Podipara, The Saint Thomas Christians p- 65)

    5. Patriaarch Timothy 1 ( 780-823) – He abrogated the custom of Bishops of the distant see’s ordaining their Metropolitan by placing Patriarch’s letter on the ordaine’s head. He has included these directions in a letter send to the Archdeacon in India. In another letter to Indians, he said the election of Metropolitan’s result should be first informed to the Patriarch. Only after getting his conformation it should be presented to the Caliph. ( Here we see changes in the election process. It could be that there were Indians as Bishops before as suggested in the local elections happening in India.)

    6. Patriarch Theodosius ( 825-855) granted exception to the Indian Church to send letters of communion only once every six years.

    7. Marco Polo mentions in 1272 that from the province of Mosul .. a Patriarch ordains bishops to all parts of India.

    8. The Vatican Syriac Codex 22 is the finest document completed in 1301 AD in the town of Shengala ( Cranganore). The folio 93v mentions about a Bishop who came from Persia.

    It says “ Mar Jacob, Bishop Metropolitan , Superintendent and Governor of the Holy See of the Apostle Mar Thomas is our Governor and also of the whole Christian Church in India.”.

    The same document says about Mar Joseph as “ Metropolitan bishop of the See of Saint Thomas and of the whole church of Christians in India.”

    According to the Nomocanon of Abdiso, the Metropolitan of India held the tenth place before China ( Hambye, Syrian Church in India page-379). The Book of Tower by Amr ( 1350) lists India as the 13th Metropolitan see in the Church of East. The Sliba’s version lists India in the 15th place in the Church of East.

    Is there anything else which are worthy of consideration to state that the Malabar Church was not under the Church of East ? Do we really need to have any confusion on the relation ship Malabar Church shared with Chaldea ?.

    To make any other statements, one has to have some evidences and with out that, all the hasty generalizations are put forward to support the present structure of each individual churches which make up the community. Consider these information together with the various travelogues from 1291 AD onwards, the canons of Synod of Diampor, the Jacobite / Syro Malabar history till the end of nineteenth century. I personally don’t think that anyone need any further evidence to arrive at conclusions.

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  33. About the travelogues, records mostly from Non Chaldea sources in the Second Millennium about Malabar.

    There are more than a dozen Portuguese Accounts of Sixteenth century. Even though, the British burned many accounts of Portuguese and Dutch, we still have copies left of published information else where. In 1557, when the King of Vadakkankur in collusion with the Portuguese wanted to take Metropolitan Mar Abraham under custody, over two thousand Nasranis declared themselves as amacos ( suicide squads) for their Bishop. They defended him even though they had to forfeit a good part of their properties ( History of Christianity in India by Thekkedath). All these information only talks about Prelates from Church of East and that they were greatly revered in India.

    What is the source of three letters send by Pope John XXII with Jordan of Severac or Jordanus Catalani after he was consecrated as a Bishop for Quilon in 1329 ? ( Your Post-4618). The books I referred talks about only one letter (Cathay and the way thither by Henry Yule is given as the reference in most of the books. There is a Hakluit edition of the Mirabilia, London: 1863 and of course Roman documents.) send with Jordan of Severac addressed to the Nasrani Christian King in Malabar. The content of the letter is recommendation of Jordan to the people and reminding no schism ( quoted differently in books). On his first arrival in India during 1321, Jordan of Severac mentions that he saw Christians in Salsette and Surat etc.

    Before Jordan of Severac, we have travelogues which gives some kind of details about the life of Christians here from Marco Polo ( 1300) , John of Monte Corvino ( 1291) . John Marignoli ( 1347) and Oderic of Pordenone (1321) etc. Especially John of Monte Corvino mentions that Christians are persecuted in India. We also know about some other missionaries who came here. We should consider all these together at the same time keeping in mind the places they visited. These are not very extensive records about all the places where Christians live in Malabar. Some of these are records what they saw in some particular places in Malabar and India.

    There is a distinction between Priests and Prelates from Chaldea. In nineteenth century priests coming from Chaldean Patriarch were a common scene in many of the churches under Syro Malabar. That was essentially same in Jacobite fold till their association with Anglicans which led to the formation of Mar Thoma Church. Its worth mentioning that in 18th century, Chaldean Bishop Mar Gabriel had more parishes than Mar Thoma IV of the Jacobite fold. Mar Gabriel had some 10 Catholic churches under him as well. Even in eighteenth century there were ruins of Chaldean monasteries in Angamali, Kuravilangadu , Edapally , and Mylapore. ( I think Raulin mentions this).

    But today the statement that Chaldean priests were a common scene in both the factions of Saint Thomas Christians till the last century would be considered as revisionism by many. This convenient removal of history is perfectly fit with the revisionism, today’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction offers.

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  34. I found your arguments about the liturgy very strange ( Post-5500). Some time back, the primacy of Malabar text on the Qurbana of Addai and Mari in comparison with Chaldean / COE Qurbana was a topic of discussion among scholars on liturgy. Today we know the changes made by Mar Jacob, Mar Joseph and Mar Abraham before the Syond of Udayamperoor on the liturgy of Addai and Mari. We are also aware of the changes suggested by the Syond of Udayamperror on the liturgy and the changes henceforth.

    It was Mar Gregorious who celebrated the liturgy of Saint James for the first time after his arrival in Malabar. It is said that Mar Thoma pleaded him to change the rite. ( As mentioned in the letter of Fr. Azevido SJ ). Even when west Syrian rite was used among Jacobites, it was written in Syro Chaldeic script.

    Leslie Brown mentions that there are still copies extant of the same. It is said that Mar Kurilos changed the liturgy from Addai and Mari to Saint James liturgy amongst the Jacobites. Leslie Brown says’ according to some, the change from Syro- Chaldei script and Chaldean liturgy was done in nineteenth century and almost all in the Church believes that it was in use for many centuries.

    Well, this is the problem with us. All of us believe what in use today was there in use for many centuries. There are many scholarly studies on liturgy and on these topics but nothing can help if you are not open to accept facts.

    I don’t want to get in to very later developments at this time but you have to learn more about Syro Malabar and Jacobite history as many of the observations you stated on both are deviations and distorted facts.

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  35. Dear All

    I wanted to add to the discussion about possibility of Bishops of Indian origin in early century. In addition to these posts- No one created a hierarchy ( Post- 4618), COE had Bishops of other nationality ( Post -4624), We considered Arch deaconate as great ( Post- 5188)

    The tradition about local bishops, Mar Kepha and Mar Paul are mentioned in Ramban Pattu. Different Acts of Thomas versions also tells about local ordinations by Apostle Thomas. Some ancient local short histories written about the Church mentions some of the families like Pakalomattam and Sankarapuri etc as specially privileged families. But we don’t have any historical records which can claim some authority.

    What we see here is that the Metropolitans of All India some time after the ninth century were definitely Chaldea’s/ Assyrian in nationality consecrated there and send to India.

    In the book “ Four essays on the Pre-Seventeenth Century Church of the Thomas Christians of India ( Malabar) ‘ Fr. Placid Podipara, in one of the essay entitled“ Was the Pre- XVIIth Century Church of the Thomas Christians of India ( Malabar) “A particular Church” ?, writes that,

    “ That they were Indians before the time we get a hint, it would seem from a letter of the Chaldean Patriarch Timothy I . Ibn-Attib ( 9th century) in his treatise “ The Law of Christians” reproduces this letter which was addressed to the Indian Christians. Therein Timothy I speaks of the election of the Metropolitan ( who was elected by the people in the presence of the suffragans)

    Until the time of Timothy I, the bishops of (China and ) India were ordaining the Metropolitan by placing the letter of the Chaldean Patriarch on his head.

    The underlined it seems, give the hint that the Metropolitans ( and his suffragons) at that time were Indians. But after some time the Metropolitans and the suffragons began to be sent by the Chaldean Patriach and they were Chaldeans.”

    So here, we see a possibility as suggested by Fr. Placid. By the side of the Metropolitan send by the Patriarch there was the local Archdeacon in whose hands the government of the whole church was. Patriarch Timothy I did send a letter to the Archdeacon. The Archdeacon being a hereditary role was always from the privileged families. It may be an arrangement we choose when India was elevated to a Metropolitan status. We cant rule out that there were no Indians as Bishops. Atleast the practice of ordination locally gives good possibility for having Indian bishops. May be when this practice changed we could have happily given the Spiritual and liturgical responsibility to Bishops from Chaldea and henceforth Archdecon taking the Administration of the Church. Well, we lack hard evidences to hypothesize.

    Again lately in 1566 before the division, we see that Archdeacon George of Christ was authorized as the first indigenous Bishop by the Chaldean Patriarch Abdisho and approved by Pope Gregory XIII. Very unfortunately this did not happen. ( Some details are in Archdeacons Article)

    About Mar Joseph and Thomas of Kana – I am not aware of any valid historical information such as did they come, if so when etc about both either from local or foreign sources.

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  36. Dear Admin,
    In post no 14996,you state “here are more than a dozen Portuguese Accounts of Sixteenth century. Even though, the British burned many accounts of Portuguese and Dutch, we still have copies left of published information else where”.How did you arrive to the conclusion of the Bristish actually burning historical material.?

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  37. Dear Anoop

    The Portuguese did a great job by writing down many of the oral traditions. They also recorded the information available in some of the perishable documents native Christian community had after their arrival in Malabar. Some of them are Castanheda ( 1551), Correa ( 1560), Andrada ( 1540), Osorius ( 1571), Dionysio ( 1578), Monserrate ( 1579), Valignano ( 1583), Maffei ( 1747) Santa Maria ( 1598), Lucena ( 1600) , Ros ( 1601), Gouvea ( 1606), Couto ( 1603), Ramusio ( 1550) etc…

    The Dutch after defeating the Portuguese did almost the same thing. Though its not extensive as Portuguese, there are materials on what they saw such as Linschoten ( 1598) , Valentyn ( 1654) , Visscher etc

    Destruction of manuscripts, written documents were always part of every conquest. I think the very same thing existed in the petty fights among local kings before the arrival of westerners. The Portuguese or Dutch or British were no exception.

    For example the Dutch in 1663 burnt and destroyed Catholic churches and institutions, documents etc. The British also destroyed the manuscripts. In 1806, it is said that there were very large collection of Portuguese and Dutch books to be found in Cochin. But all these were destroyed later.

    Visscher’s Letters from Malabar is one of those writeup which escaped the vandalism at that time. An English translation of this was published later by Major Hebber Drury of Madras Staff Corps. Major Hebber Drury, himself also mentions about the Vandalism- destruction of the Portuguese and Dutch books, manuscripts – at Cochin in the Editors note on Letters from Malabar.

    Paradoxically, it is the Portuguese who has left more extensive records, yet they mostly get the blame for destruction. Dutch and British escape the criticism even though they did the same thing. As far as I understand in case of the destruction of records, there were no exceptions among the Colonialists. These books we talk are mainly written in Portuguese and Dutch. Mostly only those which were published in Lisbon and other places exist today. What I understand now is that we don’t know about what’s been lost to vandalism.

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  38. A lot of your point is taken but Im still unconvinced regarding the British actually vandalizing.Maybe its because Im a bit pro Brit ,also everywhere they went they were in the habit of actually understanding the culture.This is evident in the museums theyve opened.

    Im still open to ur suggestions though,but history has taught me that Latins and Muslims have always been fanatic to the cause of spreading religion whereas the Brits separated religion and state

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  39. Dear Anoop

    I have already given the reference from Major Hebber Drury of Madras Staff Corps who was also the Assistant Resident in Travancore and Cochin. He mentions that the Portuguese and Dutch books were destroyed “wholesale”. I don’t see any reason not to believe the Assistant Resident in Travancore and Cochin !

    I cant agree that Brits has separated state and religion. May be you can take a look at the The Indian Christians of St. Thomas by Dr. Leslie Brown. “Col. Munro, the first British Resident referred his endeavors among the Saint Thomas Christians, as equally important for humanity and the stability of British power”. Analyzing the happenings in Saint Thomas Christians, especially the Jacobite/Orthodox fold, after the British interference, would give you a clear idea on this.

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  40. Just wanted to add to the discussion on tomb stone/ cemetery burial. Posts- 12873, 12852,12791, 9038.

    From the Province of Semirechensk (Pishpak, Tokmak ) in the Russian Turkestan there were gravestones found in Syriac belonging to the members of Church of East. Some of these are dated from 1250 to some 1370 (?). This shows the spread of Church of East in Central Asia and there is an interesting information about the epitaphs. According to Mingana, among these, there are some with Syriac inscriptions belonging to Christians of India. I don’t know if these are of South or North Indians and what is engraved in these gravestones. There are some 206 epitaphs. (?)

    It is mentioned by Burnel that there were tomb stones in Garshuni (Karshuni) in Kerala. Garshuni (Karshuni) for us, is Malayalam language written in Syriac Characters. I know of a tomb stone in Garshuni from nineteenth century end. No idea about earlier tombstones in Garshuni.

    There is a letter of Mathai Archdeacon (Pazhayakoor ) of 1701, in the Pontifical Archives, Vatican written in Garshuni. There are also Indian – Garshuni MSS at libraries in Cambridge, Paris and Leiden. What I understand is, these MSS from libraries are from 1600 AD and after.

    According to Burnell, a few tombstones and similar relics in Travancore show that the Syriac-Malayalam alphabet ( Garshuni) is of recent introduction, and that the Syrians originally used only the Vatteluttu character. He also says in 1874 that, Syriac is merely used in the churches, though apparently it is pretty generally understood by the more intelligent members of the community.

    I don’t know how old this Garshuni is. The earliest still surviving in the libraries seems to be from 1600 AD onwards. It seems that Garshuni was active till the beginning of twentieth century – tomb stone (?). Is it that from Vatteluttu to Malayalam we also used Garshuni. (?)

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  41. Do we have anythin (like ancient scriptures,carvings) to prove that there were practising christians here in south india before 10th century..i.e before the arrival of Thomas of Cana….

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  42. Ronnie:

    1. Pahlavi Crosses are supposed to be pre-10th
    2. inscriptions on various graves in Manarcad, and some other Churches are supposed to be pre-10th
    3. An abundance of literary references to the community in south india by the East Syriac Church and travelers from the 4th to the 13th century.
    4. Your last statement on Thomas of Cana is not a fact. Mar Sabor and Mar Aproth are supposed of have come in the 10th. There is nothing conclusive about Thomas of Cana, when he come, if he was orthodox or gnostic, etc.

    This is basic, elementary information, and I don’t know why anyone has to ask about this. Perhaps I’m the fool for replying.

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  43. I am very surprised to know that the church in malabar was given a Patriarchal Status. I have not heard of any such proclamations from any other sources. please verify that detailed evidence and crosscheck it with the article

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  44. Dear all,
    It is a strange to see that the writer is trying to project that Christians of Kerala are under foreign powers. When we go through the New Testament, we can see clearly that the early Christians were free. There were no thrones or holy sees. Eventhough Apostle Paul went to Spain to spread the gospel he never claimed authority over them nor collected money from anyone. So definitely that would be the case of Kerala Christians. Recent excavations at Patnam is revealing the fact that Christianity came to Kerala through the Christians who were at Pentecost who came to Kerala. Apostle Thomas never visited Kerala. There were no mortal remains in the tomb of Mylapore. This complete episode is a clever story made by both Catholic and Antioch to bring Kerala Christians under yoke. Thank God, He is revealing the mysteries. I hope that the complete truth will come out soon for nothing can be hidden.

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  45. I.I came across something in a Jacobite forum thus,

    “John soresto,Zakka(nickolas of moora),Asea, Mor Ahron ,Raban Theodorus – are Jacobite names mentioned in session 3, Decrees ix and xiv of Synod of Diamper ”

    Can someone throw some light into this? Where can I get the full Decrees of Synod of Diamper? Under what circumstances are these names mentioned? Are they indeed Jacobite? Can this lead to the conclusion that the Kerala church had links with the Jacobite Church?

    II. Is there any literature about Mar Sapor and Afroath, in East Syrian Church, prior to 16th century?

    Would be greatly appreciated, if someone could educate me on this.

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  46. There is a book written by one mr .Zacharia Zacharia (Retired professor of SB College)in english as well as malayalam”The Canones of Udaimperoor Sunnahadose”.

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  47. Abraham, The 1694 publication -
    “THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF MALABAR
    from the time of its being first discovered by the Prtugueses in the year 1501.
    Giving an Account of The Persecutions and Violent Methods of the Roman Prelates, to Reduce them to the Subjection of the Church of ROME.
    Together with the
    SYNOD OF DIAMPER,
    Celebrated in the Year of our Lord 1599.
    With some Remarks upon the Faith and Doctrine of the Christians of St. Thomas in the Indies, agreeing with the Church of England, in opposition to that of Rome.
    Done out of Portugueze into English.
    By MICHAEL GEDDES,
    Chancellor of the Cathedral Church of SA R V M. ”
    - is available to download through http://books.google.com/
    (In case you have a problem downloading the book, let me know)

    Kuruvilla
    (amprayilusa[at]gmail[dot]com)

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  48. The Decrees of the Synod of Diamper are available both in English and Malayalam under the titles: “The Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Diamper” and “Udayamperoor soonahadosinte kanonakal”. Both the books are edited by Dr. Scaria Zacharia. These are published by the Indian Institute of Christian Studies (Bhaaratitya Khristava Pathana Kendram) and can be obtained from: The Director, IICS, Hosana Mount, Edamattom P.O., Pala, Kottayam District, Kerala, PIN: 686 588.

    Best wishes.

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  49. Dear Readers of this blog,

    I started reading and reacting to this blog some two years back. I was impressed by the scholarship and broad thinking of some of the contributors. I was immensely pleased and also impressed by the DNA project and how some of our brothers have taken seriously to our ancestry. My remarks to OUR is deliberate and is an effort to be inclusive as it is somewhat irrelevant in our country to  subdivide the descendants of St.Thomas’ message into many groups and subgroups. It does not matter that people have not cared to stay within the confines of our ancestry and heritage. As the human race progresses economically and intellectually different thinking will surface and this is a part of progress. 

    All the same I would like to make the following submissions. Thomas came to India that is Kerala as a Jew and chances are that he conveyed the Jesus message to essentially Jewish groups who alone could have understood the message. We often forget that Jesus was born a Jew and died as a Jew on the cross as he was martyred at the hands of the ruling Roman clique. If he was to be tried and and was awarded the death by a the Jewish Sanhedrin the sentence  would surely have been stoned to death just as a few years down the line Stephen was killed. I am mentioning all these to emphasize the point that the essential Jewishness of Thomas’ message that was to Jewish audience should not be forgotten.

     I dare say that the families Pakalomattom et all who were central to our thinking of our Thomas ancestry were Jews and not Brahmans as some people would have us believe.

    The so called seven and a half churches might have been earlier versions of Synagogues. Remember that during Jesus’ time Synagogue worship was not in vogue in Palestine.  That became a standard only after the diaspora. Under the circumstances Thomas would not have thought of Synagogues much less churches. These are facts of history. A good critical reading of the history of Jews at the time of Jesus would tend to support my contention.

    I would like to further submit that we also forget that Jesus was a dark skinned Jew and Mary his mother was also a Jew with dark skin and not a blue eyed blonde as depicted in European paintings of the holy family. That way they were far less European than is given credit by the west.

    Another submission that I want to make is that post Udayamperur we the Thomas descendants developed antisemitism. If you do not believe me go through the prayer books notably the one used on Good Friday critically. We and others tend to project our current experience to historical times and get saddled with distorted history. We must learn to be open minded and accept ideas that are contradictory to our beliefs.

    B.George

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  50. Dear B.George,

    You wrote ‘..Remember that during Jesus’ time Synagogue worship was not in vogue in Palestine. That became a standard only after the diaspora. Under the circumstances Thomas would not have thought of Synagogues much less churches..”

    I beg to disagree! Jairius was a ruler of a synagouge and his daughter was healed by Isho.
    Mark 5:22 “..Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet..”

    Isho read in the synagouge. Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.

    John 16:2 “..They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God..”

    The Synagouge was much in vouge during Isho’s time and was since the Destruction of the Second Temple. Mar Thoma did visit North West India and I hope he visited Malabar. There is insufficient historical evidence to this but there is certainly very strong church/community belief that he did so since the past several centuries.

    Pakalomattom and other ‘priestly’ families may not have been around during the first or the 5th century CE. There is some indication that these famlies have Cohen DNA but it is not conclusive. Yemenite Biblical Hebrew cantors (1000 to 500 or so years ago) are missing from pages of mordern Malabar Jewish history. Possibly these cantors were Cohens, as is the general tradition to have only Cohens as cantors (reciters of the Hebrew Scripture). Possibly these cantors becamme Nazerenes by the missionary work of the CoE. This is only a theory I have to accomadate the then and now missing cantors amongst the then local Jews. I do not expect Cohens to fade away without putting their footprints in someform as they are crucial to Jewish (Nazerene?) religious life.

    The whole idea of DNA studies is not to showoff that the Nazerenes are some ‘special people’ but to re-poccess our identity to witness for Isho. Our knowledge is only for our use and not meant to be displayed to others.

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